Your defiant statement

I wish you could see the larger statement that your life is making today.

And by the way, I am not talking about the statement that your life is making to your loved ones and coworkers who relate closely with you. Certainly, your life is making a statement to them, and hopefully they will take time to affirm some of that with you. I’m talking about something different, something bigger, something on a cosmic level.

The New Testament tells us that God uses the lives of His followers to make a statement to the supernatural world around us. Ephesians 3:10 says that “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.”

There is something about the church—in all of our glory and ruin—that makes a defiant statement to the supernatural realm around us.

Our world is bursting with competing ideologies, bitter hostilities, military armaments, sociological complexities, and overwhelming fears and insecurities, and yet those things are never the final word. God still has something to say and one of the ways He says it is through the lives of followers who live in a different kingdom, follow a different creed, relate from a different perspective, and work for a different cause.

When you do that—when you respond to God’s work in your life—a message gets sent into the spirit realm: “There is more going on than meets the eye. There is something greater than our small, exhausting pursuits. God’s quickening, illuminating wisdom is still at play.”

This defiant message of God’s wisdom displayed through His followers’ surrendered lives, reminds me of a scene from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe when Aslan tells Susan and Lucy that the White Witch had been deficient in her education. He said:

“It means that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”[1]

There is a deeper wisdom and a greater power at work in our world today, and your surrendered life is a human megaphone that speaks it into the cosmos.

[1] The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, chapter 15.

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Chance vs. Opportunity

Make the most of every opportunity.” That’s what the Bible tells us to do in Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5, but what if we don’t? What happens if we don’t make the most of an opportunity? Or worse, what if we miss an opportunity altogether? Are we out of luck, doomed to never get that particular opportunity again?

Sort of.

Second chances are plentiful in life and Scripture. Indeed, thorough readings of God’s interactions with people in the Bible have dubbed Him the unofficial name “the God of the second chance.” However, even though second chances occur quite often, lost opportunities are a different matter. Once we miss out on an opportunity it is gone, never to present itself in exactly the same way again. This does not mean that our second chances can’t be as good as our first chances—sometimes they can be even better—but the uniqueness of an opportunity only presents itself once.

I have a friend who says it this way. Imagine you are waiting for a bus to pick you up, but when it arrives you decide not to board. Certainly that wasn’t your only chance in life to board a bus and catch a ride across town. You will have other chances to take the bus. However, once that opportunity passes it is gone forever—you will never be able to ride that particular bus at that particular moment again. Additionally, second chances often prove more difficult than original opportunities. If I miss the bus today, it will show up again tomorrow, but it might be raining and there might be a huge puddle for me to cross before I can board the bus. If I miss that opportunity, the next day there might be both a mud puddle and a pit bull guarding the door to the bus.

Granted, this example is both simplistic and a bit pessimistic, but there is truth to it. We have to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves to us because their specialness and uniqueness will never present in exactly the same way again. Also, if we fail to move when opportunities present, future chances might prove more difficult than they needed to be.

In closing, consider a thought from missionary Jim Elliot: “Wherever you are be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” If we followed Mr. Elliot’s advice we would live with less regret and we would indeed fulfill Scripture’s admonition to “make the most of every opportunity”.

Ten minutes before the bad times end

I received some good news recently, and it was great! It made me so happy; my emotions began soaring, and the whole landscape of my world seemed brighter. I felt inspired and alive, so naturally, I did what you probably would have done in that moment—I threw up a quick prayer of thanks.

I said something like, “God, thank you for this moment. Thank you for answering prayer, and thank you for being so good.”

A little while later though, I started thinking about that prayer and I realized something. God hadn’t suddenly become good just because my bad news finally came to an end. He wasn’t an aloof, indifferent God who suddenly turned good once my good news finally arrived.

God was already good ten minutes earlier, before the good news finally found me.

It might be helpful for us to ponder this. In the middle of bad news everything seems bad, including God. And then when good news breaks through the gloom we suddenly feel like God is good again.

It’s not true. Ten minutes before the bad time ends He is still good.

At this very moment—whether you are buckling under bad news or soaring because of good news—God is at work. He is working goodness and an eternal purpose in and through your situation. Or course you probably can’t see it when everything looks bad, but it’s there. God’s purposes are still being done, and they will eventually be seen.

Romans 8:28 is a verse that often gets applied too quickly to painful situations. It is the famous passage where the Apostle Paul declares, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We have to be careful with this passage, because it is almost impossible to see or believe in an overarching cosmic goodness when we face news of shootings, abuse, or personal loss or breakdown.

Paul wasn’t telling us that all things are good or that all things become good. They don’t. Some things are ferociously and appallingly bad. However, even amid the bad God works for the good, and if we hold steady during the bad we will eventually be reuinted with the good.

Let’s just remember when we do, that the goodness we sense from God during the good times was still there ten minutes before the bad times came to an end.

Fear of bad news versus actual bad news

You have no doubt heard Mark Twain’s oft repeated quote: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

There is profound truth inside Mr. Twain’s witty remark, and when you and I reach our own old age, we will undoubtedly say the same thing: we will have worried about countless things that never actually happened.

The Scriptures speak to this dynamic in Psalm 112:7. It says that the righteous “will have no fear of bad news.” I love that! It doesn’t say they won’t experience bad news (we all know that everyone does); it says that they won’t fear it—they won’t worry, fret, and live out their anxieties in advance.

Yes, you and I will experience bad news in life, but we don’t need to be afraid of it in advance. First of all, if the bad news strikes, God will still be with us. And second, most of it probably won’t strike anyway.

God has delivered us…and He will deliver us again.” (2 Corinthians 1:10)

There is always a rescue scene

Every great epic story has a rescue scene. Whether it is evil wizards being defeated, dragons being slain, or Death Stars getting blown out of the universe, there is always a scene where the tide turns, justice and truth are finally upheld, and the heroes eventually win the day.

Have you ever wondered why?

Why does every great story have a rescue scene? For that matter, why does every great story start out with paradise being lost, evil setting up shop, and then a small band of heroes getting called upon to fight against nearly overwhelming odds? Why is there is always a moment when the beauty—there is always a beauty—gets captured and seems lost forever? Why does every epic tale have a moment when all hope is lost until someone mounts a rescue scene to finally save the day?

Because yours does.

The story of Scripture—the story in which you and I are living—is a story of paradise lost and then found; it is a story of sin’s death swallowing the world before life and love win the day. The Bible begins in Genesis with paradise lost and it ends in Revelation with paradise found and restored.

1 Corinthians 15:54 tells us the outcome of the biblical narrative: through Jesus Christ “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” The Bible is the archetype—it is the original, true-life narrative that gives form and substance to every lesser story that replays its central themes. This Easter as we re-imagine and re-engage with the Bible’s central theme let’s remember that there is a larger story—scholars call it a metanarrative—that you and I have been born into.

If hope seems lost today—if beauty seems vanquished forever—please hold steady. There is always a rescue scene.

Beware of Bilbo’s tree

Recently, I was thinking and praying about a couple of difficult situations and a peculiar phrase came to my mind: “Don’t climb Bilbo’s tree.” As an avid Lord of the Rings fan, I immediately knew what it meant.

 

In The Hobbit (both the book and the movie) when Bilbo and his comrades were struggling to survive their trek through Mirkwood Forest they decided to have Bilbo climb a tall tree to survey their surroundings and to assess whether or not they were almost out of the woods (no pun intended).

 

They selected the largest tree they could find and hoisted the slight hobbit into its lower branches. Bilbo scurried up to the uppermost boughs, enjoyed a moment of feeling a cool breeze on his face, and then he assessed their situation. His heart sank when he gazed outward because he could see nothing but row after row of forbidding trees in every direction. Crestfallen and forlorn he descended the tree and reported to his desperate friends that they were still a very long way from their goal.

 

Unfortunately, neither Bilbo nor his companions realized that their chosen lookout tree was situated in the bottom of a valley. It was indeed a tall, sturdy tree with a reliable vantage point at the top, but its position in the valley skewed Bilbo’s perceptions when he climbed it. In actuality, the hobbit and his friends were almost out of the dangerous forest, but since his tree was in the bottom of the valley all of the surrounding trees appeared taller than their actual height and blocked his view. Had his tree been on level footing with the rest he would have seen the end of the forest and then scampered down the tree trunk to lead a victorious march out of the valley.

 

All of this flashed through my thinking in an instant when I sensed the phrase in prayer, “Don’t climb Bilbo’s tree.”

 

Of course I have no idea what you might be facing today, but it is possible that this caution applies to you too. Don’t be deceived by your valleys—you may be much further through the forest than you realize.

 

What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD…when they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.” (Psalm 84:5-6 NLT)

I will always need you more than ever before!

Ever since I was quite young, hot tubs have been one of my sanctuaries. It’s kind of weird I know, but true nonetheless. Recently, while thinking in the hot tub, I uttered a simple prayer to the Lord, “I need you more than ever before” and then I was immediately struck by the humor in that prayer.

I have ALWAYS needed God more than ever before.

As a drifting, disillusioned college student, I needed God more than ever before.

As a newlywed husband I realized that I would need Him more than ever before if I was going to be a worthy husband for Jessica.

When my three daughters were born, I was keenly aware that I needed His help more than ever before.

In other seasons of success, failure, victory, and trauma I uttered those same words. And then the other night, I prayed them again. I guess I’m always going to need God more than ever before.

I think that’s a good thing. King David felt that way. So did the prophet Jeremiah. I can relate to some parts of their stories. I have had moments of such exhilaration in the Lord’s presence that I was certain that heaven had come to earth, and I have had other moments where I didn’t know if I could go on living. The one constant throughout the highs, lows, and everything in between has been Him. Jesus has been, is, and ever will be faithful.

If you are on a mountaintop in this season of your life, enjoy it. If you are crawling through a valley, keep crawling. There are new beginnings and better days ahead of you, and you are not alone–Jeremiah’s dread champion walks beside you.

“The LORD is with me like a dread champion.” (Jeremiah 20:11 NASB)

“The LORD is near to all who call on Him.” (King David, Psalm 145:18).