Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter in Heaven

When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, "Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look - I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave." (Revelation 1:12-18, NLT)


Invariably, when I hear about someone losing a loved one (or even one who has such a loss pending), I am transported back to the deaths of my father and brother. The tears come swiftly, and at times I find it hard to speak. This occasion was no different, even though I had never met Louise. I had served briefly with one of her sons on the deacon board and, though he had moved away, he happened to be there that morning when we learned that she had been brought home for hospice care. Given the calendar, I had a single thought - Easter in heaven.

She was reunited with her Savior shortly after that, and this entry began to solidify in my mind. The passage in Revelation pressed on my heart and, in some sort of fulfillment of the Lenten study I have undertaken, thoughts about Heaven came closer to the forefront. If I read this passage correctly, I'm thinking that it must be Easter in Heaven every day. Frankly, that's an almost overwhelming thought, yet it seems to ring so true.

I wonder if our loved ones are at first a little terrified when they see Jesus. John says he was, though he wasn't actually dead at the time. But the powerful image he records and the comforting words that echoed from the throne still embody the message of Easter in such a unique way. Easter is the culmination of the Incarnation and the gateway to our eternal life with God. And there Jesus stands, in all His glory, proclaiming that He is "the Living One" and holding the keys to death and the grave.

If I ever write a story about a true conquering hero, I'm thinking I should use this as a model. Oh, we've seen the images in so many ways. Gandalf's second coming to the Fellowship is as a newly risen white wizard. The Pevensie children are called from one world into the next and anxiously await the arrival of Aslan for their rescue. But even these great tales pale in comparison with the words Jesus spoke to John. There He stood - the Risen One who had conquered death and dying once and for all. Easter was more than just some event on the Christian calendar ... it was and is the reality of Heaven each and every day.

The absolute wonder and bliss of that moment, seeing the Savior face-to-face, must be an amazing thing! And while our journey here on Earth cycles through the seasons and feasts and events that seem to repeat, in Heaven, I think it is truly Easter every day. Because Easter is the symbol of the Empty Tomb and the Risen Lord that says all the Law has been forever satisfied and death no longer has its hold. We stop reverently at the Cross on Good Friday, but Easter is what really draws us forward and holds our attention.

As I travel my own Crooked Path, experiencing what God has in store for me daily, I live in hope of Easter in Heaven. I live in anticipation of Christ saying, "Don't be afraid anymore. I am the One you have been following. I am the embodiment of Easter and death no longer has a grip on you." Alpha and Omega has spoken ... He is risen indeed!


  1. Where is your heart this Easter season? Is it only a fleeting day in the midst of your difficult life?
  2. Can you stop just a minute and hear the words John recorded ... "I died, but look - I am alive for ever and ever!" Can you claim those as your own, if even briefly?
  3. Are you ready to rise above the death that this life brings you and experience the reality of Easter in Heaven - every day? Can you even catch a glimpse of how wonderful that must be?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Solitude Leading to Silence

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while."
For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.  (Mark 6:30-32, ESV)


Deliberately seeking solitude and silence ... that's a difficult thing for so many of us, myself included. Frankly, we aren't comfortable in solitude or silence. I'd wager to say most of us are even a little frightened by the concept. Our hurried, worried world rushes along at a break-neck pace and, if we are honest, we like it that way. To stop and go away is to feel loneliness rush in and cast a dark shadow over our souls. Yet the example of Jesus says otherwise ... He calls us today just as He called His disciples to "Come away ... to a desolate place."

We tend to view solitude in the wrong way. In studying writings by Richard Foster and Chuck Swindoll, they note that true solitude is quite the opposite of being lonely and alone. In fact, when we give ourselves over to the solitude God would provide, we know at the core of our being that we are not alone. And, as Foster notes, we create a "portable sanctuary" that allows us a season of rest even in the middle of our hectic world. In solitude, we find the inner fulfillment that connects us with the God who loves us so much, He gave up His own Son.

Silence often accompanies solitude. Many writing on the Christian disciplines will combine them; most will link them at the very least. As with the heart pitched toward meditation, practicing silence and solitude puts us in a position to more clearly hear God as He speaks to us. Swindoll even notes that God doesn't speak to a hurried mind.

As I continue my Lenten side trip on this Crooked Path, I am challenged to consider my approach to disciplines such as solitude. I wonder if I would take advantage even just a little of the times it presents itself, if I would truly be still as the Psalmist says, what would I hear God say? I'm certain at least part of His message would be to remind me just how much He loves me.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

In the Right Frame of Mind

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." (Isaiah 6:1-7, ESV)


In the process of working through thoughts about Lent, I was drawn to the possibilities that it could bring and how I could apply it to my own life. I was specifically thinking in a non-liturgical fashion and wasn't limiting myself to the traditional forty day period leading up to Easter. Rather, I was looking for a way to deepen my relationship with my Savior and place myself in a position where I could hear Him more clearly.

One of the books I turned to was Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. After working through the foundational material he presents, the Christian Disciplines are laid out twelve practices which we would do well to learn and implement. The first one detailed by Foster is (and not surprisingly, knowing his Quaker roots) meditation. He notes, "What happens in meditation is that we create the emotional and spiritual space which allows Christ to construct an inner sanctuary in the heart." I think that's why this passage from Isaiah came so readily to mind.

The great prophet has prepared his heart in a fashion so that he can hear God very clearly. You would expect this much of Isaiah given his charge and work. But I have to think he is especially in this frame of mind and soul when Uzziah dies and God grants him the vision described in this passage. To me, that demonstrates a meditative heart to the greatest degree humanly possible. Think of it! He sees God seated on His throne in His heavenly temple - so immense and awesome that He fills the temple and shakes the foundations of the universe. I sincerely doubt that a man who didn't meditate could stand up to a vision such as this.

As I travel my Crooked Path, specifically as I journey through Lent this year, I hope I can bring my heart and mind to the place where I can easily hear God speak. It can come in so many ways through so many people or things - I just want to be in a position to recognize it. As the Psalmist said (Psalm 77), "I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Identity Crisis

For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2:18-20, ESV)


I've found myself thinking a lot this week (especially since Friday) about my current career situation. I'm in what the career coaches call "active search mode" after some business decisions left me and others with the opportunity to seek out new situations. The men who read this will immediately identify with what I am going to say. Many of the ladies will as well, most likely because of the men in their lives. I tend to identify myself in a large way by how I earn my living. I'm pretty good at what I do and there is nothing wrong with this up to a point. Most men have a similar identification with their career pursuit. It is, at least in part, how God has wired us.

But God never meant that to be our primary identity. And, while I am also a father and husband, my true identity cannot lie their either. God continually calls us to set aside our perception of identity for what He has offered. Probably the most striking example is the story of Abraham (see Genesis or even Hebrews 11 for a brief review). God called this man out of his native land, away from his family and friends. He really didn't know where he was going but, instead, trusted God to provide. And mind you, this was a God Whom Abraham hadn't known for very long.

This same God who drew Abraham out of his native element, promised him a son. And, when Abraham finally surrendered his own will (and identity) on that matter, gave him Isaac ... then asked him to sacrifice that beloved son. Abraham, again showing his willingness to lay aside his own thoughts on his identity, took the boy to Mount Moriah and willingly laid him on the altar. God intervened, as you well remember, but I think we glimpse more of Abraham's heart here than we see anywhere else in the story. In the end, when called out by God, Abraham was willing to rest the entirety of himself - his very identity - in the capable hands of the God who had lead him all the way. His trust was, at least as far as human terms can take it, complete.

During this rather uncertain part of my own Crooked Path, perhaps God has put me in this exact position and circumstance so that I can take the lesson from Abraham and re-evaluate where my identity lies. Instead of calling myself out as a professional, a father, a husband, or anything else, when somebody asks, "Who are you?" I can answer from my heart ... "I am God's child because of what Jesus did for me." That would definitely solve any identity crisis I might feel. God hasn't changed and I can trust Him completely.