A Stranger at the Throne

If you thought that I had everything together and didn’t struggle like everyone does, this article will surely shatter that image of me. If you realize that I am the same as you – a pilgrim trying to make it through life – perhaps you can understand this. 

_____________________________________________________________________________

Life is a blur sometimes for my family. Shoot, often it is a blur. We are so busy we barely have time to think much less anything else. With all our commitments, responsibilities, and other stuff we barely have time to relate to each other. It seems sometimes we are strangers in our own home. And if my wife and I are having trouble finding time to  speak to each other because of the busy nature of life, how in the world do I relate and speak to God each day. You know, that prayer thing. Have I become a stranger to God’s throne?

Ouch.

Sin is a cruel master. A very cruel master.

Last week I hurt my wife and my marriage (before you speculate, I didn’t have an affair or strike my wife  but hurt her and crossed a line I shouldn’t have). It was inexcusable and indefensible. But it was entirely predictable result of my becoming a stranger to God’s throne because I became too busy with life that I forgot to commune daily with my Life-giving Father in heaven. How did tis happen?

_____________________________________________________________________________

Sixty hours at work per week. One hour commute to work. One hour commute from work. Responsibilities here. Responsibilities there. This ministry. That ministry. An event today, tomorrow, and the next day. Football practice, basketball practice, gymnastics, and dance. A blog article is due. Gotta finish that manuscript outline. Study? Oh yeah, I need to study…and pray. But I’m busy.

Too busy…

_____________________________________________________________________________

I have apologized to my wife, asked her forgiveness, and taken steps to prevent the sin from repeating itself. My wife has forgiven me and we are working to repair the damage I inflicted on her and our marriage.

Now I need to approach God’s throne. I feel like I don’t belong.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 NASB

Jesus invites us to come to Him with all the burdens and labors we bear. I have no doubt these burdens included the unbiblical rules and regulations that the religious leaders placed on the people of that time. I also believe that these burdens – at least as an application – can include the burdens we often carry from previously forgiven sin. Like the burden I now carry.

Will I listen to His invitation and meet Him in His throne room? Will I shrink back, hide, and cower in shame and disgust at my sin? I wish I could answer those questions. But right now, I just don’t know what I will do.

Satan is having a good time with right now. He is working overtime accusing me of this and that. He is reminding me of my past and my present. He sure is good at making me understand just how sinful I am. He is trying to discourage me. And he is doing a pretty good job of accomplishing that…

Come to me…”

I clearly hear Christ’s call to come to Him. I just don’t want to go right now.

I’m broken.

I feel humiliated.

I’m hurt.

I feel just plain wrong.

How can I approach my holy God – the Holy One seen in Isaiah 6 – with this sin? How can I bear to see Him? How can I allow Him to see me?

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14 – 16 NASB

I know, I know. All I have to do is repent (done), ask forgiveness (done), and it will be granted to me. After all, that is what the Cross accomplished, right? All my sins were washed away. Yeah, I know ’em all. If I was counseling someone as a Pastor, I would be quoting them left and right. I’d be reassuring the one I’m counseling of God’s forgiveness if he repented.

But this one…this one really hurts. I hurt the one person I never wanted to hurt. I hurt my wife. The woman who has stood by me through thick and thin. She has endured things that I’m sure others know nothing about. And now this. I feel like I need to be beaten more. I feel that I need to do something and not just move on.

Forgiveness of my sin is granted at the Cross. Though I do not feel  forgiven, I am forgiven. You see, there is sometimes a lag between the granting of forgiveness and the realization that forgiveness has already been received. My sin wasn’t just committed by the act (again, not a physical thing). It began to work in me as I drifted from the throne room of God. That was a mistake I hope I never make again.

Come to me…”

“…receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need…”

My burdens have already been lifted. My sin already forgiven. I have received mercy and grace in my time of need. To believe anything less would cheapen the Cross. It would deny the power of Christ’s sacrifice. Now I just need to realize these things are true.

Just realize it.

This is going to be tough.

Father’s Day 2018

Today is Father’s Day. Instead of writing a post, I have decided to spend my entire day with my family, as far removed from my computer as possible on this day. I will try to write again this week butI make no promises. Have a great day.

And to all my fellow fathers, Happy Father’s Day from The Bald Theologian!

Thankfully Broken

“When I see the Lord on His throne, I figure I won’t be able to stand, much less be able to chit chat with others about something that is suddenly not so important. I figure when I see God exalted, I will fall down in awe and worship. What will you do?”

 

I often wonder how I am doing with my thoughts about who God is. I wonder if I am really in awe of Him or if I’m just going through the motions. One of the best ways I think to figure this out is realizing how much sin I have committed, how much of my sin He has forgiven, and How holy He is. I really don’t have to contemplate this too much though. We have a wonderful encounter with God’s holiness and the brokenness of a sinner recorded in Scripture. We find this passage in Isaiah

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out 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 trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” – Isaiah 6:1-7 NASB

The first thing we experience here is that Isaiah sees something.

“…I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out 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 trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.”

This whole scene unfolds in a difficult time for Isaiah. Their earthly King – Uzziah –  had just died. I have little doubt that Isaiah was feeling a bit depressed and discouraged at this time. But in the midst of his discouragement, God gives Isaiah a vision of the Throne Room. Let’s read through the images Isaiah conveys to us.

First, Isaiah sees the Lord lofty and exalted.  What a beautiful description of God. Then Isaiah sees the train His royal robe filling the Temple. Now this probably refers to the entire Temple Mount. That is a lot of area to fill with the train of a robe.

Next Isaiah sees Seraphim – angels – who were attending the Throne of God and worshipping God by stating Holy, Holy Holy, is the Lord of Hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory. Imagine being there and experiencing this sight. This is followed by the foundations of the thresholds trembling at the voice of Him who called out while the temple was filling with smokeSo we have a vision of the Lord Himself, His holiness, demonstrated by the length of the train of His robe, angelic hosts worshipping God and an earthquake at the sound of his voice. Umm, wow. Wow.

The next thing I want to emphasize if that Isaiah realizes something.

Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Isaiah realizes who he is in light of the holy God who is before him. Look at what Isaiah says…

woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, 

Isaiah realizes that he is in bad shape because, as a sinner, he cannot be in the presence of the absolute holy God of Israel. But Isaiah’s realization doesn’t end there…

And I live among a people of unclean lips; 

Not only does Isaiah recognize his own sinful situation, but he also realizes that he lives with an absolutely sinful people. This poses a major problem for Isaiah and the nation. No unclean thing or person could stand in the presence of God and survive. Isaiah, is broken over this. Not that he is in pickle. No, I think he is broken over the holiness of God and his sinful nature.

Isaiah recognizes his sinfulness in light of the holiness of God. Think about how you would react. Would you or I react the same way? I wonder.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

When I hear Christians talk about eternity in trite terms, I cringe. I hear some Christians who say “When I get to heaven, I’m gonna give Adam a piece of my mind…” or they say how they want to speak to Paul or something along those lines. I’ve realized as I have grown older in the Lord that those things – while they may be neat to think about – probably won’t happen.

imagesWhen I see the Lord on His throne, I figure I won’t be able to stand, much less be able to chit chat with others about something that is suddenly not so important. I figure when I see God exalted, I will fall down in awe and worship. What will you do?

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Finally Isaiah experienced something.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”

In short, Isaiah experiences the forgiveness of God. His sins are immediately cleansed. As a result, Isaiah volunteers (in the verses that follow these) to go on a mission that will not bear much fruit. But Isaiah goes on this mission quite enthusiastically.

Isaiah has seen the glory of God. He has seen God’s holiness. He has heard the angels, he has seen heavenly worship. And the result of all this?

Isaiah realizes his utter sinfulness. And he is broken over that. In that brokenness, God forgives him and cleanses him.

How are we doing?

____________________________________________________________________________________________

When we meet God – either at salvation or during prayer – do we realize what Isaiah realized? Do we realize that God’s holiness is so awesome that our puny mind cannot fully comprehend it? When we see that holiness and remember the forgiveness and cleansing God has performed on us, are we thankful? Are we broken?

I think we should be thankfully broken about our sin and our new life in Christ. We should never become arrogant – thinking we deserve this life. We should always remember whence we came. We should always remember the cost of our forgiveness. We should hit our knees in thankfulness. And brokenness. Like Isaiah, we should be broken.

Thankfully. Broken.

 

 

 

 

 

Pressing On

In my article last week we discovered that we are to be in, but not of the world. This means that while we live in the world, we do not adopt the world’s values, methods, or morals (or lack thereof). We are simply sojourners, passing through this age on our journey to eternity. If all this is true, what are we to do while here?

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:12-14 NASB

Philippians 3 is full of wonderful truths and challenges to us – things, if we really understand them, will cause use to grow. Lets take a few moments and consider a few points Paul makes in these few verses.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect…

Paul begins this section with a wonderful statement of humility and understanding of the human condition following conversion: a redeemed but imperfect follower of Christ.

When we read Pauls works, we quickly realize that he is a man who is acutely aware of his faults, his sin, and his struggles. We also become aware of his desire to be in closer union with Christ, having his life lost in His. Here in Philippians 3, Paul flatly states that he has not yet achieved the intimacy in Christ he desires or that he is already perfect. There are Christians who believe that after conversion, a person can achieve perfection. Paul performs an effective refutation of that view. Paul is setting up the rest of his argument by plainly stating that he isn’t where he wants to be.

I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus… 

Paul moves on to say that in spite of his imperfection, in spite of his failures, and in spite of his lack of intimacy with Christ; he continues to go forward. The phrase I press on could better be communicated with the phrase I strive. Paul is striving – pushing forward – to become more like Christ. Think of  person straining to climb a hill, refusing to give up. Paul keeps moving forward in spite of the barriers – in spite of the difficulties. All that matters is that he fulfills his destiny in Christ after Christ laid hold on him.

run uphillforgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

In this passage, Paul details how he will gain greater intimacy with Christ. Paul begins by stating he forgets all that lies behind. Paul chooses to neglect it, to forget it. But to what does he refer? It could be his life persecuting the church before he was saved. But I’m not sure he is doing that. I think he is probably forgetting the persecution he and the church have endured. The reason is simple: if we focus on the wrongs we have experienced, the persecution we have endured, we could very easily be paralyzed by fear or anger. Or both.

This section hits me particularly hard. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I was a church planting pastor whose church plant was split and destroyed by someone who I regarded at that time as a friend. Following the death of my little church, I was hurt, bitter, and angry. For quite a while I chose not to forget those things. And that paralyzed me.

Have you had a similar experience? Have you been hurt to such an extent that you found forgetting about the experience very difficult? Regardless of how difficult neglecting to remember the hurts of the past are, we must do that if we want to progress to greater intimacy with Christ and greater Christ-likeness.

Paul states that he reaches out, or presses on towards his goal. That is his entire focus – being like Christ with the greatest intimacy possible with Christ. We could very easily see this as a race where Paul is working hard to run through the finish line. That finish line is part of the goal. I really think Paul’s goal is the Bema Seat – the judgment seat of Christ where all Christians shall appear. Paul longs to be seen as one who has pursued Christ in spite of the hardships, difficulties, and persecution. Paul loved Christ with his entire being.  Paul had a short memory of wrongs done to him not because they were not important or wrong, but because his focus was on being like Christ. Boy, we could learn a thing or two in America about this.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Often times we scream and yell about our rights and liberties in the US. We stomp our feet in protest to what we perceive is persecution. We whine and complain about every little thing done that hinders us.

I think we need to read Paul a bit more.

Imagine what the Church in America would look like if we focused on the goal of being Christlike and not so much on our freedoms, liberties, and rights. I wonder…I really, really wonder.

Instead of wondering what the Church would look like by embracing Paul’s soul focus on intimacy and Christlikeness, maybe I – and you – should wonder what I would look like if I did this. What would we look like if our soul-focus was to be Christlike.  Hmmm.

I think its time we found out.