Thursday, September 3, 2009

I'D LEAVE 99...(An article I wrote for my church's newsletter on the theme of homecoming.)

When I think of homecoming what comes to mind is sitting in my pastor's office for the first time nine years ago. I had begun to attend his church a few months before but usually slipped out before the service was over to avoid having to talk to anyone, so we'd never really spoken. At the time I was still filled with fear and shame; I felt that if people knew what my life was like they would not want me sitting on the pew with them. But on this day, the pastor had made a beeline for me before the service ended, asking if I would like to meet with him in his office. He'd probably noticed me weeping in the pew during the service as I did every time I attended a service. I didn't offer him much to go on that day. I wasn't ready to share the details, just that I was in recovery and had come back to church because I was working Step Two (Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity) in my program. I had attended church as a little girl and had loved Jesus and longed to know God like Joan of Arc and Saint Bernadette did, but I lost my faith and turned away from God when my father left our family for a woman he worked with - in spite of my fervent prayers. So as I was "coming to believe" I decided to go back to church since that was where I had known God as a child. As we sat in his office, my pastor began to prayerfully leaf through the used Study Bible he had offered to give me to take home. Then he stopped and began to read the passage from John 4 about the woman at the well in Samaria. He had no idea that what he was reading was a powerful word of knowledge for me. It was more than that, actually, I was stunned because the story of that woman was the story of my life. I didn't get the part about "living water" etc., at the time it was over my head spiritually, but as he continued to read I felt God saying to my heart, "Finally, you've come home!" In that moment I knew that I was where I was supposed to be, although it would be a while before I invited Jesus to come into my life. August 30 is the anniversary of the day that I was born again. I'm so grateful for God's infinite patience and loving compassion towards me. Like the Good Shepherd, Jesus came and rescued this lost lamb and carried me home. And I will forever love and serve Him.

He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9b


You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. (2 Peter 1:3 MSG)


In the Old Testament times, the people of God needed the services of a priest to go to God on their behalf, and to hear from God for them as well. The first priest was Moses. When God invited the Israelites to come up the mountain to meet Him, they were too afraid; they were sure they would die. So they sent Moses instead. During the times of the tabernacle and the temple there was a room called The Holy of Holies where God's presence dwelled. It was hidden and protected by a thick curtain, and anyone who entered into that room was in danger of losing their lives; the manifest holiness of God would strike them dead because sin cannot stand in the presence of God's holiness. That's why on only one day each year, the high priest of Israel would enter the Holy of Holies to go before God and atone for the sins of all the people. Before he dared to enter, however, he would carefully perform several cleansing rituals and perform many different sacrifices and offerings in order to cleanse himself of his own sin. Then he had to perform more of the same for the sins of the people. If there was even a residue "uncleanness" left in him or on him, he would most surely die when he entered the Holy of Holies. That's why the other priests would tie a rope to his ankle, that way they could pull him out without risking their own lives to go in and retrieve his body.

Now, because of Jesus' death on the Cross, anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and confesses Him as Lord and Saviour can enter into the presence of God. That's because Jesus was the "once and for all" sacrifice for the sins of everyone in the world. By His death on the Cross He has made us all clean, His blood has washed away all of our sin – if we believe in Him – and we can now enter into the Holy of Holies without fear. That's why the great veil that curtained off the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem was torn in two the moment Jesus died. His death opened a way to the Father for everyone who believes.

Now we no longer need a priest to be our go-between, we can draw close to God and have a personal and intimate relationship with Him ourselves. While we still need leaders and mentors in our lives to teach and guide us, we cannot rely on someone else to bring us closer to God or to do the work of cultivating our relationship with God for us. We must take responsibility and take the time to do whatever it takes to draw closer to Him. If we take even just one baby step towards Him, God will make ten giant strides towards us. We may struggle, not knowing how to draw close, but if we ask for His help God will show us the way. If we don't know how to pray, we can ask Jesus just as the disciples did, and He will teach us. Everything we need to have an intimate and personal relationship with God is within our grasp, in fact, God is just waiting to give it, if we would only ask.

The ways that we approach God are: reading our Bibles; prayer (including listening for Him to speak); praising and worshipping Him by reciting a psalm or singing a hymn or a praise song; and sitting in silence expectantly waiting for Him. As we do these things with hearts that long to draw close to Him, He promises He will draw close to us.

The Message puts it beautifully:

So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet. (James 4:7-10)

God is waiting for you to seek Him. There is so much He longs to give you and to show you! You will never regret turning your will and your life over to His care.


Thank You, Jesus, that You died on the Cross so that I can enter into the Holy of Holies and experience the manifest presence of God. And thank You that because of You I have all I need to live a life that is pleasing to God. Lord, I want to know You more. Please open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Teach me how to seek You, how to pray to You and how to listen and hear Your voice as You speak to me. I commit my life to You now, in Jesus' Name.