“Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” — Proverbs 17:1
The transcendence of God has always been, and always will be, apart from, while intricately intertwined with, His fallen creation which reveals his highest worth of glory and praise as the creator of all and redeemer of the same.
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 10:32-33
The words of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel emphasize the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven as central to Jesus’ message. In this passage, Jesus teaches us the truth of how to understand all creation in its proper perspective. As the Father is in heaven, his love and mercy overshadow all earthly sin and struggle. Jesus’ words are a comfort to us all as we worry and fight this sinful place. When we feel abandoned, Jesus reminds us that the Father knows every hair on our head and considers us of high value (verses 30-31). The authority and power of God are reminders that He oversees all things, even our struggles and worries. If we acknowledge Christ before our peers, before all men, then He assures us that we have Him on our side before the judgement seat of God. His mercy is for us and for His glory. His glory in heaven does not separate Him from us. Rather, He is intimately involved and in control.
The vision of John, found in chapter four of his revelation, describes the splendor of God’s throne. His massive glory and power are revealed as John shares a glimpse of our Lord’s authoritative presence. The four living creatures in verses seven and eight have been referred to by Irenaeus as representing the four gospels. These four pillars speak to the revelation of Jesus Christ through his life and the four gospels of scripture. It is through Christ that heaven and earth are reconciled. It is through the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection that man has any hope of being in God’s presence in his throne room. It is no wonder that the twenty-four elders proclaim;
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” — Revelation 4:11
— Ezekiel 1 —
“Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads…
And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire, and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance…
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.” — Ezekiel 1:22,26,28b
The parallel of the fourth chapter of Revelation and the opening chapter of Ezekiel’s vision is obviously similar. The descriptions of both celestial visions validate the truth of God’s throne room. The four living creatures are prominent servants. John’s revelation has these creatures standing at the throne of God (Revelation 4:6-8). Ezekiel’s vision describes the creatures moving about on the earth (Ezekiel 1:17-21). It is evident that these four creatures are meant to proclaim worship and honor to God, not only at His throne, but also in creation as they move about. These two aspects connect both heaven and earth revealing that God’s plan of redemption was for the restoration of all of creation, both heaven AND earth. The appearance of God is no longer a mystery through Christ, yet it is important to remember, that familiarity with what is mysterious does not weaken the majesty of God’s glory. These two visions give a glimpse of what has been abandoned by fallen creation. As God is described with all overarching power and authority, He is granted more glory and honor in that He redeems ALL things to His purposes and power. This is why no one can stand in His presence and must fall on face and worship in awe.
I am a fallen sinful man. As I read these passages about the majestic glory of heaven, I am reminded of my separation from perfection. Life is messy. Relationships dysfunctional. Nothing in my present environment resembles the perfection, glory and majesty described of heaven and God’s throne.
God the Father has a throne room with a floor like crystal. An expanse that allows him to oversee his creation. The floor of heaven is then described as the ceiling of the universe. Redemption of my dysfunctional life can only occur from God the Father who is not dysfunctional. The description of heaven in these two passages serve as encouragement that my hope rests not here, but elsewhere. The irony is that the separated place of hope is now present in the fallen world where I reside.
Although the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand in fallen creation, perfection is not yet fully attained. We are all separated from heaven by sin. Although the blood of Christ has purged the wrath of separation, the fullness of God’s glorious heaven is still not complete. As I embrace the cross and the price paid for my sin, I must be reminded of my final goal. To obtain full peace and security in heaven, requires a lifetime of faith in Christ as I am molded and sanctified in his image. Only through Christ can I ever hope to experience heaven first hand rather than merely read visions describing its majesty. Through it all, Christ is my hope. Christ is my salvation. Christ is my path to heaven. AMEN.
The link above is to a wonderful article from Dr. Russell Moore concerning an often disturbing, but ever so present reality in our culture. His treatment of the subject is very biblical, theological and compassionate.
“Danger Will Robinson! Danger!”
I was a latch key kid.
This meant that upon arriving home after school my brother and sister and I had little to no adult supervision until my mother arrived home from work. So from three o’clock to half past five o’clock we were supervised by after-school reruns broadcast on cable television.
One of the most memorable television shows for me was Lost in Space. The series told adventurous stories of the Robinson Family marooned on various alien planets throughout the galaxy. It was a loose science fiction adaptation of the classic 1812 novel The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss. The Robinson Family was Lost in Space from 1965 to 1968. A film version of the classic TV series was released in 1998.
Although the Robinson Family faced many dangers on these alien planets, I was comforted to watch them bond as a family. Will Robinson was the youngest child and was accompanied constantly by the family robot. Robot, was a critical piece of equipment for the Robinson Family. It would sense danger before the family spaceship was attacked. A classic line from every show was, “Warning! Warning! Danger Will Robinson! Danger!” Robot was by young Will Robinson’s side protecting him with warnings of what he could not see.
“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” — Hebrews 6:4-6
Just as Robot warns the Robinson family of danger, the words of Hebrews are warnings to all Christians from our loving God. He does not wish us to fall away from the truth of salvation. Rather, he wishes to keep us in safety.
God loves his children. Those who are brothers in Christ, saved in the knowledge and faith that Jesus is their savior and elder brother have protection in the words of warning (Romans 8:9, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 2:17) .
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” — Hebrews 2:1
The author of Hebrews not only spoke of Christ, teaching of his true character and authority, he also proclaimed warnings to Jewish believers of the dangers facing them as Christians. The warning passages of Hebrews proclaimed caution to the believer not to fall back into the sinful, aimless life he had before coming to Christ. These warnings were not a call for Christians to question salvation. Rather, they were direct cautions from God’s Word as a means for the Father in Heaven to keep his own true saints safe.
A main tension in the Lost in Space stories was when Dr. Zachary Smith would ignore the warnings of Robot. Dr. Smith was the antagonist. Being a stowaway on the ship when it left earth, he was an unwelcome, yet permanent part of the Robinson family. Warnings from Robot were often met by Dr. Smith with a sarcastic response, “You Neanderthal Ninny!”
When Dr. Smith walked away from the protection of Robot, young Will Robinson would often be swayed, against his better judgement, to follow him. Robot responded to foolish decisions with the lines, “Does not compute.” and, “I cannot follow that course of action.”
The blindness to Robot’s warnings always brought life-threatening adventures with aliens and monsters. Of course, every episode ended with the climax of the father, Dr. John Robinson coming to the rescue protecting all from the dangers they foolishly met.
As a latch key kid, I was left to my own supervision often. From time to time, my brother and I would disregard the warnings of our mother and do dangerous things boys do. We could have hurt ourselves or destroyed the house more times than I dare to admit here. Yet, we did have sufficient warning. I was always amazed at how my Mother would know of our activities although she was away at work. She somehow always knew what mischief we had undertaken. I learned years later that Mom asked our neighbors to look out after us. They would always supply Mom with valuable secret information on us.
Now as a pastor and a Christian father, I find myself from time to time frustrated at the lack of concern my children have for the warnings I establish for their safety and success. My father in heaven must often shake his head at me for ignoring his warnings as well.
My only prayer is that my family, and church, will not drift away from a sound faith in Christ to the point they are lost forever. My prayer for myself is that I would not ever reject God’s warnings and suddenly find myself lost, drifting aimlessly outside of the safety of my heavenly Father’s protection, lest I fall just like others.
Danger! Danger! There are dangers ahead for every Christian. Most are not frightening like the monsters and aliens from childhood stories. Instead, forces of evil are cunning and manipulative. They look for ways to catch Christians off guard, separated from his protective word.
Please. Heed the warnings of our Lord. Do not stray from God’s Word to find yourself aimlessly drifting and lost forever.
Ageism is the new ‘ism’ in American Churches today. James M. Houston and Michael Parker put forth the thesis that the future of America’s Churches is not the next generation, but rather the current aging generation. A Vision for the Aging Church: Renewing Ministry for and by Seniors [ISBN: 978-0-8308-3948-3, 279 pages, InterVarsity Press] is an insightful look at the truth facing American churches for the next thirty years. I heard recently on radio news that thousands of new retirees are filing for Social Security retirement benefits every day. The Baby Boomer generation will represent the largest generational shift in American history. These retirees could easily live longer in retirement than they did during their work years.
This requires that Family ministry in the Church must embrace the richness found in this generation of saints. No longer should Senior Adult ministry be limited to just the weekend trip out to lunch or gospel music cruises. Rather, the riches of the Church are present today in the pews of America.
The Baby Boomer generation began approaching the retirement age of 65 in 2011. A growing trend among many Baby Boomers is the decision whether to retire or continue working well past the traditional retirement age. More and more are choosing to work. It is imperative that Church leaders structure ministry to assist those facing this life stage.
The Baby Boomer generation is energetic and productive. Yet their financial independence looks to not be as dependable as previous retirees. Those just now entering their “restful years” may suddenly realize that their 401(k) plans are not as secure as they had hoped.
As many pastors depend on retirees as volunteers for ministry, this trend could force a new way to think of the senior generation. Rather than depending on the flexible schedules traditional retirees offer, or the freedom to travel on mission trips, pastors must look to the Baby Boomers as teachers, mentors, and encouragers for the local Church body. Likewise, seniors will still require counsel and discipleship. Too often, the younger generations feel inadequate in giving to this role of ministry. Likewise, the seniors receiving the compassion feel awkward being counseled by someone with less life experience.
Church leaders must consider these facts as they minister to the new retiree generation. Rather than placing seniors in separate Sunday School Classes away from the Church body, bible studies must be more cross-generational. Or perhaps Baby Boomers should take on new teaching responsibilities.
I see the coming years in the church as fertile for a revival in cross-generational spiritual fruit. There will be a majority of senior adults in the Church population for several decades to come. Many of those working long into their senior years.
Pastors and Church leaders must reconsider putting our seniors out to pasture before their time. Seniors must take seriously their biblical role for discipling the generation following them. Youth ministry leaders as well must renew their vision for youth ministry to both serve and learn from the senior generation rather than isolate themselves in “youth church.”
God is not finished with the Baby Boomer generation yet. They have much to offer and the Church is much richer because of them.
Clintwood Baptist Church is entering into a 24 hour time of prayer focusing on those who do not know Christ. I feel that this 24 hour vigil before our Lord God, the Father is a time of clearly seeking HIS face, HIS voice, HIS compassion for us and those who do not call him Father.
Luke 18: 35-43
35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.
36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant.
37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him,
41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.”
42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.”
43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
It is the too true reality that so many in our community, nation, and world do not know our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, at all, much less as a savior. The reason is that too many do not see their need for a savior. The blind do not feel the need to cry out, “Jesus, have mercy on me!” Let us pray that those blind in their sin would feel the need to see Christ clearly and their need to cry out to him.
Luke 18: 9-14
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The self-righteous are the ones in most danger of not crying out to the Lord for mercy.
We see in Luke 18: 9-14 a contrast between the pharisee who was self righteous and the tax collector who was humble. The self righteous Pharisee was blind to his need for mercy. His salvation was of his own making. In contrast, the tax collector was honest and full of vision. He saw his sinful state before our Holy Righteous Creator God. He cries out in verse 13, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
I ask that you spend time during this hour meditating on these two passages of scripture. The attached prayer guide is only that, a guide. Pray as you feel led, but please focus your prayers on the need for mercy. Not just for the lost in our world…but also for yourself…this church…this community.
May God richly bless you and may you hear HIM clearly during this hour of prayer.
In HIS Grip
Guide to 1 hour of PrayerJesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner
10-15 minutes: Begin your hour with rest before the Lord. Stop. Breathe. Focus on God’s Word.
These passages may help.
Psalm 141 – Ask the Lord to hear you
Psalm 142 – Plea with the Lord for mercy
20-30 minutes: Center your mind on God’s WORD. The focus of our 24 hour prayer vigil is the lost who do not know our Lord. Focus on Luke 18: 9-14 & 35-43.
Luke 18:35-43 – Are you a Pharisee or a Tax Collector in your attitude toward our Lord’s mercy?
Luke 18:9-14 – Plea with the Lord for mercy. Who do you know who is blind to Christ? Pray that the Lord would soften their hear and cry out in their blindness for mercy. Pray that they will seek Christ for this mercy and not focus on their own efforts.
10-15 minutes: End your hour of prayer with focus on Clintwood Baptist Church. Pray that our Lord would awaken all in our church to our need for mercy.
Pray this way while breathing in and out:
Breathe in: “Jesus, Son of David,”
Breathe out: “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Breathe in: “Jesus, Son of David,”
Breathe out: “Have mercy on us, sinners.”
Pray for the next prayer volunteer. Focus on that person.
This post is my response to the post Wednesday Night Wardrobe.
“Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke recount the same scene, a scene where a wealthy young man seeks acceptance by Jesus, the Good Teacher [Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30]. This young man first recognizes that the kingdom Jesus proclaims is truly what he desires. He approaches acceptance into this kingdom with the only understanding he has, earning favor through following a rule. The situation that Jesus addresses with the young wealthy man is the same issue facing Jake and his favorite t-shirt.
Ethical dilemmas in the Christian life and in the church always begin with questions. The questions asked by both Jake and the wealthy young man point to the same answer stemming from the same issue. The problem is, the questions Jake and the wealthy young man in the gospels ask are not the right questions. These two young men really ask the same question without realizing it; “Jesus, will you accept me?”
“This is my favorite t-shirt. Can I wear it to youth group on Wednesday?”
Jake’s family are members of the church and Jake loves Wednesday night youth group. His favorite t-shirt promotes a heavy metal band whose music is known for great guitar licks and a smooth beat. But the band’s lyrics are often filled with hatred and vulgarities that Jake admits most adult church members would not feel comfortable hearing.
Jake’s attitude lately has proven less than admirable. He is in trouble at school regularly and he hates coming to church on Sunday morning with his mother. He sometimes comes on Wednesday nights to youth group although his siblings attend faithfully.
Jake sees no problem in listening to the heavy-metal music and wearing his favorite t-shirt. After all it is just music so what is wrong with wearing his favorite t-shirt to church?
An adult at church asked Jake about his t-shirt one Wednesday night. The band was a popular 1980s band from his high school days. Now Jake feels uncomfortable at church.
What do you think? Should Jake wear t-shirts that promote secular music to Wednesday night youth group?
Please post your comments and I will weigh in with my opinion next week.