Holding Hands

The Way Of A Young Man With A Woman

I love the way God uses the things we know and the experiences we all have to teach us about life in the Kingdom. A farmer and his seed, an ant and his army, the joints and ligaments of our bodies, a builder and his home — the way a young man moves toward romance with his girl!

Solomon noticed it too – “Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin.” (Proverbs 30:18, 19 ESV)

The way Hebrew poetry works here is that the first three pictures (the eagle, rock and ship) lead up to the most “wonder-full” one — the way of a man with a young woman. Any of us men who have fallen in love knows exactly what the wise king means.

Remember the sensuous process of falling in love. The first touch of her hand that sent shivers up and down your spine, the sight of her new dress she bought just to impress you, the unforgettable taste of coffee as you stared over the table at her eyes, the soft fragrance of her perfume as she waltzed by and her flirtatious giggle when she laughed at your attempt of humor. As soon as you walked her to her front door, immediately after the goodnight kiss, you called her again from the car, just to hear her voice once more.

That, Solomon wrote, is too wonderful for words!

Just as marriage was designed by God to give us a glimpse of our ultimate relationship with Jesus, so is the romance between a young man and young woman. It’s such a great picture that God gave us the entire Song of Solomon to help us understand the wonderful love between The King and His bride.

There’s another love story, painted in picture form, long before Solomon was even born. It’s woven into the building of the mobile worship center called the Tabernacle. All five of our God-given senses, that are such an important part of romance, are included in the living illustration.

The Tabernacle, with all of its design and color, clearly shows worshippers the way to come into an intimate relationship with our God and King. Let’s walk through the three rooms and observe the specially designed furniture, piece by piece. The path to the glory of His presence is clearly marked with seven artistically created artworks.

As any married person knows, the first step in becoming one begins with sacrifice. If we’re not willing to die to ourselves, we’ll never reach the first step in a love relationship. In the Tabernacle, just inside the front gate, sits the Brazen Altar, where sacrifices are given every morning and every night.

Immediately following is the Bronze Laver, a picture of baptism, representing the sense of touch. In the Laver, the priests wash daily before entering the Holy Place.

Inside the door of that second, more intimate area, on the right is the Table of Bread, twelve loaves baked fresh every day. The bread is a picture of the sufficiency oTabernaclef Jesus, “the Bread of Life(John 6:35), but also brings in our sense of taste. “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8a ESV)

On the other side of the Holy Place, just a few feet away, is the solid gold seven-branched Lampstand. Jesus, the Light of the world, is in the Center and the other candlesticks are pictures of us, the Church. Our sense of sight draws us even closer to the Glorious Presence.

The fifth piece of art was richly evident as the Priest approached the Holy Place. Its fragrance, easily sensed by the approaching worshipper, fills the room!  The Altar of Incense is a picture of our worship that rises as incense before the Lord. It comes just before moment we enter the Most Holy Place.

Then, as lovely as any tapestry ever created, hangs the Veil, richly woven with gold, scarlet, blue and purple. That’s the Veil which was split from top to bottom the moment Jesus died on the cross. The way to God was opened for every sincere worshipper on that day. No longer could only the High Priest gingerly come before God once a year on the Day of Atonement — now Jesus has become the Way to the Throne for any who desires to be part of the Bride.

Finally, our last and probably the most important sense, as in any love relationship, is to hear the voice of our loved one. As we approach the golden Ark of the Covenant, above which the Shekinah Presence of Majesty sits, we are most privileged to hear the Voice of God.

The mobile worship center was designed by the Creator Himself to bring us to the very throne of the King of kings. As worshipper David so eloquently wrote, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11 ESV)

The reason that David’s son, Solomon, wrote, “too wonderful for me, is the way of a man with a virgin”, is because in every healthy romance is a sensuous picture of our invitation to have an intimate relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  Approach Him with a broken and contrite heart, feel the cleansing touch of the Water of Life, see the Divine Light that emanates from his eyes, taste the bounty of his provision, smell the sweet fragrance of his presence, and listen moment by moment for his loving voice. In his presence is fullness of joy!

7 Colours

Seven Colours

Is there such a thing as a Divine destiny?

Is it possible that God has preplanned my existence?

Has my personal journey been uniquely designed for a reason?

Is it possible to find meaning to my life?

Is there a reason that these things have happened to me?

Can my purpose still be fulfilled even though I’ve made some bad choices?

 

I’ve been reading Viktor Frankl’s best selling book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” again this week. He was the Jewish psychiatrist who spent six long years in German concentration camps during the Holocaust. He wrote, “Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life.”

Frankl may have fallen short in his understanding of God’s Kingdom purposes, but through his unfathomable suffering he did get the truth that understanding and finding meaning in our personal purpose will help us thrive, even through the worst of opposition.

Having read his diary and his profound observations, I am even more pleased with the printing last week of my latest book, “Seven Colors”. I think that the thesis, which is subtitled, “Seven considerations that point to our life purpose”, will help us find the meaning and fulfillment we are each looking for.

I’ll attempt in this short article to overview this layman’s study on discovering our personal purpose. Beginning with the title, “Seven Colors”, let’s go back to the Bible story of Jacob’s tailoring a multicolored coat for his favorite son, Joseph.

It’s hard for us to even imagine how seriously a handmade coat could have upset the family equilibrium. Old Jacob invited his eleventh son into his and Rachel’s tent and presented him with the prophetic gift. We can think of it as a “Coat of Destiny”, because it signified that Joseph would be uniquely blessed by God with purpose, power and prosperity. His brothers were furiously jealous, and almost immediately began to plot how they would get rid of him.

After thirteen challenging years of testing and training, when he was thirty years of age, all of Jacob’s prophecies were fulfilled. Joseph became Prime Minister of the most powerful nation in the world at that time. It was years later that all of those difficult circumstances, in addition to God’s sovereign will and Joseph’s personal choices prompted Joseph to say to his older brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Or as the Apostle Paul penned years later, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

From that omniscient perspective, our Father God, as the Divine Coat Maker, takes all the colored threads of our lives, both the good and the bad, and weaves them together to design a Coat of Destiny for each of us who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

I like the number seven because it speaks of God’s perfect and complete plans. There are seven notes that make up every musical composition, seven days in every week and seven colors in the rainbow of promise, so I use seven as the number of colors in our personal Coat of Destiny.

The seven colors represent seven aspects of your life, that when woven together, will help you discover your personal purpose. Think of penciling a dot-to-dot puzzle with seven numbers. When you join the seven dots, you can see a picture emerge. That’s how you can use these seven considerations — when you’ve taken some time to think each of them through, you’ll begin to see a picture of God’s pre-planned purpose for your life.

 

Red is the color of God’s sovereign foundations; your sex, when and where you were born, your family and DNA. These are things that God chose for you over which you had no say.

Orange is the color of your personal choices; to become a Christian, to marry and have children, what schooling and career choice you make; both good and bad decisions you make every day.

Yellow is the color of other people’s choices; things good or bad your parents chose for you, politicians, your boss, even the guy who drives his car behind you.

Green is the color of your educational choices, your learned skills and passions. All that you have learned, through failure or success, intentionally or not, are woven into your coat.

Blue is the color of your motivational gift. God sovereignly has woven into our DNA at conception one of seven gifts. Discovering that gift will give you a vital clue to understanding who you’ve been created to be and what God’s intended  purpose is for you.

Indigo is the color of your God given talent(s). The talents you have (sports, art, business, music, etc) are entrusted to you for your master’s use.

Violet is the color of the Word of God. God guides us in the right path both through his written Word and His spoken words to us every day. We have a speaking God who promises to guide us down the right path that He has personally prepared for each of us.

 

My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

(Psalm 139:15-16 ESV)

My firm belief is that we can know our life purpose. We can find meaning to our lives that will not only help us endure the most difficult of days, but also ensure that we find fulfillment and joy in every season of life. To help you in the thinking process, I’ve added some questions to consider at the end of each chapter, and a couple of tests in the appendices to help you determine your temperament and motivational gift. I think you’ll enjoy it. To get a copy of “Seven Colors” at a special $10 price, email me at barry@northsidechurch and I’ll mail you one right away.

Where His Glory Rests

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
(John 17:22, 23 ESV)

How can the Glory of our Magnificent God rest on me?
Does that seem impossible?

There’s a colorful picture painted by Moses in the story called Exodus which illustrates this wonderful reality. It’s called the Ark of the Covenant, which simply means, the Box of Promise. Here’s how God described to Moses what it would look like and how it would work.

“They shall make an ark of acacia wood… You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold… And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall putthe testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony.” (Exodus 25:10-22)

Think of yourself as the ark, or the box, overlaid in solid gold.
You are a priceless treasure that Father God gave everything to purchase.

Ark of the Covenant

Inside, there are three reminders of the grace of God. Engraved in stone are the Ten Commandments, which represent the eternal Word of God, the Light to our path, and the standard by which Jesus empowers us to live; the pot of manna, a reminder that Jesus is the bread of life, the only Onewho is able to
satisfy us with new blessings every day; and Aaron’s rod that budded. This old dead stick, like me,was miraculously brought to life and fruitfulness as a sign of God’s affirmation.    

Above the ark are two golden Cherubim, a picture of the throne of God Almighty. We’ve been raised in Christ to sit with Him on that throne. And between God and you is the pure gold Mercy Seat, where the Shekinah Glory of God rests on us. The blessing of God’s glory comes only because of the blood sprinkled on the Mercy Seat on the Day of Atonement. His priceless gift of Jesus’ blood on the cross is the only way to receive the glory of God. But note well that Jesus comes to us in mercy, not in judgment.  

This Box of promise, that sits in the Holy of Holies, in the Tabernacle, which is a picture of you and me, is a wonderful reminder of who we are, because of whose we are. When it seems like God is far away from us, we’re far away from Him, we’re needing to find fulfillment, we’re as dead as an old stick, or that God is mad at us, we need to take a look at the Ark of the Covenant. It says loudly and clearly:

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:3-5 ESV)

Seven Minus One Equals Eight?

“How can I possibly set aside a day for rest when I already don’t have enough time in my week to do all that I have to do? It doesn’t compute that if I give a day away, I’ll have more time in the six days that are left!”
How ca7DayWeekn 7-1=8?

 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11 ESV)

I’ve been raised with a strong work ethic, so the second part of this commandment is not difficult for me to keep. “Six days shall you labor and do all your work.”  And as a young man, I had no problem obeying the first part of the fourth Law of Moses. Sunday, for our family growing up, was church, family, visiting relatives and rest. We couldn’t even do homework. (Yeah!)

Until 1982, Sunday was legally a day of rest for Canadians. According to an Anglican Periodical, “When Canada was acquired by Great Britain in 1763, English laws prohibiting work and entertainment on Sunday came into effect in the new colony…A quiet Sunday was the social custom in Protestant Canada. If water had to be drawn or potatoes peeled for Sunday dinner, many made sure to do it on Saturday evening. Laundry was not hung out to dry on Sundays. Even the irreligious usually went to church on Sunday; the religious went more than once.”

When that law was challenged in May 30, 1982 and subsequently revoked, Canada’s slow decline in our spiritual health was exacerbated.  Everything on Sunday began to look like Monday through Saturday. Even in the church, we changed. Somehow we began to lose the holy respect for the Lord’s Day that we’d valued for two centuries. At the same time, life seemed to accelerate in busyness.

I wonder if there’s a connection with our taking away the Sabbath Day and our increased tiredness.

I think that it’s often in the stillness that we discover God. “Be still and know that I am God.”

In the whirlwind of our busyness, which we somehow let ourselves get caught up in, even though it may be good stuff, we often miss God. His voice becomes mute in the loud buzz of activity, but stillness tunes our ears and allows us to be freshly present with God.

Martha, Mary’s sister, was a good woman. People like her are good friends to those of us who like to eat and live in clean houses. Where she lacked was that her busyness deafened her spiritual hearing and blinded her from seeing Who was in her presence. Sabbath, which literally means “stop”, gives us permission to take a day off, to quiet ourselves, relax, listen, see, and enjoy God, his creation, family and life.

Think of an airplane. There are engineers at work to keep the planes we fly in balanced. Luggage and passengers are purposely and strategically placed in the plane to keep it balanced. When it is balanced, while in the air, the plane will tilt to the left or right when it comes time to turn a corner, but moving from departure point to destination requires that everything is properly centered. And that to me is a major focus of a Sabbath Day. It’s time to re-center ourselves and our luggage so that we safely reach the destination we’ve been assigned.

“But”, we protest, “I don’t have time to take a day off. I’ve got too much to do!”

That’s where the lie comes in.
The truth is we always have enough time to do what God wants us to do!
And God wants us to set aside one day in seven to rest.

Reason #1:  God commands us to take a Sabbath Day. (Do we need a second reason?)
Reason #2:  Sabbath rest helps us be still so we can hear and see God.
Reason #3:  A Sabbath Day keeps us balanced.
Reason #4:  Time is a gift from God. There’s always enough to do his will.
Reason #5:  Keeping our Sabbath opens us up to a miracle!

Here it is — a promise from God who created us:

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38 ESV)

It’s true whether we are giving love, friendship, forgiveness, money or time. It’s the miracle of planting and harvesting. We reap what we sow. But the greater miracle is that we reap more than we sow. Plant a grain of wheat and reap a hundred grains. (The principle works negatively too… Plant hate, stinginess, unforgiveness, busyness and we will reap the same, multiplied). When we give our one day in seven to him, he will multiply our produce on the other six days.  Try it. It works!

 

 

 

Sabbath Rest

rest - 2There are two questions that people ask in regard to setting a day every week apart for rest. One is theological and the other is practical:

 “Isn’t Sabbath keeping one of the laws of the Old Covenant? Aren’t we under a new and better Covenant now that overrides the old one?”

 “How can I possibly set aside a day for rest when I already don’t have enough time in my week to do all that I have to do? It doesn’t compute that if I give a day away, I’ll have more time in the six days that are left!”

Those are both good questions that deserve consideration. I’ll look at the first one in this article. First of all, it is true that keeping a Sabbath day was one of the Ten Commandments of Moses.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11 ESV)

The Sabbath Law was #4 out of the big 10! It had two sides to it; work six days (we sometimes forget this part) and rest one day. For the Jews of that day, their Sabbath day began at 6 pm on Friday and ended at 6 pm on Saturday. No work was to be done. The author of Hebrews and the Apostle Paul both commented on the Old Covenant (Old Testame nt) as it relates to Christians today.

“For he finds fault with them when he says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’” (Hebrews 8:8-10 ESV)

“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God…But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:4, 6 ESV) 

So it’s true that we no longer live under the Old Testament law. We now live by a law written on our hearts. Jesus lives inside us and we live in him. Through his Spirit we are directed on how to live, not by the law of Moses. There are principles and laws that precede and supersede Moses. For example, the principle of tithing is in Moses’s law, but because it was introduced first to Abraham who is the Father of Christians, it stands as a principle for today. When we pay our tithes God still “rebukes the devourer and still opens the windows of heaven to pour out a blessing”.

“And if you are Christs, then you are Abrahams offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:29 ESV)

 It’s the same with the Sabbath. God introduced the Principle of Rest to Adam before the fall and before the Law of Moses.

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:2, 3 ESV)

Jesus began his ministry and shocked the legalists when he said that “we were not under the control of the sabbath, rather the sabbath was made for us”. After the resurrection, the Apostles chose, in their new freedom, to make Resurrection Day, which is Sunday, their Sabbath. They called it the “Lord’s Day”.

“On the first day of every week (Sunday), each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.” (1 Corinthians 16:2 ESV)

 “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” (Acts 20:7 ESV)

“I was in the Spirit on the Lords Day (Sunday) and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.” (Revelation 1:10 ESV)

The word Sabbath does not mean Saturday, as some may think, rather it means “to desist; to stop”.  Our Sabbath Day is a gift to us from our Creator, Jesus. We should stop our daily routines, desist from our regular work, and rest. We are not bound by the Old Covenant law that said exactly when it should be and what we can and cannot do on the Sabbath. We are free in Christ, who is our rest, to stop our work one day every week. For me, Sunday is a very tiring workday, so I set Monday as my Sabbath Day.

“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:16, 17 ESV)

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered Gods rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:9-11 ESV)

Sabbath rest is about re-centering our lives, refocusing the eyes of our heart, retuning our spiritual ears to the sound of Jesus’ voice, resetting our compass to point to God.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1, 2 ESV)

Now the question remains, “How can I do that? I’m much too busy to spend a day resting!” I’ll write about that tomorrow.

We are Stewards of God’s Time

Many8020rule years ago, while doing my Master’s study, I was introduced to a principle which evolved from the work of an Italian Mathematician, Vilfredo Pareto, over a hundred years ago. The principle, known as the Pareto Principle, notes a consistently lopsided relationship between input and output. It states that there is a predictable imbalance between causes and results, effort and reward. The Pareto Principle is also called the 80/20 Principle, or the Principle of Imbalance, because 80% of what we achieve in our work comes from 20% of the time we spend working. Thus for all practical purposes, 80% of our time spent working is almost irrelevant.

The principle can be seen in most areas of life — for example:

20% of people earn 80% of the money

20% of people give 80% of the money to charities (not necessarily the same 20% as above)

20% of motorists have 80% of the accidents

20% of criminals commit 80% of the crimes

20% of people who marry make up 80% of the divorce statistics

20% of people bring 80% of the food to a potluck

20% of your clothes you wear 80% of the time

20% of your carpet gets 80% of the wear

It seems that Jesus knew this principle of imbalance long before Pareto:

“For to everyone who has, will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29 ESV)

I learned early as a young pastor that 20% of Christians do 80% of the ministry in a church. And that the corollary was also true that the 20% at the other end of the scale require most of the pastoral care (everyone needs care sometimes, but some people seem to require constant personal care). It is also true that 20% of a typical church want desperately to deepen their relationship with Jesus. And the opposite 20% have no desire to grow spiritually. The 60% in the middle can move either toward zealousness, or toward lukewarmness, depending on imitability of those they look up to.

Many pastors spend 80% of their time with the needy 20% because they make the pastor feel important. “Oh Pastor, I could never make it if I didn’t have you to pray with me and give me counsel!” A co-dependent relationship is developed, so both pastor and parishioner feel appreciated. But the problem is that the other 80% of the church (usually, his family is included in that 80%) only get 20% of the pastor’s time and energy. That’s a major reason why most churches in Canada do not grow past 70 people — because the pastor’s available strength is dissipated by the constantly needy 20%. 

Jesus taught by example by investing 80% of his time with a small percentage of his followers. Then he empowered those 20% to care for the 80%. Moses set a precedent 1500 years earlier (recorded in Exodus18) by dividing his followers into subgroups of 10’s and 100’s. Then he spent his time with the leaders, who in turn cared for the others.

Thinking about our use of time today, I see the 80/20 Principle helpful as a tool to gauge how much time and energy we should give to certain activities at both work, and in our personal lives.

We’re in a critical age where time seems to be in short supply. It’s not actually true, however, because we have as much time as we’ve ever had. We still have a new 24 hours every day and a new 7 day week beginning every Sunday, not to mention the fact that we have so many more modern time saving devices.

I remember back in the ’60s that Futurists were predicting that we would have a 25 hour work week, double the leisure time and retirement by age 55, by the year 2000. We were making such advances in systems, transportation, modern conveniences, technology and appliances. Everything was getting faster so that we would have much more time to relax, take care of ourselves and our families. But of course that has not born true. The average executive, pastor and business owner spends at least 60 hours a week at work.

If it’s true that 20% of our input gives us 80% of our output (20% of causes give 80% of consequences and 20% of our effort gives 80% of the results), and it is, then we should look carefully at the circumstances in that productive 20%. What time of day do we get the highest results?  What day of the week? Where are we at that time? Are we alone or with workmates? Which workmates contribute most to our productivity? How could we adjust our work habits in the second 20%? By following the same pattern in that second 20% of our time we could almost double our productivity in the same number of hours.

Then, on the other end, where the bottom 20% of time and effort produce almost no results, can we take a nap, go for a walk, read a good book or go home to spend more time with our family? Pareto’s Law says we can work 20% less hours and still increase our output significantly.

In my next article, I’ll write about the Sabbath Principle. It’s based on the same Law of Imbalance. By taking more time off work and devoting it to our Spiritual Center, the rest of our week will produce increased results. Vilfredo Pareto could have saved a lot of time and energy working with his slide rule if he’d just read the Bible. Whatever is true, God made it so!

A Manual on Worship

I love picture books. Like the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

I’ve been sitting on our holiday veranda, while enjoying the soft tropical breezes, thumbing through a 1950’s picture book of Thailand. As I unhurriedly study each black and white photo, I can see in the faces, body language, clothes, homes and settings, hundreds of hidden stories of the happiness and sadness of primitive Island life.   

I guess that’s why one of my favorite Bible books is Exodus. The struggles of Israel while slaves of Egypt, Moses’ call as Deliverer, their miraculous pathway to freedom through the Red Sea, the life-transforming stop at Sinai to meet with God and the highlight of constructing the Tabernacle are all colorful works of art painted by the Holy Spirit. Each story is a succession of pictures, and every picture teaches us innumerable truths about God’s loving intentions for his children.

Chapters 25 to 40 are written solely about the construction of the Tabernacle. Sixteen chapters are devoted to the subject of worship! How central must our worship be to God that he would devote so much thought? Every piece of the Holy Tent, each of the materials used, the carefully chosen colors and the design of each piece of sacred furniture virtually blossoms with the fragrance and beauty of worship.

Over the weeks ahead I’ll write about some of the amazing life lessons we can see in these chapters, but for now let’s think about three verbs which overview the reason for the TRH-SanctuaryAtSinaiabernacle’s existence in Exodus 25.

“I will dwell in your midst” (vs. 8)
“I will meet with you” (vs. 22)
“I will speak with you” (vs. 22)

Each thought deserves a book in itself, but let me stimulate your thinking. Keep in mind that the Tabernacle, and ultimately the Temple, is a picture of each of us who are believers.  

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 ESV)

 1) “I will dwell in your midst.”

This is no less than the prophecy of Isaiah: “He shall be called Immanuel, which is God with us”. This is the mystery that the Holy Spirit unveiled first to the church in Colossae:

The mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:26, 27 ESV)

Meditate on this: Jesus Christ lives in you! You are the Tabernacle where he has chosen to make his home!

2) “I will meet with you.” 

Jesus Christ wants to sit with each of us personally and have a loving relationship. Over these last few weeks I’ve had the privilege of sitting with about twenty new members of our church, for the purpose of getting to know them. I’ve loved hearing each story of who they are and what God means to them.

Better than that though, consider the ever growing love and friendship you have with those you love as family and friends. Our times of meeting, listening, talking, playing, working, laughing, crying and even being quiet together, build the ongoing love relationships we value so highly. And Jesus is here right now to meet with me!

3) “I will speak with you.” 

 Jesus not only knows my past failures and hardships, he sees where I am today and also where I will be tomorrow. And incredibly, even though he knows me in my weakness, he loves me. He’s my friend. “He walks with me and he talks with me…” We have a speaking God. He speaks through his Word, like he is now through this Book of Exodus, and he also speaks all day long through our intimate relationship with his Spirit.

And here’s another thing we see in the Tabernacle picture. “He meets us at the Mercy Seat” (vs. 22). Jesus isn’t meeting with us as Judge (one day he will, but not now). Rather he meets with us and speaks to us as Savior, Redeemer, (I love that word — he restores what has been lost!) and Father in mercy and grace. He only wants what’s best for us. Jesus loves me!

Thank you Jesus (and Moses) for teaching us in easy to understand, colorful pictures about the wonders of worship!  

Times and Seasons of Our Lives

Kairos-KronosI’ve been thinking a lot about time this week, here in Thailand. Although Susan and I are on holidays, we don’t have more time than we do at home — there’s still 24 hours in every day and seven days in each week, but we can see our time from a different viewpoint. A restful holiday (which I remind myself is to be a series of ‘holy days’, not simply a vacation when we vacate our homes and responsibilities) allows us to rise above our daily routines and see our lives from a heavenly perspective.

There are three themes that are running through my head. I’m spending time meditating on each of them, and for me it helps if I can put my thoughts on paper. One is ‘the times and seasons given to us by our Creator’. Another is ‘how can I most wisely invest my allotted time?’ And the third is the ‘multiplying principle of Sabbath: ‘how can I enjoy more time by resting more?’ Today I will focus on the first of these three, ‘the times and seasons given to us by our Creator.’

Jesus said to his followers, just before his ascension:

“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7 ESV)

The Greek word for times in this passage iskronos‘. We derive our English words ‘chronology’ and ‘chronometer’ from Kronos. It refers to our clocks and calendars. Yesterday, today and tomorrow are given to us by the Father. We live by his calendar, not our own. Luke was inspired to write it this way:

 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” (Acts 17:16 ESV)

God predetermined allotted periods of time for each of us to live. Our kronos has been set by God and we have the responsibility of living well, within its boundaries.

The other word, seasons, in the Greek language is ‘kairos‘. It refers to specific divine events which happen as time passes. To illustrate, today the kronos is Spring-time, Friday June 6, 2014, while the kairos is a holy moment of divine peace and revelation. To me a kairos moment comes from above human time so it flows from past experiences and life lessons, present opportunities and a vision of future possibilities. (Think for example of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4.) These, like kronos, are gifts from God.

 So if God is the giver of both time and seasons, then what is my responsibility?
Am I simply a pawn in his predetermined chess game?
Am I actually in partnership with Jesus, like he said, or simply a spectator in his drama?

The answers are: Yes I am a partner, I do have responsibilities, and yes the results of our partnership are predetermined, because God foreknows the choices I will make.

Here’s how I see it: The times and seasons are indeed set by God, as is the allotted period of my life. God did preplan that today would be June 6 on the calendar and he did determine that he would visit in this kairos moment. But now comes my opportunity to see and hear him, and to respond to him. I like the word opportunity. We can easily see it has its etymology in the Latin or French porte or door; and it also can be seen in our English word port, the place of entry for ships. An opportunity is an open door.

Like the servants who were responsible to invest their Master’s talents (Matthew 25:14-30), we have ‘open doors’ in those kairos moments to quickly and obediently respond to God’s divine visitations, or to ignore them and let them pass by. The responses we choose in those moments will determine our fruitfulness or barrenness in that passing season.

But before we can respond to his visitation, our heart eyes must be in focus and our heart ears must be tuned to his voice.

There’s a sad commentary in Luke’s Gospel about the Jews in Jerusalem just before Jesus’ crucifixion.  

And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:44 ESV)

The kronos was Passover in April 30 AD, and the kairos was the most important moment in history. Jesus the Messiah was visiting Jerusalem. He was in their midst, had taken their sin and was dying in the place of all mankind. And they missed their opportunity to appropriately respond!

 God help me to have eyes to see, ears to hear and faith to respond when those divine kairos moments come! 

The Wonder of Metamorphosis

I’m sitting today on the veranda of a rented cottage in Thailand, practicing the discipline of relaxing and meditating. It’s not as easy as you may think!

Maybe because of the frenetic pace of life in North America, it’s difficult to still my mind. We get used to the thousands of signals from conversations, traffic, advertisements and technology that race through our consciousness. Someone said recently the voices in our minds are sometimes “like a cage of monkeys all clamoring for just one banana!”

The view here on Bangpor Beach is conducive to thoughtful meditation. All I can see from my lounge chair are the two-toned turquoise ocean in the near distance behind a few palm trees, a small patch of grass and the soft beige sand that leads downward to the water. The only interruptions to Susan’s and my quiet afternoon are the gentle lapping sounds of the waves which provide a background beat to the cheerful chorus of singing birds and chirping insects.

Just moments ago, to my delight, a couple of dazzling aqua colored butterflies flitted across my view. With the wonder of that romantic chase breaking my relaxed daze, I felt that our magnificent Creaflying butterflytor had given me a gift … It was at that moment I began to meditate on the miracle of metamorphosis.

It was perhaps a day or two ago, since butterflies only live for less than two weeks, that these free flying, masterfully painted winged insects were in their seemingly hopeless chrysalis grave-clothes. Seventy-two hours before today, all appeared to be loss for them. They could never have imagined the beauty of the destiny they are enjoying together at this moment!

You know the story from Grade 4 Science class: A caterpillar egg was carefully placed by her mother on a leafy tree that would be its home for life. The tiny creature had a mouth that, over the course of its short life, would eat 27,000 times its weight in greenery, sixteen legs, and twelve eyes that could only see the difference between light and dark.

Then, after just a few days of life, he wound himself in the darkness of a cocoon, and to any casual observer, looked to be dead.

And that’s when the miracle of metamorphosis began to take place. While in her death state, God began to transform the caterpillar into a brand new creation. The butterfly is no longer a caterpillar. Where the caterpillar had a mouth, eyes, many legs and 4000 muscles to give it the ability to crawl, the butterfly has a proboscis rather than a mouth, and only six legs; but in exchange for what it lost, it has been given unimaginably beautiful wings with which it can fly. And the female butterfly that I am watching now is able to emit a fragrance that can attract a male butterfly from up to a mile away. That’s the guy who has been happily chasing her while I’ve been writing this short article!

Metamorphosis, “a supernatural change” has taken place. What was once detested by hardworking gardeners is now bringing delight to their children! From a poisonous, plant killer to one of God’s most delicate and sought after creations!  Collectors travel for thousands of miles to get a glimpse of some of the 15,000 species of butterflies.

And that’s the word which God uses to describe the miraculous transformation that, in partnership with us, he creates in those who are his sons and daughters!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (metamorphoses). The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (metamorphosed) by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

 As we believers die daily to our self-centeredness and choose to be Christ-centered, we are being miraculously transformed into the image of our Creator, Jesus Christ.

I remember as a boy bringing a chrysalis, still hanging from a branch, to my dad. I could see the new young butterfly trying desperately to break free of his grave-clothes, and so I asked dad if we could help. I’ll never forget his answer…
“No Barry. If we cut the butterfly out of its cocoon before it’s time, we will kill it. It has to stay and struggle in order to build the muscles it will one day need to fly!”

The struggling will last for a season, but it will be worth it all when we begin to fly!

And then, one day, the metamorphosis will be complete.

Beloved, we are Gods children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Heaven is for Real (Pt 3 of 3)

Here are some thoughts on a few questions people most frequently ask about heaven…

1. Where are those believers who have already died?Heaven is for Real

First of all, know that when believers die, they will be immediately in God’s presence.

“We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8 NASB)

My understanding is that when we die, we go to a place called Paradise, which Paul called “the third heaven”. (The first heaven, in Jewish thought, is the atmosphere, and the second heaven is the galaxies.)

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago-whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows-such a man was caught up to the third heaven… was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 NASB)

2. What will we do in heaven?

At the center of heaven is the throne of Father God, and beside Him is Jesus. Worshipping God is the atmosphere of heaven

“Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne… Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind… And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.’ And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.’” (Revelation 4:2, 4-6, 8-11 NASB)

Our work, as partners with Jesus, will be to rule with Him. However, we don’t know whom we will rule over. Maybe there are other creations in the vast galaxies?

And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5 NASB)

3. When will we go to Heaven?

Although Heaven is a general term that means “to rise above”, the place where we will eventually live is being prepared now by Jesus. He will come and get us to take us there in his “Second Coming”. We are mistaken to think that believers who have died are presently in heaven. All believers will go to the eternal “Heaven” after the “White Throne Judgment”.

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2, 3 NASB)

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53 NASB)

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 NASB)

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.” (Revelation 20:11, 12 NASB)

4. Who will go to heaven?

Those who repent (turn away from their old self-focused life) and believe (give their lives to Jesus) will go to heaven.

“… and Jesus was saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:15 NASB)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NASB)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’… He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” (Revelation 21:1-4, 7 NASB)

5. Has anyone been to heaven and come back?

Yes, the Apostle Paul visited the 3rd heaven (paradise), and Isaiah, Ezekiel and John had visions of God’s Throne in Heaven, but the Bible doesn’t tell of anyone who has died, gone to the heaven where we will spend eternity, and returned to tell about it.

No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.” (John 3:13 NASB)

6. Can we consult with those who have died before us?

“When they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19 NASB)

‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:31 NASB)

7. What will our bodies look like? Will we be able to recognize those who we knew on earth?

Our bodies will be very different, unimaginable to our limited human thinking. We have buried or cremated these human bodies and they will be finished with. For example, if we don’t eat food we won’t need our digestive systems. We will be a totally new creation. Changes that come with age are not a factor. Yes we will recognize people because we will have a clear understanding. We will not be limited like humans are.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB)

“… in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:52, 53 NASB)

“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven… For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:1, 2, 4 NASB)

Here’s a concluding thought… As believers, our citizenship is in Heaven. Heaven is our real home and we are simply travelers on a temporary journey, passing through this life.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20, 21 NASB)