I was sitting up in bed at about 3:25 AM last Monday in Texas, victimized by the hefty plate of Tex-Mex I’d enjoyed seven hours earlier which, like Scrooge’s ghosts, now demanded that I answer for my sins.
It wasn’t that bad. More than anything else, I was amused at what a combination of salt and salsa can do to a body, and considering how awesome the weekend of ministry in the Dallas/Garland area had been, I could hardly complain.
Still, it was an hour for vampires, not 64-year old Californians whose flight would take off shortly. So if I couldn’t sleep, I was at least determined
I flipped on the light, punched Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto into Spotify, and let my thoughts drift.
They went everywhere they shouldn’t. Financial what-if’s. Uncompleted projects. Client problems. Not restful, needed rest, considered options. Even HBO was starting to sound good.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came the rhema.
Logos is, of course, Greek for the written word of God which is infallible. There’s no surer way to hear from Him than to read His word, and only the most foolish will rely on “I think the Lord’s telling me” as a form of
But let’s give rhema – the revealed word communicated by revelation – it’s due. Jesus said man lives by it (Matthew 4:4), the Book of Acts is chock full of evidence God sometimes leads and enlightens His servants by direct communication, and it is the word by which, according to Paul, faith comes. (Romans 10:17)
It can communicate an unknown truth. But often, it saturates the believer with a deeper understanding of truth she or he already knows.
That’s what I’m talking about, a rhema flood dousing me in the wee hours with lyrics I used to sing in another time, another life:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Strangely dim, what a phrase.
Dim, not because the things of earth plaguing my thoughts were unimportant in and of themselves but because, in the light of His glory and grace, they faded in perspective.
Strangely dim, because all that had seemed to be priority moments earlier now looked puny. My Shepherd was talking; His lamb heard His voice:
Turn your eyes, Joe. Now.
Click, mic drop, boom. I was experiencing in spirit a truth I’d known but not known, courtesy of a corrective embrace and words now tumbling from the throne into my hungry and suddenly very awestruck heart.
If I could interpret, it would go something like this:
You and I have been together 48 years now. I arranged it, I bought you, and I’ve kept you. But you don’t look at Me enough. Your eyes are everywhere else. When you look at everything there is to worry about, you act like an overworked, underpaid laborer. Try looking at Me for a change. Look hard. See My faithfulness to you, My patience, My promises. Think about what you’re feeling now while I touch you, and think on how this is a miniscule foretaste of what you and I will have forever when you can finally know Me as I know you, finally see Me fully, finally experience life as I meant it to be and as it will be forever, world without end, Amen.
I can’t do it justice, not in words. But in those moments doctrine and experience came together in perfect union.
What I thought I knew about Him and eternity became something I knew anew, something I not just believed, but experienced, something I was indescribably excited about and grateful for to the point of tears and dancing all at once. It was rhema, and it was glorious.
I didn’t sleep, and I didn’t care. Peace in this life can be awfully illusive, so when it comes in spades it’s got to be savored, which I did until about 5.
Then I proposed, as Peter did when he had an amazing Jesus episode, that we build a booth for Him and me to permanently camp in Room 226 at the Marriott. The last bit of rhema I got that morning was something like
We get those shots in the arm when He knows we need them, reminding us that He is, indeed, our Shepherd, guiding and goading with a perfect working knowledge of His flock.
It’s a one-sided perfect knowledge, for sure, because He knows us fully and we know Him only in part.
But on Monday September 30, 2019 at pre-dawn, I got a memo from that Shepherd reminding me that my imperfect knowledge would soon and very soon be perfected, and that the deepest communion I have with Him now is hopelessly shallow next to what we’ll come to forever know as “business
He will come, it will all come together, and all creation will finally exchange groaning for doxologies at the ultimate reconciliation.
Free at last, free forever, I’ll finally be able to say it.
If by chance I should also in that moment cast a backwards thought towards the existence I’ve joyfully left, it will only be to wonder, very briefly, why I put myself through so much hell over things of earth that matter so little