O Death

December 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve never had to deal with death before. I’ve never had to face the weight of absolute loss – forever. 

I had the opportunity to make it back to Arkansas for Christmas, and what a blessing it was. Although I feel like I fell into the same Christmas routine as every year; eat, sleep, repeat, I had the chance to connect with my family in a way that I hadn’t in a long time, or possibly ever. We had fun just being in each other’s presence, it was awsome. Okay, Okay, the “possibly ever” might seem a little extreme, but given the dynamic of my life since becoming a Christian, I’ve really not had a ton of opportunities to be part of my crazy, late night, selfie-taking family. With hindsight being what it is, 20/20, I see an amazing family that I didn’t get to know as well as I should have. Of course it’s not too late, never too late, but the 1200 miles separating us is a slight hindrance. I say all of this to say: my Christmas was amazing, and one I won’t soon forget. 

As I was coming out of my “gravy coma” (thanks mom), I woke up on the runway of the Philadelphia International Airport. Like everyone else on the plane, my first priority was to turn off “airplane mode” and await the 20 incoming texts (you’re that cool, too, right?). I actually didn’t get any texts, but rather a voice mail from the CEO of my company. I returned his call, and he gently informed me that a co-worker and friend had passed away on Christmas eve. What? How can that be? I was stunned, but not like I should have been. I’ve never had to deal with death. I’ve never had to face the weight of absolute loss – forever. 

I attended the funeral, the first one I can remember going to, or at least the first one that I’ve been deeply troubled by, and I’m genuinely glad I went. On the way home, I got to ride back to Philly with a friend; a friend who has a lot of questions about Christianity, and more specifically about Christianity and death, which was of course spurred by our loss. It wasn’t until this conversation that the true reality and finality of death was revealed. It was a great talk. An unfiltered discussion about Jesus, what Jesus’s death means, and what that sacrifice means for us, now. It was awesome. 

Feeling pretty good about the day’s events, even in light of the tragedy we spent the day mourning, I settled into bed. As I started to say a quick prayer, the terrible weight of death crashed down on me. I’ve never been so destroyed by a single thought, the thought that death without Jesus, is final. It’s irreversible. I was so broken that words no longer came from my lips, but only raw emotion. I’ve never conversed with God in the same way, and after an hour of wordless, intense prayer, my understanding of God and death had changed. I saw the grace and mercy of God. I saw that God is SO GOOD and loves us SO MUCH that even in death (the opposite of Jesus and the absolute consequence of sin), His promises are just as true as in every other situation. God promises us that in all things, He will be glorified. He promises that all things work towards the good of those that love Him.

It’s hard to look at such a loss and try to find joy. It’s hard to see the effects of sin in such a tangible way, and have that darkness eclipsed by something greater, so much greater that, though I morn for my friend and pray for mercy, I still can’t help but find joy and solace in fact that my God has promised, and fulfilled those promises, since the beginning of time, and He’s not going to stop now. God has relentlessly pursued his people throughout history, and is still doing so today. 

In the face of death, I’ve found life. I’ve found an urgency in the Gospel, and a reason to reevaluate my priorities. God promises to mold and shape us, to council and comfort us, to strengthen and sanctify us, to humble and lift us up. God’s promises aren’t empty, but full of life, full of Himself, the ultimate good. I hope that death never finds you or those dear to you, but if it does, press into the promises of the only One whom death cannot hold, 

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The Lion

December 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

After spending the morning running a few errands and showing a friend around my new office, I remembered I hadn’t read the advent devotional yet and figured if I didn’t sit down now, I would most likely forget it later. I’m pretty happy that, not only did I remember, but didn’t hesitate to stop what I was doing! Progress!

Toady’s passage was Isaiah 25:6-9. I’m sure there is a ton to be learned from these words, but the only thing that continues to resonate in my mind, is part of the poem that accompanies these verses.

As I crawl, I see the mountain itself open up before me, as a mouth wider than the horizon. It climbs into the sky, higher and higher until it is beyond sight, and devours Sheol whole. The mountain now stands above me, and on it sits a table of bread and wine. Abraham and his children gather around it. My limbs are now guided toward that table, and soon I shall join with those who have walked this path before.

My God swallows whole the great swallower. I the eaten have become he who feasts. My body and soul shall never be devoured, but will sit at the table of my Lord forever.

The picture painted by this author is so real, so dramatic, that it shocked me a little… Okay, maybe a lot. It seems I’ve forgotten this promise from God, forgotten His overwhelming power. I honestly think my thoughts default to the loving Father who gave his Son, the God-man hanging on the tree, the One who lavishes me with blessing upon blessing. Because of Jesus, I’ve never known the relentlessness of God’s wrath, I’ve never felt the universe rip apart with a whisper. I’ve put God in a soft bunny costume and forgotten the One who shattered the unbreakable walls of Jericho, demolished Sodom and Gomorrah, and flooded the entire earth. How can I even attempt to understand this God?

Although I don’t think you can characterize God, C.S. Lewis did a good job with his character “Aslan”. This gentle and loving lion whose roar can silence the world. Such an intriguing God we serve. Another author, Ted Dekker, who I’ve referenced in the past, also portrays God in a similar fashion with his character “Elyon”. This character’s physical appearance changes throughout the series depending on the situation, going from playful little boy to unmatched warrior to a wise old man, but regardless of how Elyon looks, his true nature remains the same. I love the ways these authors have attempted to display God, and both have shown me some of His attributes that I have trouble understanding from the Word, but I must say that within this reality, both of these characters are no more than a glimpse of our God, a human’s feeble attempts to capture the impossible.

I have no hesitations in saying that I could never do a better job, but when pondering this verse and poem, I have to believe that a God who had promised something this big, is so far beyond human comprehension, that creating a fictional character to display even a part of His attributes is next to impossible.

Tangent….. Back to the poem.
Isaiah give an image of this feast the poet speaks of in verse 6 saying:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

What a joyous occasion to look forward to. How great the moment when I can look down off the mountain and say “I have arrived, I am Home.” It gave me chills, a longing for Christ, an excitement for His return.

After mulling this over for a bit, I opened the Bible to Colossians 3. I had read this a few days ago, but the words weighed heavier on me when considering them with an eternal mindset.

1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Really good stuff. This passage only increased my yearnings for Christ, and challenged me to check myself, my thoughts, and my motivations. I have died, my life is hidden with Christ IN God. What the heck am I doing? Why is that fact not the end-all be-all of Blake Hunter? If this God, who has done, is doing, and will do such great things says “This is what I have for you, this is GOOD, this is WHO YOU ARE, you are MINE”, there shouldn’t be anything in this world to distract me. This is the hope I must cling to.

My point is that, this God, who will swallow up Sheol and seat Himself at the top of the mountain, is the God who has hidden me with Christ. He is the God who has invited me to feast at HIS table! My prayer today is that my longings and yearnings would cease to be defined by the foothills this world has to offer, and instead be solely on the Mountain-maker, the Death-swallower, the Lion, and the Host of the mountaintop feast.

Seclusion

November 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

I used to long for seclusion.

In times of trouble or worry, my mind would move to thoughts of escape. Escape from the “American Dream” and all the pressure and debt that come with it, escape from temptation and sin, escape from obligation, escape from my life. Oh, the beautiful dreams I had, my wonderful secret place, my escape, how I longed for it. A humble hut somewhere between the jungle and the ocean, far enough from the world to escape, while remaining close enough to keep contact. A place with no electricity, no cell phones, just me and the wild. This place would always be beautiful, always rock me into a state of awe. That’s what I wanted, and I even schemed up ways to get there. What big and beautiful dreams I had.

It hit me the other day that these dreams have went away. I’m not sure when, or even why they did. To be honest, I enjoyed entertaining the thought of removing myself from the world, but alas, they are no more. Somewhere along the way, something changed in me; I’ve fallen in love with community. This didn’t happen quickly, but the actual realization of this fact startled me, surprised by my lack of attention. I tend to self-analyze, so I’ll give my best shot. I think this change has come with actual depth in my

relationships. In past posts I’ve mentioned a little about this so I won’t explain further, but I believe it was this change that initiated the other. I still have trust issues, but I actually have friends. Friends that I genuinely love and care for, and they feel the same about me. These people, and the safety and security I feel while I’m with them, make the world a little less scary. It’s become a life that, though there are still things I’m unhappy about, I would never leave because I would be leaving my community. I still blows me away that, regardless of my emotion, I have a group of people around me that would like nothing more than to talk about that emotion and how it relates to Jesus. I’m called out daily for my sins, constantly reminded of the Cross and driven towards my Savior, whether I like it or not. When I am overwhelmed by the Gospel, a chorus of voices join mine in praise, simply because of how God is working in my life. Wow.

In all honesty, I’m pretty bad about thinking God isn’t doing much in my life. I’m as blind as a bat. On those occasions that He opens my eyes, I always get rocked. I see an amazing new job, a community full of 20/30-somethings chasing Christ and dragging me along with them, the best roommates in the world… I could go on forever. The point, I am BEYOND blessed. God has brought me from one extreme to the other in a few short years. I now see that the community that Christians are called to isn’t a forced friendship built on similar beliefs, but a body of like-minded people being drawn together by a similar goal, to glorify God. That’s true community. Find it. Pursue it. Love it.

What a beautiful life… God is good.

How Long?

March 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Wow it’s been months since I’ve had anything to say here and I don’t even have much now. Scary thought.

I just had this very weird dream that has put things into focus more than they ever have been as far as salvation and friendships go. I won’t go in to explicit detail for the sake of offending people, and my uncontrollable sobbing at the smallest reliving of the dream, so I’ll just tell you the cliff notes. Basically in this dream, I woke up to find that Jesus had come back. (I’m not sure if that’s the case or what?) Really I woke up and some people had these little red blood spots on their bodies and if you had those, you were taken away to “the safari” and everyone on this side would never see you again. This didn’t feel like a “until you die” kind of thing, but more of a forever kind of way. Well, there were still people with the spots on the safe side, some unknowing, some hiding and regretting whatever they did or didn’t do to put themselves in the situation, and some who were trying to bring as many people down and into The Safari as they could. Crazy dream, I know.

So as I continued on through this imaginary world, I would run into people I know and care for dearly. Some would be fine, but a few that I ran into had the spots… Those were people that I cringe at the thought of losing. People that I may have neglected and not loved like Christ loved me. I’ve never been in so much emotional agony as I was in watching these people being dragged off, never to be seen again. It makes my head spin and heart double-time. This was the craziest dream I’ve ever had, but the hardest part was watching these people ultimately stop fighting and accept their demise. In complete recognition of what happened and what they missed out on. and they just were, no emotion, no anything. defeat.

God, this was the hardest thing I’ve ever seen and I can’t imagine it will be any different when Christ returns. I’m not saying any of this so people will get “saved” and read their Bibles once a week, but more encouraging my brothers and sisters to get their working shoes on and start pulling your loved ones (even ones you think might be a christian) towards the cross. I’ve never had a more sickening feeling than to watch them walking away for eternity and as much as I thought about fighting it in my dream, it was just and because of that I couldn’t even consider acting.

Guys, we are called to die and become nothing in order to gain everything. Anything more than our nothing, is too much. I’m trying to figure this out, and I pray that you will try to work it out with me.

Blake

Old Friends. New Beginnings?

September 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Me and God have had a slight falling out over the past month. Only until the past few days ago have I given Him much more than a second though. Homegroup just started so maybe that has something to do with that. Anyways, I had a little God moment and thought of a few other really great things that are going on that I haven’t really though much about (Children’s ministry, the fall fest block party coming up….) and was like “wow, I should pray about these”. That kinda got me in a praying frenzy, which leads us to now.

In my discussions with God the past few days, there are a few things that I’ve happened upon that really stuck out to me. Well this morning I was discussing… future career possibilities… *cough*poker*cough*… and I was like (slight interpretation) “Listen, I want to be able to play cards for a living and I want you to bless it and give me the chance to do ministry.”……… really?…….. so after rolling this around for a while it kinda came to me… I’m trying to tell God what I want and ask him to come along. Selfish…. working on it.

And tonight, while laying here praying my life out all in one sitting, again my thoughts went to work. It’s funny, I love my job, but still think about this often. So I worked past the whole “let me go play poker I’ll do whatever you want after I ‘felt'”, and ended up thinking about my job and work ethic and pondered what I’m working for. My first thoughts were “ME” (see above @selfish) so I started praying and asked God “God, I’m not doing this right, I shouldn’t be working for me, I should be working so I can do stuff for you”…. then I was like… “wait, that’s ridiculous”…. so I tried again, “Lord, I’m not doing this right, I should be doing the the best I possibly can at work because you’ve provided a way to survive (“Do not worry about tomorrow…”)”… again I kinda shook my head… Is THAT why I’m supposed to give it 100% all the time? I’ve kinda settled that Loving Jesus is the reason I should dedicate 100% of myself to work. Not just work, but my life. I think I’ve been slacking on life. Everything is zipping past me and I’m focused on nothing. Maybe something, but for all your sakes, we’ll say nothing.

I’m not sure you’ve ever been in a place like this, but if you’ve ever seen those zyrtec commercials, at first there’s a film over the lens and after they talk about their pill, everything comes clear? Or even better, the movie Limitless. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. That kind of happened to me. I thought about my dad and mom and little sister, my friends, out of touch friends, the people I work with, my old friends in wash sq I haven’t seen in a month, and a little light clicked on… something Ricky said that stuck “Love God, and love others”… that’s it. I should do EVERYTHING because I love God and I love others. It seems like preschool sunday school, but for me, right now, it was a bombshell. All these people that I have driven to some dull hazy relationship, and I’m not even sure why. I just feel shallow. ugh

I’m not sure I can change this rapidly, but that’s where I’ve ended up over the past few days. Hopefully more to come sooner than later.

yep,

Blake

Surprised by Failure

August 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

I know I haven’t been blogging daily like I said I would, but who’s actually got the time for that? Honestly, I do, but a few new hobbies and a social life push blogging about a failed experiment to the back-burner. Ah well, I haven’t had much to write about anyways.

As I go through this life trying to figure out what’s up or down, or if it even matters, I tend to ignore the thought of God. Easy enough, but I’ve even come to a point where I’ve stopped looking for Him. I start my day like a normal person, go to work like everyone else, and finish like I started. A never-ending cycle so many, including myself, get caught in, that ends up taking away the excitement of each day. I loose my zest for life, forget the blessing it is to have a house and a job, and altogether ignore the mercy I’ve been given to take the next breath. I’m fully aware that I could throw a little scripture into my day and add that to the monotony that is my life, but is that really going to make a difference? I’m doubting the power of scripture. At least I’m aware of the doubt, first step, yeah? Blah

I forget to look for God in my day because I never even consider he is part of it. Yes, I go do “good” things and try to make some kind of difference in the lives of others, but I’m not sure my mindset is “I’m going to make God the difference in MY life, and let Him work in others”. It may sound silly, but I think I do “good” things because they make me feel good about myself. Luckily for me, God can even use that.

I spend some of my time with a few homeless friends out in Washington Square just eating sandwiches and swapping stories, nothing really “godly” or whatever. I’m not sure what the deep down motives of my heart are, but I do know I enjoy my time there. After playing 21 and war with a friend named Daniel for a few hours, I decided to join my church group meeting on the other side of the park. As I was getting up, Daniel said “Blake, we enjoy having you around, come back soon”. I was a little startled I guess. I haven’t done anything besides sit on the nasty ground and listen to crazy stories of street life, occasionally bringing a few sandwiches when I have the stuff to make em, and Daniel and Betty actually enjoy my company. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Not about my motives, or even why they like me, but why I was so confused at being wanted without giving anything but my time. I’m sure this is some kind of heart issue and my need to earn my acceptance, but that’s just another thing I need to give to God and let him work it out. On to the story…

As I was making my way over to the group, I saw another friend, Jean. A 67 year old lady who is by far the most angry person I’ve ever met. Fortunately, she likes me as well. We chatted for a long while about her hatred of public transit, doctors, firemen, and social security, before I slowly directed the conversation directly at her anger and lack of joy. After many stories about when she WAS joyful and what could make her happy now, I brought in Jesus. HA that was a laugh. I’d have more luck at convincing someone a rock was a dog than getting her to entertain the thought that Jesus is anything more than the son of the Blessed Mother. After a few sharp words from her, I found myself praying. After a whole day of ignoring God, I decided that that moment was when I needed his help. I’m very glad that God was who I turned to when I needed someone to have my back, but I guess I’m disappointed that I hadn’t talked to him until I needed something. Our conversation ended in me waving a white flag and, after a few pleasantries, heading over to the comfort of community. Sweet action.

All that was Wednesday, and I hadn’t really thought much about it until I got a phone call tonight. It was Daniel looking for a dry place to stay during the hurricane for him and Betty (who is pregnant). David, Eli, and I now have a homeless couple who will be enjoying Irene with us, and, because I have AMAZING friends, no one cares. It’s actually quite funny. We were at a party and I walked up to both of them and said “hey, y’all got a problem with a few homeless people staying with us through the storm?”, and both answered “nope, sounds good”, then continued on with their conversations…. I’m not sure how often you invite random people off the streets to come say with you, but the fact that my friends took it in stride like it’s normal, awesome.

I’m rambling, so I’ll jump to the point. Even in my failure at pursuing God every morning, he is still hard at work in and through me. I’m sharing the gospel with old ladies, giving resources I don’t have without a second thought, and caring for people with no ulterior motive. What is happening? I really feel far away from God, but he is obviously closer than I know, and I just need to open my eyes.

God’s good. Look around.

Day3…

August 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

so I failed at blogging yesterday, and the day before, my bad.

Well. day one started great, and my focus slowly faded to the monotony of the day. Enough said.

Day 2 was Sunday, didn’t start as well, and finished worse. I’m not sure I considered God much at all even though it was Sunday. I have a pretty good reason why my focus is off. Working on it.

Today didn’t start well either, and went with little thought of God. I had the same problem with my focus as yesterday. God was bugging me about it all day and I didn’t really pay attention until this evening. I went to sit on the back porch and watch the storm rolling in. Beautiful. The sky above the clouds was light blue in one spot where the moon was, and it faded to dark blue then black. The clouds were amazing red and orange and grey swirls, lighted by the occasional flicker of lightning. I was a little awe struck and realized that nothing as beautiful as this just happened, it was created. Just like our own creative nature, God has the same.

So I prayed. Not my usual prayer, just a short prayer of recognition, but it was the most real prayer I’ve prayed in a while.

-Blake