So halloween came and went last week like a bump in the night, and Israel marches on, unmoved. We don’t really have halloween here in Israel. Life here is full of much more serious concerns than scary costumes, but still, have you ever wondered why anyone would enjoy watching horror movies? To dwell on that which is evil and frightening? So many people have a great fear of being lifeless zombies, just trudging through an apparently meaningless existence. They might try rollercoasters, scary movies, illicit affairs… just to feel the adrenaline of fear pumping through their veins, reassuring them that they are truly alive. But life in God’s fast lane, as anyone who has lived with him for any length of time can tell you, is full of dynamic challenges, terrifying plunges, and great joys.
And it was about this time of year, coming up to Hanukkah, that Yeshua was walking around Jerusalem two thousand years ago, and saying the words that would be recorded in John 10. He let out the secret of real life to anyone who would listen: he told them that it was he who had the capacity to give life in all its fullness.
Yeshua lays it out clearly – the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but he had come to give life. More than that, life in all its fullness (John 10:10). The dark powers are like a vacuum cleaner – a black hole – sucking everything in their path into dark nothingness. But conversely, our God created an entire, perfectly-formed universe out of nothing. He can bring light and life, beauty and order where there was only emptiness, chaos, lack and loss, whereas Satan takes what already exists, then twists it, breaks it, and kills it. One is profoundly and supernaturally giving. The other is profoundly and supernaturally taking. The two forces (opposite, but by no means equal), the dynamics of good and evil.
So what did Yeshua offer? An abundant life? An abundance of life? A life full of what? Many believers take that verse to mean that Yeshua will grant all their wishes, and that everything will be peachy. We just have to take a glance at the life of Yeshua himself to realise what a load of bunk that is! But when we love and follow God with all our hearts, he leads us on a wild adventure of faith, blindfolding us and asking us to trust him. It’s terrifying. We are constantly invited to step out of our comfort zones – out of the boat and onto the water. He asks us to do the craziest things, to be socially inappropriate – to ruffle feathers, cause commotions and to refuse to conform to the world with all its demands. If we are fully living for God, hearts ablaze and dedicated like a living sacrifice for him, we have no need of horror films to get our pulse pounding – there are more than enough opportunities to take terrifying risks in real life!
And one of the greatest risks is the risk of love. A life without love is no life at all. A full life is a life full of love, but there is great danger in that. Your heart will be wrung, as Lewis rightly says:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
A passage of scripture that surprised me when I read it was Jeremiah 9. God intense love causes him intense grief, and we see this as he weeps through his prophet, saying:
“Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”
Until that moment I had not imagined how much God also feels pain. Suddenly, I caught a glimpse of God’s broken heart for his people. And it was excrutiating. I had the priviledge to identify with God’s pain, and it opened my eyes to the full life he was promising. A life of love. A life not shielded or numbed from pain, but one that is fully loving, fully engaged, taking the dangerous risk of loving and embracing the pain that inevitably accompanies such a venture.
Will you give your life to him afresh today, ready to do whatever – WHATEVER – he asks of you? This takes great faith. But as it has often been said, the word faith is spelled like this: r-i-s-k. With this full life in Yeshua, we need no artificial aids to feel the sensation of our heart beating in our mouths! What thing is the Lord asking of you that makes you nervous? Feel the fear and do it anyway! Join him in embracing his heart for his people, Israel, and trust him to give you all you need as you join his passions and plans with wild abandon.