Knock-Knock. Who’s There?

With it being Holy Week, Christian’s world wide are preparing their hearts for communion, and getting ready to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. In this time of isolation and uncertainty there has never been a more poignant Easter celebration in my lifetime.

I have been reflecting on my salvation, what it looks like to love and follow Jesus, trying to find a way to minister to those in need, and even trying to reconcile myself as a pastor who can’t see his church. Knock-knock.

For the past two weeks, sleep has evaded me. And when it comes, it’s erratic and fleeting. But I wake up everyday with the energy, if not the usual enthusiasm, to face the day. It’s not fear that keeps me awake. It’s not worry that wakes me up at 3am. Knock-knock.

I have never been a great sleeper, but this is far beyond what I normally experience. There is more to my sleeplessness than a racing mind and contemplation. Knock-knock.

God has been knocking on my heart every night. Stirring me to prayer for my family, my church and the world. God is asking to come into my home (my heart) daily to commune with me, and for me to rest in his presence.

Revelation 3:20 NLT

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”

So many times this passage is used as part of a salvation invitation, and yes, Jesus is kicking on your hearts door, and yes he wants nothing more than for his children to come home. But we must remember, this passage was not written to unbelievers, but to the church in Laodicea. It’s an invitation to the church to open their hearts and commune with God.

So why does God knock?

For most of us right now, our lives are turned upside down. We are working at home. Our kids are having school at home. Right now, I am having trouble typing because our cat Luke keeps laying on my keyboard. Life has filled up with new routines, new distractions and new fears.  God knows that our human heart is easily distracted and that the busyness of our everyday can make this time with God (the most important part of our day) seem like a distraction in itself. I can’t help but think of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42).

Luke 10:41-42 NLT

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Martha invited him in to her home (heart), but was to busy to enjoy what really matters, Jesus’ presence. Mary had discovered it, taking the time to sit at Jesus’ feet. We have to create the space in our lives, no matter what else is going on around us, to let God not only commune with us, but to act as well.

Philip Yancey wrote,

“God, who mad space in the most literal sense in the universe, needs us to protect a God-space, to prevent our lives from filling up with other things” (Yancey, Zondervan, 2006)

While we shelter in place, we must remember to shelter with Jesus.

Why does this “God-space” matter so much to God. Why would the creator of the universe and author of life knock on our hearts, desire to commune with us – the creation – broken, fractured and misguided. Simply put, because we matter in ways to God that we will never fathom.

Easter is here, it should serve as a reminder of how much you matter to God. That he sent his son, Jesus, to die for your sins, and resurrected him in glory to redeem your life to him. That is how much you matter.

It’s God’s invitation, but we must answer the door.

Knock-knock.

Suffering & The Christian Response

A couple weeks ago in response to fellow workers recent loss, a co-worker said to me and those within earshot, “Humor equals tragedy plus time.”, a statement that I told him was probably one of the most ignorant things I had ever heard. I know that he was quoting Mark Twain, that doesn’t change the way it made me feel about what he said. Days after a co-worker lost a grandparent it was tasteless and rude to say. What bothered me the most is how un-shocked and desensitized he seemed to have become to other peoples sufferings.

Last Sunday I spoke about Nehemiah, specifically Nehemiah’s response to the destruction and ongoing state of Jerusalem. Jerusalem had been in a state of ruin for hundreds of years, but time didn’t separate the grief that Nehemiah felt when presented with the truth of it’s ruin. In Nehemiah 1:4 (ESV) it says

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

Nehemiah was deeply affected by the tragedy of the city of his fathers, he wept, fasted and prayed for many days. He was wrecked by the grief and sadness. But his sadness would not fix anything in Nehemiah 2:5 he dresses the king and says

“If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”

Nehemiah didn’t stop at sadness, he took action. He asked the king if he could go and do something about it, and even asked for all the materials needed to complete the task. Nehemiah saw a need, was moved to grief by it, and moved into action about it.

Sorrow, tragedy and suffering are parts of everyday life, some more poignant than others, but all weigh heavy on God’s heart.

In his 1943 novel Perelandra, C.S. Lewis writes of a mans journey to Venus, where he finds a perfect Eden like environment, no death, no evil, no sin. It is all interrupted when another visitor comes with the express purpose of introducing sin and corrupting the Queen of this innocent world. The main character, Ransom, stumbles upon a horrifying sight. A frog, brutally injured and left to suffer. The first evil done in a sinless, innocent world, Lewis writes this of Ransom’s thoughts at the time:

“It would have been better, or so he thought at that moment, for the whole universe never to have existed than for this one thing to have happened.”

Ransom was so devastated by the brutality and suffering he sees, that he wishes that nothing had ever been created, if it meant that this heinous act could have been avoided.

Sometimes, I think the same thing. Sin has brought such pain and suffering into our world, sometimes it seems it would be better if God had never even created us.

In 2015, there were for 14 recognized military conflicts, and 396 recognized terrorist attacks. 783 million people on this planet do not have access to clean water. 795 million people do not have access to food to maintain proper nourishment. And now in 2020, we are in the grips of a pandemic, staying at home, many of us fearful of what could me.

Sin has brutalized this world, sin that mankind brought into it.

As Christian’s we have two possible responses to this. First, we can be sad and bemoan the state of the world and its godlessness, casting all blame on those who don’t believe, Satan, or even the government. Secondly, we can do our part.

In Perelandra, Ransom doesn’t stop and sit in a quiet puddle of his tears. He gets up and moves on, finding more and more of the same brutal work, until he finds the man responsible talking to the Queen, trying to convince her that his ways are better. Ransom steps in, and does what he can to remind the Queen that the innocence of life, and the wishes of her Creator are far better.

You don’t have to go around the world to know people are suffering and have it break your heart. Nehemiah had never even been to Jerusalem, yet he mourned over it. People are hurting in your nation, your city, your church, even in your own homes. What is your response going to be?