God Doesn’t Restrict His Glory To Mountain Top Experiences And Neither Should We

Summit of Mount Tam

Photo taken from the summit of Mount Tamalpias in Marin Country, California

Often, we think of God’s glory in relation to the beauty of nature. As well we should! Scripture repeatedly makes that correlation,  leading us to follow its example. For instance, consider this beloved passage from Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat. ~~Psalm 19:1-6 (ESV)

I well understand why this psalm proclaims that nature showcases God’s glory. When I lived in California, I loved going to Mount Tamalpias. How often I enjoyed the wheelchair accessible Verna Dunshee Trail at the summit of the East Peak! A few days before I moved to Massachusetts to marry John, my friend took me up to Mount Tam one last time. That afternoon had crystal clear weather that allowed us to look down the plummeting ravines and out across the San Francisco Bay. We looked down on the back of a hawk in flight — a heady experience, I assure you!

My friend savored the magnificence of the moment (as did I) before remarking with a baffled voice, “I just don’t understand how anyone can deny the existence of God.” I shared her sense of awe at God’s creation. Looking out from the mountain at the sparking waters of the San Francisco Bay, and then at the golden grasses and green shrubbery cascading down the mountainside, I couldn’t help seeing what a wonderful Creator I serve.

But I didn’t stop to think that the breathtaking splendors of Mount Tamalpias pale in comparison to the glorious God Who created them. To really appreciate His glory, we need to look at Jesus. The apostle John actually described Jesus in terms of God’s glory.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~~John 1:14 (ESV)

Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, manifests God’s glory in a myriad of ways, most of which we won’t fully appreciate until we behold Him in His heavenly kingdom. Yet we see enough of Him in the pages of His Word to know His majesty. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John regale us with accounts of Him healing the sick, casting out demons and exercising His divine power over the wind and sea. They describe His sinless life, His authoritative teaching and His astonishing humility as He endured a crucifixion that He did not deserve. Most glorious of all, they describe His resurrection, which proved His victory over sin and death.

As we read God’s Word, we constantly see His glory in the Person and work of Jesus. And when we encounter Him, even the beauty of something like Mount Tamalpias seems trivial.

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Pride, Arrogance And The Seduction Of Western Culture

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Approaching the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Americans unabashedly celebrate Gay Pride Month. Boston has Rainbow flags everywhere; somehow I doubt its display is very different from most major cities. The way that Western culture champions the LBGTQ movement now makes it hard to believe that homosexuality was illegal just 50 years ago.

Although I don’t believe homosexuality should still incur criminal penalties, I do grieve that even professing Christians now embrace it. Bowing to public pressure, even evangelicals have begun compromising their convictions that the Word of God condemns all forms of sexual deviation. After all, merely saying that Continue reading

According To Scripture: Study #13 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Sometimes God’s Word is so straightforward that we don’t need a great deal of help from commentaries to understand it. Verses 39-41 of 1 Corinthians 15 serve as a case in point. As I studied the passage this past week, I found that, when read in the context of the preceding verses, these three verses pretty much simply drive home Paul’s point that our resurrected bodies will be much different from the bodies we have now.

At the same time, proper Bible study demands that we avoid the temptation to skim over these verses as if they’re superfluous. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write them for a reason, and therefore we must cherish them as His Word.

So let’s look at the full passage, perhaps remembering what we discussed last Monday, and then make a few observations about today’s brief verses.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. ~~1 Corinthians 15:35-41 (ESV)

You’ll recall from last Monday that the scoffers referred to in verse 35 ask about the nature of resurrection bodies as a challenge, hoping to show that resurrection is ridiculous. But Paul responds by reasoning from God’s creation. Just as bodies of different species differ, and as stars and moons differ, so temporal and resurrection bodies differ.

The introduction of the word “flesh” in verse 39 emphasizes the physical aspect of resurrection, which some of the Corinthians (influenced by early Gnostic philosophies) denied. Jesus’ own bodily resurrection points to this reality. In Luke 24:39, for example, He presents Himself to the disciples and reminds them that spirits don’t have flesh and bone as He does. Philippians 3:21 insists that the Lord will transform our bodies to be like His. Clearly, such a transformation entails a physical body.

But as the flesh of different species varies, so our earthly bodies will be different from our resurrected bodies. Barnes appeals to the transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly; it’s all the same insect, but the butterfly is far different from the caterpillar! Paul doesn’t go there, but he certainly distinguishes between various types of flesh with the purpose of illustrating the distinction between the earthly body and the resurrection body.

This takes us to verse 40, where the argument moves from species to cosmology. Paul differentiates between earth and other bodies (planets and stars). Although people in the First Century obviously didn’t know about geological and atmospheric conditions, the Holy Spirit clearly inspired Paul to write this observation.

He furthers his argument in verse 41 by noting distinctions between heavenly bodies themselves. Considering that Paul wrote this epistle several centuries before the invention of telescopes and space exploration, I think his statement underscores the fact that he writes under direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. Only God knew, at that point in time, how stars and planets differed from each other. Yet He wanted Paul to include this example.

Believers Bible Commentary also indicates that this verse may suggest that we will retain our individuality even in our resurrected states. Although none of the other commentaries I read corroborated with this thought, it definitely deserves our consideration. I’d caution against being dogmatic about this possibility, however. Let’s stick with Paul’s main argument that our earthly bodies aren’t to be compared with the bodies we will receive at the resurrection.

Next Monday we will see how Paul ties these examples to the resurrection a bit more concretely. In the  meantime, if you have any questions, comments or observations, I’d be delighted to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to use the Comments Section, The Outspoken TULIP Facebook Page or Twitter to give your perspective.

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Nature Just Begins The Story

Marin County California has such beautiful areas to enjoy natural creation! From the beaches edging Point Reyes National Seashore to the breathtaking views from the summit of Mount Tamalpias, the splendor of God’s creation reflects His glory.

Downtown Boston has areas of natural beauty as well in its cultivated gardens and lazy Harbor Walk. The Public Garden and Rose Kennedy Greenway boast ever changing varieties of flowers, while points along the harbor draw the eye to the vastness and strength of the ocean.

All these wonders proclaim the greatness of God. Yet nature only begins to tell the story. As we approach the Gospel, and as we anticipate Christ’s return and the new heavens and new earth of His kingdom, we better grasp an understanding of how absolutely magnificent He truly is!

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Creation Inspires This Our Hymn Of Grateful Praise

When I lived in Marin County, California, I loved the wheelchair accessible trail at the summit of Mount Tamalpias. My friend Valerie took me up there for one last wheelchair hike in July of 2002, just before I moved to the Greater Boston Area to marry John.

I still remember thrilling as we looked down at a hawk in flight, as well as admiring the summer flowers and grasses that cascaded down the mountainside below us. As we savored the beauty, Valerie mused, “I don’t see how anyone can deny that God created all of this.” I had to agree. Mount Tamalpias always left me awed by God’s variety in His creation. I guess that’s why I loved it so.

Those wonderful memories of Mount Tam flood back as I listen to the simple hymn that I’m posting today. God’s creation indeed causes me to praise the Lord for making such a splendid universe. Even more, it inspires me to adore Him.

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If We Love Those In Heaven

Spotlight on God

This past Wednesday I introduced the topic of whether or not our deceased loved ones look down on us from heaven. This topic touches everyone; we’ve all lost at least one special person, and consequently we feel the powerful desire to cling to the relationship. We crave assurance that that person still loves us. That we matter to them.

Please understand that I really do understand that craving. When my friend Bob succumbed to his battle with AIDS, I found myself believing that he watched me from heaven, perhaps even more attentive to me in death than he’d been in life. In a sense, his death allowed me to feel closer to him. In my mind, he was now always with  me, focusing his love on me.

Dear sisters, do you see my self-centered attitude here? I wanted Bob’s attention to center on me rather than on the Lord.  I disregarded the truth that he now beholds Christ in all His glory — a wondrous sight that will consume him (and me) for all eternity!

As mortals still locked in sinful bodies, we tend to forget Christ’s preeminence in His creation. I realize I quote Colossians 1:15-20 often, but this passage has so profoundly transformed my understanding of heaven that I want to again draw your attention to it.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (ESV)

Although Paul didn’t write Colossians 1:15-20 specifically in reference to heaven, the concept of Christ’s centrality in His creation should clue us in to the fact that creation revolves exclusively around Him. That being the case, it seems to me that heaven strips away everything that distracts from Him. Therefore, those in heaven with Him must be consumed with adoration of Him.

Doesn’t it seem selfish, then, to expect our loved ones in heaven to divide their attention between the Lord and us? Wouldn’t we want them to delight wholly in Him, completely liberated from all other concerns?

And do we seriously want to compete with the Lord for their attention?

I challenge you to think carefully about that last question. As harsh as it sounds, I believe it brings us to the heart of the matter. In repenting of my fantasies about Bob watching over me from heaven, I’ve had to confront my tendency to rival the Lord for Bob’s attention. Not a pretty admission, but a true one.

We continue to love those who go to heaven ahead of us, as well we should. But let’s love them enough to rejoice that they behold the beautiful face of the Savior. And let’s love our Savior enough to rejoice that our loved ones can worship Him without distraction. One day, we will join them in that glorious devotion to Christ.

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Pavilioned In Splendor

As a writer, I love hymns with expressive lyrics. The Lord deserves to be praised with the best language that hymn writers can possibly employ because He is so glorious.

But can human writers, with our many limitations, really describe the Lord with any degree of adequacy? Probably not. This side of heaven, none of us can begin to conceive of His glory in its fullness. Yet Sir Robert Grant, a member of English Parliament in the 19th Century, came wonderfully close to capturing it in the magnificent hymn that I want to feature today.

Please listen to Grant’s majestic hymn with an attitude of worship, allowing the words to direct your attention to the Lord’s incredible splendor. May the Holy Spirit use these powerful words to enhance your awe of our King.

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