Sunday, November 28, 2010

Neighborhood Makeover

I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea. I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband. I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: "Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They're his people, he's their God. He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone." The Enthroned continued, "Look! I'm making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate."

The main street of the City was pure gold, translucent as glass. But there was no sign of a Temple, for the Lord God—the Sovereign-Strong—and the Lamb are the Temple. The City doesn't need sun or moon for light. God's Glory is its light, the Lamb its lamp! The nations will walk in its light and earth's kings bring in their splendor. Its gates will never be shut by day, and there won't be any night. (Revelation 21:1-5 & 21-25, The Message)


Among the more interesting reality shows (at least in my book) are the ones dealing with a house or room or neighborhood receiving a makeover from professionals with an eye for design and detail. The one show where a house is picked for the full treatment but those around receive at least some cosmetic work is especially fun to watch. The little changes that are made so often have huge impacts on the way things look. And then all the neighbors come together for a party at the end of the work. Some might even call it inspiring.

As I write this particular entry, I'm in the middle of a remodel/facelift project myself. It's fairly ambitious, but I'm enjoying the challenge of seeing what I had envisioned come to life. But, as gratifying as it will be when I finish the project, it pales in comparison with the change God has in store for our future. You might even want to call it "Extreme Makeover - the Universe."

The Apostle John caught a glimpse of what is in store when the current clock "stops ticking" and God resets everything to a new state. I've used this passage previously, but recent studies and thoughts along these lines made it come quickly back to my mind. Unlike my remodel project, where some of the outcome is based on what already existed, God has promised to start fresh. It's all "new" which means, as I interpret it, that it didn't even exist before the events spoken of in Revelation 21. In that way, it is much more than just a makeover.

There is a restoration of relationship between the Creator and the created. All of the worst we've experienced will be erased from our memories and the Comforter will give comfort to us one final time as He wipes away all tears and replaces it with pure, unbridled joy. Never again will we know sadness or pain. It's all so distant that we won't recall it. Our focus will be turned to our Savior and that will be enough for us.

At the heart of the scene is the Center of our worship - the Living Temple Himself. Just think of it! We won't have to long for His presence or seek Him out ever again. He will be right there and we will surround Him in the most perfect relationship imaginable. He will be the Light that shines out among us and no darkness or shadow will ever again be found. No more waiting through the night, we'll have visibility of 100% without restriction.

And because there is no night, the gates of the city will never close. It dawned on me as I read this passage just how significant that fact is. Walled cities were a source of protection and gates always closed at night so they could be more easily guarded and the "unwelcome element" kept out. But in God's New City, there is no night, no fear, no darkness, and no reason at all to shut the gates - ever! It is the City of Eternal Peace - Salem, if you will - and we will feel completely at home for the very first time.

As I walk my own Crooked Path, I can take heart in knowing that, when it all finally ends, my Loving Father has a plan that will blow me away. It will be a makeover beyond all makeovers and He's designed it with me in mind. Thinking about it makes my mind race and my heart skip a beat.


  1. Have you ever thought about what comes next? How does your concept of it stack up against the Revelation 21 passage?
  2. What does the idea of "created new" make you think of? Can you catch a glimpse of God's heart for us as this scene is unveiled?
  3. What about the concept of the city pictured in the passage? Does a city of eternal peace sound out of reach, or does it sound like home?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Backward Glance, a Forward Gaze

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Hebrews 11:8-10; Philippians 3:12-16, ESV)


Perhaps you can capture the image of the high-stakes jockey turning the corner with the lead and glancing under his left arm to see where the competition is. Or maybe it's the vision of an Indy car driver, briefly glancing in the rear-view mirror (small as it is) to verify his position. Even the runner, making the slightest head turn during the curve of the track, looking to see who is following and how close they are. So many things we do and experience involve a glance behind. It's healthy in many cases and it is absolutely necessary so that you can gain or verify your bearings. But the glance behind is invariably brief. If it weren't, one would lose focus of what is really important.

The jockey knows he has to cross the finish wire first. The driver is pressing on to pass under that checkered flag. The runner has his heart set on being the only one to break that tape. And all of these things have a common thread - they involve a distinct forward gaze. After all, you have to see and know what is in front of you if you are going to achieve that prize.

When God called Abraham, he picked up and moved to a place he had never been. We have record of Abraham maintaining some ties with his former home, but they appear to be limited to the times he sent back for a wife for Isaac. You may recall that Jacob ended up back there as well - but that's another story. The significance here, as I read it from the account in Hebrews, is that Abraham trusted God to be there at the end of his journey. He believed God would provide that city, even if he had never seen it before. Sure, he may have glanced behind to remember where he came from, but it was that forward gaze that really defined him. His faith, as recalled in the passage above, drove him to obey on a completely different level.

Paul certainly had this scenario in mind when he wrote to the church at Philippi. He was exhorting them not to completely ignore what came before or where they had been, but to place their primary focus on what lies ahead. He called it a prize based on an "upward calling" from God. I know Paul didn't read C.S. Lewis, but I've got to believe the thought here is similar. The past does shape us, but it doesn't define us. What we are to be for eternity lies ahead and that's where we must turn our attention. With that type of vision, what we've come through will seem forgotten by comparison.

So what about the rest of us? We're not being called out to go someplace we didn't even know existed (though we may be called to go somewhere other than our current place). We're not a struggling first-century church (though we are definitely in the same battle). For the most part (and I can only speak for myself with any level of certainty or authority), we're comfortable ... perhaps too comfortable. Perhaps what we need is a good dose of the competitive drive that Paul mentions or the forward-looking determination that served as the core to Abraham's faith. Maybe I glance back too often or do so with a lingering gaze when my focus should be on what lies ahead.

As I travel my Crooked Path, I should remember where I came from and what I've been through. Those events, people, and places serve as a basis for who I am and why I think and react the way I do. But I can't forget to fix my eyes forward most of the time. My prize isn't behind me, it's out in front. As Larry Crabb once noted, we go through our life stumbling, picking ourselves up, and pressing on until one day we find ourselves Home with a Heavenly Father, who loves us more than anyone could, and a Divine Brother, who died for us and will embrace us ... and we will break into an eternal smile.


  1. Where is your focus most of the time? Is it behind you fixed on what is immediately around you?
  2. If you can imagine being able to focus on what is ahead - your true prize - what would it do to you? How would it change the way you live?
  3. Are you heading toward a city where God has laid the foundation, a prize from His "high calling"? In your vision, is there a Heavenly Father and a Divine Brother waiting to welcome you with open arms?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dancing in the Puddles

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me for I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, with the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. O my God, my soul is in despair within me; therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God my rock, "Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, while they say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. (Psalm 42, NASB)


"Hope dances in the puddles 'til the sun comes out again." It was the verse from an electronic card I sent to my sister. I sent it on the day that marks the fifth anniversary of the loss of her husband. The day after that marks eleven years since we laid my younger brother's baby boy to rest. Shortly, we will pass ten years since my brother Mike left us. And, as I've noted before, this season of remembrance was "kicked off" by recalling the loss of my father just over twenty-four years ago. So the tone of David's despair rings pretty close to my heart during these several weeks. My soul definitely feels disturbed and disquieted.

But true hope "dances in the puddles" even while it grieves. It asks the same questions as others do, but it rests firmly in the answer of the One Hope on which it is built. The pain and sorrow are real - no doubt about that; but the reality also rests in a deep trust that God will bring the sun out again and has a distinct purpose in the rain. That's the reason my family hopes and knows these relationships that have been cut short on this earth will be restored once we join our loved ones. And we "dance in the puddles" even when those puddles are created by our own tears.

As has been the case for the past several years, friends and family join my brother, his wife, and his son in providing shoeboxes filled with "hope" to the Operation Christmas Child project. This year, the people that run the program have made provision for coded labels that will allow us to track packages as they zip around the globe. And as those boxes are filled, shipped, and delivered, we will watch them and "dance in the puddles" instead of turn our grief inward.

David asked the questions of God, but in the end he knew that God had not forsaken him at any moment. He faced untold moments of despair when he was being chased by a multitude of enemies. But underneath this Psalm, David knew the Source of Hope would allow him to forge ahead. It wasn't always easy and it wasn't always immediate. In other words, there were often puddles in front of him. But I believe that David knew how to dance in them - and dance he did!

My travel on the Crooked Path will be filled with bends and curves, ups and downs, and rises and dips. It will rain, and that means there will be puddles. Some of them will be shallow and some fairly deep. Many will disappear quickly, but some will linger on. In each case, when the sky clouds over and I am tempted to despair, I will have a choice. I can either give in and wallow in my own self doubt, or I can kick off my shoes and "dance in the puddles." I hope that in the midst of my own grief, I can continue to choose to dance. The sun will return, you know. If not in this life, then in the next.


  1. Do you find yourself struggling under a weight of despair and difficulty? Do you find it hard to see the sun because your world always seems to be overcast?
  2. Have you turned your worries and grief inward, rather than seeking for the Source of Hope and crying out to Him? Can you imagine the relief that is available if you could only do that?
  3. Are you willing to "dance in the puddles" and trust God to see you through until the sun returns? What is your answer when He asks, "Do you trust me?"

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Then Moses said to the LORD, "See, You say to me, 'Bring up this people.' But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, 'I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.' Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people." And He said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Then he said to Him, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth." So the LORD said to Moses, "I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name." And he said, "Please, show me Your glory." Then He said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live." And the LORD said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen." (Exodus 33:12-23, NKJV)


Driving to a meeting tonight, I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I've observed in a while. The sun was below the horizon and the sky and clouds above it were layers upon layers of fiery pink, crimson, yellow, and orange. The gray-blue tops of the clouds, colored as the twilight added its own shadow, made the scene even more spectacular. As I drove, I thought about the make-up of the sunset and the timing of what I was seeing. It would not have looked like it did just 30-40 minutes earlier. At that point, the sun would still have been above the horizon and the colors would not have been nearly that brilliant. Not to mention the damage one can do staring at the sun itself. No, it had to be just out of site to make the picture what it was.

Early during the long trek through the wilderness, God took Moses up on the mountain to give him specific instruction regarding how He wanted His nation run. Through the entire time (and even before that), God had repeatedly told Moses that He would be with him through everything. Moses had plenty of self-doubt (don't we all?), but God was patient with him. Here on the mountain, Moses makes another request ... he wants to see God's glory.

In so many words, God says, "You can't see it. It would kill you." But then God makes a provision for Moses to experience as much of His glory as he can bear and still live. God hides Moses in a corner, covers him up, and then passes by very close. At the last possible second, God removes His hand and Moses sees the reflective wonder of his Lord. And, I believe, much like the sunset I described, it was a completely wonderful sight. It was a sight he could never have experienced by looking at it dead-on. That would have fried him to a crisp! But seeing it as a reflection, with layer upon layer of color and texture and sheer majesty flowing behind the Almighty presented a sight so powerful, Moses glowed for days afterward. In fact, the Israelites pretty much demanded that he wear a veil over his face so they didn't hurt their eyes when they looked at him.

How much like our loving Father to provide Moses with a reflection of His glory and me with a vision of that sunset. Both of us were enriched by the experience, though I imagine Moses a little more so than I. Still, how many times to we try to find a direct line of sight to God and overlook the reflection He so graciously provides all around us? Certainly, when we cross over our own final horizon, we will see God in His glory and will be well-equipped to do so. Until then, we need to look for His reflection in the people and things He has created.

As I travel my Crooked Path, I will have many opportunities to see the sunset or the sunrise or some other wonder. Simple beauty, the kind that truly reflects the character of the Creator is all around me. Perhaps I need to slow down at times and really look for it. Then when I'm tempted to say to God, "Show me your glory," I can stop myself and realize He already has. And through the vision of that reflected glory, I can mirror God to a lost and confused world all around me. After all, that is what He wants me to do.


  1. Are you looking around you for that reflective glory of our Father, or are you trying to see him head-on instead?
  2. What will it take to make you content with God's answer and provision when you ask to see Him more clearly? Do you think you could withstand Him coming to you directly, or is it better to see His reflection?
  3. Have you overlooked the simple beauty God provides all around you and the wonder it can bring to your life? Will you commit today to looking for it so you can reflect God back out to the world around you?