Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Heights of Delight

In Heights of Delight, Dick Eastman describes three levels of awareness of the presence of God. The first, which he calls “God’s intellectual presence,” is simply the logical recognition that God is omnipresent, and therefore He is here. Though this awareness depends on faith, the faith is in factual claims and the faith, itself, is simply an unemotional acknowledgement of the facts.

The second, “God’s conscious presence,” has the added impact of a sense, or a feeling of God’s presence. It may come out of a conscious intellectual recognition of the fact of God’s omnipresence, but it also involves the emotions and a spiritual, almost mystical discernment of some kind.

The third is “God’s manifest presence,” which Eastman says is “far more intense,” and often results in an obvious movement of God’s Spirit and observable transformations in the lives of many individuals. He cites the miraculous movement of God’s Holy Spirit over cities and nations at the beginning of spiritual awakenings as an example of the manifest presence of God.

The intellectual awareness of God’s presence produces worship through gritted teeth. “Lord, I don’t sense your presence but I choose to worship you because I know you are real and I know you are here, intellectually.” Job’s declaration of faith in God’s goodness is an example of this level of awareness.

The manifest presence of God happens in snippets in our daily lives, interrupting the more mundane intellectual awareness with hiccups and burps that are sometimes so brief we fail to appreciate them. I know I’ve seen the manifest presence of God in the classroom, when the door suddenly opens to a subject of discussion and I can almost see God walk in and sit down on the edge of the desk beside me. For a few moments I’m able to lead kids into that God-space, sometimes with no direct mention of Him, and I know He is doing things of eternal value on some level in their lives.

But the awareness level I long for the most is the conscious presence of God. I remember a time when it came regularly, in my quiet time or in worship on Sunday mornings. It often brought tears to my eyes and my heart soared with love for Him. I haven’t felt that lately. I’m not sure why, but I want it back. That hunger is what has driven me on this journey toward spiritual renewal.

Tozer regularly experienced worship at this conscious level of awareness of God. For Tozer, to worship was

. . . to be filled with moral excitement. To be captivated and charmed and entranced with who God is, and struck with astonished wonder at the inconceivable elevation and magnitude and splendour of Almighty God. . .To love God with fear and wonder and yearning and awe.

In fact, Tozer defines worship much more narrowly than I did in my previous post. According to Tozer, worship cannot happen at the intellectual level of awareness of God’s presence.

I want to define worship, and here is where I want to be dogmatic. Worship means “to feel in the heart.” A person that merely goes through the form and does not feel anything is not worshipping.

Hmm. Is he right? If so, then Job’s declarations of faith through gritted teeth would not be considered worship, even though they were highly appropriate recognitions of the greatness and sovereignty of God.

Dick Eastman says of Tozer that “worship was his life.” Tozer is an expert. I have to take his strong statements about worship seriously. So I am driven on in my sense that something is still missing in my experience of God.

This post completes my series on spiritual renewal. I haven’t arrived at the end of my journey but I feel I need to move ahead, away from the process of renewal and closer to the Object of worship. I end here with the following determinations:

1) I will focus, from here on out, on God, the true means and end of renewal;
2) I will wait patiently for worship to happen in my heart. I will not attempt to contort myself into a worshipful attitude or manufacture it synthetically, but will trust God to move me into this level of awareness of His presence and the true worship that must surely come as a result.
3) I will assume this hunger has been put into my heart by God, Himself, and therefore I will expect Him to satisfy it in His own time and way.

Thank you for being with me on this journey. It’s strange, but I’ve been comforted to feel that some of you are listening and that my yearnings have been resonating with you. It has made the journey feel less lonely, and it has also given me a kind of sounding board for my thoughts that I wouldn’t have had if this had been only a personal journal. So you, whoever you are, wherever you are, have been a blessing to me. May God bless you in return.

I promised you a list of the sources of the Tozer quotes I’ve been using. You’ll find them in the side bar to the left. Many of them are probably out of print but might be researchable if you want to explore them further.

I will be posting again if you’d like to stick around. I’m just not too sure which fork of the road ahead I’ll follow. I don’t think I’m entirely through with Tozer. I’ve run into some hard sayings of his that I want to wrestle with a bit. I’d also like to express some thoughts on the Bible, the ultimate source of our knowledge of God.

I might go down both forks, since the journey is probably at least as important as arriving at the destination in good time. At any rate, your company will always be welcome, wherever I go.

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