Monday, August 22, 2016

As He Said

Jesus died on Friday afternoon. 
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon...Jesus...breathed his last (Luke 23:44-46).
The faithful women disciples were with him to the very end.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath (Luke 23:55-56).
I can only imagine how devastated the women must have been. They had seen their teacher and Messiah die. They had seen his lifeless body laid out. How they must have wrestled! Did they forget what Jesus had said - that he would die and rise again? Did they not believe because they had seen with their own eyes that he was dead? Did hopelessness take over?
He is the Messiah! How can he be gone? He was bringing in a new kingdom. But I saw him die. He is our rabbi, teacher. But I saw his lifeless body in the tomb. He raised others from the dead? But, but, but...
I feel like these women, in this "three-days-phase". These are days of waiting, of mixed feelings, of wrestling. I serve and love a good God who speaks of healing, of abundant life, of peace and restoration. 

But, but, seems hopeless. It looks like sin has won. It seems like I heard wrong or have forgotten.

I think the church is also in this stage. God said that nothing would prevail against his church. He said he would come back again and set it all right. But it looks hopeless. Sometimes, it looks like God is still dead.

But hold on. The story doesn't end here.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body (Luke 24:1-3).
Then angels spoke to the women. They women justifiably terrified.
Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again (Luke 24:5b-7). Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay (Matthew 28:5-6). 
Then they remembered his words (Luke 24:8). But go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you (Mark 16:7).
Told you so! Now it's coming back to them. Oh yeah, he did say that, didn't he? Remember how he told you he would die and rise again on the third day! Now it begins to make sense. He truly is the Messiah and he is alive!

Now his words to the women become: Do not be afraid. Don't look for the living among the dead. I am alive and fulfilling my word. Go and tell my brothers.

Likewise, God reminds me of what he has said, "I will complete the good work begun in you and those you love. I will heal and bring delight. I am enough for you. You can float in my love and I will bring you to my ordained destination. In quietness and trust is your strength. I will grant your desires." 

The Apostle Paul also understood this concept. In 2 Corinthians 1:9-10, he said:
We expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered (rescued) us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope (placed our confidence) that he will continue to deliver us. (NLT/NIV mix)
So often I act as though God is still in the tomb. Can I believe that he is alive and will do the unthinkable, just as he said? Can I remember and trust that he will be true to his word? To not be afraid but rather to go and tell of his power and resurrection life? He has risen. He has power. He is alive. He is great and good. Go and tell!  

Fill in the blanks with your own experience:
God has said __________________________________________________ 
But it seems like _______________________________________________ 
But in fact he has risen and he will come again!

Lord, at times it looks so bleak that I wonder if you are still alive and at work. Help me to remember your words of promise. Teach me to rely only on you and not on myself or my nation or anything else. Deliver me from evil for you are a God who raises the dead. In you, I place my trust.

Friday, August 19, 2016

To Know This Love

Today my heart is heavy for several loved ones who are hurting:
with deep wounds of hurt that have yet to be healed
wondering if they'll be rejected because they don't want to keep doing what they think they should do
at the end of their rope because they've tried so long to please others and they realize now they can't do it anymore
running from love because they are convinced that love cannot reach them, that God demands too much
with childhood wounds they have pushed down for so long but find they can't anymore
in a difficult marriage where one partner has done such harm and inflicted such pain that they're not sure there's a way forward
What can I do? I want so badly to take them to Ephesians 3 and remind them that God loves them with a love that is wide and long and high and deep. He went to the cross for them and nothing that they do or don't do is going to keep him from loving them.

But how do I tell them when Paul himself says this love is unknowable?
And to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19
Paul doesn't mean for us to simply know a fact. He wants us to lay hold of this truth so as to make it our own and take possession of it. He wants us to be sure of it and feel it. To experience it. This is the intimate knowing between a husband and wife. God wants us to know his love very intimately.

But this love he wants us to experience exceeds our understanding. Surpass means to transcend, excel or exceed as in throwing over and beyond. Yesterday I saw Michelle Carter throw the shot put over and beyond to win the gold at the Rio Olympics. Paul is saying that knowing God's love exceeds our knowledge. So if we cannot know it, why does he pray that we would know it?

Because he wants us to be filled - to perfect or complete - to the brim, through all our being, into every nook and cranny. This is the same word that is used in Colossians 2:10:
I him you  have been made complete 
and in Philippians 4:18-19: 
I am amply supplied, now that I have received...the gifts you sent...And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
And he wants us to be filled with all the completeness and abundance of God. The Amplified version translates Pauls' desire this way: so you may have the richest experience of God's presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself. Paul repeats this theme in Ephesians 4:13:
until we all...become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Paul is praying that we will experientially know God's love which actually exceeds our knowing. The goal is that we would be filled through all our being with the abundance of God and be made complete. His presence flooding me means that I am not lacking anything, not wanting anything. I am complete as in James 1:4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

So to summarize Paul's prayer: When my roots go deep into Christ, he gives me the power to grasp Christ's love. But the purpose of the Christ's dwelling in me and for my being rooted and grounded in love is so that I can have the power to know. Know God's love. Know the impossible. He dwells in me to empower me to experience what is impossible to know - HIM and particularly his love - its breadth and length and height and depth - and to be filled with God himself. 

This is what I want to tell my hurting ones: Our culture tells you that your soul mate (or your comfort, reputation, control, safety, comfort) will complete you. But that is a lie. Despite your material, physical and relational lacks - you can still be full - full of God himself! With the power of his Spirit working in you, you can know it, feel it, touch it, be sure of and experience deep within yourselves so that you are complete, so that you know He is enough! 

And so we conclude our study with Paul's benediction:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (vs 20-21).

NOTE: Since this is a very spiritual work, it is hard to explain how to know God's love but I will offer a few suggestions. First, pray. As Paul demonstrates, pray to know God's love. Next explore the reasons I outlined in the Cup Illustration as to why you may not be able to receive God's love and then do the work required for healing. Then compile a list of God's love verses and have them at your fingertips always. And finally, make a playlist of love songs that can minister to your heart whenever you feel a lack of love. One I am currently listening to is Drops in the Ocean by Hawk Nelson.