Monday, November 13, 2017

A world in fog

Today I got new prescription glasses.  Having barely left my thirties, I wasn't expecting the revenge of the forties to overtake me so soon.  I have known I was in trouble for some time.  Determining how much acrylic a garment has was no easy task from a label where the letters have grown so small lately.  I had given up on finishing "A night to remember" and left the Titanic's passengers stranded in a fog of clouded letters that were too hard to member together.  Having my eyes run from me is a frightening thing... focusing so hard, yet seeing nothing.  Yes, the magnifying glass was in the kitchen, within easy grasp, but now I needed one in my bedroom, in the shower (which one's the shampoo and which is the conditioner?), in my car...  Things were easier at work.  The lit, magnifying orbits at each workstation make reading the petri plates a pleasure, and identifying each minute colony no small a victory.  But at home... this is where the war begins and stays.  This is where I have to admit that I am no longer twenty, the twenty where my eyes are free to roam the small print and rescue the aged from their prescription-bottle-label struggles.

I miss my twenty-year old eyes, when eyeglasses were practically unnecessary, except an optometrist thought it might prevent eye fatigue.  I often wonder, would my eyes be better off now had I ignored his prescription and let my eyes see free?  And why does this question even matter now, as if the undoing of twenty years of eyeglasses can be reversed, now that my eyes struggle through the nebulous, shrinking letters?

I miss my twenty-year old soul, too.  I miss the innocence of the world that was mostly white, even though I had survived the blackness of communism in my first twelve years.  There wasn't so much to sort through to get to the truth,  there was no ministry of truth except in Orwell's world.  There wasn't as much machinery fuelled by billions as if billions were pennies, to subtract the good and the sublime out of this world and to replace it with the unholy and the mediocre.

I miss my twenty-year old soul free from the distraction of the internet.  I had no World Wide Web, no super-highway  to expand my information bank with whatever morsel of knowledge I crave at any given time.  At times, the internet invades me like a slow, numbing poison that dulls my reality into bites of ones and zeros and leaves me smaller, smaller. Without the internet life was beautiful, and connected, and quiet.  Books-real books, not internet articles-were oasis of pleasure and rest, and lofty thought.

I would gladly renounce all this "progress" and go back to the era of my twenties, where birds were still flying and bees were not endangered.  But the done cannot be undone, except in God's kingdom.  Only at the Cross the stories of our lives can be done-over, as if a single letter had never been written.  Only by The Blood of the One whose beginnings were not in man-plus-woman union can we know the way, the truth and the life.  The ocean of His grace will heal us of regret, and rebellion will be intercepted by love in an ever-upward dance.

And thus I put on my God-lens and look at my barely-out-of-the-thirties self, knowing that nothing is really lost.  Though my eyes seem to be running away from me and my food sensitivities are extra baggage from my twenties, I still swim in the same ocean of God's grace.  His love still carries me through the currents of seismic change that move this earth toward apocalypse.  I am still redeemed and my destination unchanged. Sure, the road has gotten a lot bumpier and the minefields more unpredictable since my starry-eyed twenties, but the same Holy Spirit holds my hand and lights my path.  Together, we will make it out of this maze called life,  and finally I will be able to see-no eyeglasses required.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

As I look at the world around and feel the rumblings of a monster storm, the likes of which history has no comparison, I contemplate it with mixed emotions.  Just like the fabled king whole left eye was crying as the right one was laughing, so my heart holds both joy and sorrow.

If we had a giant time clock in the skies that counted down to the advent of Christ's second coming, its arms would probably be seconds away from midnight.  We can almost hear His steps descending on Heaven's stairway into the Now that rushed and ordered itself into waves of matter and light expelled by His breath.  We can sense Heaven getting ready to receive His bride, and a thousand times thousands wedding invitations are dispatched to fill the wedding halls with His image-bearers.  We hear the Angel set pen to paper and, in eternal books, another name is engraved with ink that cannot lie, the scarlet fountain of His blood.  Foundations are decorated in  jasper, emerald and sapphire, streets are paved with gold, clear and shimmering like crystal.  We see the party hats and the dazzling costumes and we hear the roar of hallelujahs as another prodigal has found the way home.  We see His bride shake the sleep from her soul and her eyes, dressed in garments of faith and works, scanning the horizon night and day for His arrival.  Looking upward, she girds herself for harvest, one last labor of love and suffering, even as the axe is set at the root of the tree for one last purging. 

As heaven is busy preparing for the marriage supper of the Lamb, hell is excessively diligent in  expanding its borders.  We see a flood of demons descending on portals of filth, bathing the earth in violence and bloodshed.  We hear the roar of hate masking itself as justice and good works, its cry hollow as "sounding brass or clinging cymbal".  We see confusion and its dominion in man and nature, and we see evil crowned as good and good desecrated as evil.  We hear man say, "let us make god in our image,  in our likeness; and let him bow to our lust, let him glorify in our laws; let him follow us in our corruption, let him bless our covetousness, and let him give us what is right in our own sight".  We see the young souls of the unborn sacrificed on the altar of self-gratification, and we see the lame and the maimed done away with  in the name of mercy.  We hear the growing darkness laboring the Antichrist into his kingdom, engaged in chasing Truth out of His universe.

My one eye is rejoicing because His coming is so, so close...  He is coming to take us home, a place so magnificent that Paul, a birther of words, was destitute of letters at its threshold.  I rejoice because our eyes will see The One our hearts have loved, and His eyes will brush the ashes from our souls.  The time is coming when faith will be sight, when face-to-face encounter will replace dim mirror reflections.

My other eye is weeping because of the coming kingdom of black embodied in a man of great persuasion, and eloquence, and unquestioning authority.   Under this man, "there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again."  (Matthew 24:21).  We are entering a time when " men’s hearts [will be] failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken". (Luke 21:26)  And the crowds are cheering, and ready, and waiting for this man to make his entrance. 

The time of history's greatest upheaval is at hand.  The Father is waiting for one more prodigal to come home, for one more guest to attend His wedding feast.  "Today when you hear his voice, don't harden your hearts" but come and be born of water and of Spirit.  The stakes are too high for anything but that. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A few weeks ago I spoke with someone who considered himself an atheist.  In passionate tones, he told me his reason for denying the existence of God.  The Bible has a specific message to people like him: "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" 

If you are part of the rising militant army of atheists or the "closet" unbeliever,  this is a gentle invitation to explore "the other side" of unbelief.  I mean, why do you clutch so tightly to a few intellectually dishonest arguments in the face of overwhelming evidence?  Have you saddled a chariot and traversed the breath of this limitless universe to find Him?  Have you galloped through our solar system, have you touched the edges of our Milky Way?  Have you hitched your wagon for the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 km journey it takes to explore your neighborhood galaxy?  Umm, no.  It takes about 100,000 light years to explore your cosmic backstreets, which, in our average eighty-year life span, pretty much spells immortality.  If you could achieve the speed of NASA's Voyager of 17.3 km/s, it would take you over 1,700,000,000 years to explore it from one end to the other [1]. Still feeling grand much? 

How about getting out of our comfortable little galaxy to explore other cosmic lands?  If you could spare a few billion light years (more like 212 billion)  in your pilgrimage, you could park for a while on the edge of NGC 6872, a galaxy five times the size of our Milky Way.  Have a hearty breakfast and saddle your light-year horse, because it will take you 522,000 light years to explore the backwoods of this spiral   And you haven't found Him yet!

Astronomers tell us that no one really knows how big the universe is,  or even if there are other universes like ours "out there".  We are talking about God-size measurements now, a God who grabs the universe between two fingers and scans it faster than your market's barcode reader.  Isaiah 40:12 describes the kind of measuring stick God uses:

Who has scooped up the ocean
in His two hands,
or measured the sky between His thumb and little finger,
Who has put all the earth’s dirt in one of his baskets,
weighed each mountain and hill?

We are talking about a big, big God!  He is so big that this universe cannot contain Him, yet so "small" that He can fit inside the heart of a child. 

There is much more evidence for the existence of an infinite, all-powerful God who exhaled this universe into our existence, yet stooped down to stamp His image into you and me.  I know that, for some, even the raising of the dead wouldn't be "proof" enough for the existence of God.  Because, you know, He actually did arise from the grave!  Thirty seconds before you die, you will know.  The veil between the visible and the spirit realm will become transparent, and you will see the eternal abyss which you fought so hard to deny.  Ask Voltaire, or Robert Ingersoll, or Thomas Hobbs.  Thirty seconds before you die, your heart will be so hard from the unbelief you caressed over a lifetime, that all desire for repentance will be extinguished out of you. 

If you are still alive, if there is a flicker of "what if" breathing inside of you, I invite you to bow your knee and acknowledge Him.  Give Him your all-your sins, your failures, your disappointments.  Turn from your rebellion and acknowledge Him as your Lord and Savior.  He is waiting for you, ready to forgive, ready to embrace, ready to give you the best life on the other side of time.  If you need help meeting Jesus, write me.  It will be my great honor to introduce you to my Friend and Savior, Jesus Christ.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

[1] Numerical figures taken from NASA's website.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I have been absent from the world of words in the internet world for a long time.  I am becoming increasingly aware that my silence is no less than sin against my Father God.  No, there is no "thou shalt write" commandment hidden in the beautiful pages of my Bible.  What it is, instead,is an inner urging to use my voice, the voice He has given me, to lay down reflections of His heart lived out in me.  More than anything, I want this "pen" to bring glory to God, the One who has relentlessly loved me and kept me throughout my life.

Some of my reflections will seem incredibly "trifling", like my love for chocolate.  Yes, you read it right.  Yesterday I made a batch of raw chocolate fudge that looks deceptively healthy (no dairy, gluten-free, grain-free; I mean, it is practically a vegetable). "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good...", cried the psalmist, and every time I serve my favorites in the food department, my tastebuds throw a party.  The cocoa bean is His idea, and this small seed was designed for our pleasure!

At time, my reflections will read more like a journal. Today, Michal and I took a walk under the warm September sun, and my heart was filled with gratitude for autumn's day two that resembled summer's day one.  The air was warm, the sun was incredibly bright, and a gentle breeze was swaying the auburn leaves in a dance of light and shadows.  As evening drew near, He painted the skies with hues of orange, pink and gold-and He invited me to watch the dusk of today and the birth of tomorrow. 

What do chocolate, and sunsets, and warm autumn walks have to do with anything, you ask?  They are gifts that speak of a God who defines beauty, and joy, and pleasure.  He is everywhere... if we only stop long enough to see Him.  He fills our plates with the fat of the Earth, He colors our horizons with rainbow hues, He smiles in the glow of tepid September strolls. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands..."Sometimes we will explore the breath of rocks, and other times we will ponder the big questions of life.  Through it all, God will be our center, the Bible our teacher, and His goodness our anchor. 

Oh, that we would stop and explore the beauty of God in the small and great gifts of  life...  "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good" - I pray that this truth will be etched on the tablets of our hearts in colors of crimson. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

I had the privilege these last few days to spend some time with my nephew, Joshua.  The little boy who used to laugh incessantly and wake up singing will be eight years old this summer.  The years gone by have not erased the joy that marked his toddler years, nor diminished his gentleness.  Joshua is a little gentleman: considerate of others' feelings, generous, politely-mannered.

One day he met me from school and enthusiastically showed me the prize he received.  A small rabbit decoration, a much-anticipated prize that marked his reading one hundred books this school year, clung tightly in his hand.  He was unbridled in his joy, his glance often resting on his prize.  A while later, unaware of the whereabouts of the rabbit, I flung the blanket from the couch and in the process decapitated Rabbit.  Joshua was devastated, and so was I.  Through tears he whispered "it's okay, auntie", but I knew his disappointment would take a little longer to dissipate.

Driving home that day with a heavy heart, I cried. "That is silly", someone might say, "it's such a small thing."  Sure, it may be a dollar store acquisition, but to Joshua it represented - even if he didn't quite verbalize that - the hard work he put in, the diligence of agonizing over new words and hard-to-grasp phrases.  It was the fulfilment of a long-awaited reward which he barely had time to own, to savour the victory it represented.

That night, on my drive home, I cried for all the disappointments he would later experience.  For the friends who would one day be indifferent.  For the words which would cause him to loose sleep.  For the sadness he would experience because of unmet expectations, and hurtful interactions, and for unanswerable question marks.

That night, I cried for the kids whose mothers didn't return from the hospital.  For the husbands whose wives never held their newborn babies.  And for the babies who never heard the soothing tones of their mothers' voice.  I thought about the kids who lay graveless at the hands of soulless men.  'What does God think of all of this?', I wondered.

And then I saw Him standing before Lazarus' tomb, weeping.  Jesus wept... John never tells us why.  Maybe He cried the pain which sin deposits on the world in layers of heartbreak, and anguish, and despair.  Jesus saw His friends drowned in grief -  grief so deep that only wordless tears could comfort.  He felt what they felt, and He didn't shy away from drinking the cup of sorrow.  A short while later, He would drink all of it - the ocean of suffering drowning humanity - and in His death atone for its sin.

That night, I tasted anew the joy that only He can bring amidst the tears.  As I pondered the suffering of the world - the small measure I knew of - I was feeling His heart.  He ached for it long before I ever did - and He wept.  He is not distant or disconnected from the hurting, but He walks among them.  How else could we visit Him when He is sick, or feed Him when hungry, or go to Him when in prison?

I don't have all my questions answered on this side of heaven, and that's okay. What I know for sure is that, "even though I walk through the darkest valley, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."    He loves me, He quiets my heart, He carries me when I cannot walk on my own. 

On this side of the resurrection, that is very good news.

" Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)


Thursday, March 3, 2016

I feel compelled to define, if only for myself, why I am a Christian and what difference it makes to my life.  Maybe because there are so many notions and voices presented with a Christian label, I want to bring clarity to what it means to be a Christian.

First, I want to declare that, by being a Christian, I am not better than other people, no matter their religious or philosophical persuasion.  In fact, ever since I had a supernatural encounter with Christ, I see my own failures, my deficiencies, my hypocrisy clearly, and I am grieved by my heart condition.  Before Him, I thought I was "good", my reputation untarnished by murder, or sexual misconduct, or some audacious conflict.  Before Him, I was blind- blind to the pride that "steps" over other people, blind to the grief my words brought, blind to the wounds my lies were effecting on myself and others.  A that moment, when I looked in His eyes and His love flooded every atom of my being, I could see, for the first time, how utterly depraved I was and how much I needed His righteousness.  He is God, and I am not - and I needed Him to save me and give me a new beginning.

Being a Christian does not mean that I am perfect.  In fact, for as long as I live, I will struggle to choose between what I want -often what is easy, self-pleasing and void of sacrifice -and God's higher calling.  He calls me to die daily -not physically, of course -but die to the pleasures that seek to ravage my soul and to ultimately separate me from the One I now love.  I have discovered no greater joy than the nearness of His presence, no greater delight than the truth of His  law.  He is the pearl of great price, the treasure worth living and dying for - and the peace He gives transcends earthly afflictions.

Being a Christian means living a supernatural life.  It means that, in my strength, I cannot live a life that honours God, because the enemy that I am fighting is much stronger than I.   It is only as I remain connected to Him, drawing upon His strength and the fellowship of His presence, that I can rise above the call of my self-seeking, self-gratifying nature, and the invisible foe that seeks "to steal and kill and destroy" (John10:10).

Being a Christian means I have a new roadmap for my life, the Bible.  The day I invited Him into my heart, I willingly surrendered the throne to the One in Whom all the treasures of love, beauty, and wisdom hide.  I have relinquished my perceptions for His truth, my world view for His absolute, my shack for His kingdom.  I gave Him the broken pieces of my life and He gave me life eternal, laughter for my tears, joy in my suffering.  Knowing Him has been the greatest gift of my life.

Being a Christian means loving the kind and the unkind and blessing the ones who seek to hurt and malign me.  It is because I am called to imitate Him - a loving God who died for the ones that tore and shred His flesh, and marred His face beyond recognition.  "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good", He says -and today, as millions of Christians are forsaking retribution and vengeance, their children are beheaded, their homes are burnt, their lives turned into often irreversible upheaval.  

Being a Christian means I have a permanent home beyond the confounds of the grave.   Death after a life of seventy, eighty years is not the end, but the beginning.  This life is not the destination, but the journey to my permanent residence.  For this reason Christians have been able to endure inexplicable tortures in their refusal to forsake Christ, because "they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one", a country worth pursuing to the point of death (Hebrews 11:16).  In God's economy, they are the winners, the ones whose names will never be forgotten and whose sacrifices bring true riches:  "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Cor 4:17).

Being a Christian means being rescued from my sin and from an eternal destiny of hell.  Sinning against God is no small thing, and the punishment is no small slap on the wrist.  A holy God must punish sin, otherwise He would be unjust.  A loving God took my punishment-and the whole world's-upon Himself, and His forgiveness makes me a citizen of heaven. 

 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish
but have eternal life " (John 3:16)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Recently, one of the leaders of a mega-church in North America made the following statement:

"I just want to encourage every one of us to realize: When we obey God, we're not doing it for God.  I mean, that's one way to look at it.  We're doing it for ourselves.  Because God takes pleasure when we're happy.  That's the thing that gives him the greatest joy this morning.  So I want you to know this morning, just do good for your own self.  Do good 'cause God wants you to be happy.  When you come to church, when you worship him, you're not doing it for God, really.  You're doing it for yourself, because that's what makes God happy.  Amen?"

It has been a couple of weeks ago since this statement has been heard in that church and subsequently around the world.  I haven't been able to shake it off because, sadly, this statement seems to pervade through much of our theology and the way we perceive God's role in the lives of His creatures.  God is here for us, orbiting around our little worlds, moving the machinery of heaven with one purpose alone: to bless us. To prosper us.  To weed out every discomfort, to purge our minds and our souls of every ounce of suffering, to cancel the dust of poverty off the soles of our shoes.  God exists for one reason alone: to inhale our troubles and our deficiencies and to exhale the goods filling our ever-expanding barns as testaments to His blessing.   He is always near, thinking up new ways to pamper our bodies and stuff our barns, in hopes that our abundance will draw the world with chords of envy into our crystal citadel.  This god requires no sacrifice, makes no demands on our flesh, and affirms our tireless pursuit of self-gratification.

I listen to the happiness gospel disturbed.  Calvary looms over my life too large to synthesize it into a formula for worldly success.   The suffering of Christ is too encompassing to reduce it to a feel-good patch or a get-more scheme.  Jesus died -and  His call to me and to us is a call to death (Galatians 2:20).  A call to crucify our lust. Our desire for worldly acclaim.  Calvary urges me to place the whole of my desires, the heart of my pursuits and the bent of my will on the altar of perpetual sacrifice (Romans12:1).   Paul's admonishing to "glory in our sufferings", to "put to death the deeds of your sinful nature", to "fight the good fight of faith" are worlds away from the gospel of happiness.  God does not exist to make our earthly sojourn a spa retreat where every star whispers our name and every atom collides to create our happiness.  We were made for Him, to bring Him glory and to exalt the excellency of His name.  Everything-and everyone-is for Him, through Him, and by Him.  One day, when He will write the final sentence of His story and seal our final chapter into eternity,  the only name our lips will exalt will be His. 

After all, it's all about Him.

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:15-17).

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created

and have their being"  (Rev. 4:11)