Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sharing Hope


Be Still

Last night I was praying because so many aftershocks are still hitting the Tohoku region of Japan, and I was aching for the people there. They need rest! I painted my prayer, asking God to lay His hands on the earth and the sea to calm the shaking.

Another sizeable two aftershocks hit the Tohoku area again this morning.

But back to last night, I scanned the picture before I even titled it. And when it came time to title it I had some difficulty. In the last two or so years I've always asked God about titles for the pictures we do together, and He always gives one. Sometimes it takes a little time. But sometimes (like this one) the picture is so simple and straightforward that it's kind of irritating not to get the title quickly. And on top of it, this was a picture that I had prayed, a picture which I felt was more my prayer rather than His answer or His view of things (although I asked Him about and He did guide me on the details of the picture). But He held me back when it came time to title the picture, and I needed to look to Him for that.

But you know, in light of what I was praying about, the picture doesn't matter. It's not about the picture. It's about the people over there my heart was breaking for because they need rest and relief from the shaking of the earth and foaming of the sea. I wanted God to intervene (and still do) to stop the shaking and foaming. Not to mention radiation.

The title He gave me after some time last night was simply, "Be Still". Of course it makes sense with the great "earthquake" psalm, Psalm 46. But something caught me about it: the title is a command. Of course I wished that it were what He was saying or would say to the earth and sea around Tohoku, but that wasn't what He was saying. And indeed it's not what He said in Psalm 46 either. The "Be still" is spoken to us.

I can't understand why all things happen, but in spite of all the pains and tears, I know He is good and I know He is love. He loves everyone who suffers and dies more than I can begin to imagine. So I trust Him, but I cry too. And in response to my prayer, my cry, He says, "Be still, and know that I am God." I know for reasons only He can see that sometimes things just happen and we aren't told why. But He says "Be still" to us — "peace" is what He calls us to.

And now the cracked earth in that picture seems more like our souls than the physical land. At least that is a meaning that He gave to the picture. It's not what I set out to portray. He turned my picture around on me. I was calling for peace of land (which is not a bad thing to pray for at all), but more than that He is calling for peace in our hearts. Because some things will just happen, but the peace in our hearts can make all the difference to us in the world (and beyond it). So He took my prayer for the peace of the land and filled me with His heart for the people there ("people" are God's holy land!), and He asked me to pray for them to know His peace in their hearts, a peace that will survive the shaking of the earth and sea. Because these kinds of things will happen, and knowing Him is the only way to get through.

In the book of Matthew chapter 24 there is one of the most famous "end times" passages of the Bible, where Jesus talked about "last day" events -- things like wars, famines, earthquakes, stars falling from the sky, etc. (Mark 13 and Luke 21 are parallel passages, with Luke's version being the most organized.) In the chapter, at 24:14, concurrent with all of these apocalyptic events Jesus said: "And this gospel of the kingdom will preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Many Christian preachers have looked at this statement as a kind of "sign of the times" or a "mission assignment", so to speak. The former group sees the spreading of the gospel around the world increasing, and calculates or guesstimates that the end must be coming soon because "unreached people-groups" are diminishing. The second group sees it more as an assignment to go and reach those "unreached people-groups" with the gospel. Some among those rank do so out of genuine love, but some also seem to have an excitement in it as if it were done to kind of make Christ return faster. I.e., if we go evangelize and reduce the numbers of "unreached peoples", then we do our part to speed up the end-times timetable.

I don't want to judge anyone, so I'll just say that both views leave me feeling empty. I mean I love sharing about Jesus, but not just to "convert" people. I want to love them. I want to know them. I want to become a brother to them, family. I want to appreciate who they are, rejoice with them, eat and drink with them, spend time with them, cry and mourn with them, and more. I want to want to do that, anyway. I don't always get to. But I want to. I don't want to "convert" people and then just leave them, you know? And I don't want to "love" people just for the sake of "converting" them. I don't want people to be "numbers" to me. I want to love people whether or not they convert. As one author said, I want to love people based on who they are (and that they deserve to be loved) rather than loving them based on attaining an eventual outcome.

God knows this. And last night He helped me understand something He was talking about there in Matthew 24:14 when He said "This gospel of the kingdom will preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." He said this because the gospel is the only way that people are going to be able to get through the chaos of the end-times.

He wasn't saying this to give us a "sign of His nearness", nor was He setting a goal for us to reach in order to speed up the coming of the end. In context He had been talking about disturbing events like wars, famines, earthquakes and more. And then He said things like, "But don't be worried about it." And "Wickedness will increase, but don't respond to it by letting agape love wax cold." So "Keep the faith and stand firm to the end—you'll be saved!"

In other words, remember that these things are going to happen, but you are receiving an eternal kingdom, an inheritance kept in heaven for you. And even if you die, you live in Him. The world will be shaken, but you don't have to be shaken. He has come and preached peace in Himself, so believe in Him and live in that peace. Live in sight of the kingdom. And into this context He said, "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached to all nations." When the oceans rise and thunders roar, He says to go share His peace with people. Because they need it. They're not going to make it through any other way.

Not in the end-times, anyway. We're not seeing apocalyptic-level things yet, mind you. These things we've seen recently have been terrible and catastrophic. But what Jesus spoke of or what John the Revelator saw in the Bible is a lot worse. Like, asteroids impacting the land and the sea (tsunamis will go much, much further and do more damage). And earthquakes that shake the entire world. Etc. Frightful-sounding stuff.

But the kingdom of God is unshakeable, even in the midst of these things. We know that He will be with us through them. And if we die, we still live in Him. Heaven and earth may pass away, but His words will not pass away.

That is the comfort, the hope that people are going to need when they are fainting from terror at the shaking of the heavenly bodies and the roaring and tossing of the sea. That is the comfort that they need today, before any of those other things even start.

At the end of last month He gave me a picture that stirred my spirit...

Ransomed

It came in another context for a specific group of people who need freedom from trauma they've been living in. He showed it to me as if they had just survived a disaster; they sat around a cabin fireplace holding hot drinks with blankets wrapped around them. I asked Him why this kept stirring in me even after I understood its meaning for those people. He said that the reason was because the picture also applies to the "end times" — because the gospel is the only way people are going to be "rescued" and "brought through" the disasters of the end-times. The gospel is the fire, the hot drinks, the blankets and the cabin sheltering them. The only way they'll "survive" is by knowing Him, His peace and His victory. By knowing that "morning is coming". Only in this hope shall the mourners be comforted.

So I find myself with a breaking heart again. But a little differently than before. I want to share hope with people. The hope of the kingdom. The peace of knowing Jesus, of knowing Someone who is beyond being shaken or shakeable. I want them to know the One who will save them, keep their soul and spirit safe, and who will resurrect their bodies. I want them to know the One who received their children, their innocent loved ones, when they were washed away by the terrible waves of the tsunami. My heart aches for them to know Him, the Hope above and beyond all other hopes. The Hope will come, and He will wipe away every tear.

Hope Will Come

*****

See also:
"The Testimony to All Nations" (at Weeping Jeremiahs)
"End-Times Calling" (at Weeping Jeremiahs)