Monday, August 14, 2017

Beatific Vision...what is that?!

The following is an attempt to capture the essence of the beatific vision with a much fuller discussion by Kyle Strobel on the link at the end. 

The beatific vision (first God's own, than ours) creates eternal and infinite delight (happiness) because that which is most beautiful and delightful (God) is beheld, engaged and communed with (participated in).

The essence of the life of God is the giving and receiving of infinite glory/honor/love/ delight between and among the persons of the Godhead (Trinity). It is this eternal and infinite community of Glory/Beauty/Delight we too are designed for and called (offered) to participate in.

Our sharing and participation in this is our greatest joy/happiness. This in turn moves us to share this/him with others. As we do it (our delight in him) is further magnified and intensified in so doing.

Our joy is God's greatest joy (outside of the joy he always knows within himself).

It is ours only because it is first his.

Our participating in and sharing (passing along...paying it forward if you will) his glory throughout the earth not only brings God honor/glory but also gives him great joy.

God delights in our delight in him and our sharing that delight with others. He does not wish to keep his glory to himself but desires it be multiplied throughout the earth, thereby increasing that glory (not by him becoming more glorious within himself but in his glory being experienced by more people i.e. more broadly disseminated and in this sense multiplying his glory). This is why he sends us and 
why we go.

He is the Alpha and Omega; The Beginning and End (
Rev_22:13) . All things are from him through him and to him. To him be the glory forever! Amen! (Rom 11:36)
Joh 16:14  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 
Joh_17:5  And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Joh 17:13  But now I (Jesus) am coming to you (Father), and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves
Joh_17:22  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
Joh_17:24  Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

A much fuller and more technical discussion of the beatific vision by Dr. Kyle Strobel is available here.

Other posts related to beatific vision 
Overview of Jonathan Edwards theology.


The following is a reproduction of the Strobel article with highlights and notes added. (endnotes not included. For endnotes go to full Strobel article in link above) 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

why God calls us to glorify him

The call of God to glorify him is also a call to experience our greatest glory i.e. our greatest sense of value, meaning, importance, delight, joy etc.

It is a call that is all about us because it's all about God first i.e. God calls us to glorify him so we might experience our greatest glory and joy which is only in him, the All Glorious One.

The only reason it can be about us is because it's all about God first i.e. if God were not the God of great glory, we would not experience the great joy of knowing him or be created by him as bearers of his image with the ability to experience that glory. We not only exist because he made us but we also enjoy him because of the way he made us i.e. in his image.

The reason God pushes so hard (constantly calling) for us to glorify him is because his love of us is that great i.e. he longs for our greatest delight and joy.

When you know what you have to offer is that good for someone (who you greatly love) you will go to great lengths to persuade them to take up your offer. Even to the point of going over the top in your efforts; maybe even coming off as obnoxious at times. You know once they do they will be so delighted they did, they will be forever grateful for your persistence and staying on them. 

God doesn't call us repeatedly because he needs us (Acts 17:24-25) to glorify him (knowing and experiencing his own glory has been the essence of his being as Father, Son and Spirit from all eternity past). He knows we need to glorify him. It is in our best interest when we do.

He also calls us to glorify him simply because first and foremost he is all glorious. For him to call us to glorify anything other than him is not only untrue but it is to our harm and greatest loss because it's untrue.

The call of God to glorify him is an invitation to experience our greatest delight and joy. A joy that can only be found in the source of ultimate delight and joy i.e. The interrelational joy and delight found from and within the Father, Son and Spirit.

In summary, there are two parts to God's call for us to glorify him. 

1.     He is all glorious. To find a greater glory in anything other than God is simply not true or possible. 
2.     He loves us infinitely and therefore desires our greatest delight and joy.

Actually there is a third that flows out of the first two. 

     3.  Once we experience God in his glory we will share it with others thereby expanding it, bringing joy to a greater number and greater honor to him. 

Some other links that look at different aspects of experiencing his glory and our worth are as follows: 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

everything is broken...however

Because we all live in a broken world, we all deal with hardship, struggle and pain. This is not unique to us nor are we somehow or for some reason singled out as God's target for punishment when we experience difficulties and struggles. 

There is a bumper sticker that says "sh*t happens." This is a crude but fairly accurate way of saying suffering is simply part of living in a fallen and broken world and some indication that even the world gets it. 

Not only is our world broken but we are broken; everyone of us... no exceptions. A primary result is we all have a endless longing to be valued and loved. A longing designed to be satisfied by the source of life and love. We are all in **need of healing and restoration for not being valued and loved, no matter how well-off we may think or appear to be. And this is simply because we have walked away from the source of love and life, God himself. 
**As we plug in to God, our longings are redirected toward him and our need subsides. The more we plug in the less we feel the need to be affirmed by others.  Once we are in his presence and fully plugged in, a constant sense of value and love (i.e. glory) in Him will be an ever increasing part of our existence.  
Some may object saying they have never walked away from God. They just don't care. If anything they might say God has walked away from them. Or they don't feel the kind of longing I am describing. 

But God says he loves you. Have you explored this claim? He also claims to be the Creator and provider of all things. Do you acknowledge this claim? Have you explored whether any of these claims (and many others) have merit? These are not insignificant claims that should be ignored if true. If you have not seriously (since they are serious claims) explored them, and they turn out to be true, you have in effect walked away from God. 

To illustrate, if I offer you a million dollars and you thumb your nose at me and never seek to determine whether my offer is real or not (when it actually is), what would you call not exploring this offer? The issue isn't the actual offer (which for sake of illustration we are saying is real), it's your not believing the offer. Which means only for you, the offer is not real, when in fact it is.  

The fact that we also think we are going through a unique hardship (and having a pity party as a result) only speaks of how self obsessed (and alone/separated/isolated) we truly are. Our relationship with God is severed resulting in all other things and relationships being broken. 

At a very deep level we all long to connect with someone who loves us with no strings attached. We seek this from others who can never truly and fully love us this way (which is why we hide our darkest, most shameful secrets [I am sure you can think of some] even from those closest to us). We long to be loved at a level in which we don't have to be concerned about hiding our true broken selves but are free to be who we really are, warts and all and still be fully accepted and loved. 

A solution that far exceeds the problem

The beauty of all of this is God himself stepped into our world of brokenness as a man and took on the ultimate pain and suffering of hatred, persecution, ridicule and rejection not to mention God poured out his full judgment for the rebellion of mankind (including our own) onto Christ. This ultimately lead to his death (when he in fact deserved none of this) so that he could one day free us from all of these things. Death had to occur to complete the judgment. 

He also did this knowing we could never love him with a love equal to the love he showed us.  

Jesus died for us so he could restore us to union with his Father. He did this knowing we never did or could ever do enough to equal the level and extent of love he showed us. Yet he was "ok" with that.

What does this tell us about his love? What kind of love is this that compelled Christ to take on the loss of this very love he has known from all eternity past so others might have it? What does this tell us about the greatness (largeness) and abundance of the heart of God and his Son?

Christ didn't do this so he might gain something from it for himself. He actually experienced just the opposite when he set aside something infinitely valuable and glorious so he could make this happen.

What he did gain however is the joy of knowing others would know this very same love of his Father that he knew and has always known.

A love so great and delightful for him that he longed for others to experience it along with him. He was compelled to share it. He simply could not keep this love to (or for) himself.

In fact his longing to share was so great he sacrificed some of his own experience of that love for a time so he could share it with others that we might share in it together with him. 

Can you imagine such a love as this!? This was the love of God in and through Christ for you. 

This is how great his love for us is and the basis for the promise and hope of fully participating in this love one day for all who trust Jesus.

Do you trust him?


*The realty is hardship and pain is not suppose to happen. Though it may be the common experience for all, it is an aberration, not a part of our original design nor will it be a part of the future experience for those who are in Christ. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Love and a future hope... something beyond feelings

The strongest relationships are those that transcend feelings and are based on the value we place on the other. This often involves feelings for the other but not necessarily. We may not be getting anything from a particular relationship at any given moment that would stir feelings in us (though pleasant memories of positive treatment or experiences with them from the past can evoke positive emotions). It may in fact cost us a great deal of time and resources to remain in a relationship, with no indication of immediate benefit or reward. We do it simply because we value them that much. 

A common example would be caring for a parent with Alzheimer's (or some other debilitating condition), who sacrificed for us growing up so we could have the best life possible. We act in love towards them even though it is completely one sided, with no appreciation from them *at the time. We do it simply because we appreciate them for all they did for us.
*Not unlike our love for our kids is often one sided, with little appreciation by them at the time for what we do for them.
When someone has proven by past deeds they value us; past deeds so great we were impacted for the rest of our lives, so much so we would never question their love or their value of us even though we see no evidence of their love at the time, then we are willing to do things for them with no immediate advantage or benefit to us. In fact we are even willing to suffer loss. We see the benefit and it's great enough we feel we could never adequately "return the favor."

Now what if this is a person we have not actually met but have only experienced the benefit of their actions on our behalf from afar. Not unlike getting a large some of money from someone who found out we incurred a debt beyond our ability to pay it (incurred by our own poor choices).  A debt so great in fact, the rest of our lives would be ruined if we didn't get help. When this person from afar found out they took care of our debt. 

Now what if we are told by this same person we are caring for (through letters), that they have more yet to come in store for us that is great beyond anything we could image, even greater than their past kind deed on our behalf. Would we choose to believe this promise of future reward based on their past act/proof alone, no matter how little the evidence we see of their love/value for us at the moment?

What could drive us to believe this promise of future reward when we are not seeing or experiencing any evidence of their love in the moment? Only if what they did for us previously was of such immense value, it is enough to prove their love for us and value of us even if they never did anything else. In fact it was so great, we are convinced (we believe) when promised, that most of what they will do is yet to come. We believe this promise because of what they already did in the past. 

Acting for God's glory (i.e. out of a desire to display his great value) is not acting because we necessarily feel like it or because we see any immediate or significant benefit from it. It can be acting in gratitude for past actions that have infinitely benefitted us. 

It can also be out of anticipation (hope) of experiencing the joy of being with this person who did these past great things knowing they eagerly await being with us. In fact that's why they did them, so we could one day be together. The joy of our anticipation is great because we value them and look forward to being with this person who did so much for us (even though we have never meet them). A future joy we are told, that is enhanced/ deepened by our faithfulness (obedience) to them in this present moment. 

We love God not only for past actions on our behalf but the promise of future reward. A reward that is enhanced by faithfulness to them based on our trust in that love they showed us in the past. The reward of being with this one that values us so infinitely they willingly experienced great loss and harm to themselves so they could be with us in the future and reunite us with their Father, who is the source of their love for us.

This is an anticipated benefit, not a present one. A gain assured to us by the promise of the giver and proven to us by their past acts of giving, not necessarily evidenced by the present experience of present gain/benefit. 

Who has loved us in this way, presently loves us and promises we are yet to see the full expression of that love in the future? Only one person, Jesus. 

When we have nothing else; no other proof of love other than these past actions and future promises, is this is enough? It is if and when we understand how greatly he values (love) us and how much he gave to prove it. Do you believe?

What about others who do not and can not love us in return? How do we treat them? 

We treat them with the same exact love Christ has shown us because he calls us to for his sake and promises us he will honor us for our sacrificial love because we seek to honor him by loving as he loves. His love is sufficient to move us to love others even when their love in return (or lack of it) is not. 

So we love Christ for what he has done and what he will do (i.e. promises to do in eternity). These alone are adequate to move us to faithfulness to him even if and when we see no immediate or present advantage in doing so.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Pleasing God

The master who said to his servants "...well done, good and faithful servant..." raises the question of when can we and do we please God and how. 

In one sense there is nothing we can do to make ourselves good (lovely/faithful) enough to be accepted by God. We simply are too broken (untrusting and suspicious of God) to ever live a life of complete, uninterrupted love and devotion to him unaided (i.e. on our own), that is equal to (does adequate justice to) who he is (all glorious and worthy of total honor) and what is properly due him (and which he also desires).

We can however, by the power and influence of God, out of his infinite love for us, made accessible by and through his unlimited grace, shed forth in our hearts by his Spirit, live for God's glory. In this way it is possible. But this is in response to God's love, not the result of self generated effort i.e. willpower.

Are our wills involved? Absolutely! We have a choice and play a vital role in how we honor and please God. But it's a choice of believing (and receiving) or not believing the completeness and fullness of God's perfect love for us.

This is not a choice to will ourselves to "do or be better"  "God, I am really sorry I blew it again. I am determined to do better next time. Just watch and see."

It is choice of how much (to what extent) do we believe and receive his love for us. How much do we understand, recognize and accept that "*it is finished" and there is nothing we will or ever can do to make it more so. It is a choice to receive and accept (bask in and even **enjoy) his love when we blow it. 

*"it" being the payment for and removal of all condemnation for our rebellious distrust; the essence of all sinful behavior.

And not only so, but the righteousness of Christ is also fully credited to us. If we are in Christ, the ***credit for His perfectly lived life of faithfulness is totally assigned to us. When God's looks at the record of faithfulness he see's the deeds of Christ listed as if they were ours. We are now looked upon by God as perfectly righteous/faithful/ moral.

As a result, God's love is now fully fixed (locked in) on us. He and it can never be removed (separated from us) or us from him (it).

Nor can his love be changed or added to, because of what Christ has already done for us. It is not based on what we do (or will do) for him i.e. it is not because we are deserving, but because Christ is. He earned this for us. 

Knowing this is vital to our being empowered to live for him, because we can only truly love because he first loved us, never the other way around. Our love for (and faithfulness to) him is dependent on his love for us first and our believing and receiving (knowing) this total love. 

We are designed to be responders to God's love, not initiators of love. God is his own cause of love, we are not. How? Why? Because that love is rooted in the eternal and infinite relationship of love between the Father, Son and Spirit. In short, we need him, he doesn't need us. 

It is vital we grasp the extent and fullness of God's love in order to be moved to love and desire (have affections for) him in return, over all other desires. The greater and fuller our understanding of this infinite love, the greater and fuller our response and the more honor and glory we bring to him.

And when we do respond (act) in this way, he is well pleased. And he is pleased not only because it brings him great honor (it put's him on display so others will be drawn to him) but also because it brings us great joy i.e. he is happy for us because he longs for our best i.e. he loves us. 

Matt 25:14-30

21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

  • For a further discussion on the difference between willpower and affections click here
  • For a discussion on the difference between God's objective and subjective love and presence click here
  • For a discussion on experiencing and participating in God's love click here.
  • For a discussion on his love being based solely on grace click here


** We enjoy the love itself. Of course we don't enjoy grieving the one who so faithfully loves us (Jesus). However when we understand nothing stops his love, not even our unfaithfulness, it moves us in greater love and a stronger desire to not grieve him (he is grieved for our sake, not his own). 

Our unfaithfulness only quenches our experience of this unending love, not the love itself. 

***isn't it ironic of how offended we get when others receive credit for what we did

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Self-worth or God's worth?

To *value ourselves is better than not valuing ourselves.

We cannot function to the maximum of our potential if we do not see ourselves as having value and bringing value to others.

However to be valued by God is not only better, but what we are truly designed for and therefore what is best and actually works.

When we understand and recognize God's value of us, we are able to function as designed, regardless of if or when others value us i.e. unlike the approval of finite creatures, God's value of us is infinite and certain (because it is not based on our performance but on Christ's). The value others have of us and our value of ourselves is not; it is fickle and inconsistent at best and therefore inadequate. Long term it is insufficient i.e. it simply doesn't work.

It is fickle and inconsistent because humanity is fickle and inconsistent; both ourselves and others.

An infinite need cannot be satisfied by a finite source (us).

We were designed to experience infinite value and be the means of bringing God's infinite value to others.

We can only be solid, stable and consistent when (and to the extent) we are anchored in him (his value of us) who is solid stable and consistent.

When we are solid stable and consistent it is only because we are anchored in him who is solid stable and consistent.

The irony is we don't experience our greatest sense of value by focusing on it, ("...self, repeat after me, I am valuable, loved important" etc.) but when we focus on the most valuable i.e. God (only he is infinitely worthy, lovely and most important etc.)

Why is this? Because, as his image bearers, we were designed to engage and participate in the worth/glory/love of God. We experience our greatest value/meaning/glory/love only when we participate in the most valuable/meaningful/glorious/loving...God. Anything less does not match up with who we are and were designed to be i.e. it simply does not work.

"The glory of God is man fully alive."- Irenaeus i.e. our experiencing God in his glory is when we come alive. 

"Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it." Jesus in Luk 17:33

"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake (i.e. to honor me) will find it." Jesus in Mat 16:24-26   

We will only truly find our lives when we lose our him i.e. when we stop seeking to find life without God is when we find real, lasting and true him. 

*I am using value as synonymous with infinitely loved, worthy, important, significant etc.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

the appeal of humility

Why is it that when we see humility in others we find it so appealing? 

No one likes someone who is arrogant and thinks they are "all that." Everyone likes someone who is humble. 

The reason? 

Because humble people treat others (us) with dignity and arrogant people do not. 

A truly (*genuinely) humble person is other (you and I) oriented not self oriented. 

We like it when others treat us as significant/important and do not when they think they are the only one in the room who is.  Nothing is more boring then someone always talking about themselves.

In truth we are all significant in the eyes of God. For someone to act as if they alone are significant is not only unappealing (or even repulsive), it's simply not true. 

The bottom line is when someone is all about self, they have no time for others (including you), unless it is to use them to advance themselves in some way. We find these kind of people boring at best and often obnoxious. 

On the other hand we are draw to truly humble people. We like them. We like it (even admire it) when someone recognizes they are who they are because of others and are focused on recognizing and/or helping others. True humility is always **other oriented and always refreshing. 

As Tim Keller likes to say, "humility isn't thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less"


*...there is also a false humility which no one likes. False humility is not humility at all but actually self pity which is also about self, but masked as humility. 

**Given this understanding tells us something very significant about God, doesn't it? Ironic when you consider most interpret God's call to recognize his glory as only being self focused, when in fact God knows the best thing for us, is our recognizing his glory