Archive for July, 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
It’s a rare day when I have the opportunity to read something that manages to be alternately amusing and depressing. A recent article in Newsweek magazine highlights a book that asserts that the best way to solve the crisis facing the earth is to cleanse the earth of humans. As you might imagine, the world-view that produced this incredibly inane idea is so fractured it makes an almost too-easy target. The book is called “The World Without Us” and the article makes a few noteworthy statements about its content:
The Second Coming may be the most widely anticipated apocalypse ever, but it’s far from the only version of the end times. Environmentalists have their own eschatology—a vision of a world not consumed by holy fire but returned to ecological balance by the removal of the most disruptive species in history. That, of course, would be us, the 6 billion furiously metabolizing and reproducing human beings polluting its surface. There’s even a group trying to bring it about, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, whose Web site calls on people to stop having children altogether. And now the journalist Alan Weisman has produced, if not a bible, at least a Book of Revelation, “The World Without Us,” which conjures up a future something like … well, like the area around Chernobyl, the Russian nuclear reactor that blew off a cloud of radioactive steam in 1986. In a radius of 30 kilometers, there are no human settlements—just forests that have begun reclaiming fields and towns, home to birds, deer, wild boar and moose.
Weisman’s intriguing thought experiment is to ask what would happen if the rest of the Earth was similarly evacuated—not by a nuclear holocaust or natural disaster, but by whisking people off in spaceships, or killing them with a virus that spares the rest of the biosphere.
“Intriguing.” Would this be the word that some would choose if they read my eschatology? It’s a highly doubtful proposition. I find it more likely that a journalist would find my ideas as incredibly odd and disturbing as I find these ideas. That the author of this book finds the idea of a planet without humans “appealing” due to the glorious healing and renewal that would take place is either incredibly naive, incredibly nihilistic, or some scary place in-between. I suppose this book is the logical end of the ecological idealism that could somehow lead to being so earth-centric in thinking that all humans than are evil and unworthy of inhabiting such a place. Again, these kinds of ideas present a target that is really far too easy.
I remember the first time my wife and I took our family to the Kansas City Zoo. We were surprised and amused by the repetitive notes and plaques exalting the beauty of the animal kingdom while criminalizing the ignorance and stupidity of humans that continually wreck everything with their clumsy selfishness. The “animals good, humans bad” message was so pervasive we quickly went from amused to bored to frustrated. The message of the folks at the Kansas City Zoo was exactly the same as the one found in Mr. Weisman’s book: everyone would be better off if we all stopped having children and let ourselves die out as a species. In other words, the best way to actually accomplish what the incredibly self-serving rock concerts of “Save Our Selves” on 7/7/07 set forth to stir up is to ignite a movement that ends with a form of global self-extinction or our voluntary suicide as a species.
At least this form of atheism is a bit more honest than the self-deception of utopian cooperation without biblical morality or ethical standards. Things may not end well for us, in the mind of the radical ecologist, but it sure will end well for the earth. There is only one question that no one thought to ask:
What happens to the earth if the ones God established to govern it are fully removed? That nature and creation was never meant to govern itself apart from the leadership of men is something too bizarre for a radical ecologist to even contemplate. Didn’t nature exist for millions of years without us?
Oops - I just exposed myself as a young earth creationist. I will now relegate myself out of the “intriguing” camp and hide in the corner with the rest of my fundamentalist-freak friends, rocking gently and occasionally pacing randomly. According to Mr. Weisman, what I do for a living isn’t really helpful to the earth anyways. Unless Romans 8 is more true than “The World Without Us,” in which I must then labor to bring healing and restoration to the earth God’s way, through prayer, fasting, and fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
My way may be strange to a radical ecologist, but at least my world-view ends with me being able to enjoy the world God made.
July 24th, 2007
I rarely do this, but forgive me here as I let a little bit of the “theology dork” in me leak out. There’s a certain type of person that loves this kind of stuff, and then there’s everybody else. This article is for that certain type of person, and everyone else can tune in next week.
The Monergism.org site posted these points from Sam Storms related to what a premillennialist must subscribe to:
If you are a Premillennialist (whether Dispensationalist or not), there are several things you must necessarily believe:
-You must necessarily believe that physical death will continue to exist beyond the time of Christ’s second coming.
-You must necessarily believe that the natural creation will continue, beyond the time of Christ’s second coming, to be subjected to the curse imposed by the fall of man.
-You must necessarily believe that the New Heavens and New Earth will not be introduced until 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.
-You must necessarily believe that unbelieving men and women will still have the opportunity to come to saving faith in Christ for at least 1,000 years subsequent to his return.
-You must necessarily believe that unbelievers will not be finally resurrected until at least 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.
-You must necessarily believe that unbelievers will not be finally judged and cast into eternal punishment until at least 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.
Amillennialists don’t see these beliefs being taught in Scripture.
As you may have guessed, I’m not too troubled by the list. These would, of course, be the main points of contention for a reformed, Calvinist theologian who does not see a future earthly kingdom of Jesus being established after His return. The assertion that “amillennialists don’t see these beliefs being taught in scripture” could be one of the most unconvincing that Sam has presented related to some of his far more formidable (but still fairly common) rebuttals of premillennialism. Of the six points, I would contend that only the fourth one is not clearly stated in the Bible and thus does not “require” that I necessarily even subscribe to that idea. In fact, Revelation 14:14-16 seems to be clearly depicting a comprehensive harvest of souls after the Second Coming in which “the earth was reaped” - or, in other words, everyone is saved.
In fact, it is fairly easy to point out passages that have escaped the amillennial view.
In the first statement, Isaiah 65:17-66:2 could (and should) be easily understood as the time frame in which Jesus progressively creates a new heavens and new earth. That Jesus will do this instantaneously (at the moment of His return) rather than progressively (over a period of time) is an assumption that amillennial thinkers consistently read into the various texts that “prove” their viewpoint. God took six days to create the heavens and the earth rather than an instantaneous moment in time. He has been rather consistent in His commitment to process over instantaneous change - which is Paul’s theme related to the transformation and sanctification of the earth in Romans 8:18-30, which Paul likens to the process of the transformation and sanctification of the saints (8:21).
If this paradigm of transformation is true, than Isaiah 65:20 makes perfect sense - that in the coming reign of Jesus on the earth before the completion, or the “delivering of the kingdom to God the Father” (1 Cor. 15:24) - some will die, though death at the age of one hundred years old will be considered the fate of a “child”. If I am wrong, and the transformation of the earth will be instantaneous at the Second Coming, than the Isa. 65:20 passage is rendered even more bizzare and outlandish an idea in the amillennial paradigm, as there must then be the presence of death in eternity - after Jesus destroys it in 1 Cor. 15:26.
So, I have to confess, I necessarily believe that physical death will continue to exist beyond the time of Christ’s second coming. The alternative, according to Isaiah, is quite impossible.
Once that false paradigm is removed, than I believe the rest are fairly simple to understand. If the earth will be progressively transformed and renewed, as many scriptural passages teach (Isa. 35:1-2; 61:4; and the too often spiritualized Ezek. 47:8-12 being a few of many examples. You can also include Rev. 22:2. The nations don’t need healing in eternity.) than it stands to reason that the curse and its effects will be progressively removed as well - which is why life spans increase in the Isaiah 65:20 passage. The land and the people are “married”, according to Isaiah 62:4 - what human beings choose related to righteousness has a direct impact on the land itself (and its defilement or renewal). The most famous passage explaining this concept is 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“…if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Deuteronomy 28:1-14 explains this pattern as well, as the Lord promises to bless Israel according to the obedience of the people corporately - particularly the land itself.
Of course, I already gave my opinion about the fourth point, which leaves the third, fifth, and sixth points - which Revelation 20 answers in a fairly straightforward manner. Once the assumptions about God’s redemptive and restorative patterns are removed, the way is clear to interpret that passage exactly as it is written, which necessarily leads one to believe exactly what John says - that the New Heavens and New Earth will not be introduced until 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ, that unbelievers will not be finally resurrected until at least 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ, and that unbelievers will not be finally judged and cast into eternal punishment until at least 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.
It’s quite uncomplicated and very un-troubling for me to hold to these necessary beliefs.
July 20th, 2007
The ironic thing about attempting to walk out a life of prayer and fasting is that I lack the context to rightly evaluate how I am doing on a day to day basis. Thus, I spent much of the fast thinking about how awesome it would be to not fast. Now that I am not on an extended fast, I am spending much time thinking about how awesome the fast was. I make this comparison in part because today’s sense of barren disconnected dullness has exaggerated the past a bit. For example, I can reflect a little about how tender my heart was and how much grace I had to pray and fast over those forty days; except that I didn’t have that much grace and my prayer life wasn’t that amazing. I just think that it was, because my prayer life is so much more mundane today.
This is why Paul gave us such brilliant advice in 1 Corinthians 4:5 -
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.”
Thus, without context, I would be unable to connect to these pearls of glorious truth:
1. Eating is not that awesome.
2. Not eating is not really that awesome either.
Of course, I know that “not eating” has long term consequences for my heart when I connect that lack of activity to prayer and pursuit of Jesus. Paul’s point is that we lack the discernment and insight to really make informed judgments about how I am”doing” in this life of pursuit. Really, if my goal is to touch God’s heart and be forever marked by the encounter, I have to honestly ask myself - did I accomplish that goal today? If not, then I have little choice but to get up tomorrow and try again, regardless of how I “feel like” I did today. I always have other options related to how I could spend my time, but really, how much more appealing are they?
Far more important than how I am “doing” in my desire to be fully given to the Lord is His desire to reveal who I am. It is in the place of prayer that I have the dignity of discovering my hidden beauty found in Christ alone, according to Col. 3:3. John said it beautifully in 1 John 3:2 -
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
In other words, we really have no clue who we are in reality, who we will be in fullness, and what our capacities will be related to our ability to behold Him as He truly is, unveiled and unrestrained. This then, makes the promise of Ephesians 1:18 come alive - that what we do not know related to who we are and the “hope of our calling”, He can show us if we ask and pursue heavenly perspective in the place of prayer and continual knocking, seeking, and asking. It is the hope of His answer to some measure today and in fullness tomorrow that refuels my hope and zeal to go again before His throne and ask, even when I feel disconnected, distracted, and dull.
That I can do this while not getting overly concerned with “how I am doing” frees me all the more. Mostly because I’m not doing that great at this prayer thing - but I’m pressing on.
July 18th, 2007
Side note: this made me laugh a little bit today -
July 16th, 2007
One could rightly ask of me lately, “Where’s Waldo?” Many of you have. I am appreciative of the comments and emails that have come my way during my impromptu hiatus - but I hope to be back on my writing schedule as of this week. Of course, some are aware of a few of the major schedule disruptions that derailed me over the past two weeks; when you add to the major schedule disruptions a few minor life disruptions then my absence becomes all the more understandable.
It is well known that we just launched our second prayer room, what is not well known is the really funny coincidence of the majority of our leadership team scheduling ministry and support-raising trips at the exact same time. Good times for the five that stayed behind (out of fourteen). That was my story last week, as I was up in Bloomington, Minnesota - home of the largest shrine to modern consumerism that I have ever seen (Mall of the Americas - I left a small offering). It’s also the home of the modern mecca of good cheap furniture (IKEA), which left me with a certain bitterness inside over my inability to transport said good cheap furniture back to Kansas City.
It’s also the home of Bethany International and Bethany College of Missions, where my family and a small IHOP team spent the week, teaching and discussing the end of the age with young and old missionaries alike. I went up to do a modular course on Biblical Foundations of Eschatology for the students (and the many others that sat in) which included some fun, lively, and tender small group discussion in the early evenings. You never quite know how some of the information presented is going to be received, but I was pleasantly surprised and blessed by the humility and hunger of the group there. It was also fun to talk about the last missions movement before the Second Coming, as I don’t get to emphasize that too much here in Kansas City.
On the flip side, my personal life has been consumed by a leaky roof and a minivan at the end of it’s life. Thus I am confronted with the reality of having to possibly fix my roof and buy a new vehicle capable of transporting the clan. Fun times. The amount of money available for such Herculean purchases is, well, not worth discussing here, so we are happy for any that feel the burden to pray for our sudden need to be met. We’re really happy for any that feel the sudden burden to support an intercessory missionary.
It was shockingly fun to spend the evening of my wife’s birthday sneaking into closed car lots, checking out all the cars that are out there up close. What was shockingly not fun was spending the entire next day test driving a half-dozen of those cars. We both collapsed into bed that evening, having successfully eliminated one of the seven or eight cars from our list of possibilities. Argh.
Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It is good to be back, though, and I did miss you guys. I’ll be posting and commenting again this week as usual - hopefully.
July 16th, 2007
I’ll post much more about this at the end of the day - I just wanted to get the marker established that we started today, and prayer meetings are happening as we speak. The schedule right now runs from 6 AM to midnight Monday through Friday, with a few prayer meetings happening on the weekends. The prayer formats are switched from the Global Prayer Room - when worship sets are happening there, we do intercession here. So, someone could spend their days here, theoretically, enjoying only worship sets throughout the day (just make the two-minute drive back and forth) or praying at intercession sets all day.
More news and stories later!
July 2nd, 2007