You Are Here

                                          You Are Here:   you are here red icon

 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advance of the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is in the cause of Christ.”  Philippians 1:12-13

               Have you ever felt lost in your surroundings, knowing that you didn’t need to stay where you were but uncertain as to which way to go lest it take you further from where you need to be?  In times like these, it’s nice to find a map with an indicator that proclaims:  You Are Here!  Suddenly, there is an aerial view of all that surrounds you and you can tell where everything is in relation to your location.  It’s quite enlightening, this “view from above”.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have that same experience in our daily lives?  Just think, each morning, while we prepared for the day, we could check our map and locate our new position; we’d scan the screen until we found the “You Are Here” icon.  Then, all we’d have to do is look at what surrounds us and we’d be able to plan our maneuvers accordingly.  We’d be able to see what’s to our left and to our right, what’s around the corner, and just how far we are from our favorite coffee shop!  (Are maps made for any loftier purpose?)  There’d be no time lost due to wrong turns and their counterpart…backtracking.  We’d move with precision and speed and we’d never, not even once, make a wrongful turn!  Oh my, in this technologically savvy world that we live in, why hasn’t someone thought of this?

Perhaps someone has.  Correction, perhaps Someone has.  As I was reading in Philippians, I came across a verse that, quite literally, is the equivalent of a “You Are Here” sign.  It’s found in verse 13 where Paul writes, “…so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is in the cause of Christ.”  It’s as if Paul were circling over his situation, where he was in prison…and chains, and was able to see the surrounding landscape that enabled him to know:  I Am Here.  At such an altitude, Paul was able to not only see where he was, but why he was there. Now he could see the purpose, now he could see the profits, now he could see the pathway.  And for Paul, it projected the small picture onto a larger screen.

It’s evident in the undercurrents his writing, “The whole imperial guard knows I am in chains for Christ!  I have been placed in the epicenter of the Roman government where I am able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who wouldn’t have heard it otherwise!”  Paul is ecstatic!  He’s enthusiastic!  He’s…he’s…exuberant about his placement and about his bondage because in it, because of it, he is able to fulfill the assignment God had given him to do.  Up close, it might have looked hopeless, but from a distance it was heaven-sent.  All he had to do was lift his eyes upward and take a step backward and scan the map for his “You Are Here” symbol; and he found it, and he rejoiced in it.

I don’t know about you, but I need God’s directory services just as Paul did.  I too need to take a look upward and take a step backward and find out where I am in relation to what lies around me.  It’s not enough to know where I am standing; I can look down and surmise my current location.  But what’s important is how that location ties in to the surrounding landscape.  Wherever I go, I only see in part and that can cause me to walk in circles.  But, when I am allowed an aerial view…and locate my current status somewhere on the grid, that’s when I am able to see that everything is part of a greater picture and just as there was a pathway in, so too is there a pathway out.

I bet the children of Israel would have liked to have had this visual depiction.  Then again, it might have made for an even grumpier group.  Just think if they had been able to see on a map their “You Are Here” symbol and note their close proximity to Canaan. Surely they would have thought they’d arrive in a few weeks.  But, after nearly a month of travel, they’d check their status again and find that not only were they not any closer, but they were actually further away!  Now that could cause some dissension within the group.  I can hear it now:

“Who’s in charge of directions?  I knew I’d seen that rock before…see, I even wrote my name on it:  Mur-Mur Ur was here!  Two weeks of walking wasted; not only do we have to retrace our steps back, but once we get there we’ll just be back where we started…and that’s if we retrace our steps correctly!  And…this is the fourth time this has happened in four months.  At this rate, it’ll take us 4 years to get to the Promised Land!”

“I told them we should have gone left at the sign that read “Promised Land, Left Exit”, but I was told we didn’t need any back-hump drivers.  Well, who’s looking at the backside of a camel now?  Well, we all are except those out in front, but you know what I mean.”

The thing is, we can all get off course.  We can all forget that where we are isn’t always as important as why we’re there.  And, while a map icon can be helpful for giving us a big picture view of our general location, it can also be helpful in giving us an up-close picture of our specific location.  Sometimes, like the children of Israel, we get turned around…and around…and around…and when we finally stop spinning, we’re miles…and months… from where we need to be.  At times like these, it’s important to first check our “You Are Here” local position before taking a step back and a look up at our “You Are Here” aerial position.  It’s foolish at best and fatal at worst to try to make our way through this life without checking both these positions on a continual basis.  We need to know where we are and why we’re there so we don’t waste time going in the wrong direction or fail to find the joy in our current location.  Sometimes, we need a “You Are Here” check to get us back on track.

So, how do we check these insightful yet invisible maps?  After all, unless we live inside a mall, we don’t have one readily available to check each day.  Well, it’s up to us to do the first scan.  Before we can delight in the purpose of where we are, we first have to delve into the position of where we are.  First, we’ll need to see how close our location indicator is to those places we always need to have in close proximity, no matter where we travel.  Does our location find us close to the place where we have a quiet time with God?  Are we within walking distance of godly friends who reprove and refresh us?  Is our church, with its fellowship of believers, just around the corner?  Can we get to each of these places in a matter of steps or are we blocks…or even miles…away?  If we’ve drifted from these, then we’ll have to move in their direction before we can take a step back and a look up for our aerial view.  The truth is, we need to align the where on our map before God will reveal the why of our map.

It’s all mapped out for us if we’ll simply stop long enough…and look high enough…to see beyond the bricks beneath our feet.  Looking down doesn’t bring forth a revelation (though it might bring forth a penny), but looking up and out will do just that.  It will enable us to get a clearer perspective of where we are and of what’s around us.  Just as Paul saw his location in light of his destination and rejoiced in his situation, so we too can not only find solace but satisfaction right where we are.  God has promised that He will complete that which He has begun (Phil. 1:6), so we needn’t be concerned when our “You Are Here” icon places us in the midst of a difficult area but delight in knowing that the very God who mapped out the universe is the very same God who mapped out our life!

So, where am I?  Well, when I look around I see my open Bible, my godly friends, and my Spirit-filled church; when I step back and look up I see my placement according to God’s plan for the benefit of others and for the furtherance of His gospel.  I see my location indicator:  “You Are Here”…and it not only shows me where I am but it reminds me of Who is with me.  For wherever I am, I can say with assurance, “God…You Are Here.”

you are here with bear




Keeping Your Eye Off the Ball!

Keeping Your Eye Off the Ball!

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Hebrews 11:1

               We are a visual people.   How great is the gift of sight…and how debilitating is our reliance upon it.  We live in a world in which we allow that which is seen to govern our thoughts, our desires, our “truths”, our judgments, and our beliefs.  We see and so we assume; we assume and so we expect; we expect and so we act; we act and so others see.  It’s human nature …and that, in itself, leaves us with two strikes against us before the first pitch.  Human, strike one.  Nature, strike two.

We find our earliest batters playing at “The Garden” more than 6,000 years ago.  First to bat was Eve.  She, in true “pre-fallen” female fashion, showed up early for the game…to make sure everything was in order.  Then, with time on her hands, she decided to get in a little extra batting practice, but what could she swing at?  Hmmm…if only there was something firm, hand-sized, and partially spherical lying (or hanging) around.  She spotted a pinecone; too fragile.  Then, she glanced at some grapes; too splattery.  The pomegranate…that might work…but then, from far out in leftfield a vendor suggested another fruit.  It appeared to be the perfect “bet I can hit it a mile!” fruit.  And, in her humanness, she reached for it…strike one; and because nature appeared to look so good, she tasted it…strike two.

Human nature.  We have it; we are it.  And, while all of our senses can work against us, I think the sense of sight trips us up more than any other.  God knows we need to keep an eye on our vision and He warns us to be careful of what we see:  “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matt. 5:29); of how we see:  “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3); and of why we see:  “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (I Cor. 13:12).

Another example of man’s faulty reliance upon sight is found in Exodus 32.  The ballpark, Mount Sinai; the inning, bottom of the ninth; the batter, Aaron (though he’s a stand-in for the whole Israelite team).  The game has been postponed because the coach is absent.  Well, actually, he’s having a meeting with the team’s Owner somewhere on Mount Sinai.  But as the players wait, as they circle the outfield longing to hear the crack of the bat, the smack of a catch, the cheers of the crowd, and longing to smell the aroma of popped manna, it’s what they don’t see that lands them in foul territory.  Until a couple weeks ago, Moses had been within view…along with Jehovah.  Now, Moses’ presence was missing and the Pillar of Cloud/Fire hovered over the mountain instead of in front of them.  For months, the people had seen God work through Moses.  They saw His partiality through the ten plagues; they saw His power through the parting of the Red Sea; they saw His provision through the manna, and they saw His protection through the Pillar of Cloud (by day) and the Pillar of Fire (by night) that led them through the wilderness.  There was always a place for their eyes to land; a fixed point to keep them steady in a world that was spinning wildly. They wanted something tangible, something visible.  But, with nowhere to cast their vision, they followed their human nature and cast a golden calf.  It seemed like a good idea.  The calf was visible; it had substance, it had weight, it cast a shadow (oh, what a shadow it cast!), it was…present…it was…real.  And, because they saw no harm in what they had done, they looked at the calf and had a feast unto the LORD (Ex. 32:5).

In the past, I’ve had a hard time understanding why the children of Israel asked for an object to worship.  After all, at this point, they hadn’t been in the wilderness all that long (comparatively speaking…though a three month camping trip would leave most of us with a short supply of reason and an overabundance of human nature) and they had seen such amazing sights…how could they become excited over a golden calf?  But then four words jumped out at me and I knew, and I understood:  “feast unto the LORD”.  In verse 4 of Exodus 32, Aaron presents the golden calf as a god, little g; in verse 5 of the same chapter he says the next day they will have a feast unto the LORD, all caps.  Little g and big G just sentences apart…just thoughts apart…just innings apart?  How could it be?  But then I thought about our human nature and our desire to trust in the seen more than in the unseen and I understood.  It became clear because I too want a God I can see…I gaze upon…I can, dare I say, move about.  Don’t we all?  Aren’t we all prone to trust in the seen more than the unseen, believe in the image more than the substance, worship the calf more than the Creator?  Amazing.  Audacious.  Autonomous.  Absurd.  Yet, that’s what we do when we allow our human eyes to look with their earthly nature.  We scan, and gaze, and peer; we assess, and assume, and assert.  We think we see so we follow our thoughts until we cast our own vision, until we cast our own calf.  Batter up…batter out.

So how do we overcome this visual and spiritual disparity?  How do we hit the ball out of the park with only one swing at bat?  We close our eyes.  We step up to the plate, raise the bat, pull our arms back…and we close our eyes.  Then, with everything in us, we swing.  Crack!  We don’t have to drop the bat because the force of the impact has knocked it out of our hands.  We open our eyes and we run, and run, and run…all the way Home.

   Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes by hearing”; not by seeing…but by hearing.  Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”   In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays that the “eyes of [our] hearts may be opened that [we] may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”  In John 20:29, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,” to which I echo the words spoken in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”  (All italicized phrases are mine.)  So we learn that God teaches us to listen with our ears and to look with our hearts for He makes Himself known through our hearing, He makes Himself visible through our hoping, and He makes Himself available through our believing. Poor eyesight?  Not a problem.  Blind as a bat…or as a batter?  Even better!  All we need to see, spiritually speaking, is the substance, not the form.  God’s substance is holiness, love, mercy, and grace.  These attributes can’t be seen unless they are done, so we see God in these qualities and through these qualities as He reveals His substance, though not His form.

It’s game day.  The stadium is packed, the players are in place, and it’s your turn to bat.  You have two strikes against you, but that’s okay.  You only need one pitch, one swing, one hit.  So close your eyes and swing…and run, and run, and run…all the way Home, where your faith will become sight and you will know [and see], just as you are known [and have been seen], (I Cor. 13:12).                                                                                                home run