The Good Surprise: Joyful Tears for Soldiers & Heaven

It will occur like a thief in the night. Or a sudden surprise knock of the door that changes our demeanor – whether good or bad. The mystery of surprise twists are captured in the best of movies. The genuine joy that can be gained from an undeserving, loving surprise practically outweighs any other combine of feelings. When surprise meets grace …. uncontrollable emotions ensue.

Once again, I have caught myself looking at YouTube videos of soldiers spontaneously coming home to surprise their loved ones. The look of awe and tearful incredulity by the family members is simply AMAZING (2:59 is my favorite). Question – How is it that I can empathize with the shock of the family members? No one in my family is overseas fighting for war. The closest that my family has experienced this was the first time that I came home for a visit after first leaving for college. That is an unfair comparison to someone that has been overseas for 8 continuous months and who’s life can be taken at any given second. Maybe the reason that I/we can resonate with the emotions presented in these videos is because at the deepest part of or being we KNOW that a greater day is coming when we shall feel the APEX of that emotion.

The Bible describes the day Jesus returns as impossible to be predicted or anticipated; not even by the angels (Mark 13:32). The day is described as a thief in the night and a flash (Matthew 24:26 and 1 Corinthians 15:52). To better paraphrase, the Bible says: “One day some of you will be looking at videos on Vine, some will be shopping at Whole Foods, a few will be washing dishes, playing in a football game, a few will be praying over their cancer-ridden child, some will be in the mission field, some will be joyfully skipping in the rain on their first date, some will be watching Netflix before bedtime, waters will be flowing, trees will be dying. Then suddenly, POOF, Jesus and all of his supremacy and glory will come down and do what He was destined to do for the sake of the Father.”

Now for the beauty:

In that moment, when we are facing this holy and supreme being, we will finally see just how infinitely undeserving we are to be with Him. We wouldn’t help but tremblingly bow down in His presence. As 2 Peter 13:10 describes, everything will be laid bare. In that moment, we will FULLY understand how “All of our righteous deeds are filthy rags”. As our life is reflected on in that instant, we’ll be aware how all our earthly “good” lacks in comparison to this epic God before us. Remember that time we read our Bible for quiet time? It does not match up. Remember the time we worshiped for hours? When we see God’s ultimate glory, we will realize that we should have worshiped infinitely longer.

Nothing we did or can do will protect or save us. It is in that instant where will FULLY see the importance of the cross. The magnitude of the love that was shown will blow us away. How can we speak? What emotions will we be feeling? For those that truly believe Christ is their Savior, we may hesitantly mutter something similar to this, “Oh my oh my, why are you choosing me??? Really?? Just crush me. I am dirty and damaged. I can’t even look at your bright perfection.” God, in his warm nature, will then happily tell us, “Jesus has made you clean. He has absorbed the curse and provided the perfection that your soul needed. No wrath for you. Come, join in the wedding supper of the lamb and see true paradise. Come celebrate with ALL my children.” [Galatians 3:13; 2 Peter 1:11]. After all the tears we will rejoice that the curse has been lifted. Mercy Grace Mercy Grace. Those times that you doubted Jesus was real = Grace. That time you were angry at God because of your mother’s terminal cancer = Grace. The staunch atheist that spent his whole life hating God, but in his last days he “genuinely” accepted the faith = Grace.

Oh the joy. The joy. The joy!! May we see and savor the supremacy of Jesus Christ. The One who loves us. Let us see that He is supreme over the missing Malaysian plane, over all universities, March Madness, all the internet, hurricanes, all of science, over Fox News & MSNBC, our jobs, over our stocks & investments, the Frozen soundtrack, EVERYTHING. Yes, currently this all feels abstract; but the writers of the Bible make it seem as if this is right around the corner. Let us dive into his warmth now. Let us put on his armor as we are warned to be watchful as the time approaches (Ephesians 6:13-18). With the same token … let us still enjoy these tearjerker YouTube videos. Honestly speaking, they are AWWWESOME!!

 

Here lies Jesus, King of the Jews:

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The Old vs The Young: The Battle of the Ages

Haha, silly old man,” were the mental words I muttered as I watched the elderly gentleman performing awfully-sluggish lunges in front of me.  “Silly old man, what are you doing in the gym? You can barely move as it is. What has your life come? Simple drudgery. Your wrinkled old skin and fragile bones… What you need to do is go backwards in age about 50 years and then copy me. Silly man.

Over a five-second time span, those were the literal thoughts that formed in my mind as I glanced at the 70-year-old man working out. It’s scary how hurtfully prideful and sinful my initial thoughts were. Suddenly, my attention shifted to his facial expression. He had a sharply keen stare in his eyes – as if he were remiss to the workout machines and people surrounding him. It was as if he truly believed that he was the only person present in the gym. Even the gym itself seemed to not have been anywhere on his radar. My common sense finally appeared and it then dawned on me that he surely must have been there for a reason. Maybe he’s had a recent health scare and is at the gym by doctor’s orders. Maybe he wants to get in shape to show his wife that he “still has it” at his age. Maybe he has no one and nothing in his life and just wants to feel something again. Then I realized that that day of old age, regardless of circumstance, is coming for me with just a blink of an eye. With just…the blink of an eye.

It was only a few days ago that I was in Kindergarten learning how to write my home address and Mrs. Hill told me how well I was doing. I remember the layout of the classroom, where I sat, and the excitement I felt. What is it about youthfulness that blinds our eyes from seeing just how fragile and short life is? Psalm 39:5 and 101:15 are going to compare our lives to a single breath and our days to grass in the field. The latter verse further says that the wind blows the grass away and the ground remembers its place no more. What it’s saying is that as people age, the generation underneath them will begin to disregard and neglect them more and more. As much as I love my parents, my future children will not have that same tangible love for them and will not care to be around them as much. In a few generations after me, they will not even remember my name. Such a truthful picture that the Bible paints. That doesn’t really make us feel warm inside, but hopefully that does clear up some blinders.

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But silly me. Silly us. Here’s the thing about old age…here’s how the Bible is going to  portray old age…it consistently glorifies it. The entire Bible says that wisdom comes with years. Proverbs 22:15 will say that folly is in the heart of a child. Why do we fear aging so much? Why do we ignore the wisdom and companionship of the older generations? Oh how Satan has twisted our society so that we have a natural divide amongst generations.

For almost a year now I have been in a small group with a predominantly older crew. In this group, I have realized that I am a lot more dumb than I am wise. I know theology – I can chat church history or apologetics, switch to politics or engineering and sprinkle it with sports … but every time I am around them, their wisdom blows me away and greatly humbles my prideful ignorance. It reminds me of how much I have yet to live through and learn. As a wise pastor once said, “Nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing teaches like LIFE.” We can read all the books we want, we can watch all the Youtube videos and BBC documentaries, we can get all the face-lifts and take all the youth pills we need, we can do everything right externally – but in the end, what matters is the internal. Wisdom. Character. Courage. The Heart. Spiritual depth. And only years of living life teach all of that.

To paraphrase King Solomon’s candor in Ecclesiastes 7, he says “Who cares how many likes you get on Instagram if at the end of the day you’re pretending as if you’re not drowning on the inside. The Wise hang out with people that will encourage, rebuke, guide them closer to Christ. While the Fools surround themselves with people that are stuck in the same ditch that they are currently in.” Even though I wrote a blog on Christian dating a few weeks ago… it was only a few months prior that I was very close to asking an unbeliever out on a date. Biblically, I know the tremendous stumbles it could cause. I have even warned my own friends away from this a few times. However, things were different when the shoes were on my foot. I mean, this girl had a cute smile and could dance! Stick a fork in me, I’m easily done. Well, when I confronted the men in my small group about my plans, each of them lovingly told me how stupid that idea was.  And here’s the thing, I had a legit plan and even scripturally spoke on how it could work. But they shut it down immediately and I came back to my senses. See, I needed that because I already had myself deceived. We may never verbally say it, but we definitely act like we’re invincible and that we know everything. But King Solomon would say that it would be wise to have older, godly friends sometimes … because they can see things that we are blind in seeing.

Older men and older women, we need you. Please come into our lives. Otherwise we are bound to make the same cyclic-mistakes as the generations before us.  Lord knows we need to do life together. Imagine the spiritual growth that would take place from the integration. Think of the amount of vitality that it could bring to the older generation. I pray that this happens. May Christ be glorified through it all. May his Spirit guide us in our youth and sustain us through our old age.

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