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worship

What is heaven like? Worship. Incredible worship. I hesitate to use the word “incredible,” because it can also mean “not credible.” However, the meaning has changed over time and has come to mean “amazing” or words like it. Once again, I find myself unable to use descriptive words from the English language to describe what heaven is like as well as the worship there. So, if you can find more adequate adjectives, please feel free to throw in.

I really enjoy worshiping God when I pray. I won’t detail how I do this, but my involvement in it increased dramatically when I set my mind that I was worshiping the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, the God who possesses perfect power and perfect knowledge, allows or causes all that happens in the universe and on earth, the Almighty God who suffered punishment and died for us, the only such being in the entire universe.

Recently, I “came across” this passage from Psalm 148: “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven” (Psalm 148:1–13). 1

What stood out to me as I read this was that the psalmist was actually telling these different entities to praise Yahweh.

Angels

God’s armies

Sun

Moon

Shining stars

Highest heavens

Waters above the heavens

Great sea creatures

Fire and hail

Snow and mist

Stormy wind

Mountains and hills

Fruit trees and all cedars

Beasts and all livestock

Creeping things

Flying birds

Kings, princes, and rulers

All peoples

Young men, maiden, old men, and children

I rejoiced at this. I began to include it in my praise time before the Lord. And it seemed so…right. So honoring. So powerful.

Perhaps, you may say, the psalmist was simply speaking metaphorically or was overly enthusiastic.

In Revelation 5, Jesus is the only one who was worthy to take the scroll and open it. After He took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders threw themselves to the ground before Jesus. They had harps and bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They worshiped Him. Then the angels joined in, “ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands.”

Then, this: “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” (Revelation 5:13).

Who was praising the Father and Jesus? Every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea. These creatures were talking. Or singing. I don’t know. Neither do I know how the created things in Psalm 148 praised God. Nor do I know how mountains and hills sing, or how trees and rivers clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12; Psalm 98:8).

So, Christian reader, let me encourage you to join your voice with the saints, angels, twenty-four elders and all creatures. Call upon created things to join you as you worship and worship with them—worship the most amazing Being who is possible for us to know.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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giphy

What is heaven like?

In this country, we are often told that we will be checking in with Saint Peter before we enter heaven. Not true, but we will get to meet him. How can I say that with assurance? We will have eternity to meet people there.

Next, we are told that we will be wearing wings and flying around on clouds with harps.

No, no wings. No saints sitting on clouds. But there is biblical evidence for saints playing harps in heaven (Revelation 15:2). However, winged creatures are there. Very interesting creatures. More on that in a minute. An eagle, for sure (Revelation 8:13). And the Bible does indicate animals will be there. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den” (Isaiah 11:6–8). 1 Your pets? I don’t know.

Will we enter through the “pearly gates?” This one has some truth to it. All the gates of the heavenly city of Jerusalem with be made of pearl. So, yes, if you go into the holy city, you will be going through such a gate.

So, what is heaven really like according to Scripture?

We have a little bit of biblical evidence, and what we have is really…well, what should adjective should I use here? Weird? No, that sounds like the Twilight Zone or X-Files. Other-worldly? Redundant, since it’s heaven, after all, and a word used by spooky super naturalists. I’m stumped. Perhaps you can come up with one after reading this: “At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Revelation 4:2–8).

So, what do we have here?

God the Father has the appearance of what looks like semi-precious stones, jasper and carnelian. The jasper was probably green. Carnelian is brown-red. Got that? Right. God the Father, sitting on a throne, looks somehow like beautiful rock. Have you ever thought of Him this way?

Around the throne is a green emerald rainbow.

Never seen one of those before.

Around the throne are twenty-four elders, wearing white clothes and golden crowns sitting on thrones. Who those elders are, we’re not told.

Out of the Father’s throne come flashes and lightning, with accompanying thunder.

Seven torches of fire burn before the Father’s throne. I’m thinking probably not tiki torches here.

Also before the throne was a sea, like glass and crystal.

Four creatures are on each side of the throne. They have eyes in front and back, and, well, “around and within” them. One is like a lion. One is like an ox. One has the face of a man. One is like an eagle in flight. Each has six wings. They are always praising God.

So, what adjectives shall we choose to describe this? Beautiful. Noisy. Colorful. Fear-engendering. But which descriptive words for the creatures?

Let me know.

 

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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2004-07-11_0955_FromJoeWatson

The title to this post is misleading. It’s a bit of click bait because there is no such thing as wow humility. It’s an oxymoron, right?

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salt

The metaphor of salt in Scripture has been a difficult one to wrap my brain around. Here is what I’ve learned, and I hope you have, as well.

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salt

In this week’s article, we are going to look at these two verses from Colossians 4:5–6: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”1

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salt

In last week’s post, we looked at how the Lord, through Scripture, makes a connection between salt and, for lack of a better term, eternalness. His covenant is a covenant of salt (Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5) and is thus eternal. It will not rot or decay. Jesus called for our actions to be salted, so that our deeds were truly in Him and thus eternal (Matthew 5:13-16).

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salt

Jesus talked about salt. What does salt have to do with God? Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth. What does that mean?

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P1030617A movement is underway in the United States to tear down statues that many find offensive. Without getting into the pros and cons of these events, I would like to ask but one question: Who has lived a life without committing offenses?

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fist

Jesus likes to stir up trouble.

Yes, you may say, He said He would bring a sword, not peace.

However, please allow me to make this a bit more graphic.

He likes to punch people right in the face—spiritually speaking, of course.

Let’s look at an example.

Jesus had been baptized by John, tempted in the wilderness, and then returned, doing mighty works of healing and deliverance. Luke isn’t specific about what those miracles were and wrote only, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all” (Luke 4:14–15). 1 You will find those specifics in Matthew and Mark.

In Luke, we see Him in the synagogue in Nazareth, His hometown. He stood up. He was handed a scroll of Scripture. He found Isaiah 61 (as we now refer to it) and read:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19).

Jesus then sat down and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

Was anyone angered by His bold statement? No, not at all. Entirely the opposite.

“And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’” (Luke 4:22).

I don’t know about you, but I’d be very happy at this point. And especially since I’m a pastor and have a weakness for wanting to be friends with people and avoid trouble, I would have been rejoicing. I had told the truth. I had make a bold statement about the coming of the Messiah, the year of the Lord’s favor.

But Jesus didn’t leave it there.

He said, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself. What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well’” (Luke 4:23).

I take that to mean that, since He had done mighty works elsewhere, they would expect Him to do them in Nazareth, too.

Then came the face-punching part.

“Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:24–27).

Suddenly all that happy, peaches-and-cream wonderfulness disappeared like smoke from a quenched candle. Now, these same folks wanted to murder Him.

“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away” (Luke 4:28–30).

Here’s what is odd and wonderful and beautiful about what Jesus said. Jesus did not go to the Gentiles. (He did have two encounters that were outside that boundary. One was with a half-Jew, a Samaritan woman, and the other with a Canaanite woman in the area of Tyre and Sidon. But clearly, reaching out to Gentiles was not His mission. He even told His disciples not to do that.) So, He was talking about something that would not occur until after His ascension; and even then, not immediately afterwards. (The first time the gospel was preached to the Gentiles was in Acts 10.) However, He linked that going-to-the-Gentiles ministry to the coming of the Messiah, to the arrival of the year of the Lord’s favor, liberty to the captives and liberty to the oppressed (The Jews thought this was for them alone.). This was unacceptable. This was traitorous. This was worthy of death.

But Jesus said it, right out of the blue, right out there in the open—straight, blunt truth. He didn’t have to do this. He could have kept it rainbows and fluffy clouds.

He did not.

This is our Savior.

Welcome to life with God.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2007-11-22_1729-47

Well, woe is me.

Or maybe not.

Apparently, I don’t belong within any traditional church denominational-organizational-thing anymore. What’s a bit weird is that, looking back, I never did.

I just didn’t know it.

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