A Sacrifice of Praise

Losing someone you love and admire 12 hours before you preach an Easter sermon isn’t an experience I’d wish on anyone, but it has produced some profound revelations for me.

The main revelation is that in the midst of grief and suffering and pain, God is still worthy to be praised. No circumstance, no matter how devastating, changes the Good News of Jesus’s resurrection and ascension. Death died on Friday – Jesus lives on.

“Precious in the sight of The Lord is the death of his saints… I will offer a sacrifice of praise,” says David in Psalm 116. A sacrifice is a sacrifice because it costs you something. Choosing joyful worship in the midst of grief is a costly sacrifice. Confessing God’s Goodness when everything in life seems contrary to that requires faith. The enemy wants to crush our spirits – he can’t stand the Light of Life and Hope in the human soul; so we weather his storm and shine all the brighter for the darkness.

I’m reminded that we live in the unshakable Kingdom of God. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken in our lives, so that everything that is not of God will fall away. What remains standing when the dust settles is a priceless treasure – a Kingdom, full of faith, hope and love, inhabited by saints who love their Lover more than life itself. The world isn’t worthy of such beauty.

I’m so proud of how we’ve handled Beverly’s sickness and death. I’m glad we fasted, prayed and believed for her healing. I’m glad we arranged meals and help for the family. And I’m amazed that we were able to worship together this morning with arms lifted high. Well done church.

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The Kingdom Now: Pursuing What is Available, Part 2

Worship this morning was really wonderful. God has been visiting us in a really sweet way these past couple of weeks. It isn’t flashy or glamorous, but I feel like our hearts are being recalibrated by the simple truth “God loves me.”

Anyhow, during the question and answer time, a metaphor of pursuing what is available came to me and I wanted to flesh it out a little more here.

After the Rebellion and before the Cross, humanity was separated from God by the Great Wall of Sin. Longer than we could imagine, higher than we could climb and covered with razor wire that would cut to ribbons anyone who tried to climb up on their own, the Great Wall of Sin kept us confined to the kingdom of darkness. We couldn’t save ourselves, we were trapped.

Then came Jesus with the powder-keg of Grace that was the Cross. Jesus’s death and resurrection blew a gaping hole in the wall, making a way for us to come into the Kingdom of God and find our identity as sons and daughters of God.

With that freedom now available to us, wouldn’t it be silly to simply stand at the wall and admire the hole?

I’m eternally grateful for the Cross and all that it accomplished. Without Jesus paying my debt, dying in my place, I would be condemned to a life of darkness and slavery to sin. But the Cross is just a doorway into the Kingdom, a bridge, a hole, whatever metaphor you want to use – it isn’t the whole of the Christian life.

Continuing with our analogy, wouldn’t it be silly to stand just inside or outside the prison and simply admire the hole that Jesus’s sacrifice made? Wouldn’t it make more sense to journey into the Kingdom, seeking out the King who loved us so much so as to send His Son to die for us in order to make a Way for us to come to Him?

I think all of us have to go through a stage on our journey with Jesus where we admire the hole He made through the Cross. We have to weep and mourn. We have to understand that we couldn’t ever do it on our own. We have to realize that our sin, our very nature, was to be rebellious and separated from God and without our Baptism into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we would be doomed. But I think it is a mistake to stay there.

I think Jesus died to set us free so that we could explore, examine and own the Kingdom of God. He wants us to enter into that Promised Land. He wants us to find our inheritance and sons and daughters of the King. He wants us to know and be known by the Lover of Our Souls.

I think NOT pursuing what is available is a tragic mistake. I think it dishonors the sacrifice Jesus made to set us free.

And here is where the analogy breaks down – we can both “explore” and “stay at the hole”. We can discover the Kingdom of God and call people out of darkness in the same hour. In fact, I’d argue that the more we explore, the deeper we go into the Kingdom, the more people will be drawn to find freedom through Jesus and do the same.

So, those are some additional thoughts on this topic. I appreciate you all reading. Have a great one!

The Kingdom Now: Pursuing What Is Available

I have a burning desire to see God’s Kingdom come and His will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Far more than a rote phrase in the Disciple’s Prayer, this pursuit has become my passion – the thing I am willing to suffer most for in order to see it accomplished. I have a singular desire to see the Kingdom of God collide with and overcome the kingdom of this world and see Holy Spirit set wrong things right, especially in the areas of sickness, disease and death.

I will never stand before God and have to apologize for the way I am living my life. I will never stand before the Judgement Seat and say “I’m sorry God, I thought you were more loving. I thought you wanted to heal more people. I thought the Cross accomplished more…” No! God is the most overwhelmingly loving, caring and generous person I know. He wants to see people saved, healed and delivered far more than I do.

I’ve seen some amazing things in my life. A girl saved from the brink of death, a rotator cuff miraculously healed and a friend healed of Lyme’s disease. I’ve also had some major disappointments – a friend who didn’t rise from the dead despite me praying for him for six hours, other friends with chronic pain who haven’t been healed despite months of prayer and, most recently, a beautiful woman who wasn’t healed of blindness.

It is that last disappointment that prompted this post.

My wife and I host a college ministry on Thursday nights and it is a beautiful time of loving one another, worshipping and sharing what Father is teaching us. Since the start of the year, a young woman, let’s call her M, has been attending with friends. M is slowly losing her sight, to the point that now school work is almost impossible for her and she is going to have to receive some training for how to operate certain technologies usually reserved for the blind.

I was sharing last night about some of the things Father has been teaching me, especially my passion for healing and what I believe Jesus accomplished on the cross. I noticed M silently crying on the couch so, after I was done and we had started singing, I went to be with her.

We ended up talking for a long time after the majority of the group had left. She told me about her life, how losing her sight had affected her and her parents and the various ways she was trying to cope. At one point I heard her say, “I’ve been trying to convince myself that I don’t need my eyes to see the beauty around me” and that stuck in my heart like a knife. This woman has growing debt because her insurance won’t cover her treatments, she is in serious chronic pain, she feels increasingly lonely and isolated, she probably wont be able to finish school and now is trying to convince herself that she doesn’t really need her eyes.

My heart broke for her. I knew that the compassion I had for her suffering was only a small fraction of what Father felt for her, but she still wasn’t healed when I laid my hands on her and prayed.

I once heard Randy Clark give a message called “The Agony of Defeat” and it is the price he pays for the healing ministry. People come from around the world to get prayer from “the man of God” and sometimes nothing happens. I understand that agony a little differently now than I did when I first heard that message.

It is painful, embarrassing and humiliating to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and not see fruit. It is a sincerely painful experience to believe with all your heart that God can heal, WANTS to heal, and still nothing happens. I feel like a fake, a huckster, some charlatan peddling snake oil as the cure for what ails you. Many times it makes me want to give up. It seems like the reasonable thing would be to give up preaching and believing in the supernatural to simply focus on what is humanly possible. But a friend gave me a beautiful definition of reason recently. He said that reason is “the leveraging of facts to prove an inferior reality.”

Facts devoid of God’s power, desire and intent are an inferior reality. The Superior Reality is the way we see God acting in the ministry of Jesus, what we call the Kingdom of God. I can never bring the Bible down to my level of experience when I preach and teach – it must always remain the standard that my life conforms to. God isn’t on trial, I am – we are. What will we do with what has been entrusted to us? What will we fight for? How fiercely will we pursue what is available to us?

Those questions keep me awake at night. They keep a fire burning hot within me to see what is possible. I really do believe that God exists, that He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him and that He is a God who heals. I’m willing to stake everything on those beliefs.

I willing to pursue this on my own, but I’d much rather do so with a group of people who share this same passion. So, if any of you are reading this, please drop me a line, either an email or a comment. Perhaps we can figure out how to meet and pray and encourage one another in this pursuit.

As always, thank you for reading.