The Way Back to a Heart Ablaze

heart-fire-1249098-639x424 (1)The Emmaus road felt as dry and dusty as their hearts. You see, on Friday, the man for whom these two weary travelers had hinged their entire lives had been crucified. They’d given this Jesus their everything. They’d turned their worlds upside down for him, and now he was dead. Heart-broken, life-broken, these men plodded on talking about the shattering events that they had witnessed and the strange rumors they’d heard—rumors that this Jesus had been raised from the dead.

And while they walked on in this dejected state, their hearts raising so many questions, a traveler joined them. He traveled with them in the midst of their disillusionment; he traveled with them in the midst of their despair; he traveled with them in the midst of their disbelief.

What do you do with your life when you’ve lost your center? How does life feel when there is no ballast, nothing weighty, nothing of substance to keep you in balance? And what if in the midst of that very lost-ness, the answer was right there in your presence, walking the hard road with you? That is the case here.

For you see, Jesus, the very one whom they had been grieving, the very one who had changed everything for them, was right there with them—risen, alive, and full of unimaginable, enlivening power, and they didn’t even know it.

So this stranger began to talk with them about the Scriptures. He began to retell the stories, the stories which all pointed ahead to him—to Jesus—as the key which unlocked every door, to the piece which made every other piece fit, to the answer which made all the questions suddenly seem elementary. Everything past pointed to him, but everything future also suddenly became infused with meaning because of him.

And suddenly their hearts burned within them as this stranger spoke and opened up their Scriptures to them. Their hearts burned within them, not only because he was there, and because he opened up their eyes to the prophesies which foretold him, but also because with him everything ahead had meaning again, a purpose which thrusted them with passion into their future. With him, suddenly even the most mundane parts of life became infused with a greater purpose, with a weight of importance that they could never have without him.

I keep coming back to this passage in the Bible and re-reading it. If you aren’t familiar with the story, found in Luke 24:13-35, go back and reread it. I’ve come because I’ve been weary, dejected, and lost like these travelers. I’ve come because I’ve wanted to feel my heart burning within me again like these travelers. And I’ve come and camped out on these pages, hoping.

Have you ever knocked on the door of heaven for so long that your knuckles got scratched and bloody? Have you laid your pillow down on God’s door and said, “I’m not going anywhere until I hear from you?” If you have, you know that God loves that kind of persistence. He loves it when everything comes to a roaring halt until we find our center again. He loves to answer that kind of prayer. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Do you feel like someone has pricked the center of your life and let the air out of it? Are you meandering, aimlessly, hoping that no one will notice you’ve lost the zest for it? Maybe you are on the Emmaus road and you need to realize that you aren’t alone. Even in your lowest place, he’s with you. Even at your ugliest and worst, he’s been by your side. Even in the doubts that might have felt like a betrayal to another, he has been on your side pointing your eyes to the trail-marks which have always pointed ahead to him. Even when the mundane drum-beat of life has so beat you down, that you’ve lost sight of why you were marching in the first place, if you come and seek, really seek for answers, he won’t disappoint you.

He’ll lift up your eyes and let you see glory: two hands breaking bread—a sign for you of a body that was broken for you in the midst of your sinfulness. He’ll lift your eyes up and let you see that in the midst of your powerlessness an unlimited death-shattering, life-creating, hell-binding, heaven-opening, power has been in your presence all along. If you come to the table hungry, he’ll satisfy you. Come with nothing and you will not leave empty-handed. Seek, knock, and you will find that you were found long before you knew you were missing. You were rescued before you knew you were lost. He’s on the road with you. He has places he wants to take you. If you truly look for him, you’ll glimpse him once more and get to say with those who’ve been undone in his presence, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us?”

Ask.

Seek.

Knock.

Don’t give up until you feel his burning presence again.

 

I started this blog with a purpose: to invite my readers to a deep and fearless faith. That’s a faith that burns inside you without consuming you; it’s a faith that compels you into purposeful risk. It’s a faith that is all about this risen Jesus. If you’re looking for that kind of faith or need to renew a faith that is in embers, explore this blog, sign up to receive it in your inbox, or drop me a note. I’d love to pray for you and encourage you to keep asking, seeking, and knocking.

The Passion of Christ

cross2Typically, when we hear the phrase, “The Passion of Christ,” we associate it with the suffering of Jesus during Holy Week. And certainly, this is right. But when I hear the term, my mind goes first to the great love of Christ which led Him to the cross.

When God grabbed hold of my fourteen year-old heart in a deeper way, He did it primarily by speaking to me through a passage in Hosea 11. A workbook I had from a retreat asked me to substitute my name for every place where the passage read Israel. Try it with your own name as you read along in this New Living Translation of the text:

“When [_______] was a child, I loved [her] and I called [my daughter] out of Egypt. But the more I called [_________] the further [she] went from me… . I myself taught [________] how to walk, leading [her] along by the hand. But [she] doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of [her]. I led [______] along with ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from [her] neck and I myself stooped to feed [her].

“But since [________] refuses to return to me… [her] enemies will crash through [her] gates. They will destroy [her], trapping [her] in [her] own evil plans. For [__________] is determined to desert me. [She] calls me the most High, but [she] doesn’t truly honor me.

“Oh, how can I give you up,[_________]? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you … or demolish you…? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows. No, I will not unleash my fierce anger. I will not completely destroy [________], for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy.

“For someday [_________] will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion and when I roar, [_________] will return trembling from the west. Like a flock of birds, [_________] will come…. Trembling like doves, [________] will return…. And I will bring [her] home again, says the LORD.” (Hosea 11: 1-4, 6-11)

For the first time in my life, when I read these words I heard the passion of my God for me. I heard His tenderness for me, I heard my betrayal, I heard what I deserved, and I heard how He would not give me up. I could see Him like a lion on my trail, unwilling to relinquish His pursuit. I could hear in His haunting, “How can I give you up? How can I let you go?” the cry of a lover who would not let the beloved go. And His words melted me.

I did come to Him trembling. I came with prodigal hope. I came with a thirst for home, a true home with Christ.

Now, as I read about Christ weeping over Jerusalem, stumbling underneath the heavy burden of a wooden cross, flayed by whips, pierced by a mocking crown, and crying, “Father forgive,” as His lungs burned for air, I hear the haunting questions of Hosea. “How can I give you up? How can I let you go?”

To me, His suffering and His passion for His bride—the Church, will always go hand in hand. He suffered because His love compelled Him not to turn back. He suffered because He wants us. He desires to be in relationship with us. He created us, He nurtured us, and He will not bear to let us go. But we must come.

We must hear the roar of His great love for us, and turn. We must hear of what we in our sin deserve, and see what in His grace He has bought us, and come running back to Him.

Does His love make you tremble? Does it make you come running? It should: no love has ever been as strong. No love has ever gone to such great lengths. This is not a love to be taken lightly.

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