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:

God Saves All of us Crazy & Odd People

  • I have some Asian friends that are a part of this very large Asian group of believers. They gather together in various homes every day of the week. They pray drastically different than how I have learned to pray. They do hospitality well and treat me as one of their own. And they love Jesus very very much.
  • I have these friends that are connoisseurs when it comes to alcoholic beverages. They know every brewery in Raleigh and like drinking wine as if they are practicing for heaven. They truly have deep desires to grow in their faith. And they love Jesus very very much.
  • I have other friends that were taught that drinking alcohol is sinful and that God does not want us to use musical instruments during church worship. But God still saved them despite such teaching. And they love Jesus very very much.
  • I know many people that were raised in the Bible Belt and were honestly saved at the age of 6. Some come from financially well-off families. They praise Ronald Reagan, and they think Democrats are ignorant. And they love Jesus very very much.
  • I know people that were not raised in the church and still struggle with dirty mouths at times. However, they have a youthfully passionate faith. They think Republicans have satanic tendencies. And they love Jesus very very much.
  • I have a few friends that are natural born skeptics. If someone tells them that a movie is good…they will doubt that opinion until they see the movie for themselves. They wrestled with doubt in Christ until they received enough rational proof. The love apologetics and Jesus very very much.
  • I grew up in Riverdale/College Park, GA – In a society where rapper T.I. was idolized as The King, gang members were rock stars, and Waka Flocka was viewed the second coming of Christ… even through that, God saved. And there are people there who love Jesus very very much.
  • There are some friends of mine that are borderline hippies. They rock climb in their chacos and contra dance every week. Some do not have a facebook! However, they intimately walk with the Lord in ways that I am jealous of. And they love Jesus very much.
  • I have a dear friend that spent some time in Haiti for missionary work. She describes that, while there, some of the Haitian natives would constantly come up to her to ask “if she had Jesus in her heart.” Depending on her response, they were ready to tell her all about Jesus. Haha, they were going to teach a Christian missionary about the Gospel. Evangelistic boldness is so woven into their Haitian culture that they automatically bring God up to anyone without fear. They love Jesus very very much.
  • There are between 70 and 90 million believers in China. A majority of whom worship in underground caves and in residential house churches. The communist Chinese government continues to imprison and kill leaders, but the revival continues to flourish. The government has begun to cut off the water supply and electricity in the homes of those house churches… but they still keep multiplying. They love Jesus very very much.

If we’re honest, many of us fall into the trap of believing that Christianity draws in a certain type of person. Whether it is a certain Myers-Briggs personality type, a subtle caricature, a certain race, hierarchy of class, economic status, or geographic locality. This foggy perception of Christians suddenly transforms our Biblically “open” faith into a religion that seems very “exclusive. An exclusiveness that is seen from both outside and inside the church. How is it possible that we have neglected to open our eyes into a stable awareness that God reaches ALL domains of society? Additionally, all throughout scripture there are commands and imagerys of unity within the body. “One body with many members” – 1 Corinthians 12:12. Ephesians 4, Psalm 133:1.

There is something about a body of people standing “together” firm in the faith, as Philippians 1:27, 28 describes. When people that have the same interests and motives surround us, we feel this sense of warmth and confidence that nothing can stop us. That is why there is such a thing as home-field advantage in sports…the fans and team feel emboldened around each other. Imagine the players on your favorite football team arriving to their game wearing different colored jerseys. There’s no unity in that and it will not intimidate the other team. We need one another.

I would love for those Haitian believers to teach me a thing or two about boldness and evangelism. When I’m having doubts about my faith, I need to hear from natural born skeptics how they wrestle Satan with apologetics and the power of God’s word. We need one another because God has sanctified us all in such particular ways that are intended to build the body. Not only for our local church, but also the universal (or global) church body at large. What Satan wants…what Satan loves is for us to not have any awareness of each other. For example, he doesn’t want us aware of the boldness of our Haitian brothers and sisters because, in turn, that would embolden us. Satan wouldn’t want that, now would he…

A close Clemson friend of mine recently told me of this God-given vision he received while sleeping one night: As he was dreaming, he suddenly saw this vision of an uncountable large gathering of people that were far beyond thousands of thousands. They were of all the different nationalities and from different walks of life. All of a sudden, their skins peeled and they were no longer recognizable by any form of identity. They weirdly became transformed into everyday construction tools from our local Home Depot (ex. hammers, measuring tapes, bevel squares, screwdrivers etc). They depicted how God was using each one of those immense number of believers for in collectively building his kingdom. Suddenly, all the tools went to work, building God’s kingdom in front of my friend!! He further described that it did not take long for all the clattering and noises to become overwhelmingly loud. All the action started causing his heart rate to abruptly increase and he literally started shaking and woke up from his dream.

Imagine the clatter we can make together as one team for our God and Savior. Imagine the encouragement and the inescapable reflection of God’s glory that would take place. Imagine us setting personal preference as secondary to the Gospel. #OneBody #OneSpirit #OneChurch #ILoveHashtags

Hmmm, where the heck was God’s “soverignty” during crazy events like the African Slave Trade???

A very lovable friend of mine has recently said that he’s having serious doubts about the existence of God. It is to the point where he does not believe anymore. His reason:

“If there is a God, then why would he allow so much destruction and violence to take place in this world?”

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17It’s a great question. My favorite atheist by far is Christopher Hitchens and, sadly, that’s one of his main points. However, an opposing question that’s rarely ever asked is:

“If there is a God, what is the deeper meaning of what he is doing in allowing some tremendously bad things to take place in this world?”

9-11-firefighters-flagI’m not saying that God directly causes cancer in people. I’m not saying he flew a plane on 9/11 into the twin towers or that he directly ordered the numerous genocides in Africa. But he most definitely could have stopped all those things from happening. There are numerous places in the Bible where he outright stops sin from taking place. The concept of God ordaining and being in control of everything is one of the toughest, most complex and controversial concepts of The Bible.  But it is true and is very real. At the end of the day, he is trustworthy and has a much different perspective than you and I. {And lets remember that people are the ones fighting the wars and causing destruction. If there is no God and people are sooo awesome, then why is there so much destruction and violence in the world?}

One thing I am constantly learning about God is that he is more for my joy than I am. He loves me more than I do and knows me better than I know myself. I graduated college in August and it took 4 months to find a job. Whereas if I were to write my own life-script, I would’ve gotten a job within 2 weeks after graduation.

To my constant surprise, during those sometimes boring, sometimes lonely, sometimes stressful 4 months God did an overwhelming amount of beautiful things that, in the end, were for my good and for His ultimate glory. I am so thankful for it all and would not write the script differently.

Now let’s go bigger. Let’s go global. The African Slave trade, for one example, was a tragic time in world history. We look back at the degradation and consumerism of those innocent human lives with shame.

If there was a God, why would he allow the African Slave Trade to take place?? What happened to God disciplining those who murder and steal?? Is this Almighty God not sovereign anymore? Ummm, if there was a God that hated sin, was he asleep during all of this????

slave-ship01sNo one in their right mind would argue that the African Slave trade was evil and filled with wrong intentions. But throughout the sinfulness of man during that era, God continued to do what he always does; reconciling all things to himself.

Here’s a fact. In the 1800s, there were less than 9 million believers in Africa. Today there are 516 million believers there. The most dramatic advance in all of Christian history. #MindBlown

Before explaining God’s sovereignty over Africa, it’s best if we can first see a quick biblical example.

The Old Testament repeatedly pointed towards a Kingdom of God coming to to the earth. When Jesus was on Earth he would constantly talk about the Kingdom of God. He describes the kingdom as a tiny seed that is planted, sprouts up, and grows. Right before he ascends into heaven he says to 500 believers, “go into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, & to the ends of the earth.”  The church start doing big things baby. They grew to about 3000 people….but they still remained within Jerusalem, even after Jesus specifically told them other locations. So God, in his sovereign power, basically allows/destines Stephen to be stoned to death. After this happens, a large persecution takes place against the Church by the Sanhedrin and the Christians are forced into Judea, Samaria. (Mark 4:26, Acts 1:8, Acts 2:41, Acts 7) Coincidence?

So while Stephen and other people get persecuted….God’s plan is spreading out further and further, like he inteded. Christians are now preaching the Gospel in Judea and Samaria. And we can go on and on to Rome, European history, the Americas, yadda yadda yadda. Sometimes God ordains tremendously beautiful movements of revivals or just natural church growth that spur on Christianity to the ends of the earth. But sometimes he uses the not-so beautiful. Either way, God wins. There are times in scripture where sorrow, pain, and frustration are given to men as a gift by God to save them (other times it is a result of our sin or dark spiritual warfare). Sometimes a loving grandmother suddenly passes away, but then her wayward children and their families find the Lord because of it.

an-african-churchFrom the time of Acts until the early 1800s, Christianity never really takes off in Africa at all. The Catholic Church was the only form of Christianity there but it had no lasting results. The Catholic Church, missionaries, and anything else was outdone by the overbearing Islamic presence there. But things changed when the African Slave trade arrived. Two British-Protestant Christians who loved the Lord, took part in the largest influence in the history of Africa. Thomas Fowell Buxton sought to put an end to the slave trade by encouraging local commercial and agricultural initiatives in its place. Henry Venn was responsible for laying down the principles of more “temporary” missionaries to Africa. This also led to better schools and education, principles that gave Africa a foundation that they never had. Over the next 200 years, the Gospel spread within their culture and language, becoming the largest Christian population on the planet. 380 million believers.

And we don’t even have to go to the Bible for reflection, we can just look at history….what the heck would the world look like in the African Slave trade never happened? 180 degrees of difference.

The Kingdom of God is a seed that is planted. It sprouts and it continually grows. This is unlike any fairy tale or theory, but it is happening right now before our very eyes. united-church-of-god-celebrate-feast-of-tabernacles-kingdom-of-god.jpg.crop_display

If we have the end in mind, patience increases and anger decreases.

The things of this world occur so that men would seek him, even though God is not far from each of us. He is intimately aware of each of us, and does whatever he pleases in order that he is glorified and that we may have full and eternal joy in Him (Acts 17:24-27, Psalm 115:3, Psalm 139:13-16, Daniel 4:35). Those are very “unpolitically correct” and unpopular verses; but when they are dwelt on properly a huge weight is taken off our shoulders and we love him even more dearly with more joy to live with.