A Brief Look at the Hall of Faith

Image

First, I need to apologize for not following up my last blog as I had planned to with a list of Kingdom Principles… It proved to be a bigger task than I expected. For now this blog will remain random bursts of impassioned writing attempting to relay whatever facet of Truth happens to have ignited my interests enough to require a blog entry. Hope you are encouraged!

I was reading Hebrews 11 today and was struck by the last verses of the chapter (and the beginning of chapter 12). Some of you may have heard this chapter referred to as the Hall of Faith and it is quite the challenge to get through in one sitting. There is so much here! The writer of Hebrews simultaneously argues for Christianity to the Jews using their most revered ancestors, does some serious exegetical work that refines and nuances the Christian faith we take for granted today, and sets up the link for the Hebrew Christians (and all Christians afterward) between the God-breathed Old Testament and the New Testament. For the sake of this blog however, I am going to just focus in on the last section and what it might imply for us.

In Hebrews 11:32, the author begins the ending of his treatise on the Hall of Faith. In 11:33, He describes the actions accomplished through faith (argued here and elsewhere to be the same faith as our own) by OT figures, “who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection.” Oh yeah! This is the Christianity I am all about! We have access to a faith that can move mountains and do all that other cool stuff with kingdoms and strength and lions! If you get nothing else from this blog please understand that our faith is POWERFUL.

But… there the author is not finished yet. He continues, “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Wait a second… That doesn’t sound like the faith I signed up for. A faith that leads to social, physical, and emotional persecution? A faith that could even lead to death? Well I guess there are things in life worth difficulty, “no pain, no gain” and all that. In the end they lived happily ever after, right? God promises abundant life here right? That doesn’t sound too abundant. Well next He writes something that blows my mind, “39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised…” This is my favorite pat of the chapter. These men and women of faith experienced the power of God in ways I can hardly imagine and were persecuted in a similarly spectacular fashion, but they did not receive the promise. They continued to persevere in faith (through many bumps on the road) for a promise they never fully received. And yet, without them, we would not have received the promise of God. God used them to further His Kingdom, the promise they were pursuing, so that we could share in its inheritance. The author continues, “40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” We were given the Kingdom as our inheritance. We were given the promise that the whole heritage of our faith was looking towards!

There is more here than I could possibly cover, but two thoughts: what an amazing and unappreciated inheritance we have through Christ! and God fulfills His promises even if you do not see it in the short term (we’re talking thousands of years here) 🙂

Chapter 12 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

No commentary can surpass the power of these last two verses. Thank you Jesus!

Kingdom Principles

Image

 

Hey! So this is an exciting new chapter in my blog. I have had a vision to tackle a series of ideas I will term “Kingdom Principles.” By no means did I coin the term and every single idea on this blog will have been taught to me at some point or another in my life. However, I hope to share not only as I have been taught, but also as God has shown me through Scripture and in my life how each Principle is True and Good. 

What is a Kingdom Principle? Thought you’d never ask. A Kingdom Principle is a piece of truth from Scripture that causes us to disregard wordly wisdom or experience and take on the paradigm of heaven. N.T. Wright writes in his book After Christianity: Why Christian Character Matters about the Christian concept of virtue and how it is like learning the language of heaven. Jesus talked about the Kingdom more than any other concept in all of Scripture and taught us to pray for His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. These principles are fundamental in training our minds, hearts, and wills to speak the heavenly language. We long to bring heaven to earth and through Scripture we learn the keys to living the Kingdom now. 

The greatest part about Kingdom Principles (and the idea that changed my life) is that these principles are for our benefit. Ok let me rephrase: reality works a certain way and if you act on one perspective you will get hit by a bus but if you have the true perspective you will have joy and life and freedom. Ok one more time: the Law, the infamous Law, was never meant to condemn (although it did), every principle or command or rule God has ever given us has been for two purposes, His glory and our joy. It’s all about Him. It’s all about us. (notice I didn’t say all about you… but that’s for another time) The concepts I want to communicate in this blog are my attempt to join Him in His purposes and humbly–totally acknowledging my lack of learning, experience, and wisdom–write about my understanding of His truth, for His glory and our joy. So please do enjoy thinking and reading as I so enjoy writing these posts and let me know what you think!

There is a comment section below or you can message me on Facebook or email me at jesse.harris@gordon.edu

Authenticity is to Truth what Selflessness is to Love

Image

Alright so everybody wants to be authentic right? Right, but is authenticity really what we are seeking? I would postulate that authenticity without truth is like selflessness without love. Love gives selflessness direction and purpose. Merely doing things without a selfish impulse does not in any way cause them to be loving; however, if you do something out of love then you are being selfless in the process. If you pursue authenticity without a pursuit of truth or if you miss truth in your pursuit of authenticity then there is no limit to where you could end up. Hitler was authentic to who he was. One of the reasons he swayed a nation to commit atrocities was through his authentic belief in what he did. Hitler was more authentic than most people you will ever meet. So was Alexander the Great. He thought he was the reincarnation of a god, several actually. Ok, Ok so you are not going to be the next Hitler (most likely), but this is important: authenticity comes through truth, but it does not necessarily yield truth. I can authentically believe that there are aliens inhabiting my basement, but this would not be true.
The way this most often manifests itself is through justification of practices that are “true to who I am.” “I divorced my wife and tore apart my family because I just wasn’t being true to myself,” “I eloped at age 17 because that was the most authentic expression of me,” “I left the Christian faith because it didn’t feel authentic.” Truth is much bigger than authenticity. Be authentic because truth will only manifest itself in your life through authenticity and if you are honest about who you are. Pursue truth and with it you will gain true authenticity, pursue love and you will gain true selflessness. There are a lot of authentic people living debilitating and sinful lies, there are a lot of authentic faiths but only one True faith, there have been many selfless people who had not love and were merely clanging cymbals. Authenticity and selflessness are essential pieces of love and truth, but they are only parts of the whole.
p.s. I think kindness is to goodness what authenticity and selflessness are to truth and love

An Ocean Away: why we can rejoice in tribulation

Image

There is a story of a young girl who attempted to swim from the mainland of Southern California to a small island off the coast called Catalina, a twenty-six mile swim. She had practiced for months leading up to this day and there was a boat to accompany her for safety and recording purposes. She set out with purpose and excitement. The day was foggy and visibility was only about twenty feet. All she could see was the ocean and endless fog. She swam for what felt like an eternity and after much internal struggle she called out for the boat to pick her up. When she was pulled up to the boat she looked forward and saw that the island was only about a hundred and fifty yards away. She immediately told the crew members that if she had only known how close the island was that she would have had ample strength to finish. She ended up doing the swim again about a month later on a sunny day and finished the challenge with comparative ease.
So often this is the story of our life, we just do not often get the chance to see that it is so. There are several truths in Scripture that give us insight into how to view trials and this story illustrates many of them. First and foremost it is evident from Scripture that God is in control of our the circumstances in our lives and everything else. God is also our good Father: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11) From these we can safely conclude that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) So why then do we experience evil, pain, and hardship? Scripture seems to give an answer for that question: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) But some of the things in our life are too bad to possibly be good for us! Well God has an answer for that too. When Job cries out to God against the injustice done to him he gets a humbling reply: “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

“Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!”
And the reply goes on and on. Ultimately, God knows what He is doing, you must trust Him. Why is this encouraging? Because God shows up when Job cries out. Also, because we know that God is a good Father and ALL things work for our benefit in His grace. Well this trial is just too hard for me. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13) That one hits me so powerfully. There is no room for a self-centered viewing of our tribulations “no temptation… that is not common to man.” The real power comes from the fact that God really knows what we are going through, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Wow.
So we know that everything works for our good, the God who loves us better than we can comprehend is in control, we gain endurance, character, and hope through tribulation, and we will never be tempted beyond our ability to endure because God will always provide grace and a way of escape. When we are in the midst of the trial, we need to remember these truths. My grandpa used to say, “Are you magnifying God or the problem?” Magnify Him who is bigger and truer than any tribulation. God is bigger than the boogie man. The Psalms can truly assist in this as they lament the pain of life but always exalt God over the problems. The psalmist constantly reminds his soul to praise the One who is worthy, who was good in the past, is good now, and will be good forever (here I use good in its most robust sense). My grandpa also used to say, “Pain is not your enemy, fear is.” That’s a shot to the gut of the Western instant gratification/avoid suffering at all cost/pseudo-utilitarian worldview. When swimming through the ocean of life (too many ocean references for one blog? maybe…) remember that “for now we see in a mirror dimly” and, while we get glimpses, God knows where the island is and He is guiding us towards it. It really can feel like all is lost and the shore of peace and joy will never be reached, but maybe you are just in the fog and the end is around the corner if you could only see. But even in this scenario trust in God is paramount and a focus on our own strength will only prove our inability to gain the shore without Him. In life the story of the girl would have been more analogous to our walk if her dad had been holding her up while she paddled. If you have ever held a child like this you know that they are actually not doing anything to assist in their own propulsion, but they are learning to swim. In life God is taking us through step by step and every trial is meant to teach us to rely more on Him and less on our own strength. He is guiding us. He is shaping us. And He will see us safely home.

If you’re lost and alone and you’re sinking like a stone

Carry on.

If you are hurting, it is so you can know the Healer.
If you are hungry, it is so you can be fed with the Bread of Life.
If you are sorrowful, it is so you can know the Comforter.
If you are lonely, it is so you can know you are never alone.
If you are despairing, it is so you can know true hope prevails.
If you are rejected by men, it is so you can know the acceptance of the Father.
If you are persecuted, it is so you can be praised by your Maker.
If you are dissatisfied, it is so you can find true satisfaction in Him.
If you are disillusioned, it is so He can reveal that He is the one who fulfills.
If you are tired, it is so you can find rest in Him.
If you are lost, it is so you can find yourself in Him.
If you are mourning, it is so you can reap joy.
If you are chained, it is so you can be set free.
If you are broken, it is so you can be completely perfected in Him
If you feel heavy laden, it is so you can take on His burden which is easy and light.

Press into Him, carry on, He is carrying us.

The Father Heart of God

ImageThe topic of the Father heart of God has been explored many times, but I would like to share a couple insights that have been helpful for me to understand how to better understand the Father heart of God and how much that understanding changes your life. Some of these concepts and illustrations come from John Townsend’s book Hiding from Love which I can highly recommend to someone wanting to explore the psychological dimension in this discussion.
Imagine a little girl who lived with her father in a cabin by the woods (we will assume no mother here for simplicity’s sake). One day when she is around 5 years old some men break into her house and her father tells her to run into the woods and hide. Luckily, she had been taught wilderness survival skills and somehow she survives in the woods. She doesn’t know what happened to her father but she learns to live on her own. Her memories of her father are dim, but the memories of the men breaking into her house remain firmly implanted. Whenever she hears people coming into the woods she runs and hides as her father told her to do. The father has been unable to search for his daughter because the men were actually soldiers taking over the country. He had become a refugee and nine years later he is finally able to make his way back to find his daughter. He rouses a search party and they spread out to look for her in the woods. They are calling her by her name, Rose. However, Rose is running from them as if they were the enemy soldiers because running is all that she has known for so long. One man among the search crew used to be the mailman and would always bring Rose a chocolate when she was younger. He found some signs of possible habitation and decided to just sit and wait. Rose saw him and because he was sitting still she crept close enough to recognize his face. Over the course of a couple hours he was able to coax her out of the woods, explain what had happened with the enemy army invading, and return her to her father. While the reunion was joyful, Rose had years of unlearning habits of fear. Loud noises startled her, she had difficulty making friends, and even hugging her father proved to be a challenge. While this example is extreme, it has many relevant parallels to our experience. Mainly, we have all experienced a broken world and learned to react according to self-preservation and defensiveness. We build walls to defend in places where we were hurt or betrayed. The problem with learning these habits and judgments of people is that we then project them onto our perfect heavenly Father. We learn habits of the heart that transfer into our relationship with God and others. We might assume that someone is insulting us when they are not because we were insulted in the past, we might not trust God to come through in hard times because our parents or friends were not there for us in a difficult situation, we might strive to fulfill our need for approval because we didn’t feel like we measured up to our parents standards. Whatever it may be, we have all believed lies (directly from the enemy) because of our experiences and we all must learn to get past those lies in order to move forward in those areas of our lives.
Ultimately, the Father heart of God loves us unconditionally, wants and knows what is best for us (whether we think it is best or not), and has the ability to make what is best for us happen to and in and through us. In one of these categories (or all of these categories) we do not trust Him as fully as we should. This affects every aspect of our life, especially our identities. Our identity can only be truly rooted in God and when we misunderstand God we cannot understand ourselves.
In the story of the prodigal son we see that the son did not trust that his father loved him unconditionally, knew and wanted what was best for him, and had the ability to make what was best for him happen. He instead decides to take his life into his own hands and attempt to make it one his own. It is interesting to note here that he had to start by taking the inheritance from his Father or else he never could have begun. Our inheritance from God is the Image of God on our lives and every good thing in our lives (including our existence) and often we find ourselves squandering those things through our doubt or distrust of God’s heart. When the prodigal son gets to the end of his licentious living and has reached rock bottom he remembers that his Father was kind to his servants. I think it is interesting to see that he does not remember all of the love his Father had shown him. I believe living out his sin and experiencing human brokenness had brought him to a further distorted understanding of his Father. He most definitely did not believe that his Father loved him enough to welcome him back not just as a servant but as an exalted son. The prodigal son did not do anything of worth to the Father, he just arrived on his Father’s property. He didn’t even get to the house before his Father swept him into His arms of love. This is the Father heart of God and, yet, when Jesus told this story people were amazed by the counter-cultural love displayed by the Father. One could imagine a nearby scribe snickering in disbelief saying something like, “pssshhhh that would never happen.”
We are all broken in our ability to receive the love of the Father. We all believe lies about ourselves, God, and others that are meant precisely to keep us from living in love.
I have been walking on a journey with God where I am journaling about particularly painful experiences in my past and asking God to minister to me in the places where I might of believed lies. It has been so good. I would recommend more than any other thing that anyone reading this would just take some time to journal with God. It doesn’t have to be as directed as my journaling project has been, but if you show up and pour out your heart to God through journaling and ask him to minster to you about those things I can guarantee that your heart will be met and changed by the Holy Spirit. God wants to communicate His Father heart of love to you. Because of our broken earthly fathers and mothers and relations we tend to push Him away. Please accept the Father’s embrace. There is nothing standing between you and God except your misconceptions about Him and yourself. Turn to Him and He will run to you.

Joy vs. Cost: A New Way to Think About the Parable of the Treasure in the Field

I would like to say that I am indebted to Tom Richter for many of the thoughts that went into this post. He has a sermon about this parable here: http://youtu.be/Mt6jwAuW0Y

There are two views that often get portrayed in both Christian literature and from Christian pulpits. The first one is the “cost” gospel. This message of Christianity focuses on the cost of following Jesus. Take up your cross daily and follow Jesus. Do you know where you are going when you die??? You better be a really good Christian and learn to take on the burden of Christian living. This idea of Christianity is often parodied in movies and cartoons. The other side of the pendulum comes in the form of the prosperity gospel. Basically if you are a Christian it will be all joy all the time. You are just gonna have sunshine and daisies for the rest of your life according to this gospel. Name it and claim it. Just enjoy the blessings of the loving Father.
Now the problem is that neither of these messages is wholly wrong. There is definite truth in both of these and even Scriptural evidence for both. However, we know that neither seem to satisfy the full meaning of Scripture. Jesus did ask us to take up our crosses but He also promised us life and life abundantly. The key here is to realize that even the yoke of Jesus (often commented on as symbolically related to the cross) is easy and light.
In the parable of the treasure in the field we get an important insight into how this could be. Matthew 11:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” In this one verse we have an answer to a theological dilemma that has been going on for millennia. A man is walking through a field he is thinking of buying and he sees a reflection of something covered by some shrub and goes over to check out what it is. He finds an 18th century pirate chest- just kidding. He finds one of the legendary treasure stores that it has been rumored were left by people who knew their village was in danger and hoped to come back after becoming captives and start life again some day. It was rumored that some of these treasure hordes were buried in places and had never been recovered. Basically, it is the equivalent of finding a sunken pirate ship loaded with Spanish doubloons and other precious materials or of striking oil in the middle of a field you want to buy. He finds this chest and he quickly begins counting. He very soon realizes that it is worth far more money than he had ever had or would ever have. Then (here is the crucial point) “in his joy he goes and sells all he has.” Now, this man would have looked absolutely insane as he frantically went and sold everything to anyone who would buy it. His wife and kids were no doubt very distressed over the sudden liquidation of everything they owned. He runs up to the landowner and tries to hide his excitement as he tells him that he wants to buy the field and he can pay cash. To the world he looks crazy, but he knows that he has a greater treasure.
We as Christians are invited to by the field with the treasure in it, it only costs all we have. It also brings the greatest joy imaginable (and unimaginable). Sure, it costs a daily decision to walk with Jesus, but it gives you true freedom. This is why Paul is able to encourage people to rejoice in tribulation. There is a glory that so far outshines any cost. Paul was a slave to Christ so he could be free. It is just one of those kingdom principles. It works in God’s kingdom, but it is foolishness to the worldly logic.
A final thought: maybe that parable isn’t just about us. Maybe earth is the field and God in Christ Jesus is the man who found a treasure and went and stretched out His arms on the cross and gave up all he had to purchase the world that He might gain a great treasure. Maybe you and I are the treasure that God, in His inestimable love and mercy and wisdom, believed was worth all He had, even His only Son. You and I are so lavishly loved

Is Christianity all about rules?

I recently read a book by N.T. Wright titled After Belief: Why Christian Character Matters. It has greatly influenced my thinking on this subject and as I read the Daily Office Scripture readings this week I found revelation in the ways Moses talked about the Law. The Israelites had been delivered out of Egypt (slavery and death) and were heading towards the Promise Land (Life and Liberty and a New Kingdom). This progression foreshadows and mirrors our progression from death to life in Jesus Christ. Just as the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt by the blood of the Passover, so the True Passover Lamb died for the freedom of the whole world.
I think that how the Israelites are taught and wooed in the desert can draw relevant parallels to our thought process today. If the Law only brought death (as mentioned in the New Testament), then why is it relevant today? I think the purpose of the Law needs to be revisited. In Deuteronomy 4 Moses says, “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules[a] that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.” (4:1) Again, “See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.” (4:5) Again, “And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess.” (4:14) Lastly, “Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time” (4:40) Now, the phrases about prospering, going well with you, and living have always struck me. The commandments are to be followed that we may “live long and prosper.” This thought is revolutionary. However, there is another phrase that I think helps us when thinking about how the Law and Grace interact. The phrase shows up again in Chapter 5 of Deuteronomy, “that they may observe them (the Law) in the land which I am giving them to possess” and, also about following the Law, “that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.” Now I know that the promises to Israel were for a specific people at a specific time, but the parallels in principle are sound: the Law is meant to teach Israel how to prosper in the Promise Land.
The Promise Land is a foreshadowing of the New Heaven and and the New Earth. Why do we attempt to follow “the Law” in Christianity when we are free from the consequences of the Law? Because that is how you prosper in God’s Kingdom.
It is as if you were given a free pass to a planet where there is peace and harmony and long life, etc. Nothing you did on earth would disqualify you from this planet, but you are encouraged to swim a lot for the rest of your life until you depart. Now you might think this was a strange request of you. In fact you might get angry that this free pass turned out to have some sort of “hidden requirement.” In the end, however, you decide you might as well swim. It is hard at first and you really have to work at it, but you become a formidable swimmer and very comfortable in the water. When you finally depart for the planet, you arrive and find that it is 100% water and all of the inhabitants there spend their whole life swimming. While your training on earth could not have prepared you for the reality of perpetual swimming, you were participating in the New Life you had inherited in the free pass.
I want to say that this is analogous to following the Law. Now, I should clarify that I do not mean the specific covenantal Law given to Israel, but the Law which Christ came to fulfill. I do not know all of the subtleties in the distinctions, but we can look to the New Testament and its parallels in the Old Testament to see that the 9 fruit of the Spirit and the 3 ultimate virtues (Faith, Hope, and Love) are apart of learning to be a Kingdom individual now. As N.T. Wright argues we should “put on” the new man and learn the language we shall be speaking for eternity. The language of the Kingdom which Jesus inaugurated in His death and Resurrection is the language of Faith, Hope and Love. This is the true fulfillment of the Law as found in the first and second greatest commandments according to Jesus.
There is so much more to this discussion, but these have been a few of my thoughts. The Christian virtues need to be learned like swimming or a musical instrument or a language, so that we can live as we shall in the New Earth and New Heaven, and so that on earth we can be active participants in His Kingdom NOW. The Kingdom that has been initiated and we have the opportunity to operate in through the grace of Jesus Christ from now until eternity.
One last thought… In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard found in Matthew 20:1-16 we find a master recruiting laborers in His vineyard at different hours throughout the day. Some come in the morning, midday, and evening, but all receive one denarius for payment. This has always troubled me because it is just not fair. It even ends with the crazy statement, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” This is how Jesus says the Kingdom is and I think that if we don’t understand it then we run the risk of the grumblers who are upset over this “unfairness.” The Kingdom perspective is this: the morning laborers had been experiencing the Kingdom-living the whole day long while the people who came at the last hour had been idly sitting around all day. We often would think that the sitting around all day is preferable to the labor, but it is not so in the Kingdom of God! The morning laborers had the privilege of experiencing God’s Kingdom in the present. While they all received eternal life, the morning laborers heeded the invitation to come into the Kingdom now.
So “how then shall we live?” We shall answer the invitation, not only into God’s grace but into God’s labor bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth. We are set free by God’s saving grace, but we are also invited to learn the ways of His Kingdom and be apart of His mission. The concept we need to understand is that this work is the fullness of joy and apart of becoming the people we are meant to be. Does this mean that we shoulder the burden of the Law and some how earn our transformation? Not at all! We participate with God’s work in our life. There is no separation (when we are participating) between God’s work and our work. He is doing it in us and through us. So why not jump in and learn to swim?

Do you find yourself not meeting with God?

If yes then I have two questions: What is your idol? and What are you afraid of?

Now this may come off as harsh at first but I want you to know that this post was inspired by my own struggles to meet with God daily. The ideas I am exploring come from my own experience, the experiences of others I have talked to, and Scripture. Also, this post should be seen as an encouragement to lay both of those down and enjoy the abundance of God’s presence.

The first and second question are undeniably intertwined and it may be that you find some parts of this redundant, but I believe there are significant distinctions. To address the first question: What is your idol? Now, you may have more than one, but the most common ones seem to be approval/acceptance, success, money, relationships, and autonomy. It should be noted that all of these idols seem to come from a fear and misunderstanding of God’s character. We worship approval from others because we are afraid that we cannot receive it (or enough of it) from God. We worship success because we think that God cannot endow us with significance or identity and because we are afraid that without success we will not be accepted or loved by God. These idols can bleed into each other and it will be seen that their are common threads in each. We worship money because we do not feel secure in God’s provision and because we do not trust that the Father in heaven has good gifts for us. We worship earthly relationships because we believe that they contain our identity, fulfillment, joy, and security. The funny thing about this idol is that it is so close to the truth, and yet completely misses the mark. All of these things are found in our relationship with the Father. With God at the top, all these things shall be added unto you in earthly relationships as well. Lastly, we worship autonomy because it gives us the illusion that we can have security, power, authenticity, and freedom. Truly our autonomy (and all of these things) only come from God: it is for freedom that we are set free. So our idols, whatever they are, really stem from a misunderstanding or lack of trust (resulting in fear) of who God is.
This leads directly to the second question: What are you afraid of? There are several fears that I will explore but ultimately we are afraid that meeting with God will not result in the filling of our emptiness. Now the fears are all totally mixed up in each other and affect each other and there is no doubt that we often hold one fear because of another or hold multiple fears at once. We might be afraid that we are not good enough for God. This fear can lead to being afraid that He won’t show up, that He will show up and be angry with us, or that we won’t be able to really experience Him (or at least not the way others do or we think we should). We might be afraid that our quiet times won’t be as amazing as other people’s quiet times. We might even be afraid that others will make fun of us, think we are crazy, or call us hypocrites. We might be afraid that we will have to give up our idols. Ultimately, we might be afraid that somehow in our quiet times we will fail. These fears can be and often are crippling. I find myself not meeting with God the day after I feel like I let Him down. I find myself not meeting with God when I can find something “better to do.” I find myself saying things like: I am too busy to meet with God.
Now what is the response to all these fears? God is. Perfect love cast out all fear. If only we understood God better, all these fears would be put right out of our heads. Are we not good enough? Absolutely not! We are dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not because of our works, that no man may boast, but by the lavish love and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is written in Scripture that just one glance from our eyes makes God’s heart beat faster (admittedly this is from an allegory). Can we even fathom the deep love of God towards us broken idolaters, adulterers, thieves, murderers, sinners, arrogant self-pitying wretches. But instead he has made us holy, set apart for and with Christ. We are seated with Him in heavenly places as princes and princesses, and sons and daughters of the Most High God. And He wants to meet with us. Over and over again the message of Scriptures is that God wants to meet with us! Deuteronomy 4:20 “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This is written to Israel and the “from there” line is referring to a place of utter disobedience and breaking of the covenant. Over and over God says that if you seek Him you will find Him. He will show up. It won’t be like you expect Him to, but it will be so good. God’s promise is life and life abundantly. It is ultimate fulfillment. It is “all these things added unto you.” Seek His kingdom first. His kingdom comes in the heart of men and women as they seek Him daily. Ok ok ok let me break it down one more time and be done.
The God of the universe wants to meet with YOU, wherever you are at, and transform you into a true human being. His primary mode of transformation is through the experience of His presence, affirmation, and truth. The daily practice of meeting with God (keep remembering that it is not just a discipline but a meeting with the Living and Active God) will lead to this transformation. This will not be because of anything special that you did, but because you experience and submit to God. Oh and it will be infinitely better than any of your idols and it will banish your fears. Go for it. Jump in. The grace is warm.