I recently read a blog that contained an excerpt of The Heidelberg Confession. I had to pause for reflection as I read:
“Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
What is my only comfort in life and in death? I can with all assurance say that I believe the answer above is my confession. But my life experience will show that I have not experienced the truth of those words. Not here, not now. I believe there is a future day when I will be with Christ and my fullness in Him will be realized. But can I experience that fullness now? Can you experience that fullness now? Perhaps. But our potential is blocked by the madness of sin in our lives. The sins that have been committed against us and the sins we have committed against ourselves and others. And these sins, at times, confuse the signals in our brains and cause us to feel empty when we really aren’t. I over-eat to compensate for my emptiness. While I have never been morbidly obese, the eating behavior is still present. It is hard-wired in my brain and tells me that eating is a pleasurable activity and I can feel full any time I want. Of course this is not true and many other people would attest to that, because we have to keep eating more and more. So, what is happening here is at the root of desire.
Every living thing on the planet has been given the gift of desire. Desires drive us toward fulfillment. We desire to be full or to be filled. We are motivated to seek fulfillment over and over. Why? Because we also experience emptiness. When we are empty we look for something to fill us again. We don’t like the feeling of emptiness, so we seek to be filled. This is good desire.
While our desires are common,( need for food, water, intimacy, etc) the expression of those desires (what we desire, where we desire, and with whom we desire) are as varied as each individual. Our past experiences, our culture and our families, in many ways, shape the expression of our desires. While the desires themselves have been declared by God to be “good,” sin and suffering has affected every part of our being as humans and that includes our desires.
The paradox is this: We attain to be filled here and now, and while we can have some fulfillment we can’t have it all. Everytime we engage in eating or sexual relations, sports, recreational activities, building our families, worshiping God (collectively or individually), we have to keep coming back to be filled and filled again. Because we get empty. We don’t like empty. And this is especially true of people who have been abused or are experiencing abuse of some kind.That is because their brain has lost the ability to recognize their own feeling of empty and full. So,some turn to sexual promiscuity, or they develop eating disorders, or eat more than their body can metabolize. They turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the unavoidable emptiness that is so much a part of their life.There is a heightened desire, almost a feeling of desperation to be filled all the time, but they cannot attain it.
Here is the solution: Since we can’t avoid emptiness on this side of heaven, we can choose to be grateful for the feeling of emptiness because it ultimately brings us to the only one who can fill us completely. He fills us with His Spirit for this life He has called us to. Everytime we feel empty we are reminded that we are totally dependent on God for our food, for our health and for our joy in living. Yes,on earth, we need to be filled over and over again. Because we belong to God and He has given every provision for us to come to Him for filling, we can know that in Heaven we will be filled with Himself and we will have no need for any other fulfillment. He is the Bread of Life, the Living Water and the Door by which we will enter into an eternity of riches that have been promised to anyone who is acquainted with physical and emotional hunger in this life. There will be no more cravings or hunger of any kind.
I want to leave my emptiness behind me. I want to be filled by the Spirit of the living God. I can give myself wholly to the Christ who emptied Himself so that I could receive His fullness. The Heidelberg confession lets us realize this dependence on the finished work of Christ, for our fulfillment now, and at the time of our death when we are finally emptied of this body that we carry on earth. Come with me on this journey, together we will discover the endless provisions of an Almighty God!
I believe that God is preparing for us an eternal dwelling place that will be so magnificent that He could not allow us to imagine such glory here in this world lest the focus of our desire be on the place of heaven rather than the presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
The hope of heaven is not that we will finally be free of all sorrow and pain that we have endured in this life, but rather to see with the eyes of our heart the Calvary where Jesus took the scourge of pain and death from us and exchanged it for His righteousness. The hope of heaven is Christ Himself. He made it possible for us to escape eternal separation from God so that we will someday eat from the tree of life. Indeed, we do eat of that tree, which is Jesus . He is the First fruit of His Father, He is the Door to the Father, He is Living Water, the Bread of Life and He calls us NOW to “Taste and see that He is good.” (Ps. 34:8a)
Yet, we are “soul-journers” in a dry and desert place. We thirst for what we do not have and we chase away the things we do not want because they cause us pain. Read the sign. It says, “Pain and sorrow are not welcome here”. It is written on the faces of all humanity. But none of us escape it. What encouragement we find in Scripture where we read, “These light and temporary trials are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). If only we believed it. Then we would realize that though we are hungry, that hunger is good because it points us to Christ who wants us to enjoy the bounty of His table. Right now, in the midst of our suffering.
Loneliness has become my winter friend. During the cold and dark months I often try to escape the clutches of that beast that threatens to take me to a dark and dreary place; bitter, unforgiving and desolate. Normally, I despise loneliness. I hate how it makes me feel. Recently, I had an encounter with loneliness and decided to stop fighting it. I began to pay attention to my emotions; when my feelings of loneliness were particularly strong. One evening I was alone in my house, thinking about the difficulties of this life. I decided to put on some music about heaven, knowing the hearing of it would act as a balm to soothe my weary soul. Minutes into my music, I found myself feeling overwhelmed; despairing over the aloneness of my heart! So I turned up the music and sang at the top of my lungs, tears streaming down my face. I felt anger over the loneliness but I was also aware of the intense feeling of joy! That’s when Jesus spoke peace to my waiting heart. I began to laugh because of this beautiful gift He had given me. This is what He wanted me to know: Loneliness is not the enemy. My loneliness is for Jesus! My loneliness is a good gift from the only One who can truly satisfy that need of my heart. So, I can invite my winter friend into all the seasons of my life because my loneliness is but a reminder to me of my unquenchable desire for heaven where merely seeing Jesus face-to-face will end all feelings of loneliness forever. Come, Lord Jesus. Come!
I must be feeling a bit nostalgic today. I was going through pages of my journal and found something I had written a few years back. It reminded me for one that this empty-nester stuff is not all it’s cracked up to be. When my oldest son first left home, I had no idea that I would soon be joining the ranks of the divorced. I would also begin to experience a new level of loneliness I had not thought possible. Then he announced his upcoming move to another state to continue working with his company’s headquarters. I literally felt my heart being ripped from my body at the thought that I might not see him anymore except for brief periods of time. I would catch myself thinking of how much I loved this young man with whom I had a hand in raising to his manhood, and I would sigh a very long sigh. I would think of the day he was born, of his Christian upbringing in a loving but very imperfect family, and how gracious God is to forgive and watch over my son in spite of my own failures. So, I sat down and penned the following and gave it to him the day he left.
Sighs emit from nose and mouth, unbidden.
Do you know that you are the first man I did not have to grow to love?
It was love at first sight. You were safe in your father’s arms when I met you.
Today I gave you back to your Father’s arms.
I never really owned you; you were on loan to me.
As it should be.
And now there is yearning in this empty space.
I have an awareness now that I did not have as I was growing older.
Longing will never be quenched this side of the curtain.
God’s wisdom allows us mere glimpses of His glory in those we love here.
When we love well.
There is no difficulty in a mother’s love for her children.
Moments at the breast turn to days at the knees, months in the classroom and years in the world.
All the while longing for this tiny soul to ripen into manhood. You are there.
You are on the cusp of expanding your boundaries.
You are beginning to experience this yearning of living and loving for yourself. Your heart longs for fulfillment of desire.
And so, my yearning is for your joy, and the satisfaction of all that God in His kindness toward you, bestows.
You see, He desires you most.
All our longing leads back to the Father.
He is our supreme happiness, the joy of our hearts, the satisfaction of our greatest desires.
And so we wait and hope for heaven while we live out our lives on earth with yearning.
I gave you back to your Father today.
He is listening to the sighing of my heart.
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POETRY, RANDOM THOUGHTS AND STUFF LIKE THAT....
The mindset in postmodernism is that objective truth does not exist. But in post-truth, the person believes that objective truth exists, but they subordinate truth to their preferences, or their comfort. In other words, one doesn’t care that truth exists or what the truth is if it doesn’t line up with one’s preferences. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" - George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. Faith in Jesus Christ is our response to God's elective purpose in our life. These two truths--God's initiative and man's response--co-exist throughout the Bible. The gospel is "the message of truth" because truth is its predominant characteristic. Salvation was conceived by the God of truth (Ps. 31:5); purchased by the Son, who is the truth (John 14:6); and is applied by the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). To know it is to know the truth that sets men free (John 8:32). Believers are people of the truth (John 18:37), who worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and who obey the Word of truth (John 17:17). People have rejected, neglected, redefined, and opposed God’s truth for centuries. Some cynically deny that truth even exists or that it can be known by men (John 18:38). Others foolishly think that denying truth will somehow make it go away. Truth determines the validity of one's belief. Believing a lie doesn't make it true. Conversely, failing to believe the truth doesn't make it a lie. The gospel is true because Jesus is true, not simply because Christians believe in Him. His resurrection proved the truth of His claims and constitutes the objective basis of our faith (Rom. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:3). Truth is our protection and strength (Eph. 6:14). Throughout history, people have tried everything imaginable to gain favor with God. Most turn to religion, but religion apart from Christ is merely a satanic counterfeit of the truth. At the heart of every false religion is the notion that man can come to God by any means he chooses--by meditating, doing good deeds, and so on. But Scripture says, "There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). That name is Jesus Christ, and we come to Him by confessing and repenting of our sin, trusting in His atoning death on the cross, and affirming His bodily resurrection from the grave (cf. Rom. 10:9-10). There is no other way to God. False religious leaders and teachers talk much about God’s love, but not His wrath and holiness; much about how deprived of good things people are, but not about their depravity; much about God’s universal fatherhood toward everyone, but not much about his unique fatherhood toward all who believe in His Son; much about what God wants to give to us, but nothing about the necessity of obedience to Him; much about health and happiness, but nothing about holiness and sacrifice. Their message is full of gaps, the greatest of which leaves out a biblical worldview of the saving gospel and replaces it with the worldview of postmodernism with its dominant ethical system of relativism. The Bible describes mankind in the end times: “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Spiritual answers cannot be deduced by human reason alone (1 Cor. 2:14). It’s not that spiritual truth is irrational or illogical, but that human wisdom is defective, because it’s tainted by man’s sinfulness, and unable to perceive the things of God. That is why the Bible is so important. It gives us the answers we can’t find on our own. It is God’s Word to mankind. Scripture is divinely revealed truth that fills the vacuum of spiritual ignorance in all of us. Post-truth is the word of the year for 2016 and also the philosophy of the day, According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. In a “post-truth” world, people make choices based on emotion and experience rather than objective fact. So in a post-truth world, truth is irrelevant. What exactly is a post-truth culture? It’s a culture where truth is no longer an objective reality. It has become subjective. It’s what’s true for me—my beliefs, my opinions, determine my truth. So in our post-truth culture, man determines truth. Man makes himself the ultimate authority. This starting point, which rejects God’s Word and the idea of moral absolutes, makes truth subjective. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Christianity is grounded in objective truth. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Objective truth exists because we have God’s Word. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Thy word is truth” (John 17:17), and Paul and James describe the Bible as “the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:18). The Psalmist says, “The entirety of your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160). Jesus Himself said, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). When Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6), He wasn’t expressing His personal belief or opinion. He was speaking the truth, a fundamental reality that doesn’t change from person to person. It doesn’t matter if our culture thinks all roads lead to God. The truth of the matter is “no one comes to the Father but by [Jesus].” This blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." - George Orwell
In an Age of Skepticism
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