Monday, February 28, 2011

FAITH is Gazing at the Heart of God (part 2): Five Practical Steps to Faith

According to Tozer (see part 1 - Faith is Gazing at the Heart of God) faith is gazing upon God.  Faith is directing one’s attention to Jesus, faith is our heart continually hearing “behold the lamb” so that our attention will be drawn to Jesus.

Heb. 12:1-2 begins with “therefore”, pointing back to the great chapter on faith then simply says, "look to Jesus".  Within Hebrews 11 lies person after person that exhibited a life that pleased God by their faith.  Rahab, Enoch, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses and so many more.  All these believed the words that God had spoken to them.  Practically speaking, how do we do that day in and day out?

Here are five very practical steps to exercise those faith muscles:
  1. Read the word daily (faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God - Rom. 10:17)
    The Word of God is just that, God speaking to you.  Just like Moses on the mountaintop speaking to God, the completed canon is God personally speaking to you.  The bible provides instruction for life, for godliness, for maturity until we meet Him face to face.  How can you cling to the promises of God if you don’t read them?  How can God speak with you if you don’t spend time with him every day?  Read the Word daily, even 7 minutes a day is a great start.  Spend 30 seconds in prayer asking for God to reveal Himself in the Word, read for 5 minutes and then pray for 90 seconds that God will apply what you have just read.  Everyone has 7 minutes a day they can give to God.  (The Navigators have a bible reading plan that requires only 5 minutes a day and you can complete the New Testament in a year - http://www.navpress.com/dj/content.aspx?id=138 ).  
 

    2.  Daily keep your focus on Jesus.
 
      Let’s face facts, we have distractions from the second we wake up to the moment we finally drift off to sleep.  In fact, I would venture to say that since the beginning of time, there has never been a time when the average person has more distractions as we do now.  To name just a few: TV, radio, magazine, video games, cell phones, iPods, books, e-books, internet, computers, texting, emails, youtube, etc.  In the last 50 years our world has changed dramatically, even the last 5 years has given us new technology that allows us to entertain ourselves anywhere at anytime.  It is much easier to flip on the TV or surf the web than it is to shut everything off, open a Bible and read.  Here’s a suggestion that I have found useful:

•    Have your quiet time first thing in the morning before you check your blackberry, turn on your computer, read the newspaper, check the morning traffic.  Start your day with God, it is amazing how it will impact your entire day and keep your focus on the Lamb.
•    Put reminders in places where you tend to lose focus.  On your bathroom mirror, on the rear-view mirror of your car, in your cubicle or office at work, on the edge of your computer screen, or on your toolbox.  The reminders should focus your thoughts on Jesus.
     •    Change out these reminders weekly.  Reminders become familiar very quickly to the point you don’t even see them after a week or so.
     •    Consider using a verse from your quiet time as your daily/weekly reminder.
•    Memorize Scripture.  If this has been a tough for you in the past, start slow, but start.  What about a goal of 1 verse per week.  You can work on it every day and by the end of the week you should have it done.  Did you know the average Christian could not quote 50 verses with their reference?  After only 1 year you would have more verses memorized than most.  Imagine after 10 years!  Try writing out the verses on a small card (i.e. business card size), punch a hole in one end and put them on a binder ring.  You can take this with you anywhere (grocery store, treadmill, walking, work, lunch, etc.).  Put the verse on one side and the scripture reference on the other.  You can flip through these verses anywhere and you will soon be a “tree firmly planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, in all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3). 

     3.  Journal

     Keep a record of the things God has done and is doing.  A prayer journal is a great way to start.  It is amazing to see God answering your prayers, confirmation that God is hearing you and responding to your heart felt needs. 

     4.  Find time to be still (Ps. 46:10).

     For most of us, forcing a “time-out” in our busy schedules is not easy.  Our world is equally demanding when we come home from work making it nearly impossible to steal away a few minutes of silence.  God says, “be still and know that I am God”.  I challenge you to make the time daily.  If you are married, give your spouse a short "time-out" and then they can return the favor to you.  Susanna Wesley used to pull her apron over her head as a sign to her family that she was having a time-out with God.

     5. Start and end your day in prayer. 

     Before your feet hit the floor, commit your day to God.  It is amazing the difference this has made in my life.  My days are much more focused on Christ when I start my day in a short prayer of dedication.  When I was in a summer camp with the Navigators, my group leader challenged me to make “His words the last words.”  He challenged me to not talk about things that will distract or worry just before I go to bed.  Rather end my day, my final words, my final thoughts saying (or thinking) His words (again that Scripture memory will come in very handy here).  If you are married, try praying together, then drift off praying for your spouse and family, quoting Scripture or reflecting on your quiet time from earlier in the day.

Friday, February 25, 2011

FAITH is Gazing at the Heart of God (part 1)

Is your work important?  If the CEO of your company called you into his office and said, “If you want to succeed in this business, there is one thing you must do.  It is impossible to succeed here if you don’t do this one thing.”  Obviously, you would do that one thing with gusto.

For the last week I have been reading, listening to and meditating on Hebrews, especially chapters 10-12.  That “one thing” that God says is imperative to please Him is faith, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (11:6).  Every church of every denomination has preached untold sermons on faith. The preachers will say “just believe”, “take God as His word”, “if you have the faith of a mustard seed”, and then they will share the life story of a person that did unbelievable things for God. Most of the time, we walk out thinking to ourselves, there must be something more than this.

Heb.10:38 (quoting Hab. 2:3-4) says “My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”  Heb. 11 opens up with two righteous men, Abel and Enoch, that pleased God.  Enoch was so pleasing to God that God took him home (heaven) so that he did not experience death.  How did he do that?

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” 11:6

Tozer calls faith, “the gaze of a soul upon a saving God” and “faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God.” He continues, “If faith is the gaze of the heart at God, and if this gaze is but the raising of the inward eyes to meet the all-seeing eyes of God, then it follows that it is one of the easiest things possible to do.”(1) [emphasis mine]

The Bible defines faith only as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1).  Romans 10:17 says, “faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  Thomas รก Kempis said, “I had rather experience faith than know the definition thereof.”  Jesus, in John 3, used the illustration of Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness to help his hearers understand faith in Him for everlasting life. (Num. 21:4-9; John 3:14-16)

“Believing, then, is directing the heart’s attention to Jesus.  It is lifting the mind to ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ (John 1:29), and never ceasing that beholding for the rest of our lives.” (2)  After finishing the great chapter on faith, we roll right into chapter 12 with a wake up call (vv. 1-2).  It calls us our attention to repentance, shedding all hindrances (entanglements), and running the race as the man/woman that God has called us to be . . . by “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

Faith is gazing upon Jesus, forever.  It is directing our sight away from ourselves and onto God where it is intended to be.  To paraphrase Tozer, “when we commit in our heart to gaze upon Christ continually, God takes our intention, makes allowances for the thousands of distractions in this evil world and after a while, it becomes a spiritual reflex requiring no more conscious effort on our part.” (3)

Here’s a few quotes from Tozer that may help to cement this idea:

“Faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves—blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.” (4)

“Pseudo faith always arranges a way out to serve in case God fails it.” (5)

“The Christian faith engages the profoundest problems the human mind can entertain and solves them completely and simply by pointing to the Lamb of God.” (6)

“We have full confidence in Jesus Christ. He is the origin, source, foundation and resting place for all of our faith. In that kingdom of faith, we are dealing with Him, with God Almighty, the One whose essential nature is holiness, the One who cannot lie.  Our confidence rises as the character of God becomes greater and more trustworthy to our spiritual comprehension. The One with whom we deal is the One who embodies faithfulness and truth—the One who cannot lie.”(7)
  
“Faith never goes contrary to reason—faith simply ignores reason and rises above it.” (8)

  1. Tozer, A.W., The Pursuit of God, pp.87-89.
  2. Ibid., p.84.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid., p.91.
  5. Tozer, A.W., The Root of Righteousness, p.50.
  6. Tozer, A.W., Of God and Men, p.129.
  7. Tozer, A.W., The Pulpit Set [Vol. 1], Book 3, p.41.
  8. Ibid., p.42.