Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Pursuit of God

Librivox - The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer free audiobook

Praise the Lord for he is good!  His love is all empowering, of constant enjoyment and for the purpose of satisfaction to those he gives it to.  His blessings are new everyday.  

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]his mercies never come to an end;23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The weather has been beautiful the past two days, and it's been just great to get outside and just be warm.  They may tell for years of the winter of 2013.  It was quite severe, in my humble estimation.  

Even the seasons display the broken state of reality.  The crumbling of the fall, the frozen dead winter, and the rebirth of spring, the time of prospering in the summer.  And so it repeats.  Sometimes I wish I didn't notice those sorts of things.  Too often it leaves me haunted.  Think about this one.. the universe is flying apart, exploding outward, and scientists tell us it's velocity is increasing as it blasts apart.  

It's almost like we live in a broken tangent universe intended for destruction, don't you think?  And if you read the scriptures.. that's exactly what it says.  

Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Recently I was reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and he made a point that really struck me.  He said that God is previous to everything.  He is previous to the pursuit of God.  And it occurred to me that God is also in the future, before everything.  Tozer made the point not in a corporate sense but in an individual sense, on a day to day basis.  God is before everything I do, on a day to day basis.  And I think the enjoyment of that is in noticing when things feel perfect and realizing, in the moment, as I walk step by step, that God has ordained every foot fall.  

I was doing just that today, before work, at the dog park in town, watching my feet hit the ground, one after another.  It was a moment of realizing I can't predict the situations God will put me into, which worries me, legitimately, but at the same time if I simply allow my feet to hit where they may,  I can be assured that God is in total awareness, past, present, future and his will is being done regardless of my attempts to predict what he might do.  Because I do that.  I want to know what's going to happen before it does.  I've asked God to tell me.

Here's a shocker; he won't tell me.  I don't need to know.  In fact the building up my character is dependent on me not knowing.  Faith is foreign to person who has lived in a scam society his full life of twenty-nine whole years.  It's so humbling to realize just how limited I am in understanding, knowledge, breadth of experience, and most certainly even my known existence.  I don't recall before 1985.  I wasn't there.  I can read about it in history books giving the illusion of experience, and hear scientists spout of billions of billions this, and millions of millions ago that, but in the end, it's all just writing in books and theories on a chalk board.  I've never been there.

I thought the correct spirituality, religion, whatever word you want to use, deity, when I found it, it would "just seem right."  Do you know what I mean?  I thought I would slide into it like a comfortable wind jacket.  Ahh, finally what I always knew deep down, here it is, finally.  That was not the case at all with Christianity.  With Jesus Christ.. it was difficult.  And it felt uncomfortable.  The gospel confronted the very worst parts of me head on, and it offended me.  That's the challenge.  It's not the easy lie, or even the easy truth, it's the difficult truth.  Very difficult.  In addition, walking in it day in and day out is difficult.  It's confronting old patterns of thinking, and relying on faith.  The hardest part, being humbled, the second hardest part, focusing on something other than myself.  

 The resulting peace though, and the satisfaction of communion with the maker compares to nothing.  A.W. Tozer referred to the "born again" moment as a sudden leaping out of a dark foggy mist of self, and being filled with excitement at the completion and the beginning of the pursuit of the relationship.  He's absolutely right.  The new birth is so incredibly powerful in emotion and transformation, it's out of this world.  When I read what he wrote, I pictured a black two dimensional shadow of a self and the new birth as the individual shifting into bright white into three dimensions about the past dark self, as it drifted away.  Yeah, that's what it's like.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I continue my work at the Salvation Army of Wausau's homeless shelter.  Given my expertise in AODA (alcohol, other drug abuse) I run a weekly group to help get residents with such issues on the right track.  My supervisor fully supports my desire to show forth the Christian message in the groups.  It's been one of the most difficult, troubling, and heartbreaking things I've ever tried to do.  Why?  Because of the demographic for one, I'm working with lifetime repeaters, and two, because I've been there.  From the first group I lead, every single person has relapsed.  I so identify with the words of Isaiah to God, "Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" (Isaiah 53:1 ESV) 

It's been extremely difficult, the groups and the confrontations with clients at the shelter.  I've nearly walked out many times.  And it's only been a bit over two months.  But I'm determined to persevere, because the ministry seems so clearly from God.  It's just obvious, and apparent.  God never said it would be easy.  And he encourages me.  Often a day or two after I've gotten on my knees and yelled at him, freaked out, cried out, or had a breakdown of sorts.  That's life.  What was difficult was having some of my Christian friends tell me I was wrong to be sad, or frustrated or depressed.  And being quoted scriptures about joy.  It's not always joy.  Remember Jesus?  He wept.  He cried out to God.  So did David, time and again in the Psalms.  It is right to do so, and sometimes when you're upset, depressed, lost, and half-nuts, you're exactly where your suppose to be.  

I was encouraged today.  At church this morning there were visits from India, named Sunny and his wife Mercy.  Sunny shared the story of his privileged life in India, in the higher castes.  But when he became a Christian and saw the suffering of the lowest caste, of over 300 million people he said to God, that he had to do something about it.  He went to villages of the lower castes, but in one they would not receive him.  But he refused to leave, he just sat under the tree outside the town.  The people shunned him.  But the children eventually came out, curious about him.  It started so humbly, and now there have been over 100 churches planted all over India.  Hundreds of thousands have heard the gospel, the gospel that they never heard before, plain and simple!  Sunny started a clothing factory, and hired disadvantaged women from the surrounding communities paying them good wages and treating them very well.  This is unheard of in India.  These are people who would otherwise be on the streets, probably eventually forced into the sex trade industry which is prosperous across the country.  Two Christians from the United States were there, sharing about seeing the villages of the lower castes.  They said it's shocking.  They have nothing.  They told of a town around a stream, where the water is green and polluted.  But they drink the water, because they have nothing else.  Entire families live in a single room.  An entire village shares one bicycle.  

This is not the kind of story we hear about Eastern society, especially when colleges across the USA embrace eastern mysticism and practices while condemning Christianity.  If Hinduism is so wonderful, then why the caste system?  If the eastern spiritual practices are so great for society and for the individual then why are countries like India and China places of corruption, poverty, and class society?  

To hear about how Sunny began with just himself, at a village, talking to people about the gospel and how God spread that effort into over 100 churches and his clothing factory.  To make a long story short, a Christian couple brought the shirts from the factory to my church, New Day, to sell them.  The money raised would be used to help build schools and orphanages.  The couple had traveled to many large churches around the midwest, but after leaving New Day they had raised $1800.00 and used that money to purchase land to build a Bible school.  They came back, and once again, many shirts were sold.  At least thats how it seemed.  I bought one!  So exciting.  

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That was very encouraging to see that Sunny started with just himself, making an effort and God multiplied it.  It was also humbling to see the kind of challenge he faces in India.  He deals with heartbreaking poverty, and he must see terrible things.  I see ugly things too.  But nothing compared to that.  So it was encouraging to see the comparison, to be humbled, and to be encouraged as a result.

Hebrews 11:12 (ESV) For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 

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