Grunt before glory

Read: Exodus 39-40, Matthew 24:1-22

Who doesn’t want to see God’s glory? You’d have to be crazy not to. For many in the church, it is (or maybe should be) our primary pursuit.

Exodus 40-34

We all want the cloud to descend so we can bask in the presence of God. But, for as many of us who pursue the glory, nearly as many never see the fullness of it. Why?

Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded him.

Exodus 40:16 (NIV)

This verse is followed by seven more that state, as the Lord commanded him. Seven. the number of completion and perfection.

And so Moses finished the work.

Exodus 40:33b (NIV)

He did everything the Lord commanded him. Then he finished the work. And only then did the glory of the Lord fill the tabernacle.

Well, I’m just waiting on the Lord. It is to our detriment that we use the word wait. To wait on the Lord has absolutely nothing to do with sitting in silence and everything to do with getting off our blessed assurance and working toward the high calling that God has set before us.

WAIT: To attend to; to perform. To be ready to serve; to obey.

Moses waited on the Lord by doing exactly as he had been commanded. Not only did God give a long list of very specific instructions, but He also sent His Spirit to empower the craftsman to do their work.

We all want the glory, but very few want to do the grunt work required to prepare ourselves and the place for the Lord’s presence. Christianity is not the easy way out, but the narrow road in. We are called to live a life set apart and that life requires work. Lots of work. Hard work.

We have a whole book of commands that we carry around to make us feel good about ourselves, but carrying the book is the most work many are willing to do. If we would only put into practice all the instruction we’ve been given, perhaps we’d see a lot more of that glory we’ve been looking for. A little grunt may go a long way toward the glory.

Can you keep a secret?

Read: Genesis 18-19, Matthew 6

SECRET: Separate, hid, concealed from the notice or knowledge of all persons except the individual or individuals concerned.

Some things in life should be public. Our faith being one of those things. No one should ever doubt your salvation or your Christian walk. The way you behave in public should set you apart. But some parts of that walk should remain secret. Jesus addresses three such portions: giving, praying, and fasting.

In Jesus’ day, there were those in the temple who went to great efforts to make sure that everyone knew what they were up to. They needed the world to know that they were righteous and holy because of what they were doing. Let the trumpets sound and the heralds declare!

To what end? What was the purpose in making public their “holy” acts? If it was for acknowledgement then their entire purpose for giving, praying, or fasting was made void for all of those things should be done to glorify God. And if we are seeking our own glorification for doing those things, then how can God get any glory?

Jesus tells us these things should be done in secret. For if we do it when no one is watching, then we can know that our heart is in the right place and our reasons for doing these things are indeed for the glory of God. The reward we look for should not be immediate gratification, but eternal glory. In each instance, we see that there is a reward for keeping our holy acts between ourselves and the Lord.

…so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:4 (NIV)

Matthew 6:6

…so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:18 (NIV)

You see, when we turn our focus on to God rather than on ourselves, not only is the glory given to whom it belongs, but we also receive the reward our actions deserve. A reward is not warranted if our sole purpose for giving is public accolade. But when we give for the purpose of being generous, even in secret, God sees and He stores up for us a heavenly reward that is far greater than anything we could receive here on earth.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

God’s kingdom should always be first and foremost. It is first for His benefit that we give, pray, and fast. Those things will then benefit others and ourselves last. Matthew Henry said that what we do must be done from an inward principle, that we may be approved of God, not that we may be praised of men.

Not all secrets are shady. There is nothing dubious or nefarious in giving, fasting, or praying. Jesus encourages us to do all of these things. And it is not only that we do them that matters, but how we go about doing them.

No earthly good

On that day the sources of light will no longer shine, yet there will be continuous day! Only the Lord knows how this could happen!

Zechariah 16:6-7a (NLT)

And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshipped.

Zechariah 14:9 (NLT)

And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light.

Revelation 21:23 (NLT)

He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.

Revelation 21:4 (NLT)

As Christians, we should all long for the day when the Lord returns and evil is banished from this world forever. We will live in the glorious eternal light of the Lamb and can be confident in this if we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Our names have been written in his Book of Life. But, as wonderful as that day will be, it cannot be our only focus.

There is a saying of those whose focus is not on this world: they are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. These people spend all of their time looking at the end and have lost touch with the present.

I can’t wait for the day when all of us saints will join with the angels around the throne singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” But that day is not today and, until that day comes, I have a job to do. We all have a job to do and it may not—and probably won’t be—all sunshine and roses.

I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure, just as gold and silver are refined and purified by fire. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘There are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’

Zechariah 13:9 (NLT)

The days of glory will not come before the days of fire and refinement. Things are going to get a lot more uncomfortable before we are able to walk through the pearl gates and onto the streets of gold. If our only focus is the end, we will miss out entirely on the process. If you’re still here, God is not done with you. And if God is not done with you, your main focus should be the job at hand so that you can earn your reward at the end.

It’s okay to be heavenly minded, but you still have to be good for something while you’re still on earth.

Daily Bible reading: Zechariah 13-14, Revelation 21

No doubt

To even the most accomplished scholar, the book of Revelation can be daunting. Filled with inexplicable visions and prophecy, who can really know what the writer saw? But there are a couple of things that we can be sure about.

First, no matter what’s going on, worship continues. Aside from that half hour pause, every being in heaven continues to worship God. Their songs, their attitudes and their posture never changes.

Second, is the assurance holding on to God’s promises.

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The whole world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 11:15 (NLT)

The host surrounding the throne of God was so confident in their remarks that they announced long before the end what the end would be. According to John, the entire world is in turmoil at this time and yet the declaration is past tense.

But those two songs which precede it show that the real result is the coming of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom. The tense is that of prophetic certainty—the Kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, though all is in the future. But there is no more doubt about the future than about the past if God has determined it.

F. Bertram Clogg, The Abingdon Bible Commentary

When God makes a promise, we can be as certain that He will keep it as though it has already come to pass.

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in him. That is why we say, “Amen” when we give glory to God through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NLT)

Notice the use of past tense again here. All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in him. In whom? Him. Jesus. The Amen. The Alpha and the Omega. The One who knows both the beginning and the end because he is the beginning and the end.

You may question or doubt a few things in Revelation, but there should be no doubt at all when it comes to whether or not God’s promises will be fulfilled.

Daily Bible reading: Micah 4-5, Revelation 11

Don’t shoot the messenger

We all have people in our lives that we’d rather not have in our lives. An annoying coworker. A nosy neighbour. That weird uncle that only shows up at holidays. We avoid these people at all costs and even begrudge them when something good happens in their lives. We hold on to our dislike—hate even—like a security blanket. So long as that person keeps doing the things we dislike, we can grip our sense of superiority over them.

Jonah experienced a similar feeling when God brought him to a certain city in a rather roundabout way. Jonah finally made it to the city of Nineveh by way of fish. It probably wasn’t the most popular mode of transportation in his day, but it did the trick. Jonah was finally where God told him to be—surrounded by people he didn’t like. Not only did he have to be there, he had to share a certain message.

On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”

Jonah 3:4 (NLT)

Still believing himself to be above the people in the city, Jonah shared his message with a great sense of satisfaction and then found a prime spot to watch the promised destruction. Yet that destruction would never come. Because, in spite of his hatred for the people of Nineveh, they had received and embraced his message.

The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they decided to go without food and wear sackcloth to show their sorrow.

Jonah 3:5 (NLT)

I doubt this was the response Jonah was expecting. In a city he hated, Jonah was forced to watch as his reluctant message was acted upon. Repentance ran rampant.

What all the saints make a matter of joy and praise, Jonah makes the subject of reflection upon God; as if showing mercy were an imperfection of the Divine nature, which is the greatest glory of it.

Matthew Henry

The account of Jonah is not merely a story of delayed obedience. It is a story of attitude, of mercy, of grace. And it is an account that show us that, even if our attitudes do not reflect our message, God can still work in the hearts of even the greatest sinners. But, unlike Jonah, when our message is received, our hearts should rejoice along with those who have received the gift of grace.

It is the neighbour we like the least that needs the most love. Hesitation on our part to share the Gospel is like shooting the messenger before he even has a chance to tell his story. We do ourselves and our neighbour a disservice by holding on to our hatred and dislike. We want to show our superiority while God wants to show His grace.

Immediate obedience to God’s instruction is far easier on our egos than waiting until the last possible moment.  Let us share in the glory of God’s grace rather than hoarding our own personal comfort.

Daily Bible reading: Jonah 1-4, Revelation 9

The beginning and the end

They said,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength
belong to our God forever and forever,
Amen!

Revelation 7:12 (NLT)

This chorus of saints and angels will sing in perpetual praise around the throne of God. Notice the beginning and the end. Amen!

This is the message from the one who is Amen—the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

Revelation 3:14b (NLT)

The source of all creation, Jesus, is the Amen. He should now and forever be both the beginning and ending of our praise, our worship, our adoration. Through him all things began and he will be there until the end and through eternity. How fitting that the choir of all creation would recognise his place—to confirm, establish, and verify the Truth.

Daily Bible reading: Amos 7-9, Revelation 7

The wait

Do you ever wonder what this world would be like if Adam had never sinned? If no one had ever fallen prey to the enemy’s lies? Would we even have four seasons? Would leaves ever fall off trees? Would fruit ever spoil? And what about us? Would we still be wandering in paradise blissfully unaware of our nakedness? Taking strolls through the forest with God?

I wonder, like humanity, how much the rest of creation is aware of its fallen state. Romans 8:19 says that all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. It’s not only humans who wait for Jesus’ glorious return, but all of creation. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay (Romans 8:20-21).

In Revelation 5, we see a progression of praise. First it’s just the elders around the throne. Then they are joined by thousands and millions of angels. And, finally, the rest of the chorus joins in a culmination of the entirety of God’s creation.

And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They also sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
belong to the one sitting on the throne
and to the Lamb forever and ever”

Revelation 5:13 (NLT)

I love the sound of a large choir, but can you imaging the entire universe singing God’s praise? For millennia, creation has been waiting, anticipating the time when we can all sing out. Like a bubble waiting to burst or a bud waiting to bloom, but only infinitely more powerful, beautiful, and wonderful. All of creation—animate and inanimate—longs for the day when we can all bow before the throne and join with the elders and the angels to sing:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty—
the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.

Revelation 4:8b (NLT)

Just the thought of that kind of praise and worship stirs my heart. An eternal, universally worship service will surely be worth the wait.

Daily Bible reading: Amos 1-3, Revelation 5