Posts filed under 'beauty of god'
I’ll share a big bummer that will expose the real reason why this site was tragically sparse during the month of December: I wasn’t in the prayer room much! That’s the dirty little secret behind the volume of verbiage on this little online journal - if I’m taking time to pray, things within me stir and need expression, thus this site becomes the outlet for the ideas that strike my heart. Between vacation, Christmas, and the Onething conference, life was moving a bit fast in the Sliker household (hence the “pace of the treadmill” post a few weeks back). If I’m not writing, it’s probably because I’m not connecting or praying as I should. Sometimes, though, I’m not writing because I really want to only pray - so don’t hold me to this later…
I am thankful to the Lord, however, because I feel like He gave me some magnificently tender gifts to set my heart for 2008. I led a few prayer meetings on Christmas just after my vacation, and then, during the conference, Matt Candler and I helped lead the prayer room there (…and yes, there are stories. Many, many stories.). While I spoke on holiness and purity to the teenagers at our High School track, the topic I had to speak on for the general conference was “the Anna Calling.” Then, my week was topped off by the Call - 12 mostly uninterrupted hours of sitting by myself and praying in the spirit. Oh glory! Then, the next day, I led two more prayer meetings.
So why are these five things such fantastic gifts from the Lord to me? Well, for me they constitute a convergence of opportunities that all bring me gently but forcefully back into the only stream that matters for my life - connecting with streams of living water that stir and awaken quiet whispers up to a God that hears and answers prayer. The two prayer meetings on Christmas set me back into place after being on vacation for a while - they reoriented me and reawakened me from the slight dullness that can accompany time away. Leading the prayer room at the conference kept me in the place of prayer with a figurative “firewall” around portions of my schedule during the busiest most time-consuming time of the year. I am convinced that the hardest time to pray is at a prayer conference.
Most importantly, however, I had the privilege of talking about Anna, one of my heroes from Luke 2:36-38. In that passage, Luke makes the hallmark statement of her life: she did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayer night and day. Her service to God mattered. Nothing needed to be added to her name, her title, or her job description. If she did nothing else, there would be no apology necessary. In our day, an unnoticed widow that became a fixture in the house of prayer for 60 years would be at best a curiosity, and at worst an object of pity or even scorn. Yet to Luke, she is a hero. Her voice, her words, her prayers, her fastings, they mattered to God. He made sure the Holy Spirit reminded Luke about her. Yes, she prophesied, and yes, she evangelized…how could she not? She touched God! And yet, neither of those things qualifies, justifies, or excuses her lifetime offering before the Lord.
Again, today, we say those things to help people understand that prayer is a valuable ministry that leads to expressions of service that we value and honor. The Lord has no concern or need of those kinds of justifications. For Him, it was enough that she prayed and fasted. Thus He positioned her to enter in to the fruit of her labors; that in the key moment of history, at the arrival of the Messiah, she was commissioned to go a proclaim His coming to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Of course, what is implied is this: the only possible way that there were any with a hunger and a thirst for redemption in that time in Jerusalem’s history (when few sought Him out in Bethlehem, despite the unusual number of compelling signs and prophecies) was due in large part to the prayers of an unnoticed, hidden little saint who would not leave the house of the Lord. How much of a role did her prayers play in preparing hearts to hear a message of redemption?
I have crossed a line, and the honor of preaching about Anna reminded me again of this fact. Regardless of my roles or function or gifting, my greatest impact comes daily in the house of God, whispering weak words to a tender God. How can preaching to thousands compare to prayers that could impact billions? How can a few books and a few teaching tapes even be mentioned in the same context as my time before the King of the universe? My prayers, my heart, my requests - they matter to Him. He hears my voice, and it serves Him. It doesn’t just touch His heart, and it is more than “enjoyable” to Him - though He does enjoy our weak prayers. Luke says it clearly. It serves the Lord to do this. How glorious!
From there, I found myself in a little corner chair on the side of the stage at the Call, my eyes closed, with real grace to pray. I felt the activity of the Holy Spirit on my heart. I felt like I could pray all day and beyond, if I wanted to. It was easy to pray. So I kept my eyes closed, got really quiet, and gently prayed in the spirit. For hours. I didn’t even want to go on the platform to pray. I didn’t want to lead anything. I didn’t want to be helpful to the event - smarter people than I had it all figured out. What blessed the Lord…but more than that, what served the Lord, was that I stayed in that little chair and really prayed. How glorious!
So, by the time I walked into the prayer room at IHOP-KC the next day to lead a few little prayer meetings, I was refreshed. Alive. Physically strengthened and emotionally encouraged. More than that, I was set again. This is who I am - and who I am proud to be. What else could be added to my title? What else could I be “promoted” to? Why would I care if more people heard the sound of my voice when He hears it - God and all the angels? Oh, how I love my job. I serve Him with prayers and fastings. It’s my primary calling.
And I could do it all day. In fact, I think I will. Maybe I’ll do it forever.
It’s good to be back.
January 3rd, 2008
In this final section of our “Hosea diversion”, the beauty of God expressed through His incredible love for us comes to an incredible conclusion. What God expresses and declares, Hosea demonstrates in the natural realm in regards to the way he loves Gomer. Hosea’s love is expressed in a manner that treasures, honors, values, and delights in one so recently rescued from a life of prostitution and darkness. In loving her in such a holy manner, Hosea is able to establish true confidence and dignity in her heart as she learns to receive true, godly love. As such Hosea expresses the love of her Father in heaven before He demonstrates the love of a husband in leading and caring for her.
This kind of tender, protective, and fraternal love nurtures and frees her heart to receive and enjoy deeper expressions of love and walk in true bridal partnership with her husband. It is an incredible display of the leadership of the Lord related to the brokenness and woundedness of a heart caught in the snare of shame and sin. Hosea, then, becomes more than a prophet - but functions as a prophetic type or foreshadowing of the One who would come in the flesh and demonstrate love for us in a manner that would serve humanity significantly. Through the ministry of Christ demonstrating the Father’s love as a Bridegroom to the church, we have a means of connecting our understanding to transcendent, holy love.
In other words, what Hosea does for Gomer, Christ would eventually do for the whole body of Christ. The way that He loves us reveals the Father and helps us understand what that Father is truly like.
Hosea 3:1-5 – Hosea’s demonstration of the impact of Bridal love on the heart
What God promises related to the wisdom and superiority of His leadership is demonstrated for all of the peoples by Hosea. He tenderly loves and encourages his wife after pursuing her and buying her back. His devotion and loyalty is a prophetic picture of God’s pursuit and devotion to this apostate people – they are more than backslidden, but fully given over to another lover.
He will not be intimate with her immediately nor will he fully exercise the authority of his “title” as a husband – because she is too tender and weak at the beginning stages of her “deliverance” from the other lover. Gomer still cannot make the distinction between “husband” and “master” and thus is not able to rightly interpret even the intimacy of Hosea rightly. Thus he withholds intimacy to give her time to trust him with deep confidence and understanding. She must be gently and tenderly brought to the place of intimacy without shame, or intimacy rightly received – not as a possession to be used but as a friend to be enjoyed.
Thus, over time, she will grow in confidence and true love and devotion for Hosea, and once she does she will be able to accept and enjoy his leadership and his “rules” for the household. Hosea must lead her gently so that she voluntarily submits with confidence rather than gritting her teeth and resenting – love must be about the man not the money. In the same manner God wants to bring His people to a place where relationship flows from authentic love, devotion, and understanding – so that we would be able to place the “price” of His love and devotion in its right context and not make that price the terms of our relationship.
In the same manner, God has a chosen, anointed King to set over them in leadership – and His desire is that they would hunger and thirst for this King and actively seek Him out rather than submitting without understanding because of unenlightened obligation. “Rules without relationship equals rebellion” – and the rules are too critical to their health and well being for them to simply abide by them out of a misplaced sense of obligation and duty. God wants a people who will wholeheartedly pursue the “rules” and His ways because they fully believe that they are the wisest way to live, love, and become alive on the inside. This is the promise of God to Israel in Hosea 3:5.
Later this week, we will return to the throne room and take in the Jasper-like beauty of the God who dwells in unapproachable light.
August 27th, 2007
Hosea 2:14-23 – Israel’s incredible coming restoration and future blessing
Once she is stripped bare and exposed, her pride and sense of self-sufficiency removed, He will “allure her” – He will find her in her despondency and remove her from the wicked and false deceptions and influences that have seduced her; then He will comfort Her with the powerful realities of His transcendent love. This otherworldly and incomparable love will re-establish, reform, and reshape her heart that she might really know Him as He is and as He loves. He will root her and ground her in His great love – and she will burst into song in that place of being loved and enjoyed by God.
In that day, when she comes in to the fullness – the full impact, full understanding, and full connection – of His love, she will have a deep and established understanding of the true nature of His devotion and commitment to her. She will not relate to Him as a hard, stern, and demanding Master that she must serve (because she has been bought); instead she will understand why she was “bought”. Thus devotion, tenderness, and loyal love will flow from her lips as she expresses love for Him rather than duty-bound servitude.
This incomparable love will render the false systems and false promises of the inferior gods more than worthless and useless. She will be so captivated and devoted it will be as if the other loves and lovers never existed. She will be able to take her place as His bride and walk into all that it means to have that distinction and honor.
In this context of perfected love God will tame yet again all of creation for her to govern – a global peace and restored Eden will await her leadership on His behalf and in His name; for they will be true representatives of that Name, able to govern a subdued creation with a tenderness and wisdom that reflects His heart authentically. He will make that covenant with creation to prepare it to be governed wisely by His people, rather than, in their sin, be among those who “destroy the earth” in their foolishness (Rev. 11:18).
God speaks over them His eternal commitment to them, which will be far more powerful in the day that it becomes fully realized – He is betrothed to them according to the fullness of His nature. The standard of their relationship will be righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, and mercy – and faithfulness and the knowledge of the Lord.
The people that are destroyed for their lack of knowledge of God (4:6) are those who will be marked by a deep and affectionate knowledge of Him. The unfaithful people will be unusually faithful and devoted. They will take on His nature as they “take on His name”, so to speak. What was true about Him in that time will be true about them in the days to come.
In verse 21, heaven and earth are proclaiming the answer of God in full unity with Him (Eph. 1:9-10) as His will is established on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10) – and God gives them a picture or a glimpse of what this promise will look like on the earth. What was “sown” (“Jezreel”) in destruction and reaped in judgment will now be fully reversed – they will sow in devotion and reap abundantly from land fully redeemed by their obedience (Duet. 28:1-14; 2 Chron. 7:14; Isa. 62:4).
Tomorrow, I’ll wrap up my little journey through Hosea chapters 1-3.
August 23rd, 2007
We’ll return to the throne room after I finish my little “detour” through Hosea chapters 1-3. I am captivated by a God that would purposely and consciously “marry” a harlot knowing in advance that she will be unfaithful, broken, and weak. I am stunned that He would know beforehand that her children would come forth from the relationship more broken than their mother. Yet, knowing what He knew before the relationship, He still loved her - and loves her still. As such, He committed beforehand to lead her perfectly from the place of a harlot to the role of a queen and a dignified bride. I’ll never cease to be amazed by the beauty of His love and His leadership.
Hosea 2:2-13 – Overview of God’s Charges and Merciful Plan
The charges of the Lord against this people are brought forth with greater clarity once the central issues are established. Why are these Israelites not His people? Why are they called a “merciless” people? God exposes here their fully corrupted self-interest and self-protective nature: they are given to harlotry because they are completely self-interested and self-directed.
In her zeal for comfort and satisfaction she has turned to all manner of corruption and compromise to obtain both necessities and luxuries. She “thirsts”, or lusts, (v. 3) and thus she is warring with herself to obtain bread, water, and wool, linen, oil, and drink (v. 5). Rather than trusting her covenantal husband to do His part and keep His word, she has impulsively pursued shameful methods and sources of provision to lay hold of more than she needed. She is, however, unaware of how much more this exchange cost her.
Israel, like most of humanity, cannot buy into a lifestyle of restraint, prayer, fasting, and trust in God’s provision today for great abundance, blessing, and fruit tomorrow. The other problem is that many are not satisfied with God’s definition of abundance and blessing and imagine that they have a superior concept of what blessing is – and that they have figured out the better way to obtain it. We surround ourselves with little props and helps that serve to support our false thinking and facilitate our false systems.
God, however, refuses to participate with her vain imaginations. He will not empower or enable systems that will destroy her – He is not a “co-dependant” God that needs her affection and approval or permission to deliver her from her destructive tendencies. He is the most “Wonderful Counselor” and His methods are 100% foolproof – He will hedge her in and cause her schemes to come to nothing.
He will expose the emptiness of her natural and emotional props. He will prove to her the superiority of His leadership and His ways. He will strip her of the good and resources that enable her foolish independence. Even the small blessing and provision that she is currently enjoying in her disobedience is then spent on her pleasures and idol worship. She takes resource from the true God to worship the false ones.
Thus the judgment and the shaking that is coming and will come again in the future serves His redemptive, merciful purpose – to expose her true weakness by not allowing her to hide behind false strength. She is not connected to how much she needs her Bridegroom to make life work right and imagines that life can be fine without Him. Thus He will take away for a season His “contribution” to the relationship and then let her get as far as she can without Him – until she comes to her senses and returns.
Tomorrow, the dramatic journey of weakness, brokenness, and unfaithfulness takes a breathtaking turn as Hosea 2 continues.
August 22nd, 2007
I broke up yesterday’s Hosea post to make for easier reading:
Hosea 1:1-2:1 – Introductory Oracle of God’s burden and love for Israel
1:1-3: Hosea’s ministry and dilemma are introduced as a great paradox unfolds – the prophet knowingly chooses an unfaithful woman and knits his heart to her. This was to be done according to the plan of the Lord to show Israel His heart in a way that they had never considered or understood. God was not surprised by their unfaithfulness or harlotry – He “married” her knowing that she was an unfaithful harlot. He had a plan to show the nations that He was the most faithful God by choosing the least faithful people to commit to.
God also knowingly gave His heart to a union with Israel knowing that the children that would follow would be tainted and devastated by the sins of His people. The “children of harlotry” would emerge in far worse condition than the harlot that He married. That the peoples departed from the Lord was the logical consequence of being “children of harlotry”. Again, in committing Hosea to this purpose God was demonstrating to Israel His awareness of their true condition long before they were.
1:4-9: God names the children of Hosea and Gomer – each name containing a message of the coming judgment and true condition of the people of Israel. Pride and the unrenewed mind blinds us hopelessly from connecting with our true condition – in our mind’s eye we make ourselves the hero of every story and imagine that we are doing far better in morality and money issues than we actually are. Nothing exposes the truth of our carnality like our children. They reflect back to us our weaknesses and brokenness and then exaggerate those areas of sin as they grow. The pattern continues with their children, and the successive generations are often far worse than the previous ones. God uses the names of Hosea’s children to highlight three key issues:
Jezreel: the bloodshed caused by Jehu has had a devastating impact on the people and demands the judgment of God. His striking of the House of David cannot go unpunished – a powerful and harmful message would be imprinted upon the hearts of the people that would establish a similar enmity among brothers that Jacob and Esau carried. If God does not intervene, Israel’s fate could be like Edom’s. Yet His plan is to unite the tribes in love – thus He must judge Jehu’s bloodshed.
Lo-Ruhamah: There would be “no mercy” in that hour of history for the people of Israel – they had gone too far in their sin and internal corruption and were not in a position to receive mercy; mercy at that stage of their sin and worship of demons would have been a reprieve that would not gain anything redemptive nor would it be interpreted rightly by the peoples. Judgment was coming and was inevitable. Hosea’s preaching served to win back to God any that could be spared from the coming wrath.
Lo-Ammi: God tells them that they are “not My people” – they have strayed so far from the truth and relationship that He had initiated with them that they could no longer be called the people of God. This was an astonishingly tragic turn of events for the Israelites – they had drifted to far from their true identity, heritage, and destiny, that they could no longer be identified with the covenant people. The “children of harlotry” had drifted so far from the family it was as if there was no relationship to the people that came out of Egypt.
1:10-11: God’s redemptive promise to redeem the people of Israel – each of the three issues is reflected back to the people in the form of future redemptive promises related to God’s stunning ability to take even the worst of situations and bring redemption and fulfillment to all that is in His heart for Israel.
He is able to take those who are currently “not His people” and knit their future generations into an expression of devotion and family so authentic that they would be more than “His people” but “sons of the Living God”. God is promising a comprehensive transformation of the nation – so comprehensive that they would be true spiritual sons. This would be more than a spiritual designation but a true spiritual reality.
He will redeem the fratricide of Jezreel – the family conflicts and petty jealousies and offenses that have divided them – and re-gather the Israelites into one people, all of whom delight in one another and champion one another into the fullness of God’s plan and destiny. As Paul would later speak of the body and the different but necessary functions of a true unified body in 1 Corinthians 12, so would the Israelites fully understand the roles that each tribe was to play in the larger whole of the nation. They would “appoint for themselves one head” – no longer would they resent the Davidic line and promise, but embrace it as the best way for God to govern their affairs.
Thus when they are able to authentically embrace mercy from a place of significant tenderness and devotion to one another, they would truly be able to express mercy authentically in a way that reflects the heart of God. “My people” and “Mercy” come together powerfully in the way that the true people of God walk out the second commandment – thus they will be transformed from a merciless people to a merciful people.
The leadership of God is beautiful - and the manner in which He plans on restoring Israel is stunning.
August 22nd, 2007
As we took a moment to divert from the Lord to examine His throne, I want to look around for a moment in wonderment and astonishment at the emerald rainbow around His throne. As the sardius-like color and light that blinds and dazzles our hearts gives us a picture of what God looks like and the jasper-like red gives us an idea of what He feels like, the rainbow around Him connects our hearts to what He acts like. He is a God who delights in mercy (Mic. 7:18). There are many ways to illustrate how - but I want to take some time and examine His incredible, tender mercy in the book of Hosea. I just wrote these notes today as I went through the book, so the style will be a bit more “commentary-like” than you are used to.
HOSEA – THE MERCIFUL HEART OF THE BRIDEGROOM GOD
Hosea’s ministry took place over a period of time spanning approx. 45 - 50 years, from about 10 years after Amos until a decade after Israel’s destruction at the hands of Assyria. He would end his days in Judah having survived the great scattering of Israel; his ministry would begin during the height of prosperity and power for Israel – yet he would witness the steady decline through the death of the line of Jehu and the great turmoil of betrayal and assassination of kings that would follow. This volatile political situation led to the final period of great internal instability in Israel, with tragic decisions made at every turn.
Hosea 1-3 provides the overview of Hosea’s prophetic ministry and the lens through which the hearer is meant to interpret all of the prophetic messages that will follow. The promise of God in 2:10 – to “expose her nakedness” is carried out in part by the scathing preaching of Hosea later in the book. They are disconnected to reality and have no comprehension of their sin and distance from God. God’s plan, however, in exposing their delusion and shining a lamp of truth on their true condition, is to do so in a manner that serves their hearts. He wants them to hear his “tone” correctly.
The appeal of the Bridal paradigm to the human heart is that it equips and establishes our hearts in a root system that gives us courage to hear hard corrective words. Higher than the “thankful love” of a servant able to participate in the kingdom and higher than the “familial love” of a son to a good Father is the covenantal love of a passionate Bridegroom that stirs our heart with the assurance of His commitment to us.
Confidence in His unyielding commitment to our salvation and victory exhilarates our hearts, even in the face of the most difficult truths and corrections. Our bridal identity serves to remind us that our weakness does not negate the covenantal commitment God has made to us. Confidence in our identity thus helps the human heart deal with the “sting” of our true condition. When we are far from the “plumb line” and do not know it is the kindness of God to reveal the standard and then gently woo us towards it. The prophet Amos restored to them the standard 10 years earlier - and now God is presenting them with the courage to pursue that standard - through being empowered and motivated by love.
The fiery flame of love that comes alive within us over time will eventually run to the plumb line, rather than have another minute of distance in our relationship with God. The bridal paradigm “buys time” for the heart that we would not quit but fully participate with the leadership of God in our lives to transform our desires and realign our passions and value systems. Change will come by grace as we continue to say “yes” to God and stay in the place of engaged prayer and partnership with God – but many quit because they do not hear the correction of God rightly and misinterpret His zeal and jealousy.
We will look at Hosea 2 a bit tomorrow…
August 20th, 2007
Turning our attention away, for a moment, from the beautiful jasper and sardius God, we might find ourselves fixated on the incredible throne that He is seated on.
Revelation 4, the ultimate “throne room” chapter in the Bible, has surprisingly little to say about the “throne set in heaven”, or the first thing John lays eyes on when he is taken up in the spirit through the great door of revelation. Related to the events that would follow that grand vision, it was enough for John (and the church) to know that One was seated on the throne of sovereignty over all of history and all who dwell in heaven and on the earth, and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them. In other words, that He is seated tells us all we need to know about the shaking and trouble that would follow in the vision - He is the great and glorious King over everything that would take place and everyone that would take part.
Daniel’s encounter with the throne of God (Daniel 7:9-10)
When Daniel sees the throne room, however, God wants to send a different message to Him and to His people. In Daniel 7, it is the “Ancient of Days” who is seated on the throne - God wanted to speak to His people about the events of the past as well as the events that were to come. The people of God had been judged and sentenced to 70 years of captivity - was God still in control while pagan nations and demonized kings with inferior gods ruled over them?
In other words, the throne-chariot would have been instantly recognizable to a man in Daniel’s time, a time in which it was common for Kings to be great military leaders on the actual field of battle. Thus many of the great kings of the ancient times were also great generals and accomplished soldiers. Riding their own mighty chariots into battle, their ornate design set them apart from a group of bowmen that went to war in what was then an incredibly expensive piece of machinery for any nation. 2 Chronicles 1:17 tells us that a chariot cost 600 shekels, while the two horses that drove the finest ones cost 150 shekels apiece. At 900 shekels (or approx. 14 grams of silver per shekel), fielding a chariot was a ninety thousand dollar investment in those days.
Thus the chariots of Egypt had been long coveted by the Israelites to deliver them from the oppression of Assyria and Babylon - the speed, maneuverability, and power of a chariot in battle was almost unbeatable by foot soldiers. Lines of chariots would rain down lethal volleys of arrows upon an inferior army, quickly move and reposition when charged, and then run down the enemy when they inevitably scattered. The king, of course, reserved the finest, fastest, and most terrifying chariot for himself.
The Incomparable Beauty of God’s Throne
Thus, when Daniel sees the magnificent throne chariot of the Ancient of Days, he is seeing something incomparable in glory related to the kings of his time. It was an exploding throne of fire, a terrifying display of His power, superiority, and awesome unyielding zeal for complete victory over His enemies. The fire was also a divine statement of His white-hot holiness and purity, an all-consuming flame that would either expel or cleanse anything it touched.
It is doubtful that the fiery flame was red or yellow, as fire becomes when it burns at its cooler temperatures; hotter fires burn blue, but the most intense heat produces a pure, white intensity that would immediately burn off any impurity. Surely this was the flame that Daniel was confronted with. The heat, intensity, and power of that flame would be irresistible to any it approached.
And with fiery wheels, it would approach the peoples - it was more than a seat that others would have to approach. A throne-chariot pursues. It moves. It is agressive, rather than a passive object that gathers. The fiery wheels reveal the nature of the King seated upon it as well as His clear intentions. He is a conquerer. He is not going to make the nations come to Him, He is going to go forth and take the nations. He is a Warrior-King who will, in the days to come, commission His Son to go forth and conquer the nations in flaming fire. Ezekiel 1 reveals that the Son has His own fearsome throne-chariot, layered in fire, smoke, and light. It is a moving throne, more mobile and able than anything made by the hands of men. He is a fiery conquerer, a true consuming fire.
Our God is a Consuming Fire
From that fiery throne with wheels of burning fire a “fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him.” Revelation 22:1 describes a “pure river of water of life, clear as crystal” proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb; Ezekiel 47:1-12 describes this same river as it connects with the temple on the earth and forms into an uncrossable body of water that brings healing throughout the region - life will burst forth as it flows throughout the Middle East in the days of His kingdom.
I believe that there will be a thousand-year period when healing waters flow from the throne of God to refresh the earth. This water, however, will be be followed by cleansing fire that will flow from that same throne. The sea of glass is mingled with fire (Rev. 15:3), and God Himself is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). Isaiah asked the critical question - “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings??” (Is. 33:14).
Who among us will dwell with the Consuming Fire, the Living Flame, the One who is seated upon fire, from whom fire comes forth to purify, cleanse, and destroy? Yet even the destructive properties of the holy fire of God are to reform, refashion, reshape, and renew - the earth will be fully cleansed and reconstituted to contain the New Jerusalem when it is set into the earth like a diamond into a ring (Ps. 46:4-6; 97:5; 2 Pet. 3:10-11; Rev. 20:9-21:2). While all of our natural sensibilities are wired to fear fire, the cleansing white-hot fire of the Lord will be beautiful to behold. When the fire of the Lord came to the Temple of Solomon at it’s dedication, all the peoples trembled before the consuming expression of God’s zeal for His house and the awesome holiness of His presence.
In the coming days, we will truly be like moths attracted to the flame. Those who stand on the sea of glass mingled with fire - the very same fire Daniel saw enveloping the throne of God - rejoice and sing. They are the ones that John saw, able to dwell with everlasting burnings.
August 7th, 2007
I never get tired of hearing about or meditating on the sardius God on His fiery throne in Revelation 4 and Daniel 7. I love to think about the complete and total focus of God’s affections and emotions towards His creation. My heart comes alive when I consider how comprehensive His involvement is with us and how fully committed He is to bring us into the fullness of relationship with Him.
I am captured by His wholeheartedness and His devotion, fueled by a fiery jealousy for us to be with Him. When faced with love so consumed and complete, I have no choice but to work to respond in kind. Such fiery passion leaves me no option towards lukewarm indifference - His stubborn, continual pursuit of my heart forces me to open myself to His invasive gaze. The only other option to such abandoned pursuit of my affections is to close myself off from Him and forcibly and angrily retreat. To be confronted with such zeal for my life - to come into understanding of how much He desires relationship with me - marks me as one incapable of being numb or unresponsive.
To be confronted with such a glorious, fiery, zealous passion can only evoke a passionate response from deep within me - a passionate “yes!” or an equally passionate “no!” The provocation of the Holy Spirit on my heart and His whispered invitation to my soul awakens and stirs me to cry out for power to encounter His holy affection more and more. What choice do I have? How could I not love with my whole heart One who so fully and perfectly loves me? I want to be fully given because He so fully gives Himself to me.
So many see the display of holy passion in Revelation 4 and relegate it to a one-time action of God in which all of His zeal and love for us happened in the past on the cross. The cross is the ultimate and most important statement of the focused and abandoned love of God for us in all of history. It is not, however, the only statement or the only moment. Yet it is too easy for believers to only focus on yesterday’s display of love and turn away from the present reality of God’s abandoned love for them. Yesterday’s sacrifice of love for us causes the heart to pause and, from the deep places, say “thank you”. We must be filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and awe when we consider the cross.
The sardius God, however, forces us to deal with that same fully abandoned zeal today. Now. That same love that drove Him to the cross is the same love that consumes His heart fully for you and I today. It is almost offensive to consider and reflect upon a God so given in love to another. To many, such devotion and affection seems weak. It is preferable to redefine His love into something more dignified and regal, as if we could reimagine a God more cool in His affections for humanity. Try as we may, however, we cannot cool the fiery red, sardius-like passion of God towards us. He is more devoted and given in love than we are comfortable with.
For if we can cool His passions, then we can cool our own. If we can reimagine His love to be lesser, than we can live with our own love being lesser. It is not possible to want God, to long for Him, more than He wants and longs for us. We can only love to the measure that He loves us, and our love will always be far lesser than the holy reality that awaits us in His presence. Thus, we can only pant and thirst for Him because of what He has initiated in His heart towards us. This is unheard of! This is unthinkable! A God that “pants”, a God that “longs”? And yet, where did such love originate? Why would the Bible use such strong language related to love? Would God require a love, a longing for Him, that is more extreme than His love for us? How could this be?
The One who is like a sardius stone in appearance did not reveal this about Himself to leave us appreciative. He revealed this to us to show us the depth of His commitment, the fullness of His passion, and the extent of His emotional involvement in the lives of those who would endure the greatest trial and testing in all of history. He begins the book of Revelation by revealing a love that provokes, confronts, and offends in its depth, width, height, and breadth. I am convinced that we mostly meditate on His passion and love according to our own sensibilities and mostly nod and smile. This will not do.
When the length, height, width, and depth of the ocean of His love for us begins to stretch our limits and capacities, we must begin to be stirred, troubled, and a bit uncomfortable with a love this awesome in scope. We must move from “aaaahhhhh….” in the place of prayer to “AHHHH!” This is a love, a focused abandonment, and a full givenness that can only leave us trembling when we comprehend the God that desires, hungers, and thirsts for more of our heart. What can we do? What can we say? His love must and will overwhelm us. It will shake and stir our sensibilities. It will reshape our very foundations.
Once His love accomplishes this in our heart, He will have conquered our resistance. His consuming passion will have finished its redemptive work. He will have consumed us as He is consumed.
July 31st, 2007