Friday, October 24, 2014

Worship Re-Imagined ...

In our last study, John revealed to us that the city of heaven, the bride of Christ in which we will live in a level of intimacy with our God that is today akin to marriage – is 1500 miles wide, long, and tall.  That is a city bigger than any that has ever occupied our planet.  It is larger than most countries.  No matter if from a distance it resembles a cube with buildings of equal height, or a pyramid with the throne of God at its center, and every other structure descending in height until you reach the walls around the city, the population this city is capable of holding is well beyond our comprehension.  At a minimum, we will reside there forever.  But heaven may be bigger than just a “human” home, as two thirds of the angels may well reside there with us.  Where else would they live?  In addition to our angelic neighbors, heaven may well be filled with animals, birds, even bugs perhaps, as all living creations long to be near their creator.  Heaven may well be filled with plant life.  The city may look less like a “concrete jungle” than we might at first imagine.  Just because it has streets of nearly translucent gold, does not also mean that beside them is grass of softest texture and hue. 
But in addition to what is reasonably possible for us to imagine heaven will be like, there may also be other residents there that were sentient creations of our God before we came to life.  The 4 “beasts” John saw before the throne of God may well represent other sentient life forms that pre-date our creation and may also occupy residence in the city which has been prepared by Christ for our new home.  But no matter what kind of “life” does live there, no matter whether we occupy homes that are 1500 miles above ground, or perhaps in a basement who knows how many floors below it, the entirety of the city is filled with the light of God, with His presence.  The goal of having a city like this is literally for us to live with our God, to be with Him.  God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit reside here.  This was their home before it will be ours.  This was where they were located, before there was an Eden created in our world.  Perhaps Eden will now reside there like heaven’s version of Central Park in NYC (minus the crime and decay).
Companionship is the central theme.  We are not alone.  Nor will we ever be alone.  Even in a crowd of people numbering in the billions, each and every one of us will directly and uniquely experience the nearness with our God.  Loneliness of any kind will become extinct.  All of mankind is related to each other as in some way as we all trace our roots back to Adam and Eve.  I wonder if this is the scale God thinks about when He proclaimed be fruitful and multiply.  It is in the context of this level of scale, we are forced to re-examine how we think about “worship”.  John offers us a simple text in his book of Revelations about Jesus Christ in chapter 21 and verse 22 saying … “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.”
What is missing from the city of heaven is any sort of temple or church.  There are ZERO buildings dedicated to the assembly of people intent on “worshipping” our God.  Think about that statement as this is not by accident, and is a condition that will be permanently the case in our future home – there are ZERO buildings set aside for the purpose of “worshipping” our God.  In our world today, Catholic Cathedrals are some of the most beautiful structures that have survived the decay of the ages.  They are artistic and ornate and inspire mankind to elevate his thinking towards the divine.  But none exist in heaven.  Neither are there Mormon Temples, or simple white-steeple Protestant churches, or Asian shrines of any kind.  There are no place where candles are burned, incense is offered, or alters or pulpits constructed.  This does NOT mean worship is no longer a part of heaven.  How could we avoid worshipping the God who has done so much for us?  NOR does it mean, we no longer assemble ourselves together, as the whole point of having a city home, is to be in close proximity with each other and with God.
And this is more than a practical acknowledgement that to build a single building designed for worship might take a construction equal to the size of heaven itself in order to fit us all in it.  This is not about practical architectural constructs.  This is not about limitations.  This is not about accommodating the laws of physics.  This declaration is by intent.  John offers the reason for the noticeably absent structures in the same verse … “for the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb are the temple of it.”  Worship has NEVER been about buildings, it has been about WHO we worship.  How we love matters.  Who we love matters.  It is our love for God that underpins our desire to worship Him at all.  Our gratitude must find expression.  But real worship is more than simply saying “thank you”.  I venture a guess, that if Bill Gates gave you 10 billion dollars, you might not limit your expression of gratitude to a single one time verbal offering of just “thank you”.  Likely you would feel the need, the desire, to “do something” nice to show him your gratitude.  How much more it is for our God, who has given us everything.  To say “thank you” will never be enough.  We will be compelled of our own desire to “do something”.  We will want MORE than words, more than music, more than sitting around listening to someone else teach scripture.  We will want to LIVE our praise, LIVE our worship, LIVE our gratitude.
The beauty of heaven is that no matter where we are, God is right there with us, visibly.  His light illuminates our city such that there is no dark corner in it.  Our planetary sun will reflect light from God, originating here on our earth, instead of the other way around.  So to worship God, there will be no need of a temple, as He will be ever present.  This does not mean that all the residents of heaven will never get together all at once, at one location.  However it does mean, we need no building dedicated as a temple to do it in.  Every building offers us that same level of ability.  We can worship God in every structure from the library, to the central park, to the farthest outpost in the most seemingly unlikely place.  Buildings do NOT define, or constrain our worship.  They never have.  They never should.  Buildings are only a practical construct that allows us to assemble for a specific purpose.  WORSHIP is something that can and should happen everywhere regardless of the building around us at the time; just like it will be in heaven.
One of the chief “false measurements” of our faith here on earth is whether or not we … “go to church”.  This implies that faith is found and enriched by a building dedicated to that purpose.  But it is not.  “We” who choose to follow Christ, are His church, no matter where we are.  When we gather together, when we bring other parts of the body, with different perspectives of our Lord, into the same location, we are effectively creating a temple.  When we get beyond the need to say a simple “thank you” and find ourselves driven to “do something” – sitting in a building dressed in fineries will just not get it done.  Listening to a sermon, while awesome, is simply not enough.  We will want more.  We will need more.  We will desire to “do” more.  Our faith cannot be content in only a listening posture, it needs exercise.  Let’s take church (which is us) outside of our temples and cathedrals, and to others who need our love … you know … like how it is done in heaven.
Our biggest problem with how we worship, is that we continue to keep it self-centric.  “Worship” music has become a phenomenon in Christian churches.  It makes us “feel’ closer to God when we sing it.  It gives us the warm fuzzy of “being” with God.  But touching hearts CANNOT be constrained to only the lyrics and melodies we recite ad nauseam in our sanctuaries.  It MUST be experienced in the street to be real.  Our families need our love in a practical sense.  Our co-workers need our love in a very real sense.  Our communities need our compassion in a real sense.  There are real needs everywhere around us, and we would only offer God our songs, but not our hearts.  We would offer God our time once a week for 3 hours, in a particular building where we have a particular role (most often sedate, and in listening posture).  But upon “going home from church”, our “worship” ends.  That is not worship, it is ritual.  For most of us, the lyrics in the song’s we sing to honor God, bare a testimony we have never had in our hearts, for ourselves, but this need not be the case.
Worship happens at home.  Worship happens at work.  Worship happens at entertainment venues.  Worship happens when we choose to love others and in so doing offer back to God a “do something” expression of our gratitude instead of a “talk about it” offering.  In heaven worship is something that can occur 24x7 in every building there.  So it should be here on earth.  Seventh Day Adventists like to make a huge distinction by only choosing to “worship God” on the day He created for it.  But ONLY on that day.  And most often, ONLY for 3 hours in the local church.  THEN we go home, we go back to our lives, and we do not think much about worship until the next Sabbath arrives.  Instead of the Sabbath being the pinnacle of our worship, instead of it being the height of our worship, it is the only 3 hours we spend in worship.  The rest of the week is “ours”.  Heaven forbid we find ourselves in a cathedral on Sundays, or in any other structure dedicated to “worshipping” God on Sunday, or a Mosque on Fridays.  For an Adventist, this is a sin.  The symbolism of false worship is a problem.  But is that symbolism really constrained to being in the “wrong” place on the “wrong” day … or is it because we are holding the “wrong” ideas in our hearts even when done in the “right” place on the “right” day?
“Worshipping” God only on Sunday, is as limited and short sighted as only doing it on Friday, or only on Saturday.  Our God is not a weekend-warrior nor should we His servants be.  Worship should be happening constantly.  Not the proscribed formats that have become our weekend rituals, but the free flow expression of love for others that can actually change the world around us for the better.  A real “do something” form of worship that makes a tangible difference in the life of someone other than you.  Do that, and then sing about it.  Do that, and then share about it.  Do, and find, that in doing, there is real worship.  So long have we decried our youth for not “attending” church anymore.  Perhaps we should go to our youth and have them join us in church, right where they are.  Let us show them the beauty of “doing something”.  Our churches, and our Sabbaths, should be the pinnacle of our assembly and desire to share our experiences of worship that have occurred every other day of the week (yes including Sunday).  God is not dishonored by our worship and expression of love to others on any day … He is most often dishonored because of our refusal to do so, unless and until it is convenient for us.
True worship is not about making us feel better, or warm and fuzzy.  It is about a desire to give back to God the offering of gratitude that simply cannot be constrained.  When we “do something” about how we love our God, we get dirty.  Sometimes loving others means taking action that makes us sweat, in heated environments that are not air conditioned.  Sometimes working tirelessly for someone else is not too glamorous.  In fact, it is often quite humiliating.  It requires patience.  It requires long suffering.  It requires dedication.  It is rarely appreciated.  But it is NOT work … it is reward … it is gratitude expressed … it is worship, the real kind.  Whether we help change a tire for a stranded motorist we have never met, or cut the lawn for a neighbor who we know lacks the strength to do so; when we perform random acts of kindness for others, we most often find it is hard to do so wearing our best clothing.  Simple clothing designed to serve is more appropriate for random acts of kindness.  A suit is too constraining for a worshipper bent on “doing something” about how they feel towards God.
I am not advocating the abandonment of “church”.  Instead I want to redefine it.  Instead I want to expand what it means to worship.  I want to break the self-imposed limitations of our rituals we call church, and replace them with something more, something real.  You do not need a pastor and a support system of like-minded believers to reimagine worship between you and God.  You can begin worshipping God right where we you are, and right where you work.  In so doing, you will be worshipping in the model heaven intends for all time.  Take up your random acts of kindness and love and recall the results in the place you call church.  Do not limit your worship to 3 hours on a particular day, but instead let that 3 hours become the pinnacle of worship you have accumulated on every other hour of the week ahead.  Most of all, break the cycle of associating a building for a specific purpose as being “church”.  “You” are His church.  “You” represent Him to the world around you.  “You” are a part of His body, not the whole of it.  You will need the perspective of other body parts so that you do not come to believe you know everything there is to know.  Gather as many parts of the body as you can find, and join together in your efforts to make a real difference in the world around you.  In so doing, you provide better service to others.  You can lean on each other’s strengths, cover each other’s weaknesses, and learn about Him in humble service with each other - meant for others.
The Revelation of heaven given to John causes us to rethink what worship is, and how we do it, where we do it, and when we do it.  Having a special day of God’s creation upon which to enjoy special time with Him, was not meant to replace all other times as being for “ourselves”.  A special time, is exactly that, a special time – not the ONLY time.  In heaven God will be with us all the time.  The one day in seven when that is something special is like the icing on the cake, not a replacement for the cake.  One day in seven things will be even more extreme, more beautiful, closer still if that is possible.  It does not mean that a 3 hour window in sedate posture accomplishes the goal keeping a day holy.  It means we will long for the next full 24 hour window when that level of “special” arrives.  It is the difference between “talk about it” religion and “do something about it” religion.  Most of us eat two or three times a day, but we ALL still appreciate a “special meal”.  Our worship should emulate the same thinking.  We can express our love to God by serving others all the time, and find a special blessing on the day He intended to free us from all our other concerns.
If there is no need for a temple in heaven for all of eternity … why have we created a need for them here upon our earth?  If our buildings serve as headquarters for an action oriented approach to worship, if they serve as places to coordinate and organize our service for others, then they are well suited for the purpose of worship.  If however, our buildings serve only our “need” for ease and opulence, and as a place in which we can demonstrate our wealth in cars, clothes, jewelry, and accessories to the neighbors who sit next to us in the pews, and for whom we care barely muster a care … our buildings have lulled us into a false worship that no holy day can ever correct.  Buildings should be tools in His service.  They should serve a function that makes a difference in the lives of others.  They should not be thought of as the ONLY places where worship, or church can occur.  Heaven finds no such limitations in it.  Why should we impose such limitations on ourselves in this world?
A heart that has been transformed by the love of God, who reflects that love and passion for others, is simply not content to sit for 3 hours a week, and be done.  A transformed heart craves more.  It is insatiable.  It has a hunger to do more, to experience more.  It cannot be bound or constrained by a building.  For those who have a transformed heart, there is too much opportunity to sit still.  There is too much love that is needed, to hold any back.  There is too much pain around us to focus only on our own needs, failures, pains, and desires.  The transformed heart yearns to provide relief to others, not to itself.  The transformed heart will never be content to remain still while a single need goes unfulfilled in the life of someone within their reach.  The love of God is such.  The life of Christ on the earth was as such.  It remains so even today.  As we are transformed by the power of the love of Christ, we begin to reflect that love, and that passion, and it causes us to reimagine what worship is, and how, and when we do it.
And the insight into heaven was not over yet …

Friday, October 17, 2014

Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Your Need to Know [part two] ...

Our study resumes trying to answer the question of “why” God would reveal such specific details to us about our future city home well ahead of the final battle to take that same city by the forces of darkness and evil.  Of course the outcome of that battle is not in doubt, but the reason behind the revelation must have meaning to us in the here and now, or otherwise why offer it.  There is method, and reason, and love behind every revelation of Jesus Christ, what follows is no different.  Our Lord’s character is to be revealed in the details He provides through His servant John.  It is up to us, to study it, find it, and bathe in the truth of His love.  So we resume in Chapter 21 of the book of Revelations.
John continues in verse 14 … “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”  What struck me first about this text, was a prior misunderstanding I had in reading it.  I mistakenly thought this text referred to the foundations of the city of heaven, it does not.  It refers to the foundations of the wall itself.  You will recall John has just recorded that this wall is both great and high.  It is entirely possible, the foundations of this wall are above ground and visible even after the city reaches its placement upon the earth.  There is no mention made of the thickness of each layer of this foundation of the wall, or whether it is planted in the earth and how far, but given there are names applied to each foundation, it is more likely the construction of the wall is layered upon this stack of 12 layers of precious stones, where the names of each apostle is in plain view of those who take a walk around the city.
Here our Lord reveals that while things evolve based on our decisions and choices, He is able to reach both backwards into our history as well as forwards.  The names of the 12 tribes of Israel have been inscribed on the gates, now also the names of the 12 Apostles on the wall foundations.  The church, both in history, and going forward, is forever memorialized in the new city of heaven.  Keep in mind this city is not one that will ever perish or be altered in the future.  Perhaps John sees inscribed here in one of the layers of this foundation of the wall, of the mechanism by which access is gained into the city, and the city is protected, his own name by the mercy of God.  For Israel gave birth the hope of the world in the Messiah, and the Apostles then took the gospel of the Messiah the lengths of the world.  Had it not been for the faithful choices of both to follow God, you could not be reading the precious Bible presented to you.
But this passage poses an interesting question.  Could the name of Judas be inscribed in one of those layers?  The natural assumption is that Matthias who is later chosen to replace Judas would have his name there instead.  Or perhaps Paul would have his name there having been chosen directly by Christ on the road to persecute the faithful.  But why not Judas; because he betrayed our Lord?  Have we done anything worse?  Did Peter?  Peter denied Christ three times when He perhaps needed the support of His disciples the most.  Yet Peter is forgiven.  It is not the magnitude of our sins, but whether we will humble ourselves and yet seek forgiveness for them that matters.  The very soldier who pierced the side of Christ, and drove the nails into His hands, is not beyond the realm of the forgiveness of our Lord. 
Judas may have betrayed Him.  The Roman may have killed Him.  But you and I stand equally guilty of both crimes every time we choose to embrace the love of self, and sin against God.  We demand the cost of His sacrifice yet again for the actions we take.  And what is more, we know better.  We have the insight of history and scripture to record what had to be done to pay our cost.  Yet with this knowledge, we have the audacity to require it yet again.  If we are not beyond forgiveness and redemption, can we be so quick to assume Judas was not either?  Can we be so quick to assume his last prayer was not one of a penitent sinner for forgiveness because he could not live, knowing the magnitude of the sin he had committed?  Imagine what the name of Judas there on a foundation of the wall of heaven itself, says about the character of God, about His willingness to forgive, about the intensity of His love for even one like Judas, or you, or me.  Whether his name is there or not, will be determined by how he spent what time he had left before he ended his life, only he and God know that.
John continues in verse 15 … “And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. [verse 16] And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.”  So here we go again, why is John now revealing yet more precious intelligence and reconnaissance about the nature of heaven ahead of the final battle, why do you need to know?  In this passage we learn the city of heaven is in the shape of a square.  Or at least, the base of the city is in this shape.  This means the walls that surround the city are approximately 1500 miles long each.  A wall that long easily displays the need for multiple gates for access to and from the city.  3 gates along each side of the wall, if spread equidistant from each other, one might guess they are positioned 300 miles from each other and 300 miles from the corners of the wall.  
But even 300 miles is no short distance.  Try walking from Orlando to Miami sometime to get a feel for it.  In today’s age, or in the age of John, one might reasonably attempt to walk 15 miles a day with some effort.  It might also depend on the conditions of the pathway, whether hilly terrain, or difficult surfaces. The short story being, it would take significantly longer to get from one gate to another than a single 24 hour day at current walking speeds.  If a horse could ride 30 miles a day, that still leaves 10 of them.  In a car driving 60 miles per hour it would still take 5 hours to get there.  Even in a plane that takes an hour’s flight.  This is just to move from one gate to another.  To get from one corner of the wall to the next on foot given today’s rates is 100 days, or 50 days on horseback, 25 hours in a car, or 2.5 hours by plane.  This is NO small city. 
But then comes perhaps the most interesting detail of this passage, the city is as tall as it is long.  This means it extends 1500 miles up as well.  The length and width are hardly comprehensible at these measurements, but to be this tall as well is breathtaking.  It then brings up some interesting architectural ideas.  If the throne of God is at the city center, and is also the highest point in the city, then it stands to reason that all the surrounding structures would begin to descend in height, where the buildings closest to God’s throne would be the tallest, and those closest to the wall would be the lowest.  This would give the city the appearance of an ancient Egyptian pyramid from a distance.  This may have been a design Satan inspired the Egyptians to build to mock God by imitation here on earth bathed in a false religion that believes in the immortality of the soul.  A different architectural idea might have been that all structures within the city are equally tall, thus the city might have resembled a Borg cube from the Star Trek series where again resistance is futile (to the power of love that is). 
In either architectural construct, or ones we have yet to imagine, consider what the ramifications are for a building that is constructed that is only one mile tall (5280 feet).  Using the measure of 10 feet per story level of a building, this means just a single mile tall structure would be 528 floors.  Let’s assume we need 30 feet per story now to accommodate high ceilings and much taller people or inhabitants, that still means a single mile high building would be around 140 stories tall.  Imagine walking up the stair case on that one.  Good thing fire dangers are a thing of the past.  Good thing earthquake building codes are no longer a worry.  Good thing tornadoes, zoning, flooding, and shoddy construction is a thing of the past.  But even with speedy elevators going up 140 stories is no small feat.  Now imagine any given building instead of being 140 stories tall (using 30 feet per story and one mile in height) is now 100 miles tall.  At that point you have 14,000 stories tall.  Taking the 100 mile high building up by 15 to make it 1500 miles tall and you have 210,000 stories tall.  Anything above a 100 story “skyscraper” we can see in New York City, or Dubai, or Hong Kong begins to boggle our brains.  The idea of a mile high building begins to threaten the safety of our air travel.
But here is where physics gets interesting, what happens when the city extends 1500 miles into our atmosphere?  This is well beyond the normal air we breathe.  Our present atmosphere is composed of several layers beginning with the Troposphere which starts at sea level and extends up about 7 miles.  It is followed by the Stratosphere which heads up to about 31 miles, followed by the Mesosphere up to about 50 miles, followed by the Thermosphere up to about 440 miles, followed by the Exosphere up to about 6200 miles.  A 1500 mile structure of anything would be well into the Exosphere.  This begs the question, how do we travel at all?  How do we breathe?  What happens to gravity?  If the earth is made new, and substantially larger, would it not have a much deeper atmosphere?  But then if so, how heavy would that atmospheric pressure be on our bodies.  In addition, a significantly larger planet would bring with it a significantly larger gravitational pull, requiring significantly stronger muscles just to be able to walk around at all. 
But let’s get back to the core question, why give us this information?  Perhaps it is to challenge our human wisdom once again with the realities of our God, where nothing is impossible.  Perhaps it is to tell us that the city of heaven will be much larger than anything we can imagine with more than enough room to house every person ever born from Adam until now.  Perhaps it is to give us a hint that travel in heaven will not be as constricted by human limitations as it is today.  Perhaps it is to alter our ideas of a mansion from one of country estate to one of city penthouse.  Perhaps it is to inspire us to dream about what it might be like, and the infinite possibilities we will be exploring just to see all of it from one end to the other might take centuries.
Why do we need to know now?  After all, our minds can hardly comprehend what we are hearing anyway?  What does this show us about the character of Jesus Christ?  I believe it shows us that our very limited thinking, and very limited scale, even in the world of today, are nothing next to how our God thinks about things.  I cannot fathom a city of this size.  I could not possibly guess at the extent of its population ability.  But that our God created this city and modified it so that we could live with Him tells me that 1500 miles in height or length or width is not too far for His light or presence to reach.  For there is no dark corner in heaven.  There is no alley way or hidden space, where the light and presence of our God does not reach.  From end to end, and height to basement, nowhere in this city is absent the presence and light and love of our God.  His bride is meant for our Lord.  We are the treasure that is to be in this city.
John continues his descriptions in verse 17 … “And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.”  John now reveals the height of the wall to be 144 cubits or about 216 feet.  Compared to a city that is 1500 miles high, a 216 foot high wall is hardly significant.  But to reveal this information to the enemy ahead of the battle seems really like revealing the worst secret of your city’s defenses.  You just told them how high to build the ladders to scale the wall.  You just gave them an indication of how thick the walls might be in order that proper battering rams or explosive devices would need to be to take down the wall and grant access to the city inside.  Why give this data away?  Perhaps it is to remind us that war itself is to be a thing of the past.  God does not doubt His victory in the coming battle.  And this wall will be standing to prevent future entry and exit, only like a fence to remind us, that we are ever surrounded by the protection of our God.  A fence He is choosing to decorate in a most ornate manner.  This might be God’s idea of a traditional “white picket fence” so to speak.
John continues in verse 18 … “And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. [verse 19] And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; [verse 20] The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. [verse 21] And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.”  With a city that is 1500 miles high, and an equal distance square, John keeps his attention focused largely on the wall.  He reveals to us that each gate in the wall is a single pearl (must have been some oyster).  He reveals that the bricks of the wall are of the same stones that is reflected in the light of God, and in the appearance of God the Father, a Jasper stone (likely green in color).  Has God perhaps put a part of Himself into the construction of this wall? 
The foundations of this wall, presumably the ones where the names of the Apostles are written, are described in detail.  They represent a variety of colors and textures.  And lastly the streets of heaven are made of the concrete of purest gold, such that they are nearly translucent.  One thing that immediately comes to mind when considering the construction of this wall, and of the streets of the city, is the value of the treasures we value here on earth.  Pearls, sapphires, emeralds, and gold are not done away with in heaven.  But they do represent only building materials.  What we choose to wear around our necks, our fingers, our wrists, and our heads are nothing more than the concrete of heaven.  Pearls are of value because they are rare, as is any precious stone, but in heaven they are as plentiful as the wall itself.  If you define the value of your jewelry because it is ornate and rare and perhaps large, you have not seen the half of it yet.  God has much more jewels than you can possibly imagine.  He had so many, he used them as construction materials; perhaps that was ALL they were ever intended to be used for.
On earth we kill for gold, in heaven we walk on it.  This information, this intelligence, this reconnaissance about our future home was not shared with us to stoke our greed, but to kill it once and for all time.  We do not need jewelry to make us feel better about our appearance.  There is no reason to hoard gold, let alone paper money.  In effect it is the equivalent of wearing bits of gravel, wood, and dirt on our bodies.  For what we prize so highly and sacrifice so much for here in this world is nothing more than beautiful building materials in the only future that matters.  This revelation should give us pause to realize the contents of the city make it the bride of Christ, not the construction materials.  We are the prize.  We are the treasure.  We are the thing God was willing to give His only Son to die in our stead for.   He loved us, not gold, or pearls, or jewelry.  He had plenty of jewels, but treasured you so highly He was willing to die so you would not have to.  Our lives are what matters most to Christ.  He shows us the magnitude of His thinking, of His design skills, or His architectural planning, to show us that size will not be the limiting factor in our participation in heaven.  Heaven is big enough for ALL of us.  There is no limit to His invitations because He does not have enough room, He has more than enough.  The only limitation to entry to this city is because you refuse to do so.
When love of others is perfected in you, you do not value the rubies, diamonds, gold, and pearls, you value the person who wears them or cannot afford to.  The construction trinkets are of no value to the person whose heart has been transformed by Christ.  The goal is to see the person in this city, with you, with me, with Christ.  What we wear matters literally nothing at all.  No designer suit will compensate for a corrupted heart.  No finest gem will replace the loss of a loved one in the kingdom of heaven.  No amount of gold in this world, is worth even the least of these, in the next one.  To “sacrifice” our means in this world to promote the ministry of redemption is NOT a sacrifice at all, it is an investment that has a return more precious than any conceived of since the dawn of creation.  It is our priorities that must be altered by the Revelation of John to us.  It is our hearts that must be remade in order to be in harmony with the kingdom he reveals.  To treasure the rocks of this world over the people of this world, is to miss the point of the gospel entirely.  Rocks will be in no short supply, people are the only unique and truly rare and precious things that cannot be replaced.  The jewels He will place on your head, are merely a symbol of the treasure you are in His heart.
But the revelations of heaven and the messages were not over yet …

Friday, October 10, 2014

Intelligence, Reconnaissance, and Your Need to Know [part one] ...

In government, particularly in defense areas, or in the clandestine operations of intelligence services, one of the key principles they operate within is referred to as … “need to know”.  Even terrorist groups have discovered the value of compartmentalizing into various cells, so that no single group has all the plans and information of every other group.  When information is made public, plans and operations that might have been carried forward in secret become of little use.  But when information is presented to those who have need of it, better decisions can be made.  When information is made public, the public is then allowed to form their own opinions regarding the data.  Often a decision that would have been made while information was kept secret; is not supported or permitted once information becomes public.  Secrecy is often required to foster and make decisions of “questionable” moral character.  The public light of day makes those same decisions much harder to make.
But what if there were information that literally everyone needed to know.  In the war between good and evil, between God and Satan who has become His enemy, there is such information.  Satan would keep it secret, keep it hidden from view, and tell you that you have no need to know.  This is how information is handled in times of war and for good logical reasons.  God’s methods however, seem to defy that notion.  He offers to us scriptures, with detailed intelligence about His battle plans, locations, and outcomes of future events.  He reveals His best options right out in the open.  He details outcomes in truth that often show His enemy gaining ground in one of His most loved servants.  He seems to reveal plainly intelligence and reconnaissance information any enemy would take high advantage of.  For instance, in the previous chapter of Revelations, the battle that is to take place where all evil is finally put to an end, is staged as the entire evil host led by Satan surrounds the Holy City of New Jerusalem.  Since none of us here, up to this point, have any idea about the modifications God has made to this city in order to accommodate us living in it, this would have been considered in time of war … classified intelligence.  Scouting an enemy’s position, knowing the size of the object intended for conquest, knowing its entry and exit points, etc.. – is considered critical intel for a coming battle.
Yet here in the 21st chapter of Revelations, God shows it to John, and asks him to record it in explicit detail for us to read, ponder, study, and know with a certainty.  So given our war is not over, and given this battle has yet to be waged, why did God think it important for us to know the size, composition, and these specific details about the New Jerusalem in the here and now.  Why is this intel something we need to know now?  How does it better reveal to us Jesus Christ, as with all of these Revelations, they are to accomplish within us a better understanding the Lord we serve, and of His great love for us?  Given that this intel is normally kept secret in a war, there must be some reason why God thinks we should know it.  Perhaps that warrants a second look at the data provided.
John begins to reveal this intel to us beginning in chapter 21 and verse 9 … “  And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.”  John begins by revealing his source.  The identity of the expositor of this information will be one of the seven angels who carried one of the seven last plagues upon our earth.  From a timing perspective, those plagues were carried out more than a thousand years before New Jerusalem would descend to our world.  For John, perhaps that vision was still very clear in his mind, and recognizes this angel as having participated in those events.  The topic of this intelligence however, is to be details about “the bride”, or “the Lamb’s wife”.  Why use this language to describe the city of heaven?  Why not simply call it out as the “Capital city”, or as the city which will be the center of the universe.  For those are surely both true statements and reflect the reality of war and peace.
Instead, the plainly capital city, is referred to as a bride or wife.  The institution of marriage created before the introduction of sin and evil into our world was one of singular intimacy.  Adam and Eve became one, through the ordinance and commitment of marriage.  They were united in a way that was special and singular.  They were bonded with each other on a deeply loving manner and maintained this relationship even after sin entered our world.  Now, here past the end of all things we know to be true, the same language, the same institution is alluded to in how Jesus Christ refers to the new City of Heaven.  For He sees each of us now, in a level of intimacy as close to Him, as marriage is to us.  The original marriage in Eden was composed of only 2 humans, but the third person in the triangle was to be Christ.  Every marriage relationship here on earth was to also include Christ, in that level of intimacy with each of us, and with both of us.  Marriages were to be founded upon Christ, the ones that are, seem to be able to endure all things.  Here past the end of time, marriage is not a forgotten concept.  Instead Christ refers to the place He has built to live with ALL of each, with EACH of us, as His bride.  For He intends a level of intimacy in His relationship with us, that is to be closer than anything we know, as close as a Husband should love His wife.
John continues in verse 10 … “And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,”  It is unclear in what time John witnesses this event.  Most likely, it would have been prior to the final battle of mankind, as the city makes its first descent to our world.  In that sense, evil being outside the city is still viable as the ending cleansing fires have not yet begun.  But perhaps the city was elevated from our world during the cleansing fires that consume all evil, and this is it re-descending to our world made new.  In either case, John is exposed to information about the city that he would not have otherwise perhaps seen, had the city been settled into the ground where it was descending to.
John continues in verse 11 … “Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;”  John now begins to describe characteristics about the city, about the bride of Christ, that catch his attention.  First, the city is lit up with a light that originates in the glory of God Himself.  The light reminds John in nature of a Jasper stone that is as clear as crystal.  Whether he is aware of it or not, the light John sees is of the same nature he describes earlier in chapter 4 and verse 3 where he describes God the Father sitting on the throne as having the appearance of a Jasper stone.  It is the light emanating from God the Father that penetrates and illuminates this entire heavenly city.  Whether as beams, or particles, or waves, or simply presence, it is God alone who illuminates this city.  No electricity or power plants are required.  Neither is the light of a planetary sun and moon needed to illuminate the city of heaven.  The worship of nature, or of these solar system objects as having divine characteristics has ALWAYS been misguided.  It was our God who created nature, and the sun, moon, and stars – they are the creations, nothing divine within them.  And what is more, the light within this city dwarfs their collective brilliance.  The light from heaven originates there, with the presence of God the Father and then emanates outward.  The sun and moon, will be lit up by what they see in this our new world, not the other way around.
But more than just the brilliant green toned colors of a clear Jasper stone, what is revealed to us in this passage is that our family is not only to include Christ, but His Father God as well.  Christ and His Father intend and desire no separation from each other.  They love each other, and desire to be with each other.  They are family as well.  The beauty is that “we”, the humanity they have created, each of us, and all of us, are to be adopted into this family and dwell as close with BOTH of them as is possible.  We will be walking in the light of God the Father Himself.  He will not be on some distant plain of existence in a remote universe we can hardly fathom.  He will be quite literally … down the street.  You will “know” He is nearby, because His very light enables you to see.  How alike that is for us today.  It is ONLY through the light of God that we can find truth, see scripture as it was intended, and shed our spiritual blindness.  It is God’s light alone that can accomplish this for us today, even though it is not as visually apparent as it will be on that great day.
John continues in verse 12 … “And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: [verse 13] On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.”  Here John begins to reveal intelligence and reconnaissance information well ahead of the final battle with evil to us in the here and now.  Why tell the enemy ahead of time what to expect, and how to position his troops if this information is not critical to us?  What is so important about this structure of the city that we need to know now?  For in this Revelation, John is publicly exposing some fairly substantial details about the bride of Christ.  First, the city of New Jerusalem like its ancient predecessor, has a wall around it.  But unlike its ancient predecessor, the city is so large it requires more than a single gate in each direction in order to facilitate access in and out of the city.  So there are three gates facing each direction on the square.  There is an angel at each gate.  Presumably this angel guards access to the use of the gate, and supervises the comings and goings through these critical portals into the city.
But perhaps most importantly, God does not forget His promises.  The nation of Israel rejected Christ, the religious leaders in the days of the Messiah, rejected the cornerstone of their faith.  They threw away the hope of their redemption, choosing rather to maintain power over the people, and keep their own interpretations of scripture, rather than to see scripture through the eyes of its Author.  While this event scarred Israel, and forced the church of God to move away from its traditional bloodline into the gentile world and peoples, it did not undo the hope of the Messiah in the many generations of Israel that had gone on before that day.  The many members of the nations and tribes of Israel who died before the Messiah appeared were not forgotten by God, because their descendants rejected the truth of Christ.  Here past the end of all things, God renews His people and the nation called by His name, and He prints the names of the 12 tribes of Israel across the gates to the city.  For it is out of Israel that the Messiah came to this world.  It is by Christ we are able to enter this Kingdom.  And for nearly 16 hundred years, the tribes of Israel lived in the hope of that saving event. From Abraham to Joseph and Mary, the people who had chosen to follow God, are remembered here past the end of all things.  Think of it, God intends to honor those predecessors so highly, He will be inscribing their names across the very gates of His perfect city, of His bride.  And He does not just inscribe the names of Judah, or Benjamin, or Levy, but of all twelve tribes.
It is no accident that the empires and focus of the world in scripture centers around Jerusalem and the people of God.  The story might have been a different one, if instead of Abraham a Chaldean by descent, another patriarch of a different group of people had chosen to seek to find God with all of his heart.  After the tower of Babel, there was no Mayan traversing the continents who wanted to seek God.  Nor was there a Viking, or Chinese, or Indian, or Zulu who wholeheartedly sought to find our God.  For if they had, the center of focus would have rested in another region of the world.  The story of scriptures were never constricted to Abraham by the limitations of our God, but instead by the hard-hearts of his creations.  The Vikings and Zulu worshipped strength, not humble submission.  The Chinese worshipped tranquility.  The Indians worshipped nearly everything.  Every culture that descended from the Tower of Babel made a choice to worship anything other than the true and only God.  Even Abram’s own family were active idol worshippers.  He had to leave his family home, in order to leave the influence of this corruption of faith.  But what distinguished the nation Abram would give birth to, was an inheritance that began from a DECISION to follow God.
Abram became Abraham because he spent his life dedicated to following God.  Isaac made his own decision to uphold this tradition of faith.  Jacob, though highly flawed, made the same decision.  And so generations of descendants while far from perfect, made a similar decision to follow God.  When after Christ had come, a new decision was to be made, not one based on bloodline, but one based on whether to continue to follow the true Messiah or not.  The generations of Israelites who had lived before were located in the cross roads of early civilizations in order to bring the gospel of God to the people who lived around them.  They were intended to be a light so that God could reach all peoples.  While it did not work out well, it did not fail entirely as many seeds were sown around the world through what the people called by the name of God did.  Now, past the end of all things, God AGAIN remains true to His promises and publishes the names of the tribes of Israel across the gates that offer access into the city of New Jerusalem.  He ties the history of His people together, from the grandchildren of Abraham, to a city taken by King David many years later, to the Messiah.
This revelation offers to us the permanence of God’s promises.  History and subsequent failures of mankind do not undo the fulfillment of God to those who were faithful to him in the generations that went on before.  The intelligence regarding our future heavenly home offers great detail and insight into the permanent nature of what God creates.  This will be our home forever.  And the changes wrought within us will be everlasting as well.  We should take hope in this message, realizing that what is promised to us, will be fulfilled in us.  Here past the end of all things are seen the fulfillment of His promises to those who were our spiritual forefathers.
And the intel, had only just begun …


Friday, October 3, 2014

All Things New ...

Ever wonder what happens after the ending … “and they all lived happily ever after”?  Scripture could have ended at the second coming of Christ.  From that moment on, everything we need to know, could have been told to us directly by Jesus.  Every event that is going to happen from then on, will happen, as it is supposed to.  Our trust in God will be complete.  His work of perfection in us complete.  So why keep revealing even more of our future then, to us now?  Our previous study shows that even after our redemption is completed, scripture goes on to reveal there is an end, a final end, to evil.  Evil is gone away now forever at this point.  Death itself, and hell, have been consumed in the lake of fire.  The flames have gone out.  Our freedom of choice has been preserved, and love has finally conquered evil forever, as only love could do.  So why not end scriptures then?  Why are there yet 2 more chapters in the book of John’s recorded Revelations?  These remain Revelations of Jesus Christ.  And while we are not there yet, nor perfected yet, there is still something more we need to know about what will happen then, that is relevant to us today.  Somehow the knowledge of the aftermath of evil is needed for us today, in order to help us know our Lord better, and make a better choice to let Him redeem us completely.
So John begins in chapter 21 and verse 1 writing … “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”  In one verse, everything we know today is wiped away.  Every monument built by men, every glittering city, from ancient Babylon bathed in gold, to modern New York City towering into the sky, there is nothing of any of them left.  Everything we spend our lives building in this world today, every project at work, every effort to better our lives in ever increasing ease or splendor, is wiped away.  From country estates, to third world hovels, there is nothing left of any of them.  Nature too, is to be reset.  The Grand Canyon, Sahara Desert, Rain Forests of the Amazon, Siberian winters, and Sequoia trees of the Pacific Northwest are all wiped away in a moment.  The magnitude of the Pacific ocean, Atlantic ocean, and polar regions are all to be reset as well, with John stating there is no more sea.  The Mediterranean sea was the only one John had ever known, it is considerably smaller than the oceans we are familiar with, and still there is no sea to be left.
Is it possible, this simple verse is offered to us now, so that our priorities can be properly set?  No matter what we value or work to build in this earth, it is NOT going to last forever.  No amount of work we do in this world, no job we undertake, is anything more than temporary.  Everything we know is to be wiped away and made new, made perfect.  The only thing that endures from this world to the next, is you - having submitted yourself to the power of Jesus Christ’s redeeming love.  When once your salvation from your slavery to self has begun, you begin to notice there is yet further treasure that could endure past the complete destruction and renovation of this world … it is those you choose to love.  As His love grows more and more within you, you come to realize there is no such thing as an enemy.  An enemy is only a closest friend, who simply does not know it yet.  The love of Christ is great enough to embrace ALL of us, not just some, not just those of like mind, or like faith.  To see His love reach those we love brings to us an infinite treasure whose worth will never be fully appreciated.  To see His love reach those who used to call themselves our enemy, is of no less worth.
John continues in verse 2 … “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  Jerusalem of old was the city where the Ark of the Covenant was brought.  It was the place where the presence of God could be felt by His people.  It is no accident that past the end of all things we know, the city of New Jerusalem (or heaven) is to once again be the city where the presence of God is to be felt by His people.  You will notice John does not call the city of heaven the new “Rome”.  Nor does he refer to it as the new “Washington D.C.”, or new “Babylon”.  These 3 cities were built by men as well.  They all purported to serve the living God at one point or another.  Yet none of them are so honored.  Even Jerusalem is actually the city where Christ was rejected.  Its only connection to the presence of God was from the Temple Services of the original covenant.  Yet God chooses to honor His original covenant with Israel and redeems the name of this city, associating it with heaven itself, and preserving its association with Himself, and His presence.
John continues in verse 3 … “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”  Do these words sound familiar, they should.  It is the renewal of His covenant with Israel and with us.  Before the Ten Commandments were ever spoken by God to Israel, one question was asked of them … did they want to be His people?  Before Abram became Abraham, only one distinction was ever made … Abram had chosen to follow God.  Noah found grace.  Adam was His creation.  You will be saved by only one choice, to accept Jesus Christ as the source of your salvation.  Your choice to submit who you are to the love of Christ, to allow Him to remake you and alter what you love and how you love, causes you to engage in the same covenant that Israel once embraced.  You follow God and then you are saved.  Here past the end of all things, is a renewal of the covenant that has never been abandoned by God.  We may have abandoned our end of the deal, but God has not.  And in the light of perfection God renews it yet again.
John continues in verse 4 … “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”  There it is.  Upon having witnesses those who we loved meet their final end, our hearts still break at their rejection of the perfect freedom we have found.  There is no joy in witnessing death for those who love Christ.  There is no spirit of retribution, or even of justice, only of sorrow, only of a longing for a different set of choices and outcomes.  No one who has had the love of Christ perfected in them looks upon the misery of others, even of those who deserve the pain they are in, with joy, or glee, or a sense of accomplishment.  There is no such thing as vengeance in His kingdom.  Redemption abounds, vengeance is nowhere to be seen.  Those who while on this earth longed to have crimes against them avenged and punish the criminal for his act, have not yet had the redemptive love of Christ perfected in them as yet.  Redemption forgives.  It forgives even when there is no logical reason to forgive.  It is not that the perpetrator deserves forgiveness, they do not.  They have in fact caused pain.  But evil and pain are not diminished by punishment, they are only abated and transformed by love.  There will be one final sadness in heaven, and then it will be wiped away by our Lord.
This revelation is given to John, in order for us to still do something about it while we can.  Imagine how hard it will be to see the loss of your child, or your parent, or your sibling or spouse – knowing you missed the opportunity to love them while here on this earth.  You might have offered forgiveness to them when they did not deserve it, and in so doing, demonstrate to them the love of Christ in the here and now.  Perhaps your forgiveness of real pain they have caused you, might allow them to see Christ’s love in a different way.  Perhaps the love you show to others NOW, is the love that allows them to see Christ and be saved standing with you on that great day of sadness, instead of consumed before your eyes upon it.  Imagine the enemy who today wants nothing but to cause you pain.  Imagine that enemy forgiven by you, now standing beside you closer to you than a brother, a person who loves you so much he would willingly lay down his life for you.  Imagine a bond that will never be broken between you and a former enemy despite all the deeds of the past.  This is what Christ does for us then and now.  Can we not do it for each other here through our submission of our will to His powerful love?
In His mercy, Christ must wipe away our tears one more time.  He must bring us off of our faces prostrate upon the ground, knowing the deeds we have done, but also experiencing His forgiveness for all of them.  We must at last offer the hardest forgiveness there is to offer, our forgiveness to ourselves.  But in the words of Christ unto John there is also hope.  There is to be no more pain.  It is not just Death that has been done away with, it is also pain.  An eternally burning hell where the wicked are punished through flaming torture for what they have done for all time and eternity would certainly qualify as “pain”.  And yet here John is stating in simple language and facts, there will be NO MORE PAIN. 
What begins here is not a lack of feeling, but an amplification of it.  Our sensory organs are not diminished but enhanced.  What changes to eliminate pain, is WHO we love, and HOW we love.  We will lack all self-love, and live to love only others.  In so doing we put the happiness of everyone else ahead of our own, and find we have never been happier doing it.  Our attention to detail will have increased, as will our knowledge.  There will be no accidents in heaven.  We will move with perfect coordination, and perfect trust in God to protect and educate us.  There will be no thorns nor any reminder of the curse of this world upon the rose, or the earth remade.  Should we leap, we will experience only joy.  Should we dive, exhilaration.  Should we fly, the thrill of flying.  John’s simple language promises us that death and pain and all the former things will have passed away.
John continues in verse 5 … “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”  Here again Christ re-affirms that He alone is the CREATOR.  Evolution may be a process Christ puts in place for His creations, but it is not the genesis of what He creates.  We come to exist by the power of His will.  In this sentence Christ announces he will be re-creating ALL THINGS NEW.  Should we have ever doubted that our Lord has the power to create our world in six days and rest upon the seventh, that doubt should exist no longer.  For at the end of all things, the Lord resumes His creative powers to once again make it all new.  He further states to John to “write” for these words are true and faithful.  This is not a conditional promise.  It does not rely upon us in any way to see it fulfilled, it is something that Christ is going to do … period.  Creation will resume as evil is ended.  New things will be coming into existence by the imagination and power of Jesus Christ.
John does as he is asked and continues writing in verse 6 … “And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”  The promises of Christ are true.  The revelation is intended for us in THIS time.  We would not need these words then, we need them now.  This is yet another affirmative promise of what Christ promised the first time He was here.  We are to drink of the waters of life freely (His gift to us).  We are to live forever.  Our salvation is complete.  Our salvation is DONE.  Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, He is the beginning and ending of our faith, and of our redemption.  It is not just His death upon the cross that sees this hope fulfilled.  It is our choice to let Him re-create who we are, what we want, and how we love.  It is Jesus Christ alone that sees us saved.
These texts once again blow away the false doctrines of Satan who tells us all, that WE need to be responsible for our own salvation.  Islamists are wrong in their belief that man is essentially good, and can choose to do evil no more.  Buddhists are wrong.  Pagans are wrong.  Atheists are wrong.  And sadly, all too many Christians and Adventists are wrong.  We are not saved through our own power, but solely through the power of Jesus Christ.  We are not saved through the power and intellectual understanding of our doctrines and beliefs but solely as we follow and submit to Jesus Christ.  We are not saved because we worship on the seventh day, or keep the commandments of our Lord, for though we have done these things from our youth, yet still there can be something missing.  That something is Jesus Christ.  He alone can save us from who we are, from what we are.  There are not many pathways to God, there is only one.  The path of Jesus Christ is sure.  ALL others lead nowhere.  These are the Revelations of Jesus Christ, not some nebulous namby-pamby god who has no real power to save anything but the feeling of a “good time”.  Jesus Christ alone is real.  It will be He who makes all things new.  It will be He who has saved us from who we were.
John continues in verse 7 … “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. [verse 8] But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”  Here the words of Christ are clearly intended for us in our day.  He that overcometh.  What is it we are to overcome?  Not sin, for we have surely proven we are powerless against a good temptation.  Not others, for our gospel is not about domination of others, but of loving others.  We must overcome self, by submitting self to Christ.  We must trust in Christ to see His victory in us.  We must trust in Christ to see Him fulfill His promises to save us, while we do nothing but allow Him to do so.  Our natural inclination is to take control, not to give it over to Christ.  Our natural inclination is to try to save ourselves, and choose to stop our sins, not to give our every desire over to Christ.  To trust Christ with who we love, how we love.  To trust Christ with our children, our parents, our spouse, our very existence.  To overcome we must submit to Christ.
The promise of our Lord is to be our God, but He will see us not just as His creations but as close as His own child.  He will be our God.  But we will be “His son”.  Jesus sees us as His family, as His children.  He is more than our best friend, more than our God, but our Father as well.  He is more to us than any earthly parent has ever been, for He is both perfect, and God.  But in this statement, He joins humanity to Himself in a way like no other.  We have yet to fully understand what this means to us.  But what we can see clearly, is His so great love for us.  We are more to Him than a casual acquaintance.  We are more to Him than just “people”.  We are His family.  We are equal in that designation.  There is no hierarchy in what He describes.  No rulers over others, but equal before God.  Each of us so valued, each of us so loved. 
Notice too, the alternative to being redeemed of God, the first characteristic listed is “fearful”.  In nearly every greeting between God and mankind, the first words uttered, are … do not be afraid.  It is our fear that keeps us from seeing ourselves redeemed.  Our natural instinct for self-preservation trumps our willingness to let God have full control of our lives.  We fear losing what we love to God.  We fear losing some sin we think brings us joy.  So we hold it back from His transforming power.  We tell Him to leave that one alone.  And like a cancer that cherished sin, leads us to reject transformation of others parts of who we are, until we choose to remain exactly as we find ourselves, locked into the chains of self-love.  What we hold back from God will be the source of our undoing.  To be freed from sin, we must give it all to Him. 
Next on the list of alternative ideas, is listed unbelieving.  Our fear precludes us from letting go.  It is then supported by our lack of trust, lack of confidence, lack of faith in what we cannot see or do for ourselves.  Our unbelief fosters our fear, it adds fuel to it.  Our unbelief prevents us from letting God do for us what He so longs to do for us.  It keeps us in a state of darkness.  It keeps us from fully experiencing His love.  His gifts to us are disregarded or explained away as mere chance or coincidence because we do not believe they come from Him.  We are quick to give Him the blame, but rarely ever the credit.  We do not believe that He will save us if we submit, so we keep trying to save ourselves through our own power and will.  We fear that should we let go, we will only deepen in sin, not see it removed.  If we choose to stop exercising our last remaining bits of self-restraint, we will fall so deep into sin we will never escape its grasp.  But what we fail to see and believe; is that we are already there.  Our sin already has us in chains.  We are already slave to its pull and desires.  To be freed from them, we must offer them ALL to Christ, and believe in what He has promised.  This is putting faith into action.
What follows fear and unbelief is the natural state of mankind bound in the slavery of self-love.  What remains then is abominable, murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars.  This list is not exclusive of what remains when one is bound to the slavery of sin.  But it sure hits the highlights.  Those who hate and kill.  Those who love sex more than they love people.  Those who would seek power from Satan in order to gain it over others.  Those who would worship anything other than Christ, most often the god in the mirror.  And those who tell little white lies, and think them benign.  The degree of sin is a misnomer.  All sin is a variation, a spot on the degenerative spiral downwards, that has no end to its depravity.  Lucifer did not start out a murderer of God, but he became Satan, and did in fact see Christ killed on a cross.  This process did not take place in a day, but it did take place.  The original sin of choosing to love self just a little bit, degenerated into killing Christ. 
Again this remains a Revelation of Jesus Christ.  All things are to be made new.  But this revelation is given to us now, so that we can affirm our salvation in the only one who can see it done in us.  Jesus truly is the Alpha and Omega of our salvation.  It is His call we respond to initially, and His work in us that sees us finally perfected in His transformative love.  All things are to be made new.  This includes you and I.  This includes the world in which we live.  This includes our priorities.  This can only be done fully when evil is a thing of the past, when pain and death are to be seen no more.
And the revelations and story were not over yet …