I am not wise enough to brag about wisdom or knowledge, nor am I especially strong enough to brag about my great might in any way. I certainly have no riches to flaunt before anyone.
When I sit to describe the Jesus I know, can I really say I know Him at all?
Several years ago I quit making resolutions or new years goals. I accepted, then, a challenge to choose only a word for the year. "One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live or what you want to achieve by the end of 2015. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long. It will take hard work, and will require intentionality and commitment. But if you let it, your word will shape you and your year. It will guide your decisions and help you grow.”
This year my word is: PRAYER.
While I would say I am a man of God's Word, I want to be more of a man of prayer. Prayer is not an element of my relationship with God, it IS my relationship with God. I have to realize my relationship is dependent upon communication and time together.
If I wrote my autobiography, someone could read it inside and out, over and over again. They could highlight important parts about my story and things that mater a great deal to me. But that person does not know me. That person and I have no relationship. We have never sat and spoken together.
Much like this, I can study God's Word inside and out, over and over again. I can highlight important parts and dedicate years and whole college degrees to studying things very important to God. But I could do all of this and still not know God. I do not have a relationship. I have not sat and spoken with Him.
I am a man of God's Word and a man after God's heart, but I want to be MORE of a man of prayer than I have been before. I want to be more of a man of prayer at the end of 2015 than I am right now. I want to know Him more intimately. I want to be terribly close to His heart, and that will only come as we sit and speak together with more intentionality and frequency.
Today, God, I want your Word to affect both my mind and my heart. I need to know your tenderness, your intimacy, and your love in a way that I have not known it in some time. I will soak up your Word today. Please help my heart understand. Speak to my heart and may I come to know you more?
"and though you have not seen Him, YOU LOVE HIM, and though you do not see Him now, you BELIEVE in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." -1 Peter 1:8-9
I greatly desire my heart to know the joy of salvation my mind knows it is. My soul is saved, and my mind knows the good news of the reality, but my heart does not often sit and rest with the very good news that this truly is for my soul eternal. God, help my heart rejoice today. I want to love you more.
Help my heart today. Give me a heart of flesh to replace the bits of built up stone.
One of the reasons we do not hear God as we did in the Old Testament is because our sin has grown to do this to us. Humanity has been so sickened with sin that we have lost our hearing and we no longer even speak God's language enough to understand Him if we even could hear His voice.
Hearts have been so hardened over time that we are too incredibly foreign to God whose image is actually imprinted upon us. We who are in His very image are terribly foreign to Him because of our sin.
The good news is that God desires his imprinted people. He desires connection, contact, and conversation once again. The silence we hate is as hurtful to God.
He had to speak a language we would finally be able to understand. Jesus is that language. "Jesus is God spelling Himself out," wrote SD Gordon.
Jesus is God Himself. Jesus is God Himself speaking a language our foreign sin-soaked hearts can finally understand.
That intimacy we once knew in Eden is possible now only in Jesus.
I am teaching a workshop on the creative process in March at The Worship Conference. I am having similar feelings as I do when given opportunities to teach God's Word; who am I to teach this? All is grace!
Same as intimate connection with God, moments and periods of creativity are exactly that; moments! [Tweet That] We all have times when God seems as distant as our creativity. As a follower of Jesus, I believe the two are intimately connected. I am my most creative when I am most connected to the heart of God.
There are practical steps to take for jumpstarting that intimacy, and there are practical steps for jumpstarting your creativity. I will communicate those in my workshop in March, but one I will communicate in a great quote I just came across.
"Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon." - Raymond Chandler
Reading back through old journals can always give phenomenal perspective to where you used to be. I went back to one of my several journals written in the midst of my deepest questioning periods of faith...and this is one of the posts I found.....
Journal Entry from 10-17-01
How amazingly I've been spoken to in my Bible reading tonight?! I am amazed by a simple phrase in Psalm 119, verse 86. Its a phrase I now realize is very common in my prayers, my writing, my written prayers: "HELP ME!" Two words mean so much and hold so incredibly much. In an understanding that God truly knows my heart, and in most cases, better than even I do, a simple last cry of "HELP ME" means everything in the world. Its amazing that out of this entire chapter (the longest chapter in the Bible), this phrase has stuck out and meant the most to me. At the beginning of that particular stanza, the writer also exclaims, a little more eloquently, "I am weak from waiting for you to save me, but I hope in your word." That is me right now. I mean THAT is the very cry from my heart almost to the T. I have been looking and searching for my heavenly father, and the continuous search has made me very weak. Ah, but through it all, I am clinging to hope. I cling to a hope in God's word to be spoken and encouraged upon me eventually. That verse (81) is immediately followed by a phrase I also sometimes feel is my very cry. "My eyes are tired from looking for your promise. When will you comfort me?" I have felt that so much lately, but I've never been able to verbalize it in my prayers to my half-believed heavenly Father. But again, the most amazing thing from this reading comes in verse 86 when I do indeed feel all of this but cannot ever verbalize it as I wish I could: "HELP ME!!" Sometimes, I only wish I could pray verse 88:
"Give me life by your love..."
But I am so content and encouraged in bolding exclaiming,
And cling to the hope that he will.
This question has ravished me this morning. My intimacy with God has been on my mind and heart heavily the last few days. I spend time nearly every morning in the WORD, but come to realize last night that my intimacy is none the better for it. Now why and how could that be?
My intimacy is flourished in times of communion with God, and I could only study my Bible every day for hours at a time and be no closer to the heart of God...not because of the Bible, of course, but because I have only studied the Bible. When he Bible becomes a source for study alone, it is only a textbook and it will not contribute much to communion with the Father. To intimacy!
My intimacy with Christ has been moved around like a puzzle, and has eventually taken a back-burner to my Biblical study.
I desire intimacy with my Father and Abba. That happens when I come to God as the child I am.
I am reminded of Christ as a child becoming a man in Luke, Chapter 2. Jesus is in the temple talking to the elders. Mary and Joseph are freaking out looking for Jesus. Mary finally comes across Jesus in the temple. She remembers her worry, fear, and terror only seconds ago. "I lost the Son of God. God gives me one thing and I lose him. What am I going to do about this? My child is gone! I am going to spank that Savior so badly for leaving my side (or put Him in time out for a while...depending upon your particular parenting style...I am sure the Bible supports whatever your style in some way if you make it.)
Anyway, side track aside, Mary gets pretty pissed.
She says, "Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior," (because a mother's anger is expressed best by addressing you by your full name), "Why do you do this to me? Your father has been worried sick about you. We've been looking all over for you?"
Of course Jesus is....well.....Jesus, so he's always pulling THAT card. He says to Mary, "Why were you looking for me? Didn't you know I would be in my Father's house?"
Even Jesus knew what it was like to be a child. A child always wants to be with his Father, and we are reminded that Joseph was not Jesus' Father. To Jesus, only God was his Father, and Jesus was with God in child-like communion.
How much do I come face-to-face with my Father? I desire to be with God like a child. To be in such union with my Father that my prayers are coming from Jesus within me. I want Jesus within me to pray and act through me as the child who just longs to be in his Father's house all the time. I want the child Jesus within me to pray for me to our Abba who wants great intimacy and tender loving connection with us.
I want to be so identified with the Lord's life that I am simply a child of God. I want the SON of God within me.
"Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied and human eyes are never satisfied." - Proverbs 27:20 This is one reason that addictions are so detrimental. We are created for intimacy with God and that requires an effort on our part. It requires that we at least work on coming closer to his heart. We have to continue to get back to our center, our greatest love, back to the knowledge of God. We have to do this on a regular basis. If we do not continue to get our center, we begin to wander. Before we know it, we "open our eyes" and find ourselves in the "distant country" like the prodigal. Now we need a dramatic and drastic return to the Father, back home. But how much less heartache and pain to stay at my home with my Father than to have wandered slowly into the distant country in need of a drastic return?
This is why addictions are so powerful in our lives. The world offers us addictions because of their nature. They will never satisfy. I will crave addictions for the rest of my life. Addictions feel good, but they do not satisfy. To be 'satisfied' is to say, "I am content with this. This is all I need." Addictions, by their very nature, are never satisfying. That is why they are addictions; they will always vie for my attention. I will always desire them. I will crave them forever and I will never be fulfilled. I will constantly desire the world's offers because they always feel good but never fulfill the needs I have within me.
I need relentless love. That will only be fulfilled at my Center. That will only be fulfilled by my Father God.
If I am to be fulfilled, to be satisfied, to be relentlessly loved, I have to stay home. I have to meet with God and allow him to love me.
"[Jesus], whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine FORBEARANCE he had PASSED OVER the sins previously committed." (Romans 3:25, NRSV) FORBEARANCE: (Dictionary.com) an abstaining from the enforcement of a right (American Heritage Dictionary) tolerance and restraint in the face of provocation (WordNet) a delay in enforcing rights or claims or privileges
I am, right now, really basking in the reality of God's forbearance. I love that the NRSV and NASB uses this term. It is phenomenal. The reality of this word really strikes me and teaches me more about grace.
"In His divine forbearance": This is to say that God is abstaining from enforcing a right. That right is one of giving me death or some other punishment for my sin. My sin deserves death, and God has every right to do as He wishes in response to my sin, but he chooses to abstain from that right.
This forbearance is also a tolerance and restraint in the face of provocation. How many times do I end up doing what I hate to do and essentially go on sinning the face of God's grace. I am a child who knows God gives me grace and so I taunt him and provoke him with my continual sin. Yet in his divine forbearance; his tolerance and restraint in the face of my provocation, I am still able to live an enteral life in intimacy with God.
Another level of forbearance is the delay in enforcing rights or claims or privileges. God has the right and the power to do as he wishes. It would be his privilege to punish me, but it is his love which shows me forbearance.
"It is possible to know all about doctrine and yet not know Jesus. The soul is in danger when knowledge of doctrine outsteps intimate touch with Jesus." - Ozzie Chambers I wonder how connected I am to the heart of Jesus lately. The true measure of a disciple is his intimacy with Jesus; not how much they know. Now this is not to say that knowledge and study are characteristics of people who are not disciples. That knowledge can and should always bring us toward intimacy with the Father. But the primary question remains, "Do I have an intimate connection with the heart of Jesus?" Because THAT is the knowledge of Jesus that I desire.
There is a great story to be remembered here. There was a small church that had had a new pastor come to lead them. The church leaders came together to discuss the transition. One leader said, "Well what's the difference between the pastors?"
Another answered, "Well the old pastor preached that we are all sinners in need of grace, and Jesus came to die that we may be saved."
"Well what does the new pastor preach?"
"He preaches that we are all sinners in need of grace, and Jesus came to die that we may be saved."
"I fail to se a difference in that."
"Our pastor, now, preaches it with tears in his eyes."