Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tozer: Following Hard After God

An excerpt from A.W. Tozer's, The Pursuit of God
Chapter 1, 
pp 13, 17-18

"God is a person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires, and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions. The continuous and unembarrassed exchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of the New Testament religion....

...I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.

Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.

If we would find God amid all the religious externals, we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now, as always, God discovers Himself to "babes" and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to essentials (and they will be found to be blessedly few). We must put away all effort to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond.

When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the and lies our great woe. If we omit the and we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Aller à Paris

Barbara and I leave for Paris in less than 10 hours.

We're going to be spending all 10 days of our spring break there, and I'm so prepared for it to be one of our best trips yet. Crepes, croissants, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Notre Dame, French wine, Luxembourg, the incredible French boulevards and gardens....**sigh**

One of the highlights is definitely getting to stay with Florine and Christophe (a French couple I got to know when they lived in Buffalo). I'm excited for fellowship and sharing stories and laughing at all the silly things Florine does or says. I'm excited for opportunities that the Lord might open up in all our lives, including Barbara's.

I know I've been awful at blogging this past month and a half, so my plan is to work on a really juicy one on the bus ride tonight (we're taking an overnight bus and they are supposed to have wi-fi).

Ideally, I want to post a couple times while I'm in Paris. So get ready for that. I'm gonna do it!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

W E E K O N E. “London is AMAZING.”

Alright, mates? (aka Whazzup ma’ dudes?)

I can’t even begin to describe how amazing London has been, let alone the fact that I’ve only been here for ONE WEEK. It boggles my mind really. This city is incredible; I love the people and the accents and the cockney (“tea leaves” = thieves, “chewing a baby” = holding a baby, etc.); I love the red buses, the red telephone booths, the fact that EVERYTHING is in ENGLISH. Hallelujah.

Last week consisted of orientation-ish things, but mainly we were on our own to explore London and find an apartment (which we had already done before coming over!). First of all, I love the pub culture here. There are pubs on every corner, not to mention coffee shops and bookstores that are sprinkled between. We visited Cecil Street the other day which is the street that inspired Diagon Alley in HP. We also did a Royal Palace walking tour –which was awesome—and took a trip to Greenwich.

We got settled into our apartment on Friday which is only a 5 minute walk from school and in one of the best neighborhoods to live in-- Bloomsbury. Not to mention that THE British Museum is basically our backyard! All the museums here are free, too, so today we casually ran through an exhibit before lunch and saw ancient artifacts as old as 1.8 million years old, including the Rosetta Stone (the REAL one).

Sunday evening I attended my first ever Hillsong London church service which is in a ginormous theatre just down the street from me. It was actually really refreshing :) For all those who have been to a Mountain Top at least once in their life, it was basically a power session, except in a two story theatre that seated about 2,000 with every seat filled with a young person my age (and that was only their evening service).

It was really cool because Brian Houston, the man who founded Hillsong church, was visiting from New Zealand and gave the message for that night. He shared a few verses from Psalms 65, about how our God is a God of overflowing, or outpouring. But he went on and talked about how there are many things that God wants to do with our lives that He just can’t because of “lack.”  “Lack” can come in many different forms, and yes, we are a limited man living in a limited world. However, one of the worst things we can do in our relationship with the Lord is prohibit ourselves from being developed to the fullest we can be, or our God-given, God-ordained potential. This is a very scary line to walk because it’s so easy to get too wrapped up in our dreams or careers or families, and they can pull us away from God. The thing is, this fear of falling off the path causes many Christians to not even try to walk the path or sometimes to even look down on others who are attempting to move forward. It’s a healthy concern, but I believe it’s also an incredible ploy of the enemy because one of his biggest goals is to keep us from being useful to God. The more we are developed fully, the more the Lord can use us. It makes sense that the enemy would attack this process.

Anyways, going into this year, there were so many concerns and doubts and anxieties that I had about this year. I was quite clear from the Lord that this was where He wanted me to be and what He wanted me to be doing, but I couldn’t help sometimes questioning His plan for me (how silly we humans are) and wondering if it was better for me to stay involved with Campus Crusade at Syracuse, or take a year off to do the labor (sorry guys, the one-year Christian Internship) and serve the saints and young people in Cleveland.

Hearing the message Sunday night, it actually made me quite fearful in a healthy way concerning how dangerous “lack” can be-- how all that lack really does is diminish our God-given potential. One of the things that scares me the most is that I would waste time here on this earth and lose opportunities or turn down possibilities that could shape me and mold me into a better servant of Christ.

I truly believe that’s why I just spent an entire four months living in Florence, and why I’m going to be spending the next four months living in London. I have faith that the Lord is developing me in a certain way that could never be achieved if I was still at home. I know I’m changing, but I don’t know how…and I don’t think I need to know. What’s important is that I am the Lord’s, from now until eternity.

I am not my own. I was bought with a price. And my desire is not to please man but to glorify God with all my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Real "Bella Vita"

So first things first, I apologize to all those who have been grateful enough to follow my blog which I have unfortunately abandoned for the past month and a half....there's a number of things from this past semester that I have yet to blog about....we'll see how many I actually get to.

Now that I'm not living in Italy anymore, I'm changing my blog name to "Bella Vita" which still totally applies to this next semester, and to my life. I have the life of Christ living in me and through me, and He has set me free. "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." That is a beautiful life.

Anyways, the point of this post is to share a little bit from a college conference I attended over New Years. Basically for 3 days straight, about 150 college aged students came together to study and enjoy the book of Galatians. The schedule was rigorous (4 meetings and 4 small group studies a day), but I can absolutely say the concepts of my Christian life have been completely changed forever.

So the rest of this post is something that I shared with my 216 girls--a broad stroke of what really touched me during this conference. I encourage you to read it, but if not, know that more pictures and stories will be posted soon about this past semester. ALSO, I LEAVE FOR LONDON IN 10 DAYS.

"Empower was so encouraging for me, and kind of shattered a lot of my concepts of my Christian life. I've never had Galatians opened up to me like that before, and I think a lot of brothers and sisters felt their concepts of the Christian life challenged.

The first thing that really impressed me is how Christ gave everything for us and did everything for us to the point where we literally don’t have to do ANYTHING. He gave Himself for our sins (1:4) , set us apart before we were born, called us by His grace, revealed Himself to us (1:15-16), and redeemed us from the curse of the law (3:13). This last point really touched me a lot. In Galatians, Paul talks a lot about the law and admonishes the Galatians again and again for trying to follow the law. Why? Because Jesus Christ Himself was crucified so that we no longer have to live by the law but by the Spirit. We have this incredible freedom that I don’t think we realize or even come close to appreciating! Basically, before Jesus Christ, everyone lived in the realm of the law. And within this realm was a constant striving and trying harder to fulfill the law and measure up to God. But after Jesus Christ came and fulfilled the law, we NOW live in this totally new realm of faith. And within this Realm of Faith, we are given grace and the Spirit and are made righteous before God WITHOUT DOING ANYTHING. 

This is what boggles my mind. 

Christ took care of everything! And I think as Christians, especially those of us who have grown up second generation, we are caught in a mindset of “trying harder.” Trying harder to gain more of the Lord, trying harder to make it to more meetings, trying harder to serve the saints, trying harder to love people, trying harder to get more Spirit, etc. But you don’t get more Spirit by trying harder! Actually, what you get is more curse (because as soon as we start “trying harder”, we are brought into the realm of the law which ultimately results in the curse). All Abraham did was believe, and He was called righteous. How ridiculous is that?! I am SO convicted and guilty of a “try harder” attitude. I think it’s great in our human lives and in our schooling and such, but when it comes to the Lord and the realm of faith, there is nothing to “try harder” for. I have been made righteous, I have been redeemed from the curse of the law, and even more so, I have been adopted as a son and heir of God (4:5), so I already have the inheritance! CRAZINESS. We get the promise because God gives it to us without us working for it. He GIVES it to us.

One brother used the picture of us being in Christ as a branch that has been grafted in (Romans 11:17-18). A branch gets everything it needs without having to do anything because all the nourishment comes up through the trunk. This is absolutely what our Christian life is like. If we can  realize this and live in this realm of faith and stop “trying harder”, our Christian lives will be so restful and peaceful. I think we all are guilty of wanting the things that we do to be an aide to us, I am so guilty of this. This whole idea of being in the realm of faith and not needing to do anything but RECEIVE has completely shattered my concept of the Christian life.

But this is only the first half of Galatians….

What Galatians makes clear is that it pleases God for us to live our lives and remain in the inheritance He has freely given to us. Galatians 5 begins “For freedom, Christ has set you free.” What does that even mean?! Everything that Christ did essentially set us SO free that we might chose to live a life serving one another in love. The Greek word for “serving one another” is the same word as to be a slave. We were set SO free that we would put ourselves in the position of a slave for one another. THAT is freedom. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Gal. 5:13

Galatians 5 continues with how we must “walk by the Spirit.” And the Greek word for “walk” in this case infers a “walking around.” Paul charges the Galatians to explore this realm of faith in the Spirit. The Galatians were born of the Spirit, but they were trying to be perfected by the law. But Paul says, NO! If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law! (5:18).

It’s really interesting because Paul uses the phrase “walk by the Spirit” again at the end of the chapter, but that Greek word for walk means “a marching forward.” So we need to live by the Spirit and march forward by the Spirit. It makes sense then to ask, march forward to what?

At the end of chapter 6, Paul talks about this walking according to “the rule of the new creation.” (6:15-16). What does that even mean? Paul says that we satisfy the Lord by walking by the new creation. Whenever we see the creative work of God, THAT’s where we walk and invest our time. And where do we find the creative work of God? We look for the people that God is moving in. This brings so much purpose to our lives, because if we walk by the rule of the new creation, the gospel begins to go out, and the Lord can keep building what He’s after….the Israel of God (6:16). Why am I on this earth? Why am I in the church? Why am I in the school that I’m in? Why do I have the friends that I have? It’s ALL for the Israel of God. "