Dear King’s Cross Family,
This week has been one of those unexpected detours that start off with the feeling of dread. My youngest son was sick and as I started having a scratchy throat. I thought to myself, “here it comes…another cycle of the cold will come to the Ong family household.” It wasn’t that bad, Noah recovered pretty quickly and I thought it would pass pretty quickly. Then it was confirmed, I felt chills then my throat started to hurt; progressively it got worse and worse and each day, the pain got worse. Jamie, my wife started getting all the remedies, lemon/honey/ginger tea, every over the counter medicine of lozenges, cough suppressants, pain relief but nothing helped.
Finally I succumbed and went to the doctor and they found out, it was strep throat. Now, if you never had strep throat, then I would not hope you do, but it is debilitating. It exposed me. I couldn’t pray with voice. I couldn’t sing. I tried to read but every few minutes, the pain would distract me. So, I just tried to stay in bed wanting recovery so I can be with my kids but also to be with God. So, I tried to do some more planning for 2016 for the church, then the detour of pain. Finally, I felt muted. I got on my knees and prayed silently. Gulping. Silence. Pain. Flinch. Gulp. Pain. Flinch. A building of tears. Then the words came. Grasp. It was as if I was missing the truth of the sermon I preached two Sundays ago. In Ephesians 3:18, the word in the NIV translation is more appropriate with “grasp” then the ESV of “have strength to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and depth of His love,”
Why would he use this fighting metaphor? To grasp, to fight to attain? What is Paul eluding to? What are we wrestling with that makes it so hard to take hold of? One of the best relocations of my heart arrived on Psalm 42 where the psalmist says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?” or in Psalm 103, where the psalmist says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits …” What’s going on there? There is this inner conversation that we have and in this time of being muted, I had to pray to God by talking to myself. The Psalmist is expressing that he is wrestling the truth into his heart. He is “grasping.”
He is grasping at the truth and speaking memory into his heart. “Don’t forget the gospel. Why are you feeling this?” He’s saying, “Look, in light of this truth of Christ, why are you doing this, oh heart? Why don’t you see this? Why are you anxious? Why are cast down? Why are you not more grateful?”
What is he doing? He’s taking himself in hand, he’s taking the truth, and with the power of the Spirit, he’s thinking and reflecting and applying and connecting until he begins to feel and sense and see change. Do you know how to do that?
As I sat at home this Sunday, feeling useless and a burden to my family and the church. I went to God. I read his word, I saw God inviting me into surrender to the rest that He is providing me. This is His grace to me. The God of the universe is inviting reflection, and he is dealing with my wrestling with anxiety; with my busyness and my addiction to ministry work. It felt like there was no one else in my living room, it was just God showing the truth of his love. He was showing me the cross. Most of the typical meditation techniques are invitations to empty your mind. “If you want to have meditation, you must empty your mind.” That’s not how the Bible teaches us about meditating. God fills your mind with truth and your heart with love, and with the power of the Spirit, you get that truth into the center of your being. God is a giver of presence. That is how I was able to call out to him as “Abba Father.” It was so active. I saw Him as He saw me; an insecure, inadequate and filled with identity issues. Yet God is reorient my heart. He is seeing me through the lens of the redemption on the cross and likewise I was able to see my Lord as my Savior. It was a renewing of my mind. It wasn’t not passive. I was grasped that this gospel is very filling. It’s not emptying. It was grasping.
So Paul’s prayer is that we have this living, vital, bright reality that fills you with the fullness of God, then it may require us to have a discipline to meditate, not just on how long and wide and high and deep God’s love is in general, but on how long and wide and high and deep is the love of Christ for those He died for. It’s only when you understand the Christ, that you’re saved by grace in spite of being a sinner. You’re saved not by what you do but by what Jesus has done, not on the basis of your performance or your good works. You’re saved by sheer grace. That is the thing that turns the concept of the love of God into a real warming reality that you can truly sense. Look at Christ’s commitment on the cross and this should emboldens us to sense the delight that God has when He looks upon us because of our union with Christ.
If you want to understand the depths of the love of God … In fact, the only way to understand the depths of the love of God is to understand the depths to which Jesus Christ went to love you. The central symbol of our faith is God’s humiliation for our restoration. Christ prayed on his knees as well…in Gethsemane, he fell to his face not that you may not only to gain acceptance but from that truth; desire you to experience acceptance in your heart. How deep did he go? “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He was thrown into the deepest pit anybody ever went into, and he went in voluntarily. He went down and down and down so you can grasp how deep…
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us,
will he not with him also give us everything else?
Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?
It is God who justifies.
Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
—Romans 8:31-35, 37-39, NRSV