Posts Tagged ‘vision’

If you thought the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton was a extravagant affair, just wait until the next royal or papal coronation. I reviewed the YouTube footage of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953: thousands and thousands and tens of thousands . . .

Revelation 5:11, 13
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. . . . Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To [the one] who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

This is the picture I imagine as John describes his vision of the throne, the lamb, the living creatures, the elders, and the angels, all singing, all joining voices in adulation. For John to be able to describe this picture, he is somehow separate from it, like a television camera. He is not in the event nor part of the event. He is an observer, a witness of a unique sort, a reporter.

Here in the United States, it is outside our ken. We have well attended inaugurations and there is a type of pomp but nothing on the order of Great Britain’s royalty. And now, with modern television, the numbers who are watching have multiplied exponentially. It is as though the the entire earth can witness these events.

This “heavenly” coronation image is the only way John can wrap his mind around and give image or voice to the importance of the moment. The Christ, who entered human form and by God-given power, was able to propitiate (satisfy or atone) for a previously made agreement or covenant that Human made with God and then broke.

This is not the stuff of soccer and Facebook, football and Miss America. This has to do with the fabric of creation outside of our three-dimensional sensibilities.

John did the best he could with what he knew.

In today’s world, we have other visionaries and artists who try to imagine or conceptualize this non-dimensional place or rather, an actuality. But we fall short. Instead, we have our own versions of celebrations and weddings and coronations in an attempt to capture the importance and wonder of a vow, a promise, a covenant, a new identity, a new responsibility.

Why do we have ceremony? Why do you? What is the message?

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M.C. Escher

We see every day with our eyes. And we interpret. But how much do we really understand about what we see? How much is true and pure and how much is affected by our past experiences, our former seeings, our expectations?

Revelation 4:6-7
And in front of the throne there was also what looked like a transparent glassy sea, as if of crystal. And around the throne, in the center at each side of the throne, were four living creatures (beings) who were full of eyes in front and behind [with intelligence as to what is before and at the rear of them]. The first living creature (being) was like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature had the face of a man, and the fourth living creature [was] like a flying eagle.
[Amplified] [emphases mine]

Some years ago, I was the victim of a theft at an ATM. Although it was terrifying, my first instinct was to give chase (too many television shows?). In the end, the purse snatcher realized I had the wallet under my arm and the bag was rendered useless. He stopped and tossed it back to me. Later, I sat on a short brick wall, nursing my scraped knee and listening to the various witnesses who “saw” what happened. Not one of us could agree on the clothing, the race, the height, the weight or anything else of the thief. We each saw and yet didn’t see at all.

In Revelation, John is in a spiritual trance of some kind and has visions. He is describing to us what he sees as best he can with an understanding born of his era. I cannot help but wonder how I would describe the same scene. Would the beings look “like” animals or something else? Would the images become a movie set? Would my love for fantasy enhance and exaggerate my imagination? Would my love for science fiction give me Star Trek interpretations?

How many miscommunications do we have every day? How many times do we misinterpret what we see in a gesture or a facial expression?

The other day, I was looking at a newspaper photograph and it actually took me a full thirty seconds to see the picture and understand its content. It was in a group of “art” photos and so I must have assumed it was something with deep meaning and ethereal intentions. Finally, my mind collected itself, and I realized I was looking at a ballet dancer’s shoe on point. That’s all. Why couldn’t my mind understand this image initially? Was it truly a “senior moment?” Is this how people who have suffered strokes experience the world? Inside, we know it’s something familiar but we cannot seem to process it.

I believe we are all doing this through the day: many assumptions, many judgments.

It’s one of the reasons people struggle with modern and post-modern art. Their minds are trying to “understand” what they are seeing. They want a label. Instead, I think these artists are calling us to simply see without words, to allow colors and shapes and densities to open up new synapses.

by J. Albers

I am just about sick to death of the phrase, “out of the box” thinking. Most people can’t “think” or “see” out of a box because those things defy easy description or understanding. Creativity demands a certain amount of sustained chaos.

The things of God, of Spirit, are no different. There is no single interpretation or understanding. God is fluid. Faith is a moving target. The Holy Spirit is outside of time. And the images that John saw in Revelation were his way of describing a vision, a vision of adoration and worship.

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Art by Catherine Andrews

The implication then is this: if the Christ appeared in a more perfect tabernacle not of “this” creation, there must be other creations. Hmm. The psalmists write, Selah, “pause and calmly think of that.”

Hebrews 9:11
But [that appointed time came] when Christ (the Messiah) appeared as a High Priest of the better things that have come and are to come. [Then] through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with [human] hands, that is, not a part of this material creation . . .

Are there other clear references to another creation? I mean, it isn’t necessarily heaven designated in this passage from Hebrews, it could be anywhere. It seems a bit “woohoo” and “new agey,” right? In fact, I find it totally other-worldly, Star Trekian, multi-dimensional, and clearly, we’re “not in Kansas anymore.” We’re outside our human understanding. We don’t know about this other creation(s).

I understand, some commentators still believe the “perfect tabernacle” is in heaven because the human tabernacle was intended to mirror or replicate some heavenly place. But I think that’s simplifying the Spirit realm of God. It’s anthropomorphizing what we don’t understand and trying to put it into human terms.

It’s a similar situation with all the prophets who were given extraordinary visions of things outside their ken such as animals covered with eyes and wings in Revelation or Ezekial’s animals with four faces.

When my children were little, my husband and I liked to have fun with the various holiday characters such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, etc. We always told them these characters existed in a different dimension. As the kids got older and realized how unbelievable it was that Santa could fly across the world in a single night and deposit gifts in each and every house, we reiterated: different dimension–anything can happen. Of course, our story is not as creative as C. S. Lewis and his world of Narnia, but ultimately, we share the same idea, once anyone goes through a “portal,” things are very different “there” (wherever there is).

The world and words of the Spirit realm are best depicted through the arts I think. Music, visual art, performance art, dance, film, scent, poetry: these are some of the better expressions of God’s kingdom or sphere or neighborhood.

What the Messiah did for Human is not really fathomable in our limited cosmos. One sacrifice for all? One outpouring of blood covers all sins from the beginning to the end of time? Perfection in human form? Covenants, promises, reconciliation, restoration, renewal, all of these possible by the act of one offering? Absurd, right?

Nope. It’s the link between our creation and all the other ones. The ultimate portal. Not science fiction or fantasy, but God business. And the stuff of dreams, imagination, love, resurrection, and transfiguration.

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Why did Timothy weep? Perhaps from lack of confidence, perhaps from loneliness or overwhelming difficulties in his ministry. I wonder, outside of Paul, who knew? Who held the tears of this young leader? Who holds the hearts of our youthful leaders today?

II Timothy 1:3-4
I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.

When young men (and women) charge into the world, they carry the energy and enthusiasm for ten, particularly when they are fueled by a passion for God and faith in Christ’s real presence. But, not every day is a red letter day and not every day is hopeful. And when they stumble, they fall hard, suddenly overwhelmed by the sheer size of their dreams.

In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams. [Acts 2:17]

And so, it is up to us older ones to remember and to encourage. It is up to us to maintain a stream of prayer and shafts of light. Sometimes, there is room for counsel, but I think that aspect is overblown. The young see the world with different eyes.

Our world is changing so quickly. What worked thirty years ago has no reason to succeed today. We must let go and give the young plenty of space for trials as well as errors. And through it all, we too can learn.

In this way, I think of our new young leader and our fledgling church. He carries power and ideas and knowledge. He is a visionary and a dreamer. He is kind and sensitive to the poor. He is one who saw the other side of life and turned around. But, I am sure, there are tears as well. There are disappointments and there are boulders in the path. And just as there will be more joy, there will be more pain.

And so, like Paul, I give him encouragement through my prayers, trusting in God to reveal the way.

Who is a Tmothy in your own world? Perhaps a son, a nephew, a daughter, a cousin, a neighbor. We have an obligation to them, to collect their tears.

“You number and record my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle–are they not in Your book?” [Psalm 56:8, Amplified]

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If we just call it a “sect” or a “faction” or even a “cult,” we can marginalize everyone within that group. These labels already carry negative connotations without anyone needing to know any actual beliefs or doctrines. It’s a technique for categorizing the world and justifying our actions.

Acts 24:5-6
We [Sanhedrin] have found this man [Paul] to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him.
[Tertullus, the lawyer, speaking against Paul to Felix, the Governor, in Caesarea]

I have always been intrigued by labels. It’s something that humans do automatically. It’s how we “understand” what we are seeing or hearing. We look at an object and our brain identifies it as a chair or an animal or a tree. And then there are the sub-categories like particular designs of chairs or specific animals or breeds or types of trees. We do this with people too. They are categorized by how they look by skin color, body part shapes, hair color or texture, size, etc. People are also sorted by their sex, clothing, their neighborhood, their country, their language, and their incomes. And of course, they are classified by their associations, whether religious or secular.

But how do we understand or embrace something or someone new? How do we recognize it? If that thing or person does not fit into any of the normal designations, then what is it? Who is it?

I always thought the ancient prophets, whose writings and prophecies are peppered throughout the scriptures, were beleaguered with this categorization problem. They were seeing visions of a future they could not know. How would a primitive person describe an airplane, a rocket, or a space ship? How would they describe an atomic explosion? Are we any better at explaining or understanding miracles?

We use our limited understanding, our own frames of reference. We shove the unfamiliar into the closest or most familiar box. If there is no shape we recognize, we give it shape. We name it.

Jesus was outside the box. He was doing and saying things that made no sense to most of the people he encountered. Paul wasn’t much better.

Christianity of today evolved its own norms. It has taken the recorded words of Jesus and scrutinized, categorized, dissected and analyzed them to the extreme. And yet, when folks start pulling at the edges of Christianity, there is no less resistance than there was in Jesus’s day. We are still afraid of being deluded, of believing a lie, of breaking the law.

But God does not need us to “protect” the truth. God knows the heart.

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Why can’t I remember to ask this question before I hurdle into action after my own great idea or solution? Answer: Because I don’t want to hear another answer…. or worse, I can’t really hear God’s answer. So, I cover uncertainty with bravado and a battle cry, “This way! Follow me.”

Acts 22:10
And I [Paul] asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” And the Lord answered me, “Get up and go into Damascus, and there it will be told you all that it is destined and appointed for you to do.” [Amplified]

Paul was knocked off his horse by a bright light and a voice who identified himself as Jesus of Nazareth, the very person Paul had hated and whose followers he was persecuting, jailing and condemning to death. And yet, Paul had the guts to ask, “What I shall I do?” (I think there was an unspoken “now” at the end of that question). Paul probably expected he would be killed for his massacre of Jesus’s followers. Blinded by the light, Paul arrived in Damascus and did not eat or drink for three days. [Acts 9:9] He was at the Lord’s mercy.

But God did the opposite of what anyone would have expected. Paul was anointed instead, to be a witness to the reality of Jesus as the Messiah and eventually that witness was predominately directed to the gentiles, the most despised people group by the Jews.

Paul didn’t really know he’d end up with the gentiles. When he started telling his story, he taught among his own people. He went to the synagogues and Jewish prayer places. But when his witness was rejected there, he turned to the other people who embraced his message. His ministry evolved and he allowed it to evolve.

God is full of grace and mercy. He doesn’t drag us along kicking and screaming.

Jeff, my old friend, and I used to always joke that we would “never” go to Africa or anywhere else where poverty and hardships were the norm. No way. We liked our creature comforts far too much. In fact, whenever people started talking about their fabulous experiences in various third world countries or impoverished areas, we would look at each other, pretend to wave a flag, and hum the “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

But, what happened? Jeff ended up in the ghetto of London ministering to the homeless and prostitutes for over a year and my family ended up working with two orphanages in Namibia and Zambia in Africa. And all was done with a joyful heart. It all happened at the right time and the right place.

This is the message for me today: my job is to ask. God honors the asking. God is a good communicator. If I honestly want to hear … if I am willing to hear… then God’s “voice” is clear.

Something is evolving. I can feel it in my heart but I don’t know what it might be. I can only ask: “Oh God, what shall I do now?”

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Really, aren’t there a lot of things that any one of us would do if we knew we would be safe?

Acts 18:9a
And one night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Have no fear… ”

Paul stayed in Corinth over a year and a half because of his vision. He held onto the promise of safety and moved forward with it. He had total confidence in God and in the words he heard spoken in the night.

I base so many of my choices on the fear/safety ratio, and not just physical harm but emotional harm as well. Will I be embarrassed? Will I fail? Will there be someone here who is smarter, stronger, quicker than me? Will I be exposed? Are there people here who look like they might hurt me? Is this place too dark… too loud… too chaotic? Is this situation similar to another situation where I was hurt before? Is there too much change? Is this happening differently than I expected? What if … what if… what if…?

Of course, there are times that everyone should be vigilant. I am not suggesting that we should walk blindly into truly dangerous circumstances or situations without wisdom and common sense. And yet, is it possible that we judge the level of danger too quickly? Is it possible we allow fear to drive us away from someone or something important?

Hundreds of times, scripture tells us not to be afraid, that God is with us. Isn’t this where confidence starts?

What is stronger…. my fear or my trust in God’s safety promise?

Lots of questions today. The key to all of the answers is our confidence in God… “If God is for us, who can be against us?” [Romans 8:31] That means all of my circumstances are in God’s hands… the ones that feel or seem dangerous as well as those that are completely benign.

It is my interpretation of people, places and things that gives them power to make me feel unsafe. If I put all things through the filter of the Holy Spirit, the picture changes. I can actually choose to feel safe.

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