The Now and Not Yet

IImage’ve been thinking lately that the Christian life is weird.  There, I said it. 

But what do I mean, you ask? 

Well, it’s weird in that we are promised the blessings of the resurrection life, yet are stuck on a broken planet.  Weird in that we are told of a crown of glory awaiting us, yet are stuck in fragile bodies.  Weird in that the heaven of streets of gold awaits us on day, yet we are stuck in a land of war and greed.  I find this weirdness best described in the Church’s term about this very concept—the “now and not yet.”  The Apostle Paul said that we see things now through a mirror, darkly.  You have an idea of things, but not the full picture. 

As a child, I remember many a Saturday morning waiting for my father to come pick my older sister and I up for the weekend.  His arrival at my mom and stepdad’s, in my mind, was to give rise to a succession of events that would be wonderful, taking my sister and I to his home where a world of different rules, different traditions and different people awaited us.  We had an idea of things ahead, but not the full picture.

There was always something mysterious about the agenda for the weekend. Would we visit with my grandparents and enjoy their company? Would we spend time at the tidepools, casting rocks for Maggie the golden retriever to fetch out on the breakers?  Would the weekend allow for a visit to Friendship Park with the climbable bubbles (pictured) in the playground, begging for a game of hide and seek?  We had some idea of the weirdness of the weekend’s agenda ahead, but not the full picture. 

The wonder of a weekend at my dad’s is the intrigue I picture the disciples having as they waited for “when the Helper comes, who will testify of [Jesus]” (John 15:26).  Who was this Helper and what was He to help with?  How?  Who said they needed help anyway?  And what sort of help would He provide?  What sort of things would the disciples be able to do with the Helper’s help?  Like Alice, we too cry “Curiouser and curiouser!

The disciples found out just how deep the rabbit hole went on Pentecost Sunday, which we celebrated this past Sunday, when they saw the power that they received.  The Apostle Peter shows a great example of the Resurrection Life, of the power that was received by the early Church, and that is also available to those of us who reach out in faith to Jesus today. It’s the unleashing of God’s power from heaven.   It’s the power to forgive when circumstances just don’t make sense.  It’s the power to go beyond what we feel we’re able to do.  It’s the power that can only come from a God who knows that the life we live in is truly weird in that we know of His promises now and His promises not yet. 

This power, yearned for by everyone, is what is called for in Emilie Griffin’s Souls in Full Sail.  She writes:

What we need most is spiritual courage.  We need a biblical imagination to see God as He really is, in all His tenderness and power.  Before us, there is a whirlwind, and in the midst of the whirlwind is I AM.  I AM to whom all the world yearns; I AM, who yearns for His people with a boundless love.  I AM is the one who drives all loves, who guides all paths, who walks before us on the yellow brick and every other road.  I AM will give us the heart, the mind, the sense of being full, not hollow, who will satisfy all our yearnings and bring us home at last.  His city is more than emeralds, more than sapphire and rubies; all perfection reigns there; in that city the falsehood of our perfectionism is burned away by the fire of God’s enduring love.  

What sort of God do we serve that gives us this yearning but not the full picture?  It is a God of grace.  A God who knows that I can only take things piecemeal.  It is the God of Moses who covers his eyes because, while wanting to see Him fully, he could only see His back as the full glory of the Lord would have crushed him.  It is the God who allows you and I to make our own decisions, to have free will and wants growth and health for all of us more than we ever will. 

I AM is there in the midst of our life’s weirdnesses now and He, too, is also in charge of the not yet that lies ahead. 

Heroes of the Faith

Recently, in our Sunday School class, I taught on the tail end of Hebrews 11. This passage talks about those heroes of the faith that the author didn’t have time to go through. People like Jephthah, Gideon, Samson, and myriad unnamed saints who were tortured and torn in two for their profession of Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

I gain confidence in this passage every time I read it because, as you and I recall the stories of those saints mentioned, it’s a reminder that these folks were normal, ordinary people like you and me. People with warts. People with defects. People who did amazing things because of their incredible God and also because of their submission to His work.

Gideon doubted God’s call on His life and so in a double test of whether the call was from God or not, God made a fleece wet and the ground dry and then again the fleece dry and the ground wet. We do this all the time, don’t we? Perhaps not with a fleece, but I can recall countless times of asking the Lord to show me that a perceived call is really from Him.

Jephthah, one of Israel’s judges, was so overjoyed to have won the battle that he told the Lord that he would sacrifice whatever came out of his house upon his return home. Whoops. Not a good thing to promise, particularly when his daughter was the first thing to come out. Another person I can sympathize with. Getting ahead of myself and promising something to the Lord that I can’t necessarily give Him, or shouldn’t.

Samson, far beyond a good children’s story of ripping a lion in two, was a womanizer and liked to live on the wild side, disobeying the Lord’s commands and marrying a woman from the Philistine camp. Yet, here he is showing these same Philistine’s the power of Jehovah God in a way they would never have seen if he had not followed God’s call.

Years ago when I was in a missionary’s home in Romania, there was a small magnet on her refrigerator that said that God doesn’t call the equipped. Rather, He equips the called. What I glean from these stories in Hebrews is that God has done just that. And when I look at my life, I see the same. God is not in the business of bringing people who are already holy to a place of greater perfection. Not at all. Rather, He brings bumpkins and ragamuffins like you and me in our brokenness to a place of redemption and transformation and then, like an antique piece of silver, begins to polish out our blemishes and flaws, making us into something beautiful. Praise the Lord for His redeeming work as we remember that we, too, are heroes of the faith as we submit ourselves to the transforming power of the living God!

A Word for the Weekend

As we prepare for the weekend, I wanted to share with you the following excerpt from Hannah Whitall Smith’s wonderful book “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life”.  May each of us live our lives more and more in the “consecration” mentioned below.

“A great many Christians actually seem to think that all their Father in heaven wants is a chance to make them miserable, and to take away all their blessings, and they imagine, poor souls, that if they hold on to things in their own will, they can hinder Him from doing this. I am ashamed to write the words, and yet we must face a fact which is making wretched hundreds of lives.

A Christian lady who had this feeling, was once expressing to a friend how impossible she found it to say, “Thy will be done,” and how afraid she should be to do it. She was the mother of one only little boy, who was the heir to a great fortune, and the idol of her heart. After she had stated her difficulties fully, her friend said, “Suppose your little Charley should come running to you tomorrow and say, `Mother, I have made up my mind to let you have your own way with me from this time forward. I am always going to obey you, and I want you to do just whatever you think best with me. I know you love me, and I am going to trust myself to your love.’ How would you feel towards him? Would you say to yourself, `Ah, now I shall have a chance to make Charley miserable. I will take away all his pleasures, and fill his life with every hard and disagreeable thing I can find. I will compel him to do just the things that are the most difficult for him to do, and will give him all sorts of impossible commands.” “Oh, no, no, no!” exclaimed the indignant mother. “You know I would not. You know I would hug him to my heart and cover him with kisses, and would hasten to fill his life with all that was sweetest and best.” “And are you more tender and more loving than God?” asked her friend. “Ah, no,” was the reply, “I see my mistake, and I will not be afraid of saying `Thy will be done,’ to my Heavenly Father, any more than I would want my Charley to be afraid of saying it to me.”

Better and sweeter than health, or friends, or money, or fame, or ease, or prosperity, is the adorable will of our God. It gilds the darkest hours with a divine halo, and sheds brightest sunshine on the gloomiest paths. He always reigns who has made it his kingdom; and nothing can go amiss to him. Surely, then, it is nothing but a glorious privilege that is opening before you when I tell you that the first step you must take in order to enter into the life hid with Christ in God, is that of entire consecration. I cannot have you look at it as a hard and stern demand. You must do it gladly, thankfully, enthusiastically. You must go in on what I call the privilege side of consecration; and I can assure you, from a blessed experience, that you will find it the happiest place you have ever entered yet.”