I've been talking about how the Father and Lord want us to see the big picture instead of focusing on details which lead us into a downward spiral spiritually and emotionally.
The Father's response
I was helping pull the pants up on my son Chris, who is mentally 4 years old though physically 33, as he sat on the toilet, now ready to be helped out to his chair in the living room. My mind was still reeling over his accident 2 weeks before, the very difficult but productive first dental visit to stabilize the 4 teeth he had broken off and jammed back into his gums during his fall, and all the ensuing details to be planned and scheduled.
I was thinking about how I owed people phone calls, Skype calls, Facebook Instant Messenger responses, email and all the studying and writing I had to do. I was thinking of teaching series, making more video classes and writing thank you notes. I was thinking about mowing the grass, planting the garden, the various spring projects, and how all the above lay neglected while I (and Barb) took care of Chris.
All these things and so much more were whirling around my mind and emotions in no particular order as I said; "Father, how can I do all the things in ministry I need to do when things like this happen to Chris? Nearly everything in ministry stops to care for him...." when the Father broke in to my outpouring:
"Chris IS your ministry!"
That stopped me in my tracks, the revelation of what He was saying sinking in. Words that you and I speak are containers of thoughts and emotions, but we, being mere humans, are limited in our ability to accurately communicate to one another all we are thinking and feeling when we speak.
Learn to listen for the echo
But the Father doesn't have the frailty of human limitations, and so often when He speaks just a few words, they carry a book's worth of His thoughts and emotions, all downloaded at once upon the hearing of His words. That's what happened to me. As you become accustomed to this trait of the Father, you learn to listen what for lack of a better term, is the 'echo' of His voice long after His words ceased.
It is within that echo, that silence after His voice trails off, where the revelation of His deeper thoughts and emotions can be heard - not just felt, but heard, if you listen ever so closely and quietly, lingering in His presence that permeates the moment.
Behind each of His words and sentences is something deeper, and it is within that echo that we peel back layers behind the words like peeling outer petals of a blooming flower ever so tenderly, each petal revealing yet another one still deeper in. So it is when lingering in that echo.
"When you are in Me, I have the whole of you in Me. Chris is not one compartment and ministry another compartment and your time with Barb yet another compartment. I have the whole of you, therefore your life is one. Neither ministry nor Chris can be separated and compartmentalized from the rest of you. Chris is your ministry as much as raising up home based churches or talking to someone in Europe on Skype."
Out with the old
I was horrified at myself, for what I had been saying to Him was part of the old traditional church thinking, and I didn't know any of that old, non-scriptural thinking was still in me as it relates to 'church'. That thinking says, "The events of my life are keeping me from doing the ministry God wants me to do. If I could just get this part of my life in order THEN I could do what God wants." Essentially, that is what my mind and emotions were saying to the Father, flawed and in error though it was.
That kind of thinking says, 'If I could just get out of debt THEN I could do what God has for me.' That kind of thinking says, "If they hadn't done that to me at church I'd be doing what God has for me right now." and "If I hadn't backslidden all those years and missed God, I'd be doing what God wants me to do."
When we are in the Father by virtue of being in Christ, our life is ministry - remember the Greek word 'ministry' is 'service'. We serve God at work and play, at home and in our hobby, around the dinner table or fixing a car. We serve our families, friends, people we don't even know through acts of kindness and just being here on planet earth.
Because we are in Christ we are all a royal priesthood 24/7 no matter how we earn a living, no matter our age, gender, or station in life. We are wholly and completely in Him as the Bible says - our old lives are dead and gone and the life we now live, we live in Christ. (Colossians 2:2-4) We are wholly in Him.
Mentally being 'in Christ' or 'in Him' was something I knew - there are over 100 references to being 'in Him' or 'in Christ' in the New Testament. Mentally I knew that, but this hit home hard.
All I could say in response to all the Father said was, "Father, I'm so sorry. I didn't know any of that thinking was still in me. I ask just one thing, let people see your grace when they see our lives, let them see grace."
Little thing or big picture?
I had been doing the very thing I'm writing about NOT doing. I had narrowed my focus to the temporary pressures of this life, getting my eyes off the big picture of the fact the whole of me is in the Father through Christ. I had been like Peter who walked on the water to Jesus, then shifted his attention to the wind and waves and began sinking. The Father's statements were a hand extended to raise me up once again to the big picture.
The largest construction project in the universe
In Psalm 56:8 David says: "...You put my tears in your bottle. Have you not written them in your book?"
This verse says the Father somehow took David's tears and spiritually put them in a bottle in heaven, and wrote them in a book in heaven. That sounds like poetry except for the fact the Bible has many statements that say the Father translates earthly pains and sorrows, offerings and prayers, into heavenly material.
In Acts 10:4 an angel appears to the Roman, Cornelius: "Your prayers and your offerings have come up as a memorial before God." Memorials are something that stand as a record for all to see, of something or someone of note. Somehow the Father turned Cornelius' offerings and prayers into a memorial in heaven.
In Revelation 5:8 the apostle John sees bowls of incense coming up before the Father, which, he says, "Are the prayers of the saints." How He takes prayers uttered from our heart and turns them into incense in heaven is beyond our understanding, but He does.
What Jesus is preparing
In I Corinthians 3:12 Paul says though Jesus is the foundation stone, we must watch how we build on that foundation; gold, silver, precious stones, or wood, hay and stubble. The last 3 being a result of envy, strife and divisions that plagued the Corinthians at the time.
He likens earthly envy, strife, and division to spiritual wood, hay, and stubble - so what qualities make up the gold, silver, and precious stones he says to build with? Walking in love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness... and other character traits of a maturing believer are those precious things built upon the Foundation Stone.
In I Peter 2: 4-8 Peter rightly states that Jesus is the Corner Stone, and says, 'But you are living stones, built up into a spiritual house, a royal priesthood...'
Do we get that? Each of us is a living stone, being built up into a spiritual house. Just as Jesus' life was transformed into the cornerstone of heaven, each of us is a similar living stone, each contributing to the construction of heaven. Now you might think that is symbolism, but look at the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem: "The wall of the city had 12 foundations, and on them were the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb." (Revelation 21:14)
Each tear, each right decision, each prayer, each sacrifice unseen by man but seen by the Father and Lord - it all gets transformed into heavenly material.
The bride is the body of Christ, right?
What do you get when you get all those tears and offerings and prayers and right decisions recorded in heaven? What do you get when you compile the lives of millions of believers down through the ages who have overcome great hardship, or left strife, envy, and division in order to walk in love, joy, and peace, so that those gold, silver, and precious stones might become part of their heavenly material?
You get the largest construction project in the universe. "Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband...'Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb....and he showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like jasper, as clear as crystal..." (Revelation 21)
This is the ultimate 'big picture'. It is assurance that our lives are not for nothing. That in Christ all we have gone through and overcome, all those unseen hardships seen only by God who knows the heart, are transformed into the heavenly Jerusalem. We as a body are the bride, and our lives are transformed into the material of the holy city, which is therefore also the bride, the Lamb's wife. Amazing grace!
As we pray, overcome, cry, and make right decisions because they are right no matter the cost, He takes all that and builds our part of the heavenly Jerusalem. As the Lord told Barb that day after she was first saved and saw the roughest of building blocks that is her home in heaven: 'As you give us more to build with, we will build it.'
No matter what we are going through, we must look up at the big picture. It is glorious!