The Unseen Overseer

I heard once

That God considers faith that removes mountains

Microscopic (Matt 17:20)

I know not the size of my faith

Only that it was much smaller than that of a mustard seed

And now may not be

Because of what it has seen

We could have been compared with Magdalene

Beside the tomb, beside herself with grief

Unable to hear the voice of the Resurrected over the sound of her sobs. (Jn 20:13-14)

Our senses, too, were dimmed by sorrow inexpressible

It was something beautiful when we saw his stirring

Our own spirits revived when we saw his life returning

A goodness that still feels existentially unsupportable

Because Christ, who upholds the universe by the Word of His power,

Supported my grandfather’s existence when life-support was withdrawn

And turned our mourning into joy (Jer 31:13)

Our funeral into a homecoming

Comforting, replacing gladness for sorrow

Just as ice to an orchid

His Father, His Gardener (resurection, father is the gardener)

Preserved his life by inducing a coma

Effected a revival within his mortal body through His life-giving Spirit (Rom 8:11)

Our blessed hope was outspoken that we would have him again,  (Titus 2:13)

Whether by resurrection or resuscitation

Christ replied, “I am the Lord your God, who heals you”

He heard our prayers (Ps 116:2-4)

The paltry products of our distraught minds

What a healing it has been

Unprecedentedly holistic

Categorically miraculous

Pitiable pleas and far-flung hopes became reality

He remembers just about everything

Far be it from us that we would forget (Ps 103:1-2)

Though we are still in a state of dumbfounded perplexity

He is no longer unable to speak

And so we will together proclaim

The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes (Ps 118:23)

And with His wounds we are healed (Is 53:5)

 

Written after my grandfather, Lyman Roll, recovered from a cardiac arrest on May 18, 2017 which was described by one of his physicians as something that should be “put in the category of the miraculous.” Because his brain was deprived of oxygen for several minutes (the exact time elapsed can’t be determined) and he was given a very low chance of survival, and was expected to pass away within a few minutes of being withdrawn from life support. Not only did he survive, but he suffered no brain damage, passed every recovery milestone and returned home on May 27, 2017 to our inexpressible joy. Even his pre-existing heart condition, arrythmia, was considered by his cardiologist to be significantly improved after the cardiac arrest. “Since the days of his life on earth,” Jesus Christ has never ceased to performs miracles and to heal, for He “is the same yesterday, today and forever,” (Heb 13:8).

Not Once Unloved

“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me growing up, “you look like your Mom,” I could loan some money to SallieMae. But while the resemblance was striking to any onlooker, I had difficulty seeing what they saw. The similarities were so few, and the differences so obvious to me. But as I’ve become an adult I am increasingly aware that I resemble my parents and extended family so closely. I see this resemblance most remarkably in how I think, and how I relate to people.

I try to think before I speak. I weigh my words very carefully before setting them into motion, whether by speaking them or through another medium. Words to me can be so poignant, so potent. I’ve inherited this attentiveness to language from my mother’s side of the family. My mother, and her mother, both have a love for linguistics. Moreover, they have always showered their loved ones with terms of endearment and words of affection and affirmation, as has the rest of my family. Because of their early and enduring expressions of love to me, I have never in my life had to question whether or not anyone loved me. However, I don’t take others at their word often–a character trait of both my mother and father, actually. Like my mom, I am compelled to check the facts rather than take something at face value. Like my dad, I am quick to correct others when I hear them misspeaking. Especially if I feel that the statement is not simply a misrepresentation of a fact, but a misrepresentation of a person, or a people. This propensity stems from my fierce desire to see injustice righted. Man of justice, Martin Luther King Jr., said, “Justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” Words hold incredible power–power that when wielded well can make way for love to stand tall. All my life, I’ve seen my family, whether mother, father, grandfather, aunt, etc., speak out and act decisively to thwart injustice, even when the injustice seemed insurmountable to many.

Injustice was not the only thing my mom spoke out about. I affectionately (and amusedly) remember how my mother always spoke her mind. She would never be cowed by anyone; if the Secretary General of the United Nations himself were in the room, she would command his respect. Her unflinching boldness has taught me to find my voice and know the worth of my opinion, though I am also consciously seeking to have a boldness safeguarded by gentleness and humility, so that I do not merely speak, but relate. Another characteristic in the way that I relate to others that I get from family is total sociability. My aunt is a social butterfly, and throughout growing up I spent so much time with her and was so like her in looks and in Energizer bunny extroversion that she and others called me her “mini-me” countless times. She has given me many nicknames since then, but that is one I will always cherish, because I want to love my family, my Savior, and the people I find myself connected with in life as well as she does. My aunt lavishes love on these with a freedom of expression that is as rare as a good chocolate-covered cherry is, apparently (not that I’m bitter or anything).

When I reflect on the love she has so gratuitously given me and untold others, I realize that I would not be where I am today without her. In truth, I would not have made it this far–all the way to Bible college in Chicago–without the love of my family. They have loved me with a loyalty that I, to this day, am unable to comprehend. My absent-mindedness would be exhibit A. I cannot tell you how many times I have left my keys in my car, or left my phone Lord-knows-where, but every time my family has responded with incredible patience. Often have they bailed me out; rarely have they chided me. Trite and cliche as it may sound, the greatest contribution my family has made to me is that of their unconditional support. Even when I have made choices that have inflicted pain, or have caused great mental and relational strain, they have chosen to forgive my self-absorption and immaturity. I look at all that this love, this interpersonal love, has withstood over time, and am simply convinced that even if I, or any of us, were to choose a life of prodigality and abandonment, the familial ties would be inseverable. They would span the continent, if need be.

 

Footstool for the Son–Commentary on Hebrews 1:13

“And to which of the angels has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?” Hebrews 1:13

“And to which of the angels has he ever said…”

None of them. The angels are completely inferior to the Son.

“Sit at my right hand…”

Christ sits at the Father’s right hand, and at my right hand. Acts 2:25, “for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken.”

“Until I make your enemies…”

The Father is subduing the enemies for the Son.

“A footstool for your feet”

It should be remembered that the earth itself is His footstool! “Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1). The imagery of a footstool is a picture of total rest from your enemies. “From” meaning both total rest without any enemies to apprehend or be apprehensive about, and total rest partly because of your enemies. The subdued enemies actually contribute to the comfort and relaxation of the resting One. They won’t be able to put up a fight. Jesus can kick his feet back–without a care in the world. Because all of his enemies pose no threat at all. The metaphor of a ravaging wolf, enemy of sheep and shepherd, tamed into a docile lap dog falls short–because even a lap dog can nip at you. No, a footstool is inanimate and entirely unthreatening–it’s only use is to add to the comfort of the one enjoying it. He did not say “a pillow for your head”–because the Son never sleeps. He always sits with head held erect to survey His kingdom–therefore all who oppose the Son will be made “a footstool” for His feet.

You Forgave

“I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.” Psalm 32:5 

English definition of iniquity: “gross injustice, wickedness” (Merriam Webster online)

Definition of Hebrew word for iniquity, “avon”: “iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity”

When You forgave me, You forgave the gross injustice of my sin, the wickedness of my sin, the guilt affronting and accosting me because of my sin, AND the punishment that should rightly fall upon me for my iniquity. Your forgiveness is entirely comprehensive.

You forgave.

So I am forgiven.

The Absolution of Resurrection

Resurrection

Dark, dank cave.

Stone cold grave clothes.

The all-seeing, omniscient God dumb and mute.

Time passes indifferently.

They finished him.

The one who went about doing good (Acts 10:38),

Healing the masses on the streets.

Did not heal his own disease.

Eventually the mourners will stop returning.

Spices once pungent and preserving will fade.

The corpse will decompose.

Even the memories will tarnish, until their rustiness prevents the remembering of His face.

He’ll be forgotten.

Why should He be remembered?

He was but one more revolutionary quelled. One more radical silenced.

Got what he deserved–only criminals are given such an unforgiving sentence.

The guards kept watch, but their circumspection was circumscribed to the exclusion of any awakening within. They watched, not for any signs of life from inside, only for grave thieves without (Matt 27:64-66).

No eye had seen, no ear had heard, no heart had imagined what would transpire inside (1 Cor 2:9).

What resurrection would be brought to light.

The Ruach reanimated the inanimate body of the Son of God (John 6:63, Romans 8:11).

Inrush of oxygen, expanding deflated lungs.

Synapses resignal, bringing movement to immobilized limbs and organs.

Heart restarts, recirculating stagnated blood.

Eyelids open.

The dead man, the crucified Christ, came alive again.

Can it be…?

The irreversible, reversed? The irrevocable, revoked?

Death unmade?

The disciples answered, “No.” Refused to trust it.

Explained away those who had seen Jesus alive with their own eyes (Mk 16:14).

Ever the gracious God, Jesus did not leave them in their grieving unbelief,

Ever the Comforter, even of those who refuse to be comforted (Jer 31:15-17),

Those who name themselves Marah, and call the Faithful One treacherous (Ruth 1:20).

He came to them (John 14:18).

What a comfort–what an inexpressible comfort–was His rebuke to them! (Ps 23:4)

Grief gave way to joy when Yeshua appeared in their midst, imparting His peace (Jn 16:20Lk 24:36, Jn 20:20).

Their friend and Rabbi, once dead, now in the very room, eating their very food! (Lk 24:41-43)

It felt too good to be true (Lk 24:41).

Real, flesh and blood, skin and bones–His reality banished every ghostly fear and haunting sorrow (Lk 24:39).

Thomas’ doubt was disarmed and disabled at the invitation of Christ to reach out and touch Him (Jn 20:27).

But not to cling to Him, for He had not yet ascended back into Heaven. Back into the glory He had with the Father before the world’s formation (Jn 20:17, Jn 17:5).

They had forty more days with Him before His body, already lifted from the tomb’s stone, lifted up off of the ground and into the clouds which hid Him from their sight (Acts 1:9).

This departure was not a cause for mourning.

For to know the Father is to be filled with wonder and joy inexpressible at the prospect of anyone getting to go be where He is (Jn 14:28)

Neither would this physical estrangement from Christ, though longer than the three nights and three days spent in the heart of the earth (Matt 12:40), be forever.

No, only a little while and they would see Him with their naked eye again (Jn 16:16).

His Cross-work finished, by ascending He picked up His perpetual priesthood on the basis of His life now made indestructible by resurrection (Heb 7:3Heb 7:16).

In Heaven He yet tarries, for the sake of the elect.

No guilt-ridden conscience is without an Intercessor and Mediator to plead their case before God as a man would plead for his friend (Job 16:19-21, 1 Tim 2:5).

No forlorn heart of a foreigner to earth is without the consolation of a coming Home (Jn 14:3).

This power–this stunning resurrecting power of the Spirit was not for Christ only, just as the justifying power of the Cross was not for the thief only.

The resurrection miracle is commemorated as complete, but much more is yet to come.

364 days out of the year we shrink from saying so, but each and every human being who has ever lived and died will one day rise again, as surely as Christ Himself did (1 Cor 15:22, Is 26:19).

Christ is the first; many will follow (1 Cor 15:20).

The dead and gone in every grave will hear the voice of the Son of God, and awake.

Regardless of how long they have been deceased or the condition of their corpse.

Resurrected to be judged. Found either culpable of eternal condemnation or blameless in Christ and worthy of unending life by His merit (John 5:25-29).

Easter morning means salvation (1 Corinthians 15:17).

Because the resurrected Christ outlived the curse of death upon all sinners.

No soul is unstained by sin. And no sin-stained soul can possess immortality in the presence of the dread Holiness of God (Ps 1:5).

Therefore every man dies, because every man has offended serially.

We hate God.

We are steeped in pride.

We are fully aware of the justice, compassion, and humanity we should have for each other, and yet we still live almost entirely for ourselves.

We invent new ways of doing evil, and excuse those who do them (Rom 1:28-32).

We all will die a natural death, and after the resurrection of all mankind at the judgment day, we will die again (Rev 20:14).

The second death is a place of eternal punishment (Matt 25:46).

Every human effort at escape from this appalling fate will fail. We cannot save ourselves.

One sin, and all of our good deeds are null and void. Man cannot attain moral perfection, and the slightest imperfection renders us incapable of attaining to Heaven (Ezek 33:12-13).

But Christ has died, and rose again.

There is a solitary hope. There is a sole Savior who can rescue us from the fury of God (Acts 4:12).

Jesus Christ, the sinless One, the One who died as our proxy, the only One who brought Himself back to life.

What astounding self-abasement, that Yeshua (Jesus) revealed His Name to perverse humanity knowing its syllables would be twisted into a curse word, but more–

What staggering selflessness that He entered into humanity to become a curse for us, that every curse might be broken for the one who trusts in His life, death, and resurrection (Galatians 3:13).

There is no sin so ghastly, so shameful that His sinlessness can’t atone for.

In fact, for the one who trusts in Him to forgive their lifetime of accumulated sin, His sinlessness becomes theirs (2 Cor 5:21).

Redemption is ours for the asking (Rom 10:13).

If He can raise Himself from the dead–from the dead–then He can raise us too.

And if He can raise us from the dead, then He can purge the evil from within us, and impute to us perfection that merits immortality.

The vileness of our souls clothed with the purity of His. The perishable clothed with the imperishable (Rom 13:14, 1 Cor 15:54).

This is our absolution.

Revelation 1:17-18, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. But He placed His right hand on me and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

Be Thou My Vision

  1. Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
    Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
    Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
    Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
  2. Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
    I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
    Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
    Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
  3. Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
    Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
    Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
    Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.
  4. Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
    Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
    Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
    High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
  5. High King of Heaven, my victory won,
    May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
    Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall,
    Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

–Be Thou My Vision, attributed to Dallan Forgaill

Becoming Ambassadors to King’s

Copy of London March 5, 2017-1-44

Pictured: Soularium Cards; Ross Tanner

Cutting-edged and cobblestoned.

Replete with rain-vivified grass and land marked with history.

Peopled with nearly every nationality.

London is a spectacular city, and yet spectacularly unreached with the Gospel. Especially their students. King’s College–one of the top 25 most influential universities in the world, is home to students who have come from the farthest reaches of the globe to study for three years, graduate, and to return with their prestigious degree to their nations. Many of their home countries have slim religious freedom, and even slimmer statistics of churches or Christian influence per capita.

These campuses provide a three year time-window into the 10/40 window–and the rest of the world. And during our spring break we had come to bring word of Christ and His Gospel to as many as we could within this window. Eleven of us, students from Moody Bible Institute in Illinois and Cedarville University in Ohio, met for the first time at Heathrow airport and spent the next seven days side by side. Most of us had never been to London, but we were simply willing to go–willing to be led onto the rivetingly red double deckers, onto these impressive campuses, and up to students of incredibly diverse ethnicities and spiritual beliefs. We were the legs to the vision Agape (CRU) staff already had for this city and these campuses of students. They have no lack of vision, and certainly no lack of heart, but just a stunning shortage of people. The harvest is {plentiful} but the laborers are {few}. So few.

The need we found was incredible–staggering upon reflection. It seemed King’s hosted and taught students to excel in every field except spirituality. It simply was not a topic of conversation. Over the course of the week, we spoke to student after student who said they did not know a single Christian on camp. We were equipped with excellently-designed evangelistic tools: Perspective cards, Soularium cards, Knowing God Personally guides and the Word of God to help them articulate their spiritual worldview and to help us explain and administer the Gospel to them. Conversations were both surprisingly simple and remarkably complex, and we saw students both repelled and attracted by the Gospel and by Christ in us. But day after day corroborated to us that the Spirit of God was within us, speaking and making His appeal to these brilliant men and women through us, sometimes in spite of ourselves–our stumbling words and our self-absorption.

Incalculable. The impact of that short week was incalculable. In all, we approached 359 students of 24 separate nationalities, had at least a hundred spiritual conversations, and presented the Gospel dozens of times. Though we did not see anyone come to Christ, the unseen effect of those interactions can only be estimated by Scripture. Romans defines the Gospel as a concentration of power unrivaled by any force in the world today: ”the power of God for salvation.” That power has encountered, and is encountering King’s. The effects will be seismic.

“Who is He, sir?”

“…He said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘’Who is He sir?’ the man asked, ‘tell me so that I may believe in Him.’

Jesus said, ‘You have now seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you.’

Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped Him.” John 9:35-38

How Can It Be by Lauren Daigle

“I am guilty
Ashamed of what I’ve done, what I’ve become
These hands are dirty
I dare not lift them up to the Holy One
You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be?!
I’ve been hiding
Afraid I’ve let you down, inside I doubt
That You still love me
But in Your eyes there’s only grace now
You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be?!
Though I fall, You can make me new
From this death I will rise with You
Oh the grace reaching out for me
How can it be?!”