October
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The Centurion's Tale

October

October 1

The Many Mercies of God

Psalm 3:3

This psalm was created by David during one of the most difficult times of his life—when his son Absalom rebelled against him. We must picture him on the night of the rebellion. With but a few followers he is running for his life. All Israel, it seems, has gone over to Absalom. With just a few servants from the palace, and a few hundred men loyal to him, he flees.

Consider his state of mind:

· David, the great warrior king of Israel, is now thrown back to the days when he and his band hid in the caves in the wilderness. All that privation and suffering is his again, suddenly. Then Saul pursued him, now Absalom—in either case, he’s on the run. Where can he go to defend himself?

· Worse, his enemy is his own son. The tale is tangled, involving rape and murder, but the net of it is that David was in many ways responsible for what was happening. He could with good reason reproach himself; but how bitter the reproach when the agent is your own son, whom you love.

· Worst of all is this: from any human thought, there is no hope in this situation. The army is following Absalom and David’s only way out is to flee. But then what? Wander the deserts dodging Absalom’s patrols? Where would he go?

Where would he go? It is the wrong question. The right question is, to whom would he go? And the right answer is the Lord God. David shows his trust in the Lord:

· Is he defenseless? The Lord will defend him. By turning Absalom away from one counselor to another, he gains the time needed.

· Is he miserable? He looks to the comforter of the comfortless.

· Is he hopeless? In himself, yes. In God, not only is there hope, there is triumph—glory from God.

Glory—David knows that in God he will triumph. He came through the persecution of Saul, bringing him glory from God. In God is our glory, not in our own doings. This predicament is temporary; His glory is not.

Lord, we see your glory in your works. Some of those works are in nature; others, in your children.

October 2

Bicycle Lights

Isaiah 60:1

As a rule I do not drive after dark. Having only one eye receiving light, you miss seeing some things. But if I do drive then, I am grateful for all the reflective tape on signs and clothing. One of the best examples of that reflection is on bicycles. All bicycles now come with high visibility reflectors in the pedals. Often I can’t see the bicycle or the rider, but I can see the characteristic up and down movement of those lights. If the bicycle is crossing my path, the reflectors in the spokes serve the same purpose: to alert me to the presence of the bicyclist.

In this passage we see a parallel thought to this, for the word “shine” really means to reflect. But see how this is to be done: we are first to “arise.” Why?

· “Arise” is a word of action. Christians are not to sit and wait but do something.

· It is also a word of encouragement. You can picture a coach talking to a dejected player, saying, “Get up and get back into the game.” It’s someone’s confidence that you can do it.

· Finally, it is a word of command. There is no sense in the Scripture that Christians are to just laze around. The Christian life is a life in action.

And when we arise, we shine.

· This means that the light we give off is not our own but is reflected. We are the reflection of Jesus.

· To do this, such reflectors must be kept clean. A sin-filled Christian does not show much of Christ.

You see, we are the reflect the very glory of the Lord. The passage is prophetic in nature, but like so many such passages it has an application here and now. We are to be the “bicycle reflectors” of Jesus Christ. The world might not see the bicycle, but it should the reflectors moving. Moving? In a characteristic pattern that says “Christian.” Just as the movement of the reflectors tells me it’s a bicycle, so the actions of a Christian should tell the world where to find Christ’s disciple.

We have the privilege of being the reflectors of God. We reflect the light of the world. The glory of the Lord is upon us.

Lord, we seem so small in our own eyes. But small reflectors may show the presence of large things; help us reflect you clearly.

October 3

Wisdom in a Mystery

1 Corinthians 2:6-7

Consider, if you will for a moment, the honor and glory we give to the leaders of the early church. Think how many have been moved by Peter’s reconciliation to Christ! How many have heard the message handed down by Paul in his letter to the Romans! Or how often we have found God’s love in the actions and writings of the Apostle John. Theirs is a great glory indeed.

But this was not their own doing. Had they not been involved with Jesus, they would be as unknown to us as anyone of that time. See how God acted in this:

· The entire structure of the church was foreordained by God, and prophesied many years before. None of the Apostles could take credit for that.

· The glory to be had comes from the Cross– which is God’s doing.

· Indeed, it is not only his doing, but his love gift—his only begotten Son.

But we still honor those who reflect his glory so brightly to us. Why has God arranged things this way? Perhaps it is that the world needs to see his glory. If that is so, then his children must be the showcases of God’s glory.

You may think that impossible; or something only for super saints. It is not so. Consider:

· We are made in the image of God. If we keep that image, the world will see him in us.

· He has given us the Gospel—something which can be understood by all—so that we are not showing some vague goodness but the clear call of the Gospel. We have Good News.

My uncle had a boat on the Ohio river. One night, as we were returning to the dock, I saw how he picked his way along in the dark. It was simple: he looked for stars reflected on the water, and lights shining from the shore. As the old hymn puts it:

Let the lower lights be burning

Send a gleam across the wave

Some poor fainting, struggling seaman

You may rescue, you may save.

Lord, your light is so much greater. The world is blind to it, and therefore they must see the “lower lights” - your children.

October 4

Spiritual Basketball

1 Peter 1:7-8

Perhaps no other sport requires such teamwork as basketball. It is sad, therefore, to see the decline of professional basketball from the days where the team was paramount. Today’s players seem much more concerned with how much money they are worth than with winning as a team. Great individual players explain the rise of the Lakers to the playoffs; great team play explains their loss to Detroit.

The church is something like that. If we leave the play on the field to the ones who are paid to do it, we will see the results we deserve. More than that, however, we will miss the joy of playing the game; the exultation of victory. Being on the team is much better than watching from the stands. It’s even better if you win the championship.

It is that sense of being on the team that Peter brings to us—only in an area much more important than sports.  If you are a “player” on the team that is the church, there is glory now and glory later. Peter tells us of it:

· There is “joy inexpressible.” Those familiar with the King James version will remember “joy unspeakable.” It’s something that can’t really be written about; but everyone who has it will say, “I know what you mean.”

· It is “full of glory.” The church is in the ultimate competition: we are seeking the souls of men. Those who triumph and those who are martyred are honored by the saints.

There is more. We receive this honor while we live on the earth. But there will come a day when our Lord returns. We will see our reward coming to us:

· We will receive the praise we are due for those hours spent when no one noticed.

· We will receive the glory of the resurrected saints.

· We will receive the honor due those who have overcome.

We’re like a team in the playoffs. Victory is sweet, but we’re working for triumph—the triumph that will come at our Lord’s return. Then it will be revealed to all; every knee shall bow, every tongue confess. Meanwhile, keep the joy and live in the glory.

Lord, sometimes the nights are long and no one sees our work—but you. Help us to carry on in the joy that comes from you.

October 5

Appraisal Time

Psalm 84:11

One of the heaviest burdens of being a manager is the annual performance appraisal. No matter how you approach it, no matter how you say it, most of the people on your team think that they are outstanding performers. If you ask them to write appraisals of other employees, you find out that everyone on your team thinks that everyone else on your team is a top performer.

Everyone, that is, except the manager. His review may be determined in an employee survey; no matter his efforts, if you ask his employees for “areas of improvement,” you will certainly get quite a selection.

Man cannot reward as God can. Man’s resources are finite; God’s are infinite. The Psalmist tells us how God deals with the problem:

· He is our sun—the source of light. How often have we been puzzled, only to find the answer in the pithy book of Proverbs, or eloquently expressed in the Gospels in our Lord’s own word.

· He is our shield. Have you ever worked for a manager who failed to protect his people? Not pleasant. But the Almighty himself stands guard for his children; nothing comes to you except it go past Him first.

· He gives us grace. Consider the horror of knowing that you had no way to obtain forgiveness, your sins haunting you for eternity! But our God is gracious—to the point of the Cross.

· He gives us glory. There is nothing we can do for him that he cannot reward with glory. Some of that glory will arrive in this lifetime; much more when Christ returns. Sometimes that glory comes in the way of persecution, but God is faithful: that glory will come.

Indeed, our God is so generous that he will withhold no good thing from us. Sometimes his idea of “good thing” and ours are in conflict; but even in that he will give us what is good and teach us to desire it more.

There is a condition to this: God does this for those who walk uprightly. If you say you believe, He expects you to behave—and He intends to reward that.

Lord, sometimes the road gets rocky and we don’t see what you are doing. Help us to keep faith—and bring glory to you.

October 6

Unity in Glory

John 17:22

It is an old cliché, often repeated. The star goes forward to accept his or her Oscar, and somewhere in the speech there will come a slight thanks to “the little people.” Hollywood is not known to be inhabited by leprechauns, so we must conclude that this means all those people who worked on the award winning movie whose names are listed only on the payroll.

I understand that feeling. For a few months I worked as the project manager on the Apache Attack Helicopter research and development project. I had nothing to do with the design or building of the helicopter; I simply kept project management records up to date. But I felt an immense pride in working on the project. That was my “bird.” When the helicopter silenced its critics by its performance in Operation Desert Storm, I was still feeling that pride. I was part of the team, and we succeeded.

It’s an essential of managing a project: everyone needs to feel that they are on the team. When one group looks down its nose at another, the team spirit suffers (and the project suffers too).

Christ is telling us this in a vastly more important action: the church. If the team is to be united, there needs to be a something to which all can point and say, “That’s what we’re working for—either we succeed or I fail.” For us on the project, it was the helicopter itself. For the church, it is the glory of God.

Think of that: we are working for the glory of God. That alone should produce the unity and team spirit the church sadly lacks. But there is more. We are working for the glory of the church (which, after all, is us). Between the glory of God and the glory of the church there would be glory enough to go around, one would think.

There is more to it. Our Lord explicitly tells us that He received this glory from the Father—and passed it on to us. It is the same glory that Christ had from the beginning—and we are on the team that is working for that glory.

This should produce the unity of the church. If all were working for the glory of God, it would produce the unity of the church—for God is one. From which we may safely conclude that at least some of us are not. Is your life filled with the glory of God, given to the church? Or are you looking after your own glory?

Lord, we sometimes think that your glory is inapproachable. Open our eyes, Lord; may we see what we should be working for.

October 7

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

2 Corinthians 3:18

To those whose childhood included trips to the theater, the films that Walt Disney produced (and re-released every three years or so) were almost magic. No other animator of his time came close to that style.

Do you remember the scene in Snow White where the evil queen goes to the mirror to ask, “Who’s the fairest one of all?” Unlike the dull, boring mirrors we have, this one swirled and produced a reflection from the netherworld. The ancients would have understood that; to them, mirrors were polished pieces of metal, often bronze, in which only the faintest image could be seen. If you’ve ever tried to straighten your hair (or your tie) by the image in a piece of plate glass, you know how it looks.

Paul extends that idea for us. Imagine you are looking in that plate glass, straightening your tie, and some other image appears. It may be inside the glass; it may be behind you—or it might be a combination of both. That faint image represents what we really know about the spiritual body in which we will be raised at the resurrection of the dead. But we do know these two things:

· We are all being transformed—all Christians. The word in the Greek is the root of our word “metamorphosis.” No caterpillar born ever had such a transition to butterfly.

· All of us are being transformed—by the same agent, the Holy Spirit.

For most Christians, the surprise is this: the transformation is happening right now. As you read this devotional, as you wash the dishes, as you go to church, you are being transformed by the Spirit, for it is a spiritual transformation.

Do we know what this transformation will result in? No, not really. But it carries one very significant implication: what we do in this life is going to affect who we are for all eternity. The final transformation will be done by Christ himself at the Last Day. It would seem reasonable to leave the details in his hands.

But in our own hands we must take responsibility for our part of the transformation. Your service here, your growth in the Spirit will form the details; the outline of the form itself will come from Christ’s sacrifice. Who knows what we will look like?

Lord, the resurrection is a mystery—but a mystery that you understand. Keep us strong in the faith, beautiful on the Last Day.

October 8

The Wrench

Hebrews 2:10

In my tool box there are many tools, but none so odd as my blue wrench. When someone sees it, they almost always ask what it is for. You see, this wrench started its career with me as an ordinary five-sixteenths open end wrench. It now is twisted through a very odd pattern. One of my friends was a welder, and he adapted the tool for me. The tool served one purpose only: to reach one particular bolt on my car.

In a sense, we can say the same for Jesus. Like my wrench, he was without flaw. But also like my wrench, there was some reworking to do. The wrench had a welder; Christ had suffering. His suffering made him perfectly fitted to the task for which He had come—our salvation.

Can you imagine the transformation? As Paul tells us here, Christ is the God for whom all things were made. All the universe is his by right of creatorship. More than that, all things exist through him; it is his power that defines the word “exist.” It is no accident that God is named, “I Am”, for all the worlds are sustained by his power. This powerful person humbled himself to the point of becoming like one of us—completely human. But that was not sufficient to the task. To be taken from perfect wrench to wrench perfect for the task took a welder. To be taken from perfect man to perfect Man, the Lamb of God, required suffering.

Having been so perfected, Christ became the author (other translations use “captain”) of our salvation. His suffering led to his death; his death led to the resurrection. Along the way he perfectly satisfied the divine law to be the sacrifice for our sins. It is a thundering point: The perfect man died like the perfect God—so that imperfect sinners like you and me might be saved.

Saved? Yes and more. As Paul teaches us here, it is not simply salvation, but the magnificent return of our Lord which will complete this task. Fitted for the task—here shown as bringing many sons to glory. That, by the way, is us.

Us? Yes, part of the purpose of his sacrifice was not just to redeem us so that we might float on a cloud forever; it was so that we would share in the glory to come. No one really knows what that will be like. But we know the author; his work is always done perfectly.

Lord, it is a staggering thought that we will be changed “from glory into glory.” Order our steps so that we will come to that.

October 9

Christian Leadership

2 Timothy 2:10

At the midpoint of the twentieth century, the United States found itself in a “police action” in Korea. To those doing the policing, it rather seemed more of a war.

My father was given command of a company of men, placed on a ship and sent towards Korea. Unlike most of the captains on board, Dad insisted on whipping his company into shape—both physically and intellectually. They even managed a little rifle practice, shooting at various objects being thrown overboard.

Dad did not get to take his company ashore at the Inchon landings; he was replaced when the boat stopped at Japan. It seems they needed someone to collect all the war material stored in Japan and ship it to Korea. To the end of his life he still worried about “his men”, asking himself if there was anything else he could have done to prepare them for battle.

His motto was, “I never asked them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.” That is something of what Paul is teaching here. His Master suffered for the sake of the church; Paul does likewise; and so do Christian leaders even down to this day. The motivation is simply this: Christ suffered for me and all those he has chosen. If God has chosen them, and they are his, then his servant should be willing to suffer for their sake. In this way, a leader shows his desire to give back in suffering some of what he received in salvation.

Salvation? Yes, and eternal glory besides. Note that word “eternal.” One of the keys to endurance as a Christian is this: our sufferings are temporal (in time); our glory is eternal (timeless). So it is that Paul can catalog his sufferings—and then say it was all for the Gospel. Things have changed little in two thousand years, in that regard. Christians are persecuted around the world; America is the exception (so far). But the sufferings of the church today are trifling in comparison to the glory she will have at our Lord’s return.

A soldier’s life can be a metaphor for the Christian life, in many ways (Onward, Christian Soldiers). My dad’s top sergeant had an answer for that suffering. Whenever he complained, his wife would say, “Jake, you knew it wasn’t the Boy Scouts when you joined.” Count the cost—see the glory.

Lord, it is hard to see the glory through the pain. Uphold us as we suffer for you; your justice and love will see to the glory.

October 10

Counsel

Psalm 73:24

Perhaps it is a disturbing thought, but have you seen your dentist lately? Many among us only visit him when the pain is intense, which usually means that the maximum expenditure will produce the minimum of results.

Consider, however, the function of a dentist. He is to poke, prod, scrape, drill and otherwise disport himself inside your mouth, producing such pain as is required, with even more anxiety. And, you pay him to do so. You do that because you expect that he knows better how to deal with that pain than you do.

The dentist is a relatively small matter, however, by comparison to the advice you need for the rest of your life. You will praise God’s wisdom on Sunday; will you live by it the rest of the week? If not, it would be like paying the dentist to stay out of your mouth. Most of us learn the value of a dentist the hard way: after the pain starts. But our mistakes carry with them a great blessing—if they drive us to accept wise counsel. If this is true for teeth, how much more so for life? The end of our wisdom is the beginning of His.

His wisdom is not restricted to this life. Do you see that word “afterward?” That there is an “afterward” is due to his creation of man in his own image. He longs for the work of His hand, as Job says. There is comfort in that word; it tells us that our suffering here is temporary; our life there is eternal.

It has pleased God to tell us only a little of what life is like after death; and even less about life after the return of our Lord. It is described here as glory. The word in the Hebrew means “heavy” in the sense we might say of a baseball player, “He’s a heavy hitter.” The glory of God is so intense that those of earth cannot behold it. Even Moses could not be permitted to see that glory face to face.

But our Lord has that same glory, as he has returned to the Father. Such glory will be ours to share. What does it mean? We don’t really know; perhaps it is foolishness even to attempt to understand it. But this much we do know: Where God is, there also is his glory. Where God is, there his departed children are. Therefore, his children are in glory. One day, all the world will see this.

Lord, we know so little. You have considered it sufficient; teach us to live in the sufficiency of your Word.

October 11

Music Lessons

Colossians 3:4

The state of musical education in this nation has reached a deplorable low. Millions of students go through the first years of education with no idea that music could come from anything other than a CD player. This is a pity. It is also a loss, for mankind enjoys making a “communal noise”, as C. S. Lewis called it. The best we can now do is karaoke bar solo.

In my youth it was generally expected that by the time they reached high school they would know enough about music to be able to muddle through four part harmony. The church choir gave an opportunity for voices young and strong to blend in with their elders; for that reason alone it was worth doing.

One of the most common type of hymns was the doxology—a short song, praising God, suitable as “musical punctuation” in the worship service. The most common one was this:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him ye creatures here below;

Praise Him above ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The word “doxology” comes from the Greek word translated “glory”. It means, simply, to give glory to God. The day is coming when that glory will be revealed to all. We cannot make it come until the Father commands it, but until he does we can sing his praises.

Note, please, that we will be revealed with Him in glory. It’s as if the glory of God rests upon us now, but is hidden. It has been said that the first reaction we would have to seeing a saint at the second coming of Christ would be to bow down in worship. The glory of a single saint would do that; think how much will be done for the glory of Christ! It will be revealed, please Lord, soon.

Our glory comes from Christ—and notice also that our life comes in him. The word used is the one from which we get our word “zoo.” It means biological life, not spiritual. Humans have a body; it’s part of the definition. At the return, all the saints will have a new one—still human, but glorious.

Lord, we cannot begin to know the glory in store for us on that day. Let us remember to praise you here, as one hidden, so that on that day we will be in glory with you—for all to see.

October 12

Take Two Aspirin

1 Peter 5:10

It is a cliché often used: “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” Thus the doctor dismisses the victim’s interruption of his evening. Have you ever had God do that to you?

It does happen. Often enough God will leave you alone in the storm. His purpose is not to abandon you but to make you strong. This passage concerns resisting the Devil. If you suffer in that action, it is simply the necessary predecessor of the glory to which God has called you.

The necessary predecessor—a long string of letters when you are the one suffering. Sometimes we cry out to God in our suffering, and he answers us with silence. He is using the blows of the devil to strengthen you. Once he has finished, the God of all grace will come to you to do four things:

· He will perfect you—the word in the original is one we might have translated “repair” or “restore.” He will fill all that is lacking in you.

· He will confirm you—the root of this word means “to turn resolutely.” He will point you in the right direction and cause you to stand.

· He will strengthen you. Suffering is to a Christian’s strength what weights are for a body builder’s strength.

· He will establish you. This word originally meant “to lay a foundation.”

Planting you resolutely on the solid Rock, making you whole and strong—that is how God will come to you. Resist the Devil; not only will he flee but you will be strengthened.

To what purpose? To become one of the sons of glory, called in Christ to share in the glory of God. Imagine it; you will share in the glory to come.

The suffering is for but a little while; the glory is eternal. The trials we have now will someday be looked upon as minor things, when we have the eyes of eternity to see them.

Lord, it must be said: we don’t like suffering. We don’t like to have it; we don’t like to watch it. And we have plenty of it. But by your grace we will hold the outpost of human suffering until the day of glory, until properly relieved by the Lord of Hosts. Until then, Lord, perfect us to your image, confirm us in the faith, strengthen us and establish us on higher ground.

October 13

Things That Accompany Salvation

Romans 9:22-23

Squirreled away in our homes are a number of items which are purchased solely for the value of having them. For example, many will purchase proof sets of US coinage. These things are known to retain their value rather well—and if things get really bad, they can be used as cash. We rarely speak of them; they are there “just in case.”

Now, imagine that you had a huge vault full of such coins, gold and silver in large quantity. Even though you never spoke of it; even though you think of it as “rainy day” savings, you would still be rich. But if you wanted to let people know that you were rich, you’d have to spend something; that’s how people know.

God, it seems, had a similar problem. If you had asked a person of antiquity what they knew about God, you would soon find two common answers:

· The first would be his power. One has but to walk at night in the dark, seeing the stars, to know the power of the Creator.

· The second would be his righteous wrath. The universe is a place of moral order; what goes around, comes around.

It takes a little longer to come up with that second one. But in those days wisdom was held to be the province of the elders, not the teenagers.

So, what was God’s problem? He wanted to demonstrate to us his incomparable patience and mercy. He wanted us to know what He is really like. Without his revelation, we could not have understood this. This revelation culminated at Calvary, in which Christ paid the penalty for our sins, making God’s grace available to one and all.

That, you see, is what is contained in these vessels of mercy—which Paul here tells us are the “riches of his glory.”

Let me illustrate. When we go out to dinner with my wife’s father, he always insists on buying. It’s not that we can’t afford it; it’s just his way of showing the fact that he is rich by this world’s standards (and proud of the fact he worked hard to get that way.) Every time he buys, his children are reminded of his riches.

Our Lord does the same. Every time we avail ourselves of his grace, we are reminded of the riches of his glory.

Lord, we want so much to be self-sufficient—and we cannot. But in the riches of your glory, let us find that you are sufficient for us.

October 14

Packaging

2 Corinthians 4:6

There is an art to packaging and gift wrapping. Consider the world of packaging; do you recognize these?

· There is the package designed to protect the product. Easily told, as you are cautioned to inspect the package for signs of damage before accepting delivery.

· Other packaging is designed to deceive. How often have you received a thick envelope with official looking stamps on it. One warns the post office to deliver in accordance with regulations, another is marked “official business” or “time sensitive material—open immediately.” When you open it, you find it nothing but junk mail.

· Ladies, suppose you decide to delight your husband with a new, scandalous nightgown. Do you want it to arrive in the bright purple package—or plain brown wrapper?

Packaging tells a story. Sometimes that story is true; sometimes it is false.

Consider, then, the packaging used by God. He needed to package something very valuable. It is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.

· Light—God is light, says John. The pure revealing and exposing of all the truth.

· Knowledge—not something to be known by instinct, but by reason.

· Glory of God—as shown in his grace.

How, then, did God package this most precious collection? He has done this in two ways:

· First, in the face of Christ. “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” said Jesus.

· Later—in us.

In selecting us as his packaging material, he has formed us as brown paper (look at the product, not the packaging) or strong cardboard (we should protect the product, not bring him shame). This is so that those around us will know the truth—about the packaging and the Product.

Lord, we are the vessels of clay that carry your word to the world. May we protect your name and show your glory.

October 15

Basic Training

1 Corinthians 15:40-43

No one who goes through basic training in the United States Army forgets the experience.

Basic training is a process by which the Army turns civilians into somewhat rudimentary soldiers. Three things receive constant attention there:

· Marching. We went from a herd to a platoon.

· Teamwork. We went from “me first” to knowing and trusting our fellow soldiers.

· Marksmanship. A soldier must have a weapon, and be practiced at using it.

God is transforming his saints in much the same way. Our lives here are a sort of basic training for eternity. The transition, however, will be dramatic. We are planted in the ground because of death; death came as a result of man’s sin. As all of us are sinners, all of us are intended to die. We all fall short.

We are also buried because of our weakness. Who is weaker than a corpse. Do we not say that we’d rather be a live dog than a dead lion?

God knows it; he has sent us the cure for the problem. Are we planted in weakness? God will raise us in power. Who can prevail against one who has (by God’s mercy) conquered death? We shall be like our Lord in his risen body.

Are we planted in dishonor? We will rise in glory, just as our Lord did. The source of all true glory will raise us from the dead, that every knee will bow, every tongue confess—to the glory of God the Father.

I remember well the last day of basic training. It ended in a formal, military parade. We kept step rather well; those clumsy ones like me were in the middle, hidden. The Resurrection will be our final parade of basic training. In God’s own good time we will march with the angels in that final parade. We will be in step—indeed, in brotherhood—with all those of the church of all times. And we shall see what the soldiers of the Cross long to see: the destruction of Satan, evil and death.

Basic training was hard, unpleasant and often baffling. But there we moments of success. Does that sound like life here?

Lord, our troubles on this earth are so small—unless you are up against them. Uphold us with the power of the Resurrection.

October 16

Bragging Rites

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20

Lately our school system has taken to handing out bumper stickers that say something like: “My child was student of the month at Tiptop elementary school.” The sad realization is this: for every student of the month, there about thirty others who weren’t. For many of their parents, there is the certain conviction that their child will never bring home such a bumper sticker. For those with a sense of humor, they can always purchase the one that says “My child was student of the month at the Orange County Jail.”

Our desire for our children’s success reaches its fullest frenzy when they graduate from high school. Nothing so pleases a grandfather as to watch his grandchild going to the platform to receive an award. If it happens more than once, you will find his smile is wider than his dentures. Bragging rites (I spelled it correctly): a spectator sport where the fans compete too.

There is a serious side to this. Every parent knows that your children are the walking, breathing report card for parents. Is the child rude? His mother should teach him some manners. Is the child lazy? His father should take him out to the woodshed and cure that. We accept the idea that other people’s children are a reflection on their parents. But we use rose colored glasses to look at our own. Deep down inside, we know—and sometimes wonder what went wrong along the way.

Paul, in his warm and comfortable way, tells these believers that they are—or will be—his glory and crown when the Lord returns. He knows what he has put into the cause of their salvation and growth; he has every right to be pleased with how things turned out. But more important, he knows that the Lord Jesus will see it that way too. The Thessalonians will be the living report card seen by our Lord.

Teachers have that feeling. We’re used to the idea that teachers grade their students; actually, it’s the other way around. My students, like those of Paul, will be my report card. Like Paul, I expect that my successes, such as they are, will provide the Lord with enough evidence to see to my reward. As He promised, I—and every other teacher—will be rewarded for what we have done in and for our students. Bragging rights—eternally.

Lord, so often we look at our children as problems, rather than the product of our labor. Teach us to reward them as we would have you reward us.

October 17

Riots, Real and Otherwise

Ephesians 3:13

It is referred to as the Great UCLA Football Freeway Riot.

In the late ‘60s, it happened that UCLA defeated USC—for what the Bruins thought would be an invitation to the Rose Bowl. To the surprise of everyone (and anger at UCLA) the Trojans made it clear that they were going to the Rose Bowl—or leaving the Pacific 8 (now 10) conference. As USC was the number one attraction for television ratings, the Rose Bowl committee caved in and sent USC to the Rose Bowl.

UCLA fans, in the style of the period, decided to stage a protest march. This was rather a spontaneous event; no one would have done this with thought beforehand. They decided to stage this protest on the San Diego Freeway. At rush hour.

The police department, then at its height of admiration for Sgt. Joe Friday, moved in promptly. Command posts were set up; SWAT teams called and, after about fifteen minutes on the freeway, the police moved in. As is often the case, they arrested a number of bystanders, including one from our floor in the dorm.

He became a minor celebrity. Although he had nothing to do with the protest on the freeway (he was coming back from a grocery store when arrested) we all thought him the symbol of our outrage.

Think about it for a more serious matter: what do you think of Christians arrested for abortion protest? Federal law virtually guarantees arrest for anyone who publicly opposes abortion. Now, think of the impact it would have if, say, James Dobson were arrested for it.

Think of the reaction his name would get. Millions of Christians would be energized by this; his name and standing would greatly increase—because he was suffering for the cause of Christ. That’s what Paul is talking about in this passage. He is in chains for the kingdom; he rightly tells the Ephesians that he is their glory. The one who brought the Gospel to them is now a prisoner for it. He had the honor of being imprisoned for the Gospel they shared.

It is not given to most of us to become martyrs of the faith. Most of us cannot picket abortion mills. But when one of our number does, and is arrested, we can revel in the glory they have—they are suffering for what we believe.

Lord, we are not those on whom great glory rests. Help us to honor those whom you have favored with suffering.

October 18

Rise and Fall

Daniel 2:37

My notes do not include the speaker’s name; but I do recall that he is Korean. His remarks were on the subject of pride and governance. He pointed out something rather remarkable—but not remarked in our liberal press. He compared the governments and nations of South America to those of North America. Those of South America are frequently overthrown by force; dictatorship is common, democracy a tenuous weed. But in North America, government is strong and democracy a firm belief of the people. He gave this reason: the men who settled South America were looking for gold; the men who settled North America were looking for God.

The fact is clear: it is God who orders the rise and fall of the nations, for his own purposes—which purposes he does not share with us. But are these not so?

· When God chooses a leader, that “kingdom” grants authority to him. We recognize him as the true leader, whether we agree with him or not.

· When such a leader is named, he is soon capable of wielding the power God grants him. His camp is not divided; God is one.

· Such a leader moves in strength. It may be supernatural or simply normal—but God sanctions this power.

· With authority, power and strength God then clothes that leader in proper glory.

Such are the trappings of power. When God anoints a leader, this is what will be done. But such a leader must remember to humble himself before God. This same Nebuchadnezzar, so mighty in Daniel’s explanation, is the one that God afflicts with the mind of an unthinking beast—until he honors the God of heaven.

Kingdoms rise; kingdoms fall. The Lord gives, the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Someday, perhaps sooner that we could imagine, the world’s remaining superpower will be brought down in humility. God is patient with leaders—to a point. When his patience runs out, the same strength that raised the nation will be applied to humble it.

Lord, we love this land you have given us; all the more because those who founded it were found in you. Grant us the spirit of revival and repentance; may her days before you be prolonged.

October 19

Unknown Temptations?

Hosea 4:7

The temptation of idol worship, as Hosea knew it, has not troubled the Christian world for 1500 years. But in his day is was a powerful lure. Just what was it that people saw in idols that would capture them so?

· Wealth—sacrifice an offering, get rain for the crops. See rain god for details.

· Sex—participate in fertility rituals (with the sacred temple prostitutes) and your flocks will grow.

· War—read the goat entrails to find the strategy for success.

It sounds almost silly today. But the grip these idols had on people was very real. Infant sacrifice was common; you threw the baby into the fire of Molech. Orgies are popular at any time. And all this was covered with a veneer of “righteousness” well lacquered by a priestly class.

Why did they follow the idols? For the same reason most of us would prefer to spend our time in the candy store, not the dentist’s chair. Why sit in hard pews, listening to praise songs when you can put on some real music and start the orgy?

The real reason is this: most of us want something. There is some part of our lives which is not complete; we lack something. We also know that we cannot supply that something by ourselves.

Christ offers to supply that something—but at a great price. He wants all of you: heart, soul, mind and strength. The idols want only part of you. The idols offer you smiley face happiness; Jesus offers you the fierce joy of the kingdom.

This is particularly dangerous to the Christian, for the idols are not gone. They’ve been replaced by technology, but the technique is still the same. So are the results. Abortion has replaced infant sacrifice; merely a technological advance.

So it is that God warns us. If you, the Christian, reject him and turn to the idols of today—sex, drugs, rock and roll—He will reject you. This is still true if you continue to “do church.”

But that is quite common today. How many churchgoers think nothing wrong of adultery? The church in America once was the foundation of the nation, its touchstone and guide. No more. Weep, Christian, for the Lord will soon remove America’s glory.

Lord, those of us who love this land and its heritage appeal to you: send us the spirit of revival. Only you can save America.

October 20

No Need of Doctrine

Philippians 3:17-19

One of the most difficult of things for a teacher of the Bible is to convince modern students that there is any use for doctrine. Most teachers have given up trying, and a goodly number never tried. People, it seems, just won’t sit still for it.

Why should you? Let me give you an example. Suppose your rich uncle dies and leaves you the money. Further suppose you want to buy a big yacht and sail around the world. The yacht broker would likely enough recommend that before you do, you should take some sailing lessons. Suppose you do, and become quite handy with the ship.

Now, as you are about to leave, the yacht broker asks you, “Do you have all the charts you will need?” You—ever pragmatic—tell him you don’t need charts. He explains to you that without charts you will neatly and skillfully sail your yacht onto the rocks.

Doctrine is the chart of Christianity. You don’t need very much; but you do need some.

The point of doctrine in this passage is simple: set your mind on things above. If you aim at the things of this world, you will get them. You will be neither saved nor satisfied, but your garage will overflow. Those whose god is the god of more stuff end in destruction and disgrace.

So it is the Apostle weeps over them, the enemies of the Cross. Not fury but sorrow moves him:

· Because they taught false doctrine—inaccurate charts lead to shipwreck.

· Because they perverted many with this—leading other ships onto the rocks.

· Because they themselves were perishing from it—dying on the shipwreck rocks.

Such people often appear to be successful; they might even care to grace the door of the church building occasionally. False doctrine is often well dressed. The only true resource is the Scripture itself. Which means, of course, that you’ll have to read it, study it and memorize it. The Titanic didn’t have a chart showing the iceberg. We do.

Lord, you are the stone of stumbling, the rock of offense. But the Scripture provides the chart for those sailing through this life. Give us a clear eye for both chart and rock.

October 21

Images

John 1:14

Suppose that you were an eyewitness to a crime. The police, quite naturally, will question you about it. They want a description of the criminal. So the officer’s notebook fills up with your words, describing this man.

You next get a phone call; the police would like to have you come to the station and work with a police artist to make a sketch of the man. You spend the time selecting eyebrows and mustaches until the sketch is as good as you can make it.

Then, the police call you again; would you be kind enough to come down and look at some photographs?

Finally, you are asked to see a lineup. You pick the man out from the lineup. Case closed.

That’s something like the way God introduced himself to us.

· Start with Abraham. He is the “friend of God.” Surprisingly, God gives him very little in the way of rules—or for that matter, information about himself. But Abraham knows him, and knows his character.

· When Moses comes to take the people to the promised land, God goes with him—in power. It is a tremendous display—designed to endue the Law with the glory of God.

· Later, other prophets arise. Many of these are given word of the coming Messiah—so that the people will know him.

· Finally, Christ comes—the exact image of God, in the flesh.

In a way, those four steps can apply to a Christian growing in the faith:

· First you know about him; something of his character; feeling his love for you.

· Next comes the “rules.” Newcomers need rules.

· But, if you are diligent, you now move into the life of one who studies the Scripture. Your knowledge of Him grows.

· At the end, your life is one of sweet communion and prayer with him.

There is another step: when He calls you home. But fear not: He has promised to return—and bring you with Him.

Lord, the sweetness of your company surpasses all words. May we grow closer to you and more like you every day.

October 22

Glory Veiled

Hebrews 1:3

In 1692 an eminent French mathematician named Bernoulli offered a prize for the solution of a problem known as the brachistichrone problem. We need not dwell on the mathematical details, it is sufficient we know that Bernoulli set a period of six months as a limit to the problem. He carefully excluded from contention any citizen of the British Empire. At the end of six months, a German mathematician named Liebnitz suggested that, since no one had found a solution, the term of the prize might be extended—and a copy of the problem forwarded to the head of the Royal Society, indicating that they would take entries from them. The head of the society handed the problem to Isaac Newton, early in the afternoon. By the time he went to bed, Newton had solved the problem (inventing a new form of calculus to do so). The problem remains to this day a staple of physics education.

Newton had returned the solution to France, but declined to attach his name to it. Newton was not the most sociable of people; perhaps this was his way of avoiding conflict. It didn’t work. Bernoulli took one look at the “anonymous” solution and said, “I know the lion by his claw.”

Knowing the lion by his claw; it’s easy to do when you’re the one bleeding. In a very real sense, Christ exhibits God the Father to us; we can recognize the very essence of God in the man named Jesus.

· He is the radiance of God’s glory; some translations have brightness. If the searchlight is shining into your eyes, you can’t see the apparatus—only the radiance. God’s glory lived with us.

· He is the “exact representation” of God. Have you ever had a really good portrait photo? The original here meant an artist’s engraving; see him, know God.

· He upholds all things by the word of his power. Think of that! Here is the one through whom all things were created.

Consider this: He who spoke and the worlds began, He who upholds the universe by his word, He who is the brightness of God’s glory—He bids you come with Him, taking up the cross and following Him. Do you know the claw of the Lion of Judah?

Lord, your care for us is beyond our comprehension; grant us strength to pick up the cross and follow you.

October 23

Reins, Rains, Reigns

Psalm 93:1

By the fortunate happenstance that “reigns” has two homonyms, we may explore how God reins, rains, and reigns.

God reins

We still speak of “reining in” someone whose behavior is off track. The word comes from the days of horse-drawn buggies, but God reins us too:

· When we pray “lead us not into temptation” are we not asking him to rein us in?

· Even more, should we not ask him to rein us in when we find temptation all by ourselves?

God rains

Over and again in the Old Testament, God makes it clear to his people: if they will follow the Law, he will send rain at the appointed time. But we use the word figuratively, too:

· Older Christians will remember the hymn, Showers of Blessing. God blesses us when we walk in his way.

· Christ tells us that he causes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust—as an example for us, that we do not judge one another.

· Sometimes—Noah might be a good example—his rains are sent to cause ruin to the wicked.

God Reigns

What does it mean to say, “God reigns?” It means that he is the rightful Sovereign of the universe. Ultimately, his will shall prevail. The Psalmists often connected this with the thought that the earth should be glad of it. We have seen what happens when sinful man tries to reign over the earth.

Musicians will recall Handel’s magnificent Hallelujah Chorus. There is only one time the word “hallelujah” is used in the New Testament. It’s in Revelation chapter 11; it is associated with the reign of God.

“Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!”

Lord, when living in the cities of man we often forget the reign of God. It is our hope and glory. Even so, Lord, come soon.

October 24

The Glory of the Father

Romans 6:4

It is a shame that most of the ink used to write on this passage is wasted.

It seems a point of absolute and required dogma for the various authors to either use this as proof requiring baptism by immersion or showing how it really requires no such thing. Such arguments miss the point: the Glory of God the Father.

Indeed, it should be obvious. My baptism is no doubt important to me (vital, in fact) but the real point is the Resurrection. My baptism in water means nothing without His resurrection.

Paul speaks here of how this was done. He attributes it not to the power of God, nor the dominion of God, nor even the love and mercy of God. It was done by the glory of God the Father. Did this require the power of God? Yes indeed. Does it show the dominion of God over all things? Certainly. Would this have happened if God were not a God of love and mercy? Probably not. But the Resurrection was accomplished through the glory of God the Father.

There is a curious phrasing to this. Whenever the Scripture writer speaks of the glory of God the Father, he uses it in connection with the Resurrection . The most quoted phrase is in Philippians 2:11, which tells us that at the return of our Lord every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. That glory will be revealed on that day (soon, please Lord, soon) in the fact that the children of God will arise from their graves.

The glory of God gives us the resurrection to come; but also the blessing of this: we are dead to sin. No longer are we helpless in life and death; our lives are to show the glory of God the Father in that we no longer are obedient to sin, but rather are obedient to our Lord and Savior. We have changed our allegiance from Satan and sin to Christ and glory.

The debate about baptism, its modes and requirement, will continue. Let it. Until our Lord returns we shall not be able to pronounce on this subject authoritatively. On that day we shall see the glory of God the Father. I suspect the debate will then be of little consequence.

Lord, we do our best to interpret Scripture wisely and accurately. We are not the authors of Scripture, just those reading it. Grant that we may do so in humility, knowing that we could be wrong.

October 25

The Heavens Declare

Psalm 19:1

It is a pity that our modern school systems seemed to have dropped music as a topic fit for education. No doubt it was an expensive topic; all those pianos must have cost a lot. But it does leave us with the musical detritus of the day.

My own education in this was, for the most part, an awakening to the world of music. If you listen long enough, you can begin to understand what you really like—and why. My own favorite is Bach. He can be thunderously complex (listen to his Toccata and Fugue) or elegantly simple (Air on a G String). If you heard these pieces without musical education, you might not think them from the same composer. But with a modicum of instruction, you would know the composer by the music.

The same is true for the Lord God Almighty, whose works in nature show you the divine style. Consider:

· Grandeur. Walk through a grove of redwoods; see his work in making a cathedral of wood.

· Order. Consider how the laws of physics do not change. It is eternal nature on display.

· Beauty. Walk through the valley of the Yosemite; see things man can only admire.

· Moral order. What goes around, comes around, for our God is a righteous God.

C. S. Lewis said that Psalm 19 is “the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” Its opening theme is one of universal appeal, for all of us experience the natural world. Some take offense at this; anything God does can and will be held against him. But to those who know the Lord God, each site of nature speaks again of the Creator of all things.

So often when man builds, his sinful nature is revealed in his creations. At the least we can say that modern architects occasionally have a very bad day. But—it is as common as mud—when people buy a house, they turn it into a home by decorating it in whatever style pleases them. Very, very few plant aluminum sculptures on the bare spot in the yard. No; most of us plant some of what God has created; for it is good.

Lord, with the nature you have given us we create the houses for our homes. Let us not praise botany and forget your many other benefits. Fill our homes with your uncreated love.

October 26

The Riches of His Glory

Ephesians 3:16

Giving, it seems, is a social skill. At various times we have either seen or participated in the giving of some gift which was accompanied by embarrassment simply because someone didn’t know how to give. The matter divides itself neatly thus:

· First, there is giving by need. Sometimes as obvious as the man with the cardboard sign, sometimes subtly hidden so that no one will know, need drives a lot of giving.

· Next, there is giving by occasion. Weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries—all have some social ritual to them.

· Finally, there is giving by social status.

You perhaps had not thought of that last one. But it is common enough. If we are passing the hat, we naturally expect the rich man to toss in more. One of the advantages of being wealthy in a worldly sense is that you can be seen as generous by those who aren’t. The richer the man, the larger the check.

Take that same idea and apply it to God. When He gives, what should be our expectation? Here, in a verse cut out of a magnificent prayer, we see the answer. God gives “according to the riches of his glory.” Let us see his gift to those in trial:

· He will strengthen you—and not with endurance alone. His gift of bearing up you will have, but also the gift of power. In time of trial the Christian is equipped for the offensive too.

· This is done through the Holy Spirit—the warfare is spiritual; so you may experience power in poverty. Take heart; you are dear to God and He will not forsake you or forget you.

· This is done in the inner man—at the very soul of man. It is there that the war is fought; it is there you will be strengthened.

God indeed will give according to the riches of his glory. Is there need? It will be met, pressed down and running over. Is there occasion? The gift will match; whether endurance for a funeral or joy for a wedding. And, who can speak of the social status of the Almighty? His gifts, through the Holy Spirit, are limited only by what we will receive. Ask; seek; knock; your Lord knows what you need—and will supply it richly.

Lord, we so often forget that things over our heads are under your feet. Teach us to ask—and know the riches of your glory.

October 27

Seen and Unseen

Exodus 33:18-23

One of the more pleasant sciences to study—for those not making a career of it—is astronomy. It is fascinating to see what even a small telescope will reveal in the heavens. But as the teacher will tell you, there is one place you don’t point the telescope—directly at the sun. There are filters that allow you to do this, of course, but in general the safest procedure is to avoid this. The reason, of course, is that the brightness of the sun, magnified by the telescope, would certainly damage your eyes.

Some semblance of that idea applies here. There is a consistent thought that man cannot see the face of God—and live. There are several instance in the Old Testament where someone sees the Angel of the Lord—and immediately concludes that death is here. Job tells us that we can perceive only the fringes of his power. Paul tells us that he dwells in “unapproachable light.”

All this is well known; it is therefore almost comic when we attempt to manipulate God in prayer. We think to command the one who cannot even be seen.

God has this problem with Moses. He asks to see God’s glory; the Almighty in essence says, only in passing, and from behind. Even at that Moses face was aglow with that glory when he came down from the mountain—so much so that he had to wear a veil over his face in camp.

The day is coming, however, when “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” Paul tells us that we see him dimly—a shadow in a poor mirror—but on that day we shall see him face to face. We will be transformed; the new body has eyes to see him.

Until that time, however, we must continue in the way Moses outlined. God cannot show us his glory, but we shall see its evidences. He will hide us in “the cleft of the rock.” There, on our own mountain top, we will see what little of God’s glory we can bear to see.

One last thought: that little is not a fixed item. It varies. As you grow in Christ, the glory of the Lord becomes clearer to you. It is a gradual thing. You look back over time and see how little you saw. For those who write, it can be embarrassing to think that you saw so little only ten years ago. But no fear; God will use even the worst of writers in the best of causes.

Lord, help us to grow in the faith, each day seeing you just a little more vividly—until the Day comes.

October 28

Stoning of Stephen

Acts 7:55

Books on management psychology are written each year. Last year’s bold new idea is this year’s old fashion. This no doubt suits the publishers well.

At one time there was a great deal of exposition written on the subject of “cognitive dissonance.” Greatly simplified, it is the principle which holds that when reality doesn’t match someone’s perception of reality, things change—either the reality is altered somehow or you are.

An example will make this clearer: if you look in the mirror and say, “I’m not that fat” you have cognitive dissonance. There are two strategies to reduce that: one is to go on a diet, the other is to get rid of the mirror.

If you read the surrounding text to this verse, you will know that Stephen has just been creating cognitive dissonance in his audience. These are the men who cheered the Crucifixion; it was a righteous thing, in their minds. So as Stephen points out the truth, they have a choice to make. They decide to get rid of the mirror.

Where confusion and anger rage in his murderers, there is no such thought in Stephen. He is “full of the Holy Spirit.” That phrase is used only one other time with reference to Jesus—as he headed out into the wilderness and temptation after the baptism by John. Such fullness was no doubt necessary for Stephen at this point.

Necessary? Yes indeed. This is the first martyr for Christ, and he sets the pattern for the millions to follow. About his death I would have you notice two things:

· He sees the risen Christ. In this final moment of his life he is given the vision of the Lord, so that he might not waver while being stoned to death.

· He is full of the Holy Spirit—and therefore asks God not to hold this charge against them. Such forgiveness is not available without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Just what was it that Stephen saw? He called it the glory of the Lord; was it the Shekinah (glory) of the Exodus? We do not know. We only know that one who has seen it died in perfect love, pleading for his killers. It is a high mark; a sublime imitation of his Lord.

Lord, to hear of Stephen’s death tells us how much we need your Holy Spirit filling our lives; forgiveness often comes hard.

October 29

Turn on the Light

Revelation 21:23

“Turn on the light.” You’ve probably said that many times. You do not think anything of it except that you need the light to see. But let me break this simple statement down a bit. You really are not concerned with whether or not the lamp has electricity going through it; you want the result (light) not the source (light bulb). If you don’t get the result (light) you will soon replace the source (light bulb).

We see the same distinction made in this verse—which speaks of ultimate reality. To state the parallel clearly, the glory of God is the light in this city; Jesus the Christ is the lamp which takes that glory and sends it out into the physical world. The Light of the World draws from the God Who Is Light.

Scholars disagree about many things in Revelation. We might point out that this passage, describing the New Heaven and New Earth, is subject to a great many varying interpretations. Be that as it may, there are certain things we can safely conclude:

· As darkness is the time of fear and gloom, light shows us joy. Some people come into a room and everyone cheers up; such a person is said to “light up the place.”

· Light also can be combined with other things to make beauty—as one might find in a perfect diamond.

· Light’s main reference in Scripture is that of a manifestation or revealing, the lamp to my feet.

This is not at all completely “future tense.” Whenever you see light in Scripture, you should remember that Christ told us that we are the light of the world. Until his return, we must fulfill the function of the lamp and light:

· We should “light up the place” - our joy should be clear and noteworthy to the world.

· We should be the ones whose presence creates beauty in an ugly world.

· We should, most importantly, be the light which reveals to the world the problem of sin—and its solution in Christ.

Let the lower lights take their source from God the Father and their example from the Son—and shine in a dark generation.

Lord, it seems so hard to be the light of the world—until we remember that you are the Father of Light.

October 30

Jehovah

Isaiah 42:8

The verse begins with the simple announcement: I am Jehovah. The word Jehovah is translated variously; we shall deal with it in its original meaning. It means the one who is self-existent, or eternal. This carries some heavy implications:

· He is the Unmoved Mover. We see things in motion; we know that nothing moves without something shoving it. But do you not also see that, no matter how far back we trace the shoving, at the end of the chain there must be someone or something which started it all?  The Unmoved Mover.

· He is the Necessary Being. All the things we see are “contingent” - they depend on someone or something else for their existence. This book implies trees and a paper mill. For each object there is a trail of contingencies which is required for its existence. But that trail can’t be infinite, nor can it start with something which willed itself into existence. There must be a Necessary at the back end of all those contingents.

· He is the Uncaused Cause. We may trace the existence of an item back, saying “this caused this, which caused…” But at the beginning of the string of causes, there must be a cause which had no cause.

Do you also see that these three characteristics of God (and there are more, of course) tell us of his glory? If he is the unmoved mover, then he is the source of all motion, the Omnipotent One. If he is the Necessary Being, then it is in him that all things maintain their existence. He is their upholder. If he is the Uncaused Cause, he must perforce be Self-Existent—and therefore his name truly is Jehovah, for that is what the word means in Hebrew.

This has some interesting implications for modern minds. We are very fond of the idea that we should be “tolerant.” In Isaiah’s time this would be to say “all cultures are equally valid” (including the one practicing infant sacrifice); therefore God is just one more god, this one without a statue to his name. The Ultimate Fact would be told He is little more than just another wooden post with gold eyeballs.

Do not be mistaken. God does not change; he is eternal. Only the father of lies disputes this. Tolerant—or ultimately real?

Lord, strengthen us in heart, so that we might be willing and ready ambassadors of reconciliation for you.

October 31

Public Architecture

Isaiah 6:3

Some of the cities in this world have a specific construction which is indelibly associated with the city. St. Louis has her arch; New York has the Statue of Liberty, San Francisco the Golden Gate Bridge; Washington the Lincoln Memorial—even Hollywood has a sign. One of the most notable of such constructions is the Eiffel Tower. You know instantly that it is associated with Paris.

If the artists of Paris in the late 19th century had had their way, it would not have been. They viewed the tower as an eyesore. The point was enforced by one French writer. When asked his favorite restaurant, he said that he preferred the one in the Eiffel tower. Why? “It’s the only place in Paris from which you cannot see the Eiffel tower.”

Perhaps the church is like that. Perhaps we are so close to God that we cannot see his glory as he has expressed it in our world. Is there any place on this globe you can go and be free of the evidence of God’s glory? From the depths of the sea to the vacuum above, God is there.

Isaiah, in this dramatic passage, sees God enthroned. The cherubim announce to all the character of Jehovah:

· He is holy—set apart, completely “other” to us. He has power over us, but we have none over him.

· He is I AM—the self existent one. He is the creator of all things.

· He is Lord of Hosts—the one holding all power.

No wonder Isaiah thought himself doomed in the presence of the Awesome God. But hear what the cherubim have to say: the whole earth is full of his glory.

· It is full of his glory in the natural world.

· It is full of his glory even in thought, in the beauty of pure mathematics.

· It is full of his glory in his church, the body of Christ.

His glory is not just present; it fills. By his glory he upholds all things; is this not true of Christ himself? Is it his glory that has dimmed in the last three thousand years—or is it our willingness to look?

Lord, you are both awesome and love. May we never miss the awesome while seeking that love.

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