Monday, May 23, 2016

Eagerly Awaiting!

This Friday my family and I attended Planet Comic Con in Kansas City, MO. We didn’t do any cosplaying and we didn’t do any ministry. We arrived with one goal—to finally meet the legendary Stan Lee! The only way to guarantee an encounter with the creator of dozens of beloved Marvel superheroes was to buy a VIP pass, which cost more than I’m willing to admit. Even with the VIP pass, though, we still had to wait in line amongst over three hundred other VIPs who all anxiously awaited the opportunity to meet comic’s most prolific creator.  The kids and I were bursting with excitement. I’ve wanted to meet Stan Lee for ages and my kids have all grown up as Marvel fans and they’ve even read a children’s biography about Stan Lee, so all of us eagerly anticipated the moment. As we waited in line for what seemed like an eternity we discussed what we would say to him and debated which comic book to have him sign. When the moment finally came, though, it wasn’t all we hoped it would be.

In order to ensure every paying customer received an autograph and a photo with Stan Lee, the convention staff ushered each person through the line at break-neck speeds. After hours of waiting, we spent literally ten seconds in Stan Lee’s presence. He offered a warm smile and a “hello” in that unmistakable New York accent of his, but before we could blink we were ushered out of his presence so that others could have a turn. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll cherish our photo and my now-signed copy of Avengers #10, but the whole experience was over so quickly that it just didn’t live up to the hype and hope we’d built up around it.

As Christians, we all know what it’s like to eagerly await our opportunity to stand in the presence of the Creator. Not just the creator of Spider-man and the Fantastic Four, but the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The Bible says, “Christ will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28 NLT). Are you eagerly waiting for Christ? The early Christians did. Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, saying, “you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:10 NLT). The Thessalonians spent their lives with an eye on the clouds and ear for the trump. They waited anxiously for the day of Christ’s return.

Sadly, I think many of us have lost that sense of expectancy. After waiting for hours, I started to wonder if Stan Lee would ever arrive. I guess some of us have done the same thing with Christ. We’ve waited so long, we wonder if he’ll ever show up. He will. But he’ll arrive on his time, not ours. When Stan Lee finally made his appearance, the crowd began to cheer exuberantly. If you think seeing Stan Lee is amazing, just wait. The Bible tells us, “On the day when the Lord Jesus comes, all the people who have believed will be amazed at Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

Amazed at Jesus! Not amazed at angels or mansions or new bodies or new creations. Paul doesn’t measure the joy of encountering the apostles or embracing our loved ones. If we will be amazed at those things, which certainly we will, he does not say. What he does say is that we will be amazed at Jesus. And, in case you’re worried, your time with Christ won’t be over and done in the blink of an eye like our meeting with Stan Lee. No one will usher you out of Christ’s presence. In fact, the Bible assures us that when Christ comes, “we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Forever. No end in sight. I can only imagine what it will be like when my family and I stand in the presence of Jesus. But until that day, I’ll choose to live forwardly, eagerly awaiting his arrival!

'nuff said!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Finding your Fortress

Wouldn’t you love to visit Superman’s Fortress of Solitude?

This weekend my kids and I watched Superman: The Movie followed by Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut on VidAngel. In both films, Superman frequently retreats to his frozen sanctuary, the Fortress of Solitude. The Fortress is created by a special crystal that Superman’s Kryptonian father, Jor-El, enclosed in his son’s spaceship and contains numerous "memory crystals" that can be used to access Jor-El's artificial intelligence and hologram.

When Superman brings Lois to the Fortress, she exclaims, “Wow! This is your home?” Superman replies, “No, actually I live in the city about three blocks from you. But this is a very special place for me.” The Fortress of Solitude is special to Superman because it provides him a place to get away from all the distractions and demands of life and allows him to commune with his father.

This is yet another way that Superman emulates Jesus. Just as Superman traveled to a solitary place to be alone with his father, Jesus also traveled to solitary places to connect with his Heavenly Father. The Bible says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35 NIV). Elsewhere, the Bible says, “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5:16 NIV). Not only did Jesus retreat to private places for prayer, but He also encouraged us to do the same: “when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6 HCSB).

If your life is anything like mine, then you’ve got a lot going on. You’ve got chores to complete, costumes to create, children to chase, a spouse to love, a dog to feed, church commitments to keep, soccer games to attend, lunch appointments, doctor’s appointments, hair appointments and that doesn’t even begin to account for the projects, paper work, and priorities at the office or in the shop or on the farm. In the midst of it all, God longs to quietly connect with you.

We all need a Fortress of Solitude. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be a crystalline castle. Maybe your Fortress of Solitude is a park bench or the foot of your bed. Maybe your “solitary place” is at the kitchen table early in the morning before anyone else is awake. Maybe your “private room” is a study, an office, or a deer stand out in the woods. It doesn’t really matter where your fortress is. What matters is that you find a special solitary place where you can connect and commune with your Father free from distractions, disturbances and disruptions.

So where is your Fortress of Solitude?