Archive for the 'thoughts' Category

Waterfall

Today, Chapple, Katie, Myra, and I took a drive down to Dry Falls in Highlands, NC. It was the perfect end to a relaxing day in the mountains. As we began walking down the pathway toward the waterfall, we heard the faint sound of rushing water. Full of excitement, Myra and Katie raced to the guardrail to capture the moment on camera, but Chapple encouraged us, “Keep walking, guys. The best spot is at the bottom!” Every few feet, we had the urge to stop and take in the beauty of God’s creation but Chapple drew us on further stating, “I promise it gets better y’all. Just keep on coming. You have to make it to the bottom.” When we finally reached the end, I understood why Chapple wanted us to wait. The powerful rush of water cascading down the rocks was most magnificent and appreciated at the bottom. Only here could the falls be viewed in its entirety. And only here could the magnitude of the falls be experienced. The LORD has created hope and a future for us (Jeremiah 29:11), but in life we so often rush to the guardrail in desperation or excitement that we miss God’s BEST for us. Where we have been may be good, and where we are now may be better, but where God wants to take us is the BEST. He desires the absolute best for us: an abundant life. We just have to be patient and abide in Him to experience everything He intended for us. Once we get to the end, we will understand why God chose to close those doors and why He allowed us to go through trials or failures. Surrender your life completely to the LORD and allow the river to sweep you away…you never know when He will bring you to the next waterfall.

ha ha ha.

There are so many stories of the Disciples “missing the point” that I can’t even write them all out (Just a few examples I’ll reference below: John 6:54-61, John 18:8-11, Mark 8:31-33, Mark 9:33-35, Mark 14:34-42, Luke 24:37-49).

Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” If someone told you this, what would you think? You’d probably think as the disciples did: “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” The next verse says Jesus was aware that his disciples were grumbling about this. ….Just wait. One day that will actually make sense to you.

Jesus was teaching about how he must be rejected, killed, and after three days rise again. Scripture says, “He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'” ….Peter. Do you even know who I am?

After Jesus and his disciples had travelled to Capernaum, Jesus asked them what they had been arguing about on the road. They kept quiet because they had been arguing over who was the greatest. Jesus sat down and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” ….You think I couldn’t hear you? Clearly you have all missed the point.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch.” Three times Jesus goes away to pray and comes back to find them all asleep. ….Thanks fellas.

Jesus was about to be arrested in the garden and Simon Peter whipped out his sword and cut the high priest’s servant’s ear off. Jesus then said, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” ….Simon Peter! Seriously? You just cut that dude’s ear off!

In Luke 24:45, Jesus appeared to the disciples after his death and “he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” WOW. Talk about “mind-blowing.” All of these prophecies, this “eating of flesh”, resurrection… it all made sense.

So. Do you laugh at the disciples’ ignorance? Do you sympathize with it? Do you find yourself in their shoes? These verses and the disciples’ stories bring me to this conclusion that I cannot let go: When I get to Heaven, Jesus is going to laugh at me. Of course, His intentions will be pure and holy. But I think He’s going to run towards me like the father of the prodigal son, sweep me up in His arms, and laugh. And like Luke 24:45, my mind will be opened to understand the Scriptures… and I’m going to laugh at myself, too. I missed it. I missed the point. I missed it all.

All of the valleys I have faced, all of the suffering, all of the trials and tribulations… they weren’t to harm me, they weren’t to hurt me… they were for my good. Wow. So that time I was struggling through… Oh. That was the reason.
And all that time I spent doing things hoping to earn a little more favor?… Wow. You really couldn’t have loved me more.
And that time when I faced temptation?… When I looked it dead in the eye… and I consciously weighed the sin… and You… and I chose the sin? You still loved me.
And that dark time when I didn’t know which way was up? You never hid Your face from me.

That’s why I think Jesus will laugh at me. I missed it! So what can I do with this thought that is plaguing me and won’t leave me? I can take the disciple’s story and this thought and use it for my good and His glory. The first conclusion I come to is that the “ups” and “downs” are not. God’s love for me and His face are ever upon me. The reason I’m struggling and I’m in a “valley” is because He’s teaching me, growing me, preparing me for what He has coming for me. This time is the best time to trust, have faith, hold on to Him. He’s not punishing me, torturing me, or messing with me. He’s molding me. It’s hope. Secondly, I can have faith in the Rock of Ages. Whenever I face a situation, thought, or I’m faced with anything that is new, I can rely on the truths that I know and have faith through the things I don’t understand. I need to take my situations and thoughts and hold them in the light of Jesus. I know His character and I know who He is. So, like the disciples being told to eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, I can stand through these thoughts with the truths I already have.

Anyways. I can’t wait to get to Heaven and see the King of Glory in an all-out sprint, like the father of the prodigal son… And just laugh.

face to face.

People mock Jesus off the cuff without any hesitation. People throw God’s name in with every four letter word. Is that a good idea? I mean… seriously… even if we forget about all the Christianity and religion and culture… is that a good idea?

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19
Even the demons believe there is one God. Not only that, but they shudder at the thought of God. And we go about dragging Him through the dirt and damning people in His name? See… the funny thing here… that some people will never understand… is that God’s power, character, and might are not dependent upon our opinion of Him or our belief in Him.

Even as Christians, though, do we shudder at the thought of God? Do we see ourselves in light of all His power and all His might? Shouldn’t that make us shudder? We clearly don’t understand the true meaning of righteousness and holiness. The essence of righteousness and holiness have no place for anything other than righteousness and holiness. There is no place for sin……. there is no place for me. Even the demons can get this through their head. And they shudder. From a demons perspective:

The humans do not start from that direct perception of Him which we, unhappily, cannot avoid. They have never known that ghastly luminosity, that stabbing and searing glare which makes the background of permanent pain to our lives. If you look into your patient’s mind when he is praying, you will not find that. If you examine the object to which he is attending, you will find that it is a composite object containing many quite ridiculous ingredients. There will be images derived from pictures of the Enemy as He appeared during the discreditable episode known as the Incarnation: there will be vaguer – perhaps quite savage and puerile – images associated with the other two Persons. There will even be some of his own reverence (and of bodily sensations accompanying it) objectified and attributed to the object revered. I have known cases where what the patient called his “God” was actually located – up and to the left at the corner of the bedroom ceiling, or inside his own head, or in a crucifix on the wall. But whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying to it – to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him.
– C.S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters”

One day, we will stand before God. But, do you know what the problem with this is? We will not be standing before our God. We will not be approaching Granddaddy or Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. We will be approaching the Holy God of the Bible, whether we like it or not… and whether we know Him or not.

Our feeble brains will never be able to comprehend His greatness, power, and sovereignty. He is always fighting against the box that we are trying to put Him in. And it’s our problem (not His) that He doesn’t fit.

I can only imagine, that one day I will be standing in line before the Holy God of the universe in all of His glory and splendor, putting together my reasoning for why He should let me into Heaven. I’ll struggle to recall all the good things I’ve done, the ways I’ve served people, the money I gave. But with each one of these, I’ll struggle to find a single instance where my heart and motives behind my actions were completely pure. Do I really want to rely on a good thing I did when I know my heart wasn’t even behind it? I mean, I know He knows the truth. I’ll then end up empty-handed… “Jesus, I’ve got nothing. I did all these things and helped these people, but even then… I know you can see my heart… even when I did these things my heart and motives weren’t pure. I have no reason You should have me in Your presence. I have nothing at all to stand upon.”

Or maybe… maybe I’ll stand there… looking at a Holy Father… on His throne… shining like the sun… surrounded by choirs of angels… Majestic. Glorified. Holy… commanding the heavens and the earth… with Satan under his feet…
And I’ll fall on my face. Why? Because of the instant realization that the God that I was serving on the earth is bigger than my box. I like to think He’ll look at me with a smile and tell me I had it all wrong. That He’ll stretch His arms out wide… and look at me… and smile. “Look. See ME in all of My glory.” And I’ll look back at my life and think, “What. in the world. was I thinking? Why did I not see this? Why could I not comprehend this while I was on earth? I had all of this power at my disposal? I had this living in and through me?” And I like to think I’ll fall to my knees… weeping uncontrollably at the joy of my hope coming to fruition… realizing that my spirit knew these things… and that my sinful flesh has disappeared… as I look up to see The King of Glory running to me with a robe and a crown… and I’ll feel love in its purest form… cherished and held by my Father… and the tears of joy as the creation is reunited with its Creator… as my soul is fulfilled by the One of whom it has longed.

God show us the truth of Your Kingdom… Your power… and Your glory.

Jesus… Where are you?

image

I’m sitting on the floor of a hotel room, looking out my window. As cars cross the bridge, red lights turn green, and the silhouette of a woman dances on the building in front of me, I feel small. Jesus… Where are you?

I have been blessed with so many opportunities to travel over the last two years. It’s truly a blessing and a true work in my soul considering 1) the first time I stepped on an airplane was in high school and 2) growing up I dreaded leaving the comfort of my home.  I’ve now flown up north, down south, and overseas (each multiple times) in the last two years. Instead of dreading leaving my home, each new trip has become a mission. Every trip I will encounter people that I will never see again. Why not be bold toward starting conversations with strangers?

So, here I am… sitting on a floor and overwhelmed by a city. The things I have seen in  the last day and a half have made life at home seem fake. I know that may be an odd statement, so let me explain. Every city and culture I have been to has a different degree of acceptable sin. Not that one is more sinful than the other (it could be argued that some may be), but each city has a level of sin that is acceptable in the public arena. For example, Miami has this woman dancing on a building. This is perfectly acceptable here. The level of sin (to make sure I’m clear, I’m not referring to the severity of the sin itself, but it’s acceptance in the public arena) is so much higher than the woman dancing on the building that she is just an afterthought as everyone goes about their lives. At home, no one would dare (or even be allowed to) have a dancing woman on their building. So is Miami more sinful than home? I’d argue it’s not. At home, everyone just keeps their sin at home and to themselves. The level of tolerance for sin in the public arena at home is very low. Everyone is a good person and everyone accepts that. We assume everyone is a believer. We have no urgent concern for others’ salvation. When someone is rude or abusive or “sinful” publicly, it’s like the axis of society has tilted and everyone knows it. It takes us acknowledging how horrible that person is and how saintly we are for that axis to return to zero. 

But here… in Miami. Sin is public. Sin is welcomed… accepted… encouraged.

I think about my Christian friends, my Christian church, my Christian home, my Christian life. It’s wonderful, joyful, and truly a blessing. Jesus is there and He can be seen working in and among us.

But right now… I look out my window at a city that is broken. How can it ever be fixed? Jesus… Where are you? I need you to come fix this place. I feel small. How much faith does it take to walk one of these streets alone, and pray for the faces walking by, and believe that something will change? Let me tell you… It takes more faith than I have. I feel small. It’s encouraging and powerful to walk streets in prayer with other believers. But right now, alone, it’s hard. Jesus… Where are you?

The burden that I feel right now over the sin of this city sitting before me is still new to me. I’ve experienced it before in Turkey. And after returning from Turkey, it was like dragging a large block of ice behind me… And the burden of the lostness melted away into my daily routine. I don’t want to ever lose this burden… and I don’t want something as simple as my daily routine to take it away from me.

We’re not aware of our sin at home. C. S. Lewis sums it up in The Problem of Pain:
“When the apostles preached, they could assume even in their Pagan hearers a real consciousness of deserving the Divine anger. The Pagan mysteries existed to allay this consciousness, and the Epicurean philosophy claimed to deliver men from the fear of eternal punishment. It was against this background that the Gospel appeared as good news. It brought news of possible healing to men who knew that they were mortally ill. But all this has changed. Christianity now has to preach the diagnosis–in itself very bad news–before it can win a hearing for the cure.”
The Good News is no good news to those who don’t know the bad news.

Jesus, give me the faith to believe that this burden and weakness I feel have been slain upon the cross. You tore the curtain. And you have left us so that the Spirit may come. Holy Spirit move in this city. Give me the faith to believe. You reign in this place. This is a city of your precious children that you so dearly love. I weep with you over the souls in this place that do not know You, the gracious redeemer and giver of life. Lord, come. Jesus, you are here and you are pleading with souls to turn from their wicked ways and you are drawing hearts to you. Nothing is lost in this place… because you know right where everyone is. Jesus rain down your mercy and salvation on this place!

You.

May C.S. Lewis speak for himself… for it would be impossible for me to speak for him (I encourage you to read this several times)…

This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why, He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you. The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key: and the key itself a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you—you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith. Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another’s. All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction. The Brocken spectre ‘looked to every man like his first love’, because she was a cheat. But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.

From The Problem of Pain. Copyright © 1940, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd.




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