Monday, March 21, 2016

Seeking a Homeland, Part 3

If this world is not our home, when and where is a Christian at “home”?

At what point do we attain the state of being settled and satisfied, feeling “at home”?

Is it only when we reach Heaven, our eternal destination? I sincerely don’t believe so.

In Part 1 of this series I urged us all to choose not to settle here, not to view this world as our permanent dwelling. In Part 2, we looked at God’s pursuit of being with man, and when man could no longer be with God, how God chose to be with man.

But being confined to a cloud or a Tabernacle and coming and going in and out of our world was not God’s ultimate aim.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-2, 14

At a predetermined time in history, Jesus, the Eternal Word, stepped into our world, donning human flesh, to dwell among us. The word “dwelt” here is akin to a baby inside its mother’s womb – it is inside the mother, not near, but fully within the womb. Jesus chose to be inside our world, among us, with us, as us.

Among the prophecies God gave Isaiah concerning Jesus and His coming was a very significant name – “Immanuel,” meaning “God is with us.”

If there was a message God kept repeating to mankind since the dawn of creation it was this – “I want to be with you. I want you to be with Me.” 

And He went to the greatest lengths to make this happen.

Jesus entered the world as we all do – as a baby.  He could have chosen any type of entrance; after all He is God and Creator. But, Jesus entered the world as each of us has – through the pain of childbirth, born as small, helpless, needy individuals, born under the law, born as weak flesh (Gal. 4:4).

“This intimates not only that he was really and truly man, but that he subjected himself to the miseries and calamities of the human nature. He was made flesh, the meanest part of man. Flesh bespeaks man weak, and he was crucified through weakness, 2 Cor. 13:4. Flesh bespeaks man mortal and dying (Ps. 78:39), and Christ was put to death in the flesh 1 Pet. 3:18. Nay, flesh bespeaks man tainted with sin (Gen. 6:3), and Christ, though he was perfectly holy and harmless, yet appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3), and was made sin for us, 2 Cor. 5:21.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)

Like each human has or will experience, he also died – not suddenly or unwillingly as us, but by laying down His own life. In His death, He broke and defeated what and who have kept us separated from God’s presence since the fall – sin and Satan.

He forever defeated these that prevent each of us from reaching “Home.” For all who receive Him, He made it possible to enter by “the new and living way” into God’s presence – freed and forgiven (Heb. 10:19-22).

“In the beginning God created the perfect home for your soul: a garden of perfection where He could be with you. That is all God has ever wanted. Because of our choices, we separated ourselves from God, but He relentlessly pursued us, offering us a way to return to Him and be with Him.

“Because we no longer live in that perfect garden, we sometimes forget that He is there, and we continue to live without Him.”1

Like Adam and Eve, we run away from “Home.” We try to hide. We attempt to cover our sin and our shame. Like the prodigal, we think we can find satisfaction and approval and wholeness elsewhere – in other people, other things, other pursuits.

But, God our Father, is persistent in His loving pursuit. He seeks, He finds, He welcomes us back – always with waiting, loving arms.

“That’s just how God works with us – He relentlessly pursues us because all He has ever wanted is to be with us. He reaches out to slaves, people in prison, and people like me doing silly, foolish things and says, ‘Welcome back.’”1

“Your soul will never find rest unless it finds its home. We find it in the simple daily discipline of asking ourselves, ‘Is God here in this moment?’ If He is not, He can be…God invites you to let your soul rest in Him.”1

1 Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You, by John Ortberg.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Seeking a Homeland, Part 2

What the Old Testament Tabernacle may have looked like.

In retrospect I should have titled this series, “Seeking a Home,” not “Seeking a Homeland.”

I’ve slowly realized “home” can't be limited to a place, and it is not a “what,” it is a “Who.”

Let me back up a bit. The first post in this series can be found here. In essence, I wrote that as Christians we are pilgrims, passing through this life.

Abraham was given a new homeland but still chose to live as a nomad in it. Why? Because he sought a better city, “whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)

Beloved, as those chosen and loved by God, we are not to “settle” here in this world, on this earth. We have a much better, greater city, an eternal home, to look forward to, to set our sights on.

In the Bible we are described as strangers, exiles, foreigners, pilgrims, and stewards on this earth – all titles denoting we are not yet permanent residents, we have not yet reached “home.” So, when will we?

Can I be at “home” even before I pass through those heavenly gates?

Yes, I believe we can to a certain extent. Because home is not a what, home is a Who. Home has taken on flesh and is living and breathing.

From the beginning, God wanted His people to be at home with Him. He placed Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden – a physical space where they could enjoy intimate, unbroken fellowship with their Creator.

Expulsion from the garden residence came when Adam and Eve disbelieved and disobeyed God. The consequence was death – spiritual death – being cutting off from the Giver of their physical and spiritual life. 

From that moment, man experienced separation from the Divine, and the beginning of the search for its restoration.

Starting with Noah in Genesis 6 we see God calling people out – out of the sin-corrupted world and back to Himself. He continued the call with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and later the nation of Israel.  

You see, the newly-created world described in the beginning was good, in fact, it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But then sin corrupted and marred the creation, man’s home. If man was to again enjoy intimacy with God, “home” could not be limited to a place, a piece of land on earth.

In Exodus 25 while the people are still in the wilderness, headed to the Promised Land, God gives them instructions for building a tabernacle.

“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.” (Exodus 25:8)

The word “dwell” in this verse means to “abide,” “to settle down,” inferring God’s abiding presence, not a coming and a going.

Excuse me? Did you catch that? God, the Almighty, the Holy One, Creator of Heaven and Earth, asked for His people to make Him a temporary tent, a “sanctuary,” – so He could dwell among them?

When it was impossible for man to dwell with Him, God chose to dwell among men.

He had called His chosen people out of the world. And now He would choose to settle with them.

To think God desires to dwell among us, in the midst of an evil, corrupt, crooked, evil world – a Holy God settling among an unholy people. Doesn’t that just boggle your mind?

Why would He choose this? Why not remain in Heaven, in purity, in unblemished goodness and holiness? It’s one thing to walk with man in the perfect and “very good” garden, but why settle in the sin-ridden slums of earth?

Because God was not content with a distant, sin-affected relationship. Instead, He would bridge the gap between us and Himself at all costs.

“There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it (the tabernacle) shall be sanctified by My glory…I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” (Exodus 29:43, 45-46)

(As a side note: You’ve heard of the “shekinah glory”? “Shekinah” is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “to settle, inhabit, or dwell.” God’s very glory was defined as a glory of abiding and dwelling.)

Though God dwelt among His people, not everyone was permitted to enter the sanctuary. Only those set apart as priests unto God could go there, and only the High Priest into the Holy of Holies. After elaborate purification rituals, they represented the people before God, for a time, until the unveiling of the new covenant, mediated by a perfect High Priest.

Man has ever been in pursuit of “home” – a place of satisfaction, fulfillment, and belonging. But just think, all along God has sought to make His home with us

To be continued…

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