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We Still Haven’t Found What We’re Looking For

Ever stand on the beachfront of a beautiful lake as the sun sets, breathless at the view, the atmosphere, the feeling that overtakes you? Ever sat around a camp fire on a starry summer night singing songs of praise in the company of old and new friends? Ever have a conversation with a new acquaintance that gives you the sense that your encounter was more than the result of an ice cream craving?

Then you’ve been in a thin place.

“Thin places” is a Celtic Christian term referring to a place or moment where the veil between heaven and earth becomes “thinner” and we’re able to catch a glimpse of God’s glory in a powerful, even disorienting way. A New York Times writer speaks of the way thin places “jolt us out of our old way of seeing the world.” And that’s exactly what they do. What at first seemed so every day, so ordinary, becomes sacred. My guess is we’ve all experienced the concept to some degree, in some form or another.

One night, at one of Grace Chapel’s Camp-of-the-Woods camp fires, we sang a well-known U2 song. The lyrics “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” were sung beautifully that night. If you think about it though, those are unusual words for around the campfire on the shore of a perfectly moonlit Christian camp. In a song that talks about the Kingdom come, our bonds being broken, and chains being loosed, why hasn’t Bono found what he’s looking for? I’m not sure everyone considered the apparent contradiction of the moment, but the end of the song clarifies it. What these words give voice to is the experience, even for followers of Jesus, of the longing for more. For the experience of more love, more joy, more justice in the world.

For more of Jesus.

That moment was a thin place for me. It reminded me that the Christian walk is filled with longing. Feeling like you still haven’t quite found what you’re looking for? You’re right at home. Allow the experiences, maybe the thin places you encounter this week, to remind you that God’s glory is bursting at the seams of the ordinary, the hard and the all too often difficult.

Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. Gen 28:16

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. 1 Cor 13:12

I have climbed highest mountain
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like fire
This burning desire
I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I'm still running
You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for....

Reading the Book of Acts in 30 Days

A bunch of us on staff are reading the book of Acts. Acts is filled with cities, new Christian communities, miracles, conflicts and contains a partial yet powerful narrative of the early church. But can I be candid? I love the action of Acts but I can't handle all the names in it. And sometimes you want to say to the author, "Luke, that's it? Tell us more about Apollos!" But when the mind wants more, that's usually good.

But just like with anything we read repeatedly, every time we read the book of Acts we discover something different, something fresh. One of the scenes that caught my imagination was when Paul and Silas were arrested for healing the young enslaved girl from a spirit of divination in Philippi. The slave-owners were angered by the sudden loss of income, so they attacked Paul and Silas, and had them arrested.

We tend to fast-forward here; but in a nutshell, they are stripped naked, beaten senseless and then thrown in jail. Then as the story goes, around midnight they start praying  and singing hymns to God. Suddenly, there is an earthquake that opens the prison doors. But for some odd reason, they don't try to escape.

Instead, it's one of the guards who tried to escape - by taking out his sword to kill himself. But before he does, Paul stops him. Upon which the guard basically says, "What do I do now?" and Paul shares with him the message of Jesus.

The guard and his family become believers. Paul and Silas are freed, demanding a royal escort as a form of public apology. They continue on, making bolder proclamations for the sake of the gospel, creating more trouble, and God uses them to change more lives.

I always find myself pausing before these "happily ever after" parts. For instance, WHY are they praying and singing at midnight?? For one, annoying the other inmates and more importantly the guards is not going to help them - it's going to make things worse.  If you thought they guards were cranky as they were beating you for healing someone, imagine how they are going to feel tomorrow after you kept them up all night! Further (and I can't prove this biblically), I picture Paul as a guy who had a very loud voice and was tone-deaf.  I strongly doubt he sounded like our beloved Robert Bloodworth. But I could be wrong.  ;)

I picture Paul and Silas laying in their cell, bruised, hurting, offended, humiliated and at a loss to explain what just happened. I even imagine Silas annoyed at Paul, "You don't have to be so irritable all the time. The only thing the girl did was follow us around and say, 'these men are from God.' If anything she was helping us." I imagine Paul rebuking, "Don't be an idiot - she was possessed by a demon. It would have been wrong of us to leave her like that while these men exploited her."  Then like good church folk, they argued their strategies and tactics for evangelism.

Paul is a serious rabbi, a scholar; and because he was a Roman citizen, I imagine he enjoyed an extra measure of social respect. The idea of getting beaten naked and then thrown in prison was certainly not what he was used to. So why do they start singing?

He probably wondered how much of this could have been avoided. Should he have let Silas speak more? Should he have healed the girl? Did he really see Jesus on the road to Damascus? Was this what Jesus had in mind? I imagine at some point he realized this was indeed his calling.

Their praying and singing was not to pass the time from boredom and bruises, but to recenter themselves on their identity in Christ, to publicly proclaim their trust in the Lord and to publicly proclaim their loyalties once again. (It's no wonder why the guard asked them for help.  Do you know how many prisoners have prayed that the walls would collapse and the iron gates would open? Clearly Paul and Silas were on to something).

I look at this scene as a moment of clarity for Paul and Silas. I can picture them encouraging each other with this experience for years to come, "God will deliver us, just like He did in Philippi. May His will be done."

The book of Acts is filled with so many of these scenes that we could pour enormous amounts of thought on. It would do us well to reflect and apply the message contained in these pages as we live out the calling and mission God has placed on our lives.

This October, Grace Chapel is joining other churches around the world in a reading the Book of Acts in 30 Days organized by the American Bible Society. The theme is, "Now is the time" and the invitation on the homepage begins with "If you're serious about change, let's open up to the book of Acts and let it transform our world."

If you are interested in joining the reading, here's the reading schedule, you can even have it emailed or texted to you.