Showing posts with label glory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label glory. Show all posts

Thursday

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.



A Purpose for the Battle Against Us

War, it has been said, is hell. It gets tiring.

I find myself looking forward to the end of each battle. I don’t plan to, but I find myself considering “life without a battle raging around me” as a sign of success. Whew! I made it! 

I don’t think Father agrees.

I believe that sometimes God specifically and intentionally brings the battle to me. I get it that I don’t always embrace the “overwhelming conqueror” moniker, and so he needs to help me get there. And yeah, I understand that sometimes I open a door that the enemy would love to exploit.

But I’m coming to believe that he brings the battle to me for another reason. I suspect that he lures the enemy into battle – and it must be with his sons, the enemy wouldn’t survive battle with God for even a nanosecond – as part of His almighty plan to plunder the devil.

In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say that sometimes the battle that I’m in right now, especially the battle that I didn’t expect to be in right now, is really more of an announcement, like the “Coming Attractions” features at the movie house. This is what you’re going to get for plunder after you’ve beaten this puny little stronghold.

We’ve talked about God’s promised wealth transfer. Proverbs 13:22b talks about how “the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” I think we’ve misunderstood this.

I’ve heard this taught as a promise we just need to claim: “Receive it by faith,” they shouted (and it wasn’t always during the offering message!). I don’t think it’s as easy as that.

First, I’m not convinced that the “wealth” God is speaking of is merely financial, just as the inheritance we leave to our kids (13:32a) is merely financial (see also Hebrews 12:16).

I’m also aware that Father wants his kids to be overcomers (see Revelation 2 & 3). It’s tough to become a competent overcomer without practice overcoming stuff.

I’m beginning to suspect is combining these two values. He’s luring the devil into our gun-sights so that we can overcome him, and also so that we can take back what he’s taken from us. (Remember that the devil was broke when God threw him out of Heaven; anything he’s gained since then has been by deceit, trickery or outright theft.)

It’s pretty important, and in my own world, it’s increasingly difficult (probably some more of my training, as in Hebrews 12:7-11) to discern exactly what the battle is that we’re fighting. Yeah, stuff is going wrong. Yeah, my soul and my spirit are wrestling with an oppressing thing. Yeah, hope is difficult, or clear thought is a greater fight than usual. But WHAT IS THE REAL BATTLE?

As we discern the nature of the enemy who has been lured against us, we’ll see more clearly how to kick his buttocks up between his ears, but more importantly, we’ll also get a glimpse of the plunder, the wealth, that Father has planned for our inheritance.


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If seeing is believing, then what are you looking at?

The Egotistical Nature of a Faulty Theology

I’ve come to suspect that it is one of the most egotistical and self-aggrandizing things we can do to declare that “God causes sickness in order to bring glory out of it.”

First cousin – and co-conspirator in this plot – is the slightly more timid version, “God allows sickness in order to bring glory out of it.”

My friend Joel Marius asks, “I
f you were a father, would you inject your kids with a disease to get some sort of glory from it?” to which the answer inevitably is “Dude? What kind of question is that? Of course not”

And of course, we’d all say the same.

But If I declare, “I will not do this, because it’s not the right thing for a father to do to his daughter,” and yet I hold that it’s something that God does to his daughters and sons, then I’ve just painted myself into a corner.

Logically, this leads me to one of three conclusions:

1)       We’re functionally declaring that we’re better parents than God is. Ya gotta have an epic ego to say you’re a better father than The Father. Or

2)       We’re accusing God of hypocrisy: things that would *obviously* be unthinkable for us to do are somehow magically morphed into good and helpful things when an omnipotent being performs the same crime. Or

3)       We’re mistaken, and God does not actually cause sickness.

I propose that we consider the third alternative. Sickness is not from God. Sure, he uses it for good; come on! he uses *everything* for good. That’s just who he is.

But the cause is not in God, and the permission is not in God.



Monday

The Light in the Darkness


Think with me for a moment.

Psalm 23:5(a) says “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies….” The Message renders it, “You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.” We can discuss what kind of provision the “six course meal” represents, but notice first where that provision comes: “in the presence of my enemies.”

Romans 5:20(b) declares, “…where sin abounded, grace abounded much more….” This time it’s in the presence of sin that is emphasized as the place of great provision (“abounded” is a big word!).

Luke 7:34 describes how the ungodly saw Jesus: “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” Apparently, Jesus frequented such places, and hung out with such people. I’ll bet that he still does.

Let’s think about it: when I’m feeling weak and needy, and I need an extra dose of the grace of God, where shall I go?

First, let’s nip some potential problems in the bud:

·         We don’t go “sin much more” so that we get more grace. The book is really clear on that topic. Romans 6:1&2 provides a starting point on this one.

·         We also don’t go get in a place where we’re are personally, severely tempted to sin. That’s just plain stupid. If you don’t want to get shot, don’t wander onto the firing range.

·         We don’t place ourselves or those with us in real danger, whether physical or not.

Traditional religion has always said, “If you need more of God, you go to church, where God is, of course.” That, of course, presupposes that God is more present in a particular building more than in his son or daughter, and I’m not sure that this can be supported Biblically. If there are good people at church who can help you, that’s great, though you’ll probably be able to deal with the issues you face better meeting with them outside of the church’s programs. Just an opinion.

But our verses hint at something else: God’s presence can be found unusually strong in other places, places where “my enemies” gather, places where people are not afraid to sin.

I reiterate: we don’t choose to put ourselves in danger: if there’s a temptation that’s hard for us, don’t go to that place. But just because sinners gather there is not a reason to avoid a place: Jesus didn’t avoid those places (cf Luke 7:34). (And there’s always the “go” part of the great commission that so often gets overlooked.)

This is, frankly, not an exercise for spiritual babes. And it’s a good time not to practice 2 Peter 2:22 (“But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’”).

Some would argue that such places are indeed more full of God’s grace, but it’s because they also provide a greater need for God’s grace, and the two influences balance out, leaving the believer no better off than s/he would be at home in bed. That’s actually not a foolish argument, but neither is it conclusive; it’s absolutely worth considering, and perhaps field-testing.

In the town where I live, there’s an austere micro-beer tavern near the famously-liberal, liberal arts state college. So naturally, it’s full of non-Christian and anti-Christian college students, expounding on their views over admittedly delicious brown brewed beverages. There’s an old-world coffee lounge downtown that caters to the more permanent residents of similar persuasion, who expound their views over similarly delicious brown brewed beverages of another nature.

I’ve found that both places are excellent places to bring my laptop or a Bible and enjoy the Father’s healing presence and think creatively with him. The tavern is also hosting a number of Bible studies and “cell-group” type fellowships, so maybe the word is getting out.

On the other end of the scale, some friends and I occasionally visit dance clubs for the purpose of spiritual warfare dance, specifically counting on a table of provision being prepared before us in the presence of the spiritual environment found in those places. From a natural viewpoint, we look ridiculous: a bunch of overweight shaggy old men – I wear earplugs – completely ignoring the writhing young people around us on the dance floor. But it is has been a marvelous place for engaging the heavenlies, and the temptations there don’t even speak to us. (Note: we don’t do this alone, and we don’t go without substantial prayer covering.)


I’ve also surprised myself with this discovery: the secular German band Rammstein is actually pretty good for worship. I can’t understand the words, so it’s as if it was instrumental music to me, and I enjoy the table prepared for intimacy with Father in that dark place.

And of course, God is still committed to the Great Commission, which still begins with “Go ye….” The command is still to take the light to the places of darkness. I’m convinced that one of the reasons that so many Christians are so ineffective at sharing the gospel with non-believers is that they don’t actually meet any non-believers. When we bring the light into the darkness, the light is quite a lot brighter than when we put all of the lights into a big room that is outside of the world of unbelievers.

Now, I have known of a number of men who have heretofore been effective in the Kingdom who have been discouraged, and wandered into similar places specifically in order to find temptation, which they do in fact find, and which has all too often led to moral failure. This, of course, is the danger of finding the presence of God in the places of darkness, and it is for this reason that caution is to be exercised.

Don’t take this farther than I’m presenting it. But let’s not be afraid of taking the light into the darkness. Let’s also not be afraid of finding the light in the darkness. 

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!

Monday

Reciprocity With God

The other day, I went for a walk in the woods, in “our place”: a set of trails that God & I used to spend a lot of time on together. What with the price of gas to get there, and the business of life, I haven’t been to those trails much recently; we’ve been meeting in coffee shops and back rooms instead.

When I got to the trailhead, my first words were according to tradition, “Hi Papa,” and then He broke our tradition. Instead of waiting for me to quiet my mind over the next mile, He immediately began speaking to me of reciprocity in relationships, particularly His relationship with individuals. He seemed very excited about it. I’m afraid I loved that part best: His enthusiasm is very contagious.

“My relationship with you,” He began, and I could hear Him smiling, “is reciprocal.” And He let me think on that for a bit.

I sometimes teach a model of relationships that uses a bridge as an illustration of our relationship: the stronger the bridge (the relationship) between us, the more weight that can be carried across the bridge from you to me, or from me to you, but we both have to build the bridge.

I thought of this illustration now, as He was teaching me. “That’s actually not how I relate to you.” I was getting excited with Him by now.

So He began to describe to me how He limits Himself in His relationship with me – or anyone else – based on how I approach Him. While He is always attentive towards me, if I give Him my time and attention, then He gives me His time & attention: the degree to which I experience Him is pretty much determined by how much I’m willing to invest myself in Him, in our relationship.

I wish I could capture the joy, the immediacy, the clarity that came on those trails.

He pointed out that He’s “pretty much omnipotent” and if He relates to me in His omnipotence, I’ll pop, or my brain will fry, or I’ll burn up in a puff of smoke. “No one can see My face and live,” He said to Moses, and suddenly I understand better. If He brought the infinite force of His personality to our relationship, I would crumble to dust when He showed up. That’s hard on the relationship.

It’s mercy that keeps Him at a distance from me.

And so He must limit Himself, His glory that is in His person, His personality. I pray, “Show me your glory” like Moses, and He must answer, “I cannot.”

But the limit that He puts on Himself is the limit that I set. Or to put it the other way, the more I open myself to Him, the more He opens Himself to me.

I long for His presence. I appreciate His mercy.

Saturday

The Power of Glory

How well do you understand the concept of glory? Yeah, me neither. I have an idea, a pretty good feel for it, but if you pressed me on it, I couldn’t define or explain glory. I needed to fix that.
The easy part is looking up the word “glory” in my lexicon. The dictionary described glory as “being worthy of high honor;” The Old Testament word chabod (or kabad) includes the concept “weighty.”

That reminded me of a line in Jurassic Park: “Is it heavy? Then it’s expensive, put it back!” Weight is associated with things of value. Like gold. Like the presence of God. And maybe, like Jurassic Park, glory is a little bit scary.
OK, the Glory of God is about Him being worthy of high honor, and there is an aspect of weightiness (like gold, or like high-tech devices) to Him. Since there have been times when I’ve felt His presence like a heavy blanket on me, that made sense, particularly since it was accompanied by a sense of awe.
But there’s a verse that didn’t settle well with me: I’ve usually heard Isaiah 42:8 (where God says, “I will not give my glory to another…”) taught as “God is the only one with Glory.” The logical extension is that I need to be really careful to never think highly of myself or of what I do. I hear important religious people end their prayers, “…and we’ll be careful to give you all the glory…” or I hear folks saying, when complemented, “It’s just Jesus!” in their holiest voices.
I see the correlation, but it somehow triggered a gag reflex in me when I heard it: there’s something completely wrong with that viewpoint that says we’re nothing but lowly clay pots, and if anybody looks good, it had better be Him; if we think there’s good in us, we’d better repent.
I ran into some verses that didn’t set well with that point of view:
Romans 3:23 is one of the most quoted verses in the Book: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” What is it that we’ve fallen short of? Have we fallen short of discipline? Or humility? Have we failed to attain the holiness of God? No, it’s falling short of glory that is the thing that God’s complaining about in this verse.

1 Corinthians 2:7 tells how the wisdom of God was “ordained before the ages for our glory.” Wait: He, in His wisdom, planned for our glory?
And what about 1John 4:17: “…as [Jesus] is, so are we in this world”? Isn’t He in the midst of the glory of Heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling the Kingdom of God by intercession? And I am to be like that in this world? I’d always thought that I needed to be like He was: dusty feet, teaching, healing, suffering; but the Word is clear: “…as He is” (Wait, I’m seated with Him? That’s a whole other magnitude of “whoa!”, but that’s another conversation.)
So you and I were made for glory.
I figure there are three kinds of glory:
1) The glory of God. (See Psalm 24:8, Isaiah 6:3, and Revelation 21:23 if you’re taking notes.)
2) The glory that ambitious men and women take for themselves. I think this is often called “the boastful pride of life” and it’s not particularly a good thing. I don’t know anybody that wants to model their lives after these fools.
3) There is a glory that is for me. It’s not the same as taking glory for myself, but just because there is an illegitimate glory, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is not also a legitimate glory.
I looked more closely at that verse in Isaiah where God won’t give His glory to another. It’s all about false gods: He won’t give his glory to false gods, to idols and (as we’re taught in the NT) demons. That doesn’t mean He won’t share it with His kids, nor that He hasn’t planned a glory for us that might be different than His.

Have you ever heard about the substitute judge in the Texas Chili Cookoff? Two judges were familiar enough with hot chili to be able to appreciate the flavor, but the rookie was completely overwhelmed by the heat.
I figure that we need to be like that with glory: we need to become familiar enough with the glory of God that we’re not helpless when it shows up, strong enough to stand up under it and be useful.
My friend Mike has a hot sauce made from chili peppers that’s more of a paint remover than a seasoning: at nearly a million Scoville Units, even a toothpick dipped in the sauce and dried off will still make grown men cry.

By contrast, my friend Pat makes a chili sauce that is still hot, but the flavor has been moderated: her sauce is not about fire in the mouth, it’s about the flavor of the peppers, and I really enjoy it with crackers and cream cheese.
I think this is another way we need to relate to glory. The glory of God is so powerful that whenever even an angelic messenger of His shows up, they often have to begin the conversation with, “Don’t be afraid!” If the people of God freak out until the angels gives us the grace to not be afraid, then how will the world react? It’s like Mike’s sauce: just the memory of that much of God is hard to handle.
I see our job is to be like Pat: we take the glory of God, we live in it, and in Him, we pick up a glory that is appropriate for us, and we present it to the world in a milder version. We’re like Moses coming down from the mountain with the glow-in-the-dark face, or like someone climbing out of the swimming pool fully clothed: we splash the glory of God all over, but it’s not as powerful. We clothe God’s glory in flesh and blood that the world can relate to.
Think with me for a minute: when God’s glorious presence shows up in our community, what will happen? Sinners will repent, saints will fall more in love, society will change, people will be healed, demons will flee. Frankly it will be really cool.

If God is the only one who gets to be clothed in glory, then I can sit back and look forward to that day. But if I am designed to carry glory – whether His glory or my own – then these things should happen when I show up as well. Wherever I go, the glory of God goes. Wherever I go, the results of glory should show up: people should be changed, goodness should replace evil.

So here’s the bottom line commission: go forth and splash the glory of God! Go leak glory! Everywhere you go!