Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Other Side of the River


I grew up on a farm in Michigan, just a few miles from the border with Ohio. A stream runs through that farm; a small river entering the land at the NE corner and cutting a diagonal across to the SW as it flows on to it’s appointed place; that another story in itself. A sizable part of our cropland was on the other side of that river. We would drive our farm equipment through a shallow fording place in the river to get to that other side.

I have found through the years that often in one’s sleep, we dream of places we use to know, but though in our dreams we recognize the place, in our dreams the place is often much different, yet the same. Over the years I’ve had a few dreams like that involving this part of the farm that was across the river. One of those occassions was in February, 2001, and at that time, in another context, I first penned these words.

In my dream, that area across the river was much more vast. It was a wheat field, the wheat ripe for harvest. As the dream started I was walking along the riverbank in a part of the field yet to be harvested. Then I came to a part that had been harvested; the short cut off straw stems standing up exposed to the blue sky and shining sun, white clouds here and there also in the sky. What I remember is the very real sense of tranquility and peace. No hustle and bustle, no scurrying here and there. So I walked on in the familiar yet unfamiliar field across the river.

Then in the dream I came to a road, and the dream ended. As lay there in my bed, I had a sense as though for a very brief second the curtain of time had been opened a slight crack, and I had a very brief glimpse of an eternity yet to be.

"Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it enterd into the hearts of man what God has in store for those who love him." (I Corinthians 2:9)


~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Of Halos and Such



Prologue:

Back in December of 2001, I went to a concert at a local church. Afterwards I had occasion to say “howdy” to one of the young people I knew from there.

“Hey there! How you doing? Been staying out of trouble?” I joked.

“Sure I have. Don’t you see my halo?” she replied also in a joking manner.

It was not the first time I heard her joke about her “halo”. I could only sense there was a meaning behind those words that suggested that in reality all was not well despite the perfunctory assertions such as we all make in social settings where to really bare the soul is not possible. Over the next few days I pondered those words and as I prayed, found myself writing the letter upon which what follows is based. This letter is edited and rewritten for publication to preserve the privacy of the young person to whom it was written.


The Letter:

From: The Billy Goat
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2001
To: my dear young friend
Subject: of halos and such

Hi there,

Pardon my presumption asking you the following question.

Do you find that your halo weighs a little heavy on your head?

Please understand that I am not at all taking issue with the lighthearted context in which you speak of it... That does not offend me at all. But I am somewhat serious in asking the question... I find myself sensing there maybe a little more behind that remark then what's on the surface. If I am being presumptuous in writing this at all please forgive me...

I remember as a teenager feeling the pressure of the expectations others had of me... At times that was a burden I found hard to carry. I was not a Christian then, I was good enough to stay out of serious trouble and maintain my reputation with the "church" folks, but just "bad" enough to get along comfortably with the world.

As a Christian I've had to deal with the same kind of thing, the expectations of others regarding what to them it means for me to say I am a Christian. Though redeemed, I am still a sinner, and will carry the remnants of sin to my grave. I've also had to sort out what are God's expectations of me in contrast to what even Christian people expect of me. Those are not always the same. In the context of those two things I inevitably will "disappoint" somebody. And how all to often I disappoint myself with my failure to live up to what God is really asking of me.

What has helped me retain some semblance of sanity over the years is to keep going back to the truth that my acceptance before God is ultimately not on the basis of anything I do or do not do, but on what Christ in the light of His sovereign grace and mercy has done for me. When God looks at me, He sees me through the person of Jesus Christ and in Christ He accepts me. It is in response to that acceptance that I want to live in a way that images the Lord Jesus. Obedience becomes a response to grace and mercy, not an attempt to somehow as a Christian merit more grace and mercy.

Like you, I also had older siblings. Older siblings sometimes have a way of making it hard on the younger, not deliberately or maliciously, but sometimes other people expect the younger to live up to the achievements and standards set by the older siblings. But we are not all wired the same way, and not all walk to the same drumbeat.

I sense a war is raging. A war for your soul… Things cannot be measured from the surface. It is the heart where the real story is told. Oh my dear young friend, I do not ask you to live up to any expectations I might have for you... What I desire much more then anything in my longings for you is that your heart is right with God. If that is the case everything else will in His good time work itself out. Do not look at the rules and expectations my dear young friend. Look to Jesus alone... I do not expect you to be perfect, but Oh that you long for and desire God. All the things you think you may want in this world, let them be swallowed up in the greater want to see God and know His happiness. His perfect love casts out fear. Do you have fears? Seek His love... God IS Love, my dear young friend... He's not all judgment and wrath and rules and laws... He loves you far more then I or anyone else in the world can. Look to that Love... Embrace it... Hang on to it... Never ever let it go... It is a love freely and graciously given. It is a love that has its foundations not in our doings but in His grace and mercy.

All of that to say my dear young friend, look to Christ and let Him carry your halo for you. Again I recognize I may be way off the mark in what I've said in this note, but please know that I have and do pray for you just as much as I have and do for your siblings, and you also share in that love I have for them. It is my prayer you may find some encouragement in these few and weak words...

I have to look on from afar, not always at all seeing clearly what is really going on in your life, and being shut up to crying out to Him who knows you and your situation more perfectly then you yourself know.

In the bonds and love of Christ with prayer, I am.

Your servant,

~ The Billy Goat ~

Friday, August 21, 2009

On the Book of Revelation being revelation.



The last book of the Bible is not unnecessary. You can not put the book of Revelation all together from the other 65 books of the Bible. The other 65 books do inform the book of Revelation, BUT the book of Revelation ALSO informs the other 65 books. If it does not, then it does not stand on an equal level with those other 65 books.

Believing that the book of Revelation is necessary, and God's revelation in Scripture would be incomplete without the book of Revelation, we are then faced with some basic foundational questions as we approach this last book of the Bible.

What is the purpose of the book of Revelation in relation to the totality of the revelation we have in the other 65 books? What does the book of Revelation give us that was not found in the other 65 books, but was needed to complete God’s revelation in Scripture?

It is at this point the amillennialists insistence that they are interpreting the book of Revelation according to the "analogy of Scripture", with the implied assumption and allegation that premillinialists ignore the "analogy of Scripture" is exposed for the hollow argument it is. As another has put it:

“Use the clear texts interpret the difficult ones.” I don’t remember where I learned that but I do remember learning it and using it. It stuck with me for a long time. Then I took a class with Grant Osborne and he made a great point about this approach. He said, in effect, that what is a difficult text for you may not be a difficult text for someone else. Grant is an Arminian and so the texts that he finds clear can be troublesome for Calvinists. And visa versa. You have to include the “difficult” texts in the formulation of your theology. If you ignore them till the end and then make them fit, you’re in danger of misreading them. Wise words! Probably the very best thing I learned in his class...

I don’t want to oversimplify the complexities of handling the Book of Revelation but I don’t want to treat it as second class revelation either....

("The Saints and the Millennium"
By Tim Etherington | August 18, 2009
)


To which I reply, "Neither do I."

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, August 17, 2009

The 7 Seals, 7 Trumpets, & 7 Bowls of Revelation




("Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary"; Robert L. Thomas; (Moody Press, 1995) page 543)


This diagram by Robert Thomas has been very helpful to me in understanding the structure and flow of the book of Revelation.

~ The Billy Goat ~

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sheer Joy



We will race through the streets of gold,
Running for the sheer joy and delight.
We will romp and play in the meadows of grass in the garden of God,
Playing tag among the trees of life by the river of the water of life.
We will laugh for joy, being little children once again;
Un-wearied in our play.

Quiet times there will be too.
Just sitting and contemplating the glory of all,
Communing in soul and spirit
With looks of the heart, understanding one another
In perfect peace and communion.

In seeing our delight and joy,
Our peace and happiness,
His smile will be upon us;
We, His children in whom He delights and joys.
We will love Him perfectly with heart and soul,
And the imperfect love we have here for one another
Will be perfected there forever;
A joy unspeakable and full of glory.

( May 13, 2000, copyright (c) May 2000 all rights reserved.)

Monday, August 03, 2009

What is the Gospel?

By Andy Parker


1 Corinthians 15:1-4 "Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you- unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,"


The Event

What is the gospel? The gospel simply means “good news.” The question that then presents itself is, “what is news?” News is the telling of an event. Christ Jesus died, was buried, and was raised the third day. This is a fact, it happened at a specific time in a specific place – this is the news that was reported. What makes this news “good” and worthy to be proclaimed throughout the ages is the meaning behind the events that actually happened.

It’s Meaning

In the beginning God created everything good. Man was created in the image of God and was obligated to obey everything that God had spoken. Adam (who was to represent mankind) disobeyed God who is infinitely perfect, holy, just, good, wise, loving, and merciful. Any sin (disobedience in nature, attitude, or action) against a just and infinite God must be punished infinitely. Because man sinned, he must pay the penalty for sin. However, God who is also rich in mercy promised our first parents that there would come a day when He Himself would come into human history and would save man from the bondage of Satan, sin, and death. This could only be accomplished by One who is fully God (infinite) and fully man, thus paying the penalty for man’s sin. Therefore, Jesus Christ came into the world (fulfilling all of the Old Testament prophesies about Him) to take upon Himself the wrath of God thereby atoning (paying) for the sins of those who believe in Him.

Upon the cross, Jesus suffered the penalty for sin and endured the wrath of God so that all who believe in Him would not have to. Therefore, God is just in that He does not wink at sin, but rather He punishes it. However, for all of those who see Christ as their Lord and Savior, God is also merciful to forgive them because Christ had paid the penalty for their sins. Thus, God is not only just, but the justifier of unrighteous sinners.

Jesus Christ died in our place paying the penalty we deserved to pay. He rose on the third day to conquer Satan, sin, and death and give the gift of salvation to all who believe in Him alone for eternal life. This is a stumbling block to some and foolishness to others, but to those who are called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Through Christ, man is saved from any empty, vain form of religion and spirituality and is free to worship, serve, love and proclaim the one true God through Jesus Christ our Lord. This news truly is good and is to be proclaimed to every tribe, tongue and nation.

To Christ alone be the glory forever – Amen.

(The above essay was written by Andy Parker ("faithbp(at)sbcglobal.net") and is published here with his permission.)