To bear arms

When it came time to bear arms
Against mine enemy
The truth of my mortality
I resisted.

Bear resilience! Take up arms!
The fight already
In my mind begun
But then I saw.

Within the ugly crevice of mine foe
A truth
It’s maker, His face divine
And a dawning realization.

The face of its maker, also mine.
Then all resistance yielded
That in my humanity
The Glory of His deity- eternal.

There is no need for more.

Our treasure

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (NIV)

For those battling their flesh – the sick, weary, frail and suffering, this chapter needs no introduction nor in-depth study. Read it and let it birth within you the treasure of Christ. Savour and enjoy Him.

Today, I read this over, and over, and over. To God be the glory.

Thick glory

The priests brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its assigned place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, in the most holy place, under the wings of the cherubs… Once the priests left the holy place, a cloud filled the Lord’s temple. The priests could not carry out their duties because of the cloud; the Lord’s glory filled his temple.
1 Kings 8:6, 10-11

Some days we get so caught up with church responsibilities that we lose the focus of church. Surely God is there, but He sometimes goes unnoticed. In the name of excellence, we make church out to be about the stage looking presentable, the music sounding perfect and the ushers smiling. Or in the name of authenticity, church becomes about having representations of real people, making worship accessible and fellowship accepting of differences. None of these things are necessarily bad, but none of them can bring us to the climax and focus of church.

Look at what happens when God’s presence comes into His temple that was built by Solomon. It says that “the priest could not carry out their duties”, because “the Lord’s glory filled his temple”. Imagine how thick the cloud would have to be to make the priests unable to carry out their duties. It would have obstructed the priests from performing sacrifices,  blowing trumpets or reading the Law. In a cloud that thick, everything comes to a stand still and the only thing that anyone can focus on is the thick cloud – God’s glory (Psalm 46:10).

Was God being obstructive? Did He intentionally interrupt the service? Yes He did, because once His glory is revealed, nothing else matters. The revelation of God’s glory is the fulfillment of all the priestly duties and service. It is the climax of church and it is something that only God can do. God and His glory has to take its rightful place in the center of every church. Lets not lose the plot of church.

Believe and see

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, replied, “Lord, by the time the body will have a bad smell, because he has been buried four days.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?”
John 11:39-40

Martha was a woman just like any of us, fickle in our belief. In one moment, she stands in agreement with Jesus’ powerful declaration of Himself and announces her belief in Him (John 11:25-27), but when she is placed before the tomb, her unbelief is revealed so clearly (John 11:39). Jesus couldn’t have been fooled that Martha is concerned about the smell or hygiene issues. To translate what Martha is truly saying, “Lazarus has been dead for four days and is most surely and truly dead. Opening the tomb will do nothing more than release the stink of decomposition.” Jesus can’t possibly resurrect a decomposing body… can he?

Jesus then makes a powerful statement, “if you believe, you would see the glory of God”. Believe and see the glory. What did Jesus mean see the glory? Was it just seeing the miracle?

For this reason they could not believe, because again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and turn to me, and I would heal them.
Isaiah said these things because he saw Christ’s glory, and spoke about him.
John 12:39-41

Jesus later spoke about those who did not believe in Him and contrasted them against Isaiah who “saw Christ’ glory”. Here, seeing the glory of Christ was the same as believing in Jesus as Christ cymbalta generic. Think about how Jesus helped the unbelieving father to believe – he healed his daughter. Think about how Jesus helps unbelieving Martha to believe – he resurrected her brother. Seeing God’s glory isn’t just seeing the miracles, it is believing in the person and mission of Jesus Christ.

But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.
John 10:38

Jesus is the glory of God (John 1:14). To see God’s glory is to see Jesus as Christ. But not just as Christ the saviour of the world, but Christ who is capable of resurrection and life – the one that death has no hold over. When Jesus prays “Father, glorify me at your side…” (John 17:4), He speaks of being raised from death and being in God’s presence – not by removing His humanity, but glorifying His humanity. Jesus speaks of His bodily resurrection as His glorification. It is the confirmation that Jesus is Christ – that death has no hold over Him (1 Corinthians 15). Lazarus resurrection was a demonstration of Jesus’ power over death and foreshadows His own resurrection/glorification… and ours (Romans 8:18).

This is big news. When we believe, we see His glory and we possess His glory. We possess His resurrection. The confirmation of life eternal is founded in the glory and glorification of Jesus Christ.

He called you to this salvation through our gospel, so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:14

Glory and sin

For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
Romans 1:20-22

We are without excuse because God is revealed in creation. It is that simple. The trees, the hills, the seas, the stars, the animals, our bodies and every intricate detail of anything that exist demands that there is a creator. And we know without a doubt that nothing comes from nothing. That is perhaps the most fundamental and factual philosophical and scientific statement one can ever make. Yet in our claimed wisdom, we have denied all that is before us. We have denied giving glory to the creator.

So what is sin? It is the denial of God’s glory.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:23-24

It is not just the denial to give God glory, but the denial of God’s glory. That is why sin causes people to become fools and exchange the glory of God for creation. We fail to value God’s glory. That is how we “fall short of the glory of God”. When God measures our morality and spirituality, He doesn’t measure it by our accomplishments, abilities or morals; he doesn’t measure it by other’s accomplishments, abilities or morals; nor by any other thing in creation. He measures it by Himself – His own glory. Anything that falls short of His own glory, fails. Anything that fails to value His glory as He does, fails. It is a derailment from our original created intent (Isaiah 43:6-7; Colossians 1:16).

Falling short of God’s glory means exchanging it for something of lesser value. All sin comes from not putting supreme value on the glory of God…All sin is a despising of God, before it is a damage to man. All sin is a preference for the fleeting pleasures of the world over the everlasting joy of God’s fellowship.
John Piper

Restoring God’s glory is the mission of Christ. That is why when we believe in Christ, we value God’s glory. Christ and God’s glory are inseparable.

Glory and redemption

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he looked upward to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you – just as you have given him authority over all humanity, so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him. Now this is eternal life – that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent. I glorified you on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me at your side with the glory I had with you before the world was created.
John 17:1-5

God’s glory has a central role in every redemptive action. First, we look at the redemptive and glorifying role that Christ plays. Here are the things we see here:

God’s glory in Christ 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was fully God… Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.
John 1:1, 14

God’s glory began before all of creation – before the world was created. Jesus Christ was not the start or cumulation of God’s glory. Christ has always existed with God. He is the same presence of God, the same fullness of eternal glory. In fact, glory resides inherently within God (and Christ). The words “by your side” is better translated as “in your presence”. God and His glory are inseparable, wherever God is there is His glory. When God’s presence manifested on Mount Sinai, His glory was there (Exodus 24:16-17). When He met in the tent with Moses, His glory was there (Exodus 40:34). When His presence was with the Ark of Covenant, His glory was there (1 Samuel 4:21-22). When the temple built by Solomon was dedicated to the Lord, His glory was there (1 Kings 8:11-12).

God’s glory amplified in Christ

I am the Lord! That is my name!
I will not share my glory with anyone else,
or the praise due me with idols.
Isaiah 42:8 (See also Isaiah 48:9-11)

God is jealous for His glory. He wants all of it and He doesn’t take it lightly. All of creation is marked with His glory (Psalm 19:1), even man is created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). If His glory is diminished, God is insulted. That is why His glory needs to be amplified.

Here Jesus, being fully God and is the fullness of God’s glory asks to be glorified for the expressed purpose of glorifying God back. Imagine a feedback loop getting louder and louder forever; this is the complete amplification of God’s glory – the Son glorifying the Father, who glorifies the Son. It is no wonder that Jesus is entirely glorifying to Him because that is all that Christ does (John 5:19)!

God’s glory amplified in Christ’s redemption

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:17 (See also John 4:34, 5:36)

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:30

It is no secret. Jesus was sent on a mission. His mission is clear in John 17:3 – to bring his own to eternal life by restoring the relationship between man and God (John 17:22-24). That is what it means to “know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent”. The knowledge here isn’t just an intellectual knowledge, but an experiential and spiritual one. John tells us specifically that the completion of this redemptive work brings glory to God.

We tend to think that God did it all for us. We think that it was entirely for us that Christ came and for us that He died (John 3:16). We tend to place ourselves in the center of the story of redemption. But the truth is that God is at the center of redemption. God brought Israel out of Egypt for His name’s sake (Isaiah 49:3). He brought Israel out of captivity for His name’s sake (Ezekiel 36:22-23). God forgives our sin for His name’s sake (Isaiah 43:25). We don’t motivate God to redeem us, because we have no merit or strength that God might be motivated by. The only thing that could motivate God is God Himself.

Time to get off our high horse and put God in the center of redemption.

Behold to transform

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Every marketing and advertising guru knows this: you are what you see. This works by establishing strong neurological pathways through constant exposure to a brand, product or idea. They can literally imprint a brand, product or idea into a person’s head. So the use of multiple channels of advertising is important – radio, television, print media, social media, internet… etc, the more a person sees and hears, the more the person’s behaviour (and attitude/ideology/person) is changed.

This is not a new discovery. Jacob transformed his flock of sheep by exposing the desired outcome before their eyes (Genesis 30:25-42) and God commanded that the Israelites put the Law on their hands and before their eyes, to recite them daily, to tell them to their children, to recite it when they wake up, before they sleep and when they sit or walk (Deuteronomy 11:18-21). Talk about constant exposure! This principle is perhaps as old as time: behold to transform.

But beholding isn’t just glancing or looking, it is reflecting. It is a mirror looking intently at what it is placed before and reflecting the same image back. The mirror is beholding. The mirror is seeing, capturing, savoring and reproducing that image back. That is the same way that we reflect God’s glory. We behold His glory. We take it in to reflect it back out. In a simple way, we become what we see.

And that is how transformation takes place.

Stone’s Praise

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:40

Jesus said this to the Pharisees who were trying to silence the crowd giving praise to Jesus. Now even if the whole Israel was silenced from praise, why would the stones cry out to God and sing praises to Him? Simple, because they were created for that purpose (Psalm 19:1, 96:11-13, 145:10, 148:3-4,7-10; Numbers 14:21). All of creation reveals God’s glory and praise. The beautiful scenery and landscape we admire, the flowers that perfume our gardens, the delicious meat that is on our plate, the majestic whales that sing in the ocean, the constant sunset and sunrise that brings us into a new day all speaks of God’s wonder! Even the rocks, void of breath and voice, would shout praises to Him given the slightest chance to!

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
Psalm 24:1

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
Colossians 1:16

Our self-centered hearts would like to think that the rest of creation was made for our enjoyment or betterment, but the truth is that we are no more than stewards or managers of creation (Genesis 1:28, 2:15); The whole of creation was made by God and for God. He gave us the right to manage it, but God still maintains ownership over creation. God owns all of the real estate in the universe (and sub-universes and parallel-universes, depending on what you believe), including all the assets of that real estate. He deemed that all of it is to bring Him praise. He then put us, His prized creation, in charge of His assets and real estate to care for it. Not that He doesn’t care for it Himself, but He gave us the right to use His assets and real estate to our benefit with the responsibility of caring for it. The rights come with a responsibility, but the purpose remains the same – praise.

We need to get it out of our head that the world is ours. It isn’t. The world is not our oyster. The resources of this world is not for us to abuse. It is our duty to enable praise to happen. It is our duty to care for the things that praise God – including ourselves and each other. It is our duty to love the environment we live in and care for it. Since our God is in the job of reconciling everything to Himself. Our job then is to enable this reconciliation to happen, to bring all of this broken creation (Isaiah 51:6) into the fulfillment of it’s primary purpose – praise. Yes, it is an uphill battle because the earth just wasn’t meant to last (2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1), but until the time when God calls for a new heaven and new earth, this is all we have. We have our work set out for us, let us love on creation – the animals, the plants, the rocks, all that is in it.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Colossians 1:19-20

Death and His glory

So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
John 11:3-5

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
John 12:23 (see also v27-28)

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify youI have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
John 17:1, 4-5

The hardest question to answer when we are faced with death is “why”. Why did he have to die? Why at this age? Why now? Why is God so cruel? Jesus gives Lazarus’ death a convincing reason – “for God’s glory”. In the same way, He gives His own death a convincing reason – for His glory.

Lazarus’ death was symbolic of Christ dead in purpose. Lazarus died that God might receive glory (John 11:4). Christ died that God would receive glory (John 17:1). Lazarus was raised again that they might believe in Him (John 11:14-15, 25-26). Christ was raised again that they might believe in Him (John 20:8, 24-25, 28-29).

We often hear that Christ died for us because of His great love for us (John 3:16). That is true. But while we shout that from the mountain top, we often forget that His primary motivation was for His own glory. In fact, He loves and saves us for His own glory (Isaiah 43:6-7, Isaiah 48:9-11) and after we are saved, we are to glory Him with everything (1 Corinthians 10:31). God’s glory is central Lazarus’ death as it is with Christ death.

So what about our death? Why do we die? The simple answer is: as a consequence of sin (Genesis 3:19). And for us, our death also glorifies God.

  • Lazarus’ (temporary) death was glorifying to God because it brought people to believe in Jesus as the resurrection and life (John 11:14-15, 25-26, 45)
  • Christ death was glorifying to God because He was obedient even to the cross (John 17:4-5)
  • Paul considered death glorifying to God because he finally gets to be with Christ; earthly things mean so little to him (Philippians 1:20)
  • Peter’s appointed death was glorifying to God because He was crucified upside down after being persecuted for the gospel (John 21:18-19)

What about our eventual death? Will it show forth God’s glory? How?


Father, death is a hard subject and there is so much that I don’t know. But I believe that death can also be glorifying to you. I don’t know how and I don’t know when death will come, but I pray that when it does, all the glory will indeed go to you.

Amen.

דָּנִיֵּאל

Today I was told that 2 other collegues complained about my communication skills to my supervisor. I was told that I do not listen to problems well and therefore misunderstand problems and that I skip too quickly to the hows of things and jump over the whys, which is important. My supervisor is extremely tactful and gave the criticism a soft landing. I am a little disheartened, but at the same time, I recognize that it is a learning opportunity. Although the complains have come from certain fault-finders, there is some element of truth behind it. I will learn and grow.

This prompted me to think: it is not difficult for anyone to find fault in anyone else. Such is life. This is true at home, in our vocations and in churches. In our workplaces, we know our bosses faults inside and out. There is a quote from William Collins that says “Always mistrust a subordinate who never finds fault with his superior.” In the church, leaders often have their faults publicised through the great vine. We might have learnt to accept it or work around it, but we all acknowledge it. Absolutely no one is without fault.

“The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. ”
Henry David Thoreau

Just a few days ago, I was reading the book of Daniel on the plane.  I was impressed by the account of his life. We know of him as a person of noble descent. He was amongst the men who were taken to serve in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace who were exceptionally talented (Daniel 1:4) But not only was he royal and talented, he was also righteous. Even as an exile in a foreign land, he was determined to live right and eat right (Daniel 1:8). Ezekiel, who lived in the time of Daniel and was his contemporary spoke of him as “righteous” and “wise” (Ezekiel 14:14,20; 28:3).

Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.
Daniel 6:3-4

What struck me most about Daniel is that under scrutiny, he was found faultless. This isn’t the same as being blameless/sinless morally, the context here is “in his conduct of government affairs”. In 21st century language, Daniel was a manager who never accidentally brought an office pen home, never used the office printer for personal stuff, never checked his personal email and never made a personal call at work. He always replied emails and calls, met all the deadlines, put in 100% quality work and related to his subordinates, supervisors and collegues with dignity, politeness and respect. In the annual 360 degree performance appraisal, he came out right on top. He didn’t sweep his mistakes/corruption under the carpet either, if not, it would have been discovered by his opponents. What a testimony!

When we listen to Daniel’s prayer for Israel, we get a glimpse of his heart:

Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
Daniel 9:19

I believe that Daniel fully understood what it meant to bear the name of God. He refused to attribute any glory to himself but instead gave it all to God (Daniel 2:27-28, 6:22). He affirmed the rule of God over the kingdom he served (Daniel 4:24, 5:18). I believe that he understood that Israel’s role was to bear God’s holy name (Isaiah 43:10, 44:8). When God punishes Israel, it is for His name’s sake and when He saves them, it is also for His name’s sake (Ezekiel 20:14, 36:20-23). He took upon himself the responsibility to carry and glorify God’s name. Daniel examplified that godliness can exist in the most ungodly environments.

In fact, from the beginning of creation, we were created to bring glory to the name of God (Isaiah 43:7). In case we fool ourselves to think that this is an Old Testament example and it is not relevant in the New Testament, have a look at Matthew 5:16, 1 Corinthians 10:31 and 2 Corinthians 5:20. As Christians, we are the physical representation of God to the people around us. We are the only gospel that many will ever read.

Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
Daniel 6:5

As faultless as Daniel was, he had one weakness – God. Imagine that the only thing they could use to trip him was his obedience to God. Daniel was a man who was totally defined by God.

This is my prayer, that my only weakness is Christ.