Posts Tagged ‘Immanuel’

confession: I want to prove God.

For as much as I wasn’t a giant fan of “God’s Not Dead” for reasons we can talk about in person…I will confess I have something in common with the young college student.  I have a desire to prove God.   It’s not that I want to prove His existence, or even prove to someone that Jesus was divine.  It’s not an intellectual debate I want to win.  I want to prove to my children, the goodness and faithfulness of God, in the midst of a world where such testimony may be hard to hear behind other noises.

It struck me in a particular way recently, as I was praying for our adoption.  You may have something else weighing on your heart.  Something your family is praying fervently for.  Something you and your children name regularly every night in family prayer time, and the main thing your kids might mention if they’re praying before bed at a friends house.  Whatever that thing is, beyond praying for that “thing” itself….as a parent we also find ourselves praying it for the sake of our children.   That they will experience God’s hearing of the prayer, and be able to celebrate together as a family when He responds.

So what happens, when that “main family prayer”, becomes the one unanswered?  The one a family is left to struggle with.  What if our children grow up praying about it, almost as a reflex, but slowly and accidentally learn never to actually receive a response from God on the issue?http___makeagif.com__media_5-05-2014_dpmt43

In my anxiety and frustration, God calms me down.  Hand on my shoulder, tears welling up in his own eyes, He speaks with love.  “You and your family are not the beginning, or the center of what I’m up to, Chadwick.”  In a moment of humility, He reminds me of where I sat just a few weeks ago, at a Seder dinner with my children. From my own lips, my children heard God’s story as one we are now the continuation of.  That His people lived for hundreds of years in slavery, and have faced suffering and death for millenia.  That the story of God’s people is one of embracing what it means to suffer in a world that is not yet made right.  What it means to not pretend everything is easy or can make sense.  Imagine what it would’ve been like for an Israelite parent to teach their children the goodness of God, in the midst of generations of slavery.  God calls us to live uncomfortably in a world that idolizes comfort and ease.  We are a people who have been crying out to God for thousands of years, and God has been/continues to respond to that cry.  He invites us to actively participate in that response as well.  Not by denying or avoiding the brokenness of the world – but by how we suffer as those who know God is with us.

His was a reminder – one of the greatest things we do as a parent is to give our children, and younger generations a context for their struggles/doubts.  A safe place to express suffering…(any youth pastor who’s heard a teenager lament at a broken relationship can understand this)…and a larger view/context that helps to bring genuine perspective and comfort knowing God is with us even in these moments.  Not promising to make everything better for every individual who comes to Him like a genie inside a magic lamp.  Yet….not like a removed deity who has nothing to do with the world He set in motion, either.

God is at work.  In faithful and world-changing-ly large ways.  But also in small, thankful whispers of reminder.  We know that His heart is seen being revealed in “Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.'”

All of that to say, be encouraged.  Even when it seems our prayers aren’t being responded to.  Not because “God’s working it all out to be even better than you would’ve prayed.”  But because, God is with us.  Always.  Has been, and will be.  That’s the story we invite our children to live within.   That’s the story that invites them to prove God…

daddy worries.

It was earlier this week, as we sat around the breakfast table, gathered around “Fruit Spins”, milk, and the advent wreath.  Last week we’d talked about “Hope”, and it was easy to talk to the girls about what we each were hoping for.  The poignant moment coming when it came to our 4 year old daughter, and she was hoping for “God”.  I asked her to clarify….”What do you hope God will do?”

She smiled and said proudly, “Whatever God wants to do!”  Here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the faith of a child. 🙂

So I was waiting this week, for what new nugget of wisdom my own kids were going to throw back at me as we moved into a week focusing on “Peace”.  But “peace” is a bit more complicated than “hope”.  So daddy decided to talk a little about why we need peace.  I asked the girls what they’re afraid of, and what makes them worry.  I received many of the expected responses:     monsters (no, not really, daddy), being sick, scary dreams, and “sometimes when I walk down the stairs and it’s dark in the middle of the night, I think maybe there are some animals coming down behind me who want to eat me.”

sophieDefinitely scary, and worth worrying about.  So we talked about peace, and then daddy decided to get down on their level, and talk about what makes daddy anxious/worried.  That’s when it hit me like a sack of bricks.  I covered it well, but I felt emotion in those moments that I don’t usually give word/time for.  The honest truth is this:

I worry about my family.  My wife.  My kids.  Every time I’m away from them, there’s that back of the mind “thing”.  I can’t wait to hold them again.  To be near them.  To know that they’re alright.  But even in the most peace-filled moments, I’m reminded by the world I’ve lived in so far – there’s no guarantee.  Even when Super-Dad is with them, my children, my wife, and my home are never 100% protected to the point where I have no reason to worry.  There’s always the chance of something unexpected happening.

I remember hearing the phrase growing up, “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7).  I would smile the silly smile of a young teen who’s confident this verse means no matter what happens in life we’re supposed to smile…to prove we’ve got some sort of “inner peace” that doesn’t make sense to the world.  But twice that age now, and having experienced quite a few situations where a smile is not the appropriate response – I’m thankful for the context to verse 7.

“Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people.  The Lord is near.  Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.  Then the peace OF GOD that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe IN CHRIST JESUS.” Philippians 4:5-7 (emphasis added)

It’s not about me coming up with the ability to have peace in the midst of life circumstances.  It’s not about me never having a concern.  It’s centered on approaching every concern I have in the context of God, who can handle the big picture.  In the context of Christ being more than capable of keeping our hearts and minds safe.  I’m not to have peace because I have peace.  I’m to have peace because God has peace.

Not in a way that denies horrible things happen.  Because they certainly have, and do, and will.  Nor do we deny these horrible things will shake us to our core sometimes.  We will experience pain, and offense, and brokenness.  But the promise of peace still comes to us, in the presence of Jesus Christ.  The child born in a manger, in whom God proclaims to all of creation, us included, “I am with you.”

And in that….we receive God’s peace which transcends our understanding/abilities.

hope in the weakness of God.

In college I remember learning the distinction between two types of “time” in scripture.  There was “kairos”, and “chronos”.  “Chronos” is an easy one, it’s where we get our word “chronological”.  We have calendars, and monthly planners, and even down to the hour of what we’re doing each week.  We know what time things have happened, are happening, and will happen.

The other word, “kairos”, is a bit more complex.  Like when we were teenagers, listening to our loud music, fists raised to the air at a concert shouting, “this is OUR time!”  Or when my wife looked at me, pregnant belly packed tight with our 3rd daughter, and said, “I think it’s time.”

As we began our adoption journey, we knew in advance this was probably going to take a lot of time (chronos).  But we were also assured by many friends and family, and even by our own faith, it would all happen in God’s perfect timing (kairos).  We felt God’s “yes” to what we were stepping out toward in faith, and looked forward to how His kairos fit into our chronos.  All along the way, loving people around us have assured us everything will work out in God’s timing.

Then we entered a world where the Lordship of Jesus seems to be very absent.  Or at least, the way we want to see His stuckfilm_fullsize_story1Lordship.  That’s been a hard thing to let go of….and continues to be.  This is a road, and an experience, where hearing the phrase, “All in God’s perfect timing” ceases to be something that can bring peace.  Surely none of this suffering and pain, cruelty and sadness, injustice and delay of rescue – has anything to do with God  sitting on His cosmic throne saying, “Allllmost ready…..just a liiittttle more suffering and death; and then what I’m about to do will be awesome!”  Nor do we believe, as some have asked us, if the delay simply means perhaps God hasn’t actually called us to adopt.  We’re not alone here….sooo many families are where we are, and have experienced what we’re experiencing.

We believe in a God who, at the beginning of all things, declared it is “Good”.  This “Goodness” has not been destroyed by the brokenness that humanity has introduced to His world.  Because what appears to be “powerful evil”, is actually bankrupt and powerless against the already spoken “Good” of God.

That’s the Hope that came to us in the form of a baby…as we were still living lives of suffering and brokenness.  His Love compelled Him to enter into our suffering.  To give us a living statement of “I Love You”, that speaks louder than any wait.  God became subject to the “powerful evils” of our world, and let them do their worst.  They were found to be power-less.  The ways of God were revealed to us in Jesus.  Not the Jesus who is powerful and swoops down to bring rescue and crushes His enemies underfoot.  But the Jesus who Loves, and becomes broken and poor.  The Jesus who makes his dwelling place among the disenfranchised and forgotten.  Who has no place to lay his head.  Who was born in an animals feeding trough.

The Jesus who is spoken of in Mark 13:32, “But that day or hour (chronos words here) no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  This is a Jesus who enters into the complete suffering of humanity…even to being subject to God’s “chronos”.  This is a Jesus who, in the midst of enduring the suffering of a broken world, used every breath to proclaim that this moment, these days, have been claimed as God’s “kairos”.  Now is the time of God moving in our world.  Now is the time of Jesus Christ being established as Lord.  Now is the time for Kingdom to come already, even as we continue to wait in suffering.  God’s “good” has never gone away, and is re-emerging even now.

People will continue to say it, and I know they mean well.  So I will smile, and be grateful they hold us up in prayers.  But “all in God’s timing” doesn’t help me to sleep well at night anymore.  Thankfully, there is a phrase that brings more comfort than ever before….come what may…

“and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us“).” – Matthew 1:23

Every day we wait…He waits with us.  Every tear of joy or pain, His eyes are also filled.  His presence is constant and steady, and in the power of His Spirit we are joining our quietly spoken “good” to God’s…

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