Is He Worthy?

I've spent much of my life subtly and sometimes not so subtly trying to avoid pain and loss.

I tend to narrow my focus to what I think are my problems, and I tend to compulsively lurch toward supposed solutions that let me believe and behave however I want or that require no loss on my part.

I tend to avoid judgment at all costs.

In the fifth chapter of Revelation we find John in deep distress as he's witnessing a vision of the great Day of the Lord - the final judgment God's prophets and poets had known for centuries would come.  

The Day when evildoers would be put to rights.  
The Day when the oppressed would be set free.  
The Day when ugly, despotic power structures would be unmade.    
The Day when Yahweh would set everything straight.  

But John's not agonizing like I might be - scared silly of what I might lose or of some pain I might face.  No, he's weeping because no one can be found worthy to break the seals of that great judgment scroll.  No one can be found worthy to read it's pronouncements and no one can be found worthy to render them.     

John saw what I'm coming to see.  That is, that God's judgment is nothing to be afraid of if we're following Jesus as Lord.  If we are following after Messiah, then the Day of the Lord is for us that great day when we and the whole wide world are ridden completely of the effects of evil.  

John was weeping because if no one could open the scroll, then nothing in this world of pain could ever be changed.  Nothing could ever be made truly and deeply and forever Good again.

If no one could open the scroll, then pain and sorrow and sadness and lack and loss would always be the cruel taskmasters of what God had made to be so beautiful in the beginning.

But of course, John then heard what he'd so been waiting to hear:
"Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals."
So rather than fear that Day - we can know deep in our hearts as did John - that's the Day we've all been waiting for...

On that Day, we'll finally be rid of the nasty bent to protect ourselves at any cost, to grab for ourselves whatever we can and to hurt others whenever we are hurt.

On that Day, we'll be rid forever of fear, doubt, selfishness, greed and all their ugly siblings.  We, and the whole wide world, will all be made totally and completely New.

Andrew Peterson has put this grandest of all scenes to gorgeous melody - to which I cannot stop listening.  It's truly beautiful.

In fact, his Resurrection Letters: Prologue and Resurrection Letters: Volume 1 are now on constant play in my ears and in my heart.  

Boundary and Grace

Lisa and I were exploring the less-traveled side of a nearby mountain town - a beautiful bedroom community that, like much of Colorado's front range, is turning all-too-quickly into a bustling city.  In the middle of the mountains, museums and monuments that make the town special - we found this street sign.

And so we sat there and pondered what significance might be found at the corner of Boundary and Grace.

As I stare at this lonely sign ignored by the locals and only useful to the rare tourist without a GPS, I'm powerfully reminded of the way Yahweh has, is and always shall relate to you and I.

Boundaries.

Now there's a word that inspires!  For me, "boundaries" always meant lines and limitations and longings to linger where I was forbidden to do so.  But boundaries are so much a part of how God relates to us, and how he expects us to relate with others.

God relates to humanity through covenants.  Covenants are much like contracts, where God says "You do this, and I'll do that."  Covenants contain promises that God makes to us (great promises, in fact!) and rules that create boundaries for our thoughts and actions.

Rules - another way of saying boundaries - are an integral part of God's way of dealing with us.  And so, boundaries are really quite good for us in life and in relationship with God,

Think of the Adamic Covenant - the agreement that God made with Adam in Genesis.  In street terms, God basically said "Adam, you and your kin can eat from any tree in this garden.  And that's no small thing sir, because the produce from one of these trees in particular will keep you alive forever!".

That was the great promise of the Adamic Covenant.  Eat from that tree and have Eternal Life?  I'm sure that sounded really good to Adam, as it would have to me.

But the Adamic Covenant also contained one very important rule, or boundary, that ended up making all the difference in the world.  "Eat from any tree," said God, "except that one...".

And you know the rest of the story.  Adam and his wife stepped over the boundary.  Sin and it's ugly brother Death came into God's beautiful world and we've never been the same since.

Every other covenant God has made with human beings follows the same structure - promises and boundaries, boundaries and promises.  It's just the way it is with our God.

But boundaries aren't the only thing we see in the scriptures.  We see, almost like we're looking into the sun, the powerful Grace that God has always given to his children, and nowhere is this Grace more evident than in the person and work of Jesus, and in his New Covenant.

Grace.

I've heard it defined as "unmerited favor".  And grace is well-understood in that way.  But here, I'd like to call out Grace as "the ability to do something hard, and make it look easy".

Take, for example, a world-class figure skater, or sculptor or violinist.  These individuals have all mastered some complicated and difficult skills.  And when they're at the top of their game, they make it look easy.

When I watch a graceful ballet dancer, or downhill skier or high-level rock climber - a master in the middle of practicing their art, I'd swear that "I could do that!".  But the brutal truth is - I don't have their capabilities.  At least not yet.

And so it is with Grace.

God bestows Grace upon you and I in the person of his Spirit who lives in us.  In Ezekiel 36:27, God promised that in the New Covenant he would put his "Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.".  By his Spirit, God gives us the Grace to do what seems hard, and even make it look easy.  

So if you're a follower of Jesus, the next time you Stop at the corner of Boundary and Grace - ask the Spirit of God who lives in you to give you the power to be and to do all that he wants you to be and to do.
"Father, thank you for putting in us the deposit of your Spirit - a down payment on the glorious future you're bringing in your Kingdom.  Help us follow your leading, give us the courage to listen and the strength to be pleasing to you.  In Jesus' name - amen!"

The Global Advocacy Forum 2015

Like I've said so many times before, I'm humbled to be a tiny part of Compassion International - a ministry that's actually enabling God's people to change the world in real and significant ways.  1.5 million children are today being delivered (and I mean truly delivered) from extreme poverty because Compassion connects you, the sponsor, with the heart and circumstances of your sponsored children.  So it's my pleasure to serve our sponsors and all those children by bringing what I've learned about technology to the multitude of tasks involved in running this ministry.

This June, Lisa and I traveled with Compassion's Global Advocacy team to Cape Town, South Africa to unveil some revolutionary technology - technology designed to help deliver children from poverty in Jesus' name.

What's Global Advocacy?  Well, in a nutshell it's Compassion's way of giving a part of itself to other ministries and other means of delivering children from poverty.  It's Compassion giving away whatever we can to other ministry partners so that together we might do what no single ministry could do alone.

So with the thought of sharing in mind, we've created a technology space to gather and share mounds of really relevant information critical to the care of children in the difficult environments in which they live.  And right inside that space we can collaborate with the multitudes of caregivers that so desperately need that information - all in real time.  In fact, we expect this technology and the humans that use it to enable more than 20,000 churches around the world (churches that are not tied in any way to Compassion) to care for multiplied millions of children.

I'll demonstrate all this here in the near future, but for now, I'd just like to express my gratitude to the Father for calling us into his service no matter what ministry we may work for, and my thankfulness to Compassion International for being such a bright light around the world.
"Thank you, Father, for the love you're sharing through the church to millions of children in poverty around the world.  We know that one day, Messiah will return and deliver us all from whatever poverty we may experience.  But between now and then, please give us the strength to push ever forward and ever more intelligently into this your Great Project.  In Jesus' name, amen!"

Overlap of the Ages

Time for contemplation has come rarely this year, and little contemplation time means little fodder for witty blog posts.  But this season affords for a few moments of contemplative reflection - so here we go...

When I was a younger man, I thought that perhaps there could be a concept that, if it were carefully engineered and if it were presented just right, would take the world by storm.  Perhaps the field of politics would produce.  Maybe education would enlighten.  Surely religion would rectify, right?

And of course, the reality is that all these and more contribute to our diverse and interesting planet. 

But the older I get, the less faith I have in any of these fields, and the more hope I have in the singular event that will change everything.  This event holds the potential to so radically change our politics, so thoroughly educate us and so radically satisfy our religious yearnings - we won't know what hit us when it happens.

Wouldn't it be awesome if today was the day?
"He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming quickly.'  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus."  - Revelation 2:20

Resurrection, Again...

Resurrection is a frequent topic for discussion among those of us that try to see the bigger picture of the Judeo Christian worldview.  I mean, what could be a more appropriate and exciting thing to talk about - what with the Kingdom of God having already been inaugurated back there in the first century, and what with the promise from the Lord that he will return and one day bring that Kingdom to our planet fully.

But even with that great promise - the promise that makes the Judeo-Christian story the greatest story ever told - there are many times I've been left asking "What about today?".

So about today, I'm reminded of one of my favorite Psalms.  In it, David is dealing with the everyday dangers of being king of a fledgling nation.  He was, as he was often, concerned with the enemies of Israel.  He was concerned with his personal enemies.  And finally, he cried out to Yahweh to look at him and to lift him above his oppressors.

At the end, though, David expresses his faith in God in a most beautiful way.
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
 
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
So I think I'll follow David's example today.  I'm waiting to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living...