Friday, December 17, 2010

God and Sinner Reconciled

“God and Sinner Reconciled”
Sometimes I think that being ‘in’ to Christmas is more of a cliché than a real state of mind for most people.  With the word “Christmas” comes a wide range of responses.  Mention it too early and people will roll their eyes, and a sudden faint look of dread will overshadow their countenance.  With others, their faces light up as they start talking about all the reasons why it is absolutely euphoric. 
We see it everywhere.  “Reason for the Season”
I’m a Christmas nut – my family knows it.  We have three decorated trees, we listen to all varieties of Christmas music, and normally we have cookies up to our eyeballs!  My heart literally yearns for the get-togethers.  It only happens once a year, unless there are other dramatic circumstances.  I love the cards – the pictures – 
You get it.  I love it.
And, obviously, I love the opportunity for worship that we have during the Advent season.  It’s beautiful to me!
But as I was driving to work the other day, I was listening to one of the most familiar Christmas carols I know.  Hark the Herald…  Now, most of the time I just enjoy the familiarity of the song, but for some reason I decided to engage with what the words were speaking.  Then came the line:
God and sinners reconciled
Suddenly, I began to feel the stinging familiarity of tears as I felt myself become overwhelmed with the idea that Jesus – glorious King – supreme Creator – would humble Himself to the point that He would willingly be born of, and into, His very own creation.  And as if that weren’t enough, He would be rejected….scorned…..abused by the very souls for which He was providing salvation.  He started out being rejected, and thus banished to a stable. 
But when I imagine the scene…. There are no words for how amazed my senses become. 
The ink black night, shepherds silently resting, listening to the soft bleat of meager sheep.  The average night with its dark sky….can you imagine how it started?  Was it a burst of light and glory?  Or did it slowly become visible until it was as bright as day.  Then the angel appeared – I wonder if his voice was like a roar?  Or was it soft and gentle?  Can you see the joy in his face?  After all, he knows that the plan of redemption – the plan of the ages – is taking its next step.  God is redeeming man! 
And then the sky is suddenly filled with a mighty host of angels.  A HOST!!!  Imagine the power of the voices of a host of angels – All singing praises to that Baby King and His Father!  What that must have sounded like!  What it must have looked like! 
Doré, Heavenly Host
The redeemer has come.  He’s reconciled us.  I once was lost but now I’m found.  I once was blind but now I see.  God and sinners reconciled.  And with Mary’s words in Luke 1 I resonate:
My soul does magnify the Lord
And my Spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Invitation

So, how exactly do we invite God into our lives?
Let’s explore –
The original relationship between Adam and God existed without barrier.  There was no wall of separation – no fence, or gate, or distance.  They enjoyed engagement.  Communion, if you will.

But after the fall, there was a disconnect which resulted in the dwelling place of God being between two cherubim seated on the Arc of the Covenant.  It was later located in the Holy of Holies in the middle of the Temple.  The dwelling place of God was separated from man.  How tragic. 

In all four Gospels, the cleansing of the Temple is recorded, but my favorite is John 2:13-16. 
Now, follow me. 
·          According to 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. 
·         Before the restoration of the individual relationship between God and man could occur, Jesus cleansed the Temple.  (John 2:13-16)
·         And Hebrews tells us that we are to lay aside the sin that so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1) and make straight paths for your feet (v.13)
·         Directly after mentioning that the body is the Temple of God, 1 Corinthians 3:17 states that it’s to be holy.

For the Spirit of God to enter our lives, we must invite Him.  Then, when He cleanses the temple (forgives us of our sins and cleanses us from unrighteousness-1 John 1:9) we must diligently pursue…
a.       This means enjoying and actively engaging in relationship with Him, and (Hebrews 12:1, Matthew 22:37, Revelation 3:20)
b.      Keeping the place a holy sanctuary for Him (1 Corinthians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, Ephesians 4:24, Hebrews 12:10). 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

God-Shaped Hole

To continue from the previous post, we’re talking about the God-shaped hole in our hearts.

In that list of favorite authors are two men who have influenced me tremendously.  One being John Bevere, and the other being A.W. Tozer.  For today, I’m going to delve into statements made by Tozer in order to further develop the truth that, within every man, there is a natural desperation for God.  It’s real.  It exists.  We’ve all felt it at one point or another – it’s the idea that “there must be more than this!”

A.W. Tozer makes the note that in the core of every man is the spirit of man.  That’s what makes you distinct.  It’s your personality, preferences, and life.  He states, “From man’s standpoint the most tragic loss suffered in the Fall was the vacating of the inner sanctum by the Spirit of God.”  What does that mean?  To put it in basic terms – the relationship…the engagement… was severed. 

“At the far-in hidden center of a man’s being is a bush fitted to be the dwelling place of the Triune God. There God planned to rest and glow with moral and spiritual fire.  Man, by his sin, forfeited this indescribably wonderful privilege and must now dwell there alone.”

But wait – there is an answer:
“For so intimately private is the place that no creature can intrude; no one can enter but Christ; and He will enter only by the invitation of faith.   Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me.  (Rev 3:20)
What exactly is He saying?
He’s clearly saying that there is a place in the heart of every man that only God can fill.  And He longs to inhabit.  And he’s making the clear point that God is not a usurper – He will not come where he is not invited…  Sin separated us from God, and though Jesus made a way for us to have that relationship restored, He must be invited. 

We’ll develop this just a little more in the next post where we talk about HOW we invite engagement with God….

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Inner Sanctuary

I love to read.  I can’t help it.
I read my textbooks in college – I thoroughly enjoy classic English literature – and cannot sleep at night without having lay quietly in my bed digesting a book of some sort.  And I have a list of favorite authors that I call upon during various seasons of my life.  Wuthering Heights, Mansfield Park, Jane Eyre – familiar as old friends. 
And I always try to read a book before I see a film version of the same. 

So, while on my most recent trip to Ohio, I decided to read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  It’s not that I wanted to see the movie – I didn’t, actually – but my flight was delayed and I needed something more productive than staring to occupy my time.  And the book started with the author, having found a point of desperation, crying out for God. 

Now this was interesting to me.  Here is a secular writer, having been raised in a distantly Protestant home, recognizing the need for God’s help in her life.  Here were my thoughts –

I wonder what her journey is going to look like.  Will she find God?  Will her life be made complete by her exposure to our great Heavenly Father?  As she dedicates a year of exploration into the deeper meanings of life – will she find truth?

So I started to read. 
She’s miserable – we get that.  Nasty divorce and a destructive fling leave her feeling completely empty – we get that, too.
What I was surprised to find was that she felt God was speaking to her, in the beginning of the book.  She felt the direction of God.  This is the beginning of pursuing a relationship with Him.  He draws us first.  He loved us first.  And she readily admits that in her travels she wants to get closer to God.  Awesome!

But as I started to read through her sections on Italy, India, and Indonesia, I can only see her becoming more deeply confused, misguided, and bound with every page.  The scary thing is that she relates these progressive steps to liberty.  And that, my  friend, is the definition of deception.  Enlightenment is not what we're seeking - Pursue God.  His ways are higher than our ways!  His thoughts are greater than our thoughts! 

Back to the book - in Italy, she primarily demonstrates a pursuit of carnal pleasure – mostly in the form of gorging on foods and drink.  She glorifies the experience because she says – Italians know how to experience pleasure.  Her pursuit of God is conveniently set aside for her time in India where she lives in an Ashram for several months.  It’s there that the next step downward is taken.  Initially, she’s simply believes that there are many paths toward God, and that they all lead to the same one God.  As she progresses, however we find that she is exploring New Age religion in which she, herself, is a god, and that god exists in all living things.  At one point she runs wildly into the darkness and begins passionately kissing a tree. 

How did we get there?  By taking several small, conscious steps, one after the other, away from truth and toward a lie.  Ironically, the voice that was speaking to her heart in the beginning of the book, drawing her toward God - is silent; replaced by meditative experiences that could be construed as outer-body.  To start by lying on the floor, crying out to God and end with hugging and kissing a tree takes a lot of work and choice!  But that’s not where we end.

Next, she’s off to Indonesia to study with a medicine man who teaches her to pray to her 4 spiritual brothers that were born into the spirit world when she was born into the natural world.  So, now – not only does she believe that every living thing contains god, but she also believes that she is protected, guarded, provided for, and nurtured by four spirits that are specifically devoted to her, as her spiritual brothers.  And if that weren’t enough, she culminates her time in Indonesia by shacking up with an older Brazilian man with whom she admittedly really only desires a hot fling. 

Is this it?  Is this what pursuit of God is supposed to look like?  Casual Christianity gives way to pleasure seeking avoidance, which gives way to New Age mysticism, which gives way to Hinduism, which ends up in a complete indulgence in any fancy the carnal nature can conjure to gratify the most animalistic of cravings - including a glorified belief of one's own enlightenment. 

So, here you go -
I heard on the radio this morning – the absence of belief in God does not equal belief in nothing… It equals belief in anything.

There’s a song out that’s lyrics states:
“There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us
And the restless soul is searching
There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us
And it’s a void only He can fill…”

To be completely honest - I couldn't even finish the book.  No.  It kept getting darker, and darker, and more and more self-glorified, pleasure-seeking, and I was honestly getting sick to my stomach as I read the many justifications...

The freedom she was desperately searching for, the liberation of her spirit, oneness with the Father, cannot be found through New-Age mysticism, Hinduism, selfishness, Buddhist enlightment, or self-worship.  It can't be found in food, alcohol, drugs, materialism, self-promotion, work, play, or anything else we can accomplish. 

The freedom she needed could only be found in Christ.  It's not enlightened to believe that there are many other ways - it's deceived.

Let’s explore the idea of that God-shaped hole next…
I watched an amazing clip from Jason Upton yesterday. 
He talked about Native American believers and how many times they don’t understand why we do things the way we do.  I cannot do his words justice – and I would be ridiculous to even try.  I can only say that I was overwhelmed.  And am still.
You can find Jason’s page here.
Even as I sit here and type this, I feel the tears welling in my eyes. 
Why do we try to worship such an amazing God in ways that make us feel comfortable?  We build our churches, and we build our ministries – our own little personal kingdoms.  We filter our responses to God through what we deem as appropriate.  And yet He tells us so plainly in Isaiah, (55:9) “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  So why do we seek to bring Him to our level? 
Why?  I think it’s because it’s easier for us to manage.  There is no confrontation when things are comfortable.  There is no conviction when our view of Jesus is compromised.  We can manage just fine.  It seems to me that so many times we try our best to force our Redeemer into this little box that fits our own comfort.  I’ve done it.  I’ve caught myself doing it.  I’ve had to repent.  What an amazing, incredible, overwhelming God we serve.  Why would I give Him what I deem appropriate instead of what He deserves?
Does it make any sense to the worldly natural mind that the Creator would enter His own creation, through a young girl (Luke 2)?

  Is it logical to the mind of reason for the only One capable of redeeming the heart of all humanity to submit Himself as a servant (John 13:5-17)? 

 To be a Child (Luke 2:41)? 

To humble Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8)? 

None of these things are logical to the rational mind?  That’s why Jesus said on so many occasions, “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear.”
And still, we do what we want – we give what we choose – we offer the things we decide are appropriate.  And we tell people that their experience with God might have just been a figment of their own imagination.  The truth is, God is so much greater than our boxes.  He’s bigger than our sanctuaries.  He’s greater than our own visions of grandeur.  His grandeur was a stable.  His victory was through a cruel, bloody cross. 
We build our sanctuaries, and yet He inhabits the praises of His people.  Are those praises confined to the crisp painted walls and throne room-esque places we have set up for corporate worship?  Sadly, for some they are.  Some of the most amazing architecture happens to be the historic cathedrals of Europe, and yet God does not dwell there. 

Think about it – David was never permitted to build a temple!  David was a warrior/king who worshipped.  Solomon built a temple that was the pinnacle of splendor in its day.  But David was the man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22).
Jason went on to say that the Native Americans have a tendency to see God in ways that the typical American church cannot.  They see Him in creation!  My mind wandered.  I’d imagine that they see Him as the One who soars like an eagle, and roars like a lion, and rages like a mighty warrior violently engaging His enemy. 
And then I thought about our liturgy, and Sunday tendencies.  Our most common expressions to Him are in response to Jesus as King.  And that He ABSOLUTELY is!  But think about it – our sanctuaries are a lot like a common version of a throne room.  There is a platform, or central focus, where the leaders address the people.  As people, we come together and worship in a throne room fashion.  We’ve encouraged our version of propriety, and appropriate restraint.  This got me thinking about what appropriate etiquette and protocol is in a throne room.  So I googled it and found amazingly, it reflects many of our liturgical ceremonies today.    
Now, before you think I’m saying that this model is wrong, please know that I am not.  I’m saying, that I’m starting to understand how incomplete it is… (though I do believe that our version of propriety might be askew, and restraint in worship expression is NEVER condoned in scripture.  After all – consider David’s dance before the Lord as the ark came into Jerusalem, and Miriam’s dance after the nations baptism through the Red Sea).
The entire point comes down to this –
In our pursuit of God, we must reject the idea of Sunday Christianity, and begin to engage with Him in ALL life.   
Let’s lay aside the schizophrenic behavior that screams duplicity!  Let’s focus on Jesus everyday.  Let’s respond to Jesus.  Let’s pray, and seek, and worship in EVERYTHING we do.  Let’s honor God.  Let’s live our lives as a reflection of Jesus, and then pursue a deeper relationship with Him.  Let’s get rid of our parameters and boundaries!  Let’s ASSUME He desires to meet with, bless, heal, save, deliver, commune with, and LIVE with His people!  And let’s assume that He is not bound to only show Himself on a Sunday morning when the music is right. 
And when we feel Him, let’s take a minute to wait on the Lord.  Let’s assume He’s quite capable of being found outside of the walls of our man made buildings.  His sanctuary (Hebrews 8:1-2)- the true tabernacle was built by God, and not man. 

 (this is our Father's world)
I’d be willing to bet that there would be a lot more revelation in the Church if we would just stop and listen and wait when we feel Him near.  Not just in the church – but everywhere.  Can you imagine – if the revelation and awareness increased just by stopping when we noticed His attention on us, what would happen if we, as a body, actually pursued God in all His charactersitcs - instead of ONLY as King…

He is:
In Genesis, He's the breath of life
In Exodus, the Passover Lamb
In Leviticus, He's our High Priest
Numbers, The fire by night
Deuteronomy, He's Moses' voice
In Joshua, He is salvation's choice
Judges, law giver
In Ruth, the kinsmen-redeemer
First and second Samuel, our trusted prophet
In Kings and Chronicles, He's sovereign
Ezra, true and faithful scribe
Nehemiah, He's the rebuilder of broken walls and lives
In Esther, He's Mordecai's courage
In Job, the timeless redeemer
In Psalms, He is our morning song
In Proverbs, wisdom's cry
Ecclesiastes, the time and season
In the Song of Solomon, He is the lover's dream
In Isaiah, He's Prince of Peace
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet
In Lamentations, the cry for Israel
Ezekiel, He's the call from sin
In Daniel, the stranger in the fire
In Hosea, He is forever faithful
In Joel, He's the Spirits power
In Amos, the arms that carry us
In Obadiah, He's the Lord our Savior
In Jonah, He's the great missionary
In Micah, the promise of peace
In Nahum, He is our strength and our shield
In Habakkuk and Zephaniah, He's pleading for revival
In Haggai, He restores a lost heritage
In Zechariah, our fountain
In Malachi, He is the son of righteousness rising with healing in His wings
In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, He is God, Man, Messiah
In the book of Acts, He is fire from heaven
In Romans, He's the grace of God
In Corinthians, the power of love
In Galatians, He is freedom from the curse of sin
Ephesians, our glorious treasure
Philippians, the servants heart
In Colossians, He's the Godhead Trinity
Thessalonians, our coming King
In Timothy, Titus, Philemon He's our mediator and our faithful Pastor
In Hebrews, the everlasting covenant
In James, the one who heals the sick.
In First and Second Peter, he is our Shepherd
In John and in Jude, He is the lover coming for His bride
In the Revelation, He is King of kings and Lord of lords
The Prince of Peace
The Son of man
The Lamb of God
The great I AM
He's the alpha and omega
Our God and our Savior
He is Jesus Christ the Lord
(Jeoffrey Benward & Jeff Silvery)

Thursday, October 21, 2010


There is something to be said for humility.  Not the pious, self-righteous façade that has too often embodied the images in our minds when the word is heard or seen.  No.  True humility resonates from a place too deep to be manufactured with convincing display.  It conceals nothing.  It reserves nothing.  It judges nothing, and it feels everything. 
Its depth cannot be measured in the character of a person because, when you feel you’ve found its boundaries, it will surprise you again.  Still, it is not weakness.  Though sometimes severely taken advantage of, humility will rise to trust again.  Is it because it plays the fool?  Decidedly not.  Humility looks beyond the weak displays of man, and sees the potential that lies therein.  It cannot be satisfied with the superficial, and yet, it does not glory in the prize at the end of the pursuit.  It is not presumptuous, but hopeful.  Its promotion is in the glory of others, and its pleasure is in the happiness of truth and justice. 
And though it feels too often lost, it can be found.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


It was out there.  The quote –
“What we behold-we become.  Where we look – is where we go.  Correct vision is crucial.  Be intentional with your attention.”
One time, my little boy was having a wonderful time playing in our living room.  He was running through the kitchen, giggling and laughing, and he was headed to the hallway leading to his bedroom.  I think he was about 3 years old.
Anyway, picture this – belly laughs, fat rolly thighs bouncing, and a little man looking back over his shoulder.  There was no time to react, he was going too fast.  BAM!!!  He missed the hallway and hit the wall.  Bounced about 3 feet back into the room and sat there staring at the wall.  No more laughter.  It was like he couldn’t believe someone hat just put the wall there – and it had been there since he was 6 months old.  Same son is now notorious for riding his bike watching over his shoulder at his sister.  Do you think he’ll ever learn? 
This really speaks to me!  Pursuit is not reflection and remembrance.  Sure, that’s part of learning, growth, and maturity, but if we spend our entire lives wishing we could go back to the times when things were great, we will run to that same wall.  I’ve done it. 
My college years were amazing.  I went to Brownsville Revival School of Ministry for 2 years and graduated Magna Cum Laude in December of 1999.  I was in the 3rd class, and was smack in the center of an amazing period of church history.  I loved it!  During that time I lived in a tiny one room apartment above someone’s garage – no TV, no internet, no radio.  Just me, my CD’s, my Bible and my piano.  I gorged myself on my education – and I was given the opportunity to travel with music teams on more occasions than I can count.  I played on the school worship team with Bill Ancira (though I think I was more of support than a necessary instrument), and even got to lead a couple of songs at the revival on a Friday and Saturday night.  Not as much as some, but more than others.  I consider myself VERY blessed!
Still, in pursuit of the Kingdom agenda that involves me and moves through me, I cannot spend all of my time wishing I could go back to those days.  God has given me the opportunity to pour my life into a hurting people who have been abandoned by everyone in the name of religion.  
I needed this quote – what we behold, we become.
I have many friends on facebook that point to different seasons in my life.  Some were in bands with me at Brownsville.  Others were friends from high-school.  They both represent where I was – who I used to be.  But I don’t want to be Evan running straight for the wall while I laugh, and carryon looking over my shoulder and enjoying my past. 
Do I miss it?  Sure. 
I miss the full teams of talented musicians who were pursuing God as much as I was.  I miss the amazing things that used to happen in the music practice room on the back side of the campus.  The creativity – the harmonies – the instrumental blendings!  Wow!  People used to follow the Spirit of the Lord as they played and we would have some incredible sessions.
But the reward for that has been earned. 
What am I going to do with where I am now?  Will I regret that I don’t have a stacked team with passion for Jesus?  Will I despair that I haven’t worked with a full band in a year? 
Sure I miss it – but no I won’t.  God has chosen to give me as a gift to these people, and I will do everything in my power (and then rely on the Lord’s strength) to create an atmosphere of worship in the midst of their hurting and broken situations.  If I’m constantly missing where I’ve been, I will become bitter with where God has placed me now. 
So I will choose to be intentional with my attention – just as Jesus was when He set His face like flint toward Jerusalem and the cross (Luke 9:51).  The Message Bible says it this way:
“…he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.”
If you’re not watching where you’re going, you’ll end up flat on your face.  Guaranteed.  And if your vision is a skewed, it will lead you where you don’t want to go.  Take your eyes away from the Author and the Finisher of our faith, (who, for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of Majesty) – take your eyes away from Him and you’ll end up someplace you never intended to go.  Your sight is your steering mechanism.  You might not like that, it might prove inconvenient, but it is absolutely true. 
Consider these passages:
“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come?  My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained” (Proverbs 29:18)
Eve saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to her eyes (Genesis 3:6).  Sin inevitably followed.  She being deceived fell into transgression (1 Timothy 2:14)
Abraham raised His eyes and looked while the knife was in his hand to slaughter his own son.  There he saw a ram (Gen 22:13)  He was vigilantly watching for the Lord’s provision!
Moses sought out God!  He climbed the mountain and he pleaded for God to “show me your glory.”  (Exodus 33:18) And yet the children of Israel couldn’t bear to look upon the Lord, or hear the voice of the Lord (Deut 5:25-27).  It seemed too great a responsibility – they’d be obligated to respond. 
Before Joshua led the army of Israel to Jericho he “lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand…”  He saw the Captain of the host of the Lord, (Joshua 5:13-15) and then led his nation into a battle drama that was incomprehensible!
And during the cycle of the judges, men would do what was right in “their own eyes,” and the nation fell into sin, disrepair and judgment! (Judges 21:25)
But what about the New Testament –
Matthew 13:15 – “For the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.”
Mark 8:18 – “Having eyes, do you not see?”
And what about when Jesus told the disciples to lift up their eyes to the harvest (John 4:35)
And Paul’s message that the Lord sent him to people in order “to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light.”  (Acts 26:18)
Your sight – your attention – your perception… they lead you.  Where your eyes wander is the direction of your heart.  And if the direction of your heart is for anything other than Jesus, your life will follow.  What you sow, you reap.  Peter mentions eyes full of adultery, and the fact that they never cease from sin.
But what happens if your eyes are full of Jesus?  What happens if you are pursuing Him?  What happens if your great quest in life is to please your Father?
I can only imagine….

Saturday, October 2, 2010


There are no words to describe the place that I've been in lately.  I heard a song today that seemed to explain it perfectly. 
"To know You is to want to know You more."
That's just it.  It's a beautiful place to be longing for the presence of God in your life.  It's desperation.  Hunger.  Thirst.  It's a ravenous need to be connected to the Savior King who calls us Friend. 
I once heard a man make the argument that we should never be desperate for God.  He rationalized that God has given us everything we need in order to commune with Him, and therefore to be desperate is to not grab hold of what God has already offered us through His Son Jesus Christ. 
I cannot disagree more.  It sounds good.  The statement that God has given us everything we need in order to commune with Him is absolutely true.  Through the cross He has made a way for us to live in an actively engaged relationship with Him.  But I have known what it means to be desperate....I know it right now.... and to be in the midst of a battle when I needed God to intervene on my behalf.  And I have longed to be with Him more than I have ever wanted to be with anyone in my life.  I have loved Him when I couldn't sense or feel His presence around me, and in those times I have been overwhelmingly desperate - just to hear His sweet voice, to feel the warmth of His presence around me.   He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). 
We are humanity.  And He is Divine.  How can we not be desperate?  I have known people absolutely desperate for God to heal.  I have heard their desperation through their songs and prayers.  I've seen the people of God pursue.  Seeking.  Desperately seeking.  One of my professors once said that the closer he got to God the farther he felt he had to go.  I didn't understand that at first, but as my life grows more deeply attached to Jesus, it makes so much sense.   The more I know Him, the more amazing I see that He is - the more I absolutely adore Him - the more I desperately long to run to Him.
It's funny, my kids demonstrate this all the time to me.  Sometimes it just seems like I have velcro attached to me, and they can't get close enough.  Ethan's four years old, and there are some times when he just can't get close enough.  I watched him do this with his daddy just last night.  They were fine all evening - nothing spectacular.  Just family.  And then Ethan got closer to his daddy.  They started to play.  And then - as Ethan got closer, he just wasn't close enough.  He had to completely monopolize his daddy's attention.  It wasn't enough to play WITH daddy.  He had to play ON daddy - and the wrestling  began.  I've said it before, as I squeezed him super tight, "Am I close enough, Ethan?"  He always says "no." 
It doesn't make sense to people who haven't experienced it, and that's okay.  I just know that I have never been so at peace in my life as the times when I am pursuing God.  Desperately pursuing. 
But is He not desperate for us?  Does He not pursue us?  Did He not pursue me?  Was He not standing at my door, knocking... calling to me?!  Calling my name?  Did He not pursue you?  Shall we not desperately pursue Him together?!
Can you believe that?  We are His prize just as He is ours!  He sent is sinless, perfect Son to suffer and die so that the absolute wretch that I am could be rescued and brought to Him.  He suffered for me.  I was His treasure.  I'm still His treasure!  He pursued me when I rebelled.  He opened doors for me to find Him when I wasn't even looking for Him.  He knocked on MY door. 
Here's the deal.  I lead worship for a small church in a very small town in the middle of the country.  It's where God has placed me - I know this more than I know anything else in my life.  These are the people I'm given to minister to.  And I love them.  But not because they're beautiful, rich, or even spiritually attentive.  They are a broken people.  They have been despondent.  As I get to know each one of them I can hear the struggle that has marked their lives - scrounging to make ends meet.  Watching their own children being broken by the consequences of their life-choices.  When Derrick and I first started ministering with these people I was always overwhelmed with how hurt, broken, and devastated they were.  If anyone needed God - it was them. 
They were already in church, and yet the power of the Spirit of God seemed like a pie-in- the-sky fairytale that was meant for everyone but them.  Just thinking about it now breaks my heart.  Have you ever felt that way?  Like the promises and the good things that God has given to His people were for everyone else but you?  I have.  During the seasons when my faith is tested - it's easy to feel like everything I do and believe is out of sheer will, because the blessings and favor were destined for someone else.    
But did God send Christ for those who were not in need?  Are these not the meek of the earth?  A broken people who have been ravaged by pain.   Did He send the Healer for those who are well?  No - but He sent the Healer.  Sickness, brokenness and pain - there is a Healer, and He wants to heal.  Think of the woman with the issue of blood in Mark.  She pursued when Jesus was headed someplace else entirely.   Think of the man with the demon possessed son - Jesus said "All things are possible to him who believes."  The response? - "I BELIEVE! HELP MY UNBELIEF!"  (Oh, how many times I have cried this.)  Then my Jesus brought restoration - saving, healing, deliverance - to the man's brokenness and tormented son.
I have had the amazing privilege of ministering in some remarkable places, and I would not be who I am today if it were not for those experiences.  So I can say from my heart that I know God longs to pour His Spirit out on all flesh.  Here, though, I've met a people who adamantly hold on to the knowledge that Jesus is the Son of God , but they almost can't imagine that the blessings and the favor of God could ever apply to them.  When we worship together, the idea that God is present - and not just present for the sake of receiving adoration - but with the intent of loving on and meeting the needs of His children - it's just now becoming a reality to them.  It was so SO foreign.  God touching His people was as much a fairytale to these as I'm sure the Israelite people felt during the 400 years of silence between Malachi and Matthew.
But recently things have changed.   I have felt the power of His presence almost tangible in the room during our times of honest, open worship.  In the past 6 months I have seen men who were strong, resolute, power-houses weeping in adoration as they, for the first time, felt the affection of their tender Father.  The atmosphere absolutely full of grace - you could feel it!  And the freedom that came from that forgiveness ..........there are no words to describe that. 
This is probably not making much sense right now - I'm bawling as I write.  Just thinking about the awe-inspiring favor of God toward His children.  His broken, hurting, visionless children. 
Oh God - I resonate with Isaiah when he wrote - "Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down!" (64:1).  I don't ever want a relationship of distant satisfaction - but God I long for you.  I'm desperate for you.  And not just for your healings, or blessings, - but Father I desperately long just to be close to You.  And to know the beauty of the love you give to me!  Oh - you made a wretch your treasure.  You gave Your sacred Son to be wounded so that I could pursue You.  O Lord, forgive me for the times I have been complacent.  Arrogant.  Proud.  And distant.    Forgive me for the times I thought I had this whole thing figured out.  I ask you to forgive me for all the times I have failed You and Lord, for the times I have not respected You, honored You, glorified You. 
And God - I ask you to empower me to pursue You more!  By Your grace I will run the race for YOU are the prize!  The treasure, the gift, of seeing You absolutely overwhelms me.  Will you show Yourself to me?  Will You allow Yourself to be found by me?  I know You will - You said "Seek and you will find.  Knock and the door will be opened." 
I'm seeking.  I'm knocking.  I'm pursuing Jesus through grace.  Desperately pursuing.  And I'm more alive than I've ever been in my life before!
Paul wrote - (Philippians 3:7+) "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord....(14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  And to the Corinthians he wrote, (9:24)"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win (Italics mine)." 
Paul was writing of desperation.  Many run in a race - but there's one more desperate for the prize, and he wins.  Desperation was the Syrophoenician woman pleading with Jesus to heal her daughter who pursued and pursued until He taught her what it meant to be rewarded for her quest.  And the woman who pleaded with the Judge for justice and she was rewarded for her persistence and faith. 
After all,  He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Proverbs 8:17; Hebrews 11:6)  To diligently seek is to desperately pursue.     

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What is Pursuit?

It's complicated. 
And it's really quite elementary. 

Simply put, it's the chase of a deeper relationship with Jesus. 

And on a more complex level, the pursuit is the role of the people of God to engage the heart of the Father.  What exactly does that mean?  Worship. 

But lest you think I mean worship in terms of our common understanding - what we've decided it means - please know that I'm writing of something much deeper than that. 

Pursuit is knowing there is more to God than what we've understood.  I'm reminded of the hymn by Fredrick Lehman, that states -

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky

Fathomless.  Overwhelming. 
The pursuit is a passionate desire to know more, engage more.  It's an understanding that Creator, Sovereign, King of the universe, passionately desires an intimate relationship with His creation - me - you - us.  I don't understand it sometimes.  We being so faulty, so ... human, have the claims on the heart of a King.  And not just any king.  I wonder why.  He doesn't need me to be complete.  He is not arrogant, and therefore demanding worship for His own ego.  Were he conceited, haughty and proud He would not have humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross. 

The pursuit is a manifesto.  It is an announcing that those pursuing have declared that there is nothing this world could offer that would take the place of the pleasure in finding Jesus.  And then finding Him again.  And again.  And again. 

The pursuit is Him standing at the door, knocking and us hearing the voice of our Friend, opening the door, and dining together. 

The pursuit is an exploration.  I once heard it referred to as a mansion in which countless people enter through the door of salvation and then stand with their backs plastered tightly against the door, just inside.  They are content to be thankful for that door.  All the while the mansion is waiting to be explored.  There are doors to be opened... rooms to be found... treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven waiting for the adventurer who will seek them.... those who will pursue. 

It is a journey...  One that will end when we see Him.  And as long as I'm here on earth, I will engage in the pursuit. 

Because I want the prize?  I suppose that depends on what you think the prize is.  It is a truth universally understood that blessings follow obedience, but I can honestly say that I'm not pursuing the blessings associated with a relationship with Jesus.  My disclaimer - I am OVERWHELMINGLY thankful when those blessings manifest in my life here on earth.  God knows my heart - He knows I'm being honest.  And sometimes I await them.  But they are not my pursuit. 

I do not pursue the stage though I am a 'worship leader.'  I'm not after my own glory.  I do not pursue money, though I would enjoy living financially blessed.  I think it enables and empowers us to do things we are otherwise limited in. 

I DO pursue the engagement of relationship with Jesus with every time I sit down to a piano.  At my home, or in the sanctuary - I strive to connect.   I pursue a better understanding of His heart and purpose.  I pursue Jesus - the wonderful, awesome person of Jesus.  I don't always do it well, and in my life I have known seasons when he was less than my first priority... thinking back on those places makes my heart so sad. 

The truth is, I am pursuing.  I'm on my journey.  I'm running the race.  And the most ultimate prize I can possibly imagine is the pleasure of the Lord.  I have no more words......
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