Monday, December 29, 2008

sweet dreams (or Why "Planet Earth" Makes Me Love Jesus More)

I had a great Christmas. It was good to be home and spend some time with the family.

One of the gifts that I received was the Planet Earth dvd set. When I watch it I say "dang!" a lot on the inside. Occasionally I say it out loud, but I try to keep it under control so as to not be obnoxious to those around me.

Last night I had a sweet dream. I was with a bunch of friends, like hundreds, if I really even have that many (facebook says I have close to that). In my dream we were hanging out and having a good time... in the scenes from Planet Earth... which are actually scenes of Earth. We were just chilling on mountaintops, in the clouds, on really big lakes and glaciers (I've been practicing saying "glaciers" with a British accent), and in fields where there are a bunch of crazy looking animals. It was one of my best dreams ever.

I'm pretty sure I know why I had this dream. I think it has something to do with the fact that when I watch Planet Earth I get really excited about the New Creation. Everything that we see is longing for the day when it will be set free from its current bondage to decay and futility (Romans 8:19-22). Once creation is set free and born again we will have all of eternity to enjoy this world which we now inhabit. And we will enjoy it in a Christlike fashion.

I have written more about the New Creation on this blog (here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here). I kind of get excited thinking about it.

If you want to get excited about glory, then watch Planet Earth. If you don't have it, and you want to come over, I am pretty much always up for watching it.

Though the scenes from the dvds may look otherworldly, they aren't. It's our planet. Not only is it our planet, it is what our planet looks like as a consequence of sin, death, decay, and futility. I can't hardly imagine the thrill that will come when I see it firsthand without those things. I hope I have hundreds of friends around at that moment...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

and from Spurgeon... (or We'll Fly in Glory)

As long as I am putting up quotes from old theologians about glory...

Here is one from Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century British preacher, in his sermon entitled Resurgam:

"That powerless body shall be raised in power. That was a fine idea of Martin Luther, which he borrowed from Anselm, that the saints shall be so strong when they are risen from the dead, that if they chose they could shake the world; they could pull up islands by their roots, or hurl mountains into the air… I think if we do not go the length of the poets, we have every reason to believe that the power of the risen body will be utterly inconceivable. These, however, are but guesses at the truth; this great mystery is yet beyond us. I believe that when I shall enter upon my new body, I shall be able to fly from one spot to another, like a thought, as swiftly as I will; I shall be here and there, swift as the rays of light. From strength to strength, my spirit shall be able to leap onward to obey the behests of God; upborne with wings of ether, it shall flash its way across the shoreless sea, and see the glory of God in all his works, and yet ever behold his face. For the eye shall then be strong enough to pierce through leagues of distance, and the memory shall never fail. The heart shall be able to love to a fiery degree, and the head to comprehend right thoroughly."

Now I do realize that what is said by here is merely a guess. However, glory has to be at least as good as the guess.

Note: if you pronounce the 'right' of 'comprehend right thoroughly' in an area such as Littleton (where I live) it will no longer refer to "that which is not evil" but will become equivalent to making the statement "comprehend very thoroughly." If you don't know what I am talking about, that's fine, just trying saying to a couple of times over and over in a Southern accent while attempting to draw out the 'right.'

Irenaeus and the New Creation (or I'm a Better Cluster)

I found a fascinating quote today inspired by Joel 3:18. It is about the New Creation and is found in Against Heresies by Irenaeus the 2nd century Bishop of the place that is now Lyons.

"The days will come, in which vines shall grow, each having ten thousand branched, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each true twig ten thousand shoots, and in each one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will give five and twenty metretes of wine. And when any of the saints lay hold of a cluster, another shall cry out, 'I am a better cluster, take me; bless the Lord through me.'"

Monday, December 15, 2008

revelation, pt. 4 (Why You Should Read Bedtime Stories to Your Kids)

From my perception of things, it has been a popular thing to speak about life and theology in terms of a story. I appreciate this.

I think it is good that Louie Giglio has emphasized to thousands and thousands of college students that they need to find their story within the larger story of what Christ is doing.

It think it is good that so many narrative theologians (Stanley Hauerwas, Hans Frei, and others) have emphasized that the Gospel is shared as a story rather than systematic outlines or propositions.

I think C. S. Lewis’s metaphor of comparing God’s sovereign hand and man’s free agency to an author writing a story in which characters freely act could be a helpful way to think through some of the difficulties of that centuries-old discussion (yeah, that’s a long sentence).

I can relate to G. K. Chesterton’s statement, “I had always felt life first as a story, and if there is a story, there must be a Storyteller.”

Thinking of life in terms of a story is good and I think it is a natural way to think about life. I tend to think of my life in terms of chapters. I also see my tendency to view my story as a sad one, as a tragedy of sorts. Consequently, I find that I then determine to play the part of the tragic hero resulting in drama, but rarely anything good.

I was recently challenged when an older, wiser man told me, “You cannot read your own story. You will always deceive yourself into reading and writing the story the way you want it to be.” He made this remark within the context of arguing that we all need a measure of accountability. We need someone who can help us read the story of our lives properly. Thus, it is important for us to have someone in our lives that knows us well and is deeply involved in what we do and who we are. I find that this is a point that makes a lot of sense.

As I have been thinking through the book of Revelation, I was reminded of the words of this older man about reading my story. This is because Revelation is emphatic that Christ is both the beginning and end of the story.

He is the “first and the last” (Revelation 1:17; 2:8; 22:13).

He is also described as the “Alpha and Omega” (1:8; 21:6). This is another way of saying that Christ is the first and the last using the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Isn’t it interesting that this is a description rooted in the very building blocks (the letters of the alphabet) of written communication?

Christ is the “beginning and the end” (21:6). The story of history begins with Christ and it ends with Christ. The story of all that exists is rooted in Him and finds its consummation in Him.

This is exactly the sort of commentary and perspective I need on my story. My story finds its place within the greater context of the story about Christ. The narrative of my story, on a smaller scale, also finds its beginning in Christ and its end in Christ.

Revelation is not only a book about the end. It is also a book about the story of history from beginning to end. This is because it is a book about Christ. As Christians we can have faith and confidence about the end because Christ is there. Just as I find Him in the beginning of my story as my Creator, and just as I find Him at the beginning of the story of the new and redeemed me as my Savior, so also will I find Him in the end of my story when He will be revealed as the conquering Lord.

That should give me a godly confidence. It is a confidence that does not see this life as a tragic personal story, but rather as a tale of cosmic victory.

"The whole story is the meaning, because it is an experience, not an abstraction."
Flannery O'Connor

Saturday, December 13, 2008

revelation, pt. 3 (or A Word When We are Reminded that Christ is the King of Kings)

Scripture has [at least] a three-fold purpose. One, it testifies to Christ (see this post). Two, it is meant to encourage believers (Romans 15:4; 1 John 1:4). Three, Scripture equips the believer (2 Timothy 3:16).

Revelation, as Scripture, fulfills all three of these purposes. It both equips and encourages the believer by pointing to Christ. The Christocentric nature of Revelation is evident from the opening words that describe the book as the “revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Revelation is a book written to persecuted and hurting believers. In it is offered the reminder that Christ is both the firstborn of the dead and “the ruler of kings on earth” (1:5). As firstborn of the dead, Christ is the resurrected man who has demonstrated his divine sonship through the conquering of death (see also Romans 1:4). He is not simply One born of the dead, He is the firstborn of the dead. “Firstborn” implies that there will be more who will be born, and this is exactly the point. We too, who are in Christ, shall be resurrected from the dead as sons of God who, through Christ, will conquer death (1 Corinthians 15).

As “ruler of the kings of earth” Christ exercises sovereign control over the rulers and authorities of men. This carries special significance to those who face persecution from their rulers. The idea that YHWH is in control over the kings of the earth shows up often in the Old Testament. Here in Revelation, it is learned that Christ exercises that control over the authorities of the world. Satan once offered Christ all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:9). Christ rejected the offer, and through His obedience to the Father the subjection of the nations to Christ is accomplished (1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Revelation 1:5).

This is meant to encourage believers. Even though the nations rage against Christ and His followers, this should not come as a surprise to believers. Jesus told His disciples “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). Then, a little later, He offered this encouragement: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Since, as Revelation tells us, Christ is the ruler of the kings of the earth we can join with the Psalmist in his declaration:
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his anointed [Christ], saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
Psalm 2:1-6

Then a little later, the Holy Spirit through the Psalmist issues a warning:
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are those who take refuge in him.
Psalm 2:10-12

The kings of the earth are warned to obey their Ruler, because He is Lord of both mercy and wrath. Many kings and rulers (and nations) rebel, but the Lord is merciful and delays His quickly kindled wrath, in order that men might repent and not perish. However, there is a coming day when this will no longer be the case. It is this coming day of which Revelation speaks.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I'm back...

I'm not going to assume that anyone has noticed the lack of posts and been disappointed... but, I'm back.

The last month has been a little crazy.

Busier than expected.


Tumultuous at times.

Exciting at others.

I spent the past week in Orlando. CWR sent Jeremy and I to a CCCA conference at Disney. It was a lot of fun. There are a number of thoughts that I think I will post in the next week or so. It would be kind of a Pensees of sorts...

We got back last night. I was permitted to sleep in a bit, but it is now time to go to work...