Waves or Glory

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There are a lot of things to focus on in life. So much competes for our attention; some good some not so good. It’s easy for me to become consumed with things, whether it’s a task, my family, or concerns that have been weighing me down. Whatever it is, it can draw my attention for quite some time. Lately, I have had some really heavy things that have been filling my mind. I’m sure you, reader, can relate. If not now then at some point in your life. It can really seem like a tempest at times. Wave after wave crashing on or around you with no immediate signs of relenting. It never lets up so you can never get dry. You feel cold and exhausted just trying to keep your face towards the horizon. The concerns are mounting to point that you begin to wonder if they will ever become insurmountable.

That is an extremely bleak picture. One that I’ve found myself walking through at several moments over the last few years. I also believe it’s easy to get there. To let our minds drift to such dark and hopeless places. To try and carry so much weight that our knees are buckling beneath us. Weight that we were never meant to pick up in the first place. And while it’s easy to get there, it can be equally as easy to escape. Perhaps escape isn’t the best word. To ‘rise above’ seems to fit better. It all boils down to choice. Circumstances actually have nothing to do with it. Bills, health problems, difficult people, homelessness, and even the death of a loved one, can hold no power over us that we don’t surrender to it.

Recently, we finished up celebrating the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles. It was first instituted by God back in Leviticus 23, more than a few thousand years ago. But it carries every bit of the significance today that it did back then. A quick rundown of the Feast for anyone who isn’t familiar with it. In the Old Testament context, the feast reflected God’s deliverance of the nation of Israel from bondage in Egypt and their temporary dwelling and wandering on their journey to the promised land. It also pointed to the tabernacle that was constructed for God’s dwelling place among the people of Israel. Fast forward to the arrival of the Incarnate God on planet Earth. Yeshua is described as the Word of God made flesh dwelling among us. The word for dwell is literally to tabernacle. The Feast also carries with it a future importance. In the book of Revelation, it is said that Heaven and Earth will unite as one and God will make His dwelling among us forever. We spend a week celebrating all of these awesome things.

On one of the evenings, I was sitting under our makeshift tabernacle (which people construct as a symbol of the Feast) in our backyard. It was really dark out but we had strung up lights on our tabernacle so it was pretty bright underneath. As I sat there, contemplating all the heavy things life had been tossing our way, I decided to open up my bible. I picked John chapter one and here is what I read:

“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that through him everyone might believe. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness concerning the light. The true light, coming into the world, gives light to every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him; but the world did not know Him. He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. But whoever did receive Him, those trusting in His name, to these He gave the right to become children of God. They were born not of a bloodline, nor of human desire, nor of man’s will, but of God. And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies about Him. He cried out, saying, “This is He of whom I said, ‘The One who comes after me is above me, because He existed before me.’” Out of His fullness, we have all received grace on top of grace. Torah was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah. No one has ever seen God; but the one and only God, in the Father’s embrace, has made Him known.”

John 1:1-18 TLV

Everything in that passage spoke to me, not just where I was physically, but where my life was. Here I was, surrounded by darkness, but covered beneath the light of the tabernacle. The symbolism of that was huge! If I were to walk out from under the tabernacle, I would have difficulty seeing my way around the backyard. But where I sat, everything was as clear as day.

All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.

It didn’t matter one bit how dark it got outside, the light that I was in would not be changed. That’s life in Jesus. I started thinking about how I’ve been spending so much of my thought life wandering around outside of the covering of His light. I had been focusing so much on all the difficult things in my life and it was beating me down. But here I was, reading God’s word, illuminated by the light of the tabernacle, at peace.

We looked upon His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.

My eyes had been looking at all the wrong things. Who can blame me right? Well, I can. I had felt like I was in a sinking ship, all the while missing the point of my life. When God wrapped Himself in flesh and walked on this Earth, we were given the ability to behold His glory. Not just in a past tense, but even now. At any moment, we can look at the glory of God in Yeshua. Are you kidding me? Can we even understand what that means? Apparently, I really didn’t. Because I wasn’t gazing at His glory. Not even a little bit. I was looking at everything else. I was beholding the waves crashing over the sides of my boat.

These few precious moments under my tabernacle did so much to alter where I was mentally and how I felt physically. It was one of those experiences that I’ll always remember. I was able to catch a glimpse of His glory during a fall evening in Colorado in my backyard. How amazing is that?

I’m a J.R.R Tolkien fan so sometimes I can’t help but find spiritual illustrations in the movie adaptations from his books. Here is a scene from the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. To set it up a little, the town is under attack by the Dragon Smaug. It’s burning to the ground and only one man stands in the way of him killing everyone in Lake Town. Bard, the Bowman, and his son are stranded atop this tower and come face to face with the evil creature. This scene is so full of meaning. First, the world is falling apart around them. The danger is very real and there is every opportunity to despair. Everything could come crashing down at any moment. But Bard looks at his fretting and fear-filled son and says, “Stay still son, stay still.” In the moments that follow, Smaug continues to try and strike fear into their hearts and make them come to terms with their imminent demise. As the son, again shaken by the situation he finds himself in, turns to look at the approaching beast. Just then his father says, “Look at me son, you look at me.” It’s then that the son looks at his father with confidence and the surroundings seem to fade in significance. Shortly after, Bard slays the dragon Smaug with one precisely placed shot of an arrow.

I know it sounds cheesy but my eyes seriously started to well up when I watched that scene. I couldn’t help but find myself in the place of the boy, caught in life’s difficulties, wanting to look at them and fall apart at times. But then hearing the gentle voice of my Loving Father call me to be still and to look Him. In those moments, like the one I had under tabernacle that night, I am in a state of complete peace. Everything around me might as well be burning down, but I am still when I look at Him. His light beats back the darkness and the darkness will never overtake it. The key is to behold His glory and not the waves crashing around us. I’ll finish with one last scene. Only this one comes to us from the Bible. A man named Peter, an apostle of Jesus, is about to do the impossible. He is going to walk on water.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:28-33 ESV

I used to focus so much on how Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. I would talk about his lapse of faith and how he focused on the waves and wind rather than Jesus, and that’s when he got into trouble. And all those things are true. And all of us have been Peter more times then we care to count. But what I want to leave you with is what Peter said when he found himself sinking and how Jesus responded.

…beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him…

If you find yourself sinking because of the pressures of life cry out, “Lord save me,” and that’s exactly what He’ll do.

Peace brothers and sisters

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He Is that He Is

We’ve concluded our journey through the book of Genesis which introduced the Messiah right from the beginning of Man’s fall. God revealed His identity as a son of a virgin, who would one day defeat the one who led man astray. Genesis also identified the Messiah as a son who would be sacrificed as God’s provision for our need. In addition to that, we’ve been given the lineage that the Messiah would come from. All of those things pointed to Yeshua. And that’s only the beginning.

The events recorded in the book of Exodus paint an incredible picture of the Messiah because the entire book happens to be about God working out salvation. That’s exactly what the mission of the Messiah is. Over the next few posts we’ll be looking at a key statement made in the book of Exodus, a prophetic ceremony, a character trait, and a title, all of which point to who the Messiah is and what He would do.

In the third chapter of Exodus, God makes an appearance of sorts to a man named Moses. I say ‘of sorts’ because God showed Himself through a burning bush which was not consumed by the flame. The reason for this interaction was to proclaim the coming salvation of the people of Israel from the slavery in Egypt. During the conversation Moses asked God by what name he should call Him. God’s self given name is ‘I Am’.

“God said to Moses, ” I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘ I am has sent me to you.'””

Exodus‬ ‭3:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Within the dialogue between God and Moses, both a name and a purpose is given. Once again, God is making it clear that it is He that does the saving. So by extension, if the purpose of the Messiah is to bring salvation to the world, the Messiah must also be God. The Exodus story itself is a foreshadowing of the greater salvation to come to the entire world. And both acts of redemption and freedom from bondage would be done by God.

Well over a thousand years later, we have another significant conversation. It takes place between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. This woman was an outcast in her village much like Moses who lived in exile when God appeared in the burning bush. She was searching for meaning and purpose in life and she was desperately lost. She was bound to her bondage of broken relationships. It mirrors the struggles we all go through in our own way. The way that Jesus speaks with her displays a tender and compassionate heart. The heart of a savior. Towards the end of the conversation, Jesus identifies Himself as the “He” that the scriptures talk about as the source of living water. He was the answer to her needs, to her bondage.

“The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.””

John‬ ‭4:25-26‬ ‭ESV

Not only did Yeshua make this statement, He backed it up, over and over. In this circumstance Yeshua showed His intimate knowledge of her life, past and presence, and of her hearts deepest needs. But this wasn’t the last time Jesus would make the bold statement about Himself. In an exchange with the religious elite of the day, Jesus was instructing them on faith and what places people in right standing before God. Their response was condescending and indifferent at best. That’s when Jesus told them who He really was.

“Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.””

John‬ ‭8:53-58‬ ESV‬‬

There it is. The ‘I Am’ statement. This made the Pharisees furious because a man was making Himself equal with God. But as already mentioned, His claim was not baseless. Jesus lived a life of miracles. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and rose from the dead. There is only one way that could be possible. If He really was who He said He was. If He was the Messiah. If He was God.

Yeshua didn’t stop there. Throughout His time on Earth he made many ‘I Am’ statements. A good read through the book of John would include the following: I am the bread of life (6:35, 48, 51), I am the light of the world (8:12 and 9:5), I am the door of the sheep (10:7, 9), I am the good shepherd (10:11, 14), I am the resurrection and the life (11:25), and I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:6). The ‘I Am’ statement was essential to knowing who the Messiah was and is. The Messiah is the great I AM.