Pressing Into Heaven…

This little devotional has challenged me in more ways than one. A. W. Tozer’s Born After Midnight  is bold in drawing the reader towards renewal and revival of the soul. I haven’t read much of Tozer before but in reading this little devotional it is very evident that his writings are a depth of knowledge, and I have barely skimmed them, desperately needing to go deeper in. He is a powerful writer and has a way of making the reader ponder the truths of Christ.

On the back of this book, he asks a simple question. This question has haunted me since I read it; it’s caused me to ponder the most mundane aspects of my life. He asks, “Will you press into heaven at the expense of earth?”  What does it mean to press into heaven? It seems so simple, but yet vague as well. How, on this earth, do I press into heaven?

The answer did not become clear to me until I paired it with my recent study of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This man has become a hero of the faith for me. He is someone I will always look up to. He did so many amazing things during World War II; it made me think, “I want to be like him! I want to do big things!” Now, Bonhoeffer fell in love with theology at a very young age. He was also a very talented musician. Once he was of age, he was forced to decide between the two, which one he would attend university for. He decided for theology. He attended a very liberal theology school in Berlin, Germany. It would still be a few years though, until he fell in love with God. He loved debating with his professors and colleges while holding a very conservative stance, but he still lacked a love for God. After some traveling, and a few other events Dietrich fell in love with God, and it only brought action to the great theological knowledge he possessed.

For the rest of his life, Dietrich would spend at least thirty minutes in meditation on a single verse of Scripture. He always prayed at the same time each morning, 6 AM. He eventually taught his brothers in the faith to do the same thing, creating a unity among them each morning. Even as war spread them further apart, they all knew that each morning they would arise together in prayer. Besides these things, Dietrich would study and write for hours on end. Even with this though, it is evident that in his life the two most important things he did each day were to pray and mediate on the Scriptures. Dietrich was pressing into heaven.

It is through the spiritual disciplines that one presses into heaven. These gifts of grace God has given us only wet our appetites for the eternal. When we read our Bibles, when we pray, when we meditate and memorize Scripture, we are pressing into heaven. It is only because Dietrich was so faithful in these “little” things that he could stand for his faith amidst one of the darkest times and places of history. Because of prayer, and Scripture reading he was able to die for his faith; he was able to thrive in his faith even in a prison cell. He pressed into heaven at the expense of earth.

Whenever you decide to wake up early to pray, you are pressing into heaven, but you are doing it at the expense of earth. You could just sleep in. Whenever you decide to do one thing, you are also deciding not to do another thing. That is the whole point, each time we chose a spiritual discipline to practice, we are choosing heaven over earth. This tends to bring momentum to your spiritual life that hopefully continues until you enter into eternity. The spiritual disciplines are meant to bring us closer to God and to a greater love for him. If we are faithful in these disciplines, if we press into heaven daily, God will create in us a longing for heaven itself, to be in the presence of the King for all of eternity. This place is not our home.

So I ask you, just as Tozer asked me, Will you press into heaven at the expense of earth? 

 

Advent Journal: The World He Entered

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, thought he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” – Philippians 2: 5-6

Fall is a beautiful reminder of the condition of the world we live in. The vivid green shade of the grass slowly fades into a muddled brown. The leaves of the tree turn brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows, then in a days time change to a lifeless brown. The air turns colder, the sky becomes cloudy. The delightful lively times of spring and summer pass into a melancholy monotony. It is a slow fade, a sad goodbye. Everything in fall points to the true condition of our world: everything is a slow fade to death.

You might have just gotten that new promotion, you may have just had your first child, you may have just won the lottery, but all of life’s circumstances are a slow fade to the end. The trees you see will die. The building you live in will crumble away. People that are born, will die. This is how life works, everything slowly fades into the sad goodbye.

This is why we wait. We wait with the hope that is set before us, that the Light might enter the darkness. It has been written on our hearts that we are in the darkness. We do not live oblivious to this, knowing only the darkness. The conscience that God gave us reveals slight hints of the Light. We know there is something more, but we do not know who it is. We cling to the promise. The promise that one would come to set things straight, to point us to the way, the way of Life. We fight against our self-absorbedness, looking up for the Light.

This is the world he entered into. A waiting world. A world longing for change, to be drastically called to new life in the glory of God. He also entered a dark world, where so many were not waiting, only blinded by the darkness, not trying to be changed from it. It was a world at war with itself, where injustice ruled and unrest is the only sure thing. The Light entered a world almost completely dominated by the darkness.

The Light entered this world.

He did not enter it haughtily or proudly. He did not enter it with dominion, condemnation, or conceit. He entered the darkness as pure light would with brilliant love, unspeakable joy, remarkable patience, beautiful faithfulness, eternal peace, selfless kindness, humble gentleness, powerful goodness, and grace upon grace.

Identity Crisis

Identity.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines this word as “who someone is; the name of a person; the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others.” This is a word that isn’t very common in our culture. I can’t think of many instances when someone would be able to use this word consistently. But still, it is a beautiful word. This word is the very essence of what makes up a person. Someone’s identity defines what they do, how they respond to a situation, their dreams, aspirations and hopes. Your identity reveals what you truly value. All of it stems from your identity.  Continue reading “Identity Crisis”

Silent Noise

This past week I had the privilege of traveling outside of the states for the first time. I drove with a couple of guys to Algonquin Park in Canada. If you are not familiar with this park, let me fill you in. It is basically a huge park made up of hundreds of small lakes. It is untouched by man. You are not allowed to drive motor boats, build buildings or docks, the water is uncontaminated and the wildlife untamed. We spent an entire week traveling the Algonquin and barely scratched the surface of the beauty there. It is vast, gorgeous, and pristine.

I left my phone behind, along with anything else that would be a distraction. Midway through the week we had a solo day. Our group of eight split up and spent the entire day alone. I brought along my Bible, journal, and a book I had been reading. I found a giant rock off the shore and set up camp for the day. I spent most of the day sitting on the rock singing, praying, reading, and thinking for the sake of thinking. It was an enriching time spiritually, a refreshing time physically, and a time of growth mentally. It wasn’t until reflecting on this time later that I came to realize the importance of silence.

Silence is grace given by God for us to grow to become like his Son. In Scripture, there is a pattern of men going out into the wilderness before important transitions or intense situations. Jesus went into the wilderness before his three years of ministry began. The Apostle Paul followed this same model (Galatians 1:17-18). Getting away from the distractions of life to focus on God is extremely important before a big life transition.

As many of you know, I am about to get married. This is going to be a really big change in my life that will come with its joys and struggles. With that being said, this trip could not have come at a better time. I was able to focus for an entire day on my Savior and what His sacrifice means for my life. It was refreshing and refocusing. I realized that a “solo day” only meant nine hours spent with the One who is always with me. I wasn’t really alone, but for aware of His presence. It was an incredible joy to sing with only Him listening. To read Scripture aloud among His creation.

I think a solo day is something I will try to recreate in my life. Many Christians harp on us if we spend time away from people. “You’re supposed to be the light,” they may say. “How are you going to accomplish that if you’re always alone?!” While I am not recommending you become a recluse living in a cave miles away from civilization. But in order for you to effectively be the light, I am convoked that you will need a day here or there spent entirely with the One you are telling others about. These moments of silence are where you will be able to experience God’s grace in ways you wouldn’t fathom.

Put away the phone. Get off the computer. Shut down your brain. Pick up the Book. Petition and sing praises to God. Grow in the grace of our Savior. I challenge you to find a day this month, and spend it entirely with God. You will not be disappointed.

The Myth of Independence

Well, I finally did it. At the ripe age of nineteen, I moved out of my parents home and into an apartment. Me and Alyssa had looked at this apartment and knew we had to make a decision fast. They were going fast in this area where wanting to locate. With the wedding quickly approaching we couldn’t resist the roomy two-bedroom home. So this past Thursday I drove to work, then to the apartment where my family, Alyssa, and here family was waiting to help unload all of my belongings (which is not much).

So this is it right? I’m finally independent. Well, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. First, I have to say Alyssa made this move so much easier. She was always there for emotional support, asking me how I was feeling about it and always being ready to listen. She helped move me in which was an incredible help and it was such a joy to have her help set up our furniture. She’d scrunch up her face trying to picture the bookshelf in the guest bedroom rather than in the living room. I am so blessed by her and she has supported me so very much in this major change.

Continue reading “The Myth of Independence”

The Fear of Man

It affects us more than we realize. It shapes our behavior, our actions, our thoughts, and in some cases our destiny. We let it guide our steps, control our hearts, and rule our lives. The fear of man is powerful and potentially the greatest threat to Christians. We encage ourselves with thick bars of imaginary scenarios, possible trials, and desired, all-encompassing comfort. Fear of man paralyzes us for the purpose that God has called us to. I am writing this as someone who has struggled with this my entire life. I do not claim to have overcome it, but with daily grace, I believe I am growing in this area. In this quick look at this issue, we have to begin with the heart of the matter.

Continue reading “The Fear of Man”

Glorious Mysteries

Wouldn’t it be nice to live life without any mystery? I have pondered this question for some time. There are moments when I just want to know what the future holds. Wouldn’t it be nice to know how you are going to die? For some of us yes, others maybe not. It might not be great if we found out we are going to die of a shark attack, that could bring some unnecessary anxiety to your life. But seriously, sometimes I think it would be nice knowing how your life is going to end and how you’ll enter into eternity.

But mystery is a good thing. I remember as a child wanting to know who I was going to marry. I thought it would be so awesome just to have a name or to know something about her that could give me a clue. Now I am thankful that I wasn’t given a vision of my wife before ever meeting her. I think it might have been slightly awkward if my jaw dropped as I first met Alyssa in English class.

The truth of the matter is that mystery can be grace. Let me explain. Without mystery, trust can be lacking. There will be moments in life when we wonder if we’ll make it out alive, if we’ll be able to continue in life. It is in these moments when faith is given the opportunity to blossom. It is in these intense situations that we must lean in and trust in Christ and His goodness.

As life continues, our faith becomes stronger because we have lived through these experiences of despair and trouble. Even in these hard times, mystery is God’s grace in our lives. As a young person, there is still so much mystery to life. Yeah I’ve figured a few things out, but I’m still not exactly sure what specific ministry God will use me in. I don’t know what state or city I will settle down in. I have no idea what my kids will be like. I don’t know how long I’ll continue my education. There are still so many mysteries in life, and it can be easy to stress out about all the mystery. But these are all opportunities to trust God and lean into Him more.

This is one disappointment about growing old. When I have retired, my kids are grown up, and the mortgage is paid off, there will be less mystery. You still never know what a day will hold, but for the most part, there is less mystery than before. Steven Curtis Chapman describes these mysteries becoming reality in his song The Glorious Unfolding.

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
We’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

We were made to run through fields of forever
Singing songs to our Savior and King
So let us remember this life we’re living
Is just the beginning of the beginning

Life is a glorious unfolding. At life’s end, we will be able to look back and see God’s faithfulness. We will see His goodness in our lives, His unstoppable grace, His renewed mercies.

There are mysteries, though, that transcend this life. There is still another glorious unfolding. It is that of eternity. There we will see the glorious unfolding of God’s ultimate, sustaining glory. There, our joy will be supreme because of the Alpha and Omega’s reigning glory. The mysteries we face today only point to those that will unfold in heaven. Mysteries are God’s grace in our lives. They cause us to trust Him more so that we can love Him more.