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? 

 

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”

The Mysteries of God

I remember as a child thinking about God. My parents told me He was eternal while the Bible said the same. I distinctly remember trying to grasp this… Before there was Earth God was. But that means God existed forever, before He created anything. If he existed for forever, then how did we ever get to today? Forever means continually, on and on and on and on… How did He exist for forever and we still got to today but He will still exist for forever after today.

This is just one of my many trains of thought as a child, but this is only one characteristic of God that is slightly beyond the human brain capacity. There is also God as the Trinity, three persons in one Being. There is the omniscience combined with the omnipotence of God. If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, how can He allow the suffering we see around the world without stopping it? There is God as omnipresent. He is literally everywhere at once. Our minds have a hard time with that one. Prayer, we often fail to understand how prayer works. What is our role in it and what is God’s? There are many, many things that we do not understand or grasp about God.

Agnosticism

I am not saying that God cannot be known. Agnosticism is the belief that God exists, but we cannot know Him. It is a middle ground between atheism and Christianity. We know many things about God because He has revealed His character through Scripture; the Bible is His self-revelation. “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). “Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17). “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20). These are just a few passages explaining the characteristics of God.

We can also learn much about God’s character through his creation. We look at the stars and see God’s incredible power and presence. We see a forest and see his creativity. We look at some of the fish of the sea and we observe God’s sense of humor. Humanity is created in His image, so we can learn much about God through what we know about people. Agnosticism is a myth and it is not what I am testifying to here in the least.

Mysteries

With this being said, there are many mysteries we still wrestle with about God. Scripture does not reveal every key detail about God.The unknown can stir up plenty of doubt in a believer’s mind. We often attempt to fit God into our circumstances rather than viewing our circumstances in light of who God is. This takes faith.

God is so infinitely beyond the human brain. Although, the brain is all that we have known in life, God is far, far beyond it. It can be easy to get caught up in human reasoning. This can get us into trouble and some strange, cultish beliefs. I have a hard time with people who have to have every question answered about God. Do I know exactly how prayer works? Well, no, but I do know that Scripture commands it of me, and Jesus modeled it for me. Often, we place our entire focus on what we do not know about something, forgetting what we do know.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

-Deuteronomy 29:29

Sometimes, we can get too focused on what we do not know. Whatever we do not know, we must view in light of what we do know. This requires us to faithfully trust in what we know about God’s character even when our circumstance don’t seem to line up correctly. There are going to be mysteries about God that we will never understand.

Passivity is Not an Option

I am not saying that we should not explore some of these mysteries. It can be a healthy thing when we discover more about God. After all, God is the main character of the Bible; He is present in every Biblical event. We can learn something about God from every passage; the Bible is His self-revelation. We should always be growing in our knowledge of God. There are, however, a couple of things to keep in mind when we approach these mysteries.

#1. Don’t become obsessed. Don’t let your study of God’s omnipresence become the focus of your life or ministry. It is not healthy for one of the mysteries to become our primary focus. Always seek to bring it back the gospel. How does your study connect to the gospel?

#2. Stay humble. When you discuss some of these gray areas, remain humble. Who is to say that you understand every detail about how prayer works? Everybody has their opinion, let them share it and enjoy a friendly discussion. You probably are not completely right about how you view God. Always remain humble and seek to turn away from any dogmatism.

#3. Grow. The entire point from these studies is so that we can grow in our affection for God. Use these kinds of studies to implement your relationship with Him. Always go back to Scripture and view what you do not know in light of what you do know.

Mysteries as Grace

These mysteries of God are by His grace. I am so thankful that I do not know everything about God. That may sound a little odd, but let me explain.

My friend always used to say it this way, “If we knew everything about God, it’s almost like He would cease to be God?” I believe that these mysteries of God are a characteristic of Him. He is so beyond our human brain capacity, we do not even begin to comprehend what Scripture has laid out plainly about Him. We don’t truly understand how big He is. We don’t entirely understand the Trinity. We don’t completely know how prayer works. This keeps us humble and dependent upon Him.

This is not blind faith, as some would accuse. Neither is it faith through a magnifying glass, examining every minuscule detail. The truth that is revealed to us through Scripture is exactly what God wanted to be revealed. No more and no less. These mysteries are each eternal graces, they keep us dependent and humble. The mysteries of God should stimulate more faith in what we do know about God, rather than create more doubt and uncertainty. Don’t be defined by what you don’t know. Use these mysteries to press further into our love of God and what we are sure about Him. He is good, righteous, merciful, triune, all-powerful, everywhere, all-knowing, just, grace-giving, eternal, victorious, and his love endure forever.