Saturday, January 24, 2015

The true geography of bliss.



Thus says YAHWEH: At the time of my favor I have answered you, on the day of salvation I have helped you. I have formed you and have appointed you to say to prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’ Along the roadway they will graze, and any bare height will be their pasture. They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun will never plague them; for he who pities them will lead them, will guide them to springs of water. I shall turn all my mountains into a road and my highways will be raised aloft. Shout for joy, you heavens, earth exult! Mountains, break into joyful cries! For YAHWEH has consoled his people, is taking pity on his afflicted ones. Isaiah 49:8–11, 13

Love God and do whatever. –St Augustine

Well, my 1 Kings reading started the morning off a little rough. As many times as I reread it, I could not shake out of my head that David and Solomon were taking things into their own hands, and that all of their slicing and dicing made no sense to my twenty-first century way of thinking.

And Rob Bell helped a little bit. The Bible is like Van Gogh’s painting of sunflowers, rather than a Wikipedia entry about sunflowers.  It will not tell you what to believe in order to make God happy.  It is more likely to show you what faith does than define what it is.  The Bible is a work of art, a collection of stories, histories, poems, flawed characters and beautiful songs.

And John Crowder describes a beautiful song that weaves its way not only throughout Scriptures but throughout church history as well, particularly in time of renewal and revival. And so I am reading The Ecstasy of Loving God because my heart’s desire is for renewal and revival.

Because undoubtedly I have been one of those striving little souls trying to make a dead work out of loving God. Yes I have perhaps even been one of those grumpy old preachers who said, “Love is not a feeling” and to do good things even when you don’t feel like it.

But last night as I led our community outreach group through I John again and again, it is clear that Augustine had it right. Our only job is to abide in the love of God. Nothing else matters.

The love of God should electrify us, push us to hunger, and stir a fiery passion in our bones that cannot be quenched. Consistent lack of emotion in our spiritual walk can often be defined in one simple work: complacency.

Those who worship a dull god of stoicism–though they call him by a Christian name–are really worshipping an idol. A mere shadow of the truth. It is one thing to worship the Son of God by name, but it is another thing to know His nature, worshipping Him both in Spirit and in truth.

Jesus quoted Isaiah when He said, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.” He does not want my time, my money, my Sunday mornings if it does not come as an overflow of experiencing bliss. Our lives are rooted in enjoying God and delighting ourselves in Him. –Crowder

So Nicole was a lean lovely fourteen-year-old who was getting lots of attention from those sorts of companies that are looking for The Next Look. And perhaps her lower lip was just a mite too full, but L.A. Models and Ford Models of New York City were willing to risk it. So the offer came in for a trial year, complete with chaperoned housing, tickets to Broadway and Madison Square Garden, and $100,000 which would certainly pay for a college education should she decide this was not the life for her. And the actual day-to-day of painting faces and painting faces and then waiting and waiting, and then rushing and rushing in front of the camera was pretty dull, especially for such a driven soul as she. Nevertheless alluring.

But Nicole’s Grandpa Voelkel had been filling her heart and mind with other thoughts, asking her to memorize the Westminster Catechism. And so when the photographer guy from Los Angeles gave her one more plea and asked what do you want to do with your life, she knew exactly the answer: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. And the nice man had nothing to say, but he packed up his lights, his camera and his action and walked out the door.

And now perhaps Nicole is not sure of the next step exactly. But she has little signs that say, “Abide,” taped all over her room. And her life looks like the Augustine “Love God and do whatever,” even though of course sometimes she is curious.

I too am curious. But like Jacob I do not want to take one step further until I see God. And Adrianna my discussion partner last night reminded me once again, marveling, that we see God in each face we meet during each day. His image bearers. And he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

Love God and do whatever. –St Augustine

That My joy might remain in you. –Jesus