Who am I?

ImageWho am I?

Is this not, at times, one of life’s hardest questions to answer? Naively I thought that by the time I was in my thirties I wouldn’t wrestle with it anymore.

But occasionally I do.

Thankfully I have come to realize that I am not alone. The other night I was reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. Apparently, Dietrich Bonhoeffer  wrestled with the same question.   In prison, at age 39, he wrote the following poem, just one month before his execution.

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!

I take great comfort in his words.

What’s something that speaks to your identity?

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Five Crazy Things You’ll Likely Do In Heaven

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The notion of eternity has always scared me to death. As a pastor, that is not exactly easy to admit, but it’s true. If I think too long about the idea of living forever I will literally start to freak out. I know I am not alone in this. Many times students in our church have shared with me that they don’t like thinking about heaven because when they think about eternity it scares them.

Eternity is scary, but only when our picture of heaven is vague.  So to help us overcome the fear, here are five crazy things I think followers of Jesus will likely do in heaven.[1]

1.       Flying (Acts 1:3-10)

After His resurrection Jesus met with his disciples to give them final instructions. After He had finished, the Bible says “ he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They [the disciples] were looking intently up into the sky as he was going…” Like a scene out of Iron Man, Jesus flew up into the clouds. If His resurrected body could fly, then there is good reason to believe that when we receive resurrected bodies we will be able to fly also.  

 2.       Walking Through Walls (John 20:19-20, 26-27)

Before they knew Jesus was alive again, the disciples were in a home “with the doors locked” and yet Jesus “came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” Locked doors and solid walls could not stop the resurrected Jesus from appearing to his disciples inside the home. And we know that this appearance of Jesus was not just a vision or even just spiritual. Jesus talked to his disciples, he ate with them, and he even let Thomas touch his wounds. These are all signs that he was very physically present. By the power of the Spirit his new resurrected physical body was able to pass through material objects. I think our future resurrected bodies will, in reflection of Jesus, do the same thing.

3.       Running Faster Than A Horse (1 Kings 18:45-46)

“Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel” (1 Kings 18:45-46). God gave Elijah the power to run so fast that even though Ahab had left before him on a horse, Elijah was able run faster than Ahab’s horse, and arrived first. If the Spirit of God gave Elijah that power on earth, why would he withhold it from us in heaven?

4.       Walking on Water (Matthew 14:22-29)

It is a famous story that we all know. In the midst of a storm, Jesus walks on water, and then Peter wants to do the same thing. Sure enough, Jesus calls him out of the boat, and together they stand on water. Sure, Peter started to sink, but it was only because of his lack of faith. If Jesus allowed Peter do such a thing on Earth how much more when we too have resurrected bodies and unhindered faith in Jesus will we, like Peter, be able to walk on water with Jesus.

5.       Teleporting (Acts 8:38-40)

Philip was on his way down to Gaza. On the way he comes across an Ethiopian official with questions about the words from the prophet Isaiah. Philip explains how Isaiah was talking about Jesus, the official puts his trust in Jesus, and then he asks to be baptized. Philip baptizes the official, but then the Bible says the Spirit of the Lord “suddenly took Philip away…” and “… Philip appeared at Azotus.”  Azotus was roughly 19 miles away from Philip’s intended destination of Gaza. It’s therefore safe to say the Spirit of the Lord teleported Philip at least 19 miles in order to move him to Azotus. No matter what the distance was, what is clear is that the same Spirit, who lives in every believer, supernaturally moved Philip.  If the Spirit was able to move Philip on Earth how much more should we expect the Spirit of God to freely empower us to move in heaven?

I don’t know about you but when I think about flying, walking through buildings, running super-fast, walking on water, and teleporting all by the power of the Holy Spirit, as a reflection of Jesus, to the glory and enjoyment of the Father… well, now eternity just sounds fun.


[1] These activities are based on the following lines of thought:

After Jesus’s resurrection he was given a new body. When we are resurrected we will be given a new body like the body of Jesus. Therefore, what he was able to do with his glorious body, we will be able to do with ours in the New Heavens and New Earth.

-and-

All miracles are the result of the power of the Holy Spirit. In heaven we will be completely full of the Spirit (without sin to hinder His presence). Therefore whatever the Holy Spirit empowered people to do on Earth, He will empower them to do in Heaven.

Evil and Grace

Jesus on cross black and white

Why did God let a madman shoot up a school? Better yet, why did He let Adam sin? Better yet, why did He let Satan into the garden? Better yet, why did He let evil into Satan’s heart?

Why is there evil at all?

Sure it’s true that God Himself through Jesus Christ came to rescue sinners from evil and to redeem the world. But why should the world and the people in it need rescuing in the first place? Is God like a man who built a house, rented it out to tenants and then set it on fire so that He could later rescue them? And even if we say that, in God’s case, He did not actively set the house on fire, He just allowed it to happen, He is still the one that had the power to stop it and chose not to. Why?

Some say God did not stop evil because He could not; others say He did not stop evil because He chose not to. Among those who say He chose not to stop evil, there are those who say it is because God is evil, and then there are others who say it is because God wants to work good from the evil.  In either case, God still appears evil. Because even a God who allows the ends to justify the means appears to be a God who is simply a manipulator of creation, like someone just doing the best He can with what He has to work with.

But the God of the Bible is none of these things. So why then did YHWH allow evil into the world?

Imagine evil never existed. Imagine Adam and Eve never sinned. And not only did they never sin they never had the option to sin, because evil was nowhere in existence. What then could we know of God? We could know His power.  We could know His intelligence. But we could never know His Grace.

Grace–unmerited favor–cannot be known in a world without evil.  Grace does not exist in a perfect world because in a perfect world everything is merited.  Every reward is the natural consequence of the perfect action that preceded it. But in a world where there is evil, there are many actions that merit condemnation, judgment, and even wrath. And in that world there is now space for Grace.

In an evil world there is now an open place for favor to be poured out where it should not be. In an evil world Grace shines brightly against the just consequence of condemnation.

Grace…an unknowable quality of God in a world without evil. Could it be that the great I AM is interested in displaying all of who He IS?

In Grace we see a characteristic of God that is wholly unlike any other conceived divine being. In Grace we see the holiness of God (His otherness). In Grace we see the beauty of God. In Grace we see the love of God in a way that otherwise would not be possible.

The Cross, the great symbol of Grace, is not just about salvation from evil, nor is it just about Jesus conquering evil. It is even more: it is a glorious beacon brightly shining in the darkness of night, displaying who God IS.

Evil is necessary for Grace. Grace is an essential attribute of God. God desires to fully display His attributes. Therefore evil exists.

What are your thoughts?