God’s beyond us but he beckons us – Journey Two

picHave you ever wondered, ‘Why does God want Christians in heaven, with him, forever?’

 As Christians, we may feel that we ought to withdraw from God because of our imperfections …but God beckons us to him – and to explore him. Why does he want us so close to him? The reason is identified in the Westminster Shorter Catechism which states that the main purpose of life is to glorify God…and to enjoy him forever. This is our eternal privilege; to enjoy admiring, exploring and experiencing the glorious aspects of God.

 Throughout the NT, glimpses of the glory of Jesus – his godness – are often provided in terms of bright light, as if to express the intensity of his magnificence. In his birth, a star shines the way to him and God’s bright light surrounds the shepherds. In his transfiguration, a bright light envelopes the disciples. In his current exalted state, Jesus dazzles the inhabitants of heaven (Rev. 21:23) as he did Saul (Acts 22:11).

However, his glory is also seen in his death, because in that event, his love is most clearly expressed. His glory is not only demonstrated in magnificent light but also in the pain of darkness where he took on fragile weakness. That was just as much an expression of his godness as anything else he’s done. Because everything he does manifests his glory.

 It belongs to him; it’s what defines him. And our privilege is to be on the watch for manifestations of his glory, his godness. And the more we’re aware of his awesome majesty, the more we’ll slip naturally into worship.

 We can learn how to do this from the angels – after all, they live in God’s presence. And their awareness of his character stimulates their worship. Consider what they say in Revelation 7:12 – ‘Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever’.

 The first word, ‘blessing’, means ‘happiness’ – to bless someone carries with it the idea of making that person happy. The angels are engaged in an activity that is intended to give God pleasure. The way they do this is by thinking about his attributes and his worth – which inevitably leads them to worship him.

 You see, worship starts with wonder…wondering about God. And though he’s beyond us, he beckons to us to explore him – and he delights to help us in the process.

Enjoy this anonymous imaginary conversation between God and a Christian to remind you of his willingness to walk with us – so closely…

When I said to the Lord, “I’m so short of where you want me to be”,
He gently answered, “That’s okay. That’s all the farther you and I can walk together”.

When I said to the Lord, “My mind is corrupted”,
He gently answered, “That’s okay. Use mine for a while”.

When I said to the Lord, “I don’t know how to love”,
He gently answered, “That’s okay. I’ll give you free lessons”
.

When I said to the Lord, “I’m so tired of fighting”,
He gently answered, “That’s okay. Satan’s down for the count”.

When I said to the Lord, “I don’t know who I am”,
He gently answered, “That’s okay. I know who you are”.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

God’s beyond us but he beckons us – Journey One

planetHave you ever wondered, ‘Why did God create people?’ or ‘Why did he want us to develop a relationship with him?’

The answer to these questions is the same. It has to do with the desire that God has for Christians to enjoy him – not only to enjoy a relationship with him but also to enjoy him. Life after death won’t be long enough to fully appreciate God but, at least, it’ll provide us with the opportunity to explore and enjoy him – forever. The seventeenth century writer Jeremy Taylor wrote, “religion without mystery is a religion without God”. God is full of mystery but, and here’s the miracle, he helps us to feel our way to him – now.

One of the miracles of Christianity is that it’s grounded in the belief that God, who is far beyond us, wants us to focus on him – intimately. It expresses a fundamental purpose of God creating humanity in the first place – so that he can welcome believers into a relationship with him that commences – in this life.

And let’s remember who it is we’re talking about. The Bible speaks about God being glorious. What’s ‘glorious’ about God? The concept of ‘glory’ isn’t easy to define. Often the Bible speaks of people seeing God’s glory – in other words, they’ve become aware of God manifesting himself in a particular way to them.

The word ‘glory’ itself means ‘splendour, majesty’ or ‘magnificence’. It’s best used as a superlative when attempting to describe something or someone superior to all others. The NT Greek word is doxa, from which the English word ‘doxology’ is derived. In the Greek version of the OT, this word is often translated from the Hebrew word kabod which describes someone who has influence, riches or power.

It’s used to refer to someone or something that makes an impression. God’s impressive – and the term ‘glory’ is used to indicate this. As the cloud that manifested God’s presence weighed down upon the tabernacle (Exod. 40:34), the message was that someone substantially important was there. He has presence. He has weight, influence, authority. In this regard, the word ‘glory’ is best used of God; it defines his godness – it’s what makes him God. Wherever he is, it’s glorious and he manifests himself gloriously.

Spurgeon, the nineteenth century preacher, wrote, “There is nothing little in God”. Everything about him is best described in superlatives for he’s awesome. He’s different, set apart, incomparable, unique – he’s glorious.

This opportunity to gaze upon our glorious God is to be our eternal destiny. And the invitation that our glorious God whispers to us today and every day is “take pleasure in knowing me”.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The God who lives in eternity – Journey two

Are you looking forward to being in heaven after this life?

I used to be scared of life after this life because I thought that it only involved judgement. Picture the scene. God’s eyes burning into my conscience while all my friends stand around me, staring. A throbbing dirge is being slowly played by an orchestra of angels with frowns, conducted by an angel who keeps looking at me as if I shouldn’t be there. A big bass drum is being beaten monotonously. Christians are marched in, heads bowed. I’m third in the queue, following the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope. Silence is announced and the books are opened – and it’s my turn.

Oh yes, I knew I was in the Book of Life – that’s the book that John mentions in the book of Revelation that’s recorded all the names of believers. I knew that I’d been saved. But I’d been told that in that book had been written all my words, deeds and thoughts, and I didn’t want my worst moments shouted so that all could hear about them. It wasn’t eternity that troubled me – it was the first few minutes…

Well, I’ve since learned that such a notion isn’t true. Our present actions do have consequences, some of which may reach beyond this life. But, they’re not going to result in excruciating embarrassment.

So what is life going to be like after we die? The Bible doesn’t reveal much but what it says is described in superlatives – there’ll be no tears or disappointment, no pain or illness or death, but there’ll be indescribable joy and peace, contentment and friendship – and the list goes on.

And here’s the point, that’s what we’ve been created for. Life after this life – let’s call it eternity – is not the full-time whistle – it’s when the fulfilment actually begins. It’s not the end of time; it’s the start of endless time. It’s not the final scene or merely the moment of applause.

Eternity is the start of the performance of our lives. Believers are ushered through this life for the purpose of eternity, destined for eternity. Eternity is not the reward for life on earth; it’s not the bonus – it’s the reason for our creation. Life on earth is not the reason for our existence; it’s but the entrance porch, the waiting room, the gateway to our destiny – eternity.

Life doesn’t end when eternity begins; to a very significant degree, it begins. Death is the magic carpet to release us into the glory of eternity. Eternity is the time when we’ll do best that for which we were created…the endless exploration of God. Now, we’re like yachts in the harbour, ready to sail on the ocean of God’s greatness, but becalmed because of our intellectual weakness and sinful tendencies.

In eternity, we’ll be transformed and endlessly discover the infinite clarity and sparkling treasures of God’s glory. We’ll have eternity to be intrigued with God.

It’ll be a time to explore the innumerable mysteries of God –

how God hears a leaf floating to the ground in the depths of the deepest forest – and also our heartbeat; how God sees the future – and the heartbreak of an orphan; how God feels the weight of the pain of his world – and our tears; how God can be touched by our sorrows but not be contaminated by our sin.

Eternity is what we’ve been created for…but the exploration of the God who inhabits eternity is to be commenced in this life – and continued into the next.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The God who lives in eternity – Journey One

 

wow

Have you ever wondered whether eternity is just endless time?

 The term eternity is often used to indicate an interminable length of time. A journey to the beach with two 4 year olds in the back of the car can seem like eternity. Waiting for your exam result or medical diagnosis might seem like eternity. However, eternity shouldn’t be viewed simply in terms of length of time – and eternal life is more than everlasting life.

Actually, eternity is better defined as timeless or boundless existence rather than length of existence. It actually describes the life experienced by God – which includes freedom from all that time precludes. Eternity is best understood in terms of the quality, not length, of life.

So, eternal life may refer to an infinitely extended existence but, much more importantly, it defines a form of existence that’s defined by limitless, supernatural energy – best categorized as the life that God enjoys right now. It’s more than endless time – much more.

But having said that, exploring eternity is easier said than done. The first problem is that it’s beyond the finite mind to understand what’s outside time – eternity, as a concept, is beyond our ability to comprehend – as is the God who is defined by it.

Secondly, the Bible doesn’t reveal a great deal about eternity. Instead, it drops hints to encourage us to consider it, to allow our imagination to explore it, to savour the flavour of the life that belongs to God…

Some of these hints are intended to say something about God. The Psalmist defines him as being eternal by which he means that he’s associated with concepts of steadiness and security (Ps. 90:1), and unalterability with regard to his promises (Ps. 102:27). God cannot be improved. Every decision he makes is perfect. He has no need to reconsider or change his mind (Mal. 3:6).

The word is also used in relationship to our salvation – it will last for eternity (Heb. 9:15), protected by an eternally existing God (Rom. 16:26) whose power is eternal (Rom. 1:20). After all, he ‘inhabits eternity’ (Isa. 57:15) who allows us to share his eternal life (John 3:15).

So, eternity is more than endless life after death; it’s the commencement of a relationship with God in which we share something of the quality of life experienced by God himself. He never gets old and he was never young. He’s as he always has been and as he always will be – perfect and full of life…life that’s associated with a different era, beyond time and that’s unaffected by the variations of time.

God is endlessly intriguing. He cannot be completely known and he creates us for eternity to enjoy an endless exploration into him. Eternity awaits us with endless life of a quality that we can only dream of. This brief period of time on earth is a moment when God holds his breath, when he blinks his eye, but he inhabits eternity.

We live in time and are restricted by time but the God of eternity has squeezed himself into time and into our lives and says, “come and have a look at what’s waiting for you…in fact, enjoy it today”.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

God is the divine Giver…of himself Journey Three

 

holy-spirit-dove in stained glass windowDid you know that the Spirit prays for us (Romans 8:26)? Who’s he praying to? Since the Spirit is God, is he praying to himself? And what’s he praying for? He can’t be reminding the Father about us because he already knows us – and he can’t be telling the Father something that he doesn’t know about us because he knows everything about us.

Paul’s painting a picture with words to explore the fact that the Spirit is in partnership with the Father to support us in all our situations – not just when life is at its lowest but throughout all our days – when nightmares control our next steps; through the storms when all we can taste is our tears; in the hurricane when we hunt for a haven – but also when we can see a golden horizon, when dreams come true and life is too wonderful for words.

God isn’t there just when we need him; he’s also there when we don’t. And the Spirit is praying out loud for our benefit so that we can know that he’s also on our side.

In the same verse, Paul states that the Spirit helps us; it’s a rare word which includes the concept of partnership, of holding hands. God’s so close that he can take our hand, so to speak, and charge us with his energy.

And the Spirit doesn’t just help us – he does so from a position of being with us, in our shoes. This is not support from a distance, not help from another world, but closer than a whisper – and not just once but continuously.

Never forget that when the sun has cooled into a block of ice, you’ll still be sparkling bright; when all the rivers have run dry, you’ll still be bubbling with life because God has planned eternity with you in mind. In giving himself to us, he’s changed us from what we were and is committed to transform us into what he wants us to be – like him.

Parents were horrified one afternoon to hear that their young son, Winston Churchill, had nearly drowned in the swimming pool. He was saved by the gardener. Years later, that same child became the Prime Minister of England and contracted pneumonia. The King called for the best doctor in England – Alexander Fleming, the developer of penicillin – and also the son of the gardener who had saved Churchill from drowning. Churchill had been saved by the father and the son. God’s commitment to us however is threefold for not only has the Father saved us through the sacrifice of the Son but the Spirit also guarantees to accompany us on our journey.

Our future is based on the fact that God is for us, unconditionally…Father, Son and Spirit. That’s grace – no satisfactory reason, no understandable explanation, but a marvellous mystery and an inexhaustible journey of discovery. It’ll be our eternal destiny to explore God’s grace; begin to enjoy it now.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

God the divine giver…of himself Journey two

God thought about us, on this spectacular speck in the galaxy, before we were born, before our parents were born, before anyone was born. Before we thought about God, God had already thought about us. Before we raised our heads in his direction, he’d been gazing at us. Before we lifted our hands to him, he’d stretched his fingers down to us. Before we bowed the knee, he’d bent his ear; before we expressed hope, he’d left heaven; before we dared to say sorry, he’d died to save us.

Before anyone proceeds towards a relationship with God, God starts the process. He leads us to himself – we who cannot search for him; we who cannot even accidentally bump into him. God is the God of the previous, who finishes before we start, who says ‘hello’ to us when we’re hiding from him – when we don’t even know he’s there.

Not only that, but he chooses to be our friend at unimaginable cost to himself, giving us what we need – but could never deserve. And he arranged it through the humiliation of becoming a created being, the scandal of being treated as a nobody, experiencing the outrage of a painful cross, the shame of bearing the punishment for our sins – the degrading of God is more than I can understand.

When a baby is born, it enjoys the dedicated attention of a number of people including hospital staff, the parents, siblings, grandparents, friends – even the family dog. Through it all, the child is blissfully unaware that it has become the centre of a new world – ushered into life with lavish love. When we became Christians, we also entered a new world – a world where we became the special object of God’s attention.

In a world of easy promises and empty pledges, it’s easy to be sceptical about guarantees that seem too good to be true. And God’s grace is one of those guarantees that seems too good to be true – but it’s true…because we are God’s children.

When our children were young, we went for walks in the country. On one of these treks, we crossed a stream that was too wide for their little legs. Although they had boundless energy, they lacked ability; they wanted to get to the other side but the water was wide; they saw the other side but their focus was on the gap; but it was easy for me – and because I carried them across, it was easy for them too.

And God provides strength for our struggles, wisdom for our wilderness, love for our loneliness, friendship for our fear, forgiveness for our failure, hope for our heartache, joy for our journey and grace to reach the goal. After all, he’s the divine giver – of himself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

God is the divine Giver…of himself Journey Two

God thought about us, on this spectacular speck in the galaxy, before we were born, before our parents were born, before anyone was born. Before we thought about God, God had already thought about us. Before we raised our heads in his direction, he’d been gazing at us. Before we lifted our hands to him, he’d stretched his fingers down to us. Before we bowed the knee, he’d bent his ear; before we expressed hope, he’d left heaven; before we dared to say sorry, he’d died to save us. Before anyone proceeds towards a relationship with God, God starts the process. He leads us to himself – we who cannot search for him; we who cannot even accidentally bump into him. God is the God of the previous, who finishes before we start, who says ‘hello’ to us when we’re hiding from him – when we don’t even know he’s there.

Not only that, but he chooses to be our friend at unimaginable cost to himself, giving us what we need – but could never deserve. And he arranged it through the humiliation of becoming a created being, the scandal of being treated as a nobody, experiencing the outrage of a painful cross, the shame of bearing the punishment for my sins – the degrading of God is more than I can understand.

When a baby is born, it enjoys the dedicated attention of a number of people including hospital staff, the parents, siblings, grandparents, friends – even the family dog. Through it all, the child is blissfully unaware that it has become the centre of a new world – ushered into life with lavish love. When we became Christians, we also entered a new world – a world where we became the special object of God’s attention.

In a world of easy promises and empty pledges, it’s easy to be sceptical about guarantees that seem too good to be true. And God’s grace is one of those guarantees that seems too good to be true – but it’s true…because we are God’s children.

When our children were young, we went for walks in the country. On one of these treks, we crossed a stream that was too wide for their little legs. Although they had boundless energy, they lacked ability; they wanted to get to the other side but the water was wide; they saw the other side but their focus was on the gap; but it was easy for me – and because I carried them across, it was easy for them too.

And God provides strength for our struggles, wisdom for our wilderness, love for our loneliness, friendship for our fear, forgiveness for our failure, hope for our heartache, joy for our journey and grace to reach the goal. After all, he’s the divine giver – of himself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

God is the divine Giver…of himself Journey One

After God designed everything, what did he do?

There’s something satisfying about completing a project. You invest time and effort, perhaps at personal cost, and then the task is completed and, like a cat that’s found a lifetime’s supply of cream, you purr with contentment. You’ve been released to enjoy life again and to relax for a while. It’s time to reward yourself. What would you do? If you had a day free after a busy week of creativity, what would you choose to do?

After God had packed into a week what we couldn’t do in an eternity of weeks, he had a day free. What would you have done with that day – if you were God? Have a break, a rest or a holiday? Would you spoil yourself, go shopping, have a day in the country or socialize? Or would you take on an even bigger project? Well, that’s what God did. After God created the world, you see, he gave a gift to it – people.

But this wasn’t easy – even for God. Because creating people meant more problems than creating the universe ever did – you see, people were created with the possibility of saying “No”. The universe cannot say ‘no’ to God – but we can.

God wanted to create people who could enjoy a relationship with him. But he didn’t want to force that relationship on them; he didn’t want robots, people programmed to love him. He wanted them to love him freely. That meant that they had to be free to leave his love as an unwanted gift, to say “No thank you” – to God. And God gave us that choice. He created us with the potential to present him with pleasure – and pain.

Why?

Because he wanted our relationship with him to be based on love, freely offered and freely received. To do that best, he allowed us to say “No”.

To start that relationship with us, all he expects us to say is “Yes”. On the basis of our recognizing our need of God’s forgiveness, achieved by Jesus when he died on the cross, God says, “Welcome”. God accepts us unconditionally. We give to him nothing but our sins and ourselves; he gives us his forgiveness and himself.

It’s an unequal, unfair transaction but he enters into it – willingly. That’s why the word ‘grace’ is used so often of the Christian. Everything that happens to us is proof of God’s grace. The author, C. S. Lewis, writes, ‘God who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them’. That’s grace; that’s the divine Giver.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Original Architect – journey three

Have you ever wondered why God created us?

God is creative

Psalm 104 describes the trees being cared for by God (v.16) while young lions and fish depend on God (vs. 21-27). The writer to the Hebrews speaks of God’s sustaining the world (1:3). He’s not like a giant Atlas, holding the world on his shoulders; God’s role as sustainer describes not so much his strength but his authority. He controls the destiny of the world, determining its end from its beginning, holding all things together (Col. 1:17). Jesus reminds us that God even cares for the inconsequential sparrow in order to encourage us not to worry (Luke 12:6). After all, he’s the Creator.

God is still creating

The days of creation have not finished; the Creator is still creating. He’s moving, tireless and enthusiastic in all he does. Lamentations 3:23 records, ‘Your mercies are new every morning’; Isaiah (43:19) states, ‘See I am doing a new thing’ while Psalm 40:3 proclaims, ‘He has put a new song in my mouth’. He’s the God of the now…as well as the past; the God of the new as well as the old. He’s the active God who intimately involves himself in our lives. He doesn’t idly sit by and watch the world from a distance…he dynamically moves within our lives.

God’s creativity is reflected in us

As God enjoys creating, he has also blessed us with his creative gene and a similar prospect to enjoy our creativity awaits us. God creates chances for change, developing fresh experiences, innovative opportunities, progressive adventures and life destinies for us; creating what we will be out of what we were. Our responsibility is to gaze into the future with the recognition that our creative God is planning it. With the help of the Spirit as our guide, our next step should be to determine how to creatively develop frameworks for change within our lifestyles.

Some may wish to write songs, learn to play an instrument, engage in a new aspect of life, write a book or research a subject. The list is endless – projects to see through, trips to make, people to see, new habits to form. Each represents an opportunity for creativity. Are we living in the present realising that there is a future to be grasped or living in the present as if the future didn’t exist? A. W. Tozer wrote, ‘Refuse to be average’.

Only God knows the kind of person who is waiting to be developed within each of us, but with his capacity to be creative, he encourages us to dream and whispers, ‘Be creative like your Creator’.

Anyone can tell how many seeds are in an apple but only God can tell how many apples are in a seed. Take a leaf out of God’s book and be creative, like your creator.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Original Architect – journey two

Have you ever wondered how God could create the earth that weighs 66, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 tons?

God’s creativity inspires worship

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 touched down on the moon and for the first time, we could see the earth from another celestial body. The pictures beamed back were remarkable. The earth provides a selection of remarkable sights but the universe is breathtaking – it provides an overwhelming backdrop to the earth, resulting in a sense of humility and awe on the part of the believer…by the way, it’s probable that there are more than a hundred billion galaxies in the universe.

The sun is just one example of God’s prodigious creative capability. Its energy is so enormous that the earth only harnesses one billionth of its daily output. The Bible presents the unimaginable nature of God’s creation in pictures – he stretches out the heavens like a tent (Ps. 104:2), scatters frost (Ps. 147:16), holds the winds in his fist (Prov. 30:4) and wraps the oceans in his cloak (Prov. 30:4).

The more one considers creation, the more one is drawn to its Creator. Creation is one of God’s ways of getting our attention and transforming us into a congregation of watching worshippers. Imagine the first day of creation. The angels are waiting and watching; they know something amazing is going to take place. Then God starts – and, in an explosion of colour and sounds, the universe floods over the darkness. It’s splendid; it’s awesome; it’s God.

Sparkling stars send pulses of light towards him; massive meteors wait for his word of command; dazzling sunlight from a myriad stunning suns fills the darkness and squeezes it out of existence. And the angels are astounded as creation is commenced. The sixteenth century Reformer, John Calvin, described creation as the theatre of God’s glory. The Psalmist writes, ‘In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD our maker’ (95:4-6).

The personal involvement of God in his creation is reflected in the biblical descriptions of how he creates. In picture language, the writers describe him using his fingers (Ps. 8:3), shaping the mountains and creating the wind (Amos 4:13). His intimacy with his creation is demonstrated in that it reflects him (Pss. 8:1; 19:1) and praises him (Pss. 104:31-32). God doesn’t create in order to receive praise as if he needed it. Rather, that which is created by him is described as spontaneously and naturally expressing its pride at being created in such a perfect way by such a perfect Creator.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment