We were built to be lived in

It seems almost arrogant to say that God meant to set up home here on this planet with us, and that’s why he scattered massive amounts of energy into a space that hadn’t existed before to perfectly form a tiny planet on the outskirts of a medium-sized galaxy that would support a wonderful variety of creatures and wildlife, including a creature he could relate to.

And again it sounds arrogant to say he then wiped out an entire animal and wildlife kingdom to replace it with a new creation that would suit humans, so that humans could build their own homes, and create cities and civilizations that no previous creature had been able to create. And God did that so humans would love the idea of home, want to own their own home and decorate it, and prepare it for a life of family and children – because that’s what God loves too.

Can we dare say, then, that God actually shaped this planet, and us too, purely because this is his home and we are his family? But that’s what the Israelites understood in the design of the Temple – the place on earth where God dwelt – because it included pictures of the creation from Genesis, in recognition that when God created our world it was because he meant to live here. He likes being here with us. He even came in human form and called himself ‘God with us’ to tell us in person that being with us where we are is where he loves to be.

But Jesus went one step further by claiming he was the Temple (John 2:19-21), meaning he was now God’s home on earth. And in that home, he said, were “many rooms,” John 14:2, which he would be getting ready for his disciples so they could join him in God’s home (verse 2-3) and “be with me where I am” (John 17:24).

That’s why Paul could say in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 that we are the Temple, because in belonging to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:7) and being members of his body (1 Corinthians 6:15), we are now the place where God dwells. And it’s to us now, therefore, that God says in 2 Corinthians 6:16, “I will live with them and walk among them.”

But Paul went one step further too, by saying Christ, the Temple of God, is now IN us, Colossians 1:27. So God is not just walking ‘with’ and ‘among’ us, he is actually living in us. This is where he wants to decorate and set up home, and create his family. And that’s why he made us the way we are: He built us, in other words, to be lived in.

Advertisements

This is the Father’s world. This mess? How can it be?

A pastor who loved to hike the countryside wrote the hymn, This is my Father’s world. He admitted in the hymn that it didn’t seem like the Father’s world because “the wrong seems oft so strong” – but “dear to God is the earth Christ trod,” so he also believed the Father hasn’t given up on this world at all. In fact, mess though it is, he loves it.

He loves it because he created our planet as the one place in the universe where heaven and earth would come together, pictured by the tabernacle the Israelites carried in the wilderness, and the Temple they built in Jerusalem. It was there in both tabernacle and Temple that God came to dwell with his people, and his presence on this earth could be seen and felt. It was known to the Israelites as the Shekinah.

The Jews hoped the Shekinah would return after they rebuilt the Temple, because that was the sign the prophets gave that God would begin to fill the whole earth with his presence and glory – but for the next four hundred years it didn’t happen. And then Jesus appears and says at the Temple, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it again,” referring to himself now being the Temple. He, therefore, was the Shekinah, in whom “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:6) could be seen. In Jesus now the Father’s glory and presence could be seen and felt on earth.

Jesus then tells his followers that when God’s Spirit dwells in them they will be the Temple, and through them now the Shekinah would continue. It was the sign the Jews had so desperately been hoping for, but instead of God revealing his glory and presence in their physical Temple, he would be revealing it through Jesus’ disciples. So from pitching his tent on earth in the tabernacle and Temple, to pitching his tent on earth in Jesus, to pitching his tent on earth in the church, the Father has been dwelling on this planet, his world, bringing earth and heaven together.

But now it’s in a greater way than ever before, as he dwells in millions of humans in the church, doing in our Temple what he did in the Jewish Temple, filling it with his glory and presence in fulfillment of all those promises the Jews had dreamed of seeing, as he spreads his new creation of glory and beauty to the whole world. And when the church catches on that this is what God has us in the church for, who knows what ideas in our heads that creates?

Is heaven a place?

I was asked in response to a previous blog (‘Heaven is in Hell too’ Feb2/16) how heaven could be in hell when heaven is a place. Surely heaven is ‘the place’ we go to after we die, it’s the place where God dwells and rules from, and it’s the place Jesus ascended to after his resurrection, meaning heaven must be a location ‘up there’ beyond the reach of humans, separate from our world, and accessible only to Spirit-filled human souls, not to flesh and blood.

And there’s no doubt that heaven is another realm, or kingdom (as Jesus called it in Matthew 4:17), but heaven is also a realm that can enter and be part of our realm, as we see in Matthew 3;17, when “a voice from heaven said…”

The voice came from the realm of heaven, yes, but it also spoke in our realm and could be heard in our realm, meaning the heavenly realm and the earthly realm can mix and operate together in the same place at the same time. It shows clearly that the heavenly realm and the earthly realm aren’t that far apart. They’re not in separate locations unable to access each other; they are, in fact, very close and easily accessible to each other.

And it’s been that way since the beginning in Genesis. Heaven was here on the earth in the Spirit of God hovering over the waters, and God being involved in every detail of earth’s design and operation, and God walking and talking with the humans he’d created in his likeness, and God even making garments of skin for Adam and his wife. The heavenly realm was totally absorbed by, involved in, and present in, our realm. And if Adam and Eve had followed God’s instructions they would have been given access to God’s realm forever.

So God walked and talked with Abraham instead, and created a nation from his descendants, with whom he dwelt in both the tabernacle in the wilderness and in Solomon’s temple. The heavenly realm was here, and easily accessible. God wasn’t ‘up there’ he was down here filling Solomon’s temple with his glory, 2 Chronicles 7:1-2, and appearing to Solomon at night (verse 12) to tell him in verses 15-16, “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.”

Thats where God’s heart is, in our realm. He’s not in some far off distant place, he’s here with us where he loves to be; the heavenly and earthly realms operating together, as one.

“You’ve got my vote,” God says, “if….”

God told Job in so many words, “You’ve got my vote if….” – and he then issued a challenge in Job 40:11-14 that went like this: “Go ahead (Job), show your stuff. Let’s see what you’re made of. Unleash your outrage. Stop the wicked in their tracks – make mincemeat of them. Dig a mass grave and dump them in it,” because if you can do that Job, “I (God) will gladly step aside and hand things over to you,” because “you can surely save yourself with no help from me” (The Message).

In other words, Job, you’ve got my vote if you can smash evil once and for all. And isn’t that what we all hope for from those we vote into power, that they’ll stop anything bad happening to us? And we vote for them because we believe they can do it.

But Psalm 118:8-9 says it’s “Far better to take refuge in God than trust in people or celebrities,” and Psalm 146:3, “Don’t put your life in the hands of experts who know nothing of life, of salvation life.”

By “experts” it could mean people who think they’re experts or are recognized as experts by others, but either way it’s the same conclusion – don’t depend on any human for anything to do with life. Why not? Because, verse 4, “mere humans don’t have what it takes; when they die, their projects die with them,” so even if these experts have done all sorts of good for people, and even kept evil at bay, they still die. How, then, can we trust in any human, when no human yet has been able to follow through forever on the good he wants to do, and he can’t even prevent his own death?

It hasn’t stopped politicians and leaders all through the centuries promising the world to people, however, or allowing themselves to be looked up to as saviours and celebrities, even though they know how limited they are. It also hasn’t stopped them backslapping and doing rousing speeches to stir up people to vote for them either, despite political parties and royalty throughout history abusing their privileges, failing miserably in their promises, and never being able to smash evil once and for all.

But for some odd reason people still vote, as if the systems we’ve created really can save us. It hasn’t stopped mere humans thinking they’re worth voting for either, fully believing they have what it takes to solve the world’s problems.

I wonder what their response would be to God’s challenge, then, that even he would vote for them if they could prove they can save the world from evil without any help from him.

Does God know how each of us ends up?

When we pray it’s to a God who already knows how we end up, because in Revelation 21:6 he’s the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. We’re praying to a God, then, who can be at the starting line and the finishing line of every human journey – and he can run alongside us – all at the same time.

So when I’m floundering around in panic not knowing what the future holds or how things are going to end up in my life, he’s already been where I’m going, or as David phrased it in Psalm 139:4-5 (The Message), “You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there too,” and in verses 14-15, “Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth, all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

David had a handle on this concept of God having already seen and been at every stage of his life before David was even born, and of God being on hand for him as he went through each stage of life as well. The author of Hebrews also understood this concept in Hebrews 12:2, when he wrote, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.” Not only, then, did Jesus get us started on our journey, he’s at the finishing line celebrating our success before we knew the race had begun.

So when I’m crying out in despair for some sort of solution, relief or strength to carry on – as if the future is nothing but bleak – God isn’t seeing things as bleak at all.

The way he sees things is in Isaiah 46:9-10 – “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure.’”

So yes, God knows exactly how things end up. He can pinpoint with total accuracy what’s going to happen before what’s going to happen has started. And notice how it’s his “good pleasure” too, meaning the end he’s already formed is good. It’s not in the least bit bleak. It may seem bleak in our immediate future, but God reassures us that in the end it all works out beautifully, because he’s the Omega; he’s been there at the end already and seen it – and it’s good.

Heaven is in Hell too

Hell began the moment Adam and Eve decided God wasn’t worth listening to, because from then on the natural and beautiful became ugly and odd. They even hid their nakedness from each other, the very thing they found totally attractive before, but as Paul said in Romans 1, this is what happens when humans don’t “think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God” (verse 28). They enter a world of weirdness, where human thinking becomes futile and foolish hearts are darkened (verse 21), a major manifestation of which has been “the degrading of their bodies with one another” (verse 24).

Who’d want to live in a hell like that, where even the beautiful human body is misused and abused for selfish lust (verse 26)? But it’s a hell we’ve become used to, where it’s common place to hear of young women and children being sexually molested, and young people questioning their sexual identity, and people even risking life and limb to change their gender. The Bible isn’t squeamish either about the weird ideas people have about sex, like Lot being quite willing to hand over his virgin daughters to a lust-filled crowd of men. Who worries about going to hell later, therefore, when it’s clear we’ve already got hell in the here and now?

But how does anyone get out of this hell when he doesn’t know he’s in it and he doesn’t want out of it?

There’s a clue in Genesis 3:8, when God enters the hell Adam and Eve have created. He comes “walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” and he calls out to Adam in verse 9, “Where are you?” In other words, heaven enters hell. Heaven comes looking for people in hell. It doesn’t leave Adam and Eve in their hell to suffer without an understanding of what has happened and why. Heaven hasn’t deserted them, or rejected them. Instead, heaven stays in their hell with them.

And back in Romans 1 and 2 it’s the same story: God is very angry at the stupidity and stubbornness of ridiculous humans, but to those who dare to judge and condemn people for the hell they’ve brought on themselves (2:1-3) Paul asks, “do you show contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, tolerance and patience?” (verse 4). Paul is not denying that the world humanity has created is hell and those who “approve” of it thoroughly deserve the depraved minds they’ve got (verses 28, 32), but heaven is in hell too, being kind, tolerant and patient, because that’s what leads people to repentance (verse 4). Heaven lets us know what hell is like first, but only to help us realize that God is worth listening to after all.