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)
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