‘Tis the season to look back to trace God’s hand in our personal lives and ministry in 2017. I stand in awe of Jesus’s compassion, mercy and grace towards us broken, malfunctioning humans that He graciously chooses to call “friends”.
In between our flurry of ministry travels & responsibilities, God granted Carolann and I the privilege of taking our first trip to Europe to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary last year. I devoted hours planning a romantic, surprise anniversary trip to the two countries I imagined my wife would like to visit.
When we arrived in Spain, Carolann fell in love. . . with Spain . . . In fact, she loved Spain so much that she became seriously disheartened when after a week of excursions to various cities, we had to abort our final day trip in the enchanting town of Toledo to board our plane to Paris. She didn’t hide her displeasure, “Do we have to go to Paris?”. . . “I love Spain; I wish we didn’t have to leave.” I didn’t say much; I didn’t want to ruin my upcoming surprises, so I just quietly listened to her express her regret about having to board a plane to Paris. On the inside however, I was thinking, “Boy, Carolann must be the only woman in the world who is not excited she is going to visit the city of Paris for her anniversary.” In truth, Carolann had no idea the hours I had spent choosing what I thought would be the very best hotel (within our budget) in the city, she had no clue as to the excursions and sites we would experience. I had thought that it would be romantic to celebrate our actual anniversary day in the “City of Love”.
Thankfully . . . after just a few hours of walking around the enchanting city, crossing iconic bridges over the Seine, and visiting historical sites, Carolann laughed out loud and expressed how utterly foolish she felt about her ill-informed attitude towards our departure. “I had no idea this city was so beautiful!” “I hope we are here long enough to see everything”. Boy, had her attitude changed! Every time she saw something that took her breath away, she would laugh and say “I can’t believe I was so disgruntled about having to come to Paris”.
Is it possible that we can be equally ignorant regarding the indescribable eternal bliss the Father is tenderly preparing for us? Could it be that because we have no idea how astounding it will be to live in the eternal ecstasy of God’s loving presence, we can become foolishly attached to places or things that were never meant to be permanent? Might we become so stuck in “survival mode” of earthly living that we can fail to prepare for, anticipate, or long for the surreal heavenly destination not yet seen or even remotely imagined? My favorite author writes:
“Oh the mystery of godliness—God manifest in the flesh! This mystery increases as we try to comprehend it. It is incomprehensible, and yet human beings will allow worldly, earthly things to intercept the faint view it is possible for mortals to have of Jesus and His matchless love… How can we be enthusiastic over earthly, common things and not be stirred with this picture—the cross of Calvary, the love that is revealed in the death of God’s dear Son…? . . . All this humiliation and anguish were endured to bring back the wanderers, guilty and thankless, to the Father’s house… There will be NO suffering ones in heaven, NO skeptics whom we must labor to convince of the reality of eternal things, NO prejudices to uproot, but ALL will be susceptible to that love which passeth knowledge. Rest, thank God, there is a rest for the people of God, where Jesus will lead the redeemed into green pastures, by the streams of living waters which make glad the city of our God. Then the prayer of Jesus to His Father will be answered: ‘I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am’.” (White, KH 371, italics applied)
Fellow sojourners, let us not allow any person, place, or circumstance derail us from the intentional contemplation of the incomprehensible, tender love of the Father in this New Year! We are all broken people living in a broken planet in desperate need of the salvific atonement that was lovingly planned and executed on Calvary’s cross to ensure a blissful eternity with our Creator & Redeemer. “There may be some things here that we do not understand. Some things in the Bible may appear to be mysterious, because they are beyond our finite comprehension. But as our Saviour leads us by the living waters, He will make clear in our minds that which was not before clearly understood” (RH Aug 8, 1907). We are one year closer to reuniting with those loved ones who have rested in Jesus and await the glorious day of His return and the first resurrection foretold in His Word.
It is my prayer that as we approach 2018, we will intentionally turn our eyes upward and know that we are serving a Mighty General who has lost no battles. Let us carve time in our busy ministry lives to spend in the contemplation of his life, salvific sacrifice and soon return. He is worthy to be trusted, loved and worshipped. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”. Psalms 90:12
Blessings & Victories in Jesus to you and those in your circle of influence!