“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in Him… (Philippians 3:8-9a, emphasis mine)
Lost in Him
I find that the real test of life, er, tests of life, are bought with time. With years. We spend what we have (and all we have is time and ourselves) and we gain something that can be obtained in no other way. This is how.
I drove back from a vacation about a month ago, you know how it is. As the valley from which I hail slowly came into view, I began to ponder. Prior to that it had been alternately a memory and then a realization, the rolling, evergreen hills up and down the state of Oregon had done their part to temporarily erase my somewhat humdrum existence. The time in a big city had effectively cleansed me of that grit and grime. I felt new. But again, driving back into what I’d escaped from, I had this epiphany: Dear God, I’ve been doing the same thing in the same area for so long. And it struck me anew. It was actually quite poignant, if saddening. I saw the area as a sort-of gray wash—dry, boring and a dead end. But how does God see it? That question was my saving grace for this moment.
“And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
Think about the place where God dwells. Assuming all He does is sit on a throne all the livelong day, what do we have to complain about when we feel we’ve been in the same place for too long? I suppose I should add that the Lord isn’t affected by time like we are. But if He’s wherever we are by His Spirit and also in Heaven, bodily, what’s the problem? In other words, He’s not going anywhere. This is good news, with reference to God. For us though? It can be a harder thing to wrap your mind and heart around.
“For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged.” (Proverbs 28:2)
What do you know about this? Referencing Jeremiah above and then linking that scripture with the one here from Proverbs, it would seem that there are things in the spiritual realm where you’re at—that don’t belong. Think about it: “the transgression (i.e. sin) of a land”. And Jeremiah says to “pray for the peace of the city”. In other words, lacing these two verses together—and taking them out of context, admittedly—it looks as if God is calling you to help affect the area for His glory. To watch and pray and forgive. And love. Jesus didn’t say “Thy Kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10) for nothing. When He left (He’s coming back, you know), He left us the power by the Holy Spirit to bring about change on a global scale. But it starts where you are. Let it bloom where you’re planted.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16-17, emphasis mine)
Found in Him
When I was a kid, maybe twenty years ago, I dreamed I was riding an inner tube down a local creek, fishing as I floated by. I pulled up a small yellow puffer fish I knew was poisonous. While it resembled said puffer fish in real life, it was sans spines and had the appearance of a sizable globule of fat. I remember its oversized and silly-looking lips (it was a fish with lips so I threw it back). Interesting. I never sought an interpretation because I didn’t sense it had any meaning behind it. Fast-forward to a week ago and I dream again. While the scene I’m about to describe was merely one part of the night’s oneiric entertainment, it stood out in stark contrast to the rest of what went on. In the dream, I find myself in the back of an SUV going over a bridge that runs lengthwise over a river. Either there was a break in the bridge or else a wide open space between the two tracks over which we drove, because I looked down and saw a massive yellow monster battling another, in the water. The first monster (I won’t describe the second) looked, for all intents and purposes like it could have been the yellow little fat-lipped puffer fish from my childhood—all grown up. It was grotesque. I should add that this insight came after I journaled upon waking what I am describing. The monster in my dream had a long snout, fat lips intact at the end. And instead of fins, it was bipedal but had extraordinarily long arms with long, slender, clawed fingers. The other monster didn’t stand a chance (or did it?). Either way, it was horrifying. Though I was removed from the action down below and as such, the feeling that proximity to the fight would afford. I wasn’t scared, looking on. What does it mean?
“Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.” (Psalm 73:7)
Don’t think for a second that we as Christians don’t encounter, and therefore walk in, the aforementioned sins that John lays out in the passage above. “The lust of the flesh”. “The lust of the eyes”. “The pride of life”. I’ve felt these things seek to take root in myself and I know any Christian looking to follow God throughout their life is tempted the same. And we meet Jesus (and see Him as sufficient) when we choose to obey Him in these arenas. Are you having a struggle with “the lust of the flesh”? Talk to Him. He’s right there with you whether you feel it or not. Lust of the eyes? Are your eyes “stand[ing] out with fatness”, or as the New King James words it, “Their eyes bulge with abundance”? God knows. Nothing wrong with a little minimalism for His sake (in other words, when you’re tempted with more than you can handle, throw it back—don’t let it become full grown, it’ll destroy you). This would be the lesson the Lord had me learn while I’ve been here for so long. And the “pride of life” doesn’t hold a candle to the joy God gives you as walk with Him.
“When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory.” (Psalm 102:16)
See, if you believe in God, He has lessons for you to learn. When you accepted Christ as your savior, you enrolled in a course of study that will last your whole life long. One of Jesus’s titles while here on this earth was Rabbi, or teacher. He’s the same today. And while the Holy Spirit is the power of God on this earth “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10), He’s also your teacher as well (see John 14:26). And He’s mine. I’ve been where I’m at for a long time and while I can attest to being stubborn and slow in certain curriculums, the stuff that God’s had for me to learn has been more complex than I could ever assume on my own. It’s just that way. Thank God I get a vacation every once in a while.
“And now little children, abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28)