Friday, February 26, 2010

The Mysterious King Hangs Out with Heidi

Part five of this story series ...

My car.
Circle 4 Beltway, a highway.
Encircles Lexington, Kentucky.

It doesn't matter where I'm driving or the time of day.

Every time I pass this place on Circle 4, a loop around our city of Lexington, Kentucky, I feel the same magnetic pull.

I can see it in the distance, about two miles after I pull off the entrance ramp. As it gets closer, it's all I can do to keep my eyes on the road and other drivers.

I'm just drawn to it, you see.

Then I pass it, to the right, and my head just sort of turns so that I can gaze at it. I always smile. I always breathe it in.

And I never fail to want to completely abandon my original destination, pull off the highway, and drive straight to it. All I want to do is head to the parking lot, and without abandon, walk through the doors and stay there.

Just stay there.

Just sit and hang out with The Mysterious King.

The place, you see, is my church.

How can I describe this to you, this sense of longing to be there?

King David said it best in Psalm 26:8: "I love the house where you live, O LORD, the place where your glory dwells."

And in Psalm 84:10: "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked."

Even though I know there is nothing going on in the place, sometimes I just want, like David, to sit in the quiet of the place where we worship. Just being near it -- just driving past it on a highway! -- fills me with indescribable joy. Often when I'm scurrying in my errands and I pass my church, I think to myself, "If only I could just go in there and sit for an hour, just sit, and talk to Him in the place where hundreds of people praise Him."


For many people, it's a drudgery, a scheduled necessity to their week.

For me, it's the creme de la creme, the time when I get to hang out with The Mysterious King -- the same King who appeared to Isaiah thousands of years ago, the same King who admonished the Pharisees ... the same King who died for me. And I get to hear others around me in their joy as they worship Him, too.

And yet.

When I sense these urgings to sit in the place, to interrupt my day and just be there, He comes to me.

Yes, right in my car, He comes to me.

The Mysterious King hangs out with Heidi.

"I love hanging out with you, too," He speaks to my heart. In such moments, I turn to the passenger seat and in my mind's eye see Him sitting there, smiling at me.

In those moments, which I can tell you are completely the best of my week, I sing to Him.

And He sings over me, loving me, surrounding me, enveloping me.

My car? It becomes the place of worship to which I am longing to run.

Think of the original story of Isaiah, seeing the Mysterious King surrounded by beautiful angelic creatures. Think of his lips being touched with live coals and how his sin was forgiven. Think of the majesty that surrounded him, the glory.

Now do something for me.

Realize that all of that -- ALL of that -- is available to you, too.

The richness of His Presence is tangible. Worship does not have to be a chore for you. It can, and should be, the time when you feel the deepest joy, because after all, it's how you are made! You are made to worship and adore Him.

And in doing so, He will hang out with you, Friend with friend, and possess you with that indescribable and beautiful Presence.

Even in your car.

But wait! The story isn't over yet! Tune in tomorrow (and yes, I will blog it tomorrow!) for the awesome conclusion to the tale of The Mysterious King.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Mysterious King Confronts False Followers

Part 4 of this story series ...

The Passover Feast.
2,000 years ago.
Jerusalem, Israel.

They were the most highly esteemed men.

Religious leaders of their day, they propelled an entire nation through a stormy sea of Roman-era occupation.

They’d been taught the Law and the Prophets by the best experts: the scholars, the lawyers. They were raised in the best of homes. They had been taken to the Temple as week-old infants, and because of their Levite heritage, they were even then designated as part of the priestly remnant of the people.

They answered the most difficult questions, probing ancient manuscripts for answers.

They offered sacrifices to atone for the sins of others.

They alone had access to God’s inner court, the Holy of Holies.

Everywhere they went, they were revered. Respected. Elevated. Praised.

They went through the machinations of the Mosaic texts with determined accuracy, even building “rules for the rules” so that not one ink spot would be overlooked.

Their “worship” consisted of all of these trappings of outward religious activities and symbols.

But their hearts?

They preferred to overlook the hardship of their neighbor than break a rule for observing the Sabbath. In everyday life, they preached the intention of God’s word but failed to live it out.

In short, they were religious, not righteous.

Rule followers, but not loving.

And as a result, they were proud, arrogant, angry … and hateful.

What they didn’t realize was that centuries ago, when Isaiah saw the Mysterious King on the throne in the Temple, he also received a special prophecy – concerning them:

“He has blinded their eyes
and deadened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”

They were so immersed in their regimented world that they didn’t recognize the King that Isaiah saw. He walked in their midst, and they didn’t accept Him. He talked with them, and they didn’t know His voice.

Isaiah, you see, had actually seen the glory of Jesus that day.

He was the Mysterious King on the Throne. (John 12:41)

And Jesus, knowing their hearts, knowing that they were more concerned with the praise of men than with the true worship and love of His Father, didn’t mince words with them. He confronted these false followers, just a few days before they crucified Him.

“When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

“As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."

What do you think worship was like for these men?

When they arrived at the Temple for their morning prayers and business, did they see it as a chore, a redundancy in their weeks, a drudgery … a job?

If they’d seen it as Isaiah had experienced the Temple and that amazing vision of the Mysterious King, do you think they would have actually nailed that King to a cross?

And what does their attitude say to you about going to church, worshipping once a week the One who died for you?

If worship feels like a necessary evil, an interruption to your schedule, that can change for you.

How do I know?

Tune in for the next part of the story …

Friday, February 19, 2010

Shaking and Quaking and Mercy and Love

Part three of this story series ...

The sight of the mysterious King on the throne was one thing. Indeed, He was magnificently beautiful. The train of His robe filled the entire Temple. He engulfed the gigantic place with majesty.

But what was even more unnerving to Isaiah were the words he heard.

These were not words from the King, no.

They were spoken by one angelic Being to others. These Beings hovered above the King's throne. Their appearance was like fire, hence, they were called "Seraphim," as the word "seraph" in Hebrew means, "to burn with fire." They had six wings each, and they used two wings to cover their faces, two to cover their feet and two to fly.

Then one of the Seraphim spoke. The words rendered Isaiah's heart into pieces.

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!"

The sound of the Seraphim's voice literally shook the door posts and filled the Temple with smoke.

Isaiah knew well the full meaning.

To say the word "holy" twice in his native Hebrew language was to describe a person as "most holy."

But to say it three times? It meant that the holiness of God was indescribable.

And the definition of holy? to be transcendent -- different -- distant.


What was even more shocking was the second part of the Seraphim's song: "The whole earth is full of His glory."

Basically, the angelic Being was telling Isaiah that even though God transcends the universe, He is closely involved with the earth and its people.

The King on the throne would be involved -- someday -- intricately, here.

Isaiah realized how unworthy he was to be standing in the presence of such a King. He cried out that his lips were unclean, as were the people of his nation, and yet, he'd been given the honor of witnessing the King with his own eyes.

A seraphim flew over to him, holding a live coal that he'd taken with tongs from the altar. He touched Isaiah's lips with it.

"Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged,"
the seraphim said.

What did it mean?

Who was the King on the throne, really?

And what does the story of Isaiah's experience in the Temple have to do with us worshiping in church?

Tune in for the next part of the story.