I Am

Who created God? When did God begin? How can anyone not have a start?

These are all the logical questions anyone might ask of a God who claims to have no beginning and no end. And they are all questions that, even if we have the answers right in front of us, we will never really be able to wrap our minds around.

We humans know we have a beginning. And an end, of sorts. And another beginning. And then eternity (which we can’t really wrap our minds around, either).

When God speaks to Moses through the burning bush, He doesn’t say, “I was the God of your father…” God said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6) This implies that, not only was God the God of Moses’ ancestors, but He still is their God. And if He still is their God, they must still exist somewhere.

Jesus mentions this account when the Sadducees made an attempt, like the Pharisees often did, to stump him with the law. Don’t try to stump Jesus. You can’t. The Sadducees couldn’t, either. They gave a long hypothetical situation in which a woman ends up marrying seven brothers and eventually dies childless. In heaven, who is her husband?

After explaining that the finite things of life do not come with us into eternity, Jesus closes with this:

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

Luke 20:38 (NIV)

Our short lives on this earth are amazing things on their own, but when you add eternity to that experience, it is a mere shadow in comparison. When we make Jesus our Lord, God our Father, He is our God for eternity. Again, a tough concept to grasp. But no matter how difficult it is to fully comprehend eternal life, it is ours nonetheless.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—is is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)

Even as I try to put into words the vastness of this truth, I am blown away by what God has offered us. Not only has He given us life on earth, but He has made a way for us to live forever with Him.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 (NIV)

God isn’t an I was, He isn’t an I will be. He is. And He has made us to be like Him.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:16 (NIV)

When we are made alive with Christ, we become a part of The Great I Am. Who I was no longer matters. Forevermore, I am with I Am.

Read: 2 Samuel 15-16, Luke 20:27-47

His harvest

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Luke 10:2 (NIV)

It takes a lot of pressure off of what we do as Christians, as ministers, doing the work of the Lord when we focus on one simple aspect of this verse. We could very easily take it upon ourselves to do all of the work and bring in all of the harvest while worrying about how to plant, water, and grow it as well. But notice that Jesus calls it his harvest field. It is not our duty to worry about anything but bringing it in and praying for more people to help us bring it in.

Not everyone has had a revelation of who God is—they have not yet heard the Gospel, but according to Jesus, many have heard the Gospel and need help taking that final step toward salvation. It is up to the Church to go out and gather these people so that they may develop a deeper relationship with God.

All these things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Luke 10:22 (NIV)

Jesus chose not to reveal himself to the kings and rulers of the day. He revealed himself to the average person. He did not seek to attain political power, but humbly approached the lowly and simple. In doing so, he changed a nation from the bottom up. By the time the rulers discovered who Jesus was and what he was doing, it was too late to stop him.

There is no reason why our ministry now should not reflect what Jesus did in his time on earth. We should pray for our leaders. We should be leaders. But we don’t have to go out looking for the harvest. The harvest, God’s harvest, is among our peers and those with whom we do life with on a daily basis. It is those people we should be talking to, building relationships with, and showing them the love that Christ has already extended to us and to them through us. The harvest is all around us and we are all the workers God has called to bring it in.

However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

Luke 10:20 (NIV)

As much as we long to (and should) see the power of God in signs and wonders, our greatest joy should be found in the fact that we are the children of God. That joy only grows when we are able to lead others to join us in our heavenly citizenship.

Don’t worry about how to grow the harvest. It’s not yours. Just go out and get it.

Read: Judges 15-17, Luke 10:1-24

Infinity and beyond

Read: Deuteronomy 14-16, Mark 13:14-37

When was the last time you had something repaired? Maybe it was your car. Perhaps a computer or an appliance. It was probably a big-ticket item, whatever it was. Once upon a time, people would repair just about everything. Socks were darned. Jeans were patched. Dresses were refit to a different shape and size. Phones lasted decades. Books for centuries.

Mark 13-31

When we read about Jesus’ words enduring forever, we really don’t have a frame of reference. After all, nothing lasts forever, right?

Wrong.

We need to get our minds out of our world of temporary and easily replaceable. We need to get our brains fixed on the fixed. We need to look beyond today and into eternity. Into infinity and beyond.

Jesus, the Word, was there in the beginning. He will be there long after all we know ends. And he has invited us to share eternity with him. We’d be crazy not to take him up on that offer.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

John 1:1-2 (NIV)

It is this assurance that we can hold on to. Outside of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, there is nothing that endures. If we desire meaning and anything that lasts, it can only be found through Christ. It is this knowledge that will keep us going when everything else we know is gone. This life may be temporary, but the next one isn’t.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NIV)

Faith and forgiveness

Read: Deuteronomy 3-4, Mark 11:20-33

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your sins.

Mark 11:22-26 (NIV)

In Mark 11, we can’t wait to get to the good part about telling a mountain to throw itself into the sea, and then we quickly skip over that uncomfortable part about forgiveness and move on to the next parable.

Who doesn’t want to see a miracle? We should long to see the miraculous. Signs and wonders should be following every believer. But what if the miracle God wants to perform has to do with you forgiving your brother? What if the sign He wants to show someone has you asking for forgiveness from your neighbour?

Not every miracle, sign or wonder has to do with healing or provision. Sometimes they seem so insignificant to us that we wouldn’t even deem to call the event worthwhile. But to the person who’s been forgiven, it can be life-changing.

If grace does not produce joyful obedience it has been abused. Forgiving is the very essence of grace.

The Weston Study Bible

Forgiveness isn’t something we should look at that we need to get out of the way so we can see the mountain move. Forgiveness may be the mountain itself.

When Jesus took the time to explain to his disciples how they should pray, he didn’t include the miraculous, but he did include forgiveness.

This, then, is how you should pray,

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name;
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.'”

Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

Jesus then went on to say that when we forgive those who sin against us, God will forgive us, but if we withhold our forgiveness, God will not forgive us.

It would seem to me, then, that as much as it is impossible to please God without faith, it is also impossible to please him without forgiveness.

Give me a sign

Read: Numbers 24-27, Mark 8:11-38

Mark 8-11-12.jpg

It seems a little bit contradictory that Jesus would say this right after performing some of the most spectacular miracles of his ministry. This would be like asking an Olympic gold medalist to repeat their performance to prove they were good enough and have them refuse. The evidence for their athleticism already exists in the form of the gold hanging around their neck. For Jesus, the evidence of the wonders he had done was all around in the form of the thousands of people Jesus had healed, set free, and fed.

By refusing to perform a sign from heaven for the Pharisees on command, does this mean that Jesus didn’t want to do the miraculous anymore? Of course not! He knew that, if the evidence already available to these men wasn’t enough, one more miracle wasn’t going to do the trick.

He who is not convinced of the value of unseen things from a knowledge of the personality and spiritual message of Jesus will be unmoved by the most spectacular miracle.

J. Newton Davies, The Abingdon Commentary

I’m so confused! Do we want miracles or don’t we?

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

Mark 16:17-18 (NIV)

These were some of the last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before ascending into heaven. I think it’s safe to assume that this message was an important one.

But why are miracles for some people and not for others? Harper’s Bible Dictionary says this:

The miraculous healings and exorcisms, then, were unique personal experiences of the salvation brought by Jesus.

As much as miracles prove the existence of a loving God, they are not for unbelievers, but those who believe. Notice that when Jesus healed someone, he often told them that their faith had made them well. Jesus didn’t heal them to make them believe, he healed them because they believed.

It then begs the question: why isn’t the church as a whole seeing miracles?

Do we really believe?

Through the eye

Read: Exodus 16-18, Matthew 19:16-30

Ask any Bible teacher or scholar, even a kid in Sunday school, and you’ll get an assortment of responses as to what Jesus meant when he spoke of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.

Matthew 19:24

Some may tell you that they eye of the needle was a reference to a smaller gate within a large gate. The main gate broad and high enough to admit a fully loaded camel, while the smaller gate was easier to open to permit men and women to pass through. Another may tell you that the gate was large enough for a loaded camel to pass through, but only on its knees. Yet another may speak of a customs gate of sorts. The gate being large enough to admit a camel, but not with its load. The purpose being that the load could be inspected before being allowed into the city.

All of these explanations can be tied with Jesus’ words. A man cannot bring earthly possessions through the gates of heaven. A man must humble himself in order to gain entry into eternity. All that we bring must first be inspected and judged by God before being permitted.

But what if no explanation is really needed? What if Jesus was speaking literally? Some scholars believe that the stories of a gate called The Eye of the Needle surfaced only after Jesus made the connection. The camel was the largest animal in the area at the time. The eye of a needle was the smallest commonly known passage. There was no way a camel would fit through.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

Of course it is impossible for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle! That was the whole point of what Jesus was trying to say. He left no room for questioning. Salvation is impossible without God. Entry into heaven can only be gained when we leave our stuff behind. God will only take us as we are without the extras we have a habit of making so important.

Our treasures are not stored up when we hoard them on earth, but rather when we do the opposite and give it all away.

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

Matthew 19:21 (NIV)

Instead of looking for the academic explanation, let’s look at this literally. As Jesus said it.

Leave the stuff. Give to the poor. Follow him.

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

Sshhh…

Have you ever been in a prayer meeting where everything is quiet and the peace of the Lord is permeating the room and you’re all just basking in the presence of God… then someone just has to fill the silence with what is usually a loud and long-winded prayer? There seem to be those who cannot abide the silence. Well, heaven is one long, unending praise and worship service. Maybe, but sometimes, worship includes silence.

When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour.

Revelation 8:1 (NLT)

There are several theories as to the purpose or reason for this silence. Some believe that it is heaven—the elders and the angels surrounding the throne—waiting in expectation for what will follow the breaking of the seventh seal. Others believe that the cries of the saints below were so great that it silenced the heavenly host.

I believe that the silence itself is just as important as the reason.

There is a time for loud, boisterous, joyful praise. And there is a time for quiet contemplative worship. And there is yet a time for silence. How else are we to hear what God is saying if we never take the time to listen? We know from the Old Testament accounts that God can speak through a burning bush or He can speak in a still, small voice. Sometimes He needs to get our attention and other times we need to give Him our attention.

Whatever the reason for the half hour of silence in Revelation, all of heaven stood at attention. They waited. They listened. They prepared. There was a pause. A weighted silence.

Prayer, praise, worship—these things do not necessarily require sound on our part. Sometimes, the silence can hold more weight than words. If heaven can handle silence, so can we.

Daily Bible reading: Obadiah 1, Revelation 8

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

Praise the Lord!

 

As a worship leader, I’ve heard many people over the years tell me that worship just isn’t their thing. It’s frustrating to look out over a congregation and see people on their phones, with coffee cups in their hands, or whispering to their neighbours—that’s if they’re in the worship service at all! But here’s the thing: God hasn’t called us to do only those things that we enjoy. He hasn’t called us to do only the things that we are comfortable doing. He’s called us to do quite the opposite.

Any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.

~ A.W. Tozer

I often wonder what people believe Heaven will be like. There are many who are likely under the grave misconception that it will be an eternity of frivolous, self-indulgent pursuits. So what then, would it mean to join with the angels to sing holy, holy, holy is the Lord? Does Heaven have a service schedule? Is there a small segment of each day that is set aside for praise and worship? No. There is no service schedule. Because the service never stops. Heaven is one big, long praise and worship service. Heaven is not for our pleasure. It is for God’s.

So how do we prepare for Heaven? We praise.

Let every created thing give praise to the Lord,
for he issued his command and they came into being.
He established them forever and forever.
His orders will never be revoked.

Psalm 148:5-6 (NLT)

Let everything that lives sing praises to the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 150:6 (NLT)

We are all a part of everything that lives. The longest book in the Bible is a book full of songs. The last words in that book are Praise the Lord! Do you think, perhaps, that this could and should be an important part of our lives?

While our mortal selves may not enjoy the act of praise and worship, our spirit longs for it.

Your heart’s desire, even if you haven’t realized it, is to live every moment in the wonder of worship.

David Jeremiah

Praise is not something to do when we feel like it. It is something we do so long as we are breathing. If your spirit needs to remind your body, so be it. But don’t fool yourself into believing that praise isn’t your thing. It is your thing. It’s your only thing. It’s the one thing you were created to do.

Praise the Lord, I tell myself;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, I tell myself,
and never forget the good things he does for me.

Psalm 103:1-2 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 148-150, 1 Corinthians 11:16-34