Like you… or not.

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6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;

call upon him while he is near;

7let the wicked forsake his way,

and the unrighteous man his thoughts;

let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,

and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:6-9

 Religion

God could be the invention of human need.
And so it is with false religion.
The construction of God in the mind seeks to mediate our brokenness.
And so we have idolatry.

 Seekers

So what do we do with the seeking heart?
The person who is seeking God must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who come to him. (Hebrews 11:6)

 God reveals

When God is doing the revealing we are inevitably confronted with the difference.
His thoughts are not our thoughts.
His ways are not our ways.

And then the seeker may want to run, hide, and settle for a weaker or more distant version of God.

Wait, stop. That’s the time to turn toward Jesus, confess, change your thoughts, change your ways in His power according to His revelation. In His grace. Through Him. Then, you will become… like Him.

Illustrated from Luke 5:1-11

1On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

4And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.

8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

 

The impulse to know God

Signal – Response.

The impulse to know God.

I wonder if its a reflexive action?

But I know the impulse to know God can be denied.  It can be ignored.  It can be covered up.

Just like the impulse to pick my nose in public.

Signal – Response.

Is God signaling to us?

He’s called the “Great I AM,” the same “yesterday, today, and tomorrow,”

The Alpha and Omega — the beginning and the end.

When I read the Scripture’s story I hear Him signalling.

The signals to know God are coming from Him and they are all around us.

And every once in a while we may say honestly with Philip, a man who spent several years with Jesus,

“Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Are you satisfied with Jesus’ answer?

9Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? 10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.  John 14:9-11

worship exiles

The dominance of Jesus in John’s heart and mind confronts my own preoccupation with problems.  Even as John, the exile of Patmos, took up the pen to write the letter and record the revelation he was aware of Jesus’ concern and correction for the churches.  However, in writing the letter the dominant concern of John was not in providing solutions to their problems.  John is absolutely gushing with praise for God.  Jesus’ revelation in John’s letter invokes worship in John even as he writes to the churches.  The revelation pulls back the curtain so that Jesus may be seen.  “Look, he is coming and ever eye will see him, even those who pierced him.”  (Rev 1:7)

John erupts into worship just as he greets the seven churches declaring that Jesus would have glory and power forever.  Notice how John’s worship is in response to God.  “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.”  (Rev 1:5-6)  Then as if to punctuate how Jesus is their very life–God greets them in the letter:  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is and was, and is to come, the Almighty.” 

I am too easily occupied with my own voice and contemplation of problems and challenges.  When I lean into those problems I too often lean in first–with a sense of aloneness.  I realize that problems can turn us into worship exiles.  Without a compelling and truthful vision of who God is and what He has done for us, problems usher us into a void in which we become functional atheists.  We act as if God is dead, inattentive to our situations, unable or unwilling to act.  Perhaps this was part of the danger attendant to John’ audience who might have felt that the persecution of Domitian or the pressures of gaining or creating wealth were more present than God.

John was physically exiled to the Island of Patmos.  But the churches were in danger of self-generated spiritual exile from the presence of God.  The danger remains for us as well.  If we cease to respond in thanks and praise to the One who has loved us, freed us from our sins, and made citizens in His Kingdom with purposeful intent we will become worship exiles.

revelation

I am reading Revelation with my Wednesday morning coffee group.  I encouraged them to read it through in one sitting.  I made my read on Sunday afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Revelation is a text full of encouragement on how to walk with Jesus in a world where it doesn’t appear that He has won or is winning.  I am astonished that it is the actual revelation of Jesus Christ to His churches.  I am thankful that it comes via the pastoral heart of John. 

I made my first reading of Revelation as a teenager, 13 or 14 years old.  I remember being enraptured by the imagery of the text.  Why it competed with that of Lord of the Rings!  As well I was also taken with fear that perhaps I might be the one who was somehow complicit with the Devil’s rebellion against Jesus.  Besides my fearful self-centered reading I was also deeply influenced by questions of when all this was happening and when Jesus was coming back and who all the national or global players in the events described might be.

I have read the text many times and with each reading I take heart with the promise that by simply reading it I will experience the blessings of God.  “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”  Revelation 1:3 NIV  I do find that I take it to heart.  However, my concern is not so much for when this all happens but for who it all happens.  I want to know and live for my Lord Jesus Christ who has pulled back the curtain on a reality that He knows but I miss.

It is easy to read the Revelation of Jesus Christ and fear that pain and persecutions would be the death of faith and the church.  However that does not appear in the text as the greatest challenge to those who claim the name of Jesus.  Complaceny is the greatest challenge.  The “letters to the churches” set the scene for us to get a glimpse of how quickly the heart is drawn away from attentive devotion and obedience to Christ the Lord.  I believe the rest of the text then calls us back to Jesus by giving us a glimpse of the “end game” to which all of humanity is hurteling.

Through our journey through Revelation I am now reading Darrell Johnson’s Discipleship on the Edge; An Expository Journey Through the Book of Revelation.  I invite you to pick up your own copy and join in on the conversation.