person diving in blue sea
Seed and Soil

A View from Paradise

Have you ever had God ask you a question? It’s a strange feeling.

As I sat in Sabbath today, resting in a beautiful place, I floated around an uninhabited island in the Philippines with my brothers and sisters in Christ. One year ago, I would never have guessed I would be here swimming in crystal teal water with towering palm tree covered cliffs rising up around me. Finally a minute to clear my head while my children swim around me, marvelling at the world around them. I thought about all the things I used to be. I thought of the things that used to be important to me. The list has changed so much I’m not even sure I recognize the person I was five years ago when I held a university position and led worship on stage at my local church. Now I have no land or house to my name. My family and I sold all we had and we left to make disciples of the nations teaching them to obey Jesus, believing as my friend from South Africa today said, “The great commission has no expiration date on it…I should know, I’ve looked all over for it.”

True confessions…the leaving home did not feel noble or gallant. We were a disorganized mess and it is only by the grace of God and help from our brothers and sisters and friends that we even got out of there in one piece with 16 pieces of luggage to our name. It felt like an escape by the skin of our teeth. Ten weeks later, and six countries later and I’m finally feeling like I can think and process a little bit of what has happened to us. What has happened to me. It’s all been so disorienting, yet, in a strange way, grounding. Today I heard His Spirit ask me in my deepest soul…a question.

What do you want to do?

I know what I don’t want to do anymore. I don’t want to teach anymore in academics. I have no desire to be known for my music or art or anything I write. I don’t care too much to even do great things anymore for God.

Confiding in one of my best friends today, I told her about the question and how all I could think that I actually WANT to do is just lay on my face before God for a few months. I just want to worship. For all the service and strain and training and hope I have for the world, is this really all I have to show for this five-year “season” of going lower? I want to be face down on the ground. That’s all. I want to waste my life at His feet and live every day from that place.

“I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God then wear the robe of kings. I want to sing you songs, I want to sit at your feet and listen to you talk and I want to just be with you.”

It feels self-indulgent to allow myself to dream this way. My heart and soul long for the courts of my God. It is not a unique position I find myself in, but it is unique in my life to feel so unfulfilled any other time and place. I know people say worship happens as whole-life love for God and people. I know. I teach these things. But this is different. And I am not sure what will come of it. But I know what it has come from.

I decided to die to self six years ago. Totally die to self. And ask Christ to be planted and come alive in me. Ask Him to take out the rocks of fear, the weeds of worry, love of money, desire for other things, and root down into me. Take me over. I chose not to believe the lie that I needed to love myself. I banked everything on the word of God and purposed to put self to death. To take on Christ. To take in Living Water (the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39).

This is the result, six years later (not to say the final result, because God is not yet finished with me, I hope).

Here is what I want now.

I just want to be with God.

So for those of you wondering if my position on these things I have written about in this blog were too radical or too literal, I just wanted to tell you where it has taken me, for better, not worse (I only say this because for a while, I wondered if He was planning to destroy me altogether in this process, but no…)

It is taking me to abundant life and abundant worship

I was not expecting to arrive here, back at worship.

I was expecting to end up “more Christ-like” maybe a better teacher, maybe a more “real person” or finally gain that elusive thing called humility. But I must say I am surprised that I have ended up in a place I knew I always “should” be but never knew how to get there quite honestly. I have ended up with no desire for anything but the presence of God. My whole soul aches for time with Him. My whole being is caught up by His glory. And I feel glorious and wretched all at the same time. Wretched because I see finally my own heart clearly, the wrong motivations, the lack of love, the misguided efforts “for God-without Him.” Glorious because I have realized that somehow by dying to self, by emptying out not only my sin, but my very “precious” identity and skills as gifts to Him at His feet, God glories in His creation, ME! Why should He take delight in me? Because His glory and mine are all wrapped up together, but only found in Him, only in yielding to the life of Christ and the death of self. And a deep (if ungraceful and somewhat forced) embracing of suffering and persecution along the way, not to earn heaven, but to earn the ability to identify with Christ, to KNOW Him.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3:7-10)

Truly, everything else is rubbish and tarnished goods. There’s no false humility in this. There’s no tongue in cheek exaggeration. It’s just true. My “journey to the ground” as I have been calling my 6-years experience/exploration of Mark 4 has led to GLORY?!

…who would have thought?

Of all He could have changed about me, through suffering, through loss, through betrayal and through brokenness, He managed somehow to change my actual desires. He has written His law on my heart just like He promised He would if we abandoned our old lives and followed Him practically and literally. The roadmap is all there in the commands of Jesus. Do them and you will find life. From the outside I do not look beautiful, I do not look like anything to emulate, I am in pain in my physical body constantly, and I am embarrassed most of the time in some way or another. I disappoint people all the time. I do not seem very organized. I do not speak eloquently anymore like the leader or visionary many people hoped I would become. The only place I know how to lead people is to the feet of Jesus. Everything else I used to know, I have resolved not to anymore. He is the treasure. His presence is the oil. I have counted the cost and I am paying it in full. He was not lying, my friend. I’m very sorry but it costs everything. And it’s ALL WORTH IT.

Surely Jesus is the most gentle mover of hearts and the long-lost Beloved of every human soul. His wisdom and love knows no bounds. His patient endurance never ends. So must we all come to know the very nature of our God, not by academic study of the Bible and its heroes, not by servitude alone, not by church disciplines methodologically practiced (although those things are good). No! We come to know Him by accepting the invitation to lay our lives down, take up the cross, and follow Jesus, being taught by Him at His feet, the one necessary thing (Luke 10:38-42). We walk as He walked. We are filled with His Spirit. And we do His work in the world, healing, teaching,

I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than wear the crown of kings
I’d rather be a watchmen on the walls than live in palaces.
I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than wear a robe and crown of kings
I’d rather bow down, sing you songs of love, and have your company.

Though many have riches, renown and reputation
These things mean nothing to me.
How great this costly poverty—to lay it all at your feet.

I’d rather sit at your feet and hear what you are saying
Than have the whole world at mine

So what are you saying?
What are you doing?
How can I be a part of what’s on your heart?
Take me away
The Spirit and the bride say come

It’s all about you
It’s not about me
I don’t care to leave a legacy
I don’t care to leave a legacy
Yours is all the glory
It’s all your story
You are worthy, Lamb of God

I wanna sit at your table
Eat of the abundance of your house
Drinking deep of the water of life,
Laying back on your chest

I’d rather be with you, in your company
Than live in the company of fools, or the wise, or the beautiful
Though there are many calling for me to come away
I have found the place I love to be

I’ll buy the oil
I’ll buy the oil of your presence

I’ll buy the oil
I’ll buy the oil of your presence

You are worthy Lamb of God

2 thoughts on “A View from Paradise”

  1. Wow, just wow. Thank you for verbalizing what my heart feels. Jesus is enough. He is ALL. There’s nothing else that compares and I want more and more.
    I just may have to quote you on some of this ❤️

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