Snapshots

For those who live on the West Coast of North America you will know that we’ve had bucket loads of snow recently. This morning I sent my daughters snapshots of the snow around us. Tomorrow much of the snow will have melted. The snapshot captures a moment in time – a moment that melts, fades, and changes. But that fact doesn’t change the reality of the moment itself.

Sometimes in the heat of summer and explosions of greenery everywhere it’s hard to imagine the area blanketed in white. Today it’s a challenge to imagine green foliage and flowers. The snapshots remind us at times of what is/was when our present circumstances speak something entirely different. This too will end. It won’t always be like this. Appreciate the now. Enjoy the contrasts.

God understands these paradoxes and tensions in human living. Our short memories, circumstances that one day encourage and another day weigh heavy. He gave us snapshots in the person of Jesus. Snapshots rooted in a human life on earth in the Middle East over two thousand years ago. Snapshots as real as the snow on the branches this morning. Snapshots that help us know and remember who God is, that he even exists, that he is real – through every generation and season, when we feel like it is true, and when we doubt. Take a long slow look at the snapshots.

The Bible is an album of snapshots. It does not contain everything there is to know, but there’s enough between the lines and pages to make a difference. Particularly when the reality of God is hard to believe, often transcends our imagination, and is perhaps beyond our personal experience. Sometimes what is real is first encountered in a book or a picture. Other times we experience something firsthand before any reading or snapshot. I heard about snow and saw it in pictures long before I ever walked knee-deep in the stuff. We don’t have winters with snow on the ground in most of Southern Africa where I grew up.

Page through God’s album in the Old Testament. The Psalms are like black and white snapshots of the widest range of human emotions engaging with God, struggling, resting, doubting, believing, rejoicing, and lamenting. Some should probably be censored as inappropriate – except from the snapshots it is clear that God is not into censorship, distorting truth, or hiding from the reality of paradox.

Turn the page into the life and times of Jesus and the snapshots are a blaze of high definition color. What is so striking is that they are not snapshots of where Jesus travelled, the buildings he admired, or the celebrities’ he met. Instead there are countless selfies of Jesus with people, all the time. Not the rich and famous, although a few sneak in from time to time. Predominantly they are snapshots of Jesus touching lepers, hanging out with fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, blind men, lame people, children making a noise. Ordinary people who never make the news! What does that say about God?

I return to those selfies time and again when I forget. I see Jesus standing with the woman who had a bleeding disorder for twelve years and she reached out and touched him. She was ashamed, awkward, left out, invisible in the crowd. Jesus felt her trembling touch, called her out, responded with healing, recognition, dignity, and value. Her life was transformed. Or the selfie of Jesus with the paralyzed man lowered down through the roof by friends when they couldn’t push through the crowds. There the two of them are beaming from ear to ear as the paralyzed man stands beside Jesus strong and on his two feet. He can hardly contain himself and hold still for the snapshot – he wants to dance.

I love the one of Jesus with a young girl. His arm is draped over her shoulder as she smiles shyly and her mother photobombs the moment. Why wouldn’t she, her daughter has just been raised from the dead! Jesus is looking down at the young girl – she is the center of attention, not him. Another memorable snapshot is of Jesus standing face to face with a man dressed in rags with eyes large as saucers and a grin that almost swallows his face. You can read his thoughts that scream, “I can see!” You would think Jesus has just been healed the way he rejoices with him.

I look at the snapshots and God reminds me of what he is really like, all the time. When Jesus lived it was like snow fell for the first time. People saw God as he really is/was and their hearts came alive with hope as they encountered him. My heart comes alive as I write; because what was true in the flesh of their unique time is true today in the spirit of every generation between now, and then, and forever.

There is not enough room here to describe all the snapshots in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The miracle is that when we look at a selfie of Jesus with someone he invites us to join them. Step into the picture, that’s what God is like for you and me today. I feel blind and in rags and shout out to Jesus. He hears, “Come to me,” he responds. He touches, accepts, cares, speaks hope and life. When my circumstance are barren, or my faith is weak, it helps to page through the album and be reminded of what transcends this moment. It’s amazing how many times the snapshot comes to life and faith rises from the pages, love embraces, expectation begins to sing and harmonize with my doubting heart, and I feel the presence of Jesus.

In Jesus there are so many snapshots of what God is truly like. He loves everyone, cares about every minute detail (the hairs on our head), ignores no-one, never gives up on us, is kind and generous, sees what no-one else notices. He is never indifferent, he loves our questions and makes room for our disappointments and doubts.

Yesterday I was remembering the snapshot where Jesus uses the phrase, “Well done good and faithful servant.” It is about being faithful. Sometimes it is used at funerals…. “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into your rest.” It is easy to interpret those words as a reward for striving, obedience and service. That is certainly part of the equation. But what God was saying to me is that we don’t have to wait until we die to hear those words. Whenever we turn to him he speaks them over us. Because the greatest selfie Jesus gives us is that God has sent him to make a way for us to know his love while we are alive; before we get our ducks in a row, are all together, or deserve much of anything. He says, “Well done,” when we turn to him, every time. We cannot earn his reward or acceptance but we can receive and enter in. That’s the purpose of the snapshots and selfies in Jesus’ album. They are signposts, reminders, testimonies, doorways, encouragement, and invitations – for all of us not there in that moment two thousand years ago!

There’s a snapshot/selfie in that album for you today. What have you forgotten? What aspect of God’s reality and love would you love to be reminded of today? How would that transform your present circumstance and cause faith and hope to rise? Or perhaps enhance the joy and peace you already have? Sometimes God draws us to reflect inward, other times he turns us outward, “Remember them, as I have loved you, love one another.”

Say “Cheese.” Never know when Jesus’ next snapshot will click with you in the center of the frame.

Well, this ol’ world is hurting
But it ain’t like You don’t know
You tell me not to worry, it’s all in Your control
But right now, my faith’s being tested
And it’s got me on my knees
When I look around at all this mess, Lord
There’s no doubt what we need

We could use a little up there, down here
A little more Your love, it’s so clear
We could all use a lot more living
On earth like it is in Heaven
A little more up there, down here
A little more up there, down here
We could all use a lot more living
On earth like it is in Heaven

Lord, help us love our neighbors
Like we will on streets of gold
Replace all the pride and hatred
And put some peace down in our soul
Erase all the lines of division
Help us shine more like Your son
I ain’t asking You to change Your plans
But until Your kingdom comes

We could use a little up there, down here
A little more Your love, it’s so clear
We could all use a lot more living
On earth like it is in Heaven
A little more up there, down here (oh)
A little more up there, down here (here)
We could all use a lot more living
On earth like it is in Heaven

A little more up there, down here
A little more up there, down here
We could all use a lot more living
On earth like it is in Heaven
We could use a little up there down here
A little more of Your love, so clear
We could all use a lot more living
On earth like it is in Heaven

A little more up there, down here (down here)
A little more up there, down here (down here)
We could all use a lot more living (down here)
On earth like it is in heaven (down here)
We could all use a lot more living
On earth like it is in Heaven

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Zach Williams / Jonathan Lindley Smith / Casey Michael Beathard

Up There Down Here lyrics © Be Essential Songs

John Cox

Christian Author

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