Thursday, January 14, 2010

The cycle of history

OK. We've spent some time discussing the difference it makes to view life as organic instead of mechanistic. And we've talked about time being more accurately represented as seasonal or cyclical as opposed to linear. So now, let's look at the big picture of what I will call redemptive history or you might think of as the story of the Bible.

Here are a few starter questions:
1. Why is the God of the Old Testament so much different than the revelation of Jesus in the New Testament? (If you don't think there is any difference or that the difference is a minor thing then I would suspect you don't read your Bible very much.)
2. Where does God's justice fit into a theology of grace?
3. Bill Johnson says, "God is in a good mood." Is he always in a good mood? What about the book of Ezekiel when he seems pissed and says quite pointedly, "I will destroy you. . .I will send plagues, war and famine on you to kill you"?
4. Does God intend to punish or judge sin?

The story of humankind is the story of the collision between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdoms of this earth. Let me exlain.

Our story begins with God creating us and putting us in an environment that is an extension of the perfect spiritual realm of heaven. This realm (the garden) was surrounded by a kingdom that needed to be subdued and ruled. Enter our choice to pursue knowledge through someone other than our Father. Our choice to not be exclusive in our intimacy with the Father led to a steady increase of our distance from him as we sought comfort, pleasure, knowledge, etc. from a source other than our Father. This "season" of placing our faith in each other instead of our Father culminates in the story of the Tower of Babel. In our passion to be like God we as humans were becoming very adept at doing things that were pretty impressive by pooling our resources and trusting in each other. God's opinion on what we were accomplishing was that it was leading us away from desiring intimacy with him. So he put a stop to it. As intimacy with the Father decreased, evil increased. As the fruit of our decision to trust in someone other than the Father grew He decided to put an end to it. The flood.

Rewind. Start over. Call a man named Abram out of the nations of the world to birth a new nation, set apart to be exclusively intimate with the Father. As the generations rolled by his people decided to share their allegiance, their intimacy, with other gods. The fruit of this decision was so much evil that God says Israel was doing things that even the pagan world found abominable. Read the prophets. God is angry. He decides in his anger to destroy Israel. Enter the kings of Babylon and Persia. Exit the favor of God on Israel.

A remnant. A tree reduced to a small insignificant root. The root of Jesse (look it up). Jesus is born into poverty in a red-neck village on the frontier of the empire. He teaches that he has not come to judge but to save. Again, we choose to live by faith in Jesus or in someone or something else. This decision of where to place our faith will bear fruit. Apparently their is so much grace in this cycle of redemptive history that sin (all sin) is being forgiven and everyone (I think this means everyone) has the extended opportunity to be intimate with the Father through Jesus.

I see a clear cycle of human history. The Father inserts his presence, his love, his creativity, his desire for intimacy into the world. We, as humans decide where we will live from; where we will place our faith; whether or not we want exclusive (think of it as a monogamous relationship) intimacy with the Father. Our decision then grows, matures and bears fruit. What we have birthed by our decsions then illicits a response from our thoroughly invested, incredibly passionate, looking for loving intimacy Father. Another collision. Another cycle. Another opportunity for humankind to choose intimacy with the Father or not.

I think we find ourselves in a season of grace in the midst of cyclical history. The history of humankind pursued by a God who desperately wants to be exclusively intimate with us.


  1. Okay Dan. I think this blog is the closest to your sermon sunday so this is where I'll leave my comments.
    I agreed with much you had to say in your message sunday, but there was one thing that jumped out as a concern for me.
    Are you suggesting that because God is so passionate for our hearts He is willing to answer our prayers drastically and even cause hard and hurtful situations for the greater good?
    You made suggestions Sunday that perhaps that the very answers to our prayers were right in front of us. Our prayer for an undevided, unmaterialistic heart results in job-loss. A prayer for a better marriage results in less sex and more conflict, a prayer for more grace for your spouse results in your beloved spending 1500 dollars without talking to you. If you are suggesting that God caused these situations, I couldn't agree less.
    I agree that it is in difficulty that the rubber meets the road. Faith isn't really faith without challenges and love isn't really love until it requires us to be patient, kind, and self sacrificing.
    However. I think we would make a terrible mistake to attribute 'tough situations' in our life to God.
    Matthew 7:12-14 says, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
    I am not in the least bit surprised that when I pray for change, things become more difficult for a time. Because narrow is the gate to life. It ain't easy. But I believe that is because I am moving and shaking a foundation that the world and the powers of darkness hold dear. When I pray for change and more intimacy in my marriage and things begin to go downhill, I definitely see that my prayers are effective, but I don't see that the hardship is authored by God.
    In one of my favorite books, CAPTIVATING, the author Staci talks about realizing that dizzy spells she'd lived with for a lot of her life were actually an attack from the enemy. She began praying against them and this is what she wrote, "The dizzy spells ... did not cease quickly.In fact they increased, both in number and intensity..." after continued battle she wrote, "I got hit a few weeks later with a wave of dizziness that knocked me off my feet. From the ground, I prayed again, commanding it to leave me in the name of Jesus Christ. It did. And I have never been assaulted with dizziness again."
    I am in no way advocating a 'demon behind every bush' theology I just want to make sure I'm aware of the battle that I'm most definitely in and who the enemy is.
    Ephesians 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."
    I am very excited about God's jealousy for our hearts and our history of being "pursued by a God who desperately wants to be exclusively intimate with us." I just don't see how we can attribute negative situations in our lives as answered prayers.

  2. Jessica, I love talking to you, your heart feeds mine. Thank you.

    No, I do not believe the battle we are in increases in intensity when we pray because God does it. Rather, I believe many of us, if not all of us, regularly enter battle with some things in our pack which God didn't give us. Our expectations, our identity, our allegiances often times are exposed by the battles we choose to fight.

    My experience has been that when I ask my Father,whom I am learning to trust completely, to allow me to have greater authority and greater impact with my life he regularly says to me, "Are you sure?" What I take from this question is his warning that I am still married to things that he didn't give me; things he is intent on separating me from.

    So let's be clear. Some battles are with demonic opponents that we must stand against. An increase in intensity is because the enemy is fighting back. Some battles are with demonic lies that we live with comfortably everyday. The increase in intensity is because we have made agreements with things that are not of His kingdom, and the hardship comes as we ask God to expose these and separate us from them.

    My sermon Sunday was about the incongruity between the confession of our mouth and the priority of our choices. Does God own everything I call my own? Then what does it matter if he moves me out of my house? Am I called to love my wife before I love myself? Then living a celibate life for an undetermined period of time because my wife asks me to is a possibility. Might God lead me through these experiences? Absolutely. Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit was led by the Spirit into the wilderness - into battle. I don't want to play a game of semantics. We are invited to follow Jesus. Jesus was sent into the world to die.

  3. I appreciate that Dan. Thanks for clearing that up.
    I really like what you're saying. Especially the question; am I married to things that He didn't give me?.