Friday, April 27, 2012

Jesus' Return an Interruption?

I was listening to the radio the other day and a preacher made the comment that many Christians view Jesus' return as an interruption.  My heart and mind balked.  An interruption?  "Why do some Christians have this reluctance?" I began to wonder.  "Why don't they want their Savior to return?"  In pondering, I have come to the conclusion that there are two main reasons.

First, sure, Christians want to go to heaven, but they want to have their "fun" first. They have their plans for their lives and they don't want these plans thrown off course.  Whether it's getting a certain job, getting married, getting that big house or expensive car, having children, or any number of desires, Christians have their own plans.  Inherent in this is a worldview assumption: my life should be done my way.  In this, I sense Christians who have not submitted to God's will.  They don't really want God's will.  They may say they do, but their upset over interrupted plans reveals the truth of their passions.

The second reason is a far harder pill to swallow.  It's something I have talked about before to people, but don't often because it can be offensive--at least, that's how it can be taken.  The second reason flows from the first reason and it hurts my heart: Christians don't love God.

My own excitement for Jesus coming back stems from my release from sin.  Imagine having no inclination to sin so that I never hurt another person again with my words or actions and I am never hurt in return?  Imagine not having the burden of my past sins lingering over my head? I can't wait for that day!  But even more than that, I cannot wait to behold my God in all his glory.  My favorite picture of Jesus comes from Revelation:

"I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance." (Rev. 1:12-16)

I cannot wait to physically touch him and be held by him.  Why?  Because I love him with such love I can't even describe the depth of my heart.  I'm not trying to toot my own horn here.  This love doesn't come out of me because I am such a great Christian.  It comes out of me because I am such a great sinner who has been gifted the life of a saint: 

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:41-47)

How can we not love him?  We have been forgiven so much!  How can we not wait to see him?  How can we not desire our Savior right in front of us?  Because when it comes down to it, we don't love God enough.  We don't love him more than our plans and our wills.  We don't want him to come back, because we don't view him as our beloved coming to take his bride.  We aren't the bride who waits in eagerness for her groom.  But that is how it should be.

When Jesus comes, I guarantee that all our petty, earthy cares will pass away.  None of that will matter.  To love him and be loved by him is a gift beyond description.  So ask yourself: Do I view my Savior's return as an interruption?  Do I care more about my plans than His?  Do I truly love Him?  If you find your heart isn't where it should be, take the next step and ask God to move it where it should be.  Pray that you, too, will wait with eager anticipation to behold the glory of your God.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Are You Profaning the Name of God?

I'm still reading in Leviticus and I read a verse that piqued my interest today. Leviticus 21:6 says this, "'They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God, for they present the offerings by fire to the LORD, the food of their God ; so they shall be holy." The context is God talking about the ministry of the priests in the tabernacle. I was curious what the meaning of "profane" was. In the Hebrew, the term is chalal and it means "to make common." The priests are called to be holy, which in Hebrew means to be set apart, to be special unto the Lord. The priest is not to make himself common, but set apart. Thus, if the priest undertakes an action that is not holy, he profanes or makes the name of God common.

I began to wonder, how can God's name be made common? How is God's glory and holiness removed in the eyes of man and made common? This was when it hit me. Often Christians will talk about not taking the Lord's name in vain as a support for not using God as a curse word. That makes sense because vain means to make something empty, to give it an empty meaning. Vain can also mean to be deceitful. To use God's name in an empty way can deceive its true meaning. But could there be an even deeper reason not to use God's name as a curse?

"Oh my God" and "Jesus Christ" are words that have become common in our culture. We can't really go a day without hearing them at least on the television if no where else. It hit me--yes, my culture profanes the name of God every day. We take the holy name of God, meant to be set apart, special, and have turned it into a common expletive. Yes, by doing so his name is empty. But even more, it is turned from holy to profane.

Now, I can let secular culture go its way. It places no value on the name of God or the name of Jesus so it doesn't even understand the holy versus the profane. But a Christian is someone who supposedly does understand that God is holy, who seeks to glorify God in his or her life. Should I expect a Christian to profane the name of God?

1 Peter 2:9 says of Christians, "
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." The Leviticus passage was addressing the relation of priests to the name of God, basically how they uplifted or profaned the reputation of God. Now, all Christians are declared priests. We are God's special possession (notice the definition of holy here). We are set apart unto God. Why? To declare God's praises. We have a special purpose to make God holy, to make God known. Our call is not to make God common. It is to cry to the world, "Do you see my God? He is unlike any other. He is true love, true compassion, true justice. By his uniqueness we are saved!" Could it be that when we Christians use God's name as an expletive we have just brought him down into the common? We have denied our purpose and sullied the name of our God?

I think the answer is a resounding "yes"! But I also think to profane God goes beyond speech. It is not just my mouth that is to be holy to my God. It is also my body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price : therefore glorify God in your body." Not only are Christians the priests, they are the temple, too! Christians are also called to make the actions of their bodies glorifying to God. I am set apart in my body--my body has a special purpose unique to God. When I take an action that is unholy, ungodly, against the character of God, I have once again made God profane, common. I have rubbed his holiness in the dirt, as it were.

How has this insight helped me? I guess I often think of the sanctification of my walk with God in many different ways. But I had never thought of it this way. I want people to be glorified in God through my life. I don't want to turn God into an ordinary, easy to ignore fixture in my life. I want to lift him up for all to see his holiness, his special set apartness. This has fired in me a passion to lift my God out of the common on a daily basis. I hope sharing this might help you, too, unique and precious child of God!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

He Has Risen!

For Resurrection Day, I give you my favorite Resurrection Day poem written by John Updike, called "Seven Stanzas at Easter." Enjoy!

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.