Saturday, June 28, 2008

Grace and Thorns

A rather troubling passage comes from Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth. In the 12th chapter, verses 7-10, Paul describes being afflicted with "a thorn in the flesh," something placed in him to keep him firmly planted on the ground, lest he end up like Icarus. He states that he pleaded 3 times with the Lord to remove it. His answer? "My grace is sufficient for you." The thorn remains, in other words.

At first glance this is troubling; however, once you've identified it, you realize how very much God cares for you, that He would place something within our flesh to humble us, to keep us real. Paul described it as coming from Satan, a messenger sent to beat him when necessary. The necessary times are when Paul has received revelation. It's critical to understand that God has dominion over all, including Satan (read Job). Paul knows where to give credit for this affliction, yet remains steadfast in his trust of the Lord. Later passages explain how the weakest moments bring about God's strength and glory. Paul didn't revel in his own bravado during these times, but rather turned to the One who's grace is sufficient.

Have you identified the thorn in your flesh, the area in your life where you have the greatest weakness? Think, pray, and ask God to reveal it to you, although you probably already know what it is. It's the one area in your life where you are tempted the most by the enemy. In many ways, it feels like a thorn twisting into your side, causing immense pain, getting your undivided attention. Do you know what I mean?

This passage in 2 Corinthians speaks of our need to be aware of our weaknesses, but to not try to strengthen them or get rid of them. Rather, we are to see them as tools the Lord uses to mold us and shape us into His likeness. His glory is what matters, not our discomfort.

His grace is sufficient.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Into God's Imagination: Antarctica

Magnificent desolation. Two words not normally bound together.

A trip to Antarctica in 2005 is responsible for this union. Traveling to the end of the world and entering into the last true wilderness on our home planet sparked a deep yearning within me to get to know the Creator of this alien world.

Have you ever experienced total silence? It's not possible where we live; we are surrounded by static noise 24/7/365. Even in a forest, a wilderness to some, sounds of life permeate the air. Absolute silence knocked me to the terra firma, to a stoney crag on the pennisula of the Antarctic continent. I sat as motionless as possible, even held my breath, and strained my ears to hear it.

For a few moments, I felt as though I was in the very throne room of God Almighty Himself, in all of His infinite glory. The sun shone across a vast white and silvery landscape, splinters of light reflected and refracted off of icebergs and a distant glacier. The color blue beckoned me to remain silent as I beheld the work of the Artist of the universe.

When one encounters the stark beauty of a wilderness such as this, one cannot help but wonder the purpose for it. No man nor nation can lay claim to it, and no plant life calls it home. No animal lives there, though a few species migrate to mate and breed. Man has, unfortunately, staked out a few claims here and there for scientific purposes, but no man holds title to its lands.

Anarctica offers us mere mortals a glimpse into the Infinite's imagination, a place we cannot possibly comprehend, let alone begin to think. It's as though we were meant NOT to think, but just to experience God's majesty, power, and might in this wilderness. No other place on the planet affords us this opportunity.