This groaning creation, this Coming Glory

If I were not so consumed with my own comfort, and so occupied with own insecurities,

If I had a bit more mental staying power to adhere my mind’s eye to the invisible God above,

If I could beat my pride into submission so that it no longer colored all my interactions gray,

Maybe then people could see Jesus more clearly in me.

Because it’s not fair.

It’s not fair for me to enjoy the fat of the slaughtered calf and revel in His presence while other human beings around me try to fill their starving stomachs with pig slop and hollowing entertainment.

If I could articulate the extraordinary goodness of my God in plain speech as fluently as I do in written form,

Maybe then their ears would ring not with radio waves played too long and too loud, but with the chorus of the redeemed, the song of the Lamb. They would sing with everything in them, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations” (Revelation 15:3). That’s the only anthem that would drown out the background noise of their pain.

Maybe then their eyes, dimmed by neon lights and blurred by early-morning buzzes, would see the beauty of my God, enthroned above the circle of the earth.

My God is beautiful. Beyond compare. But who really sees that? How often do we really perceive His inimitability?

I have found Him in the secret, in the quiet place, and been seared with Love’s flame. I just haven’t figured out how to discover Him to others in the public, noisy places, and put my flame to theirs till their hearts kindle too.

Oh, Lord, let us realize that we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Talk some sense into us. Give us gold refined in the fire, so we can be rich. Enough with this cheap costume jewelry, chipping away during one lifetime’s wear. Give us white clothes to wear, so we can cover our nakedness. Enough with these coats of many colors, flashing our superior status, our carefully-constructed confident exteriors, our false facades of having someone’s favor. Give us salve to put on our eyeballs, so that we can see. We can’t see You for all these specks and planks, we need You to heal our sight, to clear our vision, to make us see.

Praise the Living God above, people do already see something of Jesus in me. My conversations with my loved, lost ones do smack somewhat of salty grace. I do speak sometimes of this gloriously great salvation.

Someday the work, and the pain, of an evangelist will be finished. Someday there will be no need for intercession or exhortation of the saints to the Christless to know the Gospel, to know grace, to know God “…because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:11). “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hosea 2:14).

Prayer for Revival in North Korea

 

nk-prison-camp-info

The above statistics are compiled from hundreds of testimonies of North Korean defectors before the United Nations and the Unites States’ Department of State. They describe a system of prison camps in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) in which people are treated so barbarically that they revert to an animalistic survival mentality. North Korea’s purpose in creating and maintaining these camps is different from the Third Reich’s motivation for their chillingly similar concentration camps. For the Nazis, the purpose was to annihilate a people group, the Jews. For the DPRK, these camps are a tactic of terror, to keep the populace under control and dissenters of the regime silent. There is an intricate system of citizen surveillance throughout the nation (reminiscent of the KGB), by which any political offenders are quickly ascertained, and disappear from their homes, to spend the rest of their lives in one of these camps, which is very likely to be cut short because of the conditions within.

The conditions and crimes inside these camps are traumatizing to merely hear described. Sheer suffering.

In these camps, pregnant women are seized and their babies are forcibly aborted. Prisoners are kept on starvation rations so severe, they will capture and eat any raw rats and snakes they may find in order to stave off hunger. Backbreaking daily labor quotas are enforced that disfigure the spine. Torture and chemical experimentation that are systematically inflicted. Anyone who attempts escape or suicide is publicly executed and made an example of. A culture of espionage is inculcated, so that children betray their own parents to the guards with no remorse in exchange for an extra serving of food.

The United Nations called the scale of the crimes against humanity in North Korea “unparalleled in the world today” on their report.

The sheer weight of the suffering of these people is sickening. The level of sadism that is characteristic of those who control these camps is a stark indicator of the depravity of the human soul. However, the difference between the victims and the perpetrators in these camps is not a difference of character, it is a difference of circumstance. Should the positions be reversed, and the prisoner actually the prison guard, they would be capable of the exact same atrocities. They would be indoctrinated to view the prisoners as sub-human traitors of the Dear Leader, culpable and detestable. They would be trained to control, torture, and kill.

The depravity of the human soul causes suffering beyond comprehension. Sin is a Satanic device with which to destroy the human race, one person at a time.

But Christ endured the torture of sadistic men for us, so that people could be redeemed from the evil in their souls and the evil of others. Christ had iron stakes driven through his hands and feet. His back was lacerated with whips. He suffered under a regime that made public spectacles out of political offenders. God is not to blame for the suffering of the North Korean people, or of any people. God hates sin, and God hates the suffering it inflicts. God put Himself on a cross of public execution, He became one of the suffering sinners.

I know that Jesus has endless reservoirs of compassion that can overwhelm every merciless person. Jesus possesses and gives hope that can pierce through the dark of the most hopeless place. The love of God infinitely exceeds the lovelessness of violent, wicked men. And the glory of the Cross is that He liberates us from our sin and redeems our suffering.

My heart’s desire for the North Korean people is for their holistic healing. And I have come, after years of wrestling with the relationship between social justice and the Gospel, to possess the conviction so deeply embedded in my heart that it can no longer be dislodged, to believe that holistic healing is possible only after that person is indwelt by Christ through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. I have read the story of the missionary effort led by Henry Nott for the island of Tahiti in 1797 and the revivals that changed the moral landscape of the country. Pre-revival Tahiti was a island nation off the coast of Australia, in which tribal warfare periodically inflicted such casualties that the population would decrease by half, in which there was such flaming promiscuity that sexually transmitted diseases ran rampant, and in which human life was so disdained that more newborn babies were murdered by their own parents or by infant-killers by trade than survived birth, and human sacrifice was considered the method by which sin against the island gods was atoned for. There were multiple times when the missionaries were attacked, and most fled the island, but some like Nott stayed year after volatile year. He knew with certainty that his message was not one of civilization, but of salvation, and so he preached John 3:16, translated in the Tahitian tongue, probably thousands of times. He prayed in faith for the people to be awakened to the Gospel–the message of God’s wondrous love for their souls exhibited in Christ on His Cross; the trustworthy report that no one is beyond His power to redeem. When revival finally came, after twenty grueling years, first the barbaric King Pomare was reborn and baptized by the missionaries, then dozens, then hundreds, and then thousands of Tahitians received salvation in the name of Jesus Christ, some of whom became missionaries to the surrounding Polynesian islands. Charles Darwin, visited Tahiti in 1835 during one of his many voyages as a naturalist, and recorded in his travel journals remarking about the admirable character of the native Tahitians and the sharp contrast between them and the people of the neighboring island New Zealand, where no revival had taken place and the people were still besieged by lechery, cannibalism, and every prevailing evil that the Gospel had so recently delivered Tahiti from.

The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, even for nations as dark with national sin and suffering as was Tahiti, and as is North Korea. Therefore, I pray for revival in North Korea. My prayers are based on three things: obedience–I pray though my self-interested heart does not always desire to; faith–I pray though I have never seen the faces of those I am praying for; and belief: belief that has been forged through the fire of doubt, belief that God is able and willing to revive a nation to the Gospel and save people from their great sin and their deep suffering. I do not pray often enough, but I have committed to pray at least weekly, every Monday as part of my personal time of prayer, and weekly with a student prayer group on campus called Unforgotten.

I pray for those in the prison camps, for whom every day is a new horror. I have heard second-hand of a Christian Korean-Australian who detained in one of the camps for a year, and then was released. He said it gave him greater empathy into the irrepressible anger demonstrated by many North Korean defectors. Corrie Ten Boom, who lived and suffered and saw her sister die in a Nazi concentration camp, said of the the camps:

“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still,”

and, “I’ve experienced His presence in the deepest, darkest Hell that men can create. I have tested the promises of the Bible, and believe me, you can count on them. I know that Jesus Christ can live in you, in me, through His Holy Spirit. You can talk with Him; you can talk with Him out loud or in your heart when you are alone, as I was alone in solitary confinement. The joy is that He hears each word.”

I often am compelled to pray Isaiah 61 for those in the camps, who are so isolated from the free world so as to be invisible. I pray, sometimes with tear-blurred eyes and a choked voice,

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
    foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
    you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations.”

I pray for the underground church in North Korea. Pyongang, the capital city of North Korea, was once called “The Jerusalem of the East.” Before Communism was established in 1948, enforcing homogenous atheism among the people and making it a capital crime to be a Christian, North Korea was actually a thriving center of Christian missions in Asia. Many missionary-founded schools, universities, and hospitals were based out in Pyongyang, and the postcards printed to represent typical daily life in Pyongyang had pictures of missionaries handing out tracts on the sidewalks.

Many think that the church has disappeared, eradicated by the ruthless regime. But I have heard reports of a church that, though hidden, is thriving and is experiencing growth revival just as the Chinese underground church did in the 70’s and 80’s when the Communist party had driven the missionaries out of that country, giving no one access to information about the state of the underground church during their fierce persecution of religious adherents.

Therefore, I pray for the church to be strong, and brave, and loyal disciples of Christ making disciples. I pray for their protection, but also for their faith, which is of greater worth than gold, to be refined through the fire and proved genuine, bringing glory to Christ (1 Peter 1:7). I pray for Bibles to be smuggled over the border and into the right hands, though I know that if apprehended, possessing a copy of Scripture means execution. I do not pray this lightly.  I pray for the missions sending-church to be ready for the days that the regime will fall, because there no dictatorship is invincible, and the doors open to those bearing the Gospel once again.

I pray for those whose faces I may never see, and whose names I may never know. But I pray knowing that none of my prayers are wasted. Not one goes unheard or unanswered. I pray that Christ will be exalted and God will be glorified, because I know that it’s just a matter of time until He returns to reestablish His reign of perfect righteousness and justice on this earth.

“Rejoice. Rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee oh North Korea.”

 

This is Love/Incorruptible

(Meditations after watching the Passion of the Christ crucifixion scene.)

No severity of beating could alter Your inner beauty.

You are the same yesterday, today and forever.

Flogging, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection did not change Your character. It revealed it.

Tested to the utmost degree and proven true.

Your love could not be killed.

Surrounded by fallen, hellish creatures. Our sin was as grotesque and appalling as Your bloodied figure. We, the ones for whom crosses were created, put You on our instrument of suffering. We gloried in Your misery. Mocking with hollow, sadistic laughter, “Look, the King of the Jews! Get yourself down, holy man. If you can.”

I see You. Each breath an intake of pain. Ignominously suffering.

Why didn’t You scream obscenities? Hurl curses down on those who’d stretched You out and hammered Your body into position? Why didn’t You swear of the coming vengeance? Why didn’t You, like Sampson, use Your death to put to death those freaks? Why didn’t You hate back?

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Can it be true? How could You? How could You have compassion on serial killers? Pray for their absolution. Put Your own suffering to the side in a plea for mercy for those who could suffer righteous Divine judgement for their own crimes against humanity.

The world had never seen love like this. This is how we know what love is. Measure love’s unconditionality by this man on His cross. Test love’s immutability by this man on His Cross. Conclude love’s potency by this man on His Cross. His love cannot be overestimated.

Love has been so wimpily, weakly purported through the generations. Love is not a cherub of babyish archery. Love is a warrior. Love is fiercer than death, more jealous than the grave. Love is not a fuzzy, fickle feeling. Perish the thought. Love is invincible emotion; indomitable will. Christ is Love.

Our sins stretched to the stratosphere. But Your grace is greater than galaxies.

Your purity is enough to swallow corruption whole and assimilate it purely, seamlessly. You can stoop to the lowest and still stand ramrod straight. You can lie with dogs and make them flealess. You can hug a leper and he’ll walk away healed, clean and whole. You can wallow in our culpable filth, and not walk away stained, but leave cleanliness in Your wake, next to Your Godliness.

It’s Your perfect efficacy, Your all-sufficiency, Your eminent supremacy.

Your essence is whiter, purer than snow. Because snow crystallizes around a single particle of dust, but Your character crystallizes from singular purity.

Oh, how I love Thee, the more I recount Thy ways.

One day I will touch the hem of Your garment, and my impure flow will stop. I will no longer be monthly reminded of the Fall, and my shame. You are the Great Physician. You heal every sickness. You forgive all my sin, and heal all my diseases. I love You and trust in You. Until that day comes, I will rejoice in my coming liberation.

I can’t get over You.

“Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake; Mirroring Jesus Christ

“But we know that when He appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2, NIV).

“We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit. ” (2 Corinthians 3:18, HCSB).

Jesus speaking:

“Aren’t you somethin’ to admire? (Song of Solomon 4:7)

‘Cause your shine is somethin’ like a mirror
And I can’t help but notice
You reflect in this heart of Mine
If you ever feel alone and
The glare makes Me hard to find
Just know that I’m always parallel on the other side.”

‘Cause with your hand in My hand and a pocket full of hope
I can tell you there’s no place we couldn’t go (Romans 5:5)
Just put your hand on the glass
I’ll be tryin’ to pull you through
You just gotta be strong (2 Timothy 2:1)

‘Cause I’m not gonna lose you now (John 18:9)
You’re standing right by Me so identically
The vacancy that sat in your heart
Is a space that now I hold (Ephesians 1:22-23)”

Me to Jesus:
“Show me how to fight for now! (1 Timothy 6:12)
And I’ll tell you, Jesus, it was easy
Comin’ back here to You once I figured it out
You were right here all along

It’s like You’re my mirror
My mirror staring back at me
I couldn’t get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it’s clear as this promise
That You’re making two reflections into one (John 17:20-21)
‘Cause it’s like You’re my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me

Jesus speaking:

“Aren’t you somethin’, an original (Psalm 139:14)
‘Cause it doesn’t seem merely assembled
And I can’t help but stare, ’cause
I see truth somewhere in your eyes (John 14:17).”

Me to Jesus:
“I can’t ever change without you (John 15:5)
I reflect You, I love that about You
And if I could, I would look at us all the time….”

Jesus speaking:
“Yesterday is history
Tomorrow is a mystery
I can see you lookin’ back at me
Keep your eyes on me (Heb. 12:2)
Beloved, keep your eyes on me.”

Don’t Neglect Justice

“MAP is a Top Rated Charity with 4 out of 4 stars from Charity Navigator and is listed as #5 on Charity Navigator’s 10 Top-Notch Charities.”
“It costs just 24 cents to prevent a child from getting worms and to kill worms they already have!”
Jesus said to not neglect justice. Is it justice that children suffer and die for lack of immunizations that cost pennies on the dollar while we spend small fortunes on making ourselves look good?

20303880244_5a45ed7e8e_o

https://www.map.org/deworming

I Want to Be Wed

My heart, it throbs with love and with pain.

In love with my Lover, but He is away.

Oh, where can I meet Him?

When can I see Him?

Why has He hid His face?

 

Jesus! Rend now the Heavens

And come to me–Quickly!

Come now and take me away.

I want to be with You.

I want, Lord, to see You.

I want You to kiss my face.

To have You and to hold You,

Adore and extol You,

Your profile’s each feature to trace.

 

Tired and sickened by life at such distance,

Wearied, how much of this mundane existence?

You are my awakening. You are my revival.

Oh Jesus, dost Thou bid me wait?

Insufferable arrangement,

I cannot explain it,

Except, as I think of Thy wait.

 

Fearsome hours in the empty garden,

Sleepless, shameful night of trial and pain,

Six agonizing hours of asphyxiation,

With patience, unwavering, You waited for me.

Your love, unfailing, endured all for me.

 

And still You abstain from the cup of our cov’nant

Until no one who would be repentant is absent

Until Your Bride in perfected completeness is present.

Then sacredly, joyously, together we’ll drink

Drink the mercy skimmed from dregs of judgment

 

Never again to suffer such an estrangement

To have the Beloved after lifetime’s engagement

Finally, eternally,

Wed.

 

 

 

 

 

Seeking Satisfaction, Finding Christ

Last Friday, a small group of Moody Bible Institute students went out to the State and Division bar district in Chicago as part of the Free Prayer ministry on Friday nights, in which we hold cardboard signs saying “Free Prayer” up to passerby from 11 pm-2 am or later and pray for people, love on them, and share the Gospel with them.

Three of us, Katelyn Shedd, Joey Lackey and I, were standing there on the street corner around 1 am, when an Asian man came up to us and asked us what we were doing. As soon as we explained, the very next thing he said was, “Can you see the frustration on my face?” Slightly apprehensive of his answer, we asked what he was frustrated about, and he said “I feel so empty inside.” You could tell that he was at rock bottom, because he had nothing left to hide and was so brutally honest about his life and how miserable he was. He told us that his family and girlfriend are all still in China, and he feels homesick and utterly alone. As soon as he said that, I said to him “Man, I just want to tell you that you are so loved. People are fickle, and they fail us, but God loves us with perfect loyalty. He said that He would never leave you nor forsake you.” He seemed to listen to that for a moment, and told us that his name was Gen Li. Then he proceeded into a total rant about the meaninglessness of life (which so strongly reminded me of Ecclesiastes!). He was adamant that nothing in the world really fulfills. He said “I make $270,000 a year, but I’m not happy. I bought this shirt for $800, but no one even notices.” He said he could go get drunk (we were on a bar street), or even get sexual action, but it wouldn’t really give him sustainable happiness. He pointed around to everyone bustling from one bar to the next, and started decrying how shallow and futile their lives were. I could tell Katelyn couldn’t keep silent anymore, it was at this point that she spoke up and said, “Yeah! Nothing really satisfies, right?”

I began talking about how satisfaction can only be found in Christ. I don’t remember exactly what we said, but we affirmed everything he had said about the futility of striving for fulfillment in anything outside of Christ. We spoke to the effect that in Him is to be found FULLNESS of joy, love, peace, and hope. That He is the very meaning of life itself.

He responded, “I hear what you’re saying, but it’s still an abstraction to me. Can you tell me like your story?” (YES!, we all shouted internally!) Joey then took him aside and told him his testimony. This was not the first time he’d encountered a Christian. He told us that once he’d been driving to St. Louis, and his tire blew out. A man pulled over to the side of the road, helped him change his tire, and gave him a Bible, which he still had to this day. He said that the guy had created his own evangelistic website, and had told him that the whole mission of his life was to make Jesus known to the world.

A couple other women came up, and Kaitlyn and I were occupied with talking with and praying for them for a while (which were clearly God-ordained conversations as well in their own right!) Afterwards, when we regrouped with Gen and Joey, he had given Gen a full-on Gospel presentation. Later, I drilled Joey about what he said to him, and he just clearly explained the tenets of the Good News, including that every person has sinned innumerable times against a holy God, and that there is no amount of good deeds we could do to save ourselves. He said he explained it to him with the illustration of a list in which all of your good deeds over the course of your life are written down in green, and all of your sins, your wrongdoings, in red. He said that if there was even one red item on the list, we are total sinners, deserving of the eternal punishment of God. Joey told me that the entire time he was explaining the Gospel, Gen was engaged, and would ask insightful questions and comment in his own words on what Joey was explaining to him–showing that he fully understood the Gospel Joey was proclaiming. When Joey explained to him about Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice–that God sent his own Son to be excruciatingly executed for sin in our place, so that we would be redeemed from our sins and given immortal life with Him in Heaven after our death–Gen exclaimed, “That’s insane!”

Mmm, that reaction does my heart so much good. He got it! He saw the insanity of God, the scandal of grace! Oh church, may we see the Gospel with the eyes of a lost soul discovering it for the first time.

He told Joey that his mother, a Buddhist, used to teach him that everyone’s souls were reincarnated after they die. Joey pointed out that would just be an endless cycle, and Gen replied, “I know, it doesn’t make sense!” At a couple other points in the conversation, he asked, with customary frankness, “So what do I get out of it?” and then “So what do I do?” [Joey and my roommate later remarked to me that it was as if the Holy Spirit were putting words in his mouth to draw out the full Gospel.] To the first question, Joey said, “To be fulfilled forever in the presence of God.” To the second question, Joey answered, “Nothing. Christ did it all. All you do is trust in what Christ did for you.”

After having shared the Gospel from beginning to end with him, Joey asked him, “So man, do you want to make that decision? Do you want to pray to make Christ your Lord, your Savior?” Gen looked up at the sky as if thinking for a moment, looked back down and said with a tone of what I can only describe as decisive and yet broken surrender, “Yes.”

At that point, Kaitlyn and I lost it. We both just started sobbing for joy. Right then, right there, on a street corner in the middle of passing crowds trying to get tipsy, we circled up and put our arms around each other, and Joey led him in praying through the Gospel, the sinner’s prayer, the prayer of salvation. He said, just tell Jesus whatever is in your heart, and you can pray after me too. It had been sprinkling/raining the entire time we had talked with him, but out of nowhere while we were praying someone stuck the handle of an umbrella in between our heads so that it rested on our shoulders and covered our heads, then when we were just finishing praying, the same person (I never saw who they were) came and lifted the umbrella off and took it back.

Afterward, there was a gentle smile playing around Gen’s lips. Joey, Kaitlyn, and I on the other hand, couldn’t wipe the grins off our faces! We all gave him and each other so many massive hugs I lost count. Joey told him, “We’re family now!! You’re our brother!!” We all got his phone number, and Joey immediately invited him to his church that Sunday, which he said he would go to. He said that he had gone to a Baha’i church in Chicago a few times before, and that they believed that there was one true God, but that every religion’s worship was equally received by that God. I clearly explained to him that this was in total contradiction with all of Christ’s teaching, and that it nullified the Cross. Upon hearing this, he said, “Oh, well I guess I don’t need that church anymore.” After the countless hugs and promises to get together again for further discipleship, he finally said goodbye and headed off down the sidewalk.

The rest of the night we could hardly contain our joy, and the rest of the weekend I was positively glowing inside.

I had come SO close to not coming that night though. The previous weeks of me doing Free Prayer had been extremely intense and very spiritually taxing. At one point I was surrounded by hecklers. At another, after sharing the Gospel with someone he told me that he was “no longer buying what I was selling.” But what impacted me most was encountering a man who flat-out told me that he knew his heart was so dark and that he was running from God in his pride, and yet after hearing and showing receptive agreement with my fervent intercession for his soul and my heartfelt pleading with him to stop running and even my warning him of the inevitability of the coming judgement I saw him swaggering shirtless out of a gay bar.

My discouragement had resulted from my prizing results over obedience, however. When I talked to the man who made all the admissions about his own prodigality and inward depravity, I felt very clear peace from the Holy Spirit that I had prayed what He wanted me to pray and said all He wanted me to say. I made the exceedingly foolish mistake of going to bed that night frustrated at God for that man’s responses. The next day I repented, because it was the sheer grace of God that He was extending an offer of mercy to him that night, though He knew He would be rejected and spurned once again. I had forgotten the Scriptures. Isaiah 65:2-3 says, “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—a people who continually provoke me to my very face…” 

Don’t misunderstand me. Evangelism, and discipleship, are hard ministries. They are not for the faint of heart. However, those who commit to them will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to keep their head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and discharge all the duties of their ministry (2 Timothy 4:5). And if we do not give up, we WILL see the fruit of all of our painstaking labor. Souls WILL be brought to Christ through our ministries (Galatians 6:9). NEVER GIVE UP PREACHING THE GOSPEL!

I had been doing street evangelism at least weekly, seldomly missing a week, for 2 years 4 months, and had never seen someone pray to receive Christ. And then, when I was least expecting it, grace collided with a frustrated and dissatisfied man, and He. answered. my. prayers. I have been interceding heavily for the Holy Spirit to do the miracle of regeneration in the souls of the lost for years now. I and many others have interceded in weekly prayer gatherings for the salvation of the Christless. He responded to every tear over the lost that was shed, every cry of our souls on our knees in secret prayer.  

He’s answered our prayers.

I still can’t believe that I got to see it happen. It’s a moment I will always remember, and never stop blessing the Lord for all my life. I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God to save.

How could I? Do you understand what I witnessed? That night a sinner became a saint. A beggar became royalty. An infidel became a son of God. A foreigner to the covenants became a partaker of the promise. A rich, bankrupt man was given an true and incalculable wealth by becoming a co-heir with Christ. He was given salvation, justification, regeneration, redemption, and atonement. He will never again know the utter misery of being separated from Christ. He will never taste the second death. All the joys of the world left him achingly empty, but now he will be saturated, past maximum capacity, with the joy of the Triune God forever and ever unending.

Once again, this has only affirmed to me that there’s no God I would rather serve, worship, pursue, and give my whole heart to.

I love my life.

I love my God.


“Filled with wonder, awestruck wonder

At the mention of Your Name

Jesus, Your Name is power, breath and living water

Such a marvelous mystery

Holy, Holy, Holy

Is the Lord God Almighty

Who was, and is, and is to come

With all Creation I sing praise to the King of Kings

You are my everything. And I will adore You.”

–Revelation Song by Kari Jobe

 

 

“Good, Good Father” vs “Soli Deo Gloria”?

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,'” Matt. 6:9.

I know many Christians who have a sound and truly earnest desire to see the glory of God. The banner of their lives and their desire for the world is “Soli Deo Gloria.” However, they deem trivial or overly emotional, and on some occasions mock songs such as “Good, Good Father.” Jesus does not see a contradiction between cozying up to God as a child to their Father, and yet interceding and striving for the glorification of God Almighty. In fact, He instructs us to pray out of a direct connection between the two.

We will genuinely be jealous for God to be glorified to the extent that we trust Him as our Father.

I have seen clearly the outworking of this principle in my own life. It felt nearly impossible to desire and strive for God to be glorified when my heart was oppressed with doubts about His character. When there is an unvoiced and yet inescapable question in the back of your mind, “Is God really good?” it is hard to worship Him without intellectual dishonesty. However, when I had, through the grinding discipline of daily prayer, seen the overwhelming goodness of His answers and felt the inimitable goodness of His presence, I could hardly contain the exuberant desire within me for others to know the greatness of God and for Him to receive the adoration He was due!

John Piper rightly said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Christian, do you want the glory of God more than anything? Or do you want to want the glory of God more than anything? Then seek satisfaction in Him as your Father. As your trustworthy provider. As your fierce protector. As your best friend and closest confidante. Do not ignore the areas of discontentment or distrust toward the Lord in your pursuit of His glory. Be vulnerable with Him about it all, and beg Him for greater intimacy and greater trust. Then run for His name to be hallowed throughout the nations as the King of Heaven who fathers all who were adopted into His family through His Son.

The Last Enemy to Be Destroyed

My mouth gapes. Opens and closes as if the mute were trying to speak.

My mind is blank. Attempts once again to connect a thought, but all is bleak.

The weight of confusion compresses my forehead, rendering thought and speech impossible.

I sit like a statue, stiff and immovable from the shockwave that has just gone through me.

Speak to me, Jesus, for I can’t say I word. Help me. I cannot unsee the images that have assaulted my eyes and have so unmade my world.

I just saw images of human corpses.

No, that’s not RIGHT! They weren’t human. We’re human. Those corpses aren’t us, they’re monsters. Monstrosities. Nightmares. Deserted, deformed shells of those who once lived.

Where did their soul go?

Why blood? Why do we have to bleed?

Why are we so easy to kill?

Every single person dies?

I wrack my brain for answers but it feels like a vast emptiness has opened up inside my mind. This is the first time I’ve seen death. This real. This raw. Not a skull on a graphic t-shirt, a real photograph of a deadened human body. The emptiness is because I’ve formed no worldview with which to respond to this level of horror. I don’t yet have any thoughts to think or words to live by concerning this.

I’m so enormously relieved that You are not wordless concerning death. You have spoken a true word. A better word. A final word.

What does the Bible say, what does the Bible say?

“‘All men are like grass, and alll their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6).

People are mowed down by death like so much grass. But Your word, oh God, stands forever. Christ is the Word, the fulfillment and embodiment of all of Your words. He died like men. He lost His life. But now He stands forever. Alive forevermore.

“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” (Revelation 1:18).

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Death is not irreversible. Jesus was the firstborn of the slain.

My God died.

He was himself murdered, so that where sharp things broke His skin and His precious lifeblood welled up through the exposed areas, He might heal and restore the similarly torn skin and shed blood of people who have been killed. His spirit left his body when He gave it up to God in death so that my spirit might one day reenter the body they left at the moment of death.

I couldn’t ever love or worship a God that hadn’t experienced death. There’s no connecting to a deity that doesn’t connect to the person-by-person death of the human race.

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

I’M SO GLAD DEATH IS YOUR ENEMY, JESUS!! It’s my fiercest enemy. I hate death. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. You hate death just as much as I do and more.

At the tomb of his friend Lazarus, “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said” (John 11:38).

So massively grateful that I read this in Timothy Keller’s book Encounters with Jesus. “I get frustrated with virtually every English translation of verse 38. Here we read it as ‘Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.’ But this verse contains a Greek word that means ‘to bellow with anger,’ and somehow no translator feels that he or she has the freedom to say what every commentator and Greek expert says the text is saying. Jesus is absolutely furious. He’s bellowing with rage–he is roaring…Dylan Thomas was right: ‘Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ Jesus is raging against death. He doesn’t say, ‘Look, just get used to it. Everybody dies. That’s the way of the world. Resign yourself.’ No, he doesn’t do that. Jesus is looking squarely at our greatest nightmare–the loss of life, the loss of loved ones and of love–and he’s incensed. He’s mad at evil and suffering….’” (pg 53).

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Again, I am utterly relieved that there is nothing on earth that can compare to Heaven. If there was, I would be dispossessed of the idea that it could make amends for the death of all the billions that have inhabited earth. I cannot fathom what could possibly make up for this. But I walk by faith not by sight. I know, firmly, that Jesus Christ was dead and now He is alive again. He is the resurrection and the life. 

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

An article that was helpful to me is: “Who Is in Control of Death” by Wayne Jackson.

My playlist tonight is as follows, and as I listened I went from just grasping for a lifeline, to worshiping out of joy to the one who paid for my resurrection:

“Economy,” “Murdered Son,” and “Death in His Grave” by John Mark McMillan

“Dead Come to Life” by Jonathan Thulin

“Dead Come Alive” by New Albany Worship, animation by Full of Eyes YouTube channel

Without You

I’d be a missing link missing the mark

Like I lost my chance to change

A freak of nature unfit to sustain here

Without You I’d be a hamster on a wheel

Frenzied and trapped

Both amusing and disturbing to spectators

A soul that’s lost its bearings

My life spanning generous years but slim distance

Without You I’d be spinning my wheels

Polishing the pavement underneath me

Going nowhere fast

Thank God!

Thank You.

For singly sparking my ignition into action

Now slowly but surely gaining momentum

Created in Christ Jesus to do good works

Pointed toward my predestined destination

I have to trust the One who sees the end from the beginning

And submit to the inscrutable, unbearable process

He finishes what He starts

And sanctifies what He saves.

Earth appears motionless–unmoving and immovable

But truth is lightyears away from that

This perspective is so peripheral

Though Earth spins on its heel day after day

It is being patiently, gravitationally pulled

By the power of the Sun, the great Unmoved Mover

You haven’t given up on me

I’m not too much for You