My Everything Forever

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“It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, ’The LORD is there.’” Ezekiel 48:35

 
David shared about God’s glory in Psalm 19: 1-4, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them has He set a tabernacle for the sun…” So since the time of creation, God’s glory has been present. Paul reiterates this in Romans 1:20, “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” What were they without excuse about? How about not becoming personally involved with that eternal power and divine nature?  Could God’s demonstration through all of creation be more than just a demonstration? Could it be a demonstration for the purpose of invitation? Could it be a calling back into His presence, into the place where man and woman were created to live all along?

 
Beyond manifesting Himself through nature, God has chosen to manifest Himself directly to His people in many ways. In redeeming His people from Israel He was there as a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. The Shekinah glory cloud showed His “presence, provision, protection, and guidance” Also associated with the Shekinah cloud is the Angel of God. In Numbers 14:13,14 we see the pillar of cloud there to comfort Israel and to stand in the way of her enemies. The pillar, or presence of God moved with the people.

If we jump to Moses we have God manifesting His presence in the burning bush. Again He manifests His presence and provision in the giving of manna, the bread from heaven. And there He is again, with Moses, giving the Law at Sinai with His fingers in stone. And tell me that wasn’t for the benefit of His people to understand how much He is with them.  I mean, does God even really need fingers like we have to write with?  Yet, He chooses to manifest Himself in ways that we can understand even though He is beyond understanding. Imagine, there He was, on Mt. Sinai, manifesting Himself as a consuming fire and the fear the people felt did not drive them to awe but they turned shortly thereafter to a golden calf instead.

Solomon new that the temple was there as a place for God to meet His people and yet how could a temple hold His awesomeness? “Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27) That does not negate God’s presence but it makes us appreciate that He is present for us all the more.

God manifested Himself through and to Elijah, Elisha, David, Jacob, Abram. He manifested Himself to the children of Israel and to the Egyptians. He manifested Himself before other attacking nations.

Now, He manifests Himself through us as we let our “light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) We are living sacrifices according to Paul. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and we are no longer our own. Why? We have been bought with a price. The price of the sacrifice of Christ for us. So it is only right and makes sense that we should glorify God in our body with all that we are. After all, I owe my whole life to Him. Today, God is here in individual believers. And individual believers are members of the body of Christ which is the church. Are we living as though God is here in us? And are we living as though we are truly members dependent upon the other members of the body of Christ? Or do we, like the mixed multitude, see the glory of God and walk another direction and worship toward another?

The great news is that there is coming a day when the glory of God will be fully manifested. He will be there forever and ever. Because God made an unconditional covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He will never break His covenant. Haggai 2:9 tells us “’The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” And what makes this time more glorious? The King of kings is returning to defeat His enemies and take His throne! The Lord will be there with His people forever! Revelation 3:21-22 promises, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The Shekinah will return. The glory of God will be present with us. There will be rejoicing and shouts of joy. There will be encouragement for the exhausted, strength for the feeble, courage for the fearful, and salvation for the helpless.

When I was a little girl and started hearing about Jesus, all I could do was think about Him. All I wanted more than anything was to be with Him. I thought to do that I would have to go back in time or God would have to let my mom give birth to Jesus again. Neither one of those was the way. And it wasn’t until I was about 15 years old that I learned that I could walk with Jesus in my life now by surrendering my life to Him and trusting Him as my Lord and as my Saviour. His presence is not just a literary fact that I hang on to. His presence is manifested in my life. There are times when you can strongly feel His presence. There is the touch of God on the person inside as He changes me. There are times He intervenes on my behalf. There are times He is silent and makes me learn to wait and trust and love Him more than my answer to prayer. But still, there is something even more special about this day in the future when Jehovah Shama becomes the name of His great city. In that day when we can say, “The Lord is here!” it will be like walking with Jesus here on earth again, only far more amazing because Jesus will be acknowledged as Lord. For a millennium we will see what life ought to be like in His presence here on earth. We, all people at that time, will get to live life in the midst of His peace and presence.

Do you know why? It’s because God is faithful even when we are not. God made a covenant of peace with His people, an everlasting covenant way back in what we call the Old Testament. His people have broken that covenant. But God is not a covenant breaker. He is and always will hold true to His promises. And He promised to place His people and multiply them, and set His sanctuary in their midst forever. And He has said that He will be with His people, and He will be their God, and they will be His people. And it doesn’t stop there! Even the nations, the Gentiles like most of us, will know that He is the Lord and that He sets us apart from the “profane” or ordinary and makes us holy. And when He is in our midst we will know the difference between ordinary and holy because it’s not just about a temple being in the middle of our society, it’s about God being in the midst of our hearts forever. This is the joy and promise of the Millennium; a time on earth of knowing God, of living in His presence.

 
This word in Ezekiel actually came at a time when the Lord was not there. His Shekinah, His presence had left Israel because of their continued rejection of Him. Judah would receive judgement and then the nations around them would receive judgement. This message was to give Israel hope that they could return to God and He would restore them to Him again. But here is the problem. Do we believe and trust God by acting in faith? Or do we reject His promises and search out our own restoration our own way?
I think of Jonah who didn’t want restoration for Ninevah God’s way. So he tried to run from it and from God. But where can you hide from God? Psalm 139:7-12 reminds us, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”

When I was little, I thought that God was far away, but God tells Jeremiah, “‘Am I a God who is near,’ declares the Lord, ‘And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?’ declares the Lord, ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord.” Yes, He is a God who is near and far at the same time. He encompasses the whole universe and more and yet, He knows the intimacies of my heart. He knows not only that Adam and Eve have run to hide, but He knows their most intimate thoughts and reasonings.

One of the names for Jesus is Emmanuel, meaning, God with us. This is not an afterthought or because there was an oops moment when God realized that maybe the tree of knowledge wasn’t a good idea because now man has sinned and we need another plan. This, God with us, has been God’s plan and way from the beginning. It’s the reason God gave Adam and Eve a choice. Think about it. God never had to choose to be with us. He created us. We could be puppets. Yet He chose to relate with us, to interact with us, to love us and to know us and to be known by us. Now it’s up to us, each of us, and all of us, to reciprocate that privilege. It’s up to me to know my Maker. But I must choose to know Him. God’s promise is that all the earth will be filled with His glory because His desire is that all would know Him.

It makes sense to know the One who created me and who loves me most. Paul reiterated that, that it makes sense “that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we are His children.’” (Acts 17:27-28) After all, He is the I AM THAT I AM, the Self-Existent One. There is no one else like God. Who else should we grasp on to?

 
There are lots of broken hearted people in the world today. Sin is like that. It breaks hearts and lives. But Jesus came to save and heal the brokenhearted. David reminded us in Psalm 34:18 that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Isaiah shared God’s heart in chapter 57 verse 15, “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” He is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. (Psalm 145:18)

 
You know, Moses was a smart man. He was smart because he wouldn’t take a step without knowing God was present with him. Listen to his own words, “Then he said to Him, ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favour in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?’” (Exodus 33:15-16) Didn’t God honour that attitude with His presence? Didn’t God take Moses and the people through the waters and stay with them? Didn’t He keep the rivers from overflowing on them? Did He keep the flames from scorching and burning Shardrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Wasn’t He in their midst? Wasn’t He their warrior? Do You know that He rejoices over His people?
Paul shares in 1 Corinthians 14 about the reaction of someone coming under conviction of God’s Spirit. Now understand that you can’t come under conviction of God’s Spirit without His Spirit being present, right?

 

So what happens when we realizefaith the presence of God’s Spirit working in us? The secrets of our heart are disclosed, we fall on our face and worship God, knowing and declaring that He IS HERE among us. Jesus taught us to teach each other to follow and obey God’s commands and that He would be with us always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20) It’s not a light thing that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:16 tells us that as believers we are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us. The temple was designed by God as a place where He would make His presence known with His people. That ought to effect my life, shouldn’t it? John 14:18 tells us that Jesus will not leave us as orphans but will come unto us. Paul in Ephesians 2:22 reminds us that we are being continually built together into a dwelling place of the Spirit of God. How closely present is that! Yes, Jesus wants to be present not just with us, but in us. John reminds us in 1 John 3:24, “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” Yes, God’s presence is a reality. It’s a glorious reality!

But here’s the thing. I can choose to live in the glorious reality of His presence by following Him and following His ways and living in them. Or I can choose to deny this glorious reality of His presence by living my own way. My choice to deny His presence won’t change His glory but it will change my ability to show forth His glory in and by my life. And it will mean that instead of experiencing the presence of the Lord in my life, I will experience his absence, but that is not by His choice. His choice is that each one of us would know Him and live and walk in His presence. And some day, God knows when, there will be a day when all the people on the face of the earth will know and experience and walk in His presence. And you would think that everyone would think that the most awesome experience ever and that no one would want to turn back to our old ways or our own selfish ways. But you know, the millennium only lasts for that, a millennium. And when the end of the millennium comes, do you realize there will still be people, who even after living in a millennium of perfect peace in the presence of God Himself, they won’t be satisfied and they will rise up against God one more time? Well, I want to so enjoy and thrive on the presence of God even now, that nothing else, ever, would satisfy me or draw me away. I want to know You God for who You are, all of You, so that nothing else compares to You. I want to be so taken and overwhelmed by You that You are my everything forever. Guide me that closely in You, Lord, until You alone are my Everything even today until forever.

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The Millennial Treasure

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Photo credit to Evangelical Focus, an article by Will Graham.

 

“Thus says the Lord God; ‘If the prince gives a gift unto any of his sons, the inheritance thereof shall be his sons’; it shall be their possession by inheritance.’” Ezekiel 46:16

 
A millennium with Jesus, wouldn’t that be an awesome thing? Now I’ve seen some disagreement over whether this prince of Ezekiel’s vision is Jesus or not, but the Jewish rabbis looked to this prince as the Messiah. On the other hand, there is disagreement through commentaries upon whether this prince is Jesus or an appointed prince by God among the people. Frankly, I’m not an official Bible scholar, so I don’t know for sure, but when I read this, it sure makes me think of Him.

 
I wouldn’t have a problem with this being Jesus as the prince, after all, He is the Prince of Peace and He is the One who can atone for our sins. I’m just wondering why God would have anyone else approach the Holy of Holies now that the veil was torn through Jesus. What greater picture for all mankind at the time than to see Jesus standing in the place for us right before our very eyes?

 
But sacrifices? All that ritual? Why would Jesus die only to re-institute the sacrifices and rituals again? What purpose would that serve? What about a visual reminder? It seems to me that we as people need more reminders than we like to admit. And our reminders need to be pretty strong and visual. It’s not like a light nudge is often enough. Often, don’t we find that we need the cold water thrown on our faces to wake us up? Well, I don’t really look at these sacrifices as being cold water unpleasant. Let me explain.

 
What if the ritual and sacrifice we see in the Old Testament, that here God is saying He will re-institute in the millennium, isn’t about ritual experience? What if it never was about following ritual and obeying because you had to obey or else? What if walking through these rituals and walking through these sacrifices was always about understanding our relationship to God in different ways? What if it was about understanding different pieces of God, so to say? What if every step of obedience was supposed to be a step of love and adoration? What if understanding the reasons behind the ceremonies and celebrations and offerings was to understand more of our relationship with God and His relationship with us? Could there be a reason that God said these would be perpetual celebrations and perpetual offerings? Could they always have been intended as more than ritual and more than just commanded obedience? Is there more to this than meets our eyes?

 
Why can’t Jesus enter the East gate and offer up sacrifices for us? Wasn’t Jesus just as holy and just as much Jesus when He came to earth? Didn’t He obey all that God required of “Temple worship” and walking with others and submitting to authority then? If it wasn’t wrong for Jesus to participate then as an example before us of how we are to participate in the life that God has called us to, then why wouldn’t it be right for Him to continue to exemplify all things God for us, all things life for us?

 
Why are we so afraid of sacrifice and God’s ordained feasts and festivals and commandments? Is it because we really don’t understand them? What if they weren’t so foreign? What if it was all more about uncovering God like a glorious Treasure than following a ritual? What if participation was participation with God?

 
I can get stuck in the rut of ritual whether I am Jewish or Christian or any other religion or even not of any religion. That’s called a habit. But this isn’t about ritual and never was from God’s perspective. It’s always been about relationship. Abram didn’t follow after ritual. He followed a God whose voice he heard and who showed Himself on his behalf. He obeyed because He found a Treasure worth selling his whole life for! Moses would have followed ritual for sure at first. But God stripped him of that thinking. God brought Moses to the point where God was his Treasure, where the reality of life was the God of the burning bush. Moses became a man after God’s own heart, so humble, which was the total opposite of the Moses leaving Egypt.

 
I’ll skip ahead to the New Testament and look at Paul. Paul was a man of devout ritual. That wasn’t God’s choice. I know it wasn’t God’s choice because God confronted him about it. “Why do you kick against the goads?” And once Paul’s relationship with God changed through Jesus, the Treasure of worship in all the affairs of the Temple and Scripture opened anew to him and he was able to invite others, both Jew and Gentile, into the beauty of that Treasure! I must not forget that those first Gentile converts worshipped along with the Jews, not separate from them. Oh, the beauty of what was opened to their eyes! Even if it was only in part, the measure of the new understanding and beauty of God would be wonderful.

 
So, who are the sons of the prince? What if they are the children of God? What is the inheritance of the children of God? Isn’t the most precious inheritance to know God and be known by Him? Isn’t God through Jesus Christ our Treasure? I’m not sure what else there is to focus on. I mean, if you ask me, heaven isn’t as grand a treasure as God because heaven, without God, would be nothing but hell. Maybe if my real focus in life was the inheritance of God, you know, believing and acting as though God was my only treasure, then maybe I’d act a lot differently as I walked through this life. Maybe some things wouldn’t be so important any more. And maybe other things would be more important than ever.

 
But I do know this one thing, if there is a desire in my heart to spend a millennium with Jesus, I ought to start living in my inheritance now. I ought to start rejoicing in everything that represents the Treasure of my God every day because if I’m in Him, my inheritance in Him has already begun. I don’t get to be lazy. Because there will come a day, during that millennium when there will be people who turn from the Prince because He never was their Treasure and there will come a time when the Treasure passes judgement. And only those who know the Treasure will inherit the Treasure Himself. There is only one gift and the Gift is God Himself through Jesus Christ. I don’t ever want to ignore You.