I’ve heard a preacher recently say that “pain will always seek pleasure to ease the pain” in which I would also add to escape or forget: “Pain will always seek pleasure to ease, escape or to forget the pain.” If I’m honest this was why I started to do drugs and what kept me addicted to drugs. In this life we will experience all sorts of pain, but what will either make us or break us how we deal with this pain. God promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5) which means to me that whenever I suffer pain, He promises to be with me in my pain and the Bible tells me that if God is there, He will work all things for my good (Romans 8:28). This is an amazing truth. And it is in the midst of embracing this truth that we can being to imagine a life free from all the pain and suffering that a broken and fallen world filled with selfish and sinful people have caused us. This why I love this song so much because it speaks of this kind of hope the presence of God brings to a broken life.
Addiction is sin, make no mistake. When a person is caught in the snare of addiction, what has happened is that they have over time repeatedly placed first, above all else, whatever they are addicted to and have come to depend on this substance (both tangible or intangible) over and above everything else in their life (a place in which only God deserves to be). This is why addicted people will endure through so much for their addiction. They’ve made an idol of their addiction, choosing to bow down in worship to their addiction as they give themselves over to their addiction again and again. Escaping (getting high) has become the ultimate goal of their life. I believe James has it right when he says, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15 NLT). If and when addiction is left unattended and left to grow without restraint death becomes the only option. But, this is not where the story ends. There is Good News. Jesus Himself says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 NIV). Wow! What amazing words. To know Jesus means to be set free by Him from the bondage of sin, to be set from from our addictions. But, in order to be set free by Jesus a person needs to know Him. So, what does it mean to know Jesus?
I don’t believe a person, who has a casual relationship with Jesus can say that they know Him. They may know of Him, but to truly be able to say that you know Jesus is to know Him as the Son of God. In order to truly know Jesus, a person needs to understand their deep need for Him. I was talking with a person the other day and while I was talking with him, I heard the Holy Spirit say to my spirit, “he (the person I was talking with) doesn’t see a need for Jesus in his life right now.” I believe this is right. Unless a person sees a need to invite Jesus into their life, then why would they bother pursuing to know Him. And if they did pursue Him, I believe the relationship would be a superficial one at best because anyone can know Jesus as a good person or even a prophet of sorts, but to know Him as the Son of God demands faith. And unless a person is willing to put their faith in Jesus as the Son of God, then He will always be just another person like you and me. But, to know Jesus and to place your faith in Him as the Son of God means to also know Him as Savior, Lover, Redeemer and Friend. And if you know Him like this you will love Him and be drawn into worship to Him because you will have realized that it is only through His sacrifice on a cross for the sins of the world (including yours) that you have peace with God, with people and within yourself. And it is when we are worshiping Jesus that we are propelled into a deep abiding intimacy with Him. This is what it means to know Jesus and be set free by Him.
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.”
Matthew 26:36 (NKJV)
by Gerald T. Ching
LOVE: When I earnestly began seeking to connect with God through prayer, He met me, filling my heart with a joy that has no equal. Being welcomed home into the Father’s loving arms in forgiveness has deepened my capacity to love like Jesus.
[separation: caught between life and death]
1. And so it began with the Lord God Almighty banishing them from the Garden of Eden; for him to slave over the ground from which he was taken and for her to be ruled over by him all of her days, giving birth in agony to all his children. In painful separation from their Creator they were to live, the weightiest consequence of their sin. They walked from the presence of a Holy God into death and darkness.
2. Glittering, sparkling like diamonds within the dense foliage of a flourishing rainforest, droplets of dew dance with brilliance reflecting the radiance of life. The fiery orb that beams rejuvenating rays down to a thirsty creation slowly descends, relinquishing its reign across the zenith. The day comes to a close in the brilliance of a setting sun, the soothing hues blending earnestly with one another.
Quickly but purposefully, night descends from the heavenly realms upon the lush landscape of this beautiful terrain. A cool refreshing breeze billows through the rainforest lulling the great silverback giants, whose loud grunts and roars rattle the timbers of giant trees into peaceful slumber. The bright face of the moon crests the evening sky with authority. Her quiet gracefulness shimmers in splendor, awakening the creatures of the twilight while lightening the heaviness of nightfall. The soft chirping of night creatures calms and soothes the heated day’s events.
Standing by a clear flowing river and under incandescent stars ablaze in the night sky, Your grateful child stands amongst it all filled with a flooding joy as I see the continual unfolding of the unending love that You have for all of Your creation.
Crabs skirt across the ocean surf with angry faces searching for the tiny bits that sustain their existence. Intimidating predators swim in the depths with solemn faces, grimacing at all that pass their long-sighted sonar. Warm currents mix with the icy surges from the deep, creating a swirling atmosphere for the creatures of the sea. Short-haired sleek mammals knife through the water like acrobats, forever in motion and at play.
Rays of a brilliant rising sun shimmer through the blue. The light dancing upon the rippling surface penetrates and plunges into the ocean depths bringing life-giving energy to all it touches. In perfect perpetuation this astounding balancing act of an entire ecosystem was set in place by Your wisdom with each participant playing its instinctive part where predators hungrily reap through the herd driven with prey laying down their lives for the cause.
Seeking power, holding no law sacred, principalities vie for supremacy. In a depraved world this thirst to dominate and rule comes naturally to the fallen who have been bred since birth to glorify themselves. Destruction hangs in the balance, threatening to plunge all into blind chaos.
3. Hate, the word turns my stomach; it makes me want to roll on the ground retching bile and spewing froth. Hate, the word sends spikes through my heart; it makes me want to curl in the corner crying deep sobs. Hate, the word weighs down my soul; it has driven nine inch nails into Your hands and feet.
[empowered: learning to embrace the love of God]
4. Standing tall among the trees, I peer across the lands of my youth. Somewhere along this rocky path I have found my way back to You. The twists and turns that slowed my journey in the past with guilt and suffering are now keepsakes in my heart. (I know now that back then, Your Hand was ever upon me, guiding and teaching me.) Day after day I wrestle within myself, powering through the most extensive of trials. Lost in this without the means to survive, I cry out for help. Like a lightning bolt I am rejuvenated; with quickness I am loved. Growing stronger daily I am forever thankful for Your faithfulness. Like rigid steel I stand amongst it all, for the Lord is my strength. Shielded by faith I walk. Striding to barriers unbreakable before, now teeter and fall. Submitting to Your will is what is commanded of me; it is the very reason I was born.
Till my dormant heart with a sharpened wheel hoe, driving the steel spikes deep into the hard packed surface. Rain Your love upon my barren soul emptied of goodness, laid to waste, and sold into slavery. Throw Your seed into my heart with the promise of new growth and the promise of peace.
5. Starting at the opposite end of the field, I begin the long walk to holiness. A medley of angels trumpeting at the momentousness of this occasion sends my spirit soaring. Jumping through the rings in my heart, You shine like a candle in the core of my soul. Radiant and pure, Holy Spirit pours love from an overflowing wellspring into my heart. Intertwined like ivy creeping across a stone bridge, You support me in this chaotic world, strengthening me when I weaken, guiding me when I am lost.
My heart sings when I hear Your Word. Your heart cries when You feel my pain. My heart quivers when You are near.
Sitting with me in a grassy meadow, pondering with me the trials of life, telling me of the dreams You have for me, sharing with me all that You have in Your Heart as I share with You what I am able. Doubt creeps about, confusing even more my lost and wandering soul that is riddled with worldly sins. Embedded with their deadly poison, I walk crowded streets with bustling people searching for the answers to the mystery of life.
6. Crunching through this life at alarming speed, I hit crossroads daily. What am I supposed to do? Which way am I to go? Whom can I turn to? Who can I trust? Soul searching until I am nothing more than a waft of a spirit, I come before You. Questions rise, deep resounding groans resonate from within my soul; the words reverberate throughout.
“Father, I am afraid to look into my heart; I am afraid of what I will find there. But I do know that I have wronged You. So please forgive me, for I have sinned against You. You are my Heavenly Father who has taught me to love by first loving me, and I know that whatever is in my heart, You will stand with me helping me through it, lovingly and justly.”
[transformation: forever changed by the God’s faithful love]
7. Your healing touch strokes my conflicted flesh. Deeply Your hands dig, kneading the flesh into submission. Terra-cotta flies through the air from Your masterful hands, sending all scattering to the farthest reaches of this foray to await the completion of the final masterpiece. Snatched from the fires of a sin-ridden world and placed upon the worktable of a Master Sculptor who works expectantly, the clanging of tools and chisels sends sparks showering in all directions. The Almighty Hand of the Artist instills His passion into the very core of all His works of art. The warm gentle rubbing of polish marks the ending of another magnum opus. Another masterpiece is ready to be unveiled. The sounding of trumpets accompanied by joyous singing echoes in Heaven proclaiming the goodness of God as the new creation comes to life.
Being made whole opens my heart to drink in the living waters of Eternal Life. Fresh water from the well quenches my parched soul; words rise to my lips but go unspoken. My life brightens with Your words of grace.
“Sit with Me and find comfort. Hold My hand when you doubt; receive My strength when you stumble. Rejoice in My faithfulness, and be filled with My goodness. Joyful I will always be, when you call upon my Name.”
8. All I am and all I perceive dissipates as You open the vision in my heart. Surrounded by images of You, cool refreshing breezes rejuvenate my spirit, calming and easing the anxiety that rattles about me. In the warmth of fellowship the longing of solitude is staved off, quelled with the kindness of a gentle Soul whose love washed the world with hope. So no one could boast and all could benefit in the pure form of a pure love given freely. Never to be sought by the greed of another, but to be shared with another as another needs. So that others may know the joy of peace while living in a sin riddled world, addicted to distraction. Within this blanket of Truth that shields me, I shine with a warm glow of love.
[nearness: learning to embrace the longing for Divine Love]
9. A reassuring calm settles my battered spirit. The link that connects me to You in this illicit world of deceit holds me close to You when I am overwhelmed. The needful yearnings from my heart scream to be filled with Your love. Hear me as I call out Your Name; hold me with the tender lovingkindness of a gentle Companion. Whisper to me words of love and encouragement, stroke my soft fragile skin while gently brushing away the tears that stream down my face. Your compassion instills the warmth in my heart that gives me hope.
Fill me with this love; let my heart bubble over with joy as soft kisses brush against my heart. I feel the warmth of Your love when You hold me; it radiates through me like an electrical charge. From inside my heart I hear Your words. These warm swells that resound deeply within my chest speak to me like the shining sun. Flowing outward, penetrating the layers that lead to the outside world, Your words swirl warmly in my chest. Growing and then spreading to the farthest reaches of my soul, Your Light reflects to others on this walk of faith.
10. Roaring to life, the fear that resides in solitude stands at its full height in blatant defiance, and the connection to the living spring of unconditional love is re-wired and re-networked with the freedom to choose overriding this alliance, and addiction serving the eviction papers.
In the distance I see You walking towards me. My own face darkens with apprehension which lays heavy my heart and furls my brow. Your Presence makes my heart sob lightly when we embrace. Faithfully You nurture me with a gentleness which knows no bounds as the deepest parts of my soul whisper in worry; long relaxing conversations of all things holy cast away the worrisome spirits, banishing them to the shadows to cower.
Happy go lucky and carefree we speak of love, my heart bonding to Yours. The dark clouds of an unknown future part with the sunshine of a new dawn, uplifting me to the highest mountaintops to dance amongst the clouds. Spinning round the beautiful treetops, swaying in the refreshing breeze, my spirit rests.
Reclining comfortably in relaxation, happily content, our union sets my soul at ease. Singing in perfect pitch, resonating throughout the land, a watch of nightingales fills the air with their song. Birds of all varieties accompany them in the harmonies of joyous song. In a triumphant crescendo the Maestro conducting this operatic masterpiece passionately closes on the last measure, the last note echoing in the distance.
Inspired by their song, I surrender a little more of myself to You as a cool and refreshing sun shower bathes me in tranquility. Peacefully I lay as You whisper to me of love and devotion. Lingering in the mists of Your Presence, my heart drinks in understanding while my mind drowns in the simplicity of it all.
[testing: learning to rest the goodness of God]
11. Staring into the distance, moss covered pillars reach ever skyward while lazy jagged rocks lay heavily on the earth. The burning rays of the sun pound the landscape. Moving not a muscle, I patiently wait. Hotter the rays shine, the heat relentlessly baking my corrupted flesh. Crackling flames spontaneously combust, scorching brush and earth. Swirling dust demons dervishly whirl, filling the air with ash, blackening my skin. Holding onto Jesus, I patiently wait. Black rolling clouds collect in the sky, thankfully shading my blistering flesh from the sun. Sheets of rain smother the relentless heat, washing away all the charcoaled ashen remains. Mercifully cleansed, I stand refreshed.
Peering breathlessly over the edge, pin prickles line the skin draped over my weary bones, excitement even for a tired old soul like me. Across the great expanse cities litter the terrain with gargantuan monuments stretching towards the sky. Dark ominous towers standing like pillars of achievement towards the heavens, glimmer in my eye with invitation. Gently You calm my anxious thoughts and quell the longing within my heart. Quietly, Your reassuring Presence eases my worry as I jump from the ledge knowing You will be there when I fall.
12. In the distance, victorious laughter mingles with cries of joy as the saddened are elated and the broken are mended. Lucky stars shooting across the blue morning horizon stream across the zenith leaving their carefree imprint. Rhythmic dancers frolic across animated stages before a crowd with smiles in their hearts, sending jubilant laughter swirling through the air. Jingle bells ringing in the distance brings to mind a quiet tranquil time, when snowflakes covered a slumbering landscape with peacefulness soothing the surrender of autumn.
This winter season brings with it troubled times that cast their long shadows of doubt upon me. Forgiveness lies dormant in this frightened heart. Darkness kidnaps me in a cloak of secrecy. The ebbing tide of lies laps at my will to survive, manipulating the sustaining Word that keeps me alive. Spiraling down into this ever frigid blackness, I fall victim to winter’s cold hand, which prods and pokes at me with the gentleness of a riding crop. I call out to You and am refreshed with the warmth of Your embrace. Tiny snowflakes fall from the sky cooling my now heated skin, rejuvenating what was once old, but has now been made new.
13. Washes of color spray across
the empty canvas of my soul,
painting me with the Fruits
of Holy Spirit
leaving no area barren,
leaving no corner unfruitful,
letting no darkness harbor its long shadow,
creating me into a masterpiece
filled with love, made to reflect
Your light onto a lost world.
Weakness opened the door to my heart
and Your strength was able to enter.
Leaning not on my own understanding,
but on what You
have instilled within me,
I acknowledge You
in all my ways. Your holiness fills
this refined heart with a goodness
that comes with the pureness of You.
Powerful yet meek, Your integrity
flows selflessly through this
divine intervention of love.
But still the relentless onslaught of deep
seeded anger shoots from my soul,
undeservingly aimed at the righteous
and the innocent.
Their compassionate hearts
endure the battering
with an understanding forgiveness
that stems from unconditional love.
My judgmental spirit,
always swirling around my insecurities
lifts me up superficially.
This is the nature of its false power.
My self-serving, prideful spirit
deters me from accepting the help
I so desperately need
to stay on this road of salvation.
I cry to all who have ears,
Humbled and at peace
I stand amongst you all
with love behind my eyes.
14. Longing for a fulfilling embrace, waiting in anticipation I lay curled like a newborn suckling its thumb. Mercifully I await Your gentle touch, the loving warmth of Your presence that shelters me in a cloak of devotion, in sweet rapture. The times we spend together put my struggling heart at peace. Your gentle Spirit eases my troubled mind, bringing clarity to my blurred vision. His soft sweet whispers ease the burdens of the day’s trials, lifting the veil that covers the eyes of my heart. When we are one, I am free. Together at last, I am at peace.
15. “O Heavenly Father, thank you for being so tangible and for loving me so passionately. Thank you for the transforming love of Jesus, who invites all into Your family. Pour Your Holy Spirit deeply into me and reveal to me all that makes up who I am in Christ. Teach me to dismantle the barriers that divide and to seek what unites. For Your Glory and Honor. Amen.”
[redemption: learning to live as a new creation in Christ]
16. Who understands this road to redemption? To give up this control that I hold so dearly will take the innocence of a child and the courage of a lion. In this world of vengeance, blood is shed and wine flows down the throats of kings and thieves alike, neither any better than the next. Waiting on the Lord, angels stand in anticipation ready to
obey the commands of Christ. Meanwhile, saints following the movements of the Holy Spirit, fervently share with the broken-hearted the peace and joy that is their salvation from this miserable sin ridden world. I have chosen to accept this freely given salvation and am now homeward bound with the everlasting love of the only begotten son of God, Jesus, guarding my heart and my mind.
17. When I came into the fold, Your eyes of Truth enveloped me in a shining light that blinded my doubting spirit. As I contemplated life, Your love flowed freely through the barriers of my defenses. Sheltered in trust, in the warmth of reassurance, a peaceful light radiates from above this sea of serenity. Within the midst of this divine intervention, the Holy Spirit came to dwell within me. He replaces all I’ve ever known in this life and of this world with the heated fire of the Truth.
His presence softens the years of loneliness and doubt. Gently He soothes the rock that is this hardened heart. Like the rays of a rising sun, His nurturing light spears through the cold darkness as loving and healing hands commence their work of redemption. The birth of forgiveness finally begins to grow and nurture its disobediently defiant counterpart.
The self-serving nature that is inherent to my nature with its relentless grasp enslaves me to earthly delights, hopelessly binding me in addiction, to idolatry. The laughter that once filled this heart now hangs heavy with the knowledge of the sin that riddles me. All the joys that I once held so dearly now encumber me with pain and guilt. Slashing and gnashing teeth grind at the intellect of my battered and captured mind, threatening to jab me into rebellion. But, Your merciful loving light from above penetrates this dark slimy residue that lingers after a fall, as I am brought to me knees like a beggar.
17. Feeling like a prisoner on a cross Atlantic voyage, my heart yearns for freedom. My soul cries out to all who’ll listen, but falls on deaf ears. The selfishness that runs rabid in all Your children pierces me like fiery arrows, puncturing my gift of a soul. The faith that I long for in them is just out of reach. I can taste a sweetness on my lips, but their fruit produces no juice. The love I feel for them pains my heart and soul, while their daggers plunge deeper into my back. Each offense pulls from me a little piece of my spirit which is slow in healing. The Holy Spirit comforts me after each barrage, soothing the wounds.
Hovering over other fallen souls, You shine Your Righteousness into them, raising them up from even the deepest pits of despair. Resurrected by Your light with Your holiness now flowing through their veins, one by one they rise to kneel before You. In the light of Your mercy all have come into servitude not as slaves to a Master, but as children to a Father; “and you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free” (John 8:32 NLT). Knowing the Truth Himself is to know freedom.
My true self, filled with the goodness of God, nurtured with His love and compassion, is ever kind with my dark and greedy self. Patiently he waits, waiting for what has always been beyond me. This struggle of the strong is the effortless walk of the meek with whom You shower all Your wonderful gifts and graces. Ever hopeful and ever faithful are Your promises. Your Eternal Flame that burns deep within my chest is a constant reminder of the love that You have for me and the faithfulness that Your love brings into my heart. The goodness that is You envelops me with a joy and with a transcending peace that words could never describe or a mind ever comprehend. Upon compassionate wings Your messengers bring good tidings to all, uplifting them in needful times as Holy Spirit plants His fruit across a despondently disenchanted vanishing generation. The children of every race are united in this calling.
[the Call: entering into a life of love]
18. “Walk with Me through the fields of love. Sing to Me your song, breathlessly I’ll listen. Whisper to me your sorrows, your hopes and your dreams, set them before Me for all to see. Do not be embarrassed, ashamed, but set free.
Let Me wipe the beads of sweat from your brow; lay your weary head on My shoulder, let Me soften your heart with My Spirit. Find refuge in the peaceful folds of My mind, and dance through all that I have created. Know the love that I have for you, and pass it on to another.”
19. Pilgrimaging to a most sacred place, I hold my heart in hand. Written upon it are the tales of my walk, the trials and tribulations that bind and release me. My heart holds all the many riddles and challenges that have slacked my thirst. Bound to this plane of worldliness, I walk upon this rolling path of enlightenment. Prudently I tread with kindness from a healing heart, with You forever showing me the lighted way. Harbored deep within my sleeping soul lies the dream of a man that I wish I could be.
20. In exhaustion I crawl through this life with a dignity that only a loving Father could ever appreciate. The hunger for a reassuring Word to calm and relax my racing mind bounces through the hardened enclosure that encases my brain. All too quickly though, anxiety overcomes me with sinfulness. In a fevered panic, searching through the many drawers that hold my memories, I rifle through stacks of paper, scattering, shredding, and cluttering the floor with misinterpretation.
Slowly, leafing through the debris You orderly catalog the strewn papers, organizing and filing the meaningful and inconsequential debris accordingly. The chronological ordering of a chaotic life is the current task at hand. Ever time consuming this process of elimination to regroup, Your patience knowing no bounds or limitations compiles all the information. Binding the final version of the book of my life, You carefully write in a hopeful ending to this sacred romance. Countless new discoveries of the truth unfold as the latest chapters are written in prose. Your gentle words guide my every move, perpetually pushing me back towards You. In the farthest reaches of my mind, I see Your face. Your Presence fills me with the knowledge of forgiveness, swaddling me in love and cradling me in peace. Into a stormless sleep I cede.
[harvest: the joyful fruit of a devotional life]
21. Blossoming before the Eyes of God, the bountiful seed from a year past has taken root deep in my heart. The winds of change have cultivated the soil uprooting the weeds of guilt and shame while the rainy season of repentance has prepared the soil for planting. I have been humbled.
The burning ball of fire rises high in the sky marking the beginning of the new season. The rays of warm sunshine tenderly replenish any nutrients lost in the recycling. Daily You walk through the garden calling out my name, inviting me to linger and talk with You. Daily, new blossoms bloom, filling the gardenscape with new foliage.
Feeling wonderfully refreshed as this flourishing garden grows within my heart, You continually fill me with a peaceful hope while nurturing the ever-important seeds of faith. You walk among the thriving foliage daily, speaking in reassuring tones of love and holiness. You prune and preen the deadness away making way for new growth as I ripen on the Vine. Cultivating with sweet justice You spread peace and joy throughout my soul. In quiet stillness, with the setting sun encompassing all, You blanket me in peaceful serenity.
22. Quietly You stare and watch me grow, watering and nurturing as only a Parent can. Rising with the dawn, I stretch myself skyward. My face deepens a rosy ruby in the sun as I raise my limbs ever higher, thirsting for the warm embrace of Your love. I am maturing within Your grace. Visitors come and visitors go bringing with them the scents and flavors of others, tempting my sensual desires. This longing for another gets washed away with Your love. Satiated, I curl with the setting sun, content with the sweet scent of freedom helping to ease the pain of surrender.
23. In the confinement of night I cry out for help, like a knight in shining armor You come to my rescue, filling me with strength and courage. Your Presence reassures me of Your goodness and reaffirms me of Your love. Allowing You to gently nurture me into holiness, encouraged by Your gentleness I share with You my deepest secrets knowing You will judge justly. Enamored with trust, I share with You my deepest pain knowing You will stand by me. Excited within Your love, I share with You my triumphs knowing You will rejoice with me. You are forever faithful. I trust in You knowing You will never harm me.
24. The pristine flow of a mountain stream, the lush green pastures of paradise, a life without strife and pain brings tears of joy to this face now aglow. My heart smiles with renewed vigor as my spirit is set free upon angel wings. Climbing ever higher, aloft in the higher troposphere within the temporal clouds of a spring shower, I am lifted up and out of this realm. To relax here with You, I am at peace.
When we sit together with no distractions, the beauty in the calm serenity is priceless. Your love penetrates the unwillingness of my soul to be opened up in surrender. When the moment of our union was to be, the timing was flawless. It was Your wisdom that set the foundations of the earth. When the crumbling of all my dreams came to pass, the timing was impeccable. My perseverance is born from the willingness of Holy Spirit to let me suffer. And when it’s time for my death, Your destiny for my life will have been fulfilled.
25. A melody ringing through the still air brings to mind visions of idyllic waterfalls cascading freely on a bright summer day; where swirling waters sparkle in the rays of a late morning sun. Expanding and contracting the land stretches, letting the deep earth sigh in reprieve. Quietly, midday enters with a whisper, swaggering nonchalantly onto the pristine scene while grasshoppers hurdle the abundance of vegetation and butterflies soar drunkenly from flower to flower with clattery chirping crickets droning out the whispering cool breeze.
The warmth of the sun heats the rocky flats where basking lizards collect and store their day’s energy. Small mammals scurry to cooler comforts; in shady underbrush they take refuge. High in the trees the familiar sounds of monkeys rattle the canopy of the rainforest. Peace reigns above all as the sweltering heat quiets even the noisiest of tempers.
Soaring birds perch expectantly; from in the branches they wait for a flash of movement. Rodents risking their peering eyes dash for new cover across no man’s land. Confidently hopping from the treetops the sharp eyes of a hawk zero in on the impulsive prey and with quickness snatches its lunch, sending the other would be soldiers to their foxholes.
In perfection life resumes with the setting of the sun, the warm vibrant colors basking the land in earth tones of old. Life exhales its baited breathe in a soft delicate breeze touching all of creation. Birds start to fly, animals start to scamper, and the natural order of life resumes merrily where it left off as the oppression of the day’s heat mercifully lifts.
Darkness descends with the changing of the guard. Accompanied by millions of her friends, twinkling above it all, the luminous silvery moon glows in all her splendor. The quiet stillness of night soothes the soul as the droning sound of chirping crickets lulls the minds of the living.
26. A divine untainted love that cleanses even the darkest of hearts returns to bloom in the most remote places where villagers gathering around drum circles dance to tribal rhythms blinded by pride, where warriors raise their weapons and shake their fists displaying their fierceness while declaring in their native tongues the greatness of themselves.
Arriving on these barren doorsteps in hope-filled baskets God’s gifts and blessings overflow with love, shine with the Good News of the Truth. Shooting stars falling from the evening sky shower the heavy-laden with dreams of hope. Faithful travelers from another place rise above this world of deceit, reflecting the redeeming light of Christ. A foundation built with this everlasting love spans the globe with a God fearing people bonded in genuine community and care. These Children of Light rejoicing in Holy Spirit, joyously sing Alleluia to the heavens with smiles in their hearts and faithfulness in their souls as they proclaim Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.
[celebration: worthy is the Lamb of God]
27. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” Revelation 4:8b (NKJV) yells the herald from afar, “Hear this Good News, bring in His good tidings, and embrace the offerings from the Lord Jesus Christ that quench all who are thirsty. Listen to His words: ‘Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star’” Revelation 23:12-16 (NASB).
Melodies of miracles dance upon clouds where dark shadows were once triumphant, but are now cast down. A brilliant sunset splatters the heavens with a multitude of colors, sending pure delight jumping from heart to heart. In awe the warriors of the Son kneel in reverence. Their display of honor and adoration warms the heart, filling it with fresh faith. Joy fills those that witness, uplifting them to the most high where they stand trembling with hands raised in worship. There is beauty in a completely healed soul kneeling in reverence to a humble King whose hands and feet were pierced in fear and anger. In glory He reigns forever, shepherding His children home where they dance unashamed and radiant; fully free.
For the rest of Eternity I will dance, spinning through the Garden of Eternal Life, singing praises to a kind and gentle King whose fingerprint touches my soul. My purpose has finally been made known. For His pleasure with love have I been sealed and covered with Everlasting joy, beaming with the love of Him who is love.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises as some understand slowness. He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” 2 Peter 3:9-13 (NIV).
28. Amongst all God’s wonderful creations under the sun and sky, I fall to my knees in the twilight of my years. I quietly talk to God about the trials of life, thanking Him for never leaving my side. Love passes through me like beams of light, penetrating and piercing everything that stands in its way. Hope is fully restored as my remaining doubt is shown the Truth. Filled with fresh faith and clearness of thought, my heart and soul are lifted up to the Almighty Father. Mercifully my will is finally completely bound to His. I pass on into Eternity in breathless worship whispering words of praise. Sanctified by His grace, carried on into completion, I am a new creation with a new body and a new name. Within His holy presence I now stand.
On the golden streets of Heaven I am on my knees quietly talking to God about my joyous new life, thanking Him for always being by my side. Basking in the rays of wisdom, letting it fill me with understanding, I stand at my full stature in the mists of a golden city. The prophecy is fulfilled within this Epiphany moment. All that once was turns white hot, explodes in a glorious blinding light that sends cascading sparks to the farthest reaches of the heavens. In an instant all vision vanishes from my eyes and the Age of Christ begins.
29. Epilogue: At the gates of Heaven lines of people wait patiently with their hearts in hand. Judgment comes when the Savior reads what is written upon them. Purified are the souls of salvation whose hearts were torn, but are now mended. Humble and contrite are the hearts of the saints whose perseverance rings clear throughout the ages. Recorded in the Book of Life are the names of all the saved sinners. Written on their hearts are the tales of all their deeds done in life. Nothing is hidden from the eyes of God whose fiery gaze purifies our unclean souls with His holiness. All creation comes to kneel before Jesus Christ the Son of God.
“Dressed in a robe reaching down to His feet and with a golden sash around His chest, His head and hair white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes a blazing fire. He stands with feet like bronze glowing in a furnace; He speaks with a voice like the sound of rushing waters and out of His mouth comes a sharp double-edged sword. His right hand holds seven stars and His face shines like the sun in all its brilliance” Revelation 1:13b-16 (NIV).
Shimmering in the light of the Son, lines upon lines of souls kneel in wait. Justly the Right Hand of God judges each soul accordingly. His Almighty Word streams from His lips with authority, cutting through the density of sin within each soul. One by one each soul is carried away in the arms of an Angel of the Lord. Finality rides upon the backs of these angels who carry each soul to its final destination. Only some are going to the Promised Land.
“After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in Heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and just are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.’ Then a voice came from the throne saying, “Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!” And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thundering, saying, “Alleluia! For our Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready and to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” Revelation 19:1, 2, 5-8 (NKJV).
“Now I saw Heaven standing open, and behold a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called the Word of God. The armies in Heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” Revelation 19:11-16 (NKJV).
What happens when fear, anger, disappointment and loneliness are left to grow unattended in a child? For me, these emotional states of being began to shape and form an inward and outward hatred and vengeance both towards others and myself. What does this look like? Let me start off by describing the people I began to admire: bikers, mobsters and gang members. From my perspective these where the types of people that people thought twice about messing with and that’s what I wanted. But, even more – I wanted to be the one who doled it out, instead of the one who always took it. At the root of this was the desire to be in control. If, you’ve ever been picked on then you’ve felt that powerlessness and loss of control.
So, at a young age I learned that lying was more than just a way of getting out of trouble, but also a way of being in control. As twisted as it sounds, I enjoyed lying because in my young mind it was a source of power: I controlled what people knew about me. But, lying was too narrow of an outlet for the deep reservoir of growing hatred and vengeance within my heart. So when I was in fifth grade (10 years old), stealing entered the picture. Again, stealing was another way for me to feel like I was in control, but it also provided a way for some payback. More often than not, the people I stole from hadn’t done me any wrong, but in my mind someone needed to pay and everyone was fair game. By the time I started HIGHschool, I was quite the lying kleptomaniac who had the criminal record to show for it. But, lying and stealing just wasn’t enough of an outlet. That’s when drugs entered the scene. Compound all of this with a growing inferiority complex and this hatred and vengeance also began to turn inward.
Why is all this important? Every single person is born with a voice. We all have this inherent need to be heard. But, when this voice is smothered or even stolen from us seeds of fear, anger, disappointment and loneliness begin to take root and as is evident in my life and countless others has the potential to breed hatred and vengeance within the heart. I can’t stress enough the importance of mentoring. But, what is even more important is allowing children (and all people for that matter) to have a voice. Sure we still need to help nurture and shape them, but we must also allow them to feel secure enough to express themselves: to lay claim their own voice. I understand that this is the harder road. It’s always easier to superimpose our passions and desires onto others, rather than taking the time to nurture and shape them into who they are becoming according to their personality, interests, talents and passions. But, this harder road is also the better road.
Very early on after I came to faith in Jesus, what has always resounded so loudly within my heart and mind has been the reminder that “love takes work.” Now this journey of love has definitely been a difficult one because if done right: “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT). Now that’s a pretty tall order in which I have fallen short many a time. But, what comforts me is the reality that I’m not alone in this. Jesus has given me the Holy Spirit, who lives within me, to empower me to love as He does. I mean if I believe in a Triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16) then I can say with complete confidence that divine love literally lives within me. So maybe it’s not so much about trying to generate a selfless love on my own, but about leaning into the selfless love that already resides within me through the Holy Spirit. The more I’ve leaned into God’s perfect love the more I’ve been able to find and reclaim my voice because it’s in Him that I’ve discovered who I am and why I was created.
I just recently went to visit a church (which will remain unnamed) where I heard a sermon preached on the importance of the having a firm grip on the Bible. The preacher talked about how the Bible is our road map through life. At first, I was in agreement. Yes, we need to be listening, reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on God’s Word which combined helps us apply it to our lives. But, then the preacher said, “…and Jesus is our compass.” Why this concept of Jesus is disconcerting to me is that Jesus is not a tool that we use to give us direction, but a Person with whom we are in relationship. Sure, I get the point he wanted to make (Jesus gives us direction), but reducing Jesus to a compass? I know that Jesus Himself, referred to Himself as living bread (John 6:51), as the light of the world (John 8:12), as the door (John 10:9), as the resurrection (John 11:25), as the true vine (15:1), and as the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). But, in today’s mindset where efficiency reigns supreme, preacher’s need to be careful that they don’t indirectly convey that Jesus is a tool at our disposal.
Afterwards, what further struck me was that there was no mention of the Holy Spirit’s role. Now, hear me on this, I believe that God desires worshippers of Spirit and Truth (John 4:23, 24). So, He has given us both a road map (the Bible = Truth) and a tour guide (the Holy Spirit = Spirit). If all that is taught is the road map, then what this indirectly teaches is that people can find their own way through understanding the Bible which is misleading. Sure, we may be able to intellectually and morally grasp some truth. But, to be transformed by God’s Word, this comes only from the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11). He is the One who brings conviction about sin and the need for repentance (v.9). He is the One who reveals the way of salvation through Jesus (v.10). He is the One who demonstrates Jesus’ victory over satan (v.11) because greater is the One who lives in a believer than the evil one of the world (1 John 4:4). I believe it is also the Holy Spirit who cultivates the soil of a person’s heart into the good soil that hears and accepts God’s Word, so that they bear abundant good fruit to the Father’s glory (Mark 4:20). Bottom line, the Holy Spirit is the One who makes the things of Jesus known to us (John 16:14): without Him how can we truly know Jesus?
As a preacher, I am further convinced that I need to be sharing the Gospel in a way that makes room for the Holy Spirit to move in power. There needs to be both the proclamation of the Gospel (preaching God’s Word) and the demonstration of the Gospel (releasing the anointing of the Holy Spirit). (This means of course I will need to wrestle with my own fears on this which is a topic is for another day, but it looks like I’d be in good company with Paul.) In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul tells the Corinth church that he didn’t come to dazzle them with his amazing intellect, but he came to them in his brokenness. He says, “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” What strikes my heart hardest is the last part of Paul’s plea: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
Paul’s words challenge me all the more to lean into God’s anointing, rather than my skills as a preacher. When I preach, am I helping people put their faith in my explanation of the Scriptures or in a direct encounter with the living God? To put it another way, am I preaching for transformation where people are opened up towards an encounter with the living God (through the proclamation of the Gospel) and where the Kingdom of God comes near to people (through the releasing of the anointing of the Holy Spirit)? I need to take to heart Paul’s words that say, “…knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes” (1 Corinthians 8:1b-3 NLT). Love is more important than knowledge. Too often, knowledge can produce arrogance and an overly inflated sense of importance, but love listens because love is a relational concept. For love to be fully realized and expressed in fullness, there must be a relationship in place. The way to truly know God and gain knowledge of Him is through loving Him. The more I live out the Christian faith, the more I am convinced that it is through an encounter with the love of the Father that changes everything. Preaching needs to be towards an encounter with the living God where people experience more of the Kingdom of God and where the Father’s love breaks through in greater measure in a person’s life.
Jesus is pivotal in this. Jesus is the Gospel. Without Jesus, the Gospel is emptied of its purpose and power. Jesus meant it when He said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). But, we must always remember that Jesus walks with us as He shows us the Way, that Truth is a Person, Jesus, whom we can love and get to know through a relationship and that we gain Life because Jesus actually lives His life in and through us. He is more than just a compass. Jesus also made it a point to make sure we understood that He was sending us a Helper, the Holy Spirit, who is more than a spiritual force, but who is also a Person (John 14:15-31; 16:5-16). Too often, preachers forget to remind us that we are not alone in this, that we have a real live tour guide (Holy Spirit) to help us understand the road map (God’s Word), even to actively guide, lead and empower us on this journey of faith through the varying terrain and storms we will be confronted with in this life. I don’t know about you but that’s Good News.