I no longer want to be a scribe…

Excerpt from A.W. Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God” from Chapter 3, Removing the Veil

“God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is. Such worship – can never come from a mere doctrinal knowledge of God. Hearts that are ‘fit to break’ with love for the Godhead are those who have been in the Presence and have looked with opened eye upon the majesty of the Deity. Men of the breaking hearts had a quality about them not known to nor understood by common men. They habitually spoke with spiritual authority. They had been in the presence of God and they reported what they saw there.

They were prophets, not scribes, for the scribe tells us what he has read, and the prophet tells what he has seen. The distinction is not an imaginary one. Between the scribe who has read and the prophet who has seen is a difference as wide as the sea. We are overrun today with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, where are they? The hard voice of the scribe sounds over evangelicalism, bu the Church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the veil and has gazed with inward eye upon the wonder that is God. And yet, thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience into the holy Presence, is a privilege open to every child of God.

With the veil removed by the rending of Jesus’ flesh, with nothing on God’s side to prevent us from entering, why do we tarry without? Why do we consent to abide all our days just outside the Holy of Holies and never enter at all to look upon God? We hear the Bridegroom say, ‘Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.’ (Song of Solomon 2:14) We sense that call is for us, but we still fail to draw near, and the years pass and we grow old and tired in the outer courts of the tabernacle. What hinders us?

The answer usually given, simply that we are ‘cold,’ will not explain all the facts. There is something more serious than coldness of heart, something that may be back of that coldness and be the cause of its existence. What is it? What but the presence of the veil in our hearts? A veil not taken away as the first veil was, but which remains there still shutting out the light and hiding the face of God from us. It is the veil of our fleshly, fallen nature living on, unjudged within us, uncrucified and unrepudiated. It is the close-woven veil of the self-life which we never truly acknowledged, of which we have been secretly ashamed, and which for these reasons we have never brought to the judgment of the cross. It is not too mysterious, this opaque veil, nor is it hard to identify. We have but to look into our own hearts and we shall see it there, sewn and patched and repaired it may be, but there nevertheless, an enemy to our lives and an effective block to our spiritual progress.

This veil is not a beautiful thing and it is not a thing about which we commonly care to talk. But I am addressing the THIRSTING souls who are determined to follow God, and I know they will not turn back because the way leads temporarily through the blackened hills. The urge of God within them will assure their continuing pursuit. They will face the facts however unpleasant and endure the cross for the joy set before them. So I am bold to name the threads out of which this inner veil is woven.

It is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the hyphenated sins of the human spirit. They are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power.

To be specific, the self-sins are self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our nature to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them. The grosser manifestations of these sins – egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion – are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders, even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as actually for many people, to become identified with the gospel. I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the church visible. Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice.

One should supposed a proper instruction in the doctrines of man’s depravity and the necessity of justification through the righteousness of Christ alone would deliver us from the power of the self-sins, but it does not work that way. Self can live unrebuked at the very altar. It can watch the bleeding Victim die and not be in the least affected by what it sees. It can fight for the faith of the reformers and preach eloquently the creed of salvation by grace and gain strength by its efforts. To tell the truth, it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy and is more at home in a Bible conference than a tavern. Our very state of longing after God may afford it an excellent condition under which to thrive and grow.

Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. We may as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure like that through which our Savior passed when He suffered under Pontius Pilate.

Let us remember that when we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant, but in actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain.

To tear away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed.
To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all.
It is never fun to die.
To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful.

Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free.

Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life, hoping ourselves to rend the veil. God must do everything for us. Our part is to yield and trust. We must confess, forsake, repudiate the self-life, and then reckon it crucified. But we must be care to distinguish lazy ‘acceptance’ from the real work of God. We must INSIST upon the work being done. We dare not rest content with a neat doctrine of self-crucifixion. That is to imitate Saul and spare the best of the sheep and oxen.

Insist that the work be done in very truth and it will be done. The cross is rough and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the presence of the Living God.”

“Lord, how excellent are Thy ways, and how devious and dark are the ways of man. Show us how to die, that we may rise again to newness of life. Rend the veil of our self-life from the top down as Thou didst rend the veil of the Temple. We would draw near in full assurance of faith. We would dwell with Thee in daily experience here on earth so that we may be accustomed to the glory when we enter Thy heaven to dwell with Thee there. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

today’s thoughts

I recently revisited a lot of my old friends (my journals from college-on), and ran across this excerpt.

August 8, 2008 – “As I sit here, I can hear the light, yet consistent rain outside. Sometimes, when I don’t recognize You in anything else, it’s the faithfulness of the rain that reminds me of You. I know that sometimes that’s due to my lack of spiritual vision, yet You continue to meet me where I am and draw me back to You.

Lord, I’m here. I recognize my need for You so desperately this morning, as the night longs for the break of dawn and the first glimpse of the sunrise – the reminder of You promise that Your mercies are new every morning, that I have a fresh start in You. Help my heart to hear and receive this Truth, for my mind to see and believe that there is grace beyond comprehension waiting for me just past my decision to let go and let You…

How can You feel so foreign to me when I’ve walked with You all these years? Have I never really known You, or is my heart just that forgetful and fickle? I see that things I despise in me and it makes me weary. Lord – help me get past this! Help me to see You again with new eyes and new vision. Spiritual vision. Kingdom eyes.

May the eyes of my heart be enlightened that I may know and comprehend that glorious inheritance I have with the saints. HOPE.

“Teach me Your will, O Lord, and I will walk in Your Truth. Grant me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your Name. I will praise You, O lord, with all my heart; I will glorify Your Name forever. For great is Your love towards me. You have delivered me from the depths of the grave.” – Psalm 86:11-13

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” Titus 3:4-8

Your Word falls fresh on me this morning – Grace, mercy, a fresh start, heirs of HOPE –
therefore, in view of this, to devote myself to what is good –

“Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” -Psalm 5:1-3

God’s provision that saves us spiritually through the lessons of suffering we endure – not about physical and emotional comfort.

In poverty, we find the true riches of our heart – blessed are the spiritually poor

Through loss, we find gain – whoever will lose his life for My sake will have true life

Through death, we find life through rejection of the world’s embrace we’re accepted into God’s family

Through turning our eyes from sinful things, we find vision pure enough to see God’s glory

Through pain-authored humility, we find mercy and grace, peace and love

-end of excerpt

Interestingly enough, in the way that God loves to do this in my life, He’s brought this back to my attention as I’m re-reading “The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer – and am reminded of the fact that God has ALWAYS been the one pursuing me – whether it was the lull of the soft rain outside my window that reminded me of Him, or His very Words brought back to mind when I’m having a hard time – He’s always there, reminding me of His faithfulness and beckoning me to come away with Him – ever the Romancer.

I’ve been experiencing somewhat of late the abundance of answered prayer being so thoroughly laid bare before my eyes – the way that God even initiates a thought or question in me to speak to Him, and how quickly He’s delighted in revealing His answer in one form or another. Amazing how much He delights to be in relationship with me…even now I just shake my head, but not in disbelief, because this Truth is slowly creeping into my heart, seeping into my innermost being – which He created and recognizes His signature – and I’m learning that He loves to love me – and just what an incredible Truth that is to live in. And that He loves to love you – the way that He puts you on my heart and brings you to my mind to intercede and to carry your situation to His throne of grace. Oh, how He loves to love…

And I love how this Love takes so many forms – joyful expressions of happiness and excitement and anticipation -and heart-wrenching tears of sorrow. I had a brief moment, about two months ago, where the Lord gave me about 5 minutes with Him to glimpse something that I’m not even sure I can really put into words. It was the fact that He allows Himself to be vulnerable to us – that He stands there, reaching out to us, asking us to Choose Him, the very ones that He came to serve and die for.

And I think of how hard it is, in some ways, for me to be vulnerable to Him – and yet He does it first. He puts Himself out there for us to reject Him every single day, and instead of backing up and closing off, He continues to stand there, open – waiting for the next opportunity to draw us back to Himself.

This glimpse came in response to a conversation that I had regarding what I felt called to avoid, in terms of not being exposed to certain types of media, etc., because of the effect that it has on my heart. God spoke to me some years ago about purity, and that when I allowed myself to listen to certain types of music, certain types of TV shows/movies, that I was becoming less and less sensitive to His Presence in my life. I was no longer focusing on the things that He was speaking to me about, but allowing these new ‘messages’ to lead and guide me and my heart. And so I was explaining that it wasn’t some legalistic stance on rejecting anything ‘mainstream,’ but that when you put it next like this: I can either experience the Creator of the Universe, or enjoy a 30 minute show that is meaningless in view of eternity. There was no real choice.

And so this 5 minute glimpse came, and it was like I could see Christ standing there, every moment of our day, when we decide what we’re going to listen to, look at, engage in conversation about – what we allow into our minds – into our eyes – into our ears – and into our hearts – and He’s asking us to choose Him – choose things that bring Him to our mind, that encourage us in the ways that He’s already moving in our lives. And just how often we don’t choose Him….we choose the next fad musician, the ‘cool, taboo’ author that would rather compromise purity for relevancy…not realizing that when we forsake purity (of mind, heart, speech), we forsake vision and revelation of God -the pure in heart will SEE HIM.

And He stands there, exposed and open and vulnerable, asking us to choose Him, choose the things that clarify our mind and vision so that we can recognize Him there in our lives.

I just sobbed, sitting there on my office floor, humbled that He loves us so much – loves to love us so much – that He just stands there, waiting, asking us to Choose Him. And that He still stands there, after we don’t, asking once again, Please….choose Me.

Desert Places and Empty Spaces

I prayed a prayer a while back, asking God to show me how to be satisfied in Him…what it really looked like to live there, and not just visit occasionally…and i definitely didn’t know what I was getting myself into!

Been experiencing a desert season for the past few weeks, and realizing more and more this weekend how God is allowing the dryness to draw me out and make me thirst for His Living Water….so often I fill the empty places as soon as they become vacant, instead of realizing that God has been purging me and wanting to fill those places Himself….it’s like the minute He finishes clearing a spot, I’m filling it….with activities, worries, my desires and dreams. But God has been faithful to frustrate my attempts at trying to find comfort and contentment in anything outside of just Him.

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.” -Jeremiah 17:5-6

This time He told me to just wait…to stop ‘depending on my own flesh,’ my own ideas and notions of what I think will best meet my needs….and let those places sit open for a while & practice being vulnerable before Him. He’s asked me to let them bring me to a place where I realize my need for Him and then let Him choose the timing in meeting those needs.

“The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” – Isaiah 58:11

I’ve been revisiting a book that I read in college – Heart Hunger by Cindi McMendamin. I was actually humbled by the notion that God would be revisiting these issues…they were something I was always ashamed of in college, feeling as though my attempts to find the security and acceptance were misplaced on relationship after relationship. And there is so much talk in the Christian culture these days about how there are ‘certain issues’ you have to work through before God will bring your mate into your life….which I think it just a bunch of bull! You have to be content in your singleness. You have to do this, or be that, etc. What this does is set us up on this fast-speed cycle, trying to race through our issues to find healing so that we can win the prize….a husband, a wife.

And so that is what I did. I saw my husband waiting on the other side of my search for security and acceptance, and that if I was supposed to be satisfied in God before He’d bring me my husband, than I was sure going to find satisfaction and quickly! But I’ve never really known God to work on my time-table. So, I gathered all the information I needed, all the statements to claim in faith that “all I wanted was Jesus” and “He was all I needed,” and wore that label proudly, even almost convincing myself that I was there. But the thing about moving so quickly is that the Truth doesn’t take root in your heart. I wasn’t after satisfaction in Christ…I was after a husband!

But God, in His goodness, knows our motives and doesn’t expect more from us than we can give Him…and so He didn’t expect me to be at a place of surrendering that desire of a husband to Him then…and I don’t know that He was even asking to.

And so here I am again – God still pursuing me, trying to convince me that He is the only thing that can truly satisfy my heart, that what I really long for is His unfailing love. So, instead of trying to get all the knowledge I can and try to get past this as quickly as possible, I’m going to humbly sit at His feet, and remain there. I’m going to confess in this self-sufficient world that I’m not enough for me…I can’t do it on my own, and frankly, I don’t want to. I don’t want to have to rely on myself to get through this thing…I want to live. I want to question and search for the promised Abundant Life that is offered….and I don’t want to settle for less. I want to accept the suffering along with the pleasures, and consider it all joy in knowing Christ. I want to really learn what it means to taste and see that the Lord is good….that He truly will satisfy my needs in my sun-scorched desert, and I will then be a spring of water, like a well-watered garden.

God spoke to my heart and showed me just how closely my calling is tied to these issues…how I’m called to be open and vulnerable, not clinging to the things around me that beckon their comfort and in turn dull my senses, and to help others get into that freedom as well. But being open and vulnerable means that you’re constantly open to the beckoning….and He wants to teach me how to get an appetite for all that He is so that the other doesn’t seem so tempting anymore.

So here I am, sitting, waiting….long enough for the side effects of this world to slowly fade, and for Him to make me sensitive to His Spirit again. I’m willing to wait in the in-between of faith and sight, knowledge and experience, prayer and peace.