Divulging, Disseminating, and Declaring

Daily Post:  Revelation

rumor

Those of you reading today who know me well, may think I will shamelessly use this article to promote my recently published commentary/bible study on the Book of Revelation.  Perhaps I will, but that will come later in the article, if at all.  Subtle huh?

Revelation as a concept is about information (true or false) coming to light in various forms, which was not previously known.  It is in fact what the whole James Comey testimony is all about… everyone wants to hear about the secret conversations and dialogue between the former FBI director and President Trump.  Regardless of your particular stance on the substantive issues, there has been no “smoking gun” revelation. In fact, on the face of it, at least as I evaluate what’s been said, Comey has all but come out and said “the President did nothing illegal.”  Yet it still appears to me that the entire process was, and continues to be, driven by the agenda to discredit Donald Trump as our President.  Rumor mills and rumor mongering are bad enough, but when journalists become nothing more than mouth pieces for the political elite on both sides of the aisle, spewing and spuriously spreading fake news, or worse treasonous ideas, somethings gotta give!

Divulging information which is not intended to be revealed, such as classified data of any kind, is at the very least suspicious, because one has to ask “why was this shared?”  James Comey has admitted to leaking his memos to his friend, and doing so with the full knowledge that he, Comey, could then not prevent them from being revealed publicly.  Is this act alone not a crime?  Politics are the bane of my existence and why I choose to listen as little as possible to self-proclaimed pundits and their ego-based opinions about what is or is not true in Washington these days.  Who will save us from this odious quagmire?  Clearly we can’t save ourselves.

But isn’t that what the Bible reveals to mankind in the first place?  If Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and those first generations of humanity had been capable of saving themselves from self-destruction, I’m quite sure they would have.  But the first couple was banished from the Garden, and one of the first brothers killed the other, all out of an ego-centric mindset that they were above God’s rules.  Things haven’t gotten any better since.  In fact, one might say we are far, far removed from what God intended for mankind to be.  God has revealed in Scripture just how far He is willing to go to help mankind live as He designed us to live.  First God chose a man, Noah, to preserve the various species of creation when God judged the evil men in the world through a flood.  Then God chose a man, Abraham, to establish a nation of people who would be God’s people declaring God’s glory and blessing to the world.  When that failed, because the people failed, God sent His own Son, Jesus, to reveal the full plan of God’s great love for mankind.

God has divulged, disseminated, and declared His love for all mankind, yet men and women alike continue to deny His existence.  Our world is so filled with hate, contempt, and evil, it could be said that God doesn’t recognize the place anymore.  Those who continue in their faithful following of God’s revelation, and who do so with great resolve, are finding it increasingly difficult to exist on this hostile planet.  Who will save us from this morass of self-deluded evil?

God’s revelation is clear.

Genesis 6:3
Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 

Matthew 24:37
For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Revelation 1:1-3
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

From the very beginning until the very end, God’s marvelous grace has been divulged, disseminated, and declared to mankind.  The only thing which will save us from the horrible mess we’ve created, is the coming of Jesus Christ the King.  Until then, we will witness continued repetition of the colossal errors committed to, and fed by, the human hunger for power, prestige, and position.  One day, ALL will bow before the King of the universe, this I declare to you from the authority of Scripture.

Romans 14:11
For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” 

Philippians 2:9-11
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

For more information about my commentary click:  Revelation

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Short-term Parking

Temporary

short term

Contrary to the warning on all these yellow post-its, we do forget.  We forget where we put our keys.  We forget someone’s birthday, or worse the anniversary.  We forget where we park, we forget to send a thank-you note.  For some, forgetfulness is worse than others.  Those people who have perfect eidetic memories, like Sheldon Cooper on “Big Bang Theory,” drive me nuts.  I’m much more like my uncle Wylie who is known for his one-liners.  One of his favorites, and mine too, was “I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached.”

I’m officially a senior adult by many standards today, so why do I still feel like I did in my 30’s?  I know my age, I haven’t forgotten how old I am.  I have all my faculties, and I remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday.  I know what year it is, and who is President.   However, it’s like my brain has areas where the stuff that goes in…  is like short-term parking.  It’s there only for a little while, and “poof”, it’s gone.  You too may be aware of the frustrations and disparities which derive from not remembering things you are supposed to recall instantly.  Instead of Sheldon, at times I relate more to Dori, and her short-term memory problem.

For hundreds of years, the history of people groups was passed down verbally from generation to generation.  Like in the 1985 film, the third installment in the Mad Max series called Beyond Thunderdome,  Savannah Nix does the “tallin.”  After all are gathered around she begins the verbal history which must be remembered.  She begins, “This you know: the years travel fast, and time after time I done the tell. But this ain’t onebody’s tell. It’s the tell of us all, and you’ve gotta listen and to ‘member, ’cause what you hears today you gotta tell the newborn tomorrow. I’s lookin’ behind us now into history back...”

Where are you going with all the forgetfulness and story telling, Dr. Wilkins?  I’m so glad you asked.  There is something that stirred in me when I saw this word for the Daily Post.  I was reminded of something easily forgotten.  I wish to remind you of it as well.  For those who read this blog everyday, and read yesterday’s post “Rancorous Relationships,” today I didn’t forget that all this is very TEMPORARY.  Everything in this life is but a blink.  This is not a permanent dwelling place.  This is not my final destination, it is just short-term parking.

Neither the pangs and trials of this life, nor the death that awaits me (if Christ doesn’t call us all home first), will cause my spirit to reside on this planet one minute longer than God deems necessary.  My destination is secure.  My Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, has ascended to His throne in heaven to prepare a place, a room, a permanent dwelling space for ME!!!! So whatever crazy or minor inconveniences I might suffer while parking here temporarily, is insignificant in the larger view of eternity.  I refuse to be bogged down more than one single day (yesterday for instance), by the temporary nature of things related to this planet, and my daily life here.

Don’t forget!  Don’t forget!  Burn this image of all these post-it notes into the center of your being.  Don’t forget… this is a temporary dwelling place.  But the one which awaits us is so glorious as to be impossible to describe.  John did His best, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and the direct dictation of Jesus in the Book of Revelation.  However beautiful these images are, they are a glimpse at best.  Read for yourself about a new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem, the River of Life, and the Tree of Life, in Revelation 21-22.  And whatever you do, don’t forget what Jesus promises:

Revelation 22:20
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!!

Through a Glass Darkly

Opaque

iron age mirrorIron Age mirror   Copyright: Wessex Archaeology
Archaeologists look back in time and help us discover life-like conditions of days gone by.  Stone, pottery and glass hold up pretty well over the centuries.  However, if something was metal, only gold comes out of the ground in pretty much the same condition as when it was buried.  Copper and iron will corrode or completely disappear because of acids in the soil.  Same thing with bone, which keeps well in alkaline soil, but is eaten up in clays or sands which are acidic.  Wood, leather, or other textiles may only be found in waterlogged soil, which reduces decay.  On the other hand if something has been burned, the charred or burned sections may preserve well.  For example a 1,000 year old Anglo-Saxon bread roll was found in Suffolk, in the old remains of a burned house.
Looking backward through the earth’s treasure chest, we can glimpse into the past, before there was YouTube and Instagram.  We don’t have the privilege of the digitalized version of life, instead we get the dark opaque view with little detail beyond the artifact itself.  Which is a great metaphor for life itself.
We hang pictures on our walls to remind us of relationships, places, events, or days now long gone, which we want to memorialize in some way.  With each passing day, the person, place or event grows dimmer in our minds, becoming more and more opaque, the image in the picture becoming just a reminder of the past.  In many ways much like the Iron Age mirror seen above, it gives tangible proof that I lived in those moments.
As human beings we are bound by this present moment.  Memorabilia from our past helps us have context for who we are, and how we got here, and for many people that is enough.  Others however, want to know more.  Many people want to look into the future and see things that we are not capable of seeing either.  We do not have a magic mirror like Belle in Beauty and the Beast where we can ask to see someone or something distant from us.  We long to know, will I be happy?  Will I be successful?  Will I marry?  Will I have children?  How many?  Will I live a long time?  Is there anything else after all this?  We can’t know any of these answers, except in the present – as we live them.
When the Apostle Paul wanted the church in Corinth to understand the importance of Love as the dominant force of life, he wrote about how love acts in real time – the now.  One catching phrase that I remember from my childhood was, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.  now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known.”  (1 Corinthians 13:12 – KJV)  The opaque nature of human existence is seen so clearly in these words.  I cannot know my future.  Except to know, that if I am in Christ Jesus, when I do see Him face to face, I will know things, I will be aware of things, that are beyond my view or perspective today.  This will be because I’m no longer bound in my preset present tense limitations humanly.
Will I know everything?  Not hardly, I’m not God.  But I will know more than I do today.
In the same way archaeologists help us look backward, prophets help us look forward.  And we end up with just about the same amount of information forward as we do backward.  What we know of the future is that Jesus is coming again.  We know what this will look like, at least from a description standpoint, even if we don’t know the details of when or how.  Scripture says He will come in the clouds.
We know that when He comes the earth’s shape and function will change, that He will be sovereign King of the planet for a time, and that judgment will be the end of human history after that.  We know that after the judgment, God creates (or re-creates) earth and heaven into what His original design called for, and there we will live eternally as God’s family.  In this place there is no war, no death, no starvation, no political upheaval, nothing but the perfect and complete will of God – resulting in peace and love forever.
Like to know where you find all this stuff?  Click here.
Just because we live opaque lives in the sense of looking backward or forward, does not mean we can’t live the vibrant and brilliantly shining life of love right now – in this moment.  We remember the good times, and block out the bad.  We look forward to the happy, bright future, not the tragedies that may come.  We have a hope and a future, because of Jesus.  Live for today, and quit trying to look through that dark glass for happiness.  It will come, soon enough.
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One is the Loneliest Number

Outlier

55,62,47,58,60,63,54,1,49,62,61,59

The number 1 (above) “lies outside” a group of similar numbers, and statistically stands out as an aberration in the set; it is an “outlier.”  In this sense, it’s lonely.   If it had emotions it would be asking, “why me?”  “Why can’t I be like the others?”  “Why doesn’t anyone like me?”

outlier

Humanly speaking, when you’ve had a good run, and almost everyone who had gathered around you, supporting you for several years, turns and abandons you… you really are an outlier.  Regardless of their reasons, abandonment hurts, always has… always will.  For those reading this blog who think I might be in some selfish, agonizing, self-destructive downward spiral, I’m not talking about myself.  I’m talking about Jesus.

We tend to forget that Jesus was the original outlier.  If God had wanted to save the animal kingdom He would have come to earth as an Elephant or Tiger or some other animal.  But God created humans to have relationship with Him, and since we basically screwed it up, He had to fix it.  So God became a human, yet not subject to Sin, since His father was the Father’s Holy Spirit.  This indisputable fact is the baseline for believing Jesus was fully God, and fully human, while here on this earth.  It’s an interesting and challenging thought.

All His life, childhood through adulthood, Jesus contended with emotions just like every other human.  Yet in all the pains of these periods of life, He was perfectly aligned with Gods’ will, way, and purpose.  I believe this was to demonstrate to the hosts of humanity, that when aligned this way, we too can be empowered (by the Holy Spirit) to deal with any emotionally upheaving circumstance that comes our way.  Without Him, it’s virtually impossible.

Now, fast forward to the Passover and we understand just how different this ONE man was.  He knew ahead of time that his closest friends, the disciples, were each and every one going to abandon Him.  He told them so before it was ever true.  Yet, He loved them anyway.  He still went through with the plan of salvation.  They traipsed along to that Garden in Gethsemane, one gospel says singing songs together. [Mark 14]

The four biographies of Jesus’ life tell differently the passover/garden/betrayal story.  In John’s gospel we have a lengthy prayer from Jesus to the Father, which is not included in the other narratives.  All four of these authors describe the betrayal and abandonment by the disciples.  Jesus knew of which He spoke.  And there He stood – the One.  The outlier.

He stood alone before Caiaphas.  He stood alone before Pilate.  He stood alone before the Jewish people in the courtyard of Fort Antonia.  He stood alone while the soldiers mocked Him.  He stood alone as they scourged Him.  He was alone – the One – the outlier.

On the cross, He was the One of three who could effect change in the world.  Still the outlier.  One man knew he deserved to die the death He faced, and asked Jesus for mercy.  The other was in denial, so he mocked the One as delusional.  In a set of three, crucified for crimes against the state, Jesus was the outlier.

Why would He do it?  Why knowingly put yourself through this enormously painful existence?  God, the Son, did this to prove once and for all the extravagant lengths to which He will go, to establish right relationship with His highest creation – humans.  It was modeled for us 2,000+ years ago, and still there are those who laugh at the cross with derision.  Like the other man hanging next to Jesus that day, they say to all who believe in the One, “You guys are nuts!”

One day, either soon or far away (I do not know), this same One – this outlier – will return to planet earth to establish a kingdom that will never pass away.  In theological terms we call this the “consummation” of human history.  The last book of the Bible speaks to the events that happen during this time.  But here’s the thing.  Revelation tells the story of Jesus.  Revelation helps us see that the same kind of self-sacrificing motive that lead Jesus to the cross, is demonstrated by God in the extravagant lengths to which the Father will go, to save all those at the end of time – who will believe in the Outlier – Jesus as their savior.

The whole book, the Bible, points to Jesus.  His earthly existence was a lonely One.  He did it all to have a family, so we could all be ONE.  Praise to the Outlier.  He is our only hope and salvation!

 

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Sticks and Stones

via Label

label maker

There was a time when I thought label makers were so cool.  Seeing that thin piece of film coming out the end, printed so finely with tags for all my files, was comforting in that now I could actually read the titles at the tops of my most important information.  You know, files like: Golf Scores, Favorite Restaurants, Dog Groomer, etc.  My handwriting is something my mother often referred to as “chicken scratching,” saying she could neither read it or make sense of it.  So the label maker saved my bacon when she came to visit and saw my office filing system.

Unfortunately, some people tend to designate, describe, or hashtag their own labels for other people, becoming in the act, a living – breathing label maker.  Sure I enjoyed having my files labeled, that made finding my stuff easier.  I don’t so much enjoy being branded by those who barely know me, or those who think they know me but don’t, or those that don’t know me and know they don’t know me… as something that I’m not.  You want to know a good label for me?  Here it is:  Sinner saved by GRACE through Jesus.  This is the only label I will wear without hesitation.

Why?  Because I know exactly how true it is.  Because of my sinful condition, (thank God it is only temporal and not eternal), I know some other labels that fit me.  These labels are not the total me, so if you see only this part, then you don’t know the rest of me.  For example, one label that fits is “Failure.”  I’ve failed in a marriage, as a father, as a pastor, as a friend, at business, at being a son, brother, and teacher.  Not all the time.  Not my whole life.  Because in my past and present it would also be right to label me as “Successful.” I’ve been successful in marriage, as a father, a pastor, friend, son, brother, teacher.  I’ve been successful in business, having recently written, and offering for purchase, my first Bible study book on Revelation.  “You see Timmy”, not every label has a “this is all he is” kind of accuracy.

A person can hashtag on their mobile devices all day long, in an instant opinion world where the “optics” are the only thing that matters, and still not be accurate or insightful in these opinions or observations.  Reading between the lines of any one person’s life-story, is impossible to do without divine knowledge.  I’m pretty sure no person surrounding me today, or in my past could be mistaken as divine.  They are pretty much like me in the “sinner” category.  In my mind at least, that makes us all equal.

Some people today use their personal version of verbal label making to assassinate another person’s character.  Lashing out verbally, or on social media, they imitate a group of people from the Bible that Jesus went toe-to-toe with a bunch of times.  The Scribes and Pharisees were supposed to be the spiritual leaders of Israel, and lead the people into divine truth as revealed to them from God’s written word.  The problem was, by the time Jesus began His ministry in the first century, many of these men no longer relied on God’s written word to guide them.  Instead, they turned to the opinions and interpretations of men down the ages who preceded them, reading and citing tradition and opinion rather than the actual words of God.  So when they heard of Jesus speaking, interpreting, and proclaiming the ACTUAL word of God, they became instant human label-makers.

In so doing, they verbally labeled Jesus in front of the masses as a Law-breaker, for eating without ceremonially washing His hands first.  Jesus responded one time this way… Mark 7:6-15

“Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written:

These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.  They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men.  Disregarding the command of God, you keep the tradition of men.

You completely invalidate God’s command in order to maintain your tradition!  For Moses said: Honor your father and your mother; and Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death.  But you say, If a man tells his father or mother: Whatever benefit you might have received from me is Corban” (that is, a gift committed to the temple), you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.  You revoke God’s word by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many other similar things.”  

Summoning the crowd again, He told them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 

At other times, these men called Jesus: heretic, blasphemer, a devil, a liar, they said His miracles were from Satan.

Now, here’s the thing.

Jesus told His disciples that in this world, if they (or we today) decide to follow Him whole-heartedly, we will not only face persecution, name calling, labels, or slander… we could even face death.  This is why it is getting so much harder to follow Jesus in a perverted and twisted society with instant access to social media.  The sticks and stone do hurt don’t they?  The constant barrage of hashtag hate that permeates our society is sickening to our Heavenly Father, I’m sure of it.  But there will always be a cost to following Christ.  What’s a person to do?  I know I gave you this verse just yesterday in my blog, but allow me to emphasize it by reminding you of it here.

John 16:33
I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.

Don’t worry about the labels people place on you.  Only, constantly remember the correct label you wear:

Sinner saved by GRACE through Jesus.

 

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Eden’s Design

via Pattern

Having a vivid imagination has it’s drawbacks. While I have imagined the Garden of Eden many times, it seems to shift and evolve each time into something indefinable.  In this way it is rather like heaven somewhere out there in the future, but the definitions are so vague it allows only expectation without perfect knowledge of the details. We can’t go back to Eden, God has secured it’s location. We have to vacate our current human housing to go to heaven, which scares us silly to think about.  What a dilemma.  Stuck in an imperfect world, with imperfect people, living imperfect lives.  Was this really the Creator’s design? No.

Tapestries are like that though.  From the backside of the tapestry one can see brightly colored threads woven in among the darker ones, colliding and cascading together in what seems on first observation to have no rhyme or reason.  It is only when looking face on to the front of the tapestry that we can understand the weaver’s intentions and design.  The pattern becomes strikingly obvious, and we have one of those “aha” moments.

I look back on the tapestry of my life so far, and I understand this only partially.  What seemed like chaos at times, living through the struggles, fears and insecurities of difficult days or events or circumstances, in one sense has order today in the view from the “other side.”  My life took on a pattern of God’s own design, weaving all those feelings, pains, struggles, joys, victories, and experiences into the person I am right this minute.  It was for His glory, not mine.  He is the Master Weaver.

Eden was the origination point for the human experience, according to the Bible.  Yet, man’s struggle with staying in the boundaries of the design, and the simple demands of the Creator, resulted in being cast into a world filled with chaos.  Even in this event God would show grace and mercy, and point to a pattern far into the future, when He would go to extravagant lengths to save the people who would trust Him.  In examining heaven’s description in Revelation, we see a look back at the design pattern for Eden.

The Master Weaver also has designs for your life you may not even recognize or know of today.  The chaos surrounding you may be deafening, or so painful you wonder if you will even come out the other side.  It’s a moment or a series of moments that every person faces at some time in their life, when they have to choose between believing there is some design, or hopelessly resigning to believe there is only chaos.  At these times it’s best if we stop and try to examine not the chaos side, but the other side of the tapestry of our lives to find the meaning of what has happened in the past.  If the Master Weaver can help us see the design so far… it becomes easier to believe there is pattern and purpose going forward. It helps us trust the Weaver to weave into our life what is best for us.

Paul says it this way in Ephesians 3:20-21…

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us–to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God at work

 

Eyes and Minds

via Abstract

Up is down, left is right, right is wrong, and that baby is just ugly.  These are examples of things you don’t say out loud, unless you want some serious retribution from those who think you’re a couple of tacos short of the house special.  Theoretical concepts are sometimes the hardest to communicate, in that they are, well, theories until proven true in a physical or concrete experiment, or evidence.  A light saber in the hands of the Jedi is apparently just as efficient a weapon as a laser rifle in the hands of the Alliance minions.  It’s true, but only in the metaphysical sense of the mind, since neither exists in our reality today.

Moving from the abstract to the real, in the spiritual world, doesn’t have to be a mystical experience.  However, it cannot be limited to the academic either.  Extracting anything from the Bible that is useful for living daily in the 21st century requires open spiritual minds and open spiritual eyes.  Then the problem is, how does the “opening” occur?  Paul gives us the solution.

1 Corinthians 2:10-15
Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.  The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone.

To the unbelieving, spiritually blind in this world, none of the things of God are revealed or understood.  The Revelation of God belongs to those who have stepped over the line of faith into Jesus. Simplistic?  Sure.  Hard to believe? Absolutely.  Still true? Yep.

Whether we ever recognize spiritual truth or not, is largely determined by our seeker-of-truth life choices.  Do we really want to know truth? Or, do we pretend to want to have this knowledge so we can “fit in” with those around us seeking truth?  I suggest that T. E. Lawrence was just such an individual – seeking truth.  He said, “All men dream: but not equally.  Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”  Lawrence in my opinion was a truth-seeker.

Stephen Hawking is another truth-seeker.  Hawking said, “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.  Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist.  Be curious.  And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.  It matters that you don’t just give up.

Seeking truth requires a specific action/choice.  In order to “see” a person has to realize they are “blind” and in need of “sight.”  The blind, roaring at the top of the lungs that they see better than anyone else, is a laughable sight to those who really see.  We don’t laugh though, we mourn.  We would have everyone come to the knowledge of truth.  We wish that all men, women, boys and girls around the globe could finally see the truth.

Jesus said, “I am the way, THE TRUTH, and the life; and no one comes to the Father but through me.”  [John 14:6]

abstract

 

stephen-hawking

 

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Chillax already!

via Nervous

brain gears

What makes you nervous?  Not having a plan?  Not confident of your plan?  Constantly thinking about what other people think about your plan?  Worrying that they won’t appreciate or go along with your plan?

Or maybe you’re just the high-strung, anxious, excitable type, jumping at loud noises, and screaming when someone sneaks up on you.  My uncle Wylie used to call someone like this a “nervous Nellie.”  Being a little skittish or neurotic isn’t a bad thing, it could be caused by any number of things.  Getting worked up and overwrought about things we can control is one thing, but getting stressed out and agitated about things beyond our control… well, at that point in order to “chillax,” a person needs a strong faith.

I’m not talking about faith in karma, or some existential or pollyanna type faith.  I’m talking about a foundational belief system based in evidence and experience, to which a person turns when life around them seems to be falling apart.  When the unthinkable happens and the unimaginable results.  What then?  What kind of faith handles this part of life, helping us not fall apart at the seams of our being?

Hebrews 11:1-3
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old gained approval.  By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

Faith is not just a girl’s name.  Faith is not just some ethereal ideal, or sophomoric whim.  Faith is choosing to believe that the world we live in was prepared for us by the Creator, who then instituted life in all forms, including ours.  The Bible says this is what the “ancients” believed when they looked up into the night sky, blazing with a million tiny lights.  The “ancients” believed the Creator formed all the plants and the animals, and ultimately created human life.  The “ancients” believed that this Creator of all things didn’t just create and then abandon His creation to fend for themselves in a hostile environment.  Rather, they believed that the Creator, once finished with the creative process, went about the business of revealing Himself to the human creature in ways that constituted a relationship.

In this personal relationship, the primary revelation God wanted humans to hear was, “do not be afraid.”  While God spoke to and through these “ancients” to reveal Himself, more recently in the “near” ancient time, God has revealed Himself through His Son.

Hebrews 1:1-4
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

In fact, He has spoken of how all things will ultimately be wrapped up and put right when Jesus, the Son of God, returns a second time.  You can read and study all about that if you click here.

For the nervous Nellie, for the strung-out, the over-excited, the skittish or neurotic, who believe the world is on a mission to self-destruct, and there is no hope…  God says, “Chillax, I got this.”

 

 

faster, faster, faster

via Quicken

Ask those who know me really well, and they will confirm for you, I’ve never been a very patient person.  My kids learned their driving habits from me, so I’ve no one to blame but myself when they drive too fast.  I used to drive really fast, and loose, and a little on the edge.  I’m older and wiser now, but occasionally I’ll still need to lighten up on the accelerator, if you know what I mean.  This lack of patience sometimes leaks over into other aspects of my past, present, and future.

I was so in a hurry to get through college, so that I could go on to Seminary.  I knew I was headed there, so why focus on the now, when where I really want to be is there.  In Seminary I was always in a hurry to get through each semester, so I could graduate, and get on with being a Pastor.  Unfortunate circumstances (translation life-interruptus) caused there to be a 20 year hiatus on finishing that degree.  I spent most of that 20 years in the computer industry as a career, and serving my ministry desires through lay-ministry in the church we attended at the time.

When I finally got the opportunity to go into ministry full time, and later finish my Master of Divinity education, then a Doctor of Ministry degree, I pursued each of these with the same vigor and lack of patience as before.  I’ve been a driven person most of my life, always trying to go faster, faster, faster.  I wasn’t trying to run ahead of God, so much as I just wanted to get there faster.

It reminds me a little of the disciples wanting Jesus to quit taking so much time setting up His earthly kingdom.  They asked him after the resurrection, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”  [Acts 2:6]  They were wanting to get there faster.  The reply from Jesus is something we should really focus on here, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;“[Acts 2:7]  Part of the problem with having this “faster” mentality is thinking God is just a slow-poke.  But Jesus helps them (and us) understand that it isn’t just “kingdom” things that God has fixed in time, but that each minute of our lives is accounted for under God’s sovereign authority.  God saw me before I was born.  He knows the number of my days.  Don’t take my word for it, look at Psalm 139:16 – “Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.

Today, most days, because we think God is a slow-poke, we become impatient about life, always wishing we could get “there” (wherever there is) faster, faster, faster.  In fact it’s easy to get all wrapped up in “end of days” mentality, wishing God would get it all over with already, so we can all go be with Him in heaven.  Trust me when I say, God isn’t even “nearly” through saving people yet!  Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  [2 Peter 3:9]  God isn’t about to end human history until all the humans who will be saved… are saved.  God’s will is that all come to repentance.

So if you’re one of those who likes to see timelines and deadlines in the Book of Revelation, then let me offer you a small bit of advice.  Slow down.  Read the book, and study the book differently.  It isn’t all about judgment and just getting to heaven.  It is about God saving people who will say “yes” to His grace, even in the worst seven-year period of human history… the end of days.  I can help you with this, if you’d like.  Click to read more.  BOOK

Believe

via Expectation

fairway

Does expectation shape the result? Often one’s expectations only reflect the hope of something different than reality.  When I stand on the first tee box, driver in hand, I expect to hit a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway, somewhere between 250-275 yards away.  On any given day, and any given golf course, this expectation may or may not happen at all.  Other days, 12 out of 14 times I’ve accomplished the middle part, or the fairway part, or the distance part… but not necessarily all at the same time.

In Oscar Wilde’s essay The Decay of Lying, he said, “Life imitates art far more often than Art imitates life.”  It’s a philosophical argument where Wilde suggests that what is discovered through life or nature is not what is really there, but only what artists have taught us to find there – through art.  As you can imagine, I have difficulty with this philosophy.  Do I really need some artist to describe for me the glory of God’s world, or my relationship to it?  I don’t think so.  When I smell the freshly mown grass, when I feel the sand in my eyes after hitting out of the bunker, when the sun shines directly in my eyes as I stare eastward into the dawn on that short par 3, artists generally cannot improve on what I experience in those moments.  God created me with the capabilities through my five senses, and through the cognitive processes of my brain, and the willful choices of my soul, to recognize and give Him glory for the stunning beauty of nature and life.  It’s not just my philosophy, it is absolute truth, according to God’s Word.

Romans 1:20-23
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Obviously I  use the golf model as my illustrative point because I truly enjoy playing the game.  It affords me the opportunity to be out of my office and enjoy God’s world of nature in a way that is satisfying to me.  According to Wilde, I would never know the grass was green or just mown, know the grain of sand was in my eye, or how brightly the sun was shining if some artist didn’t clue me into these experiences.  Doesn’t that sound just ridiculous to you?

Here’s another example.  A  high school student’s artwork depicting police officers as pigs gets taken down, and that draws attention to the prevailing attitude among many in the black community toward the police officers in this country.  But did this high school artist help us comprehend this reality?  No, it has been clearly seen by anyone with their eyes even half open.  It has been this way for a really long time.

John the Apostle could be considered an artist in one sense.  In the final book of the Bible which he authored, John uses dramatic imagery that is often mysterious to us today because we have no context for what the imagery means.  His illustrations come from a Hebrew mindset, in a late first-century world, dominated by Roman authority, all while John is in exile on an island called Patmos.  Do your relate to these conditions in any way? The whole book is filled with visions and narratives that chill us with their apocalyptic finality.  Yet, if we focus only on the imagery, we lose the message of the book.  For it is not a book meant to bring fear, but hope and expectation.

The Book of Revelation is divinely designed to reveal the true nature and character of Jesus Christ as God.  Within this basic belief is this simple truth:  The whole Book of Revelation is about the extravagant love of God, and the exorbitant lengths and measures taken by God to allow all who will, to come to salvation through Jesus.

When we approach understanding Revelation with the expectation that God wants us to understand it, then we can, in the proper context.  The context is the hope found in Christ alone.  In Christ alone I place my trust.  Keith Getty and Stuart Townend wrote a wonderful new hymn of praise capturing the essence of “expectation”, which I leave with you today:

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light my strength my song
This Cornerstone this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love what depths of peace
When fears are stilled when strivings cease
My Comforter my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Keith Getty | Stuart Townend
© 2001 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Created to Create

via Craft

Communication has been my craft for most of my life.  By the time I was 16 years-old, I was speaking to small or large groups of students about the Word of God.  A friend of mine and I were a preacher/singer combo, going around the smaller towns of west Texas to preach “youth-led” worship services.  In retrospect, I’ve discovered many things about myself.  The most stark reality I face today is how imperfect I am in this craft.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely at rest where with I’ve been and the opportunities afforded me, and for having the great privilege of telling the Greatest Story Ever Told.

My skill was in simply creating an atmosphere or climate for someone to dive into the Word of God and see themselves as God sees them.  Then step back and allow The Holy Spirit to move their hearts and minds toward God in this process.  We always offered people an “invitation” to accept God’s grace, forgiveness, and salvation, right there on the spot.  We felt “called” to conduct the services in this way because of the gravity of the truth of the message.  From time to time I would be in the middle of speaking, when suddenly I would become aware of the words coming out of my mouth, and over the sound system, knowing they were being formed or created on my tongue by God’s Spirit. These were no “unintelligible” utterances, I’m not talking about “speaking in tongues.” I know for certain the words were given for someone in the room who needed to hear those very thoughts.

46 years later now, I yearn for the opportunity to once again speak with this same result. The tools of my craft included the Bible, commentaries, basic education and higher education, going to conferences, and listening to taped recordings of the world’s most recognized and gifted communicators.  From each of these resources I would make notes, script a sermon or Bible lesson, honing and trimming the excess or duplication of thoughts, until the day of the presentation.  I would then pray a simple prayer: “Lord, please use me one more time, just to speak Your truth, tell Your story – not mine, and trust Your Spirit to accomplish what my words never could.”

Other people, not me, would tell you whether or not I was successful in my craft.  My perspective is that I was doing the best I could in each moment I spoke.  Early days would clearly be evaluated as not nearly as effective as later years, but by definition I was not fully educated, or as practiced then as later years.  The Creator gave me the grand privilege of creating (or planting) a new church congregation in 2006.  11 years later, and now semi-retired from church staff work, God has planted in me the desire to continue my craft of communicating God’s word.

I am literally days away now from publishing my first book.  It will be a Bible Study book on the most confusing book in the Bible – Revelation.  It is being designed differently than any other book about this material on book shelves today.  The book will read more like a script than a history book, in that each paragraph is a single thought (sentence) on which the Bible student can make specific notes. In this way, the individual reader while studying God’s word, can question, make observations, notes, ideas, or write their own conundrums down for later discussion.

Another thing that makes this book different than any other is my approach of avoiding timelines, future dates, or obscure language to interpret these scriptures.  I will help the reader who truly wants to understand the meanings, to gain insights that have escaped others.  Here is the premise of the whole work:
I believe the Book of Revelation defines the exorbitant length to which God will go to seek and save those who will be saved in this era of human existence.  Revelation is 100% about Jesus Christ; and everything in the book is created to reveal Him in new and exciting ways not previously understood in any other book.  Revelation is about a loving God, a holy God, and a saving God.  Trust me, it’s worth the read.

My prayer is that God will use this book as the vehicle or tool to once again have an audience, and communicate the best I can -The Greatest Story Ever Told.

 

revelation-cover