Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Living Hope

Sometimes I write blog posts and never post them, whether because I didn't have internet at the time then forgot about them or because I decided that the topic was too much of a rant or too personal.  Last April I wrote one that I forgot about but found recently.  Though a lot of the stuff in it is dated, there are still timeless truths I want to share.  So here's a #tbt post from April 2014.

This past weekend I had the marvelous opportunity to go back to Grace Adventures for a visit.  I didn’t intend to work (mostly because there was not a group in that weekend), but come to find out, Ride-a-Thon was on Saturday, and I couldn’t pass that up.

A little backstory to set this up: I haven’t been to Grace in five months, not since the FUEL Conference in November.  As I told someone at church Friday night, far too long to be away from home.  I’ve been aching to go back for months, and it was finally going to happen next weekend, but God surprised me with a visit a week early as well.  I could not have been happier.  When we hit Oceana county driving in, my face was permanently stretched in an absurd smile backed by so much joy.

So anyway, I spent the weekend catching up with so many people and playing with kids and crashing in the Vander Kodde’s basement.  I can’t describe the joy of some of those moments, like when AJ, my three-year-old best buddy told me he’d missed me.  On Saturday, I showed up at the ranch to see if there was anything I could do to help out and found that all but one of the Ascent interns from last year were all going to be there at some point.  I got to spend a large portion of the day with one of them, which was such a blessing.

The biggest part of the weekend had to be church, though.  Since circumstances have conspired against me to keep me out of church during this internship, it meant so much more than it would have to be able to go to the Good Friday and Sunday morning Easter service at a church with people I know and love and who care about me and have invested time and energy into my life.  To worship and listen to Pastor Mark teach and fellowship….  It was an amazing experience that was exactly what I needed.

On Sunday morning, Pastor Mark spoke on 1 Peter 1:3-4 – not your typical Easter Sunday message, but it was quite possibly the best I’ve ever heard.  He talked about how Christ’s resurrection has bought us a new birth, a living hope, and an incorruptible inheritance.  He talked about how Christ has beaten death and shared stories of martyrs who gladly went to death rather than feared it.  What did they know?  What knowledge did they have that made them kiss the burning stake and pray for gladiators before they died?  A living hope.  Accurate perspective.  Striving after the only thing that does not fade and is not empty.  They knew they were only strangers and foreigners in this land; they knew who their king was; they knew what lay on the other side of death.  And they lived.  Too often, the fear of death keeps us from living.  We play it safe and walk the shoreline, afraid that the waves might get too high if we venture in or that sharks may prowl below the surface.  The reality is that sometimes they do.  But the swim is worth the risk because what can they do but kill us and send us to our savior?

I often struggle with fear of all different kinds.  But I’ve found that life is always more fun, worth more, more impactful, more joyful, and all around better when I conquer those fears and just live like only Christ matters and nothing anyone does can touch me, when I live like there is a living hope inside me.  Because there is.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How BIG is God?

There has been a lot of talk over the last several years about whether God exists and, if He does, whether He is relevant to our lives.  Last year, Rob Bell compared God to an Oldsmobile—useful in its time but out of date in today’s society.  I think what is actually irrelevant to culture is our version of God, not God Himself.

The moment we reduce God to an equation or explainable phenomenon, what we understand and imagine is no longer God.  That’s not to say that we cannot have any knowledge of God, but we cannot understand Him, not really.  His ways are unsearchable.  Who can know the mind of God? (Job 36:26)  But we have tried.  In an age of exploration and science, we have attempted to explain away the unexplainable.  Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about.

•    God is eternal—never ending and never beginning, always existing (Deut. 33:27, Exod. 3:14).  Wrap your brain around that.

•    God’s justice is perfect, yet He is incomprehensibly loving (Deut. 32:4, Job 34:12, John 3:16, Exod. 34:6, 1 Kings 8:23).

•    God has chosen before the foundations of the world who has been and will be saved, and yet it seems to us that we have chosen Him (Eph. 1:4, Psalm 105:6, Isa. 41:8-9, Matt. 22:14, Acts 1:2, Rom. 11:5)

•    He is one God and yet three persons (Matt. 28:19).

•    He is perfectly holy and yet amazingly patient with sinners (Rev. 4:8, Rom. 2:4, Rom. 9:22)

Can anyone really explain these things?  To our finite minds, these seem like contradictions.  I have tried to explain how they are in perfect harmony before, but I can never reason it perfectly.  I have often come to conclusions about God and then had them blown to pieces by scripture and experience.  I don’t think many of the attributes of God are meant to be explained fully.  We are not like God.  He is outside our realm of comprehension, and that is the way the world should be.

I believe one of the failings of Christians in recent years is that we have not taught unexplainable things like those I mentioned because we did not understand them.  We told our children not to bring them up because it may cause arguments.  Instead of standing in awe of what we could not comprehend, we belittled God and made Him fit in our box of convenience.  As a result, people now see the God we serve as weak and unimportant to daily life.  For many, maybe he is.

As Christians, do we rely on the strength of our God every minute?  Are we constantly aware of His presence and will?  Do we believe that He is not only capable but actually handling and orchestrating every moment of our lives?  Do we trust our most secret and difficult things to Him?  What about our most mundane?  If we believe that our God is as big and amazing as He says He is, won’t the gigantic struggles of this life fade to tiny blips on the radar of eternity?

I can’t say that I have mastered a high view of God.  On the contrary, such a thing would be impossible.  Our view of God should be ever expanding, because He is infinite.  But I can say for certain that as my knowledge of God increases, so does my trust in Him.  And as my trust increases, so does my hope and joy.  I don’t have to understand and comprehend everything I learn.  I do have to stand in awe.  Because He is amazingly big.  As Steven Curtis Chapman put it, “God is God, and I am not, so I’ll never understand it all, for only God is God.”