Friday, February 26, 2010

Contemplative Awakening

I am not a poet. I work much better in the prosaic realm. However, lately, I have been inspired by a friend who is a poet by nature. Since I have no natural talent when it comes to poetry, I decided to model my work after Zach's. Now, you must understand that I do not presume to suggest my work is near his level by any means; however, since his work was my inspiration, I must give credit.

Since poetry can be obscure and since I am a novice, I must give direction to my intention to this poem, or at least share my heart in this work. For some time, I have been thinking about prayer. I have wanted to express my feelings, but for some reason, I could not do so in prose. Therefore, I turned to poetry…

This poem is for anyone who has felt lost in prayer. I wanted to express something I find God has been telling me: Prayer has many obstacles. The imagination begins to run wild, and we feel guilty for this. Why? Why do we allow our thoughts to stop us? Another obstacle is the feeling of being lost. The mind begins to fail us in prayer, and we assume we are doing something wrong when we are in darkness. But, what if it is the case that we are in that exact place that God wants us to be? Think about this: If God is transcendent and beyond the senses, how will He appear to the mind in prayer? –As absolute Darkness. We let this blindness scare us away. But, what if we were to stay and listen to the heart, that place where God speaks to our being?

I am not suggesting that this place of darkness is all prayer can be or should be. I only suggest that it might just be a good thing, instead of that dead end we have always assumed it is. I do not know if you will agree with what I have proposed, but I hope it will stir thought within your soul.

Contemplative Awakening

I close my eyes once more,
But not for sleep.
Here I am again,
Staring out into Darkness.
My soul at the edge of this Undefined.
How many times have I stood here?
How many times have I walked away?

The familiar clouds swiftly pass over my being.
Anxiety fills my veins.
Open your eyes,
The mind is screaming.
The heart wants to stay.
Eyes clinched,
I remain.
What will happen if I stay?
What if this is not the dead end I assumed?

This place is confusion.
I seek deeper things;
Yet, I cannot help but notice the trifles that dance about.
Dancing across the grounds of my soul,
They bring with them guilt.
Why do I pay them attention?
Why do I find guilt in what I am unable to control?

I am astonished that I have yet given up.
Here I stand.
I remain at the edge.
I have been here before,
But have always turned back,
Assuming there must be another path,
Assuming You are somewhere else.
What if I have always been wrong?
What if You are this Darkness before me?

All I can do is choose once again.
I can turn back,
Or I can stay.
My senses fail me,
Yet I am engaged in the deepest thought
I think not with my mind
Where have the dancers gone?
And why does this darkness seem tangible to the heart?

I go forward,
But you cannot go with me.
Words cannot go with me;
Therefore, they cannot come back.
I have no more questions.
Yet, I remain in wonder of this Mystery.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Remaining Aware of the Doctrine of Sin

It is important for the mature Christian to return to the doctrine of sin often, not only as an area of study, but as a reminder of where God has taken him or her from. At a certain point, a Christ-filled being grows evermore disgusted by sin; at least this should be the most natural result of desiring the will of God. This disgust with sin does drive this person away from the desire to sin, but the disease of sin remains and can find subtler ways in which to manifest its self.

As strange as this may seem, the gulf between the person and sin can become a hazard for the individual, if perceived incorrectly, especially when any amount of credit is taken by the individual. The most dangerous result is manifest when the self begins to become comfortable in its self-perceived distance from sin. The person can begin to forget the severity of sin, how sin once was such a destructive force within, and the reality of the sin that is still within. Thus, this person begins to look down on the world, effectively damaging his or her own testimony of being once a part of the world, which should be the very reason for compassion. Eventually, the omission of admittance of lingering sin, that sin that might not be acted upon, yet still infects the person, causes the person to downplay the doctrine of sin altogether. One can even forget that sin was ever really a problem for the individual in the first place. Thus, the person has unwittingly allowed sin to once again rule the heart. Pride has once again snuck in.

Only the sin of pride tells a person that he or she does not really have a problem with sin, that sin was never really in control. Forgetting the potential of sin, this person has let down his or her guard, and sin has crept back in, making the person prideful of his or her lack of outward sin. Since the doctrine of sin is such a basic of Christian doctrine, this person finds his or her study focusing on the more ‘lofty’ things of religion. Talk of love, tolerance, and acceptance becomes the norm for this person, and it is not too soon after, that ideas of universalism begin to take hold. Of course, love, patience and tolerance are good attributes, but mere human love, patience, and tolerance cannot deliver humanity from sin.

Only the Spirit can provide such love, and the Spirit is only accessed through faith in the One who came to pardon us from sin. Without remembrance for our need for Christ, humanity begins to form its own religion. We must never forget where we come from. Yet, this is not a call to continual guilt. This is a call to remain in awe, a call to remain mindful of He who has saved us, a call to rejoice in the One who has conquered sin. Therefore, return often to this most basic of Christian doctrines, and rejoice.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Entering the Throne Room

Christians often speak of the ease of entering into the presence of God now that He dwells within the hearts of those who love Him. Respectfully, I sometimes question this optimism. How frightening it must have been for the priest of old to enter into the Holy of Holies. Death could be a result of such an encounter, such a journey into Yahweh’s throne room. Those who dared to enter His dwelling place painstakingly searched their being to make sure they were clean. They feared that If they dared to enter unclean, death would result. This same God is He who lives in the heart of the Christian, and any sensible Christian has an overwhelming awe for the Almighty, even for the One who dwells within. Only a brief contemplation of His reality can engulf the seeker in overwhelming mystery, for His power in unfathomable.

Thus, whether admittedly or not, many individuals would rather keep distance from the throne room within. Once the Spirit of the Lord has descended upon the self, the heart seems to be a mysterious place with the ability to radically reorient the self. The old man wants nothing to do with this change because change is terrifying. The power that lies within, the power of the One who dwells in the heart, has the power to strip the self of the dead flesh, the old man that surrounds the heart. This old man is the one who tells the self that control is everything, self-orientation is key to survival, and autonomy must reign at all cost. This death, even to sin, is a death the self fears, for loss of any part of self is loss of control, loss of autonomy. However, autonomy is not freedom! Freedom lies in being exactly who we are supposed to be in His presence, letting our will go so that His will might become our own.

The throne room of the heart beckons us to enter in. However, travel inside the self to meet with the One who dwells within is to face a reality many of us do not wish to face. Who has the courage to enter into His presence?

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?
-Psalm 24:3

To travel into the heart and to ascend to His throne room within, we must enter into our own self. This journey is to pass through the self, past all the deadness within. We cannot enter into His presence without the admittance of such dieses within, for filth separates us from our God. Thus, who will enter into His holy place?

Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully. -Psalm 24:4

Only the humble have the courage to admit the rottenness within, to allow God to cleanse within. Only the humble will have the courage to look inward, instead of living a life of denial by never turning inward to see what our true priorities are, to see who or what we truly serve. This is a sad life that many Christians live. We often lie to ourselves, telling ourselves we have made the journey to meet God, even when we have not really begun. Acceptance of Christ’s gift is the invitation to walk with Him, not the end to the journey. Those who walk have admitted their weakness and need for the Lord, and their reward will be great:

They will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of their salvation. –Psalm 24:5

This is a journey that the self has to go alone. No other can enter the self to journey to that unique throne room where God has chosen to dwell with that self. However, there does remain companionship, for others must also travel their own journey. We share in this bond, and there are certain burdens that we can share in, each lifting the other up because of the knowledge of the sort of pain that can come from such a journey of ridding the self of the death, the sin, that plagues each of us:

Such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
-Psalm 24:6

Therefore, the ease we speak of can often be misleading, yet the journey is worth taking and maybe even more so, for the pain that accompanies the journey testifies to the work the Lord is doing in our lives. Sin has been conquered, and there is no reason to hold on any longer to parts of the self that are already dead. Amen.