Thursday, August 21, 2008


Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water. Psalm 114:7-8

About a week ago, I was incredibly discouraged. I'd had it with my circumstances that were just beyond overwhelming. I felt I was in way over my head for too long and that God had turned his back on me. In my desperation, I poured out these feelings to God with explicit honesty, holding nothing back. I typed God a letter. I (politely) demanded a response to my feelings-- some sign he cared about my pain. It was not conditional-- I wasn't going to stop following him if he remained silent. I know by now that God is not manipulated or controlled into giving signs and answers. But I was so desperate to hear his still, small voice. I think he knew my heart was sincere.

In his mercy, God responded. It wasn't with a bolt of lightning or an appearance at my bedside, or even with a change in my circumstances. But it was love, and it was full of life, and so I know that God heard and God answered. It's funny, all the subtle ways in which God works when we are hurting. He doesn't always take away the pain, but somehow, someway, he still sustains us and refreshes us when we are the most thirsty, the most despairing of life. In the same way that he fed Elijah who was running, running, running in despair and fear, God fed me. He reached out to me through people, through his Word, and through hearing Truth preached. He placed in my heart a renewed sureness that he loves me, that I am not forgotten.

I posted this picture because it's another way God showed me his love. After my missive to the Almighty, I was browsing Facebook and came across an album of photos from Yosemite belonging to a friend of a friend. The picture I posted here (with permission) blew me away-- not only by its sheer beauty, but by how I felt awed by God's "hugeness" when I looked at it.

It's easy to forget sometimes that God is SO incredibly big and powerful and that this whole complex and majestic earth was all lovingly and carefully made by him out of nothing. When Job cried out and demanded an answer from God about unjust pain, the Lord spoke about the unsearchable wonders of creation. The main message: Our God is in control. He controls the length, intensity, and reasons for our suffering, just as he controls the weather, the tides, and the stars. It is not within our ability to understand what God has done, or why we are where we are. But we can be sure that evil is also completely subject to God's great power. And when we belong to Christ, we are headed for triumphant victory as we wait patiently on him.

Whether I physically make it to my earthly Yosemite and stand under those falls triumphant, or whether relief and triumph will only come to me in heaven, I see this picture as my future. I'm headed toward the God who made the mountains and the waters.

Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?"
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:7-11

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Last will be First

Being last.

It is as bad as it sounds here on earth. Everyone races by you with their weddings, their high-paying jobs, their houses and renovations, their babies and videos and pictures of domestic bliss. It's all there on Facebook and Myspace. It's there on TV and in celebrity magazines, and fashion catalogues. There is always that woman who appears to have it all, smiling, stinging my insides as I see her twirl in her purple silk dress, to spin away with everything that this world values. Where are my values?

Several years ago, when I was growing increasingly enamored with worldly people, I used to constantly feel God calling me back to a passage in the Bible that tells us to not love the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17). I didn't realize at the time that it meant more than just men or style, or excitement, or money, or fashion. It meant everything. Don't love what you have in this world too much because those who are last will be first. Those who have nothing here and sacrifice to be obedient, and suffer injustice-- those will be rewarded 100 fold.

Tonight, I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. When China marched out, Yao Ming, a 7.5 foot famous athlete, marched out in front of China's team with the national flag flowing in the breeze. He was the epitome of strength, youth, national pride-- glowing and standing tall like a super hero above all others. He was the head of the nation at that moment-- the representative, the conqueror. Billions of people were watching this moment.

But who was that beside him? Who had a right to walk with this extraordinary man? It was a 9-year-old kid. At first I was astounded! This was no place for a child. This was the time for the athletes, for the strongest ones to march.

Obviously, the announcers explained, he was no ordinary child. He was given the honor of marching at the front because he had been at the bottom of the heap-- quite literally. Trapped in the midst of devastating rubble from the recent Chinese earthquake, this kid had not only freed himself, but had risked his life to go back to save the lives of his classmates as well. He was last, broken, shattered, but in that moment of testing and pain, he decided he was not here just for what he could get or for his own comfort. At his lowest point, he decided to reach out his hand to others. He sacrificed in order to serve.

At the end of the most spectacular show, with hours of special effects, dancing, 15,000 performers, choreography, flames, and a vast parade of nations, the final shots were of the giant man-- the rightful leader, holding up this exceptional child with him-- in a position of the highest honor.

When we give up our rights and our love for the pleasures of this life to follow Jesus, it may feel like we've lost, but we will be like that child when we reach heaven-- people will ask why we are honored by marching with our Lord. We will not have to answer for ourselves. It will be told how we responded when we were struck down. It will be told how we clung to him obediently and loved him when tragedy threatened to swallow us whole. At the end of all things, we will be held safely in the arms of the master. When the show is over, we will finally be out of the rubble and celebrating with him.

Matthew 19:27-29
Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?"
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.