a front row seat in the glorious theater

Darkness fell like a hush; the lights circled us as we circled the fire. The jumping glow splashed on our faces and warmed our autumn skin as we cupped black coffee in thankful hands. The sky speckled with stars and the creatures sang out their evening melodies.

And we sat in the front row in the glorious theater of God.

After reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, we had all carried around conversations that couldn’t happen over the phone and couldn’t happen half-hearted. This night was set apart to try to understand someone from the great cloud of witnesses – to look at the life of someone who treasured the Lord in such a way that he was ruined for anything else.

And we sat in the front row in the glorious theater of God, right there in the backyard of an Iowa farmhouse.

The candles glowed in mason jars to light the path from the woodshop, where we enjoyed a bountiful spread of German delights, and inside I was a mess of emotion. A weighty, good mess of gratitude and purpose and joy and hope and pain and fear and defeat and doubt and sorrow. When despair seems simpler and right, stories of hope read more like fiction. But not last night… not when we remembered people whose lives were anchored by one thing, driven by one thing, delighted by one thing … and not when I looked around at the firelit faces of my friends, whose struggles on stormy seas are anchored deep down by the same greatest treasure.

The struggle is not to stay upright, but to rejoice in the anchor which holds us. Bonhoeffer’s life was not about making the message of Jesus look good or better or more intellectual than whatever religion his peers and countrymen presented. He was not about being interesting or popular or approachable, at least in the end. Bonhoeffer purposed to be about truth. He set out to know God and to draw others into a knowledge of God as it is revealed in the Word of God. His culture said a lot of things, burned a lot of books, and printed a lot of promotional materials for massive political campaigns… but Bonhoeffer had eyes to shake off the surface storms and cling to the hope that anchored and the only hope that would reveal the evil that had usurped the hearts of his countrymen.

This. This is beautiful, I thought.

I love how David Hall describes John Calvin’s thoughts on our seats in the glorious theater.

Calvin described this world, moved by God’s providence, as theatrum gloriae. For him, every aspect of life from work to worship and from art to technology bears the potential to glorify God (Institutes, 1.11.12). Creation is depicted as a platform for God’s glory (1.14.20) or a “dazzling theater” (1.5.8; 2.6.1), displaying God’s glorious works. Calvin viewed the first commandment as making it unlawful to steal “even a particle from this glory” (2.8.16). Such comments support Lloyd-Jones’ later claim that for Calvin “the great central and all-important truth was the sovereignty of God and God’s glory.” (“The Theater of God’s Glory” by David Hall at Ligonier Ministries)

I went away from the night knowing we hadn’t talked about everything, hadn’t appreciated history completely, hadn’t understood theology thoroughly… but oh so thankful that we showed up at the theater. I’m thankful I have others with whom I can behold the glory of God and I’m thankful for the support we give each other to be unapologetic about truth.

Today, I am still purposing to know God, find out what pleases Him, and delight to do those things. And today I am thankful for those I can share steps with along the way.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

we shall always be victorious

 

John Calvin
Image via Wikipedia

 

I am reading “John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology,” and learning about John Calvin from some of the authors, pastors, and theologians I most respect. It still amazes me how words penned in the early 1500s could be so poignant today. When the Gospel is at the center, your message never wears out, I suppose.

I have been so encouraged as I grow to know a little more about this fascinating man. Most recently, I have been reading the chapter “The transforming work of the Spirit” by Thabiti Anyabwile.

I’m still carrying around the blessing of these words, quoted from Calvin’s original work.

“Hence we are furnished, as far as God knows to be expedient for us, with the gifts of the Spirit, which we lack by nature. By these fruits we may perceive that we are truly joined to God in perfect blessedness. Then, relying upon the power of the same Spirit, let us not doubt that we shall always be victorious over the devil, the world, and ever kind of harmful thing.”

John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, 2.15.5

Wow. I love that word furnished. We are furnished, as an empty house is with furniture, with the gifts of the Spirit. The gifts are IN us and they weren’t before. We were an empty house, except that God saw fit to give us what we did not have to be “truly joined to Him in perfect blessedness.”

Let us not doubt! God has FURNISHED us with the the power to be victorious. Always.

God always wins. Did you know that?

The other day, I was talking to a distraught student in my office who needed to make it through the day. From the look in her eyes, her 10th grade strength was failing and she needed back-up. I had the shortest counseling conversation on record, but I think I’ll be giving myself the same therapy. It went something like this:

“What is your only weapon against evil (bad days, grouchy people, sadness…)?”
(reluctantly)”God…?”
“No, wait, really. What is your only weapon?”
“God. The Bible.”
“Do you believe that?”
“Yes.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“Yes.”
“Okay, so you are going into battle right now and you’ve got your sword, the Bible. Are you protected?”
“I think so.”
“With what?”
“Armor of God.”
“So, you are going into battle with God’s armor as protection and God’s Word as your weapon.”
“Okay.”
“Is there any chance you will lose?”
“….No.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. No chance.”
“Why?”
“Because!”
“Because God always wins.”

Off she went.

You can question my counseling techniques, I don’t mind at all. But, I will say that when she left I felt like God had just given me the same pep talk. It was not a feel-good message about mastering bullies or getting my own way.

It was a reminder that God defeats evil. Always. He hems us in, behind and beside and before and for eternity, in all His victory.

He is always victorious and He has furnished our human houses with gifts of the Spirit. We shall always be victorious over the devil, the world, and every other harmful kind of thing.

That is something beautiful. Evil doesn’t stand a chance.

let LOVE FLY like cRaZY