Facing God and the Face of God (Part 1)

Seeing What We Haven't Seen Before

I just wrapped up a four-part series at the Pleasant View Church of Christ…and after it I find myself returning over-and-over-and-over again to one Scripture in the Bible. It's a verse that I've read multiple times previously without it fully registering in my psyche. I'm assuming that experience is not unique to me…is there anyone else sitting here today who, studying a familiar part of the Bible, has said to himself or herself, "Wow?! Why haven't I ever seen that before?!"?

Do you ever wonder if the reason you've missed that awesome revelation from God is because you were just thick…or maybe instead God was "saving" it for you? Perhaps our Lord hides things in the Bible from us so that we'll never get bored reading His Word because of the joy we feel when, like an explorer, we discover something for the very first time.

At least the first time for us. 🙂

It's like the Most High has lifted a veil and we can finally see what we should have seen before…

The Judgment

So, what is this magnificent Scripture that I'm speaking of?

You'll just have to wait to find out. 🙂

Instead, let's first spend a little time looking at a few uncomfortable verses in the Bible…starting with one I've brought up here multiple times…Hebrews 9:27

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Three Strikes You’re In

Growing up in Canaan, New Hampshire without a whole bunch of pocket change, baseball was something that entertained my friends and me because it didn't take more than a ball and a glove to enjoy it. Well, it generally was better if there were at least two gloves. 🙂

I suppose just like cricket in other countries, watching baseball is an acquired taste. Many, perhaps most, people find it a bit slow and boring…whereas I can still remember, with a bunch of my buddies, closely listening to a game on a portable AM radio (in our tent made out of black 30-gallon trash bags) as the Red Sox and Yankees went into extra innings. It was the antithesis of boring to us. (Bad news, the Yankees won that game. Good news, as we left the tents to go sneak around town in the middle of the night, we discovered a glow-in-the-dark fungus exists in New England.)

So, do you enjoy baseball? Hate it? Can put up with it, but won't tune into it on television if there are other options? [Read more…]

I Dreamt I Died Last Night

Nightmares

How many here have had a nightmare?

[ Wait for people to respond…and assuming nobody says no… ]

I kind of figured, short of a newborn baby, everyone present for this sermon would confirm they have had bad dreams.

What are they about?

Being chased?

Being attacked by some evil power?

Falling?

A bad day at work?

Someone being especially mean to you?

Maybe the worst kind I had growing up was dreaming all night that I was at school, only to wake up and find it was time to…that's right…get ready and go to school. 🙂

Although I think, in some ways, my worse type of dream that has reoccurred over my life is being out and about and suddenly being naked. I know that may sound humorous to you, but if you've ever had that dream and aren't build like a model, it can be quite disconcerting. 🙂

I Dreamt I Died Last Night

Last week, however, was the first time I recall ever saying, first to myself and then to my wife, "I dreamt I died last night." Of course, what I meant (more exactly) was, "Last night, I dreamt I died."

Michelle seemed to find that extra freaky…I was just lucky to ever remember that I had the dream…let alone a couple specifics about it.

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When the Lights Go Down on the City

This week I had the opportunity to spend a couple days in downtown San Francisco. It’s not that I’ve never been to that city before—I’ve just never had an interest in walking its streets. So, my visits have always been limited to quick stops at its airport or meeting with the San Francisco Giants (a long-term client of the company I used to work for).

Why didn’t I have any desire to experience what San Francisco had to offer? With it’s convenient BART train system I could have easily spent many nights in it while visiting Concord, California (where that same company used to have an office)…and I had an employee who would do just that. He felt the tug of the "city by the bay," whereas I always wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible. [Read more…]

Poof!

Within some Seventh-day Adventist circles there is a joke connected with how strict Adventists are unlikely to wear jewelry (even a wedding band is avoided). The only jewelry allowed has to be functional—for example, a watch. (To be fair, although I might come to a more tempered conclusion, they have valid reasons for their aversion to bling.)

So…the story goes…these Adventists get to heaven and everyone gets a crown but them. Obviously they are a bit perplexed, but God quickly explains that they get a special one.

And then He reveals crowns with a clocks in their centers. 🙂

Now, for some reason that joke comes to mind when I think of another humorous hypothetical celestial situation. We all know that pride is one of the seven deadly sins (see Proverbs 6:16-19)…so one time I was thinking of a scenario after a saint arrives in heaven. He's really, really excited to finally see Jesus face to face…and (of course) he isn't disappointed. [Read more…]

Osama

Last night, just before turning my iPad off and going to sleep, it really felt like I should set my Facebook status based on the death of Osama bin Laden. This is what I settled on:

‎”Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die…?” (Ezekiel 33:11, ESV)

I look forward to a future where _nobody_ dies, but for now I am thankful for those who protect us from those like Osama bin Laden.

Followed by immediately adding this comment:

Although, I much rather everyone, including our worst enemies, be saved…as would our Lord: “…God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3b-4).

Now, I am not near as Christ-like as those quotes might imply. I am glad that there has been closure on this aspect of that evil day over nine years ago, and I am happy that a person who wanted to kill my family, friends, neighbors, and me is no longer around to try to fulfill his wishes.

But I do stand by those statements and, as unlikely as it is, hope somehow God reached Osama just before before a bullet ended his life and he’ll unexpectedly greet me when I arrive in heaven.

Finally, to those who might quickly suggest I am judging someone’s eternal fate—agreed, I cannot read any individual’s heart and only God decides whether we are sheep or goats…wheat or tares. Let’s just all throw political correctness and faux saintliness aside, be honest about it, and admit that if Christians and/or Jews are right, the most likely resting place for this infamous terrorist is with the wicked (whether it’s Rob Bell’s, John MacArthur’s, or some other version of hell).

And that fact should make us cry, not celebrate.

Wolf Control

Angry wolf

A little earlier this year Rob Bell, the popular founding pastor of Mars Hill in Grandville, Michigan, set off a bit of a web explosion by releasing a video trailer promoting his soon-to-be-released (at that time) book, Love Wins. The video didn't specifically say anything heretical, but it implied quite a bit in its questions and statements. For instance:

"Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell?"

"……and so what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how that ever be good news?"

"What you discover in the Bible is so surprising, unexpected and beautiful that whatever we've been told or taught the good news is actually better than that. Better than we can ever imagine. The good news is that love wins."1

Even in those few, separate quotes you can sense some fundamental orthodox Christian doctrines being questioned. The blogosphere rightly questioned whether his new manuscript was going to promote universalism, pluralism, and a lack of an eternal punishment (i.e. hell). The response was quick and harsh, as was the counter-reaction. One side immediately called Bell a heretic, the other side, just as judgmentally, condemned people for speaking up before the book was even on store shelves.

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Then I Met Marty

A couple weeks back you may have also cringed when you heard, on national news, that a New Hampshire state senator suggested we ship the mentally ill to Siberia to die. I cannot remember if the story stated his party affiliation, but even if it didn't I would have assumed he was Republican and figured that the politician was an embarrassing fringe element (every cause has at least one).

You can imagine what happened after the activist he was speaking with hung up and shared the inflammatory information with others…boom! If you search Google for the Senator's name and "Siberia" (with the his name in quotes) you'll likely get more than the 33,300 results that I just did. Add to that the fact that many sites (including news ones) allow open comments, and the result is scores of reactions that I could never share in a church bulletin (not that they ever should be printed anywhere). On the surface it seems to serve him right—he said something extremely insensitive (downright stupid) and he deserved a good metaphoric slapping.

Then I met Marty.

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Bekah, Thanksgiving, and Judgment in a Triad

Bekah

As many of you know, this past Tuesday, November 16 would have been Bekah’s 17th birthday. The milestone was a reminder of the loss we all felt that evil Saturday morning in early May. And yes…I did call it an "evil morning"–God never intended that death would enter this world–that it would take a daughter from her mother, a sister from her siblings, or a child of God from her brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul has advised us to make "best use of the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16)…and is there anyone here…realizing how Bekah’s melodic voice is no longer heard as we sing hymns…that can disagree with his assessment?

But let’s not all forget that our Lord was not caught unaware by what transpired between the snake and our original parents in the Garden. The King James Version speaks of "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8b), and although the English Standard Version might be more accurate in translating it as discussing names that were not "written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain"–in either case we know that God had provided the solution before the problem arose. We also know that solution included penning Bekah’s name in that "book of life of the Lamb that was slain."

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