Thursday, December 6, 2012

Intimacy with Jesus

[14] “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, [15] just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. -John 10 14:15

What does intimacy mean to you? 

Is it physical closeness...a touch... a smile? Is it the freedom to pour your heart into another? Is it being able to simply sit and listen? 

God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You
God, You are my God, and I will forever [always, ever moment] praise You
And I will seek [look for] You in the morning [very first thing, above all else]
And I will learn to walk in Your way
And step by step [one moment at a time] You lead me
And I will follow You all of my days [forever and always]

That is my Intimacy Covenant; God gave it to me when I began my prayer journal (around a year ago now). It isn't what my spiritual life looks like--not by a long shot--but it is what I want my life to look like. And more importantly, I believe it is the intimacy that God desires from me. 

And my heart yearns within me for it. 

So what's holding me back if I already have a key to life and Godliness? College? Work? Stress? Too little time? Yet every area of my life would benefit if I put an intimate relationship with God at the center of my priority. I'm not there yet. 

But I'm growing, as you are too. How can we help but not grow when every incident that we pass through strengthens us, gives us new faith, humbles us and draws us in to the holiness of God? The spirit is willing, and if the spirit is willing, the flesh doesn't matter; we can throw it off and let it rot on the ground. And then I notice something new in my Intimacy Covenant that wasn't there before--or rather, I didn't realize the full significance of it before. 

And step by step You lead me.

Step by step, moment by moment. God isn't looking for me to have it all together, He's looking for me to take His hand, put as much trust in him as I have, and allow Him to lead me on this Great Adventure.

I'm going to have to change my whole philosophy surrounding my covenant.

It's enough that I desire--enough for Him to work with. It's enough because I will always be a work-in-progress till the day I am completed--which, by the way, isn't going to be for a while. But that's okay, because He isn't waiting with an iron fist for the day when I can finally fulfill my covenant to Him. He's already leading me into fulfillment--into intimacy with Him. And that is what my intimacy covenant is all about. 

Jesus, I bow before You. You are my LORD. Make me a servant. Lead me into intimacy with You; show me what intimacy with You looks like. Give me a covenant of intimacy with You, and draw near to me as I draw nearer to You. Hold me close; You are the only One that can speak the deep intimacy languages of my heart, and I open my heart to intimate relationship with Your heart. Thank-you for Your sacrifice which gave me the right to share intimacy with You. I pray this in Your name; Amen.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Heaven is Not My Home

Do you remember when you were a kid,
Life was simple, love was unconditional...

And heaven looked pretty darn boring.

I always had a difficult time separating my image of clouds and harps from my perception of heaven. And no wonder. That's what I was taught to believe as a kid; heaven is a place where you go sit on a cloud, maybe fly around the tree of life a few times with your new wings(?) and play your harp all day long. Boring!

And that isn't to say I don't enjoy music.

But I've come a long way since then, as has my perception of heaven. A while back I began asking myself some vital questions like, why do I have this boring perception of heaven? And why would God make such an altogether boring place for me if it's supposed to be my own paradise? 

And then I thought, why do I even see heaven as the ultimate goal? Why is heaven so high up on our list of places to get? Okay, sure. I get that all too often when we say heaven what we really just obscurely mean is an eternal life with God, but I'm talking about the place. Heaven. The throne of God. The residence of angels.

So you might be saying something like hey, slow down a minute, what do you got against heaven?


But. A lot of Christians today are missing some great news--even greater than heaven--because they didn't quite get what the Bible really says about heaven--or rather in some instances, what the Bible lacks to say about heaven. You see, I believe a lot of Christians are thinking the same thing I did. Heaven? Boring!

And I've heard people talk about their problems with a boring heaven.

How could God be so unjust that he would create such a place for us?

The truth is, God didn't make heaven for you. Oh sure, we all get that verse where Jesus says he's going to go make a place for us so we can be where he is, and that's probably a good part of where people get the idea that heaven was made for us. But I believe it is wrong.

Let's look at that.

"2There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am." -John 14:2-3 [NLT]

We know Jesus is talking about heaven. Do we know how long he is talking about? In verse three he says we'll always be with him; "You will always be with me where I am." But do we know that heaven is where he will always be?

Let's start at the beginning.

God on his throne had an epiphany;

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

 27 So God created human beings in his own image.
      In the image of God he created them;
      male and female he created them.

 28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
                          -Genesis 1:26-28

You know the story, you've heard it time and time again. But did you ever get just what God entitled to you when he called you a human and placed you on the earth? Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it... Reign! Rule! Establish the earth! God made you for the earth. But furthermore

God made the earth for you.


Do you still think he's got heaven all laid out for you?

Something in me wants to burst out - 'Hear me roar' - change the world. Before having read John Eldredge's book, Wild at Heart, I wouldn't have understood it, but now I do. That deep heart-longing is there because that's what I was made for. That's the nature God placed inside of me. I am Adam's son. I was created to inherit the earth.

I don't even know how to describe properly how amazing that picture is for me.

I'm excited. 

But we've still got this thing where Jesus said he was going to heaven to make us a place. We also have a vague concept of a thousand years of life in heaven, and that's what we'll take a look at right now.
The Thousand Years
 1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand. 2 He seized the dragon—that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for a thousand years. 3 The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished. Afterward he must be released for a little while. 4 Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their forehead or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
 5 This is the first resurrection. (The rest of the dead did not come back to life until the thousand years had ended.) 6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years. -Revelation 20:1-6 [NLT]

When looking at the book of Revelation I think it vitally important that the context be well-explored. So here's a context. The earth is desolate, there are left both righteous and unrighteous dead, the unrighteous have just been slaughtered by the host of heaven's armies.

And then Satan is seized.

And the righteous are brought to life to reign in heaven beside God and judge. But John is quite specific. God hasn't resurrected every righteous person on the earth, after all further on in the chapter we see the rest of the dead brought to life for judgment. John says that those God chose for the first resurrection were those that had been beheaded for testifying Jesus the Christ. From what he says there seem to be others put in place to judge--perhaps these are the righteous remnant that did not die on the earth--but he is not clear, and perhaps didn't know himself just who they were.

This is our thousand years. And it doesn't even sound like everybody's there, does it.

Let's skip forward.
The New Jerusalem
 1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
 5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. 7 All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. -Revelation 21:1-7 [NLT]


What a view.

God's home is now among his people. Heaven meets earth. I can just imagine Jesus had just this glorious image in his mind when he said to his disciples you will always be with me where I am. Can you picture it? It is far too glorious to even comprehend.

That is what you were created for.

Not for glittering clothes and clouds and harps. I heard someone say once that they simply hated that image. Once again, boring. No, it is a renewal of our inheritance in the garden of Eden; a renewed commission to govern, rule and reign God's new creation. And again, God didn't create us for the world; if he had then it would have been simple enough creating a new human for the earth. No. He created the earth for mankind, and that is why he made a new earth and not a new mankind.

I say made.

Jesus already started. He went to heaven to begin a new creation--the new heaven and earth--waiting to be revealed when all has been made right. That's what he was talking about when he said he was going to prepare a place for us. Not a golden-plated cloud-kingdom, a new earth. Full of discoveries and adventures and opportunities to govern and reign. An earth including all the wild places that take your breath away.

A Paradise.

And the best part? He lives with us. God dwells with us. And that was God's intention in the beginning, to dwell with Adam and Eve in the garden - community - to be with them. He says look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. (Rev 21:3-4)

A Paradise.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Real Heart of Worship

John 4:24 [New Living Translation]

"For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."

What is true worship?

That question seams to be one that's pretty high up in discussion in church these days right alongside 'What genre of music is "Right" or "OK" for Christians to listen to?'

Turn if you will and take a look at John 4:21-24. In this passage Jesus is talking to a Samaritan woman. For a little background, this woman brought up a heated issue of her day--the correct place of worship. (You can find her question in John 4:20) The Jews believed that everyone had to worship in one place, but the Samaritans believed that another place, where their ancestors had worshipped, was the right place.

21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. -John 4:21-24

So what makes worship? Is it the music... the words of the song... the style? Let me make a definitive statement to say, I believe all those things are great. But I believe the 'worship' sessions we have today whether it's singing and dancing to fall-on-your-face-in-awe, these experiences belong better under the category of praise.

Praise is how we express our love of God in music, art, or similar modes. These forms are not necessarily (or specifically) worship. Art is expression. Praise is expression. Are you catching my drift? Music and singing is great. But understand that though worship can include music, it is not limited to it or defined by it, not by any means.

Worship is something I think of as a little differently. I can worship with a song, but that is only a very minor picture of worship. Worship means giving my life. The woman at the well asked a question regarding acts (or rituals) of worship; things that could easily be compared to your half-hour of music before service, but in answer Jesus gave her a picture of a different kind of worship, this worshipping in spirit and in truth.

Jesus said soon it wouldn't matter where you worship; the physical details would soon be unimportant, but that worship would become something different. It's a compatibility thing I think. Jesus explains that since God is Spirit, true worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.

Think about that for a minute.

Since God is Spirit, true worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.

Huh. So what does that mean?

It doesn't sound like Jesus was talking about your half-hour-before-service-worship-time, does it.

Now I'll be clear; corporate praise/worship/whatever-you-like-to-call-it is great. It really is, and there is huge power when the church of God comes together to worship him. But I think Jesus was talking about more than that.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. -Romans 12:1

'This is truly the way to worship him.'

So what is the real heart of worship?


Jesus made the greatest act of worship when he carried his cross to calvary and died for humanity; he gave himself as a worship offering.

That's ultimate.

Most of you probably won't be asked to sacrifice in quite the way that Jesus did. But worship means giving--devoting--your life to God as a sacrifice. Do you want to worship in spirit and in truth? Offer your life. Don't worry about physical acts of worship such as singing, playing music or dancing. A lot of us don't feel like we have the ability for those things. But if you would give your life, the rest comes into play. When you give your life, corporate praise sprouts from it. When you give your life, worlds are changed and hearts are touched. When you give your life, you've found the kind of worship your Father finds acceptable.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Identity of Authority

What's your identity? Is it a small slip of plastic in your wallet? Maybe a license, birth certificate, Care Card...

What is your identity of authority in Christ? What does that even mean?

Before I go any further we're going to learn a small lesson from the renown Spaniard, Inigo Montoya [The Princess Bride].

For a brief history. Inigo's father Domingo was a swordmaker. He was commissioned by a man with six fingers on his right hand, Count Rugen, to make a sword to accomodate such a feature. Inigo's father put his heart and soul into the commission, but when the Count Rugen returned he refused to pay the originally agreed price, therefore because the Count did not properly recognize Domingo's talent (not because of money) Inigo's father refused him the sword. Upon the refusal, Count Rugen killed Inigo's father. Young Inigo challenged Count Rugen to a duel and of course was easily overpowered. Rugen let the boy keep his life and the special sword, but left him with two scars to discourage further bravery. Inigo then devoted his life to the art of fencing from the time that he was 12 years old in order that he might one day avenge his father. He becomes a legendary fencing Wizard (a level above Master) but does not find the six-fingered man again.

Now a much older Inigo, discouraged by his failure to his father, took to alchoholism and spent some time in bad companies where he had a few adventures on the side. Finally, drunked and depressed, his good friend Fezzik finds him and revives him to his senses. Through a long line of events Inigo finds Count Rugen. He says to Rugen, "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father; prepare to die!" However, Count Rugen still overpowers Inigo, leaving him supposed mortally wounded. Count Rugen stands by, but after a struggle in himself Inigo forces himself back up, gaining strength rapidly as he repeats over and over his greeting to Rugen: "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father; prepare to die!"

Inigo knows three things. He knows who he is, he knows the crime and the punishment, and he knows that it is up to him to serve the indictment.

Inigo has an identity of authority with his father.

And the more that he recognizes that identity, the stronger he becomes.

Sound familiar?

Here's the identity. He is Inigo Montoya, the son of Domingo. The crime is eternal separation from his father and the punishment is death. "Prepare to die!" His father gave him this identity, and with it Inigo gains the victory. He wasn't strong enough to defeat Rugen on his own, even in his best condition, let alone after Rugen had wounded him. But in the identity of authority his father had given him, Inigo went on to kill Rugen and take his victory.

So where is the parallel? For those of you who haven't picked it up yet, I'll explain. You have an identity of authority from God your father too, just as Inigo had from his father. You are a child of God, and there are many Count Rugens out there. I don't mean that there are six-fingered humans waiting for you to take your revenge on them. Rugen is a symbol of evil. He is every man's demon, he is the deceiver Lucifer, roaming about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. And it's up to you to hold authority over him and allow the strength of your Father to withstand him. Only in recognizing the identity of authority you have in Christ Jesus can you stand against him.

21 It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, 22 and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us. -2 Corinthians 21-22 [NLT]

Remember that this authority comes from Christ who defeated death and Satan on the cross.

19 Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. -Luke 10:19 [NLT]

It is when we know our identity of authority that the powers of darkness begin to move at our command.

But what happens when we can't see it anymore?

Inigo was blinded by failure. He spent his life preparing to exact revenge on a man that he could not find again and he feared he would fail both his father and his quest. It was at this point that he took on a new identity: failure. It was a false identity, but circumstances which he found himself in caused him to change his self-image. He lost sight of his identity of authority with his father and therefore he lost sight of his purpose. He became depressed in his failures and turned to drinking. He was found by the criminal and trouble-maker Vizzini who offered him some sort of purpose and because he was a desperate mess he took it, an unwise decision that would only carry him further off the course of his purpose.

What is it that blinds you from your identity? Rejection... loneliness... addiction... fear? When you lose sight of your identity you lose sight of your purpose and your authority. You lose sight of your destiny. Inigo became depressed and turned to drinking; what have you turned to? It is a hobble - a scheme of the enemy to keep you from fulfilling your calling. Count Rugen had nothing to worry about while Inigo was a hopeless depressed drunk - he was in no condition to even use what he had been equipped with to complete his quest. But when he saw again his identity, Inigo took back up the sword of his father and found his destiny.

But beware; even in the midst of battle Inigo momentarily lost sight of his identity. He was wounded and faced that first demon of fear and failure which had taken him from the quest in the first place. Even at this point Inigo could have taken up that old identity of failure and given up and bled to death - but he didn't. He got back up on his feet. He reminded himself of his identity of authority (who he was, crime/punishment, authoritative action) "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father; prepare to die!" and he overcame Count Rugen just as we must do.

So again I ask, what is your identity? Where does it come from? Do you find a false indentity based on circumstances around you, an identity which misdirects you from your purpose? Or do you take your identity from your Father who made you in His image--an identity of authority?

9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. -2 Timothy 1:9 [NLT]

12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. -John 1:12-13 [NLT]

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Demons at Home

The demons at home....

You know what I'm talking about; those nagging people, habits, home details... the things that make Home the last place you want to be. Everybody has them stashed away--those things that make their very own safe place undesirable.

I have my own 'demons' at home. For years I've been saying, "If only I could move into my own house, get far away and live on my own and..." be it nagging family members, depressing living qualities, or just plain bad habits.

The Prodigal Son must've had a few demons hidden away in his closet, unsatisfied with life on the farm as he was, and he did what for years I longed to do; took what belonged to him and left. He got along alright for a while, but the fact is he had no business stepping out to face the real world while the demons at home were left unconquored.

No matter how you look at it, the demons in the closet and the monsters under the bed have got to go. I've tried running away from mine many times, that or simply ignoring the growing fiends, but the truth never changes. So what are you waiting for? This is your life; are you who you want to be? Are you ready to run off the farm lock stock and barrel, or perhaps there are things under your bed that you've been ignoring? Bad neighbours? Difficult family members? A livingspace in chronic disorder? Then perhaps it's time that you unlocked a few doors, pull a few monsters out into the light and change a few habits. Are you unsatisfied with where you are? Then remember that where you are at and what you have is where you have been placed and what you have been given. You have been placed here with the authority to live as you were created to live and you cannot conquor the world till you face your own castle.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Did He Really Just Say That?!

A week before I had (if not somewhat bitterly) borded a bus to make the last leg of what had been an 8 hour journey stretched out over the course of a 9AM-to-8PM day. If I had not known where I was going perhaps the journey would have been more enjoyable. Perhaps if I had not been accompanying the 15-year-old female 9th-grader in the seat ahead of me it might have been more restful. But regardless, I was being driven quite literally down a road I did not want to go. Part of me resented it, part (the part which I hid under my seat) actually wanted to go, but the rest and most of me was just terrified of what lay at the end.

The bus rolled in at 8:45 PM and we waiting a moment before joining the small departing surge. Very quickly my four travelling companions who had boarded the bus along with me discovered their respective hosts, as did I. I was greeted by a much younger looking couple than what I had certainly expected who introduced themselves as Warren and Rosanna--the teacher giving my two core classes, and his wife--and welcomed me cordially to the lake-town. They would provide my accomodations for the next week; a week spent full of long, exhausting days and activities, A.K.A. - School.

That's right. For one week I had been given an opportunity which I had never before seen in my lifetime; the opportunity to go to a real school and take normal classes. Having been homeschooled K-9 and after that enrolled in an online, 100% government-funded "Distributed Learning" program for my sophomore and junior years of highschool, I had only ever in my lifetime seen the inside of a school building for every reason OTHER than schooling. But now was my opportunity to get the real deal--or as real as it gets in a small Adventist-Christian school.

To my small surprise the days went by relatively quickly and my motivational levels skyrocketted (seeing as I had only four classes in an eight-hour school day and two spares not including extra time before classes begun; I certainly had nothing else to do) I wasn't about to go anywhere near the other students, besides, I had classes to catch up on and homework to get done. If they wanted anything from me they were just going to have to work for it, and boy did I make them work.

Of course, most didn't even bother; that was no surprise. I separated myself just far enough so that people could sense my invisible wall, and stayed just close enough that they might see over it every so often and see the creature self-housed and self-loathed inside. Yes, I played as difficult as they come. I was the quiet mysterious type--the one that continues on even after the game has become old and obnoxious, and I still wasn't quitting.

I will never forget the last day, the first portion of which I spent hanging around this large group of people in the home of one of my prior teachers. I hated it. How it is possible to be surrounded by so many people, yet still feel completely and terribly alone I will never understand. Sure they were nice enough people. But to how many of them did it really matter that I was there? I was just another face. I will never forget that teacher; she saw through my guises and my walls all week long. She said it like it was just the fact she'd been studying all week rather than a question; "You don't care much for big groups of people, do you." And I knew she saw more than I wanted to reveal.

That night special activities were planned in the gym; games. It was all kicked off by a truth vs lie game and ended in table games and volleyball. But in the middle of it all a time of prayer was had while we, having remained in groups from a previous activity, were asked to have a short prayer time with each other. The teacher whose house I had had the unseamly displeasure of three hours in surrounded by people, joined my group and broke the ice with her own prayer, followed by a popular local 12th-grader next to me. I will never forget his prayer and as he spoke I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

Did he really just say that?!

He had thanked God--specifically mentioning me by name--for the opportunity for me to be there that week and spend time around them. I melted. WHAT? Had all my walls failed me? Why should he say a thing like that? How could he know who I was? I had vowed ever after never to share my true feelings over that moment with anyone, but in that moment all my walls fell with a terrific crashing, and I was broken to the core. I suddenly wished that I had kept better guard. I suddenly didn't want to leave, wanted to say I would come back in the fall. I suddenly realized that somewhere in this place that I had fought against for so long, that I had built walls against for months, someone wanted me.

That night after the following volleyball game I left, aware that the following morning I would take the 8-hour journey back home and try to return to daily life as I had known it a week before. I almost wished I didn't have to go, but for the protection of my fragility I pulled down the plexiglass dome over myself and left iron-faced, passing no one a glance as I went by. Still fighting. But although my defences had only been breached for but an instant, the few words spoken behind my walls would continue to affect me time and again afterward.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

His Public Offer - Max Lucado

His Public Offer

“All of us became part of Christ when we were baptized.” -Romans 6:3
We owe God a perfect life. Perfect obedience to every command. Not just the command of baptism, but the commands of humility, honesty, integrity. We can’t deliver. Might as well charge us for the property of Manhattan. But Christ can and he did. His plunge into the Jordan is a picture of his plunge into our sin. His baptism announces, “Let me pay.”

Your baptism responds, “You bet I will.” He publicly offers. We publicly accept.

 [I did not write this; it is reposted from here]