The Dream

old door

I had a dream last night.

Another in a decade-long series of recurring dreams.

Most of these dreams are indistinguishable from one another.

Carol and I would go see a house. I would begin opening doors and discover a room. And another door, and another room. A stairwell. And another door into another room.

After awhile, it would become obvious that no one had been in these rooms for a very long time. The furniture would be from the 50s or 60s, slightly dusty, untouched through the decades.

Every door leading into another room.

And another door.

After a few years, these dreams shifted a bit.

Instead of visiting the house, we had just moved there. I would open a door I’d somehow not seen before.

And so on.

About a year ago, the dream changed. We’d lived in the house for awhile and we already knew about the extra rooms.

In this house, many of these rooms were in complete disrepair. Leaks and cracks and open ceilings. Missing light fixtures.

Last night, the dream changed again.

We’re having a cookout.

Lots of people. Lots of conversation. Music. Laughter.

Suddenly I feel overwhelmed by the crowd and I sneak off into the deserted parts of the house.

And I see all the disrepair. Abandoned appliances from the 1950s. Broken furniture.

Some strange contraption hanging from the ceiling in what once must have been a dining room.

It feels like life used to be lived in these spaces, but no more.

I stand there, taking it all in, wondering.

Then I see them. My friends from the cookout, looking for me, looking around with the same wonder I was feeling.

remodeling-contractorThey have measuring tapes, and step ladders, and saws, and paintbrushes—and I see friends conferring, going away and coming back with some new item or tool from the home improvement store.

Mind you, they don’t ask my opinion about any of this.

They just do their work.

Finally, it’s too dark to continue and we step out onto a hidden terrace one of my friends found, and relax together under the stars, taking in the peace and beauty of a rediscovered place.

When I awoke this morning, I realized the message of the dream.

I bet you already know.

The house is me.

And half the friends in my dream—I haven’t even met yet.

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

—Hebrews 10:22-25

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No Matter What

This post was originally published on December 11, 2013.

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From this morning’s Facebook update:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:38-39

If there was anybody who checked my timeline on a regular basis (which even I don’t do), they would notice how often I paste the same Romans 8 passage into my status. Every time it’s for a slightly different reason. But it’s always from a sense of marveling. I mean, there’s all these pairs of opposite things—a Hebrew literary device, by the way, expressing the entire gamut of possibilities, a concrete expression of infinity that can be expressed as effectively no other way.

  • Death, life.
  • Angels, demons.
  • Present, future.
  • Height, depth.

Then, in case he left anything out:

  • “Nor anything else in all creation.”

The red dot on the white background

But notice the one phrase in the middle that has no opposites.

It is the red dot on the white background:

  • “Nor any powers.”

That includes God’s powers.

And my powers.

And your powers.

One of the traditional definitions of hell is eternal separation from God. If that’s a valid definition—even if inadequate—it tells us something about the security of our future as new creations in Christ:

No matter how we fail. No matter what decisions we make. No matter how we rebel or shake our fists at God, if we have ever belonged to him. If we ever been changed by his hand. If our sins have ever been cleansed and we have been redeemed—truly, genuinely redeemed—

We will never be apart from his love.

Meaning—

We will never be apart from him.

Ever again. No matter what.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.”

PSA 42:5 ESV

What I’m feeling at the moment is temporary.

I need to learn to acknowledge the feeling, own it, then question it.

I am not my feelings.

I will not allow my feelings to define me.

And certainly not own me.

Rather than seek some poorly defined “closure,” I will challenge my feelings with the truth as I already know it.

The Journey into Growth, Part 6: 3 Big Ideas

Previously on The Journey into Growth

In Part 5: Where is Jesus? we learned that Jesus, far from being “up there” (in heaven) while we’re “down here” with the rest of fallen humanity, is actually right here with us, smack in the middle of our world.


And that leads us to some really exciting truths I’d like to express in the form of

3 Big Ideas

— Big Idea 1

The God of the Universe, in all his power and in all his character, has come to live within—and be intimately linked with—the deepest, truest part of every Christ-follower.

Colossians 1:25-27

God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

— Big Idea 2

The deepest, truest part of who we (Christ-followers) are is not what it used to be. What and who we were has died and has been replaced by something new.

Colossians 3:1-4

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

1 John 3:1-3

See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

— Big Idea 3

God is constantly pursuing his work and life in and through us, seeking to pour out that life into the world around us in power and grace.

Romans 8:28-29

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Colossians 1:28-29

And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Philippians 2:13

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Okay, here’s the important takeaway:

The 3 Big Ideas are not the end of what we’re talking about. On the contrary, they are only a start. A really important start, for sure. If you accept and embrace these ideas and make them your own, they will provide a strong foundation for—and open the door to—everything God is planning for you.

I have much more to say about this, including some important strategies for making these truths come alive in your life, but that will have to wait for another series.

Oh…

One other thing: There’s a really important point I’m leaving out. A problem, actually. I don’t want to share it now, because we’re out of space to develop it here and—if you’re like most people I’ve talked to about this—you’ll miss the power of the promises by dwelling on the problem. I promise, when I write the other series, I’ll tell you what the problem is, what I’ve learned so far about solving it, and how disarming it will itself be a springboard into reaching your world for Christ.

Till then…

Think about it…

What if the 3 Big Ideas are true? If you believed and embraced them, what difference would they make in your life?


The Journey into Growth, Part 5: Where is Jesus?

Previously on The Journey into Growth
Part 4: Process—Dimensions of Growth


How about a re-cap?

In Part 1: Works of Art, we visited Ephesians 2:4-10 to see what we were before Christ and what we are now, if we are followers of Christ. Pretty amazing changes…

Then, in Part 2: A Question of Destiny, we considered the problem of purpose. In Romans 8:28-29 and 1 John 3:1-3 we begin to catch a glimpse of God’s vision for the believer. And boy is it amazing: We’re going to be just like Jesus! But how?

In Part 3: Process—The Model for Growth, we see that Jesus is far more than the model for the results of our growth (that we’re going to be like Jesus). We see that he is, in fact, the model for the process of our growth as well. From Hebrews 5:7-9, we learn the mind-blowing truth that Jesus himself was a learner (in this case, he had to learn obedience). And we read Philippians 2:6-8, which explains how Jesus, as God, “emptied himself” and became human in every way, except he didn’t sin. And that isn’t even the most shocking part…

In our last installment, Part 4: Process—Dimensions of Growth, we see the dimensions of Jesus’s own growth, from the time he is an infant to being a 12-year old, to being an adult. In doing so, we cannot help but be confronted by the human limitations placed on him as Jesus walked this earth. We looked closely at the story of the boy Jesus in the Temple in Luke 2:41-52, seeing that there were some things he didn’t yet know, and that it was not time yet for him to leave his earthly parents and be on his own.

And then there was the last verse, Luke 2:52, in which we see the dimensions of growth laid out for us:

And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Here is how I’ve tried to define these dimensions, putting them in as practical terms as I can:

  • Wisdom is knowing the right thing to do and doing it.
  • Stature, to a child, is how big his body is, and how skillfully he uses it. It is his interface with his world. It is what people see when they look at him. His body is what he uses to effect his world. Adults, of course, aren’t usually looking to grow any bigger, but their bodies are still the only thing the world sees when it looks at them. And it takes an incredible amount of physical skill just to survive in that world, let alone thrive.
  • Favor with God is having a healthy, intimate relationship with the Father. This relationship is made possible only through the work of Jesus himself.
  • Favor with men is having healthy, appropriately intimate relationships with other people.

And, of course, we saw that we could lay these dimensions out graphically, with the inside dimensions (wisdom, stature) represented by small and large circles, and the vertical (favor with God) and horizontal (favor with men) dimensions represented by intersecting lines.

At that point we can begin to map out a strategy for building intentionality into our lives, actively cooperating with God’s vision for us, and growing daily more like Jesus in all these dimensions.

But first, there is a point we might miss if don’t stop for a moment and focus on it. And it’s really the key to the whole thing.

It begins as a question about the diagram we drew in our last installment:

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The Journey into Growth, Part 4: Process—Dimensions of Growth

Previously on The Journey into Growth
Part 3: Process—The Model for Growth


How Jesus grew

The scriptures don’t give us a lot of details about Jesus’s childhood, but the ones they do give are quite revealing. Let’s take a look at one boyhood incident recorded in Luke chapter 2:

Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the feast, according to the custom. After the feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he meant.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

The dimensions of Jesus’s growth

As we see, there were four dimensions to Jesus’s growth. He grew

The Journey into Growth, Part 3: Process—The Model for Growth

Previously on The Journey into Growth
Part 2: Process—A Question of Destiny


So…

It is the destiny of every Christ-follower to become like Jesus. Therefore, we should be able to come to a pretty good understanding of how we’re supposed to turn out: Just like Jesus.

But how do we get from here to there? Is there a road map? Is there a process to follow?

Well, yes there is, and it might just surprise you.

Jesus was a model learner

As I write these words, we’re a few days past celebrating the birth of Jesus. Most of us have seen pictures or manger scenes with the Baby Jesus lying in the manger. It’s probably pretty easy to recognize that that little Baby needed a lot of help just to survive in this world. And it’s easy to see the grown-up Jesus feeding the multitudes, walking on water, healing the blind and lame—and then miss a simple fact:

Just like you and me, Jesus had to get from here (the manger) to there (miracles, temptations, death, resurrection…). And in doing so, had to follow the exact same process of maturing that we do.

Hebrews 5:7-9 reveals an astonishing portrait of Jesus as Learner:

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Jesus had to learn obedience

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