Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When We’re Most Alive – Part I

I recently watched an interview segment with John Stott in which he was asked when he felt the most alive. His answer was threefold: when he was in public worship, in friendship, and when watching birds.

Stott shared that when in public worship he felt himself transported into heavenly spheres and could sense angles and archangels – the transcendent was palpable. This is more than being excited, it is more than being engaged in music and meaningful lyrics, it is more than feeling refreshed at being disengaged from the chaos and worry of the world, and it is more than being about me the individual – it is about the Trinity and the host of heaven and the people of God who transcend time and place, as the writer of Hebrews puts it (12:22-24), “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angles, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.”

I don’t know that most Christians contemplate these things or are even aware of their existence or of the possibility of touching them. I don’t hear many people talk about them or acknowledge them when they are talked about. Our individualism works against a sense of the transcendent and against a sense of a corporate “other”. Many of our church gatherings are so high energy and move so quickly that one is hard pressed to contemplate Scripture, lyrics, music, or prayers. It is as if someone is afraid we’ll change channels if we aren’t kept moving.

Are we seeking a city or are we seeking an isolated yurt? Are we seeking to live in transcendent and eternal community or are we seeking to live in sound-proof apartments to only venture out when there are group activities that interest us? Again the writer of Hebrews (13:14), “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” Also in 11:10 & 14, “…for he [Abraham] was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God… For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.”

While we may have to wait for the full manifestation of the New Jerusalem, we need not wait to touch and be touched by this city descending from the heavens. While it is important to set our hope on that day when the children of God will be manifested and creation delivered from the slavery of decay (Romans 8), it is also vital to live in that which is and was and is to come. Otherwise we live as the people of Haggai’s time, caring only for our own houses while the house of God lies in ruin, living for ourselves and not for the people of God, not that others may know Him, and not centered on the Throne Room where God and God alone is worshipped. We are most fully alive when we are the closest to our home and destiny.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thinking Christianly about the American Past

I ran across this blog the other day, it's titled, Faith and History - Thinking Christianly about the American Past. The blog's author, Robert McKenzie, is chair of the history department at Wheaton College. I've appreciated what I've read so far and thought I would share.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Psalm 29

Worship Yahweh in the majesty of holiness. The voice of Yahweh is upon the waters, the God of glory thunders…the voice of Yahweh is powerful, the voice of Yahweh is majestic. The voice of Yahweh breaks the cedars…the voice of Yahweh hews out flames of fire. The voice of Yahweh shakes the wilderness…and in His temple everything says, “Glory!”

In Exodus Chapter 19 we read: So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain…Moses said to Yahweh, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.’”

I cannot look directly at the sun without the sun damaging my eyes, but by the light of sun I can see all things. The sun is great and my eyes are frail. So frail that in the glare of summer, even if I do not look directly at the sun, over the course of time the sun can damage my eyes if I do not protect them with sunglasses. My view of the sun must be mediated.

My home is powered by electricity, but this electricity cannot flow directly into my home from the generating plant, it cannot flow directly into my home from high voltage transmission lines, it must be mediated by a transformer or else my home’s electrical system will be destroyed and possibly my house will catch fire. The electricity from the generating plant is too powerful for my home to receive directly – it can destroy my home – the electricity must be mediated. Compared to the generating plant my home is frail.

The ancient Hebrews knew that lightning and thunder and storms and earthquakes were not the voice of Yahweh; yet they also knew that when Yahweh spoke that it could lightning and thunder and storm and that the earth could quake – they knew that the physical world could react when God Almighty spoke and they knew that God could manifest Himself through creation and in images of creation just as He could manifest Himself in our hearts and minds. Descriptions of God’s presence and speech, in both the Old and New Testaments, often include dazzling light, shaking, lightning, and thunder – what we witness in creation is but distant image of what exists elsewhere in fullness.

We forget that God “said” let there be…and there was. We forget that all that we see and smell and touch had its beginning in the voice of Yahweh. We forget that the voice of Yahweh is transposed downward from the Divine throne to our frail world and frailer hearts, minds, and bodies. We also forget that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, that word may be unsheathed in its glory and splendor and return man to the dust from which he came. 

The ultimate downward transposition of the voice of Yahweh, of His word, is seen in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” To appearances the voice of Yahweh became frail and was crucified on a cross, it was mocked and bloodied and shamed and buried. Those who live in the world of appearances cannot conceive that the Jesus Christ who they mock lives in splendor and power and gives strength and peace to His people (Psalm 29:11; John 14:27). But those who know Him and live in Him are reminded when they hear the thunder, and see the storms and lightning and feel the earth shake, of the voice of Yahweh; and they know that He is the one who gives strength to His people and blesses them with peace. His people know that the voice which created the world and all that is in it is the voice that assures them, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”