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The Mystery of Godliness

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Last week my family and I took 4 days off and rented a little beach house in San Clemente. I had no plans apart from family time, except to meditate on 1 Timothy. As I read it a couple times a day, I found 1 Timothy 4:7-10 standing out. It says,

      Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;  

      8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in 

      every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

      The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end 

      we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the 

      Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 

I had the benefit of going to a Christian college. However, with that said, 1 Timothy 4:8 was painted on the gym, plastered across the locker rooms, and was used in any advertisement for Christian sports. Like a bad Bible interpreter, I never paid much attention to that verse because of the way it was used. However, as I kept rereading 1 Timothy last week, I could not escape the word “godliness.” Paul uses some form of the word “godliness” ten times in 1 Timothy. Why is Paul repeating this word so many times to his young apprentice and what is he trying to accomplish with Timothy?

      Paul was trying to prepare this young pastor for a well-rounded ministry. Paul believed that right doctrine leads to right living. In our culture today, truth is often in the eye of the beholder and to declare that something is objective truth can cause someone to be seen as intolerant or arrogant. While some people think if we could just return to the early church, we could live in a culture where truth was highly regarded. But that is not the case. In 1 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul tells Timothy something very important regarding truth and life, showing us it was something just as important then :

        I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if 

        I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, 

        which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

In short, Paul is passing the baton on to Timothy that doctrine drastically motivates behavior. Now, some may respond to that and say, “Jesus did it all, this sounds like law to me?” There is a major difference between a behavior that merits God’s grace and a behavior that is radically driven by God’s grace. The latter is what Paul calls godliness. Godliness is the right behavior that has been so moved by the glory of God that one cannot respond to such glory.

     This is where I was forced to look at Paul’s call to train in godliness. I asked myself, “Do I train in godliness the way I discipline myself in other areas of my life?” What about you? For some of you it may be the strict discipline of being at the gym every day, buying all the right food, doing meal prep, etc. The hours and physical discipline bring about a desired result. Do we put the same discipline and time into responding to who God is and what he has done for us? Do we train our tongues to be used for God’s glory rather than getting a reaction out of people or just making them laugh to get a reaction? Do we train to fight the temptations of lust the same way we train for other things we love? Or does our view of God’s sovereignty lead us to wrongly believe we can passively sit by and wait on God. Or do we, like Paul calls Timothy to do, train in godliness? Another thing with godliness is that it not only holds promise for this present life, but also the present life to come. This means that our present godliness has eternal results. We are being groomed and prepared for eternity with the One who has our affections. But throughout history, people all live for what they love. Godliness lives for God. Coolness lives for being cool. Whatever it is for you, you are disciplined in what you love.

The struggle of the human heart is not necessarily to love, but to love the wrong things and live for them. That is why Paul reminds Timothy in the dead center of his letter what the clearest picture of godliness is as well as that which will rightly motivate our godliness. He writes in 1 Timothy 3:16,

      Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:  He was manifested in 

      the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations,  

      believed on in the world, taken up in glory. 

This beautiful verse is worthy of much more explanation but one thing stands out: The godliness of God took on flesh and is our confession. The fact that Christ would take on a human body and live among his people is a loud declaration that Jesus came to redeem our lack of godliness and so change our affections to love him and live for him. As Calvin says, “How wide is the difference between God and man! And yet in Christ we behold the infinite glory of God united to our polluted flesh in such a manner that they become one.

If you have affections for Jesus, the mystery of godliness is no longer concealed. God has revealed to you the mystery of his plan of redemption. And the affections you have for the God-man cannot lead to passivity, but godliness in the household of God and towards your neighbor. Godliness is not a bad word reserved for legalists, nor is it something meant to merit the love of God. It is a by-product of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This means that the amount of joy found in Christ is also experienced in godliness. This godliness is one that holds promise for this life and the life to come when we see our glorious Savior face to face.

Clinging to Him Who Satisfies

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Halloween is upon us along with all the festivities and decorations. My family lives in a mobile-home park with 200+ houses. Every year since my oldest daughter, Olivia, was born, she has loved going around and looking at the Halloween decorations. In fact, all day every day she asks about the “skeleton with the spinning eyes,” “the blow-up train,” the “blow-up cat,” etc. Well, this is the first year that her little sister, Hadley, has an understanding of what is going on with all these decorations. Two nights ago I took Olivia and Hadley for a walk right before family worship so Olivia could see the “blow-up cat.” What was going to be a quick walk, God used to help me better understand him as a safe place to cling to.

As we drew near to this four-foot long and two-foot high blow up cat with sharp teeth and a rotating head, Hadley’s frame quickly changed from silly and laughing to quiet and afraid. As I picked her up, she buried her head into my chest and both hands clinched the skin of my chest. I gently commanded Olivia to turn around and follow me home. While the cat was out of sight, Hadley continued pressing into me and clinching on to my skin. I was her safe place, I was her refuge.

The next morning, Thomas and I enjoyed our daily 5am Psalm reading and time of prayer. The Psalm for the day was Psalm 63. And there in verse 9, David says, “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” What a picture of what happened with Hadley the night before? Where Hadley viewed me as her safe place, the one she could cling to, it made me question myself. It made me ask, “Am I as quick to cling to the Lord? Or do I look elsewhere for safety and comfort?”

This might raise questions for you as well. When job security is not what it once was, do you cling to the Lord or find yourself overcome with worry and anxiety? When your life hasn’t turned out the way you hoped, do you take things into your own hands and plan for a future elsewhere thinking you will find the kingdom of God there and not where you are? When your kids aren’t obeying the way they ought, do you turn to control and anger to get what you want?

The thing about clinging to the Lord, is that our clinging is a result of the state of our hearts. It says that we trust nothing above him, that he alone is our safety and comfort. In Psalm 63, David is in the wilderness and is physically hungry and thirsty. He has every reason to use his God-given faculties to create ways to find food and water, which he should. But before David trusts in himself for security or comfort, he clings to the Lord. The result of clinging to the Lord in the wilderness is a heart impacted and satisfied by spiritual realities. In Psalm 63:1 David thirsts for the Lord in a dry and weary land. In verse 2 he looks beyond the physical and unto the Lord. In verse 3, his dry and parched lips praise the Lord. And in verse 5, the same mouth that desires physical food will be satisfied on the spiritual food of God. 

This might propose a difficult challenge for us because, unlike David, we rarely find ourselves in the wilderness and more surrounded by things that promise security and comfort. Where David had no one else to cling to but the Lord, we have often clung to the things of this world to fulfill the desires of our heart. But the good news in Psalm 63 is that the living water that leads parched lips to praise and the satisfying food to the hungry soul is none other than Christ himself. In John 6, after feeding more than five-thousand people, Jesus proclaims to be the living bread that came down from heaven to satisfy our hungry souls (John 6:48-58). The result is two groups of people. The first group are those that only want the physical bread and full belly (6:60-65). They were clinging to that which would not satisfy. The second group are his closest disciples. When Jesus asks them if they want to leave also, Peter responds with a perfect picture of clinging to Jesus. He says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)

Again, in John 7:37-39 we see that Jesus is the living water that leads parched lips to praise. After a week of partying and celebrating God’s faithfulness to the wilderness generation, Jesus stands up and says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Later on in John, Jesus picks up this same language on the cross. When Jesus is nailed to the cross for all the times his people have found their security and comfort in the world, he alone endured physical and spiritual thirst…for us! Rather than take things into his own hands, flexing his muscles and escaping the sufferings of the cross, he willingly suffers. When Hadley had dug her nails into my chest and left bruises, I didn’t push her away but pulled her in tighter to know I would keep her safe. In the same way, Jesus takes the wrath of God upon himself with love for us so we have a safe place to hide and find acceptance and love. But in doing so, he also shows us what it looks like to cling to God in the worst of circumstances. On the cross there was no security and no comfort for Jesus apart from entrusting himself to his Father. 

So, my question to myself that night with Hadley, and after reading Psalm 63, was, “How might I better cling to the Lord and praise him rather than grumble?” The parched soul who is afraid he/she is not safe finds comfort and security by looking unto the bread of life and the fountain of living water that truly does satisfy.

Have I Died Lately? by Pastor Wes

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And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:34-36, ESV)

It has been a while since I have asked myself this question. I typically read this familiar passage and conclude that the disciples were dumb, like I can often be, and missed Jesus’ whole point. In fact, he tells the disciples three times in the Gospel of Mark that he must die and raise from the dead, but they miss it. While I haven’t necessarily missed that crucial point, partly because I have the whole revelation of God at my fingertips, I have missed meditation on this passage and surveying my own life. When was the last time I died?

I can remember some of those big moments where I died to myself in some radical way that has made me feel like I was doing “something big” for Jesus. At the beginning of 2007 I left a six-figure job training Army guys and blowing stuff up. I left that job to move to San Diego and go to college and help plant a church. In doing so I died to what I loved doing to pursue a call to ministry that I wasn’t all that sure of yet. There are times like that I can look back on and really remember dying to myself and following Jesus.

What about lately? As I thought about this question this morning, I couldn’t think of any big things. I can’t look back to the last four to five years and trace those “big” moments. Then it hit me. As a man who is absolutely convinced that God speaks through the Scriptures, that there are an abundance of small daily decisions that require me to die to myself when my life disagrees with God’s Word. The times I want to speak impure words or words that hurt others, I die when I submit to Ephesians 4:29 and 5:4. It has been in the times where I want to get even with those that hurt me with their words but I die in not reviling when reviled (1 Peter 2:23). It is dying when I come home from a long and hard day of pastoral ministry and have to check-in and lead my family in family worship, be present during bath and bedtime, and still ask my sweet bride how she is doing. 

Everyday comes with its own chances to trust God and die to self. One that I am currently learning is dying to what I think I need to do to please people, and rather, having the freedom to say no and really rest when I need it. My friend and fellow pastor is currently in Uganda with his wife and kids adopting a sweet little girl. I am not him. I do not preach like him, I do not counsel like him, and I do not have the same capacities he does. I am daily dying to this expectation to be him. But I am living to be who God made me and how he is conforming me more into the image of his Son (Romans 12:2). In short, I am dying to myself and the expectations of others and living in the freedom of the death and resurrection of Christ. But the truth is, dying is hard and it often hurts. Every time a piece of me died, it really does hurt. However, the worth that follows is superior to any part of me that dies. And the great news is that I am not alone.

Jesus knew that middle-ground, that bridge between death and life. On the night he was betrayed and falsely arrested, the weight of the coming crucifixion weighed on him heavily. In Matthew 26:39, Jesus says, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus was the only one to ever walk this earth that truly deserved for the cup to pass. He did not deserve the wrath of God. He could have washed his hands of the whole Trinitarian plan to save a people and would have been right in doing so. But in his great love, he submitted to his Father and died to himself. 

Jesus shows us that dying to ourself doesn’t always bring us immediate reward. Despite him trusting his Father, he still went to the cross and died for his people. This means that we do not die to ourself to get something in return. No, we die to get someone in return. Every time we die to the temptations of this world, whether that be lust, gossip, slander, etc., we are choosing God himself. While He is worth every painful choice to die to self, there is a day coming where the weight of these small decisions to die will produce their weight. On that Day it will be clear that we did not forfeit our soul for the world, but forfeited our selfish desires for the God who will be our joy and satisfaction forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

To be completely transparent with you, I have died a lot in the last 4 months, but much of it has been reluctantly. I have struggled to die to myself because the pain and the tears seemed too much at times. Yet, every time I have died and gained more of Jesus, a deep and quiet joy has replaced that which died. Lastly, that great Day that is coming will be one where we will never again die but be in the presence of the Source of life forever and ever. Jesus will be our eternal joy and we will say with all assurance that whatever died in us on Earth made the New Heavens and New Earth that much better. Where have you died lately?

Torn, by Pastor Tim

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UPDATE

A Dream Deferred. 

The last time we were together I left with an excited anticipation, that within a month or so, I would be back, and this time I would have my entire family with me. Both my wife and I felt like we could see the light at the end of the tunnel and we were so excited. If I closed my eyes I could picture flying into San Diego and walking down those stairs into a sea of smiling faces. Tayla would be running to greet her friends, Malachi would let out a scream and point at the familiar faces with excitement, and Maggie would grab my leg trying to figure out what was going on. Just picturing it made my eyes water and my heart smile with excitement.

A few days ago Abbey and I got some very difficult news. That dream which seemed close enough to touch, now feels like a distant memory. The truth is that I don’t know what to tell you because we don’t know what is going to happen. We still feel confident that we will be able to bring Maggie home, we just don’t know how much longer it is going to take. We are in uncharted territory and it may be a month or so before we have any idea about a timeline.

The Plan

My first reaction to this devastating news was to try and come up with a plan. I felt like if I only had a plan then I would feel better and somehow find the strength to endure. I have felt so bad about being away from the church and I couldn’t fathom having to share this news over the internet, so I came up with a plan to come home and be with you for a few weeks. Tayla and I bought our tickets and we were both really excited about being back with you at Kaleo. 

And then a few nights ago I came into the kitchen to find my wife curled up on the floor crying. We sat and talked and it became pretty obvious to me that my plan wasn’t the answer. This news has been really hard on our family and until we hear something it’s going to continue to be that way. So knowing that God’s primary call on my life is to be a husband to my wife and a father to my children I cancelled our tickets home so that we could face this season together as a family.

Stripped

So I don’t have a plan anymore. And I don’t have a timeline. And I can assure you that this letting go has hurt me deeply. I walk around feeling torn knowing that no matter how badly I want to, I simply can’t be with both my church family and my wife and kids at the same time. And without a plan or a timeline to cling to I have found myself forced to acknowledge my weakness and come to grips with my inability to fix this.

And yet, from somewhere above the chaos all around me, I hear my God saying “Seek my face” (Ps. 27:8). Even as I come to grips with my glaring weakness I realize that I am not alone and that my Savior is right beside me saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor. 12:9).

And what I am beginning to realize is that God’s grace is superior to all of my plans and his face is more desirable than any timeline. And what I’ll never be able to get over is that these promises that comfort me when I feel torn find their ultimate source in the shed blood of our precious Savior. The reason that God can invite me to seek his face is because on the cross Jesus opened up for all of us a new and living way to God through the curtain which was torn in two. And Hebrews 10:20 reminds us that the curtain that was torn in two was nothing less than the flesh of God’s only Son. 

Jesus knows what it feels like to be torn. He has tasted suffering that exceeds anything I could ever dream of. And he did it so that he could offer all of his people comfort in our time of need. Even now he is calling out to you saying “Seek my face” and you can know that no matter how weak you may feel “his grace is sufficient for you” because you see his power is made perfect in our weakness.

A Lesson from History 

I will never forget a story that I heard about King George VI. As the year 1939 came to a close England found herself struggling in the beginning stages of WWII. In the midst of the chaos the King got on the air to give his annual Christmas address. As the nation listened anxiously the king said, “A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted.”

And then the King read a few lines from a poem that seemed to strike a chord with the entire nation. The poem read:

“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,

Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown

And he replied, “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.

That shall be to you safer than the light and better than the known…”

A New Plan

I feel like this poem summarizes this season of our life. I want a plan; I want a timeline; I want an exit strategy. I want a light so that I may tread safely into the unknown. But it seems overwhelmingly clear at this point that God has something different in mind for us. And he has called our family to let go of our plans and to seek his face. And tonight my weak heart is whispering, “Your face, O Lord will I seek.” That’s the new plan. The new plan is that we would walk into the darkness believing that the nearness of our God is safer than the light and that his grace is sufficient to guide us into the unknown. 

God’s Provision

I want to end by saying thank you. You have been God’s provision to us during this difficult season. Abbey and I will never forget the way you have loved us and prayed for us and supported us this whole time. The thing about your love is that it has far surpassed anything that Abbey or I could ever deserve and we are very aware of that. And God has used your undeserved love to remind us of the riches of his grace and the way that he too has loved us far more than we could ever earn. So thank you. Thank you for loving us; thank you for praying for us; thank you for missing us; thank you for thinking about us, and thank you for being patient as we all learn to seek the face of our God together and wait for his perfect timing.

Kaleo Church, I don’t have a timeline and I don’t know when I will be able to bring the whole family home. But I know that the God “Who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” is a God that we can trust. And even now he is inviting each of us to let go of our plans and seek his face. So as a church let’s take him up on his gracious invitation. Let us all say together with the Psalmist “Your face, Lord, do we seek…” Amen.

A Father’s Broken Heart: Update from Pastor Tim

As I have been reading through the book of Colossians I have been thinking a lot about all of you at Kaleo Church.  My wife and I miss you very much.  Paul’s words in Colossians 2:5 have been especially significant for me.  He writes, “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.”

I want you to know that even though I am away I think about you all often and my heart rejoices whenever I hear back good reports of your faith in Christ.  In that light, I wanted to send you a brief update about something that happened last week and how God has been using it in my own life.

Cactus Sap

Thursday evening our 3 year old daughter Maggie was playing in the front yard and somehow she got ahold of a cactus plant and was breaking it open and playing with its sap.  The sap is sticky like glue and she was rubbing it all over her head and face, so that by the time she came inside, she had dirt stuck all over her.  Abbey immediately took her to the shower where it didn’t take long to discover that cactus sap doesn’t come off very easy.  

And then all of the sudden I heard a scream coming from the bathroom.  I ran in and I will never forget what I saw.  My three-year old daughter was screaming at the top of her lungs and grabbing at her eyes like she was trying to rip them out.  She was stomping her feet crying, “momma, momma,” and Abbey was urgently trying to get her to open her eyes so that we could flush them out with water.  Maggie would scream and hold her eyes in her hands until she couldn’t take the pain anymore. Then she would open her eyes and shove her face up into the shower water hoping to find some relief.

It turns out that while she was showering Maggie had touched her eyes and gotten some of the cactus sap in them.  In later research I found out that cactus sap is very potent and highly inflammatory to the skin and eyes. Some cactus sap is up to 100x as potent as chili pepper.  The sap that got on her nose and head burned through her skin and left large blisters everywhere that it touched.  After seeing what it did to her skin I can’t imagine the pain she must have been in when she got it in her eyes. 

As a father, hearing Maggie scream and watching her in pain was one of the hardest things I can remember experiencing.  Everything in me wanted to step in and take away her pain.  I wanted to reach down and pick her up and make everything better.  My heart actually throbbed inside of me.  It was like her scream had claws and they were tearing through my chest as I stood there helpless, unable to take her pain away.  Her suffering hurt me as bad as anything I can remember.

If you are a parent you probably know what I am talking about.  Nothing hurts more than your child’s screams, nothing is more heartbreaking than the fear and disappointment that comes over their face when they realize you can’t stop their pain.  

A Father’s Broken Heart

Since Thursday I have relived those moments in the shower again and again. Now I want to tell you what I can’t seem to get out of my head.  Something about the acuteness of Maggie’s pain and the rawness of her screams has got me thinking about the cross.  I see her clawing at her eyes and screaming for her mother and I can’t help but think about Jesus reeling in pain and crying out to his Father as he hung on the cross.

And as I remember the way my heart broke, as I helplessly watched Maggie suffer. I can’t help but think about what God’s heart must have felt like as he watched his only Son stagger under the greatest suffering the universe has ever known.  How his heart must have broken when he heard his Son scream out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34). 

I have known Maggie for 8 weeks and yet I found that her suffering had the power to break my heart, how much more must our God have hurt as he watched the Son that he had loved for all eternity suffer?  I struggled to watch my daughter’s eyes burn with a potency greater than a chili pepper, but our God stood by and watched his only Son endure the hell that his people deserved.

And God could have stopped it.  He could have saved himself any heartbreak by reaching and rescuing his Son.  But he didn’t.  Our God stood by and watched his Son suffer as his heart was torn in two and he did it for us.  He did it because he loved us.  That is what John means when he says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).

In this is love, that God the Father endured the heartbreaking screams of his only Son so that we might be saved.  If you have put your trust in Jesus than you can know for certain that this God is your Father and his love is for you.  He knew that without him you would spend eternity in hell and he didn’t want that for you.  And so he stepped in and he gave the greatest gift the world has ever known.  He gave his only Son so that he might rescue you and me.  Kaleo Church, never forget the love that your God showed you on the cross. 

And lest you find yourself feeling sorry for Jesus I want to remind you that you don’t have to.  You see God didn’t ignore the cries of his Son forever.  After three days he raised Jesus up again from the dead and gave him a name that is above every name in all the universe.

And for all of you out there who currently feel like my daughter did that day.  For all of you who find yourself reeling in pain and crying out to God for help, I want you to know that your God hears you.  He hears you and like any good Father his heart breaks at your pain.  The Bible tells us that he keeps our tears in a bottle and he numbers the times we toss and turn at night (Ps. 56:8).  And you can know for certain that the Father “who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” will not leave you in your suffering forever (Rom. 8:32).  Instead Peter promises that “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

Gratitude: Update 2 from Tim and Abbey

When I step back and look at my family I cannot help but be overwhelmed by God’s kindness to me.  Seeing the way Tayla and Malachi have welcomed Maggie into our family has been amazing.  I am so proud of both of them.  Tayla and Maggie have so much fun together.  At night after dinner they go crazy running around the house singing and dancing and getting into trouble.  Maggie loves to repeat everything she hears which can become pretty funny when one of the kids is getting in trouble.  They try and focus on what we are telling them but everyone finds it hard not to laugh when Maggie says, “Put that down right now or you’re going straight to bed.”  

I am so thankful for this time that God has given us together as a family and I just can’t get over the gift that Maggie is to our lives and how wonderful it is to have her as a part of our family.  But as much as I have enjoyed our time together as a family here in Africa there have certainly been times when I have longed to be able to pack our bags and load all three of the kids on a plane and come home.  

II Corinthians 5 and Missing Home.

It was interesting to read II Corinthians 5 in the context of these longings.  Usually I find it hard to relate to Paul’s groaning as he longs to be at home in heaven, but today I understand.  Well, sort of.  What I understand is wanting to be home.  

I miss being back in El Cajon.  I miss seeing everyone on Saturday nights and worshipping our great God together and I can’t wait for everyone to meet Maggie.  It’s Friday night right now and I miss being at home and going to DNA and then having everyone over for Friday MC.  I miss counseling people who are desperate to hear about Jesus and I miss praying with our leaders on Wednesday nights.  I miss our friends and family.  I miss being productive, I miss looking back at the end of the day believing that something worthwhile has been accomplished.  Of course I also miss hamburgers, chips and salsa, breakfast burritos, pasta, pizza, Pepsi that tastes like Pepsi, and driving my own car.

There is a very real sense that I sometimes find myself longing for these things.  Of course the fact that I can now relate to Paul’s longing, doesn’t mean I understand his point; the truth is that it only proves how badly I have missed it.  This passage woke me up to what a fool I can be to groan more about not being in America than I do about not being in heaven.  C.S. Lewis is right, I am far too easily pleased.  I am praying today that God will take my longings to be back home and redirect them.  I am praying that like Paul I will see heaven and not El Cajon as my true home.  I am asking for a heart that longs to be with Jesus more than any earthly comfort.  

Life is on the Way.

Even as I continued reading II Corinthians 5 God began to answer this prayer.  There is a phrase that Paul used that I haven’t been able to get out of my head.  In verse 4 Paul describes what it is that he longs for by saying, “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”  Paul longed for the things that were mortal to be swallowed up by life.  He wanted sickness and suffering and death to be swallowed up by life.  He wanted everything broken in this world and everything in himself that hurt to be swallowed up by life.  Tell me that isn’t something worth longing for?  “Oh that all that is mortal about this world and about myself might be swallowed up by life!”  No more pain, or suffering, or orphans, no more tears, or loneliness, or fits, no more sin or death, for you see one day all that is mortal will be swallowed up by life.

Paul goes on to say, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (II Cor. 5:5).  My friends all that is mortal in God’s people will one day be swallowed up by life!  Yes we may get sick, yes we may suffer, yes we will one day die but all of these things are just part of God’s plan to ensure that one day all that is mortal in us is swallowed up by life!  This is what God has prepared us for from the very beginning and this is what he sent his only Son to Calvary to accomplish for us.  And now, for all the times in life where we find this truth hard to believe, God has given us his Holy Spirit as a guarantee.

That is why Paul can say in verse 6 “So we are always of good courage.”  That verse hit me pretty hard because there have been times over the past few weeks that I haven’t felt “of good courage.”  There have been times when I have actually felt discouraged.  Times when how long this process could take has hit me like a wave.   

But then I read this verse and thought, “What if my courage didn’t come from my circumstances?”  What if it came from that fact that my God has prepared life to come and swallow up all that is mortal?  What if my courage came from the fact that he had given me his Holy Spirit as a guarantee?  What if I truly believed that Jesus would never leave me or forsake me and that all of his plans for me were steadfast love and faithfulness?  If I believed these things I think I could say with Paul, “So we are always of good courage.”  Always, in the good times and in the bad, in the lonely and in the satisfied, when things go my way and when they don’t.  “Oh God, would you teach me to base my courage on the rock solid promises of your word instead of on the ever changing circumstances of my life.”  Then I could always be of good courage as I wait for what is mortal in me to be swallowed up by life.

While We Wait…

With all of these thoughts still bouncing around in my mind I came to verse 9 and knew that this was the application that God was preparing my heart for.  Paul says, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please God.”  I needed to hear this verse.  You see one of my greatest temptations on this trip is to simply try to pass the time while I wait to come home.  It’s tempting for me to make it my aim to get through the day knowing that means I am one day closer to bringing my family back home.  You see one of the things I like about home is that I have a pretty good idea of what it looks like to please God at home, but you see out here things aren’t always as clear.  

That’s why I needed to hear this verse.  I needed to hear this verse to remind me that God is in control, and He is the one who has me here in Africa, and as long as I am here I must make it my aim to please Him.

I love this verse because it reminds me that we can please God wherever it is that He has us.  We can please him at home and away, we can please him in the good times and in the bad, we can please him when things are easy and when they are hard, we can please him when we are happy and when we are sad.

What is it that God is calling me to do while I wait to come home?  He is calling me to please Him.  He is calling me to please him by loving my wife and helping out as much as I can around the house.  He is calling me to please him by loving my children and soaking up all this extra time with them.  He is calling me to work hard to intentionally reflect for them the steadfast love that I have experienced from my heavenly Father.  But that is not all that God is calling me to do.  You see God isn’t only pleased by our actions.  It’s not just what we do that brings him pleasure.  God is calling me to trust Him.  He is calling me to be of good courage because He is in control and soon he will send life to come and swallow up all that is broken.  He is calling me to remember that “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”  (Lam. 3:26).  He wants me to be still and know that he is God and that in Christ he is already well pleased with me.   

Now some of you may find that you can relate to what I have been talking about.  Maybe you are in a season of life that you can’t wait to get past.  Maybe you are tempted to look ahead and think “Once this or that happens then I will truly be able to please God.”  Maybe things aren’t going the way you planned and you too are finding it difficult to be of good courage.  My prayer is that God might use Paul’s words to encourage you the way he used them to encourage me.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would remind you that one day life will come and swallow up all that is broken.  I pray that because of that you would be of good courage and that as you wait for that day to come you would make it your aim to please God.  Please him by trusting in his promises, please him by joyfully receiving his great love, please him by waiting patiently for his Salvation, please him by reflecting his great love onto those around you.

Abbey and I miss you all very much and we groan as we long to see you again soon.  But even more we groan to see our Savior and watch as the life that he purchased for us on the cross comes and swallows up all of our sorrows and pain.  Kaleo church lets be of good courage as we wait patiently for that day and until then, let us make it our aim to please our great God.  Amen.