Friday, January 20, 2006

Simply from the heart...

As the holiday season drifts more into the past and the new year forges ahead, I take time reflect. I remember the year that has passed. I ponder what the new year will bring. I have been taking time to evaluate my spiritual growth, my weaknesses and seek God for direction.

Last year was a unique one for me. Unique because, obviously, I had never lived 2005 before and unique because I will never live it again. Unique in the sense that I faced joys and trials which had never come my way. Unique. Difficult. Joyful. Painful. Exhilarating!

The year two-thousand-five began with a journey of a lifetime for myself and my brother, Ben. Seven days into the new year we boarded a plane destined for Tanzania, Africa. We met new believers that spoke Swahili, experienced scorching Equator temperatures, ate boiled goat prepared by tribesmen and traveled a wild safari. Those experiences are nothing compared to the transforming journey that was happening in my soul. For the first time in my spiritual journey, I was faced with a staggering question: Did I believe God? Did I believe God for who He Is, what He can do and what He wanted to do with me? I had already been facing these questions for six months or more, yet my time in Africa caused a collision of reality and theology.

I can honestly say I will never be the same again. Not necessarily in relation to the mission trip itself, but because of the work God had been doing and completed in my heart while in Africa. I was pushed to a new level of faith in the God I had been raised to know. Yes, I was a Christian. I had known and loved Him my "whole" life. I read His Word. I memorized it. I went to church every time the doors were open. My dad was a pastor. Yet, He was becoming incredibly more intimate, powerful and miraculous to me than He had ever seemed before. In a way it scared me. At the same time I was... am... overjoyed.

In Prince Caspian, fourth book in the series of The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan beckons to Lucy during the night:

"Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan," sobbed Lucy. "At last"

The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face.

"Welcome, child," he said.

"Aslan," said Lucy, "you're bigger."

"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.

"Not because you are?"

"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."

"Every year you grow, you will find me bigger." God is that "Me" C.S. Lewis was referring to in the form of Aslan. God does not change. He does not increase; He does not decrease. He Is. Yet, as I mature and know more OF Him, He appears bigger to me. As my soul is faced with more opportunites to see God as He is the larger it can become if I choose to believe Him!

The last year has been just that for me. Through many trials and joys God has given me the chance to be stretched and to know Him more fully. He has become bigger in my mind. He continues to grow. As my heart and mind are able to comprehend more, I pray that God would allow me to see more... and more... and MORE! At least the most a human can know on earth without being killed by the glory of God!

Which reminds me of The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. I read this book for the first time a few months ago. What a life changing picture of God's glory it has been for me. If you have not read the book I HIGHLY suggest you read it- soon!

The intense writing and stunning analogy gripped my imagination from the first paragraph. Lewis descibes a man boarding a bus bound for the High Country. He encounters a myrid of people along the journey, each with their own worldview and philosophy. The atheist. The agnostic. The stagnant believer. The uncaring. The controlling. The proud. They each walk into the High Country. They each see the High Country through the eyes they had on earth. I will not say too much, so I do not give the whole thing away...but...

Why do you think Moses was allowed to only see the trail of God's glory? Why did Isaiah cry, "WOE IS ME!" in the presence of God? Why does Lewis decribe the grass in heaven as sharp and rain like bullets? What happens when Heaven and Hell collide? Sins and a Savior unite? Humanity and Glory walk into the same room?

Humanity falls to pieces. I fall to pieces. God is ultimate reality. Everything else is but a Ghost. The more I know God the more real I become. The more I know God the more capacity my soul can hold TO know God. Think of a balloon. When a ballon is new it takes the blower more energy to fill the balloon with air. Each time the balloon expands and is deflated, the more air it can hold the next time it is filled.

The Great Divorce, although pure hypothesis, causes me to ponder deep aspects of heaven, God's glory and my spiritual responsibility. If my heart is set on knowing and loving Christ, earth becomes, in a sense, part of heaven. If I seek after worldly pleasures and self-satisfaction, earth becomes, in a sense, part of hell. My greatest struggles, sins, fears and weaknesses, if surrendered to God to use and transform, can become strengths for the glory of God. There is so much more to say about this book, but I will leave that for another post!

The last year I have come to love the book of Isaiah. The Israelites were in such bondage and Isaiah, although judging them, offers incredible hope to God's chosen people. God extends amazing grace, mercy and compassion, while issuing the judgement that the sins deserve. Over and over God says, you are my witnesses. You are the people I have chosen to proclaim to the world that I am God! The following verse is one of my favorites and my theme verse from the last few years:

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed,nor shall there be any after me." ~Isaiah 43:10

That I may know and believe Him and understand that He is God! This is the purpose of my life. I am not on earth to serve God. I am not on earth to get married or have children. I am on earth to know God, believe Him and understand that He is God. EVERYTHING good and pleasing and honorable and God-glorifying will flow from a passionate, vibrant relationship with God!!!

I love reading My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Every day I am challenged with my perspective, knowledge of Scripture and relationship with God. On January 18 a section reads, "Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him. It is easier to serve than to be drunk to the dregs. The one aim of the call of God is the satisfaction of God, not a call to do something for Him. We are not sent to battle for God, but to be used by God in His battlings. Are we being more devoted to service than to Jesus Christ?"

Am I more devoted to service than to Christ Himself?

January 2nd is one that causes my knees to weaken and my heart to melt. It convicts me and comforts me every time I read it:

"He went out, not knowing whither he went." Hebrews 11:8

Have you been "out" in this way? If so, there is no logical statement possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question - "What do you expect to do?" You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually revise your attitude towards God and see if it is a going out of everything, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in perpetual wonder - you do not know what God is going to do next. Each morning you wake it is to be a "going out," building in confidence on God. "Take no thought for your life, . . . nor yet for your body" - take no thought for the things for which you did take thought before you went out."

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. (I LOVE that!) God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is. (Thank You, God!) Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to Him until you are not surprised an atom at anything He does? (Can you imagine have such an intimate relationship with God that nothing He does surprises you?!?!)

Suppose God is the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him - what an impertinence worry is! Let the attitude of the life be a continual "going out" in dependence upon God, and your life will have an ineffable charm about it which is a satisfaction to Jesus. You have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God."

I love that last line. "You have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God. Oh, how many times our convictions, as good as they are, get in the way of our relationship with God Himself!

"7 But whatever gain I had,
I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the
surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things
and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own
that comes from the law,
but that which comes through faith in Christ,
the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
10 that I may know him
and the power of his resurrection,
and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
11 that by any means possible I may attain
the resurrection from the dead."
Philippians 3:7-10

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