Monday, February 26, 2007

Is that really you God? Abandon Yourself To Holiness

I emailed an old friend recently, asking if he had been 'detoxing from church'. This was the reply:

If you mean by detoxing, getting away from all the rote and things we do on Sunday mornings and ask why do we that, or the Christian sub culture and how out of touch it really with the rest of society, or wondering why organized religion, why can't we meet in homes, or man there are more crappy leaders out there then I thought, or where does some one who is not about all the bells and whistles of the church and just wants Jesus for their soul and the souls of others, if you mean how my language was so churched up I did not even know what I was saying, if you mean how grace is a great word thrown around but how much it is not practiced, if you mean that there are way to many broken hurting peeps that go to church who will not find healing, if you mean that pastor is a title that leaders cherish more then they lead on, or do you mean that the arrogance of the church has blinded how much sin really goes on, do you mean that we actually wont admit it but there is so much bigotry and racism in the church, do you mean that we are not practice what we preach to the greatest level I have ever seen, do you mean that the homeless and the orphans and widows are the new lepers in Canada, do you mean that the church would not stand tall on any other issue besides same sex marriage...... breath...............I could go on...

Stew my time away from the church has been refreshing and soul searching to see how I have contributed to so many of the dropped balls of the church. I believe that the church offers hope through Christ but if we dont get back to the real roots of Christ DNA, message and love, we are flying through space at warp speed headed on a collision course towards nothing, that's the problem we seem to stand for nothing these days. I know there are good and great things the Holy Spirit is allowing to happen in this country and world, but man most of us me included need to put our crap aside and get out of the way, my humanness without the sanctification (yes a church word that fits) of Christ my flesh will always try to claim victory.

I am learning but dude my time off was more educational then any seminary could give me.

Perhaps you can identify with the themes my old friend is speaking of. I know that I can, as are many others I speak to regularly.

Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue. Eugene O’Neill

Two years ago I spoke about Brian ‘Head' Welch becoming a Christ follower and leaving the band Korn. Some commented, "Just wait a couple of years. We'll see if he's so excited then."

I visited his website just this last week and watched some videos about Brian. He's still just as excited about following Jesus Christ. He still speaks about hearing God's voice. It reminded me about the difference between an introduction & a relationship.

Some of us were introduced to Jesus years ago, but never really formed a relationship with God.

Many speak of a personal encounter with Jesus as a one-time occurrence that in fact was many years ago. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Psalm 25:14
The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

God knows us so well. Our ups and our downs. Our ins and our outs, so to speak. He knows what we go through- the sadness, the anger, the fear, the happiness and joy. The reality of our anxiety and how it paralyzes us at times.

In the midst of all that, God whispers to us that we are a one of a kind masterpiece. We are welcome to come to Him anytime. He’ll whisper that Jesus loves me, that the Father is singing over me. He’ll say to you that given your uniqueness there is a very special mission for you to advance the kingdom of God. And only you can do your part!

That voice of God can be heard in our heart. The Holy Spirit carries it into the depths of our soul where you and I can hear it.

But most of us don’t hear it, not always, and sometimes not at all. Why not?

There is always some excitement over the initial moments of anything, be it joining a health club or your Christian life. There's nothing wrong with that at all. However, many of us fizz out when the disciplined work of training finally sets in.

Today we look at a little of that hard work, the internal scouring that goes on in us as we are conformed to His image.

In the PAPA Prayer we have looked at

P - Present yourself to God. presenting

A - Attend to how you are thinking of God. attending

As we pray through these thoughts we’ll often come to realize how intensely we want to experience God, and strangley enough how stubbornly we resist Him. We will also fel humbled at the majesty of God; His power and glory; we’ll relaize that we are powerless before God. Any true experience of God is given by Him and not achieved by us.

Our part in making ourself avalable for relationship with God involves our willingness to recognize and confess the obstacles we have created between ourselves and our Papa.

Here’s where we crash full force into the problem of our self deception. We’re blind to our worst faults. We can readily see what’s wrong with everyone else, but we can’t see- we don’t want to see- what’s wrong with us.

Something is wrong with us and it’s serious. We are all living with relational difficulties that we don not see. The Bible calls it sin. We assume our friendships are close but in reality we’re on different planets.

We need to experience the trust of God, otherwise terror goes underground and we’re not even aware of our relational fears and sin.

1 John 4:18
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

P - Purge yourself of anything that blocks your relationship with God. Purging

What does that really mean?

We simply recognize and cast off with God’s help what is most wrong with the way we relate. What most needs purging in our lives is easily seen, and what is most wrong with us shows up most reliably in the way we relate. Deep purging always invovles relational sin. Deep purging always centres on how we treat God.

A simple way to do this is to ask God two questions:

1. What’s wrong with the way I relate?

2. What do I want most in this relationship?

This is the beginning of abandoning ourselves to God’s holiness. All that means is that when we come to God in prayer, we are wanting to see where we’re wrong in the way we relate more than we want someone else to admit how they're wrong in the way they relate to us.

1 Peter 1:15
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;

We’re already forgiven for not being holy. God never commands holy action without giving holy desire.

Leviticus 11:44-45
I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.

We are basically being told to set ourselves apart for our primary relationship- our first love. We are to depend on no one, not even ourselves, the way we depend on God. We can’t earn it so we abandon ourselves to that which God has already given to us.

Relational sin is anything we do for the primary purpose of getting something for ourselves.

To purge purself of it is to ask God, ”Papa, I really do want to see where I’m wrong in the way I relate to You, and to my friends, and my spouse (if you’re married). Will you show me? And Papa, more than anything else, I know that way down deep I have a desire, a holy desire, to treat other people the way You treat me. Will You release that desire?”

Psalm 139:23-24
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.

The following examples are from Larry Crabb in The PAPA Prayer:

A hurting wife: God I don't know what to do about my husband. I feel so unheard, so unnoticed. He rarely makes me feel cherished. I feel like I’m losing my identity. I hate myself. I have no sense of my worth as a woman.

Not abandoned to holiness and unaware of relational sin the prayer might be:

“Please God, either change him or show me how I can live with him, how I can find my voice when I’m with him. God, I need to know You’ll be with me, to feel your love, to not feel so wounded and alone. Please, help me learn how to live with my husband without losing myself.”

Abandoned to holiness and aware of relational sin:

“Oh God, I’m seeing it. nothing matters more to me than whether I feel good about myself. I relate to my husband with no real thought of revealing Your character to him. I don’t even know what that would look like. I don’t know You well enough to want to reveal You to my wife. Have mercy!”

A distraught dad: God, my son has been using illegal drugs for two years. I’m terrified he’ll ruin his life. I’ve tried everything- tough love, counseling, backing off. I feel like such a failure as a father.

Not abandoned to holiness and unaware of relational sin the prayer might be:

“Please God, show me what’s wrong with my son so I can know what to do. I’l do anything. Anything! Just make him better. It all seems so unfair! I know dads who spent almost no time with their kids, who provide no spiritual input, and their kids are solid, growing Christians. I just don’t get it. but I know You have a plan for my family. Please just show me how to reach my son’s heart.”

Abandoned to holiness and aware of relational sin:

“Oh God, as I present myself to You, I’m beginning to see what’s at stake for me. I’m terrified I’ll never be able to accept myself as a man until my son straightens out. It’s all about me! I see it. and it’s wrong. As long as that terror drives me, I’m not loving anybody- not my son, not my wife, not You. god, I’ve been living to enjoy my family, not for Your glory. I’ve been obsesse with my dreams and demanding that You fulfill them. Have mercy!”

A depressed person: God, I’m sliding deeper into a dark hole, I’m crying for hours every day. I never feel good or happy. I know I’m getting really negative and that my friends are tired of me being so down, but I just feel so bad.

Not abandoned to holiness and unaware of relational sin the prayer might be:

“Please God, heal my wounds. Something must be really getting to me, but I don’t really what it is. A lot is going wrong right now- my arthritis is worse, my friends rarely call, and I don’t like my job. Please guide me to the right therapist or pastor, or to a doctor who can prescribe the best medication. I don’t know how much longer I can go on living like this. Please, help me feel better.”

Abandoned to holiness and aware of relational sin:

“Oh God, nobody would be drawn to you because of me. I see it! by the way I’m living, I’m telling the world that You’re only worth praising You when things are good, and that trusting You when things are bad means only that I’m hoping things in my life will get better. Of course I want them to, and it would make me feel better if things in my life went better. But in the middle of all this, I’m not relating to You. I’m using You. Have mercy!”

When we purge ourselves before God, our Papa, we will sense our limitations and our failures and of how we always fall short of relating as God does to others. But that focus will not make us hate ourself, only our sin, not ourself.

It doesn’t leave us discouraged and heavily burdened either. Broken, yes, but not despairing. It leads us to the loving arms of the Father.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let's not let it slip through our fingers. We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

Larry Crabb writes, “I do not believe that we hear Papa’s voice until we discover an empty, desolate void within us that is teeming with passionate desires for fulness. Until we can cut through all the legitimate happiness and pleasure in our lives, until we look beneath every sorrow and heartache that comes from living in this world, and until we enter the deepest space in our hearts that is painfully, horribly empty, we will not discover the beautiful sound of our Fathers voice.”

A – Approach God as the ‘first love’ in your life. Approaching

In speaking with someone this past week they shared of praying and despairing of their life and insecurities when they heard deep within their being God say, “Everything is okay. I love you.”

In our emptiness, in our honesty with God, as we allow Him to clean us up, we can discover His love in fresh and new ways. Staleness doesn’t have to permeate our sense of knowing God’s voice or presence in our life!

When we stand naked before God’s holiness we are truly ready to receive all that he offers. The more you see your sin, the more you’ll be amazed by grace.

Hosea 14:4-9
"I will heal their waywardness. I will love them lavishly. My anger is played out. I will make a fresh start with Israel. He'll burst into bloom like a crocus in the spring. He'll put down deep oak tree roots, he'll become a forest of oaks!

He'll become splendid—like a giant sequoia, his fragrance like a grove of cedars!Those who live near him will be blessed by him, be blessed and prosper like golden grain. Everyone will be talking about them, spreading their fame as the vintage children of God.
Ephraim is finished with gods that are no-gods. From now on I'm the one who answers and satisfies him. I am like a luxuriant fruit tree. Everything you need is to be found in me."

If you want to live well, make sure you understand all of this. If you know what's good for you, you'll learn this inside and out. God's paths get you where you want to go. Right-living people walk them easily; wrong-living people are always tripping and stumbling.

We can stand before God as a loved child. Amazing!

Why am I so passionate about this idea of relational prayer, of learning to hear the Father’s voice? It is the heart of following the Jesus way.


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