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.

Jonah… Not just about a fish.

Jonah. He had a clear calling from God to go and preach against the city of Nineveh… But he ran from God. Jonah headed for Tarshish, which is on the opposite side of the Mediterranean Sea.

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Jonah didn’t just hang out where he was in disobedience. He ran the opposite direction. So here Jonah is, asleep in the middle of a storm, willfully walking in disobedience. All of the other sailors are crying out to their gods in fear and desperation. The captain goes down and wakes Jonah up and says “Get up and call on your god!”
I find this situation parallels my life all too often. I turn in disobedience to the Spirit and ignore His leading or His calling. Whether big or small, helping someone, fighting against my flesh, making life changing decisions… all too often I screw it up. Then comes a storm. Something happens and I need or I am asked to call upon the power of the Lord. I have to completely rely on God. Can I do it? I usually fall into the trap of my disobedience. I disobeyed God. I’ve run from God. Who am I to call on Him? How shameful am I? That’s when I must remember the faithfulness of God. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 are my favorite verses:

“If we died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him, he will also disown us;
if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

I have to trust the faithfulness of God. He tells me that He has no record of my sins (Heb 8:12). Scripture tells me to approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that I may receive mercy and find grace to help me in my time of need (Heb 4:16). How great is our God! I must stop struggling with myself and my weaknesses and turn to God as my source of grace and power.
Even after Jonah’s disobedience, God still shows up. Before the men threw Jonah overboard, they cried, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life.” They knew that throwing Jonah overboard meant certain death for him. But God still had a plan for Jonah and disobedience didn’t stop that plan. God saved Jonah’s life in the midst of his disobedience and still used him as the one to speak to Nineveh. God didn’t change His mind about Jonah.
How great is it that God’s character never changes? His character and faithfulness are not dependent upon our obedience. So if you’re running from God, stop and turn around. Repent. He loves you and He still wants to boldly move in and through your life.

Jesus… Where are you?

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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.

maintenance vs sustenance

Maintenance vs. sustenance.
I don’t know if this is a new idea or something that has been brought up to me in that past that I’m just now recalling… but it’s just about to consume me.

I have spent the last several weeks becoming more and more aware of the fruitless pursuits of my life. My intentions are to pursue Jesus with everything, but I’m still continuing in worldly pursuits. Hopefully some familiar imagery of Peter walking on water can help illustrate my point. Peter looks at Jesus walking on the water, sees the impossibility of the entire situation, and is then called to step out. Peter is obedient and steps out. He’s standing on water. In my life, I’m standing on the water, staying afloat, but I’m wearing a life jacket. Jesus isn’t going to look at me and say, “Now that’s faith and obedience right there. You’re standing on the water!” He’d probably shake His head at me as I boast to my friends about the miracle I just performed.

So let me translate this to real life. I know Christ, I understand His calling for all of His followers to go, I go on mission trips to make His Name known, I seek Him to be the first in my life. Yay! I’m walking on water! All of these things truly are miracles and the work of Christ in my life. But what bothers me is this horseshoe life jacket that is kind of itchy and scratches against my neck (you’ve worn one). I’m working an 8am to 5pm job that usually requires me to work 7am to 9pm or 10pm. I have a house. I have a car. I have a wife. I have things.

John 6:26
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”

(This post originated a month or so ago. Thankfully I was presented with the above Scripture tonight and was able to draw the parallel to my maintenance vs. sustenance postulate.)
These people had their temporary needs met and they wanted more. Their food digested and they were hungry again… so they went back to the one that met that need. Maintenance.

My car, my clothes, my status, my job, my home, my friends, my salary. All of these things have standards set by someone, somewhere. And I have to meet these standards…. and believe it or not, they’re not easy to meet or maintain. The car breaks, the clothes stain, the weeds grow. Our lives are centered around maintenance… Maintaining an appearance… Maintaining the American Dream.

John 6:27
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Jesus said to these people, ‘Look. I’ve got a bread that will satisfy your hunger for eternity. Quit pursuing this earthly bread that doesn’t last and pursue me.’ He didn’t say, ‘Lay back and I’ll give you my bread.’ He said, “Work… for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Sustenance.

I want to be sustained. Maintaining the things of this life is tiring… and futile. Jesus said that He is the source of food that endures to eternal life. That’s what I want. Don’t give me any of this temporary bread that meets my temporary needs. Give me a bread that ultimately satisfies all of my hunger for eternity. Sustain me with who You are.

 

If you are spending your time or efforts on anything that you can’t take with you when you die… then what is the point? Measure your life up against eternity and you’ll realize that you don’t have any time to waste. Don’t maintain your life, your status, and your possessions. Be sustained… by pursuing Christ and receiving His gift that meets every need and every desire.




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