Saturday, December 30, 2006

Prayer and Shekinah


I'm preaching this coming Sunday night. My sermon will coincide with the end of our congregation's "40 days of prayer." To be honest, this makes for a difficult subject for me to preach on. My prayer life is ... well ... not as strong as it should be.

So I started to examine the factors that had weakened my prayer life. While there are many contributing factors, one factor was intellectual. While I understood that the Bible taught that prayer was important and that it claimed that prayer was powerful, there was something that just didn't add up to me. Why would God require me to pray about things that he already knows? Wouldn't those be wasted words? It seemed to be against his proactive and loving nature to require that I tell him things that he knows even better that I do before he would respond. For example: why pray for an ailing friend? God already knows their ailment. He already knows that they need help. He loves them and doesn't want them to suffer. So why would he require that I pray about it?

In the midst of this quandary, my brother-in-law introduced me to the word Shekinah. Its a Hebrew word that isn't found in the Bible, but that the Jews used to describe a very real Biblical teaching. It describes the VISIBLE presence of God. It was present in the exodus, at the giving of the Law, at the dedication of the tabernacle, at the dedication of the temple, at the birth, baptism, and transfiguration of Christ. The Shekinah dwelled permanently on the mercy seat (the place between the two cherubim on the top of the Ark of the Covenant). The ark was kept in the Holy of Holies, which was inaccessible to anyone but the hight priest, and that once a year.

What does all this mean? No one could live in God's presence! God could only be seen from a distance and through the veil of a cloud! His glory was permanently kept separate from man by a veil/curtain in the temple!

When God came to live with us in the form of the Messiah, it seemed like everything was solved. God could now be approached! But then the Messiah died. Was all hope lost? No, because at the death of Christ, something special happened. Until recently, I never realized the importance of it. The curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the people was ripped!

That curtain kept the holy inaccessible. That curtain kept the Shekinah invisible. That curtain illustrated the separation between God and us. That curtain was destroyed when Christ died!

I can now approach God in all of his glory! I don't have to go through anyone (save Christ). I can approach anytime I want to, about any topic I please, wherever I may be. I have complete, unhindered, open access to God!

My question ("Why do I have to pray?") was simply the wrong question. The real question is, "Why wouldn't I WANT to?" I no longer think of prayer as something I HAVE to do for some inexplicable reason. Rather, through prayer I GET to walk right up to God and spend glorious time in God's presence! Why would I pass that up? If offered the opportunity to spend time with the president (all politics aside), I wouldn't hesitate! If I was able to go spend some time with Bono or Sarah McLachlan, I wouldn't even have to think! How much greater should I view the opportunity to approach God?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Santa Clause Is Watching You

Greatest Christmas song ever, or just a childhood memory that makes me chuckle?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Why blog?

I have debated for a while now whether or not I should start blogging. Why would anyone care about the random and meandering thoughts I have on religion (my passion), the latest episodes of "The Office" (on the road to becoming the best sitcom EVER) or "ER" (way past its prime but I'm still hooked), or the best of Austin cuisine (can't beat Posado's, Hao Hao, or Amy's)? While these thoughts might be interesting to those who share an enjoyment of those topics, I'm not sure that my views on them are significant enough to merit a regular posting. In order for me to embark on this voyage, I needed more reason that just the rather arrogant notion that "I have thoughts that, to me, seem interesting. Others should have the blessing of those thoughts as well." So after thinking about it, I came up with a few reasons why I decided to get my nerd card officially stamped and become a blogger.

  1. Community. One of the blogs that I regularly read is Caritas, by Greg Stevenson. In explaining his reasons for blogging, he mentioned the virtual community that the internet has created. He wrote on March 18, 2006:
    For all of the criticism of the Internet, one of the things it does well is the creation of a virtual community. Now virtual community should not be a replacement for real community any more than the Kroger generic brand of Lucky Charms should replace the real, glorious thing.
    I agree with this assessment. I hope that by becoming a more active part of the online community, I will be in a small way connected with some who are not a part of my regular circle of association. I will also have one more way to interact with those that are a regular part of my life.
  2. Therapy. I spent many years learning how not to questioning things. When questions about cherished traditions and understandings developed, I learned to ignore those questions in favor of towing the party line. In other words, I learned how to say what I was supposed to say, even if it wasn't what I actually believed. I have come to realize that this approach has caused me to sacrifice honesty. Over the past couple of years, I have been trying to re-teach myself how to be open and honest about my beliefs. My (re?)discovery of God's grace and the meaning of freedom in Christ have shown me how much more important openness and honesty are than any tradition, no matter how cherished it may be. I feel that blogging will help me take a step towards this openness. So in a way, this blog will be therapeutic for me.
  3. Paying it forward. I have enjoyed and benefited from reading a few blogs, including Scott Freeman, Caritas, and PreacherMike. I am admittedly suspicious of my own ability to express my thoughts in as thought-provoking and entertaining a manner as these gentlemen. However, I am compelled to give it a try.
So what can you expect from this blog? Probably a wide variety of rants on whatever happens to be on my mind at the time. There will probably be a significant amount of musing on theology and ministry-related topics. You'll probably get an occasional opinion on sports, movies, music, TV, and politics. And you'll probably get some riveting and inspiring stories from the daily happenings of my life. To be honest, I'm curious to see what shows up on this blog, too! So read and comment.

For now, I'm off to get my nerd card laminated!