When Steve died, one book I was given was a well-written secular book called Comfort by Ann Hood, who had lost a child. I was drawn to the cover, but the advice she gave all had to do with technique rather than getting to the root of the problem. I knew that knitting and drinking herbal tea was not going to get me through my raging river of grief.
We can be SO THANKFUL for His Word which helps us deal with the big questions, with the root of our anxiety and fears.
It is possible for us to have a peace that passes understanding. Jesus said that He would give us a peace, a peace not like the world gives.
I have that peace, though it took me time to understand how to overcome my many anxious thoughts. Whatever your anxious thoughts are, in these next two weeks we are going to go deeper, for you can have this peace as well. As a believer you already have peace with God, but you also need the peace of God. We have the resources to overcome anxiety.
It starts, as we will see this week, by seeing the big picture.
We have fallen into a story, a great story filled with romance and beauty, but also with heartbreak and tragedy and a villain. How do we cope with both the joy and the sorrows of life?
In part, by realizing we are citizens of heaven.
So when life is sweet, as it has been for me this week as two of my lifelong friends have come to the cottage, as they have faithfully every summer for the eight years since Steve died, to cheer me and to love me. They engage me in great conversation, prayer, and songs of praise. I can be thankful for this time, but also realize it is fleeting. Summer, health, and our mortal bodies will end. I must remember when life on earth is so sweet that I want to cling to it forever, that my real home is in heaven, therefore the wise person sets her affections on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. I must live thankfully, but in holy moderation, for this life is only a sliver of the real story.
And when this life is unbearably hard, as it has been for some of you this week, filled with evil so dark you think you cannot go on, remember this is not the end of the story. We are citizens of heaven and we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies into bodies like His magnificent body. In fact, He will transform everything. There will, indeed, be a happily ever after. Eden restored. This is no fairy tale. This is real life.
One of my top ten books of all time is John Eldredge’s The Sacred Romance. So last week I read his newest book, Epic. I loved it so much I ordered the DVD for Ann and Sylvia’s visit. Oh — we all loved it. I want you to see this trailer to set up our lesson from Philippians.
(You can get the book in paperback or kindle for under $3.) I recommend it and will give you a chance, next week, to share a highlight if you read it.
Ann and Sylvia and I hiked in the park this week, and were thankful for the maps posted on trees along the trail telling us: YOU ARE HERE. For though I have been on these trails many times, I can still get lost. One time I ignored the map (thinking I know this) and we got lost for three hours.
I need a sign that reminds me where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am going. Eldredge says we need the same in this life, and God has given it to us in His story.
This story is so big it is an EPIC, so we cannot possibly do it in one week. This week we will consider the EPIC, and next week, how Philippians 3:20 through 4:7 fits into it. Keller’s sermon will be next week, and he thinks the same way Eldredge does, for the same Spirit says the same thing.
WEEK ONE: EPIC
1. Other than the movie clip, name one thing that stood out to you from the above and explain why.
2. Name one thing that stood out to you from the movie clip trailer on Epic.
TUESDAY: ACT I: ETERNAL LOVE
Eldredge says that “Before ‘Once upon a time,’ before Genesis 1, ‘In the beginning,” there was love, relationship — and a dance of three persons. The early church fathers had a word for the joyful dance of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit: “perichoresis.”
Do you see the root for “choreography” in this? It was a dance between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. And it is a dance into which we are invited. That is why the Son left paradise — to ask us to join the dance.
3. What evidences of perichorises do you find in:
A. John 1:1-3?
B. John 17:24?
C. Genesis 1:26
Our God is relational, and our God is love. The atheist Herman Melville confessed: “The reason the mass of men fear God, and at the bottom dislike him, is because they rather distrust his heart, and fancy him all brain, like a watch.”
But God is love. This side of the cross we should surely know it, but can you not hear echoes of His love, echoes of Eden in His creation? And, because we are made in His image, we are relational.
Think about your joys and your heartaches — are they not nearly always connected to relationship? Mine surely are. My greatest sorrow is the loss of my husband, but close behind are the betrayals I have felt from loved ones. And my greatest joys are in relationship: you, friends, children, and grandchildren.
4. When you think about your greatest joys and heartaches — are they connected to relationship? Explain. And what does this tell you?
Wednesday: Act II. The Entrance of Evil
Every story has an enemy. The hooded wraiths on black horses chasing the hobbits in Lord of the Rings.
The White Witch in Narnia seducing Edmond to betray his brother and sisters.
And the real story, of which all good stories simply echo, has a real enemy. I don’t even want to picture him, but we must be aware of the entrance of evil, the reality of evil, the understanding that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities and rulers of darkness. The wise person knows she has an enemy. So though it is tempting, do not skip today.
5. Read Isaiah 14:12-19
A. What was Satan once, and what caused his fall? (12-14)
B. What will one day be his end? (15-19)
6. Read 1 Peter 5:6-11
A. Find four exhortations to live by in the face of evil. Find one in each of verses 6, 7, 8, and 9.
B. What promise can give you hope in verses 10-11, though the enemy brings sorrow?
Thursday: Act III. The Battle for The Heart
Eldredge says, “If you learned about Eden in Sunday School with flannel graphs, you missed something.” How can I show you? Watch this and allow it to bring you into worship of our amazing God who created this world for us, to show us His love, to fight for our hearts.
7. What stands out to you from the above and why?
This is the setting for a romance, for God is the Romancer of our souls.
8. How did creation affect the Psalmist in Psalm 8?
And then paradise is lost, for the man and woman are seduced by the betrayer, fall, and are cast out of Eden. But even as they leave, there is a promise from the God of love.
9. Find the promise in Genesis 3:15.
10. Why did Jesus choose to die, and how should this help your heart to go on?
You are part of this Epic, and at this part of the Epic Map, you are here.
FRIDAY: Act IV. THE KINGDOM RESTORED
10. Read Revelation 19:11-16 and find everything you can about our Rescuer.
11. Read Revelation 21:1-5 and find everything you can about the new heaven and earth.
12. What is your take-a-way and why?