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? 

 

A Feast of Ancient Words

“Ancient words ever true

Changing me and changing you

We  have come with open hearts

Oh, let the ancient words impart

They resound with God’s own heart

Oh, let the ancient words impart…”

These lyrics recite one of the greatest means of grace that we have constantly at our fingertips. The Word of God… The God of all knowledge, who created the cosmos, who is all powerful, who created the depths of the sea, who resides in perfect Heaven, who named the stars, this God wrote a book.

I remember as a boy, I was a big reader. I loved reading fiction, I’d sit on a summer day with no school and devour a book. Sometimes I would start a book and then discover that it was a part of series with a final book not yet released. So I would quickly read the books that were written in the series and then I would wait for the release of the final book. I would wait, dreaming of how the story might end. I would hunger, the tastebuds of my brain longing to linger over the coming literary flavors. Finally, the day would come and the preordered book would arrive at my doorstep. The anticipation was killing me. I would rip into the box, and hold the book in my hands in a stunned state of awe. Here it was, the final edition to the series, the end of the tale, the farewell of all of the characters. I would almost get nervous, what if it didn’t meet my expectations? Then, with a deep breath, I would flip to the prologue and dive into the final epic.

Ok, I know what some of you are thinking, “What a nerd!” That’s alright, I embrace it. But, nerd or not, I think it is safe to say that very few of us ever approach God’s Word with this attitude. Often an attitude of religious duty drives us to read Scripture. It is either out of religious duty or we just don’t do it at all because of laziness. I would challenge us all to reevaluate how we approach Scripture.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

-Psalm 19:7-11

 The Psalmist approached God’s Word with an incredible sense of awe. He described it as being more desirous than gold. It is sweeter than honey from the honeycomb. I’ve had honey straight from the comb, there’s not much else sweeter. It is perfect; it revives. Scripture is not deserved by any of us. Through the Bible, God reveals his character to us. Scripture equals grace as a means of sustaining spiritual life.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

-Isaiah 40:8

God’s Word is unchanging. It will last an eternity. While my copy of Scripture is not eternal, the truth found in the text will last for forever. The Bible is an eternal grace.

So why don’t we treat it like an eternal grace. It sits by my bed each night, I pick it up on average about every other day. The Psalmist describes it as life-giving. Take away his food, his home, his status, his family, just so long has he has the Word of God with him, he will press on. Let us hunger and thirst for Scripture as our only source of life.

But how do we do this? How do we learn to crave Scripture?

David Mathis in his book Habits of Grace says

The potential practices [for Bible reading] are limitless, but the principle beneath the practices is this: The fundamental means of God’s ongoing grace, through his Spirit, in the life of the Christian and the life of the church is God’s self-expression in his Word, in the gospel, perfectly kept for us and on display in all its textures, riches, and hues in the external written word of the Scriptures.

The key to hungering for the Bible is to have the proper perspective of Scripture. Scripture is only available as a means of grace. We do nothing in order to receive it. It is available twenty-four seven as a source of life. It has been perfectly preserved and is understandable. Can you believe it? The inklings of God are knowable and are the spiritual nourishment for the Christian.

Believe it and live it, Christian. We have the eternal grace of God’s Word, that resound with God’s own heart, at our side all the time. Quit starving yourself and feast on the riches of God’s Word. Here is my number one tip for learning to hunger for God’s Word:

Read it.

If you have never consistently read the Bible, you have yet to feel and experience the joys of it. When we are constantly listening to what God is saying through His word, we become dependent upon it. Suddenly, our jobs, our finances, and our phones all take a back seat. You do not truly know how detrimental starvation is until you know what it feels like to be full.

Today is a Monday. Pick up of the Word, and create some silence so that you can listen to what God is saying. It may be painful at first, but this means of grace will produce growth much faster than any other method. Feed your relationship with the Lord. Join me at the table of grace and feast with me.