the spring rains come

“Let us acknowledge the Lord
let us press on to acknowledge him. 
As surely as the sun rises, 
he will appear; 
he will come to us like the winter rains, 
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:3

Great movements of water forked out over the desert just in time for the tired and thirsty animals arriving for their yearly reprieve from draught and dust. Watching the Kalahari desert flood and life begin to flourish on BBC’s Planet Earth is truly breathtaking. As with so many desert stories, it began with animals trying to find their way back to their life source and ends with them joyfully paddling through flooded land green with vitality. It was a place the veteran’s knew would be there in just the right season. They could survive the desert journey because of the promise of what was on the other side.

Jesus could survive temptation and wilderness because he knew what was on the other side. On the other side of the wilderness he would begin to heal the sick, bring forgiveness into people’s lives, give dignity to those that society deemed undignified. He knew that he would be betrayed and killed, taking everything that we do that doesn’t look like God’s home and died with it so that we wouldn’t have to. He knew that death wouldn’t keep him and he would live. At end of the wilderness, the devil left him alone …

“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” ~ Luke 4:13

I crave those things – streets where people feel like the burdens of their lives are lifted right off them, where unworthiness falls away like a snake shedding skin and a life lived from love is revealed underneath. I want to do what Jesus did … heal the sick, bring forgiveness into people’s lives, give dignity to those that society deems undignified. I want to live in God’s home where love is unquestioned. This life is on the other side of temptation. More than anything else, the temptation to not believe that God loves us, that his truth makes us into more loving people and that he knows the way to heal the streets of our cities. If this is your first time taking this journey, make sure you follow someone who is a witness to these things.

When the devil finishes all his tempting, he leaves until an opportune time. Don’t give up in the wilderness and temptation. There will be relief.

This week we will be looking at resting in God’s presence. In the meantime, ask God to give you strength to trust his truth today.

the view from here is bleak but the future is bright

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: 
“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’  ” ~ Luke 4:9-12

At 70 meters in height, Church of Saints Augustine and John (John’s Lane Church) on Thomas Street is the tallest church in Dublin. If this had been the peak that Jesus would have stood on when hungry and tired, what would he have seen? Street markets, Guinness, Mannings Bakery, St. Catherine’s Church, the Digital Hub, the flats, NCAD, the Liffey, Smithfield Square, the Four Courts … a city that stretches north, west, east and south from there. Who would he have seen? And the building dedicated to his name, would it feel like his home? Or would he feel like a stranger passing through with the impossible responsibility of restoring all of creation to God who wants to speak peace over it, speak love, speak life.

What did he see from the heights of the temple? Did it already make him sick that people were using that very building for their own gain instead of to come near to God, who planned for all people to find worth and wholeness in him? He knew he was there to die and defeat death. Wouldn’t a practice run be good? Jump just to make sure that his Father would catch him. Then the next few years wouldn’t be so bad. He wouldn’t end up in excruciating inner turmoil right before he would be arrested and crucified. He could go boldly and confidently into the plans for his life. Test God, test his identity and then decide to continue or not.

The more I speak with God, the more I see how incredibly full of grace and mercy he is – loving all people equally and filled with nothing but good intentions for them. When he shows me this city and world from the top, there are people and places that stand out to me and I see how far they are from the experience of heaven. When we follow him through the wilderness we see how different we are from who he is. We see how different our communities are from an ideal that can’t be bought. “Give me proof!” we might challenge God, “That a life lived for you will be worth it in the end.”

Walking with Jesus through the wilderness means learning to have an almost irrational faith in God that he will come through in the end and that he is who he says he is in spite of all we see and experience, even in the buildings and structures that are dedicated to him. Today, talk to God about the faith or lack of faith you have in him and his goodness that lasts and lasts and lasts.

This week we will be looking at all that God dreams for our world and the promises of heaven, both now and for eternity.

you are loved. believe it so you act like it’s true

No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is … You find out the strength of the wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later … Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means – the only complete realist. ~ C. S. Lewis

The alarm jars me awake in the morning and the snooze button is just too handy. I hardly have to do anything, just tap the screen and I get nearly 10 more minutes to myself before it’s time to open the curtains and get out of bed. What harm would it be to hit snooze just one more time after that too? The temptation is just too much … I don’t think this sort of temptation is what C. S. Lewis was talking about and yet it is easier to talk about and admit than temptations that affect how I interact with God and the people around me.

Looking at Jesus doesn’t always help because he can make us a little insecure with all his perfection. And yet, he lived here as God with us, showing us what heaven looks like, what a world with him would be instead of this pain-filled existence we see all around us. Jesus didn’t enter the wilderness to be tempted by little luxuries in life – “No Facebook for 40 days, Jesus.” He was tempted to the core of who he was. He was tempted to cheat, to take short cuts, to be entitled, to be comfortable, to give up his position.

The tempter came to him (Jesus) and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” ~ Matthew 4:3-4

It’s not like Jesus couldn’t have done this. I mean, really, wouldn’t it have been just as easy to say: “Yes, devil, I am pretty sure I am the Son of God and to prove it I will show you that I can do the same miracle that he did. I will make food out of nothing in the wilderness like my Father did for the Israelites all those years ago.” He could have eased his hunger while making a point. But right before Jesus went into the wilderness God declared, “This (Jesus) is my Son.” Jesus knew his existence and identity didn’t hinge on what he could do but on what his Father said about him.

To follow Jesus into the wilderness is to stand against temptation. One of those temptations is to not believe what God says about us, starting with the fact that God so loved the world that he gave his Son. God loved us.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. We don’t have to earn it by working for it. We don’t have to do anything to prove it to anyone. We are loved. What would life look like if you really believed that he sees everything … and I mean everything and still loves you. No choice you’ve made or trauma you’ve experienced could change that. He created you in his image. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. He doesn’t just love you, he wants you.

This week of Lent we will be looking at temptation and repentance. Temptation isn’t wrong, acting on it is.  We cannot change what we do not acknowledge. While we follow Jesus through the wilderness we have an opportunity to acknowledge how our responses to temptation are different than his and begin to change them with his help. We already know he walks with us and makes a way.

Today, tell God about the times that you have tried to work for his love. Ask his forgiveness for when you have acted as if he didn’t create you, know you and love you. Take a minute to be silent when you are done.