Tag Archives: Eternity

“Kingdoms Rise and Kingdoms Fall”

In everything set them an example by doing what is good.
Titus 2:7a (NIV)

Tay, Clay and Milo visited Berlin this past week. It was fun for me to see the pictures and to get Taylor’s Marco Polo describing their trip to the Berlin Wall memorial. How remarkable that what stood as a very real, tragic, iconic and seemingly immovable metaphor of the times for my generation is now reduced to a memorial and museum piece.

[cue: The Times They are a Changin’]

I am fascinated by the times we live in. Technology is advancing at a rate faster than any other time in human history. Humanity is witnessing and experiencing more rapid change than our ancestors could fathom. As a follower of Jesus, it is not lost on me that our current culture is being dubbed the “post-Christian” era or the “post-evangelical” era. Denominational institutions are splitting and crumbling. Ironically, I might suggest, much like the Berlin Wall.

I’ve watched this create tremendous anxiety and fear in some. Yet, as I observe and witness these things, I can’t say that I’m particularly worried or upset about them. Why? First, we are told countless times by Jesus and God’s Message not to be afraid or anxious. Second, if I truly believe what I say that I believe, then I have faith that this Great Story has always been moving towards a conclusion that is already written in the eternity that lies outside time. Third, the mystery and power of Christ was never of this world. That’s why the Kingdom had to come as Jesus embodied and prescribed, and why Jesus was never about becoming an earthly King with political power and clout.  When humans attempted to make the Message of Jesus and the Kingdom of God about Level 3, institutional, earthly power I believe we essentially made it into something it was never intended to be and, at the same time, emptied it of its true power.

In today’s chapter, Paul instructs his young protégé, Titus, what to teach the followers of Jesus in Crete. What struck me was not what those specific instructions were, but the motivation Paul gives for the instructions and their adherence:

“…so that no one will malign the word of God.”

“…so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

“…so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

The paradigm was not that followers of Jesus would have the political and institutional power to make non-believers toe our moral line. The paradigm presented was that we who follow Jesus would live out the fruits of the Spirit towards everyone, that we would exemplify Kingdom living in all we say and do, and we would love all people in such a way that others would see, be attracted to it, and wonder how they might experience the same love, joy, peace, and self-control they see in us. What a different paradigm that that of making rules, appointing enforcers, and punishing offenders which is the paradigm of this Level 3 world

In the quiet this morning I’m thinking about times and change.

The words of an old U2 song flit into my thoughts:

October,
the leaves are stripped bare of all they wear.
What do I care?
October,
Kingdom rise and kingdoms fall,
but You go on,
and on,
and on.

And so I proceed on, into another day of this earthly journey trying to live out a little love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Thanks for joining me, my friend. Have a great day.

“It’s Boring!” (Until You See the Connections)

Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.
2 Chronicles 3:1 (NIV)

When I began this blog over 12 years ago I called it Wayfarer because  a wayfarer is one who is on a journey, and anyone who has be the most casual reader of my posts knows that I reference my journey in almost every post. Life is a journey, for all of us. If I step back, I can also see that history is a journey in a macro sense. Humanity is on its own life journey from alpha to omega. I am connected to what has gone before us, and I am a micro part of the on-going trek of life through time.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks I’ve observed when it comes to people reading what we refer to as the Old Testament, or the ancient writings of the Hebrew people, is that it appears so disconnected from my life, my reality, and my daily journey. The further I get in my journey, however, the more I realize how everything is connected.

In today’s chapter we have a fairly boring recitation that an ancient Chronicler wrote of the design of Solomon’s temple. It’s actually a re-telling of an earlier recitation in the book of 1 Kings. It was likely written at a time after the exiles taken to Babylon returned to Jerusalem and were faced with the task of rebuilding Solomon’s Temple which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. Have you ever observed how when there’s a current event on which everyone is focused (i.e. the royal wedding) and then all of a sudden there’s a ton of magazine articles, books, documentaries, and shows about royal weddings? The writing of Chronicles describing how Solomon built his temple, was likely written because everyone was focused on rebuilding that temple.

But wait, there’s more:

  • The Chronicler mentions that the temples was build on Mount Moriah, which is where Abraham obediently went to sacrifice his son, Isaac and then was stopped by God. So the temple they are building is also connected to the past and the founder of their faith.
  • For those of us who follow Jesus, we also see in Abraham’s sacrifice a foreshadowing of God so loving the world that He sacrificed His one and only Son. So today’s chapter is connected to that as well.
  • And the temple design parallels the design of the traveling tent that Moses and the Hebrews used as a worship center as they left Egypt and wandered in the wilderness for years. So, the temple is connected to that part of the story as well.
  • Oh, and then it describes “the most holy place” where only the high priest could enter once a year as a 20x20x20 cubit cube (a cubit is an ancient form of measurement, roughly 21 inches). When you get to the very end of the Great Story at the end of Revelation there is described a New Jerusalem. It is without a temple because Jesus dwells at the center but the entire city is designed as a cube. The word picture connects back to the design in today’s chapter. The entirety of the New Jerusalem is “most holy” because Jesus, the sacrificial lamb (there’s a connection back to Abraham’s sacrifice and the sacrificial system of Moses), has covered everyone’s sins and made everyone holy. The whole city and everything, everyone in it is holy.

Once you begin to see how everything being described in today’s chapter connects to the beginning and the end of the story it suddenly begins to get really interesting.

This morning I’m thinking about my Life journey. In the grand scheme of things it’s a little micro particle. It’s seemingly insignificant when you look at just the surface of things. But, then I begin to see how it connects to other people and their journeys. I begin to see how my journey has been made possible by everything that has gone before. I begin to see how my little, seemingly insignificant life journey, like a tiny atom in the body of time, is contributing love, life, energy, peace, kindness, goodness that will propel the story forward.

I’m just trying to walk my journey well. Connected to all that’s come before. Doing my part for those who will walk their journeys after. And, believing what Jesus taught and exemplified in His death and resurrection: when this Life journey is over an eternal Life journey will just be starting.

I hope you make good connections today.

Toe-Touching

source: vinothchandar via Flickr
source: vinothchandar via Flickr

“And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.”
Ezekiel 48:35 (NIV)

When Wendy and I are eating, whether it’s just the two of us at breakfast in the morning or whether we are at a restaurant with a group of friends, our feet tend to find each other under the table. Our feet will touch, and remain touching. If it’s breakfast and we are barefoot, or if it is summer and we’re wearing flip-flops, our feet may caress the other softly. Most of the time, however, they just touch. It’s simple physical touch, but it’s far more than that; It’s a spiritual connection rooted in presence.

In the very beginning of creation, God said, “It is not good for one to be alone.”

  • When I was a child sick with fever and pneumonia, I wanted to know that mom or dad were present as I struggled to get to sleep.
  • When my grandmother was near the finish line of her earthly journey, our family scheduled a round-the-clock vigil so that at least one family member would be present with her when the time came for her to pass into eternity.
  • Despite technology’s ability to stream the sound of our daughters’ voices and moving images from Colorado and Scotland, I find myself longing to be in their presence (btw: Madison will be home today and we will be present with Taylor in 3.5 weeks!).
  • As my parents toured care facilities and contemplated the next step of their life journeys together, I wanted to be present with them in the process.

I found it interesting this morning that the end of Ezekiel’s final vision from his Babylonian exile, and the end of his prophetic messages from that foreign land, are a vision of eternal home, and a declaration of God’s never ending presence. Loneliness and isolation are horrible experiences. There is a reason why isolation is considered an extreme form of punishment in prisons. Theologians have long speculated that the real terror of hell is not fire and brimstone but utter loneliness and separation.

This morning I will drink my coffee with Wendy at our dining room table, I will read the morning newspaper, and I will slide my foot beneath the table to softly touch hers. Mid-day today I will hug our daughter when my folks deliver her to Pella. Our family will enjoy time in one another’s presence celebrating Tulip Time. Tonight I will sit in Madison’s presence and have a quiet, face-to-face conversation.

Today, I am thankful for presence of loved ones and I am thankful for the promise fulfilled of God’s eternal presence.

“…surely I am with you always….”
– Jesus

Rambling Thoughts on Time, Suffering, and Eternity

Source: Pink Sherbet via Flickr
Source: Pink Sherbet via Flickr

The groans of the dying rise from the city,
    and the souls of the wounded cry out for help.
    But God charges no one with wrongdoing.
Job 24:12 (NIV)

My thoughts feel kind of disjointed this morning. Oh well.

I had a great conversation over morning coffee with my friend Matthew yesterday. We began to press into the concepts of time and eternity as God reveals it in His Message. I don’t often stop to realize how transformative the concept of eternity truly is. I say I believe in eternity, but I wonder if I truly comprehend what that should mean to my daily life.

If I believe in eternity, I realize the span of my earthly life is a mere speck on a time line that goes on forever.

If I believe in eternity, I will invest time, energy, and resources in matters of eternal value.

If I believe in eternity, I know that this life is a mere shadow of what is truly real.

If I believe in eternity, I know that all suffering is momentary in a grander scheme, including injustice.

I returned to that conversation in my thoughts this morning as I mulled over Job’s observations. I do not have to look farther than my television or smartphone to be confronted with the hard realities of suffering and injustice. I can scroll, click and view it in the palm of my hand 24/7/365. It’s depressing and it lends itself to the feelings of hopelessness and despair that Job communicates. But, then I found myself thinking about eternity once again.

Eternity does not negate pain or diminish the feelings and emotions which emanate from suffering and injustice, but it does provide context. My suffering is a small part of a larger reality which I cannot fully see or perceive in this moment. Faith in eternity as God reveals it transforms my suffering from senseless to purposeful, even if I can’t quite grasp exactly what that is amidst the painful chaos of this moment in time. That’s what faith is: evidence of that which I cannot see.

The Natural Ebb and Flow of Conversation

source: bitzcelt via Flickr
source: bitzcelt via Flickr

They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening…. 1 Chronicles 23:30 (NIV)

I am continually learning. The further I progress in my journey the more I find that there are certain religious trappings and traditions that have no meaning for me, and so I let them go. I also find layers of meaningful discovery that add color and texture to my relationship with God and my spiritual sojourn.

One of the discoveries that has emerged for me in recent years is actually quite ancient. In fact, I have come to believe that it was woven into the very fabric of life by God in creation. I have discovered the connection between the natural cycles of creation and my ongoing conversations with God.  Just as there is an ebb and flow to the conversation between Wendy and me at different parts of the day, so there is an ebb and flow to my conversations with God. Prayer is not a compartmentalized moment, but a flowing conversation that continues throughout time. I saw an allusion to it in the above verse as it talked about the responsibilities of the Levites in the ancient temple.

In the morning my conversation with God is in gratitude for a new day, never promised, yet full of possibilities. As I wander through my day, the conversation flows into gratitude for daily provision, into contemplation of decisions that need to be made, of the need for strength, patience, endurance, and/or courage in the tasks. As people flow in and out of my day through phone calls, e-mails, and visits, my internal conversation with God flows into requests made on the behalf of others I encounter and my own responsibilities in those relationships. In the evening the continuing conversation of spirit ebbs towards reflection, processing the events of the day, of letting go of things I cannot change, and of gratitude for blessings that I encountered along the way.

That is just one day. I have come to realize that there are similar cycles of conversation and relationship which ebb and flow on a more macro level of seasons of the year, years in the life span, and life span in eternity. Conversely, there are also layers of the conversation on a micro level which ebb and flow with each inhale and exhale of breath.

Today I am thankful for the ways that my relationship with my Creator and Redeemer grows richer and deeper the further I proceed in life’s journey.

Living for the Dot, or Living for the Line?

the dot on the lineSo we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NLT)

Many years ago I used an illustration while sharing the morning message in my home church. I stretched a piece of plain masking tape from the front of the church to the back of the church using a few chairs in the aisle to prop up the 75 feet or so of tape. I then spread out some pens on the floor and asked everyone to get up from their chairs, make a small dot on the tape with a pen, and write their name next to it.

I asked everyone that morning to imagine that the tape was a time line that continued on through the floor at the front of the stage as far as our eyes could see and out the back of the room to as far as our eyes could see. The tape was eternity, and our little dot on that time line was the 70, 80, or even 100 years that we will spend on this earth. The question I asked that morning was very simple: Are you living for the dot? Or, are you living for the line?

It is so easy to get wrapped up in momentary desires, circumstances, situations, troubles, and issues. But, those things are typically just insignificant blips on the radar when you consider them in light of eternity. We all need a little perspective adjustment from time to time, allowing our heart and mind to consider our immediate troubles in light of God’s Grand Scheme.

Today I’m reminding myself that my immediate troubles are a minute speck on a fleck of ink on a small dot on the masking tape timeline of eternity.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 17

Isenheimer
Isenheimer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because I am righteous, I will see you.
    When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.
Psalm 17:15 (NLT)

This morning as I read David’s lyric that he would “see [God] face to face” I was struck by the notion. In fact, what seems to be a simple thought seemed to be an audacious statement. In all my journeys through God’s Message, I’ve come to understand that seeing God “face to face” is a momentous deal. Few people in the recorded histories of God’s Message actually saw God face-to-face and those who did reacted to the experience – most commonly falling face down to the ground in awe and righteous fear. In fact, whether they knew it or not, their encounter with seeing God’s face was a life threatening experience from which they were graciously spared. God told Moses directly: “No one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)

If you’re interested in a little extra-credit research, here is a short list of a few who saw God face-to-face and their experiences:

  • Abram (Genesis 17)
  • Jacob (Genesis 32)
  • Moses (Exodus 3)
  • Isaiah (Isaiah 6)
  • Peter, James & John (Luke 9:28ff)
  • Saul (Acts 9)

Today, I’m reminded that I serve Jesus who, God’s Message says, is the risen and glorified Creator of the universe. I trust His promise that I will someday see Him face-to-face and will dwell with Him in His glory. I’m equally reminded that my finite human mind cannot comprehend the enormity of it.

Chapter-a-Day Acts 5

from anonymousthomas via Flickr

Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”
Acts 5:3-4 (NLT)

I have found that most of the world views their own eternal standing in terms of balance:

“I do some good things, and I also do some bad things. I therefore look at life like a set of Justice’s scales. I weigh my good against my bad and try to maintain a good to bad ratio that favors the good. If, at the end of my life, the scale tips to the good then I’m golden. God’s going to let me in to heaven.”

The premise of this thinking, is that our salvation is ultimately determined by what we do and that God will ultimately judge us based on how the scale reads at the end of our life. God’s Message, however, reveals a completely different picture.

Jesus said that the little bit of bad we do is like yeast in bread dough. It’s the smallest of ingredients, yet it taints the entire loaf. Once the yeast is in the dough you can’t reverse its effect. In the same way, even the “little white lies” that we tell, like Ananias and Sapphira in today’s chapter, taint our entire soul. There is no amount of good that we can do to negate and purify us from the effects of the bad that we have done. Salvation is not determined by what we do because no amount of effort can eradicate it from our hearts and lives. Sin is a lethal, spiritual super virus. Once it’s in our system (and it’s in all of us) there is no regimen, no matter how rigorous, that can flush it out.

Chapter-a-Day Hebrews 9

Mi Funeral 2

And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment. Hebrews 9:27 (NLT)

We are all going to die.

Sorry to be Debbie Downer on a Friday morning, but it’s true. You and I are both going to die. Our ticket’s getting punched. Our number will come up. The sand is running out in the hourglass.

The physical death of our body is a certain reality that most of us like to avoid thinking about. Many years ago I spent a few years as a pastor. I befriended the director of the local funeral home and told him that if ever he ran into a family who had no particular faith background and didn’t have anyone to conduct a funeral, to give me a call. The phone rang regularly. I did a lot of funerals.

It’s always interesting to observe people when there’s a dead body in the room. Conversation is typically hushed and somewhat awkward. You see a lot of glassy stares. There’s a lot of people looking at the floor. There’s a lot of sadness. There’s also a lot of confusion and anxiety and denial. But, I never found that such a bad thing.

Facing the hard facts of autumn cause us to prepare for a long winter in anticipation of the following spring. Facing the hard facts of death cause us to prepare for the judgment that awaits each one of us in anticipation of the eternity beyond.

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 35

Narrow is the path that leads to life. The people God has ransomed will come back on this road. They'll sing as they make their way home to Zion, unfading halos of joy encircling their heads, Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night. Isaiah 35:9-10 (MSG)

"Do you know where you're going?" Wendy asks me as pull out of the driveway on a trip.

"Yes," I reply, "Short term, and long term."

[cue: rim shot]

"Do you know where you're going?" is such a great question. Do you know where the road of life is leading? Do you have a destination in mind? Are you walking with purpose?

A few weeks ago, Wendy and I attended the funeral of our friend, Mike. Mike was a gifted musician and he fought a long, courageous battle with cancer. I was so blessed to watch from afar as Mike entered the homestretch of his journey on Earth. It reminded me of the final verses of today's chapter. He planned his funeral, and it was obvious from the numerous songs and hymns that he chose for us to sing and the scripture passages he picked out for us to read out loud that he knew where he was going - short term and long term.

So, do you know where you're going?

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and john