Showing posts with label Heaven. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Heaven. Show all posts

Thursday

Walking in The Woods: The Meaning of Life


One day I was walking in the woods, talking with God. Well, it was mostly me talking, but we were together, and it was a good day.

I started talking about some of the big questions. Why are we here? What is really the meaning of life? That kind of stuff. I was talking my way through some of these, and I’m afraid I was feeling a little like Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

“So what is the real purpose of my life? There are lots of things I can do with my life but in terms of eternity, not so much. In terms of eternity, there are only a couple of things that I can really accomplish.

“In terms of eternity, I can know God. I can introduce others to know God. And I can raise my children to know God. And that’s about it. Nothing ever really changes.

“Then it starts all over again. They can know God, and they can introduce others to know God, and they can raise their children to know God. And that’s all. It never changes.”

And the earth shifted.

I felt a veil removed from my eyes, and suddenly, I saw Father in his secret place, it was like I was seeing him in his bedroom, in his intimate place, half dressed. I was almost embarrassed by the intimacy.

And with tears in his eyes, he looked at me, and said, “Yes. That's it. That’s exactly it.”

And I realized that this was exactly the way he wanted it to be.



Won't I Be Bored in Heaven?




Recently, someone asked an interesting question. They asked if we wouldn’t be bored in Heaven?

I used to be concerned about that rather a lot. I don’t do real well with boredom, and that exposed some of my assumptions about Heaven.

I realized that while Jesus spoke of Heaven quite a bit, he described the activity in heaven very little. So what happens there is something of a mystery, and I, like most of the Western Church, don’t like mysteries, so we invent things, and that leads to the idea of harps and clouds, or the thought that we’d do nothing but worship for billions of centuries: the ideas of being bored is a real issue.

I’ve had to realize that two lines of thought address that topic:

1)  When does our habitation of Heaven begin? Do we not get to participate in Heaven except after we die (another common, but false, belief)? Why would we be instructed to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven” if we weren’t supposed to experience Heaven here, on Earth.

One could also ask: when do we gain eternal life? Do we only become eternal beings after we die? Or do we become eternal beings when we come to faith in Jesus – when we submit to His Kingship, the Kingship of Heaven? Our submission to the Lordship (Kingship) of Jesus is the beginning of my habitation in Heaven. Hmm.

Long story short, we’re seated in Heaven right now (Ephesians 2:6). Am I bored now? If I am, then I’m doing it wrong. If I’m not bored now, I won’t be bored in the other part of Heaven either, the part on the other side of the River.

2) Consider the parables of the Talents (Mt 25) and the Minas (Luke 19): the King entrusts us with some of His valuables, and leaves to go inherit a Kingdom (“…prepare a place for you…”?). Then he comes back after he receives that Kingdom (Luke 19:12) to evaluate how we’ve done. (Sound familiar at all? Consider Rev 20:12.)

So after the King returns, he judges the works of the folks he’s entrusted his riches to.

So what happened to the folks who did a good job with the King’s riches in these parables? What does it say?  “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’”

Authority over cities. I’ve never ruled a city, but I imagine that it it’s not boring. Particularly if I consider Jesus’ model for ruling, which is largely based on washing feet. That’s a lot of people to serve, to assist into their full destiny.

I don’t think we’re going to have any time to be bored in Heaven. I think we’ll have work to do, or at least the way Jesus talked about it suggests it, though it does not say it clearly.

I observe that from an Earthly perspective, the idea of civil government (ruling a city) contrasts with the worship festival that Scripture describes quite metaphorically in Revelation 5 (and other locations). I figure that this is just my earthly perspective getting out of hand. Serving saints, ruling cities, that strikes me as an excellent way to worship Jesus!

As a side note, I reflect that there are only a few things that are of enough enduring value to matter in Heaven:

• Human beings,
• The Word of God
• Relationships, with God & with people.

So I figure that these are the treasures (minas, talents) that Jesus has given, that he’s expecting to receive a return on his investment with. I figure that our handling of these treasures has a lot to do with how bored or how busy we will be in Eternity.

I no longer worry about being bored.

Fight the Good fight of Faith

When we don’t question our beliefs, when we just accept what others have told us (whether from a pulpit, from a seminary, or from a publication), there are repercussions well beyond our own belief structures.

Some of the things that we’ve unquestioningly believed for a few generations have functioned as incredible obstacles for people who don’t know God’s nature; some of these people take our un-questioned beliefs literally, point out the very logical failures of those beliefs, and cause formidable damage to our Father’s reputation on the Earth.

One of those beliefs is the version of hell that was primarily outlined by an unbalanced Catholic politician, pharmacist and monk in the 14th century. His imagination was brilliant, but not particularly either Biblical or true. These details which did not trouble him, but his writings have been (probably unintentionally) adopted by the “turn or burn” evangelists as the default definition of “burn.”

Their depictions of Heaven were similarly unbiblical, and similarly designed to maximize the number of people running to the altar at the end of the service.


The result of such haphazard doctrinal foolishness included a large number of “converts” eager to escape this horrendous and unbiblical threat, often described as “buying fire insurance,” which, of course, was never God’s goal. 

My hope is that we will ask questions about what we’re being taught, to test the doctrines that teachers are telling us are “The Truth.”

·         I’ve observed that the more  any particular doctrine  is mirrored in the “distinctive” practices or beliefs of a denomination or a fellowship, the more those particular doctrines need to be challenged. This is true in both traditional denominations and more fundamental or Pentecostal fellowships and denominations.

·         One of the best ways to test our belief sets – in addition to questioning their conformity to Scripture’s simple contextual instruction on the topic – is to examine the fruit of the doctrine. And examine the fruit of that doctrine among believers and among non-believers: does this doctrine increase people’s love for God and love for each other, or does it regularly result in resentment, legalism, judgment, generally keeping people from embracing God’s love for them.


This is part of Paul’s admonitions to his apostolic leaders: “Pay no attention to … myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth.” “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” 

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It’s Christmas Eve


It’s Christmas Eve. My home is filled with laughing children. My son is making something wonderful in the kitchen. My wife has forbidden any entry into the bedroom until the last few presents are wrapped. A video game is blaring in the living room, and power tools are finishing up a last-minute gift in the shop.

My home is a very busy place. And honestly, I love it.

But as much as this night is about family, it’s even more about a Birth. I stepped outside to visit with Father about it, to remember that Birth with Him.

Immediately, I had an image of Him, as eager as a grandchild would be, clapping happily, dancing from foot to foot: this is His Happy Dance!

For me, the laboring woman and her not-quite-husband are separated from me by twenty centuries. But as God is Lord of Time (among many other things), He is right this minute, dancing with joyful anticipation over this impending Birth.

God, being omniscient, knew of the failure of man in the Garden before He even spoke the words, “Let Us create man, in Our image…” Before he ever even scooped up mud and shaped it and prepared it to hold His Own breath, he knew that man would fail the test, would eat of the wrong tree, would submit to the wrong voice, and would be doomed to death.

But God, being the best in the universe at planning ahead, already knew that He, Himself, in the flesh and blood of humanity, would die a gruesome death in a backwater, occupied nation in the geographical armpit of that planet in order to establish a New Covenant with them. How he looked forward to that!

And He knew that before God could die for man, God would have to become a man. And this! He looked forward to this with such joy!
And tonight is the night!

The most patient Father that has ever existed has been eagerly, joyfully anticipating this night! This is the beginning of the Covenant that He’s longed for since the Garden: when he would have a nation of Kings and Priests who would know his Father’s heart and love Him as freely as He loves them!

The cross? That torture, that pain, that indescribable humiliation? That was nothing! Nothing! Less than nothing! He would pay ANY price for the privilege of whispering of his love to his wayward children. If there could have been a greater price that could ever have been paid, He would have paid it without hesitation for the children that He treasured above even His own eternal, omnipotent life!

And tonight is the night that it all began.

Tonight! As Mary is breathing hard and sweating heavily, as Joseph is wringing his hands and feeling nearly (but not quite) useless in the face of The Birth, God Himself is dancing with joy! Angels are ministering to the new mother and anxious dad, but God is laughing and jumping and shouting his joy to the heavens!

Tonight it begins. Tomorrow He gets to walk – well, to crawl first – among his wayward children! The beginning of the Via Dolorosa begins in this little, sweaty barn, on the unknown edge of a tiny, powerless nation. This is the beginning of walking among them, and even more, this is the beginning of setting them free from everything that holds them back!

This is the night! This is THAT night.

Do you feel his joy? Can you feel his anticipation? 


Judgement Day: Life in Review

This video is a reminder to me of a day that’s coming. I call it Big Screen Day. Some call it Judgement Day, but that doesn't fit so well for me. 

I don’t actually know if my what I envision is theologically sound. I developed this expectation during a season when I was being taught a lot of foolishness, but this part remains with me.

I expect that there will be a day that I will stand before my Maker, who is also my dearest Friend, and together, we’ll examine my life, my years on Earth, from His perspective. I imagine my life being displayed on the big screen in His family room. It will be an edited version, of course. There are things that I remember, which He has already thrown into the Sea of Forgetfulness. They won’t be shown that day, or any other day: they’re gone. I won't miss them.

In that viewing, I’ll finally learn of the effects of my life on others around me, and the effect of my life, through them, on the people they influence, people that I’ve never met.

I’ve invested part of my life serving some pastors and some churches. On Big Screen Day, I’ll meet the people that I helped them disciple into the Kingdom. I’ve spent part of my life investing in a generation of believers who are following where I’ve gone. On Big Screen Day, I’ll see the fruit of that investment, and I’ll learn where my investment has gone.

I can’t imagine what that day will be like. I expect there will be tears, of one sort of another.

This man, Sir Nicholas Winton, has a a small part of his Big Screen Day early. He gets to meet some of the fruit of his investment in this life. During the War, he invested a good deal of his life rescuing children from the Nazi death camps. Here, he gets to meet them, some of them. 

I can’t imagine what that must be like. I expect there were tears.



I try to make decisions in my life with Big Screen Day in mind. I try to live with Eternity in mind. I try to make choices that will make my Friend smile as we review my life. I try to choose things that won’t need to be edited out.

And once in a great while, I’ll turn to face where I imagine the Heavenly camera might be, and I’ll say some things to the audience watching that Big Screen, whether it’s just Him and me or whether it’s uncounted millions.

Have you given thought to that Day, the Day when you and your Maker will review your life? I’ll bet it will change how you live in this day. And if he’s your friend, I’ll bet you’ll love those changes.



Our Turn

I don’t remember if I’ve told you this story. 

Revelation 5 describes the scene:

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped. - Revelation 5:11-14 

I was part of a worship team in a tiny church, and we were together on I think it was a Thursday night, rehearsing for Sunday. We’d all been through “stuff” that week, so we prayed together before we discussed our plans. And then we started singing. 

Understand that for us, we weren’t just rehearsing the music, we were rehearsing our worship of God. We cannot lead people in worship, we believe, unless we ourselves are truly worshiping; otherwise, it’s just cheer-leading. So we were worshiping.

I don’t remember who was leading the song (we passed that responsibility around), but I was standing facing the rest of the band, with my back to where the congregation would be next Sunday. And I remember feeling like we were turning a corner. We’d played this song a thousand times before, and many of those times had been really good, we’d really entered into real worship, but this was different. I glanced at some of the faces around me: some felt what I was feeling; others were lost in it.

I had the sense of movement behind my back, so I turned around, and as I did, in my spirit I saw a curtain being opened, and there beyond it was an enormous audience worshiping the same One we were worshiping. It seemed that this was the worship scene from Revelation 5, lost in adoration of the Worthy Lamb, and this was our turn to lead the worship in that gathering. 

To this day, I still can see the throngs of people worshiping Him who sat on that throne, though I only saw them for an instant, because then my eye was drawn to Him and I was truly undone. 

The experience in that place didn’t last long, but it was timeless. It happened some years ago, but I remember it as if it was five minutes ago, and my eyes still tear up as I do,

Let me just say it this way: from that day forward, we were changed.

Something in my spirit taught me that day: worship that comes from Earth is more precious than worship that comes from Heaven, because on Earth we have more to overcome, more distractions to push past before we can fix our eyes on the One. Worship on Earth is described as a sacrifice (Romans 12:1), and the sacrifice to worship here on Earth, in the midst of all that life is a more costly, a more precious sacrifice than to worship in Heaven, among the angels and the elders and the living creatures.

May I encourage us: when we worship, let’s fully worship, let’s not hold back. Sure, we’ll worship in Heaven, and it’ll be glorious. But it may not be quite as glorious as the worship that comes from Earth. 


Father & Sons Development Co.

I don’t know if I’ve ever told you that I’m adopted. I was adopted by my Father at a very young age. I love my Father. He’s the best Dad in the world.

Did I tell you I’m working in the family business? The day I was adopted, I started working with my Dad. My Dad’s awesome like that.

When I was really little, he’d carry me in his arms as he walked through the factory floor. He’d stop and visit with machinists and foremen and janitors, pretty much everybody

Once when I was a bit older, I was building stuff with Legos™ in his office, while he worked on something. His desk overlooked the factory floor, and he saw something that caught his attention.

“Son,” he says. “You know Mr. Davidson? Tall guy. Red shirt. Big mustache?”

“I know him, Pop.”

“Son, would you go find Mr. Davidson and ask him to come up to see me? I’ve got something I want him to see.” And I toddled down the stairs to find Mr. Davidson. Soon he and Dad were talking seriously about something on Dad’s desk, and I added a new wheel to the thing I was building.

There was a time after I’d discovered books! Books are wonderful things! I was sitting in a chair in Dad’s office, sounding out a word, when he interrupted me. “Son, Miz Thompson works on the far side of the factory. Would you find her and give her this note?” He handed me the note, and I ran off to find Sally Thompson. She had a wonderful smile, and she used it on me sometimes.

I never did go to normal school. I would say that Dad homeschooled me, except it mostly happened in his office. Is there such a thing as officeschool? We had the best times together in his factory office.

He’d given me an arithmetic assignment that made me think pretty hard. If Mr. Jacobi needs to build this many boxes by the end of the month, how many does he need to build every day? Eventually I puzzled it out right (Dad showed me where I’d forgotten to carry the one, the first time), and he smiled this great big smile! “Son, would you please take this down to Marty Jacobi – he should be in the lunchroom right now – and show him how well you did this.” He wrote his initials on my math paper.

I found Marty. He gave me a cookie while he looked at my work. I munched, and then he smiled, and said, “You’ve got a real smart Dad, you know!” He was right, of course, but I already knew that!

One day he was reading letters. He had a lot of letters, and he read ’em all. One of them made him smile extra big, and he called me to himself. “Son, would you please go tell Bob Davidson that he’s got a new worker coming in the morning. He’ll want to put Cindy on the Quality Control team right away.” I delivered the message. Bob winked at me and nodded. “Sure thing!” he said.

One Thursday morning, Dad pushed my math books out of the way again, and set down his computer in their place. “Son, do you see this? What do you think that means?” and he pointed to a detail on the screen. This was a math test test, I felt sure. I was ready.

“That looks like trouble, Dad. Not big trouble, but trouble. Especially for the QC department. Um… Is that right?”

“That’s right, Son,” and he printed that page. “Would you explain this to Cindy in QC? And maybe talk with her about what to do with it, and bring me your favorite few suggestions.” Later, he picked one of our ideas, and implemented it. That was cool.

So I wasn’t altogether surprised when he set his computer on my desk some time later. He didn’t point to anything, but asked me, “What do you see here, Son?” I studied it a bit, and talked with him about the three or four things I saw. “What about this one?” “Hmm. I saw that, but didn’t think it was all that important,” I answered. “It’s all important, Son. Especially when this is trending,” and he pointed to the first detail I’d seen. “What happens when these happen on the same day?” I hadn’t thought of that! We talked about it and how to help the folks in the factory when that happened. I learn so much from my Dad.

And a few months later, those two things did happen on the same day. “Well, it happened, Dad.” “Yep, it surely did. Well, you know what to do.” I picked up my notes from our planning, headed down the stairs, and called the supervisors together. I explained the problem, and listened to their concerns. One of the guys had already figured it out, so I let him describe the adjustments we needed, filling in details when he needed help. We had the solution in place before the problem was big enough to slow production down.

Eventually we got to the point where I was really running the factory. Dad spent most of his time talking to individuals, or scheduling contractors for the expansion, and he spent a lot of time training some of the other kids, too. If I ran into a problem, he was always right there to help, and there wasn’t anything that he couldn’t figure out.

Figuring things out comes easy when you’re omniscient like my Dad is.

The OTHER Benefit of the New Covenant

Our history with God is a history of covenants. Covenants between God and mankind. This is how the mighty Creator King and the human species relate: through a covenant.

We do it too. We’re up-front about it with marriage covenants, and more subtle about other covenants. There is a powerful – unwritten – parenting covenant: violate that one and society takes your children away from you.

Now hold still, I’m going to talk directly about covenant for a minute. Necessarily, I will engage in willful oversimplification of some details in order to illustrate my point: the actual situation is much more complicated than this simple explanation.

A covenant is a “promise to engage in or refrain from a specified action.” Covenants are how people agree to relate to each other. Covenant is how God relates to humanity.

Noah had a covenant. Abraham had a covenant. David had a covenant. But the Big One was the Mosaic Covenant, often called The Old Covenant.

The Old Covenant was kind of a failure in before it ever got going, of course. God proposed a covenant to the people of Israel that had a lot of the elements of our New Covenant in it. Before there even were the Ten Commandments, God offered Israel a covenant where every single person is a priest, every single person can come to God for himself or herself:

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. ‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:6-7)

“Kingdom of priests and a holy nation”? Twice in the book of Revelation, we’re described as “kings and priests unto our God” (1:6 & 5:10). God was offering that relationship to the Israelites four thousand years ago? (Can you imagine what the world would be like if we hadn’t had the last four thousand years of legalistic bondage? But I digress.)

But the people who were offered this intimate “everybody is a priest” relationship with God reject that offer in the very next chapter.

“Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (Exodus 20:19)

In the re-telling of it, it's even more clear:

“Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” (Deuteronomy 5:27)

The people had rejected a “kingdom of priests” covenant, and propose a covenant that requires a priesthood, and is based on obedience. Neither the Levitical priesthood, nor an obey-the-rules covenant, was God’s idea!

And so the “everybody is a priest” covenant was put aside, and was replaced with a covenant based on the people’s obedience. Any covenant that’s based on obeying will necessarily have consequences for disobedience. Thus this is a covenant about blessings for obedience, and punishment (sometimes called “curses”) for disobeying.

Deuteronomy 28 functions as kind of a summary: You’ll be blessed when you obey, and you’ll be cursed (or punished) if you disobey. Verses 1 through 14 outline the blessings. The rest of the chapter talks about the punishment for disobeying, and it’s God that is charged with that punishment.

Frankly, that was a lousy covenant, it’s a poor substitute for God’s first proposal, but it’s a covenant! Even that poor replacement was better than no relationship at all between God and man!

We remember that the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant (which we call “The Law”) were intended to constrain the behavior of the humans in this covenant relationship. But we tend to forget that the Old Covenant constrained the behavior of BOTH parties of the Covenant: God had chosen to bind himself to the Old Covenant as well.’

So when we read in Deuteronomy 28 about “If you disobey, you’ll be punished.” Guess who the punisher has to be. Yeah, that’s God. He has bound himself to this busted-up covenant, because it’s better than no covenant – no relationship – whatsoever. Moreover, this was the only covenant that the people would agree to, so this was the covenant that he bound himself to.

And this covenant, proposed by fearful men, required that God punish (or “curse”) the people that he loves so very much, every time they disobey. (Seriously, go read Deuteronomy 29!)

Now let’s remember that there was a third party loose on the Earth, who was not a party to the covenant between God and man. Lucifer had already demonstrated his eagerness to accuse God at every opportunity (see Genesis 3:4-5). And he’s up to his old tricks here as well.

So every time the people disobeyed (and that happened so very often!) and God was required by the people’s busted-up covenant to punish them, Lucifer steps up to the microphone and declares, “Look how mean God is! Look how bloodthirsty he is! Look how angry God is!” completely ignoring the fact that God is merely complying with the conditions of the covenant that mankind offered him.

That’s a hot mess. I’ve oversimplified the story in this short article, but it’s easy to see the mess that the Old Covenant is: seriously, the only one who benefited from that debacle was Lucifer, and that’s not actually what we’re aiming for.

Now skip forward until Jesus is sitting in the Upper Room, where Jesus is offering – for the second time – a covenant of an “everybody is a priest” relationship between man and God: “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 2 Corinthians 11:25.) But this time, the representatives (the twelve) accept the offer.

I still marvel at that cup, that biscuit. With that token meal, God removes us from the Old Covenant and makes us participants instead in the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:13 makes it clear: “In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete.”). And this is a covenant whose sole commandment (John 13:34) is to love each other.

What an amazing relief that is: in a single moment, these guys are plucked from a covenant of “If you obey, I’ll bless you; if you disobey, I’ll punish you!” and dropped into a Covenant of Love.

The seminal New Covenant verse, John 3:16, says it beautifully: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And if that wasn’t clear enough, verse 17 clarifies that the New Covenant is not about punishment: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” What a relief that is!

All that is amazing, spectacular, and otherwise completely awesome.

But it is also only half of the story. The Old Covenant is made obsolete, and we are released from its bondage, but we were not the only ones held in bondage by it.

With the passing of the Old Covenant, God Himself is no longer constrained by the Law to provide blessings when people obey, like treats for a dog that sits when you tell him. More importantly, God is no longer constrained by the Law to bring punishment, curses, judgment on the people that he so desperately loves.

When the Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant, humanity could give a great, corporate sigh of relief. We’re no longer under the law, but now we’re under grace, under love.


But the greater relief may not be ours. In the New Covenant, God is now free to love us with all that is in his heart, as he has longed to do since the day he said, “Let us make man in our own image.” (Genesis 1:26). God is now free from the Old Covenant, and he’s more excited about it than we are. 

We are free. But more important, God Himself is free! 

When God Moves From Singular to Plural

I’ve been meditating on the nouns of Genesis One. All of them are about God, of course, and for most of the creation process, all of them are singular: God said this. God did that. God said that it was good. Rinse and repeat.

Everything He makes has a counterpart. Day has night. Sun has the moon. Ocean has land. Every creature is part of its own species, according to its kind.

And then it changed. On the afternoon of the sixth day, suddenly God changes how He’s doing his creating, and when God changes something, I want to pay attention. I want to learn.

Suddenly, God moves from singular to plural, and He changes so completely that He did the plural thing twice in the same day!

The first plural is about him: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness….’” Now, for the first time, God does something as an “Us!”

Up until this point, it’s just been “creation as usual.” Make a planet. Check. Make some oceans. Check. Make some plants and animals. Check, check.

But suddenly, it’s like God steps up, He gathers His Trinity about him, and now He is fully present: “Let Us do this. Let Us make something to be the counterpart of Us!” This will be His masterpiece.

And God, in His fullness, created his masterpiece, and that masterpiece is another Plural Thing, and it was us! You and me! The first words with which God describes humanity are plural! “These are the one ones made in Our image. Let them have dominion ….”

God did all the rest of creation as a “He,” but when it came time to make humanity, He says, “Let Us do this.” And the product of that creativity is not a thing, and it's not a species, it’s a race of individuals. It’s a community of humanity to whom He gives authority.

He made us so uniquely that the angels watched us curiously. What a thing He has done. A race, a community. Made in His image. Carrying His authority. Us.

Insights from the Book of Job

One of the most useful insights from reading the Book of Job is seeing the difference between what went on in Heaven, and how it manifested on earth, in Job’s life. (The worst use of the book is learning theology from Job’s “friends.” What a train wreck!)
  
Job never knew about the dialog between God and Satan. In fact, Job (and Job’s whole culture) didn’t really know about Satan, so they believed that God did all this bad stuff, when the Book *clearly* says it was Satan. (It’s embarrassing how many Christians believe the same way today.)
  
Job blamed God for the disasters that had struck him, and called him throughout the book to account for why he’d done such evil to him. The oddest part, from my perspective, was this: God took the blame. (I observe that at no point, did Job ever ask God, “Did you do this?” or even “Who did this?” Maybe that would have been useful.)
  
At no point during God’s several chapters of response to Job’s accusations did God ever say, “That wasn’t me. That was the devil.” In fact, God’s reply can reasonably be summarized as, “Job, this is above your pay grade. You don’t even have the capacity to understand what went on in this.” 

God took the blame for the devil’s destruction, knowing he was innocent. 

How many other times does it happen in scripture: the devil wreaks havoc, but we blame God for the destruction. 

We have *got* to read the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus, who was the “exact representation” of God’s nature. If we don’t see death in destruction in the ministry of Jesus, then death and destruction is not part of God’s character or his job description. 

Maybe it would be useful to look at the stories of the Old Testament through the revelation that is Jesus, and ask the question:“Who did this?”

Monday

Whose Limits? Whose Understanding?


“You can have a life of understanding and live in a small world, or you have heaven’s peace and live in a world without limits.” Bill Johnson, Redding

I’ve been reflecting kind of a lot on this: If I insist on understanding, staying in the realm where I do understand, then I am limited to a world the size of what I am able to understand. I’m a pretty bright guy, but I am not all that!

The alternative is to trust someone who’s so foolishly in love with me that he died horribly and wrongly accused, just for the opportunity to woo me, someone who really is  all that, someone who doodles in the sky while he’s thinking about me, and creates a masterpiece of a sunset. Sometimes, he doodles at night, and creates a masterpiece of the stars. I’d use the word “lovesick” if he had the capacity to be sick.

The cool thing about that is this: when I trust his understanding instead of my understanding, then we’re working with the kind of capacity that’s labeled, “omniscience.” There are no  gaps in his knowing. 

On top of that, it’s tied in with a little thing called, “omnipotence,” that completely outshines my own capacity to deal with the few things that I do understand.

And if that weren’t enough, when I trust him with the storms that I call “my life,” then he takes personal responsibility for peace in my life, at least insofar as I will let him. He provides for me a great big overwhelming mountain of peace, of His grace (and it's a beautiful mountain), just for me, so that wherever I walk, I get to be in the midst of Heaven, in his own presence; wherever the sole of my foot touches this planet, Heaven itself is planted and grows, if for no other reason, then just to make a place of sufficient glory for his son to walk.

I think I’m impressed. I think I’m in love. 

I think I’ll trust him and live in his world, even in this world.

The Gate of Heaven


In Genesis 28, Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

The house of God is the gate of heaven.

Hebrews 3:6 says  “And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” Paul was even more direct in 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”

So I am [or we are, as a community, depending on how you read the pronouns] the gate of heaven.

Certainly, that applies in the evangelistic sense: it’s hard to become a child of God without having encountered the people of God first. (Possible, but hard.)

But that is clearly not the way that Jacob meant it in Genesis 28. This is his description of “the gate of heaven”:

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

I believe that it is not unreasonable that we, the people of God, the heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, should expect to be a “gate of heaven,” with these effects:

  • We are a point where heaven and earth connect.
  • We are a place where angels connect with earth.
  • We are a place where God reveals himself as who He really is.
  • We are inheritors of the promises of God: this is OUR land, and all peoples on this entire planet will be blessed through us, and through our offspring.
  • Wherever we go, God goes with us, in us, through us!
  • Wherever we go, God fulfils promises made to us, that infect all the residents of that place.

This is who we are. This is what we need to expect from our life in God. Our goal is not faithful attendance at a Sunday service for 30 years. Our goal is that wherever we go, heaven leaks out of our footprints, and grows into the manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven every place we go, and in every person we meet.

Our goal is nothing less than heaven on Earth. Through us. 


The Gate of Heaven


Think with me for a minute:

Genesis 28:17 says, "And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" 

In this case, the gate of heaven was described asa ladder, set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. [28:12] From earth. To heaven. The house of God is the gate of heaven. Hmmm.

Principle: the house of God is the gate of heaven. It is specifically the means of accessing heaven from earth.

I Corinthians 3:16 (or 6:19) declares that in our day, the house of God [the “temple” of God, the habitation of God] is you. Well, and me. We are – specifically, our bodies are – the temple, the dwelling place of God.

Therefore (and this might stretch you as much as it stretches me): you are a gate of heaven. Note: not a gate “to heaven,” but “of heaven.” There’s a difference.

In Jacob’s vocabulary, there is “a ladder, set up IN YOU, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

So I’ve been reflecting on what it means that I am a “gate of heaven.”

·         For people who don’t have any other access, I am an access point to Heaven.

·         I can, myself, access heaven. I can take day trips there. (John 3:13: No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Jesus is announcing that, as early as John 3, he has taken day trips to heaven.)

·         Heaven also has access to earth through you. But (“set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven”) it takes my initiative on Earth to release Heaven.

·         If my NT “gate of heaven” is like Jacob’s OT “gate of heaven” (I’m not quite ready to make that as an assumption), then angels have access from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven through me. One word: Whoa!

If nothing else, this perspective requires that I take seriously my role as a son of the Kingdom, as a “king and priest” [Revelation 1:6 & 5:10] of our God. 

Tuesday

A Gift to Remember

A Gift to Remember

Jared and Melissa were excited enough that they couldn’t sleep, not that they gave themselves much opportunity that evening. They had been up until the wee hours, John muttering and cursing through the “Some Assembly Required” toys, and Melissa wrapping gifts, turning every one into a work of art in its own right.

As they worked, they talked excitedly about the morning. They’d waited for – longed for – this day as long as they could remember, and they found they were more ready to anticipate the morning than they were to sleep.

Jay and Missy had fallen in love early, and married fresh out of high school, eager to start a family and share their love with a flock of children. They were stunned to discover that they were unable to conceive. Over the years, they’d spent a fortune, everything they had, on doctors and treatments. She’d conceived a couple of times, but something had always gone wrong, and every conception had ended in miscarriage.

Giving up on medicine, and now into their second decade of marriage without children, they had turned to the slow process of adoption, and while the wheels had turned excruciatingly slowly, they had turned, and last spring they’d gotten the call they had waited for all their lives.

Cautiously, they’d flown to yet another war-ravaged nation, and met with the adoption agency, who had introduced them to the four-year-old stranger would be their daughter, their only child and heir, as they could never afford this again. It was a storybook introduction. When they met, they were already in love, them with her, and she with them. They wept and laughed together.

Little Emily was all that they’d ever for in a daughter, and they were a family in love. Laughter reigned in the house, and joy was their daily bread. And tomorrow, tomorrow! Tomorrow was their first Christmas together, and Jay and Missy had gone all out, blown their budget badly, gathering and making gift after gift for their princess, their beautiful daughter.

Finally, the morning arrived, and in a cloud of screaming and laughing, they found themselves gathered around the Christmas tree, giggling, surrounded by a small mountain gifts. This was the day, this was the hour! This is what they’d been waiting for.

The laughter stopped suddenly, and Emmy soberly looked at Mom, looked at Dad, and then turned to the mountain of presents. Missy picked up the top package and handed it to the now-quiet girl, who took it tenderly and set it on the floor between her knees. Eyes sparkling, she solemnly examined the wrapping, tracing the ribbons, touching the label, “oohing” and “aahing” at each discovery of her parents’ careful wrapping. After the top was completely explored and appreciated, she turned the box over, discovering a reindeer in the paper’s pattern, and was delighted again.

Jay and Missy were less patient. “Open it, honey! See what’s inside!” But Emmy was in no hurry, now engaged in a conversation with the reindeer. “She doesn’t understand,” said Jay, and he reached into his daughter’s world, and tugged gently on the ribbon, which came off gracefully. The paper, held in place by the ribbon, now slipped back revealing a hint of the contents. “It’s a present, Emmy. Open it. Look at your gift!”

But Emmy quietly wrapped the paper back over the box, and holding it in place with her small hand, finished her conversation with the reindeer, and started a new one with the penguin next to it.

When that conversation had run its course, she set the box with its slightly disheveled wrapping aside and reached for another package, but her parents interrupted her. “No, finish opening this one first! I want you to see your present!” and peeled the paper back from the box, but either Emmy didn’t understand, or she wasn’t interested.

Eventually, the paper and the box were separated, as much by Missy’s efforts as Emmy’s, and Missy glanced eagerly from her beloved Emmy to the gift, now unwrapped before her, but Emmy was looking not at the box, but the paper that had once enclosed it. She picked up the paper, turned it over in her hands, appreciatively, and gently began to fold it. Jay got up, went to the kitchen to make coffee. Missy watched her daughter, tears forming in her eyes.

It was a long morning, but eventually, the mountain of wrapped gifts was transformed into a neat pile of carefully folded wrapping paper, a collection of ribbons and bows, some of which were now worn by the little girl, and a stack of neglected gifts. Emmy played quietly with the bows as she carried on a conversation with a fat man in a red suit from one of the papers. Her parents stood across the room, talking quietly. Jay comforted his wife gently.

--

I was sitting with the Lord recently, marveling over John’s casual comment, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day,” and its connection with the stunning experience with God that he was about to enter, when the story of Emily and her disappointed parents flooded my mind.

As the story unfolded in my mind, I realized that God was talking about his relationship with his own children, that we were Emmy, and I experienced something of the sadness that God was experiencing. “My children have so often treasured the wrappings on the gifts more than they’ve treasured the gifts that I’ve given them.”

That struck me as a pretty strong statement, but as we talked about it, I began to understand a little bit of how we do that.

Father has given us amazing and expensive gifts. We were separated from him by our sin, so he – in the person of Jesus – paid the price for that separation and removed the barriers between us so that we could be with him. As if that weren’t enough, he wrote us the most amazing love story: a book about his love with his children, so that we could understand and therefore embrace the passion with which he loves us.

I’ve become convinced that we have fallen to Emily’s failure. We’ve studied his Book his love story about us, as if it were an instruction manual. (Why would a God of Love write an instruction manual for dutiful study and careful obedience?) The Bible is the most amazing, most powerful book ever written: in it are the words of Life, but it is the Life that is our goal, not the words.

We could discuss other gifts, also given to build relationship, which our quirky little species finds reason to focus on: manifestations of his presence with us (like feathers or laughter or peace) or gifts and callings (like healing the sick, or pastoring a flock of people). These are glorious gifts from the best Daddy in the universe, but they are just wrappings on the real gift: we get Him! God himself is the real gift.

Father’s goal is that we’d move past the barriers that Jesus, on the Cross, tore down and threw aside, and we’d come sit down with him, be with him.

I suppose I must include the obligatory disclaimers lest I be accused of heresy: I treasure the Bible, the Word of God, as much as anyone I’ve ever met. I am immensely grateful for the Cross of Christ! “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”

My point is not to devalue either the Word of God or the Cross of Christ. Rather, I would focus my attention on that which these point to, open the way to. The cross was conceived, all of creation was conceived, planned and carried out, because He, in his omniscience, was already in love with us! God had fallen in love with us, and He was determined to do everything He could do to get to us, to find me and wrap His arms around us.

The greatest gift we’ve been given is God himself! But the greatest gift that he has is us: you and me. Not what we do, not what we know, not even our character or our quirky personality. We are his treasure, his inheritance.

We are his goal: relationship with us, “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”

It has also been said this way: “Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

The goal is relationship. Not just relationship, family relationship: he has adopted us into his family as his own children, his heirs, much-loved. He has delegated that management of the family business (a little thing called Earth) to us.

It would be a mistake to try to run the family business without input from our Father, the founder. We must sit with him, understand his heart for the business, recognize the resources that he’s placed at our disposal for the work. Some of that understanding can come from the book he wrote, of course, and perhaps the most powerful engine in the shop is the blood of his Only Begotten Son on the Cross.

But the goal, the end of the matter, the reason all else exists, is relationship: that we would inherit him, and he would inherit us.

That’s the real gift, inside whatever wrappings, whatever else he gives us.


Friday

The Library

I’d been visiting the Library for years before I figured out what it was. It’s easier to tell you what it’s not than what it is: I guess most significantly, it’s not a place, at least not in any sense of location.

The Library is a place in my imagination where God and I meet. But oddly, it doesn’t seem to be an imaginary place; it’s just that the imagination is the way to get there. Some folks describe these kind of things as “a visit to the third heavens.” OK. Whatever. I suspect we’re both talking about the same thing, and I suspect that neither of us is completely familiar with the best vocabulary to describe a non-locational location.

The library is a large room; it belongs in a very big, very old, stately mansion. Its thousands of books are neatly aligned on dark shelves, and between dark paneling (is it walnut?), both of which stretch from the thick, crimson rug over the dark oak flooring, to the sculpted ceiling far above. It’s the kind of room where you’d expect to find a couple of ladders on wheels to reach the top half of the bookshelves, but I’ve never seen a ladder in there. In fact, I haven’t yet taken a book off of the shelf.

The quiet in the room is tangible, nearly physical. I’m not sure I could work up a good worry in that place, but why would I try? The peace could be cut with a knife, but why would you cut it? There is no hurry there, no pressure there, either to do or to be something that I’m not already doing and being.

I generally see the room from somewhere near the center, and until recently, my attention has always been drawn to the middle of the long wall in front of me. There’s a fireplace there, and it’s a big one, and I’ve never seen it without a bright and cheery fire crackling in it, giving light and warmth – more than merely physical warmth – to the whole room.

There is no grate, no grille, no glass doors to separate us from the fire, but the floor in front of the fireplace is stone tile, not hardwood, and it’s been laid well. There is a round, emerald green rug over the stone floor and its presence infers the union between the two chairs there. Tall, remarkably stately, dark leather wingback chairs, face the fireplace, the chairs are clearly for conversation, and serious conversation at that. It’s evident that those who converse in these chairs are working together towards a goal, never – not ever! – working to change someone’s opinion or position. The unity between even the chairs is remarkable, but then this is a remarkable room.

Often, I’ll take the seat on the left, and as I sit, I’m embraced by the welcome of the warm fire, and simultaneously, I’m strengthened and focused for the work to be done between us. I’m beginning to become familiar with these conversations. For a long time, they startled me, even shocked me. The first time I sat down and saw Jesus across from me, next to me, I was undone! We’ve met many times now, and while it may never be “old hat” between us (I don’t actually aspire to that), I’ve grown comfortable in our time together.

And what a time it is together. We visit like close brothers, for that’s what we are. Not separate from the visiting and family talk, but in its midst, more troubling topics arise. I’ll often bring up something that has been hard to understand or difficult to carry, and that’s where I first began to understand “the counsel of the Lord.” He listens, asks insightful questions (I’ve never asked why my omniscient elder brother needs to ask questions, but it comforts me when he does), and we share the matter together. In that place, while we’re visiting, next the blazing fire, I begin to understand the matter from Heaven’s perspective, from the perspective that my ever-loving brother sees the matter, and I am strengthened. The matter is not less – in fact, it’s often greater, once I’ve understood it from his viewpoint – but the burden is better, like a comfortable load that I can carry for long distances, instead of the crushing weight it had been earlier.

There have been times when Jesus brings a matter of his own concern into our conversation. I expected that it would be an issue that I need to change in my own life, and occasionally it is, though there is never any of the condemnation that I used to expect there. Occasionally, he brings to my attention a matter relating to someone dear to me – my family, my close friends – and he gives me insight, which brings with it a power that changes the troubling matter into a place of peace strength, though I’ve learned it may be a long transition.

From time to time, and this is not an every-day affair, he will bring up an issue that is not well known to me and is not even within my power to influence. We’ll discuss it, as before, and it’s clear that while he never asks me to do anything with these, yet he is asking my opinion, my counsel, on the subject. I’ve stopped asking myself questions about why the Only Begotten Son would seek my counsel; it has confused me, but I’m growing to understand how seriously he takes the matter of my participation in the kingdom he and I are inheriting.

Occasionally, it’s Father who’s in the other chair, and in those times, very often my chair is empty, because I’ve crawled up into his mighty lap, rested my head on his bushy beard, and for a good long time, I just breathe deep of his fragrance: campfires and a good cigar, fresh cedar and fertile soil, rich leather and bright wildflowers: the fragrances of life and depth and truth. I love his smell. Often, my free hand finds its way between the buttons of his wool shirt and rests in the midst of his wooly chest. I listen to his strong heartbeat; I feel his beard and my hair stir in his warm breath as we rest together.

We have the same conversations, really, as Jesus and I do, though we may not bother with actual words. We visit, we tell stories, we boast about people we both know, and dream about the future together. I share my burdens, and come away with strength, he brings up matters about my growth, about the circle of his children that I influence, and occasionally, other matters, and we … well, we counsel together about them all. In all matters, I know I’m heard, I know I’m trusted, and I know that the matter – whatever it is – is less important than the love we share together.

Some years ago, Jesus caught me before I sat down, and he took me to a new corner of the room. It was in the right-hand corner, behind where I usually view the room from, and there was something there that I hadn’t expected: it was a tall, oak, judge’s bench. He took me around the far side of the bench, and up the stairs behind it. But rather than sit down himself, he sat me in the great chair behind the bench, and when I sat, I was wearing black robes, I think I had a white wig on, and I had a wooden gavel in my right hand.

I’ve learned – well, more honestly, I’m learning – to trust him in that place, and so I didn’t resist him, though my sitting in that chair was more of a novelty that first time than it was about actually judging anything. Since then, I’ve begun to learn some things about judgment, how important it is, how powerful it is, and especially how good it is.

It seems that the really big judgments, he’s kept for himself; I’m new at this after all. I’ve been charged with judging my brothers and sisters, but judging from Heaven’s perspective, from the perspective of a king who’s madly in love with them, who’s unreasonably proud of them, who’s amazed and overjoyed with their every step of faith. So the judgments that I’ve been invited to pronounce are about God’s favor on his children; I’ve been charged with finding them guilty of pleasing their father, and sentencing them to be loved and adored for all their natural lives, and beyond, if they’re willing! It’s better work than I first feared it would be; I’ve actually come to love that bench.

But some of the judicial work has been darker than that. One day, I was praying intensely for a dear sister against whom hell was having a measure of success. Jesus interrupted my sober work and brought me around to the stairs and up to the bench. I could see more clearly from up there, and with his help, I saw the cloud of miserable, filthy, little spirits that were harassing my sister. “Judge them,” he said, and as he spoke, I began to understand. I began to recognize their crimes, their trespasses, their rebellion against their rightful king and his rightful representatives.

As I identified them – the spirits and their crimes – I spoke the name, and as I named each spirit, it was as if the gavel moved on its own, gently tapping, “Guilty as charged” to each charge; with each tap, a beastie was bound. Soon, I got into it, reaching into my spirit for the discernment of each spirit and shouting its name, its crime. The gavel would bang and the demon was bound. This was more judgment I could get excited about.

I needed to be careful, in my exuberance, to still judge accurately, according to what was true, not merely because I felt bad for my sister’s misery: this was a matter of justice, not pity, and it was a mighty justice that was handed down that day, and other days like it. I’ve developed the opinion that the judge’s bench is an excellent place for intercession.

I still visit the room often enough. We sit next to the fire and share the business of the Kingdom. Not infrequently, I’ll climb up to the bench to pronounce one judgment or another. I cannot say I’m used to this – how does mortal man get used to partnership with the immortal? – but it’s become familiar, comfortable like the well-worn stock of a favored and trusted hunting rifle. We do good work together.

There was one day, though, that I still shake my head about. It happened some years back, and I’m only now beginning to understand what may have actually gone on.

The visit started rather like any other: I was in the middle of the room, looking at the leather backs of the empty fireside chairs, and I was startled: Father somberly walked up to me, and he was looking very serious: he was garbed in a rich black judge’s robe, and his eyes were as intense and alive with fire as I’ve ever seen them. With his eyes fixed on mine, he slowly opened his robe. I was surprised to see a red plaid shirt underneath, but before I had opportunity to react in surprise, he pulled a shotgun from the depths of his open robe, and handed it to me. Startled, I took it from him and glanced at it. Yep, that’s a shotgun, all right.

I looked up again, and now the robe was gone, and with it, the stern look from his face. Instead, he sported a red hunter’s cap and a huge grin, and he held up a shotgun of his own. Movement caught my eye, and I saw Jesus, similarly attired with plaid shirt, red hat, grin and shotgun. Father asked, “You ready, Son?” but before I could answer, the air above our heads was suddenly filled with demons, their leathery wings flapping franticly as they zigged and zagged about the room.

Father laughed mightily, hoisted his shotgun and fired; a demon exploded into a black cloud. Jesus cheered and blasted another one. Soon all three of us were shouting and hollering and laughing uproariously. And blasting demons to tiny black dust. Shotgun blasts were interspersed with shouts of encouragement, great fits of laughter and the soft splatter of the demons shards. They had met their maker, and it had not gone well for them. He is a very good shot, actually.

I had enjoyed this experience so much that I hadn’t stopped to ask what it meant until recently; the answer wasn’t particularly surprising; something about “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” But the experience was, frankly, a great deal of fun. “Spiritual warfare” and “fun”: two concepts I had never expected to put together.

That hunting party only happened the one time. I think it was more about teaching me a lesson than a regular part of our business in that place. He’s a good teacher, by the way: I’ve never forgotten that experience, though I’ve been slower to learn its lesson.

The intimacy of counsel by the fireplace, though: that’s a part of our regular work together, governing this kingdom that we’re inheriting, as is the judgment from the bench.

Tuesday

A Vision Of The Heavenlies

I was in the Spirit and I heard a voice that rang like thunder: “Come.” Then I looked, and, oh my!—a door was open into Heaven. Another voice, a voice like a trumpet, like the sound of birds after the rain, called out, "Come up and enter. I'll show you what happens next. Come with me." The barest glimpse of the sparkle in an eye – no more – and she had drawn me in.

I was caught up at once in deep worship and, oh!—the throne set in heaven with One seated on the throne, lit in gem hues of amber and flame, and a rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled His throne. Twenty-four thrones circled His, with twenty-four elders seated, white-robed, gold-crowned. Lightning flash and thunder crash pulsed from the throne. Before the throne, the dais was like a crystal sea, clear as glass.

I felt like an intruder, witnessing amazing things that, as far as I knew, no living man’s eyes had ever seen. I was drawn across the threshold into this overwhelming scene, stepping gently lest I distract someone, lest I draw attention to myself, away from the amazing One on the throne. The sparkling eye drew me on.

I tore my gaze away from that throne. Prowling around the throne were four amazing creatures, covered in eyes. Eyes to look ahead, eyes to look behind. The first creature like a lion, the second like an ox, the third with a human face, the fourth like an eagle in flight. The four creatures were winged, each with six wings. And the eyes! They were all eyes, seeing around, between, within. And they chanted night and day, never taking a breath, but never hurrying:

Holy, holy, holy is God our Master: Sovereign, Strong – The Was, The Is, The Coming.

It’s impossible to describe it: I tell you what I saw, but how do I tell of the glory there? The creatures were terrifying, overwhelming, and yet there was a gentleness about them; I knew that they would never touch one of the King’s children, and so I knew I was safe. But every time they chanted, “Holy,” there was this intense vibration in the air, this wave of significance, of power, of intimacy that swept over the room and beyond, and for all I know, it swept on into eternity.

I inched closer, drawn; each wave nearly crushing me – nearly but not quite knocking me to the ground, crushing me to jelly, and yet every wave brought with it such an overwhelming joy, a belonging. I could not turn back, even should it cost my life to go on. Finally, I knew what death I would choose if the choice were given to me: I choose this.

Every time one of the creatures gave glory and honor and thanks to the One seated on the throne, the twenty-four elders fell flat on their face before the one seated on the throne. Again and again, they threw themselves down, with wave after wave of glory that came from the creatures’ worship. The elders, too, worshiped the age-beyond-age living one. They threw their crowns at the foot of the Throne, chanting,

Worthy, O Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! the honor! the power! You created it all; it was created because you chose it.

I wanted to fall on my face and throw my crown at His feet in worship, but I was powerfully aware that I had no crown yet! Mine was still being forged, gems were still being set; I was not of this place yet. And the anticipation in the sparkling one drew me, past the elders and their thrones, past the creatures, up onto the crystal dais itself. The thunder struck again: “Welcome, son! Welcome home!” I looked up. The sparkling eye winked at me, and stepped aside.

As the thunder echoed, reverberated, I saw beside the great throne, another throne, at the great King’s right hand. Getting up from that throne was a young man. Frankly, he was rather a homely fellow, but he carried the same gentleness and the awesomeness of the One on the big throne. He had seen me, and before I could hide, he had my hand. “Come here. Sit with me.” His voice was gentle, and I saw the scar on his wrist as he drew me; my face burned as I remembered what I had cost him, but he dismissed my shame and drew me to his own throne.

He stepped up, and sat on the throne, and then he scooched to one side, making room for me next to him. “Sit here!” His voice held a chuckle, as he drew me up next to him.

Since I had first seen him, something had been rising in me, and with this, it crashed over me: “I can’t sit there, Lord! I’m not… it’s not… I… I….!” for the truth was, I was suddenly overcome with shame. Like one who had been in a place like this earlier; my heart screamed:

“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” I glanced again, in my shame, at the great throne. The wounded man took my chin, turned my face to his. “I’ve taken all that away. Come. Sit with me.” His gentleness melted my shame. He pulled me up next to him and I sat down. His arm was around my shoulders. “We’re so glad you’re here!” I felt the thunder rumble gently in agreement, and the sparkling eye appeared for a second and winked at me.

“Welcome home!” the voice had thundered. That's what this was! I was home! This is my home! This is where I belong!