Glory

We look among the faded tatters for glory. But why does the true glory escape us.

We know a human life could be glorious yet why do we always discover a fatal flaw? So we idealize. We build pedestals and place something high. But we know it is our imagination.

Why the idol? Why this statue? We demand meaning! But we know we are making it up. We read and hope to find meaning. We listen. We look. We are always ready to stick a stake in the ground and say, “Here is meaning.” But it is only a grave marker. Read this poem. Listen to the song. Hear this orator speak. Consider this artwork. Look at that building with its majestic lines. That bridge is so much more.

That statue in the museum traces the beauty of the human shape.

All shadows. All former glory. All that is left are hints. Indications. We gaze at the ruins of humanity and imagine its greatness. Yet, we can’t look too close or we see how it is not what it was or what it could be.

Isn’t that where we look best? Former greatness. The ruins of a civilization. As we look closer, we find human sacrifice. We find falseness. The golden statue is a thin shell full of sawdust. The soaring tower was used to hold men captive. The cellar is filled with bones and rags.

The throne is dusty. The former greatness is gone. The halls are empty. The paintings faded. The glory is gone.

What happened to us? Why are we disappointed as we examine things closely? And the disappointment sinks slowly into despair.

The canvas of human history has been painted on over and over. This time we will get it right. We will promote goodness. We will learn from past mistakes. But something trips us up once again.

What is that which keeps us from glory? We desire to see it. To feel it. We know it is there, just beyond our grasp.

And we are right. The glory of man is our destiny. But we are in our own way. The ego opposes the conscience. Yes, the outsized ‘me’ is against the ‘you’ that desires glory. We can’t grasp glory because to touch it is to foul it beyond recognition.

And for this very reason, our glory, which we are meant to have, has been moved. Our hands must be washed before we can handle our glory. Our glorification awaits us. Maybe it can’t be found here. Can we follow the traces? Can we find the beginning by starting at our end. Will knowing the beginning help us?

The European watched the Nile flow into the ocean. He wondered where the magnificent river began its journey to this sea. He enlisted others in the search. Yet, each try ended in failure. One man succeeded. He wasn’t even trying. He began at a lake unknown by the Europeans. He started at the source.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Beyond Good and Evil

We had a chance to choose between two. One was ‘knowing good and evil’. Nowhere was it said, we would have the power to choose good over evil. Cain, the firstborn, did not do so. More and more bad choices made for a world full of people who violently solved their issues with each other. Now ask why a flood washed the earth clean of all people except eight.

Noah kicked off the new try by getting rather drunk. But if anyone deserved a beer, it was Noah. Nevertheless, nothing in human nature had been changed. How is it God allows people to do as they please?

This question was answered with a terrible thing where Jesus was killed without mercy by us. I include myself in the crowd yelling ‘crucify him’. Or did you hammer a nail? Or did you pass by and mock him as he died.

But let us move on. Past the gravesite. Into the new age. It is a new age, you know. The Law and the Prophets are over. The time of relying on a sense of right and wrong is over. We can and should move beyond ‘good and evil’. That’s right.

The other choice was and is and always will be: Life. It’s not a tree now. The hand that reaches out for Life is not physical but still very real. Jesus said, “I am The Life”. The choosing is continuous.

Can we embrace a new way of thinking? Can we employ a new sense of Life over Death? What? You don’t have that power? Why not? Didn’t Jesus use his strange method to make all good available to you and me? Didn’t God pour out his Holy Spirit on all people? Yes, I’m pretty sure he did.

No excuses for either of us. We have what Peter and Paul talked about in their different manners. The old deal is off the table. The new deal is the regeneration of the spirit inside a person. Death gives way to Life inside. But again we choose between Life and death. The old method of choosing good over evil never worked. It was a method of holding together a society that would allow each one to do their own choosing, that’s all.

The Tree of Life is not on earth. The choice was always choosing Jesus. We just didn’t know his name. Now we do.

The new way is open. We will be unable to explain why we didn’t follow him. Let us follow him to glory. Yes, that is what God wants for you and me. He wants to glorify you. New body included. Never able to die. Kinda like angels but not.

Choose now. Keep choosing. Make mistakes. Accept correction. Get back up. Walk on. Keep following. Look at him. Ask him stuff. Ask him for stuff you need. Do it like he did it. Right now. In this moment that will last forever.

Forget This

For this exercise, let’s forget everything about Jesus except one things…thing*.

Jesus is innocent of anything that could deserve the Roman penalty of death. Pilate said so. Not that we use him as our source of truth, but (pause) he was the guy in charge, Romanwise.

Who killed Jesus? The promoters were local leaders who did not like him. Fine. Hate him. But kill him? They did not have the authority to do it. Enter Pilate. They need his approval. Pilate allows it. Then we have the soldiers who carry it out.

Let us look closely at these three kinds of people. Religious. These guys condemn him to death. The verdict is unjust on its face. The method is sneaky. But they are not satisfied with an unjust verdict, They work hard to carry it out. They coerce the governor into approval! They threaten him with another riot. He cannot bear another event in his jurisdiction that would surely get back to Rome. Rome does not fire governors. They execute them.

This puts Pilate almost in a him or me situation. He folds. But the raw hatred of the ones who demand his death is what we are looking it here. Do they go home and consider it a good days work? Why do they hate him? Easy one. He threatens their world. He is undermining their authority. They are threatened directly by him. So, for love of their existing power, they engineer his death.

Back to Pilate. He saw a threat and found a way to sleep easily that night. My job remains secure, he thinks.

Last, we look at ordinary guys, Roman soldiers. They collect their pay. They also are not just fired. They lose everything if they do not do as told. They are told to kill Jesus using the Roman method. But it is worse than that. They seem to enjoy their grisly work. This guy was important just last week. Now he dies. Hammer that nail. Hoist this cross.

Now, where are you in this picture. You can only pick one. Do you have religious power? Do you have political power? Are you a working person? If you don’t work, where did your money come from? Successful business? Investment? You have money based on a structure that pays out money you need.

You and I are these people. We are there in that very moment. We are people who rely on a system that gives us power and money. But there is more. They thought about their position in the system and decided to go ahead with an execution. It was for their own benefit.

Now we look at the heart of each one. Do we see any hope? Do we see any thought of justice? Or a thought of right and wrong? We do not. This is the effect of our disconnect with goodness. The opposite of goodness is self-interest over all else. An agreement with others around us that our interests come first. And this very fundamental state is common. It can be called several things including sin. The state of a person without continuous reference to God is called sin.

Can anything be done to change this state that results in a heart hard enough to help kill an innocent? Yes, but it may be good to see where we are on the road to a stone-cold heart. Yes, you will arrive at that state You may have already done so. An abortion planned by a guy and a girl would qualify. Have you said a leader that you don’t like should die? That qualifies. Have you cut off a relationship that does not serve you? Again, the beginning of a plan to rid yourself of a person you hate. Cain killed his brother because he was an annoyance to him. Killed him dead.

How can you become good? How can you rid yourself of evil thoughts? Any thought that is unkind toward another person is a step on the way down. I’m including myself as I write this. The answer is: you can’t; I can’t. Go ahead and try. Try as hard as you like and see if I am right. You will eventually agree with me. You cannot attain to inward goodness. But there is a cure. Follow him who showed us what sin does to people.

The marker in time is the killing of Jesus. It is also the event that led to change in the human heart for many. How? Don’t know. Faith? Foolish trust in God? Believing the one who came back from the dead? Call it whatever. You reach out into the invisible and will find one who touches you back. You can connect. Forever.

All Power

All power has been given to me, in heaven and in earth…

Jesus speaks these words before he leaves. He has done all he came to do. Why does he say this? He has done what no man has ever done. He has lived his whole life pleasing his Father, God. He was never far from men. He was waiting in the wings for his coming in the flesh. Now all power is given to a man: The Son of Man.

And what does he do at this moment? He gives his work to men. He sends them into the world to do his work: teach men, baptize those who believe and preach the kingdom of God. This is what he does with his power. He does not use it to revenge himself on his enemies. He does not ask for monuments to be built in his honor. He gives power to men to make disciples.

This is the work of God: to arrest minds in their thought, to convert, yes, to change men with words, his words. Tell them what I told you. I will be with you. How? By the Spirit, I will be with each one of you. And now we have the Spirit of God, the promise of the Father. To them he gave power to become the sons of God even to them who believe on his name.

Measure

​He measures us and makes his divinity fit our souls, and our souls are able to take the measure of him because he created us in his image and made us worthy. He alone is complete and can fulfill our every longing. God’s grace restores our souls and teaches us how to comprehend him through love. He is incomprehensible to the intellect. Nobody’s mind is powerful enough to grasp who God is. We can only know him by experiencing his love. 

Enoch – God Finds a Friend

Adam was the first man. Enoch came a few generations later. Enoch has a very short biography. He seems rather ordinary until he has a son. We can put his whole story right here:

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 

After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 

Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

This is a short biography. And each line is important.

 His son is Methuselah. Maybe you heard of him. “As old as Methuselah.” But when Methuselah is born, things change for Enoch. This event was when Enoch became God’s first friend. Enoch walked with God. He continued to do this for 300 years. It becomes the characteristic of his life. 

Enoch is the first man who had a good, continuous relationship with God. After 300 years, Enoch disappears. He’s gone. He didn’t die. God took him. God liked this guy.

Why are we given no details? This is a personal relationship between God and Enoch. And God is interested in the individual. There are no groups with God. He is well able to focus on each person. 

Enoch has no good example to follow. He cannot say, “I will be like …” Enoch is not given a great decision like Adam. He is not given a great task like Noah, his grandson. He lives an ordinary life but does so in an extraordinary way. He walks with God. No one instructs him. No one shows him how to do this. He blazes a new path in the world very quietly. His story is often overlooked because it contains no dramatic events until the end.

No one has made a movie about Enoch. He does not leave a method behind. His example tells us that we must find our own relationship with God. What is remarkable is that Enoch walks with God for 300 years. And what began with an ordinary event, the birth of a son, ends with this dramatic event: he disappears. He has no grave. No one witnesses his final moment on earth. No one sees him go. But God takes him none the less.

Enoch is not an old man by contemporary standards. God decides to end his earthly time early. He wants his friend closer to him. In this, God shows his approval of Enoch’s life. Enoch walked with God and ‘he was not’ for God took him.

    Enoch is an example of faith. It says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”