Sunday, October 29, 2017

Coffee Revelation

            I adore coffee.  It’s not just about the caffeine, although I have discovered that my body now needs it to get through the day.  (Whoops.)  It’s about the flavor, the heat, the experience of it.  I love the feel of a good coffee mug in my hand.  I love the aroma that coffee gives off.  I love the act of getting the water-to-grounds ratio just right.  I love that  first sip of the morning.  The experience of coffee, for me, is that of loveliness.
            I first found my way to coffee shortly after I got married.  I was just starting to get into lattes and stuff when I got pregnant and had to lay off for a while, but then after my first child was born, I began really enjoying coffee 3-4 times a week.  The thing is, I wasn’t into coffee all by itself.  I loved lattes.  I loved those big frothy, sugary coffee drinks you can get on every street corner.  At home, I would make a cup of coffee and then fill ‘er up with flavored creamer.  I was willing to allow the calories of my day be eaten up by big sugary coffee wonder because I enjoyed it. 
            About a year and a half ago, I was establishing care with a regular doctor for the first time in my adult life.  I went from under my parents’ medical care to working as a missionary to being married and then almost IMMEDIATELY pregnant for what seemed like 6 years straight.  Somewhere in there I quit having a regular doctor, I would just go to my OBGYN when I needed to (which is to say ALL THE TIME) and then just hit the clinic when I needed meds or something.  But one day, while I was in the clinic having my arm looked at because I had fallen and was afraid it was sprained, the doctor on duty strongly recommended I start establishing care with someone, and she said she had some openings.  Fine.  I’ll go be an adult.  Whatever. 
            In the course of establishing care, she did a routine blood panel, and not surprisingly, I was starting to have blood sugar issues.  It is the curse in my family.  Mom, Dad, brother, grandmother – all have, or had, diabetes.  I had been a gestational diabetic.  It was sort of inevitable.  I was not yet full-blown, so the doctor put me on meds and gave me some nutritional guidance, some of which was, of course, to cut down on sugar.  The two main sources of sugar in my life were coffee and soda pop.  I am still fighting the saga of the soda, and I am sure that will be a spiritual illustration in itself at some point, but today we are talking about coffee.
            I did not want to give up my daily coffee routine, so I decided to bite the bullet and attempt to drink it either black or with just half and half.  I began making it and just adding some half and half to it, but left out the sugar.
            And something amazing happened.
            I discovered the life of a coffee drinker that I thought I had been living was a façade.  I had not been enjoying coffee at all, I had been enjoying coffee-flavored corn syrup. As I developed a taste for coffee with no sugar, I began experiencing coffee in a new way.  I began to care about where it came from.  I began to notice the difference in flavors and roasts.  I began to appreciate the difference between stuff you buy at Wal-Mart that’s been on the shelves for weeks and coffee that has been freshly roasted and ground.  I began to savor my daily coffee, to revel in it.  It wasn’t just a sugary mess anymore.  It was something real and rich.  It was coffee as it was actually meant to be experienced. 
            Not only that, but I couldn’t take the fake stuff anymore.  About nine months later, it was Christmastime, and someone had given me a coffee shop gift card.  I thought hey – I’ll treat myself, I haven’t had a big ol’ sugary coffee drink in months.  But I found I couldn’t even get through it.  The sugar was overpowering.  I would up throwing about half of it away because it was not an enjoyable experience anymore.  I wanted the real thing.  The replacement wasn’t good enough.
            How much of our walk with God is a big ol’ sugary mess?  How much of our spiritual life is a few tablespoons of the real thing with a bunch of fake good-tasting stuff heaped on top?  The Christian life can be all sunshine and roses, all sweetness and sugar – but if that’s what it is, then it’s not real.  It’s a façade.  If you are living a Christian life of a weekly feel-good message, a five minute devo of pretty words, and a few pats on the back, then you’re trying to sustain your life off of a 20 ounce mocha latte.  It might shoot you up for a while, but then you will come crashing down, and you’ll be hungry for more sugar instead of what sustains you.  You’re not experiencing the real thing.  You are scratching the surface of the life God means for you to have.  God has designed your life for richness, for velvety smoothness, for real flavor and variety.  Freshness matters.  Bitterness matters.  He strongly desires to give you the real richness of life.  But you can choose to live in the sugar and the lattes, and you will be fat, dumb, and happy – but you won’t experience the joy God wants you to have.  You won’t experience the life He has planned for you.  There is so much more out there. 
            C.S. Lewis wrote “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” We truly are.  God presents us with a holiday at sea, and we stay content with our mud pies.  God offers us real flavor, and we settle for corn syrup.  God desires us to be fully alive, but we are content to slumber away.
            Awake and arise to the full life God has for you.  Open your eyes and the rest of your sense to fully experience the mystery God has mapped out for your life.  You won’t be able to go back to the fake stuff – you will crave what is real because the call of Eden is in you, and everything of the world as it exists now is but a shadow of what awaits us.  Keep reaching up, for you were meant for so much more than corn syrup.  You were meant for greatness.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Prisoner

Lucifer stood in the small cell with his back to the door.  His eyes closed, he breathed in deeply.  He wanted to savor every moment of what was about to happen.  He had waited, as they saw it in the Above world, for centuries.  Time didn’t work quite the same way here, but still, he had waited.  In his arrogance, he had always believed he would have his revenge in the end - and here it was.  His moment.  Elohim had finally taken the misstep he’d been waiting for.  El may have thought He’d won - but Lucifer knew this was HIS moment, and he was not going to rush it.  His time had finally come.

    “Excellency?” he heard behind him. “The prisoner has arrived.”

    Lucifer turned and watched as two of his underlings showed a shackled man into the cell.  His hair was matted with blood.  His hands, bound by chains harsher than any ever constructed on earth, were black with the blood that had streamed from the gaping holes in his hands only moments before on Golgotha.  His ankles were held in similar irons, and his feet were covered in a foul mixture of blood and dirt.  He stood, unmoving, in the middle of the cell, wearily staring at the floor.

    Lucifer nodded curtly to his minions and sharply ordered “Leave us.”  The demons, disappointed they would not get to watch the confrontation they’d all been waiting for, sulkily slinked out of the cell, slamming the door behind them.  The hard sound reverberated throughout chasms of their underworld as all of Lucifer’s army held their breath for what would happen next.

    Lucifer regarded his prisoner with unmasked contempt and hatred.  For an eternal moment, the pair stood opposite each other in the small cell, one taking in the glory of the moment, and the other standing still as stone, completely silent and seemingly defeated.  Slowly Lucifer began circling the prisoner, surveying with pleasure the bruises and gouges throughout his body.  The prisoner continued to stand still and allow himself to be on display to his greatest enemy with no response.

    Finally Lucifer spoke.

    “So,” he sneered, “Here we are.  It’s come to this.”  He continued circling around his captive, his ultimate prisoner of war.  “I have to say, they did a fine job with your torture.  It’s even more than I had hoped for.”  As he walked, the keys to his loathsome kingdom clanged from their permanent place tied to his waist.  The prisoner, unperceived by Lucifer, moved his eyes ever so slightly at the sound, eyeing the keys with interest.  Then, just as imperceptibly, he slid his eyes back to the floor as Lucifer came back around to stand in front of him.

    Lucifer took no notice.

    “You could have avoided all this, you know,” he said in a mocking tone.  “I gave you that opportunity.  You could have even gone on to tell them all about love and peace.  All kinds of things that they would have liked hearing and that would have had no impact on me whatsoever - and you could have died warm in your bed as an old man, a celebrated teacher and well-loved Rabbi.  I gave you an out.  Sure, it would have meant giving up on them, but they’re not worth it anyway, a lost cause.  Looking pretty good now, eh?”  The prisoner continued to stare at the ground without comment.

    A foul stench began to rise in the cell.  This wasn’t like the smells of the Above world.  This smell went deeper, penetrating the soul.  Lucifer inhaled deeply. “Ah, smell that? Those pitiful creatures have no idea what scent really is.  They have no idea what senses really are.  They think what they experience is slight, smell, and touch.  Pales in comparison to the real thing, doesn’t it?”  The prisoner began to cough and choke on the stench, but still made no comment.  “Know what that is?” Lucifer asked with a wicked grin.  “That’s the stench of every sin committed in the history of man, past, present, and future.  It’s the stench you get to live with now for all eternity since you’ve gone and sacrificed yourself for these creatures that don’t care anyway.  Hope you’re proud of yourself.  I have you, you’ll live here with this, and they don’t care.  Well done, really, well done.”  Lucifer began to slowly clap in mocking applause.  “I don’t know what you think you’ve accomplished, but well done, sir.”  He let out a raucous, wicked laugh at his own cleverness.

    The prisoner continued to stand silently, no sound coming from him except the constant choking on the ever growing stench of sin.  Lucifer realized he wasn’t getting angry or bitter at all.  He wanted more of a rise out of this pitiful figure, and yet his captive just stood there, not responding at all to his clever taunts.  In a rage he struck the prisoner with the back of his hand with all his force.  The impact sent the shackled sprawling to the ground, face in the stone floor.

    Lucifer leaned down and grabbed his prisoner by his blood soaked hair and whispered fiercely into his ear.  “You may think you’ve won, but all you’ve done is hand over your precious ‘flock’ to me.  You and I know that your sacrifice has covered their wretched sin, but they don’t know that, and I will work from now till eternity to make sure they never do.  You are mine now, and what’s to stop me?  You and Elohim think you’re so clever, but you’ve made a grave mistake.  The humans will never accept your sacrifice, not while I have breath in my body.  You have given me dominion forever.  You have lost your own life, and you have not saved a single one of theirs.  Without you there with them, they will never understand, and they will refuse the sacrifice until it’s too late.  So with that knowledge, get used to your new surroundings.  These walls are all you will see for all eternity.”  Satisfied, he threw the torn head of his enemy to the ground and turned to leave, the keys to his evil kingdom clanging against each other and he strode across the cell and slammed the door shut behind him.

     Yeshua lay there on the ground, weighed down not only with physical pain, but with a spiritual burden He’d never experienced before.  The absolute loneliness of His cell continued to  fill with the stench of the sin of mankind.  The putridness of it made him retch and be sick over and over, but that wasn’t even the worst of it.

    All His life, any time He was afraid or tired or tempted, He had almost effortlessly turned to the Father for guidance and strength.  Now, in the darkest hour of His life, He instinctively turned His heart to His Father - but for the first time, His Father was not there.  Instead there was a vast, infinite void of absolute nothingness.  This sense of complete abandonment was far worse than the oppressiveness of sin weighing Him down.  It was the most pain He had ever experienced and would ever experience.  He began heaving huge, ugly sobs.

    As the void descended on His heart in a heavy darkness, the memories began.  These were not originally His memories, but with His sacrifice came the darkest memories of every wrong ever committed by man, past, present and future.  Every lie, every theft, every act of malice, every murder, every rape, every act of defiance against the Father, big and small - all these crowded into the cell and overwhelmed the broken figure crumpled on the ground, the stench of humanity’s choices growing ever stronger in the cell.

    His mind became saturated with memories of acts now, it appeared, performed by Him.  He saw His hands reach out and stab a man by the name of Abel, saw the first blood spilled in rage.  He saw the fear in countless women’s eyes and His hands abused them in endless, unspeakable ways.  He say children slaughtered before Him and the guilt of their deaths was overwhelming.   He saw His hands take things that weren’t His, leaving others destitute.  He saw His hands lighting buildings on fire and watched the utter destruction it caused.  He Himself leading armies to destroy other nations - and he also saw Himself as the soldiers themselves, carrying out the orders of death, rape, and pillaging.   He saw, through His own eyes, terror and loathing and evil, and because He had sacrificed Himself to pay for all of it, He experienced it all Himself.

    He saw His hand usher hundreds of starving men, women, and children into a large stone room, lock the doors, and then deposit a canister of poison into the room.  He listened to the screams of His own people, His own family, as they cried out in death.  He saw His hands tie people to chairs to dunk them underwater because they belonged to His own family.   He had memories of someplace that would one day be known as a corporate office, signing papers to steal millions of dollars from people who needed it most.  He saw Himself throw widows and orphans into the street because He had made the decision to charge more than they could pay.  He saw Himself using technology He had never seen before - things that would eventually be known as film and phones and cameras - to record men and women doing despicable things to each other...and to children.  He saw His hands accept money and then shove young women towards men who would rape them and use their bodies to death - and He saw Himself in the roles of the rapists themselves.  His soul was overcome with thoughts and emotions He had always been able to fight off during His 33 years on earth - greed, anger, lust, malice, shame, sloth, and always, always fear.  He had never before experienced this kind of fear.  It was crushing to His heart and soul, and there was no escape from it. Again and again, He tried to turning to the Father for help and strength.  Yet again and again, there was nothing but the void.  His Father was not there.

    As the world above turned three times, He continued to experience the sin of all history.  For three days of eternity He did not move from the floor of His cell, unable to do anything but writhe and sob and choke on the stench of sin that clogged His nostrils and soul.  There He stayed, unable to reach His Father for help, as the punishment of every sin from Eve & Adam on was heaped upon Him.  Lucifer kept close tabs on the suffering, watching through a window in the door of the cell.  He reveled in the obvious agony of his deepest enemy, laughing at every cry and squirm. Lucifer also made plans to eliminate the last of the threat still on earth.  After all, only a few even knew of Yeshua’s pathetic attempt to sacrifice Himself on their behalf, and even they didn’t understand what had happened.  It would be an easy matter, now that his enemy was out of the way, to take out those few puny men and women that might spread the message, and then all of mankind would be his to control forever.  Elohim had handed him the power over these creatures He claimed to love.  This was Lucifer’s finest hour - his final revenge for the humiliation and defeat he’d suffered all those years ago.  He had won.

    As the sun came up over the land above known as Jerusalem, Lucifer was in his own chamber planning to begin his campaign to take out the last of his earthly enemies.  Suddenly a minion burst through the door shouting “Your excellency!”  Furious at the demon’s impertinence, Lucifer turned to reprimand him and throw him out, when the sniveling creature shouted “You have to come!  They’re here, we’ve been invaded!”

    Startled, Lucifer pushed the underling out of the the way to see for himself.  Striding toward the gates of his domain, he froze, horrified a what - or rather who - he saw.

    Two enormous, powerful beings were walking through the passages of hell.  Both held swords, but one was clearly leading the way.  Demons tried to stop them at all points along the path, but the warrior in the lead deflected their advances as one might flick away a fly on earth.  No amount of screams, protests or attacks slowed them in the slightest.  They were here for a purpose, and nothing would sway them from their mission.

    Lucifer recognised them immediately and cursed loudly and fouly.  Then realization dawned on him.  Never in the history of their creation had his former brothers come to this place, and there was only one reason they would do so now.  In a panic, he rushed to his prized prisoner’s cell, and got there just before the two heavenly beings.

    “Hello brothers,” Lucifer sneered.  “What a pleasure to have you here.  I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but it’s too late.  I’ve won.  He’s mine now.”

    Michael looked his former brother right in the eye with righteous fury.  He would have liked nothing better than to run his sword through this traitor who kept his Lord locked up with such arrogance.  But he had a mission, and he could only carry out what Elohim had sent him to do.  To do anything else would condemn him to the same fate as his former companion here.  So without a word, he pushed Lucifer to the side, and with a swipe of his sword he broke the lock to the cell door.  He held it open for Gabriel to go in, and then stood guard at the door.  Demons screamed and raged all around, and some continued to try to attack, but the Power that Michael had behind his mission was too great.  Lucifer himself found he could not move from his spot, and he was once again humiliated to remember that everything he did was only with Elohim’s permission.  No matter how far he had fallen, he was still under the power of his creator, and at that moment, he could literally do nothing.

    Gabriel stopped short as he went into the cell.  The room was dense with the smell and the memories of sin - all sin.  In this place, which was just as spiritual as Gabriel’s heavenly home - if in an opposite way - the air was dense with every last act of the rebellion of mankind.  And it all rested and centered on the crumpled, bloodied figure on the floor.  Gabriel gasped with horror when he realized this was what had become of his Lord.  it took all the discipline of obedience he had not to turn around and slice his sword through every demon in the wretched place.  But that was not what he had been sent to do.  So, focusing on his mission, he instead knelt on one knee next to the pitiful, broken pile of a man. “My Lord,” he said “I bring a message from your Father.”  

    At those words the prisoner moved for the first time in three days.  He slowly turned His battered head towards the angel, at first with uncomprehending eyes, and then as realization set in, a spark lighted His face.

    Gabriel held out a hand to his Lord and said “Your Father says - it is finished.  And it is time.”

    As Yeshua reached out to take Gabriel’s hand, a Power swept over Him, stronger than He had ever felt during His days on the earth.  As Gabriel helped Him to His feet, the chains that bound His wrists and ankles broke open and fell harmlessly to the ground.  Yeshua stood to His full height, closed His eyes, and breathed deeply.  With this breath, strength seemed to return to His body, and He strode towards the door.  As He passed through, He gave a nod of acknowledgement to Michael, who bowed his head in reverence.  Yeshua stook a moment to stop and lay his hands on the heads of His two faithful servants, and then He turned to lead them out of the gates of hell.

    They strode past Lucifer without even looking at him.  Lucifer screamed in horror and started after them.  “No!” he screamed,  “No!  I won!  He’s mine!”

    At that, Yeshua stopped and turned.  He looked Lucifer straight in his eyes, seeing there all the hatred and rebellion that had removed him from the heavenly realm ages ago.  Then for the first time since his arrival, Yeshua spoke.

    “I am from the Father, and now I leave and return to Him.  I Am the I Am.”

    The Power of the Word of the Lord knocked Lucifer to the ground in much the same way that he, Lucifer, had knocked his shackled prisoner to the ground three days earlier.  As he hit the ground, his belt came loose, and the keys he always wore flew from him and landed at Yeshua’s feet.  Yeshua calmly leaned down to retrieve them, looked at them for a moment, and then turned to leave, with Michael and Gabriel close behind.  The demons continued to rage all around, but now Michael didn’t even have to use his sword.  Their enemies were unable to come near.  All they could do was scream.

    The three boldly walked through the gates of hell.  Once on the other side, Yeshua lifted the keys, selected the correct one, and firmly locked the gates behind Him.  Lucifer, still recovering from his encounter with the Word, heard the key turn in the lock, and he knew with a sinking feeling what that meant.  He’d lost.  He’s lost everything.  Again.  Elohim had, in the end, won.  He was defeated.  The battle for humanity would still rage, and he’d win some skirmishes, bring home a few souls - but in the end, he’d lost.  His screams of agony rang out over the screams of all his minions and followed the heavenly trio as they ascended out of hell.

Luke 24:1-7

The Resurrection

24 But very early on Sunday morning[a] the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 3 So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

5 The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man[b]must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What I Learned From The Avengers

Confession: I love superheroes.  It's not just my kids.  I may have seen The Avengers somewhere around 25 times (that's not an exaggeration), but I still love it.  We are a Marvel Comics Universe Family, and we are not ashamed to say so.  (DC Comics...they're ok, but we're more of a Marvel family.)   One of the reasons I love those movies is because every time I see them, God shows me sometime - about His heart, about humanity, about life, etc.  You can glean a lot from superhero movies if you are paying attention!  So I have decided my next series will be What Superheroes Have Shown Me.  I am still working on stories and other things, but this will be what the next few postings will be about.  Enjoy!

            The Avengers is one of my favorite movies.  It's also a favorite of my children, so I have seen it dozens of times.  It's a great story of adventure, good vs. evil, loyalty and friendship - not to mention Robert Downey, Jr.
            One of my favorite scenes in the movie takes place about halfway through.  The Avengers have all gathered together in a room, and although they all want the same thing - to defeat the bad guys, in this case Loki's army - they have not yet become a group.  They are still individuals with extraordinary gifts and talents trying to do this thing on their own.  As the group gathers in Dr. Banner's lab, they begin to argue.  Everyone in the room is somewhat used to being in charge, and everyone thinks they have the best idea about what to do next.  Some feel betrayed by the others, and some are worried that others' gifts are going to destroy them all.  The argument among these six people becomes more and more heated to the point where the audience can hardly even hear what is being said. 
            While their fighting escalates, their enemy approaches.  No one is paying attention as those that mean to destroy them actually board their own aircraft.  Had they been vigilant or working together, they might not have been so distracted, but because they can't work together, the enemy seizes the day.  The result is the temporary loss of two of their members, countless deaths and injuries to nameless crewmen, the almost complete decimation of the Helicarrier, and the death of someone dear to them all.  
            As I was watching this the first time, I could not help but think of the Church.  The Church is made up of many people with extraordinary gifts.  Most of them have the same goal - fighting the enemy and seeing as many people saved as possible.  However, everyone has a different idea about how that should be done.  Some groups are scared of others' ideas and gifts.  Many people are used to being in charge and aren't willing to relinquish control.  As a result, we often don't see the enemy attacking until it's too late, and there are needless casualties. 
            However, there is hope.  All is not lost.  Looking back at the movie, the Avengers learn to use their gifts as a team in order to win the war.  They allow others to give the orders, and they learn that the only way to succeed is to work together.  It stops being about the individual and becomes about the team.  That's really what The Avengers is about - a group of extraordinary individuals becoming a team that comes together to save the world.    
            So the question is - can the Body of Christ learn the same lesson?  Can we stop being suspicious of each other and learn to listen to one another?  Can we all stop trying to be in control and allow our gifts to work together?  In the movie, it took a great tragedy to bring everyone together.  What kind of disaster has to happen in order for us to quit fighting each other and start fighting together?

            In the end, there is only one way to effectively fight our enemy, and no one person or group of believers can do it on their own.  We were designed to need one another.  Hopefully we can learn our lesson from The Avengers and come together to see the victory we all so desire to see. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

We Were Meant for More

            Every culture in the history of the world has had stories.  Fables, legends, tall tales...whatever you want to call them, everyone has them.  Most stories involve a hero doing something extraordinary.  The characters in these stories are stronger or faster than everyone else, or they can grant wishes or fly or perform some superhuman feat.  Today's American stories are superheroes.  We are fascinated with the idea of a hero who can do everything we can't in order to fight the battles we can't seem to win.
            What if all these stories point to something more?  What if we are obsessed with powers beyond our capabilities because deep down we yearn for what once was ours but now is lost?  We long to be more than we are - that because deep down we know we were created for more?
            The degree of power we lost in the garden cannot be understated.  The moment we made the choice to break the one and only limit we had, we gave up a vast and nearly limitless existence.  Can you imagine what we were most likely capable of?  I have dreams at night of being able to jump and sail through the air, covering miles and miles in a single bound.  Is it possible this is still in my dreams because I Was created to do just this very thing - but I am limited by the fallen world in which I live?
            Look at the course of humanity throughout history.  We are explorers and adventurers.  We continuously push higher and faster and create more and more.  But it's all artificial.  For centuries, mankind dreamed of flying, and then we finally achieved it...but just in a machine.  We want to travel, and so we invent cars and boats and trains and bikes to get us where we want to go.  We long to know what lies beyond our own atmosphere, so we build rockets and ships that will take us to the stars.  We work to be stronger, smarter, faster, better - always knowing, deep down, that we were meant for something greater than what this world has to offer.
            It's said that we only use something like 10% of our brains.  Why would we have been created with 90% of something we can't access?  What if it was because we were supposed to have much more power than we have, but we proved ourselves unable to handle it?  Look at what we have done with the knowledge we've been given.  We discovered and isolated the atom - and proceeded to split it in order to bring the most destruction the world has ever known.  We discovered the electron - and we used it to create pornography, graphic violence, and an avalanche of just plain idiocy.  We've made incredible discoveries in the medical field and used them to enhance our looks, our bodies, and our ability to kill other human beings.  Now our abilities to "do" are getting ahead of our abilities to reason - and so we have things like stem cells and cloning which have greater complications than we know how to handle.  We can't behave ourselves with the tiny bit of revelation we are allowed.  God only knows what kind of destruction we would cause if given the fullness of our brain power...which is why, in His mercy, He limited us to save us from ourselves.
            When we were removed from the original intent of creation, we were given certain restrictions.  I firmly believe it was the Lord that placed these barriers in our minds and on our capabilities.  He knows we are capable of much, much more - we are, after all, created in His image, and there is no end to what He can do.  But He has seen what we do with what we've been given, and like any good parents, He put child locks on the powerful stuff.  Bleach is an amazing cleanser, but we aren't going to hand it to the 2-year old.  She'd kill herself with that much power.  So it is between God and His sons and daughters.  He longs to be able to show us more, but He can't until we prove we can handle it.  He won't let us at the power tools until we stop hitting each other with wooden blocks.
            Where does this leave us?  The quest for knowledge is good.  We were made to be explorers.  We should climbs and jump and dig and fly.  But we will never know the fullness of our potential until that day when we stand before Dad having been proved to be trusted with all of our creationary power - not by anything we do, but by our willingness to surrender and let Christ cover it all.  That will be the sign to God that we are ready - by the fact that we've laid it all down at the cross and let the blood of Jesus cover our pathetic and futile attempts to break into that life on our own power.
            The garden is still there.  It's been protected -not from us but for us.  Someday we will go back and experience the life we were meant to live.  Until then, we must keep exploring deeper into the Father's heart and enjoy the revelation He has given us now, looking forward to the day when there will be so much more. 

            We were made for so much more than this.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Confusion, Part 4

Centuries passed...kingdoms were built...and destroyed...
            Death and destruction followed mankind like they were a hunted species.  People continue on paths disaster.  False gods rose, and idolatry was rampant throughout history.  All the while, a remnant of Shem's family remained faithful, watching and waiting and praying for salvation to come and right all that had gone wrong with mankind's fate. 

...until one day, another sort of family huddled together, far away from the site of Babel, which was still a center for evil, selfishness, death and idolatry.  This group, however, gathered for a sacred purpose.  For centuries now, this little strain of Semite people had been gathering, as commanded by God, to celebrate the harvest.  The Feast of Weeks was upon them, and the Hebrew people gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate.  Among them was a ragtag collection of misfits that, at first glance, did not look like they belonged together at all - fishermen, tax collectors, women of questionable histories, along with intellectuals and priests.  This group gathered in a room this Feast harboring a deadly secret, fearing for their lives and desperately awaiting for the promised deliverance.
            Suddenly there was in that place a sound like a violent wind.  As Peter, son of Shem Abraham, Isaac and Jacob looked on in amazement, what looked like tongues of fire came down to rest on each of them, and as people began to open their mouths, an amazing discovery was made.  This little group of warrior nobodies was speaking in languages not known to them, and the descendents of Shem that had gathered from all over the world to celebrate the harvest - parts of the family that had been unable to communicate with each other since that day so long ago - discovered that they could understand one another!  They each heard their own language spoken with ease!  The barrier of language was being broken down by the very Spirit that had placed it there to begin with - in His mercy.
            As rumors of drunkenness began to take hold, Peter, son of Shem, stood to set things right:
            "Fellow Jews, and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain..."

            And the God of all wisdom and clarity began on that morning to restore unto His people that which had been lost on that other morning over 2,000 years before in the place known as Babel - the place of confusion.  The promised helper had come, and the journey of the restoration of humanity had begun. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Confusion, Part 3

The day started out like any other.  People gathered at the building site to begin the only work they cared about at this point.  As they picked up their tools to start, a sound like a violent wind filled the work area.  It stunned everyone, stopping them in whatever they were doing.  After several moments, the sound vanished, and slowly people began to glance around and laugh nervously, picking up their tools to work once again.  But as they opened their mouths to speak to one another, something terrifyingly spectacular occurred:

"Pick up that hammer and get back to work."
"What did you say?  What's wrong with you?"
"Quit messing around and get back to work!"
"Are you drunk again?  This early in the morning? " 
"What did you say?  Stop speaking like that!"
"What's going on?  WHAT IS GOING ON?!"

As the babble of languages grew louder, panic arose among the people.

"What's wrong with us?  Why can't you understand me?"
"Why can't I understand you?"

            Screams rose as friends strained desperately to understand one another.  The captains of the work groups couldn't communicate to their teams.  The section supervisors yelled and screamed till they were hoarse, but it was all in vain.  Nimrod's special forces began to work their way through the crowd beating workers left and right in an attempt to "stop that racket and get back to work!"  It was no use.  What was clear language between two people the night before was suddenly incomprehensible babble now. 
            Shem was watching from a distance, and as he saw the chaos grow and the panic take grip of the people, he ran to find his brothers.  They found each other at the base of the tower.  Shem started to speak to both of them, and a look of horror swept across their faces.  It slowly dawned on Shem that they could not understand him, and that they could not understand each other either.  All three of them, the pillars of the tribe, the remnant of the Flood, were no longer united in any way.  This last connection - that of culture and language - had been severed by what could only have been the mighty hand of God.  They stared at each other in shock, at an utter loss as to what to do next. 
            Eventually groups began to form around those able to communication with one another.  It was discovered that lines were loosely drawn around family groups.  Old friends looked at each other from across the plain and realized that something significant had shifted.  Mankind would never be the same again.  Best friends, lovers, branches of families - all of these were torn apart forever.  It was a rest of humanity.  Nothing would be the same again.  Adam had once been in charge of naming creation.  Now that oversight was disrupted.  Everyone would have their own names for everything.  Deception would be easier among those who could not communicate.  Speaking truth would be more difficult.  If one family or group began to veer off into unrighteousness, it would be very difficult for another family to pull them back.  And, of course, they would be able to accomplish far less - which, Shem suddenly realized, was God's mercy.  The Lord had done what he had asked - He had stopped the people from their own utter destruction by ending the possibility of the tower.   Humanity had its salvation - but once again, there was a cost. 
            Shem looked back at his brothers.  The three stared at one another for a long time.  Ham was the first one to turn away.  Shem watched his walk, shoulders straightening as he went, back to his family - his power base.   He would go on to build his kingdoms.  Nimrod would be known throughout history as a mighty warrior and king, but also as one of the first tyrants.  Kingdoms would rise from Ham's lineage, but they would turn away and worship other gods.  His descendents would be known for their great monuments, but they would be monuments unto themselves, not to the Lord.  Their pyramids and ziggurats would be famous - and infamous - throughout the rest of history.  The exploits of places like Egypt and Babylon would go on to great heights and notability.  Hittites and Canaanites would build empires.  Assyrians would conquer the world.  Ham's people would flourish, but in the end, it would all be for naught.  Ham had turned his back on the one true God, and in the course of time, his people would suffer for it.
            Shem and Japheth remained at the tower for a few moments longer, staring at each other, suffering in silence.  Then, slowly, a smile spread across Japheth's face.  He grabbed Shem and embraced him for what seemed like an eternity.  Then he ran off, and Shem suddenly realized what had happened.  This was the permission Japheth had been looking for since the flood.  He could now gather his family and whoever he could communicate with and take off for unknown lands.  His people would go to found some of the greatest civilizations in history.  One day his descendants' cultures would be widely accepted as the most intellectual and "civilized" of the world.  Empires would rise out of tribal groups,  Kingdoms would rise and fall.  His people would one day rule the known world from a place called Rome - and then fall just as far as they had risen.  The Gentiles would rise in power, but they would always be searching for something from their Semite brothers, longing for something they knew they had lost but never could quite define.  One day, God would bring these brothers back together in a spectacular display of grace and redemption. 
            Shem watched his brothers go in their two different directions.  Emotions swirled through him and flooded his heart.  He believed this was God's doing and that it was God's mercy.  But he could not help but stand and wonder  - what was to become of them?  What road would mankind take?  Where would his brothers' destinies lead them?  Was there still time to save Ham's people from the path down which they were headed?  Would mankind come to see God for who He was and fall at His feet in fear and trembling?  Or would they continue to build to their own glory?
            Shem never saw his brothers again. 

...stay tuned for Part 4! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Confusion, Part 2

Stagnant they most certainly were.  As Shem watched the building's foundation laid and the tower start to take form and grow higher and higher, he noticed other things happening to their community.  The gardens were being neglected.  Plants were withering and fruit was dying on the vine.  The herds were wandering off or dying out from lack of food or care.  As the tribe became more and more obsessed with their monument of humanity's power and strength, their livelihood began to perish.  What's more, families were suffering.  The men began to be home less and less. They were tired at the end of a hard, long day of labor, and they were looking for some sort of comfort and pleasure...which led to the tents of prostitutes around the building site.  The men were perfectly happy to find their pleasure there rather than head home to their wives. Children were being put to work at the building site, doing dangerous work in dangerous places.  Small children could get down into hard places that adults could not go, and there had already been several deaths.  The women were being pressed into service to provide food and other needs, but as the crops and animals died out, this became harder and harder to do, and the women began to give up and just join in the building of the tower.  A feverish, obsessive need to builder higher, build stronger, be greater had overtaken the people.  As the tower went higher, the spiritual and emotional life of the people fell apart. 

            At the center of it all was Nimrod, the warrior king, with  his grandfather behind him pulling the strings.  Nimrod was a mighty hunter, and Ham was a smart, worldly man.  Nimrod began to hunt down food and find ways to provide for the people - but if it was his food, he surmised, the people would need to do what he wanted in order to obtain it.  When you control the food supply, you control the people, and very easily Ham's family slipped into the role of masters over the rest of mankind, who became their slaves.  Obsessed with building the tower, they had not even realized the extent to which they had fallen into Nimrod's power.  Ham's family controlled the majority of the tribe, and Shem and Japheth found their voices shouted down more and more.  The members of their immediate families that remained loyal to them started to fear for their lives and the lives of their children.  Every brick laid on that tower was destroying mankind.  Shem knew something drastic was going to have to happen if they were going to avoid another judgment.  God had promised He would never flood the world again, but that did not mean there would never be another set of consequences for actions.  That's what Ham was betting on - God had already destroyed the world once, He wouldn't do it again.  Shem feared this was far from the truth.   In desperation, Shem cried out to God to save them in their wicked ways and deliver them from their own foolishness.
            And then one day, the deliverance came.