Need Shalom? Go to the Source

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Mondays are Starbucks days. I read. I write. I pray. I journal.

A woman a couple of seats down was sipping on her coffee and charging her phone. Or she thought she was charging her phone. Except the outlet didn’t work where she sat. In fact, I came to learn, the outlets along this side of the Starbucks do not work at all. After a few minutes of sitting and sipping on her coffee, she checked her phone to discover that her phone wasn’t charging.

She tried multiple outlets along the wall. And when that didn’t work, she tried multiple chargers. She had two chargers with her! I was impressed. She was traveling with two chargers! Finally, one of the baristas noticed her struggling with the outlets to inform her that none of the outlets along this particular wall worked.

It wasn’t her chargers. It wasn’t the outlets. It was that there was no power along this wall. The outlets looked like outlets. They looked promising. But there was no power. No matter how hard she tried, no matter how many outlets or chargers she went through, she wasn’t ever going to get her phone charged along this wall.

Many things in this world promise life, joy, purpose, peace – shalom. They look like good sources of shalom. Only one problem: they don’t have power. They are all counterfeit. So when a new girl/boyfriend doesn’t work, we try a different outlet to find shalom. We try careers/getting wealthy. And when that doesn’t work, we trying a different outlet – vacations, friendships, children, etc.

There is nothing necessarily evil or bad in these things. It’s just that they don’t have power. They were not created to provide shalom. Only God can do that.

Need shalom? Go to the source. Plug into his power.

 

Absolute Devastation. Absolute Hope

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We have been praying for a little girl at a neighboring church who finally lost her battle to leukemia this morning. She was surrounded by her loved ones, church family, and the hospital staff. The doctors had told her family multiple times that she only had a few weeks left. But this time, the doctors were right.

When she was taken to the hospital two weeks ago, her dad told her pastor that this was it. She wasn’t coming home.

This little girl had thousands of people praying for her. She had rallied so many times before.

I can’t imagine what this must feel like for her parents.

Absolute devastation.

The pain, sadness, grief, anger, relief, loss, frustration, helplessness…

Absolute devastation.

 

We have been praying for a little girl who was received into glory this morning. She was born as a twin, but her brother never made it. She was the only one that made it through the birthing process. This morning, she was able to reunite with her twin brother for the first time since the womb!

We had been praying that she experience an incredible reunion with her loved ones, but most of all, with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She loved Jesus, but most importantly Jesus loved her. She took such comfort and strength in knowing that her short life here on earth was not the end of her. That God created her for eternity, and because Jesus had died for her sins, she would live forever in glory.

I can’t even begin to imagine what that must have been like. The reunion with her twin brother. She is in the presence of Jesus! She is surrounded by all the saints who have gone before her. All she knows and experiences is glory. That’s her reality! Wow! She is with Jesus!!!

She had rallied multiple times before, but this time…this time she was ready to go home to her twin brother, to her Lord and Savior Jesus. She was ready. She was so ready to be done with physical pain and misery. She was so ready for glory.

Absolute hope.

The joy, elation, relief, exaltation, freedom, wholeness, peace…

Absolute hope.

In a world without Jesus, these are exclusive. Death is the ultimate absolute devastation because it’s the end. One can’t have hope and devastation at the same time. They are an oxymoron.

Not so with Jesus. Even with Jesus, death still sucks. Death still hurts. The pain and loss is still absolutely devastating. But because of Jesus, there is absolute hope.

Hope doesn’t negate nor cancel the devastation. It’s just that devastation can’t negate nor cancel hope. They are both there. Absolutely. Completely. Hope and Devastation.

But in time, hope overcomes the devastation. Hope sustains. Hope lifts. Hope abounds.

Absolute hope.

Lessons from the Abyss

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It’s not that Christians don’t have troubles. It’s just that troubles don’t trouble Christians. Not because troubles aren’t present, but because troubles cannot defeat God’s children.

Human beings – all people, white, brown, black, red, yellow, democrat, republican, gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian…all people – have trouble from time to time.

Back in seminary, Dr John Leith, used to say something like, “Until you’ve seen yourself and God from the bottom of the abyss, your faith will always remain shallow.”

I was in my early 20’s. Heck most of my classmates were in our early 20’s. None of us had a clue as to what the abyss was. But the way he said the “abysssssss” made it sound like I never wanted to be there even if it meant a deeper faith!

Fast forward three decades or so. I now know better what he was talking about. What I’ve discovered about the abyss – a place where there is no light, no hope, just darkness, a never-stopping pain, a suffocating shame, a place where one actually welcomes death to end the suffering – is that even there, you are not alone. God is there. God is present to lift you up out of the abyss, out of the darkness. God is there. There is never a there where God is not present.

“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday” (Psalm 91:5-6).

It’s not that you will never have nights of sheer terror. It’s just that the night tormentors can no longer defeat you. This doesn’t mean terror doesn’t feel like terror, or that crappy situations don’t feel like crap. It just means nothing – not terror, not crappy situations, not death, nothing in the created universe – can ever defeat us. Because God is there.

There is never a there where God is not there.