November 25, 2009

Do you want to get well?

"One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?""
John 5:5-6

It's not news to anybody that Jesus is the master at asking questions. As I read through the Gospels I can't help but marvel at his adept ability to ask probing questions that would cut right to the soul of the hearer. He moves past the easy surface level Q&A sessions and into the self-revealing discovery learning that forces the person to delve into the depths of their heart and motivations.

The question that Jesus asks in this story in John 5 has been doing just that in my life. It echoes in my ears. On the outside it's easy to reply in the case of the invalid, "Of course he wants to get well! He's been disabled for most of his life. Why wouldn't he want to get well?"But Jesus being, ya know, divine, he knows the secrets of the heart. His state of invalidity had become so entrenched in who he was that inwardly he couldn't imagine his life without this condition. His condition became his identity.

As we cry out to God for help to change us, are we really desiring exactly that? Or are we just praying for change because we know that's what a good Christian should do? Or maybe we think we can fool God into thinking that we are really ready to give up whatever is holding us back from a more intimate relationship with Him.

Whatever the real motive, we should let the question from Jesus carve its way into our hearts. And, of course, I only say this because I need to do the same. If I want God to heal me, purge me of my sin, release the power of the Spirit in my life, I need to make sure that's what I really desire in my innermost being.

We cannot fool God. As Tozer says, He waits to be wanted.

November 14, 2009

The Veil is Torn

The presence of God is awesome.

And when I say awesome, I mean it draws us into awe of our Creator. I think that word - awesome - has lost some of its meaning because we use it for the latest American Idol winner, our favorite NBA player, and the last Taco Bell meal I consumed. But truly, there is nothing more awesome than Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, who died on the cross for us.

It sounds so basic. But lately I have been so convicted about how I do not practice the presence of God on a daily basis. I reserve those "unique" times for big worship events or prayer nights... but why? Is there something keeping me from pursuing God and entering his presence?

I'm on a big A.W. Tozer kick right now. I'm reading both the Pursuit of God and the Knowledge of the Holy. If you can pick up either of these books and read a couple chapters, I guarantee you won't be able to stop. This blog is a culmination of what I've been reading, coupled with the biggest lesson God has been teaching me lately; that is, God desires me to bask in his presence and just be with him. I've been too busy doing for God lately that I forget to stop and say hi.

Rather than attempt to put into my own words what Tozer has already eloquently communicated, I'm just going to list a couple quotes from both books that have impacted me recently:

"With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, "Be still, and know that I am God," mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshiper in this middle period of the twentieth century." -p.viii - Knowledge of the Holy (I would argue that this issue has extended beyond the middle period of the twentieth century when Tozer wrote it into today's church as well.)

"And push in sensitive living experience into the holy presence, is a privilege open to every child of God. With the veil removed by the rending of Jesus' flesh, with nothing on God's side to prevent us from entering, why do we tarry without? Why do we consent to abide all our days just outside the Holy of Holies and never enter at all to look upon God?" -p.39 Pursuit of God.

The veil that Tozer references is the veil used in the tabernacle, where God's presence rested before Jesus came and changed that. There was a veil between the first outer courts and the second, more intimate room where there was incense and prayer. Then there was another veil to separate the second room and the Holy of Holies, the resting place of God's presence that was only entered once a year by the high priest. When Jesus came and died for all mankind, God's presence became tangible and available for everyone. He tore the veil to make a way for mankind to experience the tangible presence of God in daily life. This is perhaps the most exciting thing I have ever heard.

"God wills that we should push on into his presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held; it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day." p.34 Pursuit of God.

I heard this analogy from my friend Kristen Eckhout. If God is truly our Father, wouldn't he act in a way familiar to all fathers? A father who loves his children will not force them to work for him all day and want them to be constantly doing for him. No, he would want to be with them and spend time with them and have the chance to love on them. I get so busy doing ministry and other things for God that I forget to stop, slow down, and sit in His presence. And I'm missing the best part too!

Father, may I never replace being with doing. Help me to seek your presence and live in that presence daily, reflecting on your love and majesty.

Hebrews 10:19-22
"Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water."

**As a final note, I just wanted to give a shout out to Phil Wickham for putting on a great worship concert tonight in Indianapolis. It really reminded me how powerful the presence of God is, and how the death of the True Love created a new freedom for us that we've never experienced! Listen to his song "True Love" sometime... Better yet, listen to the song while you read Tozer's Pursuit of God! Haha... **