While living in Colorado years ago, Tammy and I purchased a family membership to the Denver Zoo.  When the weather was conducive to outdoor activities we would enjoy taking the kids to see the animals. There were “communities” of animals in designated spots: Apes; Reptiles; Birds of Prey; Animals of the Rainforest; Animals of the Arctic; Animals of Africa; etc.  Our kids were usually drawn to the seals, snakes, and apes, but the lions captured my attention the most.

Lions are magnificent animals. When viewing them up close, through the barrier of reinforced glass, the sheer size of a full-grown male lion could take one’s breath away.  Strength, beauty, and power were immediately evident, but even more so was his “wildness.”  The open-air cage, coupled with the reinforced glass, could not adequately conceal the fact that this was indeed a “wild lion.”

I have found that Religion tends to treat relationship with God in much the same way.  Unfortunately, many religious leaders identify God as a distant deity, who when looked upon may seem subdued (almost tame), perhaps even disinterested or distracted, especially when He is kept at a safe distance. 

In many ways, religion would have us believe that God is safely caged behind our dispensational theories; while God may have been “wild at heart” a long time ago, He is not that way now.  Religion sets up protective barriers warning us when we are getting too close – we are taught that our relationship with God must be tightly controlled and managed by confession, repentance, and re-dedications.

Where do we come up with the idea that relationship with God must be distant and safe in order for us to relate to Him?  Show me a meaningful relationship that is distant and safe and I’ll show you a very dull and boring pair.

Relationship with God, through Jesus Christ is by God’s design passionate, risky (beyond our control), adventurous, and un-caged.  It is thrilling that God Himself is wild by nature.  There is absolutely nothing about Him that is tame or subdued. It was unbridled passion for intimacy and love that moved God to His creative act.  Likewise, passion for intimacy and love drove Jesus to laying down His life for us. God is wildly extravagant in His pursuit to capture our hearts.

The Bible identifies Jesus as the “lion of the tribe of Judah.” This depiction draws one’s attention to that wildness and power. Risky to be near? Yes, but only to legalistic thinking.  Fearsome? Yes! Lovely? Yes! 

Yet, He is not only a “lion at heart,” He is also a lamb – innocent, pure, gentle, and sacrificial. He is worth every so-called risk you may count dear (consider the “pearl of great price”).

Don’t think for a moment that you hold the power to let God out of His cage. You don’t! You never had the power to put Him in one in the first place. Yet there are barriers of your own choosing that have shielded you from experiencing and loving Him intimately. Those walls can and must come down.  

You can identify and remove all hindrances, obstacles, theories, legalistic thinking, words, or experiences that have kept you from Him. By doing so you are preparing yourself for life at its fullest – rich with adventure, passion, and meaning. Such is the Christian life when grace is understood and received – no walls of separation and no condemnation.

Bill Snell is no stranger to Orlando, or the life-changing work accomplished by Missionary Ventures. Bill has been a pastor in the Orlando area since 2000, and formally served as Director of U.S. Operations for MVI from 2007 to 2009, and served as a member of the Board of Directors for the last five years. Bill earned his Bachelors degree in Education from Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene, Texas, and a Masters Degree in Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. He has been in professional ministry for over 35 years serving as a senior pastor to three churches in California and Oklahoma, as well as serving in executive and/or management pastor positions in large churches both in Colorado and Florida. Bill’s business experience in mortgage banking, small business ownership, consulting and real estate adds to his list of the very attributes MVI will benefit from as their ministry continues worldwide. In an organization that truly aims to serve others, Bill sheds a new light on what it means to be a servant leader, and Missionary Ventures and all of its partners around the world will most certainly benefit from it.