Seeing God Smile

On the evening of my last day in the city of my visit, we were returning to my room for the evening before my departure the next morning, and we noticed a particularly bright sunset so my translator took this picture.  We both commented on it being especially bright and beautiful.  It wasn’t until I got home and was working with the pictures that I had collected that I looked at it closer and it caused me to catch my breath.  Look at it closer at what you see and try to identify what I saw.  In the bright white I saw a dove with its wings outstretched.  I even saw its head and a portion of its tail.  It was as if the Lord was saying, “This is why I sent you here”.

I am not saying it really was a dove or even a perfect semblance of a dove.  Still, that is what it appeared to be to me and some others that have seen the picture.  It really doesn’t matter what you see, it was a blessing to us and so fitting a way to end the trip.

This wasn’t the only thing that evidenced God’s hand on us during this trip.  I had people from many places that let me know that they were praying for the trip on many levels and for many reasons.  Places like Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Texas.  Our home church and many others, friends, family and even strangers that just heard about it were praying.  It seemed to me that they all were trying to warn me about the dangers and I felt a little like the Apostle Paul when he was returning to Jerusalem and was warned about what he would face on three separate occasions. (Acts 21) His reply to them was (v. 13) (Paraphrased) ‘I know that, why do you want to weep and break my heart?  I am prepared to pay any price to honor the name of the Lord.  (simply, I am compelled to go.)  I knew what could happen but I did not fear it for it would have been a small price to pay for such an honor to go in His name.

I am happy to report that everything that happened on the trip was completely in His hands and under His control.  Every objective that I had hoped for was completed without incident. My heart was stretched; all my needs were provided for; I was received like royalty; my ability to handle the foods were more than satisfied; my energy never abated; I was busy the entire time I was there and saw the Lord alive and active in the lives of my brethren there in China.  It was more than apparent to me that I was beholding God at work because I was not directing what happened, nor was anyone else.  God had initiated the trip from the idea to go to supplying every need to bringing the results to fruition.  Truly a demonstration of the operation of faith, and then sealing it with His approval.  See what the Lord will do when we leave the driving to Him.

Thinking of Eternity

I was just thinking of God and what it will be like when we stand before Him in Eternity.  I have heard a thousand thoughts of what others think it will be like.  Some think that they will still be in charge of something and will ask God their deepest questions about why did He  —-?  Others have the idea that Eternity will be linear, like it is here and our existence will be much the same.  (Example: Ten thousand year)  Another idea is that all our loved ones will meet us there and they will be much the same but just stop growing old.  One of the most popular is that it is”a better place”, without any explanation as to what that means.  Many understand that there will be no more pain and sorrow but do not understand why.  Most think that there will be memories and even regrets of what could have been but never was.  Sadly, most of our concepts are just wild guesses, carried out to several decimal places or just simply figments of our imagination.

The Bible gives us many clues as to what it will be like but they are meaningless until they are seen through the eyes of faith and the record of God’s Word.  Last week, I preached a message out of John 6, entitled I AM the Bread of Life.  The “I AM” is the same as what God told Moses when he asked God what His name was.  God replied, I AM that I AM.  Tell them that I AM sent you.  When Jesus said, “I AM the Bread of Life” He used the same phrase, claiming Himself to be very God.  He did not give His name but one of His attributes, His self existence.  The reason is that a name is used to distinguish one from another of similar features or specifics.  When you come to God, there is no other like Him.  He is one of a kind, unique, different from all others.  So to know Him is to know His attributes.  In this case it is His eternal self existence.  No other living being has eternal self existence so the identification is made by that characteristic.  Because he is self existent, He is not subject to time.  The conclusion is that in Eternity, time does not exist.  We, who exist in linear time, do not think of a timeless existence so we superimpose our understanding of time into Eternity and come to a false conclusion of what Eternity is like.  To truly know what Eternity is like is to know it from an eternal position which still awaits us.  We see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.

What will it be like?  I don’t really know what it will be like, but I know that it won’t be like now any more than the world of time and space is like the world of the womb.  There is even more difference between this present world and the world of Eternity.  I get a clue of something of what it might be like as I look at others who have been very close to God.  Moses saw Him from behind and his face glowed so bright that he had to wear a veil.  Jacob wrestled with an angel of God and it changed him forever and he had a limp the rest of his life.  The three Hebrew children walked with Him in the fire and it had no effect on them except to free them from their bonds.  Many saints came before Him and fell on their faces, unable to stand without His help.  When Isaiah saw Him on His throne in the temple, he saw himself as unclean and without hope until the Lord cleansed his sin.  Paul was knocked to the ground when he met the Lord and it change his life, permanently.  When John saw the Lord, He was the glorified Christ and he fell at His feet as dead.  The result of that meeting is the book of Revelation.  On thing is certain, when we find ourselves before the Lord our God, we will see Him as He is and we will be changed.

Paul’s Prayer For The Church At Ephesus

Ephesians 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  Eph 3:16 That he would grant you . . . That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;Eph 3:18 (That ye) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

The apostle Paul spent 3 years working with the church at Ephesus. Acts 20:31  Now, as he writes to them, he clearly lays out why he felt so deeply and earnestly for them and the extent of his prayer for them.  He is now looking to their journey ahead and what is yet needed.

First, he prays for them to be strengthened.  This strengthening was to be with might, that is, not just stronger, but to be the strongest they can be.  Strength come by exercise and sweat and by overcoming greater and greater trials.  This strengthening was to be with might, that is to the extreme; by His Spirit, that is supernaturally and finally, in the inner man, not physical strength but strength of character and will.

Secondly, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.  The term dwell has the idea of permanence and regularity.  It is not a mountain top high, but rather a constant dependence on Him.  The only way for that to happen is by faith in Him.  We should not expect feelings, sensations, etc. but by a continual trust in Him that He will do by His power.  It is not by seeing with our physical eyes but through the eyes of faith that we see the way.

Thirdly, he prays that they (you) may be able to comprehend what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge and that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.  Wow! what a mouthful  of wonder.  Let’s break it down.  The word comprehend can also be translated ‘apprehend’, and it means to take possession of or to know experientially.  This is not head knowledge but knowledge that comes through experience.  Literally, to know God as He is, the immensity of His height (all that is above), and depth (all that is below), and breadth (all that is past and future) and length (all peoples of all races and all authorities).  All of this combined together and you will begin to grasp the Love of God and all He has planned for His Saints or believers.  Literally, to be filled with the fullness of God.

Paul closes the chapter by concluding that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we as or think, but it is according to the power that worketh in us, that God is glorified (seen) in the church.  This is normal Christian living.

Word Study – Perceive

Mt 13:14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:  

The word “perceive” is often misunderstood as meaning to learn or to mentally figure it out.  The word is  horao, pronounced  hor-ah’-o  and means to discern clearly.  It includes both the physical and spiritual applications.  To perceive is to see it as it is and all of the applications associated with it.  It sees through smoke screens and misrepresentations.  It is not fooled by empty promises, emotions or wishful thinking.

Perception is not done by seeing.  You have heard that seeing is believing but we all know that we see different things while observing the same thing.  Eyewitnesses do not always see the same things.  Beholding is not seeing everything.  It is also not seeing from the same perspective.  Furthermore the details we see are interpreted through the filter of our understanding and experiences.

After we have gathered our information of believed facts, we then piece them together into some rational meaning that we call understanding.  It may be logical but it may not be the truth.  Our conclusions are warped by our limitations, prejudices, inexperience and preferences.  In short, we are fallible and limited.

Perception does not come from the eyes but the heart and is given by the Lord.  It does not come by knowledge, understanding or effort.  You can’t manufacture it or produce it.  Once given it is used in harmony with the facts without distortion.  It is knowledge beyond the normal means of using your senses and mind.  It only comes as a revelation from God and in harmony with His will.  That is why it is not under our control.  We can know what we could never know or understand without it.

Perception supersedes spiritual blindness can be caused by our limitations, immaturity, erroneous training, misinformation, stubbornness, sin, or a hardened heart.  It confronts issues that prevent a right response to God and is one more of the road blocks to hell.  When rejected it compounds the problems and judgment.

Viewing the Heavens

I was visiting with my pastor over lunch today and the subject came up of heaven.  It was noted that most people view heaven as simply a remodeled form of things of earth.  You hear statements at a funeral of someone who has died that go something like this, “He is up there doing what he always wanted to do.”  Rarely do we hear a description of heaven that actually depicts what the Bible teaches.  Even then, it may not be heaven at all but a place describe that we are not familiar with so it is understood as heaven.

There are several places described in the Bible that are often understood as heaven but are not heaven.  One such place is Paradise.  It is referenced three times in the New Testament in reference to the place of the righteous dead (Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, and Revelation 2:7)  In the Jewish concept of Hades had two compartments, a place of torment for the unrighteous dead and a place of rest for the righteous dead, called Paradise.  This picture is seen clearly in the story that Jesus told of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31).  When Jesus was resurrected He gathered the righteous saints from Paradise and took them with Him and now the compartment of Paradise is empty.  Now, when the righteous die, they go immediately into the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).  Only the unrighteous remain in Hades and are preserved to the day of Judgment.

Another place that is often confused as heaven is the millennium or 1,000 years.  This is in reference to the time that the Lord will reign over all the earth and establish peace among all people and living creatures.  (Isaiah 11:1-16,  65:17-25)  This scene is where the wolf and the lamb feed together and the lion will eat straw like the cow.  It a picture of perfect harmony and peace.  This is the picture of the righteous, but the picture of the unrighteous is a picture of terror and horror.  It is also known as the day of the Lord.

A third place that is often confused with heaven is “Heaven above“.  This is also know in different translations as: firmament, expanse, dome or vault and is understood as the spiritual dwelling place of God now, as opposed to earth as a physical place.  It includes the atmosphere and the expanse of space and is referred to being above.  It is also addressed as the unseen world.

The place that we know as heaven has several characteristics.  One is that it is an eternal place.  It is unending, which is a concept that our feeble mind has great difficulty grasping.   We exist in time and space and change.  In eternity there is not such thing as time or dimension or change.  Everything is: and it is without beginning or end; it is without measurement; and it is without change.

Another characteristic is that in heaven there is that the things that were necessary for our development have now ended and no longer have an eternal purpose.  Tears are gone, death is defeated, sorrow, crying and pain are no more, and the memory of all these difficulties cannot be found.  I think it is similar to a mother giving birth to a child.  She has pain that is necessary for the birth of the child, but once the child is born the mother cannot remember the pain.  Yes, she can remember that she had pain but she can no longer feel the pain.

In heaven, there will be a lot of rejoicing.  It will not be so much for our gain but because of the full realization of God and His glory.  Like a diamond that is uncut looks a lot like just another rock but when it is cut, the beauty and the magnificence of it is revealed.  It was there all of the time but now it is fully realized.  We are the workmanship of God and look just like other people but when the Lord is finished shaping and making us into His image we will appear like Him and so the glory of God will be seen in us.  This picture pales in comparison to the Glory of the Lord as we behold Him for who He is.

1Co 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  It won’t be a remodeled world it will be the presence of the Lord with an eternal and spiritual existence.  Our activity will have eternal purposes and not for selfish or wordily reasons.

Seeing

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God

I was thinking about how amazing it is to be able to see.  I have also tried to comprehend what it would be if you were blind.  It seems that there are several facets to seeing.  There is the physical aspect and there is the aspect of understanding and then there is the aspect of seeing spiritually.

Looking at the physical aspect it is fairly easy to grasp the difference in seeing and blindness by simply closing your eyes.  What happens is that you quickly loose the imagery of sight and your reality takes on a new dimension.   I used to work in the mines in Colorado and have been in total darkness for a little while.  You try to see but you cannot make out any details of any kind.  Your reality lacks definition and you begin to grope about to find anything that you can detect with your other senses that you know and can understand.  It can be very confusing.  There are stories of people who have been in total darkness for extended periods and have gone mad  without light.  Physical blindness is a definite handicap on life but it is not the worst kind of blindness.

I like puzzles and have a number of them in my study.  I find great pleasure in figuring out how the puzzle is  solved.  Solving problems is a big part of what makes our society work.  Understanding is essential in the overall function of all machinery.  It is basic to our value system and defines relationships.  You have all seen the “Ah-ha” reaction expressed in a cartoon as a lighted bulb or the expression of realization with the widening of the eyes in understanding.  This is seeing through the problem to a solution.  The inability to see through a problem is another type of blindness that will greatly limit your quality of life.

Perhaps the worst type of blindness is the inability to perceive the spiritual.  Those who have this type of blindness do not even know that they are blind.  Perception for them is limited to the physical and mental dimensions of the physical world.  They are unaware of the spiritual realm because they do not even have the eyes to see it with.  To get them, a person must be born again.  He gets his spiritual eyes upon his spiritual birth, just as a person gets his physical eyes at his physical birth.  Yes, I know that he has them before his birth, but their function really begins upon their birth.  Until you are born again you are spiritually blind; and that is the worst type of blindness.  This is just one of the reasons that Jesus said, You must be born again!