Sunday, September 16, 2007

Building a house with invisible bricks

Just had a cool little revelation and I wanted to write it down before I forgot.

I had received a couple words from God about 5 months ago that, in paraphrase, said, "Persevere in prayer, because you are building a mighty tower." The main idea is that, in prayer, in fasting, in devouring the Word, in seeking God's face, we are building something; we are building on the foundation of Christ something eternal (see 1 Cor 3). This is the essence of our life on this earth; to build something that will stand through the fire and be an eternal reward.

What makes it so difficult, among other things, is the fact that we often don't see what we're building until months or years or even decades down the road. Just think about Paul; he invested heavily in a number of churches, and yet those churches appeared to slip very quickly into deception, selfishness, and perversion (see Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, etc, etc). So he did not, in life, see with his eyes the kingdom of God that he was building on earth. Same thing with Abraham, who did not see in his lifetime the multitudes of descendants like the stars. The life of David is another fabulous example of someone building towards eternity, but not seeing until very late in his life the kingdom he worked so hard to attain.

It is the same today for us. We are called to live lives of faith, which means building a kingdom that is on the inside. We are building with invisible bricks. But what does the bible say about invisible bricks? Check out Rev 21:

18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. ... 21The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. (NIV)

The New Jerusalem is made out of transparent gold. This is deeply profound. What does transparent mean? It means that you could see right through it. It's almost like it wasn't there, except for the fact that it was deeply saturated with the presence of God. This is an incredible message for anyone struggling in the place of prayer and fasting and seeking God's face. When we're building something eternal on the foundation of Christ, a la 1 Cor 3, we're actually building the New Jerusalem, the eternal dwelling place of man and God in full communion. This is both deeply encouraging and provoking. May the light of God's glory saturate the invisible tower of His Kingdom that you are building, in partnership with God, in your heart, even today.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

This Life As a Seed for the Next

This document is still a work in progress, but it has enough substantial content that I'm willing to publish it. The concepts contained within it have really powerfully transformed my life and have formed an integral core of my relationship with God. It has blessed me tremendously, and it is my desire that it will equally impact all who read it.



This is mostly derived from the Shawn Bolz lectures. He didn't go into detail with this stuff, though I get the feeling he probably does in other lectures I haven't heard, so chances are I'm stealing some of his material.

Anyway, the text is 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, but in particular 15:35-38.

When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed... But __God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body.__ (NIV, 37-38)

What does this mean? The standard reading is that "there is a corruptible, human body that is the seed for the glorified, eternal body." But if you look at this more carefully, you see that the body that is raised is depending on WHAT KIND OF SEED IT IS. Essence: What kind of life you live, what kind of person you are, is the seed for your eternal, glorified self. *Every* facet of your life is a seed for a glorified facet of your eternal life.

Now we see in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 a continuation of this premise:

"If any man builds on this foundation (of Christ) using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day (judgment day) will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." (NIV)

So this is what we see. This life is a seed for the next life. However, since there can be no rebellion against God's will in heaven, all the worthless things we do in this life are destroyed in God's fire on that Day. This is, of course, assuming one is building on the foundation of Christ. If not, of course, one isn't saved and therefore isn't going to heaven period. But even if you are saved, you can still build things using gold, silver, costly stones, or wood, hay and straw. Some things will be destroyed in the fire, and some things will survive and will be our reward.

This introduces the notion of sand castles. This analogy is from a book by Anna Rountree. But the essence of it is that a lot of people, even christians, spend their lives building sand castles. That is, things that one can build but get washed away by the tide in a matter of hours. Such things cannot last for eternity.

Just yesterday, I was spending time with one of my unsaved friends, and he was showing me some things he had done in an online computer game. Basically, he was spending time carefully, precisely crafting what skills and items and so forth to give his forces in the game, with the full knowledge that he's going back to school in four days. He doesn't have a computer at school, so he will only have this game for those four days. That is, the tide comes in four days. When it does, it will wipe away all the things he has carefully arranged, all his detailed plans for hours and hours of development. He understands that it's totally meaningless because it's going to be just plain GONE in a couple
days, but he builds on. This is a small example of what most people do with their entire lives; building sand castles, often with full knowledge of the tide. Indeed, who builds a sand castle without knowing that the tide is going to wipe it out?

What is building financial security, a good home, lots of material assets, but a gigantic sand castle? What is worldly popularity but a sand castle? This world is going to pass away, nothing we build of this world is going to remain.

You are going to spend your life doing two things: building sand castles or building a structure of gold, silver, and costly stones on the foundation of Christ. God is not going to punish you for building sand castles, but it will be wiped away. Even more, if you build sand castles now, that will be the
prototype for your glorified life. Remember, what we do in this life is a seed for the next life. It's kinda like the OT vs. the NT; the NT is like a glorified OT, and the OT is like a seed for the NT. All the principles and ideas of the NT are contained in the OT, but in a seed form.

It is the same with our life here and with our next life. If we live a life of building up other people, building deep friendships and relationships with others, build a deep relationship with God, build up the traits that God has put in us like music, dance, writing, a love of reading, and all varieties of
godly things, that will be the seed for our next life. Since such things can pass through the fire of God (fire cannot destroy itself; a righteous God cannot destroy righteous things, but only unrighteous things), that will be the seed for our glorified lives. And when you have good seeds, how glorious that
life will be!!!

If you fill your life with self-concern, with temporal things, will any manner of sin or rebellion against God, yet are saved, then such things will be destroyed by the fire of God, and there will be very little to act as a seed for your glorified life, and that is the nature of how your reward will not be
as great. It's not that God will lock you out of heaven, but since such things cannot exist in the presence of God, there is no such thing as glorified sin; it's mutually contradictory, and thusly it simply won't be.

This is the essence of what I learned; going to heaven is not the destruction of the self, but the magnification of the self. Every good thing we do is greatly multiplied in heaven. Do you want to dance and sing in heaven? Why not start now? Do you want to play piano in heaven (I know I do :)? Start now. Do you want to spend millenia playing soccer with your dearest friends? Start by
playing a few hours. Do you love teaching and want to teach for millenia? Do it now. If you want to do it forever, then start by doing it now. Obviously there are some things we want to do in eternity that we can't do now, but we can lay the foundation for such things now. The glorification process is what takes our actions now and magnifies them in heaven so that such things become
possible for us.

This is why our lives now are so important, why we should do what we love and make sure that what we love aligns with what God loves, because such things are the foundation for our next, eternal lives.

If we are obsessed with God now, how great will that obsession be when it is glorified?

On the contrary, if we don't act obsessed with God now, and we say "we have eternity to draw closer to God, I want to live my own life now and I'll surrender to God when I'm done having my own way", that is the seed for our next life, and the vast majority of it will be destroyed by the fire of God;
such people are leaving very little godliness to be glorified for their eternity with God.

So after this, I really started asking the question, "what is it that we can do that will last? What should we do to build towards eternity? What is gold, silver, and precious stones, that we can build on the foundation of Christ and that will pass through the fire of God?"

(this is where I start to walk in more tentative grounds, so I don't hold as firmly to the material below as to the material above. When I did my research, I found numerous verses that have the appearance of contradicting my hypotheses below, and I'm not at this time knowledgable about how to reconcile them. Take as you will.)

I already partially answered this question above, by stating that the things we focus on in a godly way will be the seed for our next life. But, as we all know, there is a righteous way and a sinful way to do many things (cf. luke 14:15-24). So when I asked God how to build with gold, silver, and costly
stones, what He showed me was a seed (kinda like an acorn) morphing into a crown of righteousness. Then He reminded me of one thing that I had prophesied to a friend of mine a while ago, which was a drop of water being a seed (in that case of a rose-looking flower). Water in the NT is a type for the Holy Spirit and for life. So water = seed --> crown of righteousness.

So, this is the essence of the answer; fill yourself with the Spirit of God, especially with the life that God has laid out for you. The more you fill yourself with the Spirit of God and the more closely you follow the desires that God has given you for your life, then all those things will be the seed
for your crown of righteousness in the next life.

I have prayed and asked God for more revelation on this topic, and He has recently given me some more insight into it (and scripture to back up the vision He gave me earlier). So there are three things that we can fill our lives with that are of worth and that will survive the fire of God mentioned in 1 Cor 3: gold, silver, and costly stones. I have what I consider to be very solid, reliable definitions for gold and silver; my grasp of what the costly stones represent is less solid right now, so I'll leave that one out. Proverbs 8:10-11 suggests that costly stones = wisdom. Another interesting scripture is Rev 21:18-21, which mentions both gold and costly stones when describing the future bride of Christ (us, believers). but I don't have any cross-referencing scriptures to back that up or explain it in more detail, so I'm going to leave it at that. Silver is representative of the Word of God in this case; if you build your life on the Word of God, it will survive and count as a reward in the next life. The basis for this is: Psalm 12:6.

"And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times." (NIV)

This is then reinforced by Proverbs 8:10-11:

"Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her."

So in this case, silver is compared to the instruction of Wisdom, which is a personification of God. The instruction of God is given by His Word, and therefore you should choose the silver of God, instead of the silver of this world.

Again in Proverbs 10:20, God says:

"The tongue of the righteous is choice silver..."

So once again silver is being compared to the words or speaking of righteous people. This clearly demonstrates that instruction in the Word of God is what is referenced by 1 Cor 3.

Second, I contend that gold in 1 Cor 3 is a reference to the Holy Spirit of God. That is, building a life using gold is equivalent to saying that one should build their life with the power of the Holy Spirit and to build their life with the goal of being filled to the fullest with the Holy Spirit. How I go about demonstrating this is somewhat more convoluted than my proof that silver = Word of God. Proverbs 8:10 that I reference above compares gold with knowledge, and I'm not sure how to fit that into my analysis yet. Anyway, there are a ton of scriptures that one could use to analyze the biblical meaning of gold, but I've personally been obsessing over Exodus 37:6-9 recently, so I'll use that one. A second scripture that I will use is Revelation 21:18,21.

Ex 37:6-9 says:

"6 He made the atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 7 Then he made two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 8 He made one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; at the two ends he made them of one piece with the cover. 9 The cherubim had their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim faced each other, looking toward the cover."

Rev 21:18,21 says:

18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.

21The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

The second reference shows that the new Jerusalem, which is being described in these two verses, is made out of pure gold. Now I am going to claim that the New Jerusalem is a description of the body of Christ, after having been purified and glorified (without discussing the meaning of those terms). But the short of it is, this is the body of Christ after passing through the fire of 1 Cor 3. So gold here is signifying purity and holiness, and also it signifies the born-again believers of God.

I will also assert that in the Exodus passage, the cherubim are symbols for the born-again believer. You can see this because: they are made out of gold, they are priests unto God, which is what we are called as well, they have their hands raised in worship in God's presence, they serve in the Most Holy Place, they are looking towards God, and they are made out of one piece with the mercy seat. Angels are not made of one piece with God, but we are (since our spirit and the Holy Spirit are united in one), so these cherubim must be symbolic for beings united with God's presence, with God's Holy Spirit. So we can see that, having been washed in the blood of Christ (and indeed all the temple objects were sanctified in blood), we are now filled with the Spirit of God and that is why everything in the tabernacle/temple was covered in gold, even if it was made out of wood. In the case of the cherubim, they are made out of hammered gold. Here we can see that the mercy seat is made out of pure gold, because God is pure and fully righteous, but we are made out of hammered gold because God has to work on our hearts and change us to make us into what He wants us to be. Nevertheless, we are both made out of the same material. Since God is a spirit being, what He is made out of is the spirit, and therefore gold is a symbol for the Spirit of God (since the mercy seat in this instance is a type for God).

So that's my elongated proof/conjecture. I'm pretty confident it's true. Anyway...

There are a lot of other scriptures that deal with the topic of this life as a seed for the next, and off the top of my head all I can think of is 1 Cor 13:8-13, but I'm not going to analyze it because you're all intelligent people and I could go on forever looking at different scriptures and their analyses on this topic.

I should note that 1 Cor 15 is now one of my favorite chapters. :)

Blessings, and feel free to forward this or copy it as you wish,

Daniel. :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

To the faithful

(Cut this out of something else I was writing, so don't mind if it sounds like I'm in the middle of a paragraph- I was.)

"To the faithful, God shows Himself faithful, to the righteous, He shows Himself righteous,..." And I was thinking about it and realized; nobody is"faithful" on their own. It's simply not "in" us to be faithful on our own. If someone is faithful, it's because of the faithfulness of God being manifested in them. So one of the meanings of that verse is that God shows Himself faithful to the faithful by demonstrating His faithfulness IN the person, not just to them. That is, the very faithfulness of the person in question *IS* the faithfulness of God *IN* that person. So the reason the faithful understand God's faithfulness to a degree that nobody else understands is because they live His faithfulness. They truly become one with the Lord in Spirit, cf. 1 Cor 6:[16?], in the area of God's faithfulness, and thus have an intimate, personal knowledge of His faithfulness. This principle is true with respect to every part of who God is; anytime you manifest that part of God's nature, it gives you an intimate knowledge of that part of His nature because you're living it out. Remarkable.

The "downside" to this is that if you really want to have an intimate knowledge of perseverance, etc, usually it means you need to go through difficulties and hardships to get there. How can one learn to persevere without having something to persevere? How can one learn to love like God without having people hate you? Etc. However, it's not *really* a downside, because "blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness". It's really a blessing to be persecuted, etc, even though we might not recognize it as such. Well, I for one, have prayed that God would do anything and everything necessary to remove the barriers keeping me from Him, and this is a prayer that I still stand by.

Where is Abel???

I was just reading through Genesis 4, and I was really struck once again by the lives of Cain and Abel. When I was reading through it, some ideas came to me. Kinda like, interesting thoughts, even if I can't scripturally prove them. Here's what I noticed.

First, it's really fascinating that in the entire bible, it does not record Abel saying a single thing. Cain speaks several times (although ironically it probably would've been wiser if he hadn't, considering what he did say), but Abel never says anything. Even Abel's name means "nothing". Abel is almost a ghost of a figure; he's not the firstborn (a strong disadvantage in Hebraic culture), since Cain was born first, he never speaks, and his very name labels him as nothing. And yet God is pleased with him. As powerfully, it says in Hebrews 11 that Abel still speaks by faith, which is truly remarkable considering the bible doesn't record him saying anything. Yet he still speaks by faith. Remarkable. So, the question becomes, what is he saying? I don't think I have a complete answer, but I think I have an idea anyway. Abel's life, as recorded in Gen 4, basically consists of: tending flocks, giving the fat portions from the firstborn of his flock, and then going out with his brother to the fields to be murdered. He, in this regard, reminds me of Jesus; he was led silently to the slaughter. He gave the firstborn of his flock, which is a pre-figure for Jesus, and even though Abel wasn't the firstborn son (like Isaac, Jacob, and Ephraim), he lived like a firstborn, if that makes any sense.

Second, I noticed that there's definitely a "fields" thing going on. The curse laid on Adam, as recorded just before in Gen 3, very specifically curses the ground, declaring that it will produce thorns and thistles, and that by "the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat" (Gen 3:19, NLT).
It strikes me as no coincidence that Cain is the one who cultivated the ground. I'm not original in noticing that Abel tended flocks, which correlates with God covering Adam and his wife with animal skins, and Cain cultivated the ground, which correlates not only with the curse, but also with Adam and Eve trying to cover themselves with sewed fig leaves.

But what I hadn't noticed before is that Cain also invited his brother out to the fields before killing him. This is very interesting. Now, the reason he might have done this depends on what theory about the earth's population you follow. It really depends on whether: a) Cain and Abel were the only two sons of Adam at this time, or b) there were many people already alive, or c) somewhere inbetween. The text is, strictly speaking, silent on the matter of how many people were alive right now, other than to later note that Cain already had a wife, which suggests that there were at least some other people around (him having a wife necessitates Adam and Eve having had some other children already).

Anyway, if you believe that there were many other people around, then a possible explanation is that Cain simply wanted to have Abel isolated. Simply put, there aren't very many people around to help you when you're in the country. In the city, you generally have relatives to protect you.

If there weren't any other (or few) people around at the time (and certainly those who would be around would be younger than Cain and Abel), then one might wonder what the difference is between killing Abel in the fields vs. killing him in the camp/city/whatever.

There are many possible connections one could make, and here are some connections I've hypothesized: connection between Cain killing him in the field, which is a symbol for the labor associated with the curse; the field is the place of origination for Cain's insufficient offering, and somehow he thinks that filling it with his brother's blood would increase its produce/productivity. Much more plausible.

Third, there's a wander/settled motif in this passage that plays out powerfully. For starters, Cain is a farmer, which is essentially a settled lifestyle. Abel is a pastoralist, which necessitates frequent travel and few settlements. Now liberal scholars play on this endlessly, claiming that the story made its way into the bible as some sort of parable about the pastoral Hebrews coming in and wiping out the farming natives in the middle east. I'm not well acquanted with the theories, so I'm not going to go into much detail on that side. If you look at it from a spiritual perspective though, you can clearly see somethings up. Like I already said, Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. Cain kills his brother and pours Abel's blood out on his field, which signifies his labor, occupation, and source of food (i.e. provision). Then when God curses him because of what he did (the first human being to be cursed; the curse in Gen 3 is on the land and on the serpent) and since Abel's blood cries out to God from the ground (Abel speaking?), Cain is banished both from the ground and then from God's presence. What he might have thought would increase his produce (many ancient cultures have a belief/practice centered around sacrifices and pouring out blood upon land to increase its productivity, suggesting that Cain may have had similar thoughts), actually results in his banishment from the land, and also the completion of the curse; for Adam, the curse was that he would have to labor for food to come from the ground; for Cain, no amount of labor would bring food out of it now.

Now Cain was sentenced to be a wanderer. What was the first thing Cain did (well, besides complain)? He goes out, has a child, and then builds a city. Now here's irony for you; a city in the land of "wandering." It should be clear to anyone that Cain is trying to rebuild on his own strength what the curse from his sin had taken from him. Sound familiar to anyone?

The fourth and final interesting thing to note that I noticed (there's plenty more that's interesting in there that I haven't mentioned) is the questions of God. I'm always fascinated by the places where God asks people questions. There are several questions from God in this chapter of Genesis, but the one that I really want to close in on is, "Where is your brother? Where is Abel?" Cain responded, "I don't know, am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9, NLT).

There's much one could say about this passage. The obvious part is, we are responsible for our brothers. Cain asks, Am I my brother's keeper? The answer was, Yes! I honestly feel like God is even asking us this question. Where is our brother? Where is Abel, the one who is nothing, the one who doesn't speak, the one who silently follows his brother, even unto death? Where is Abel? And yet, how many people are there today who say, I don't know. Am I responsible for the well-being of my brother? Do I have to actually pay attention to him? Even if you ignore the heightened hypocrisy of the fact that Cain had just killed his brother, Cain was still his brother's keeper, and we are our brothers' keeper today.

God is still asking today where Abel is, and Abel's blood is still speaking today from the ground that swallowed it. This is a question that is still presented to us by the Word of God. Where is Abel? Where is your brother? Where is the quiet one whom nobody seems to know but God? God is intensely concerned about Abel, because Abel's blood is crying out to Him. Cain said he didn't know; why don't we try to correct his sin and find out where Abel is? God isn't asking where Abel is because He needs the information; He's asking because WE need the information.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Kevin Singleton told me that I should start a blog, so I figured I would. I have a bunch of things in a file on my computer that God has taught me, so I'll just start posting those here, maybe talk about some of the other cool things that God does occasionally. Oh yeah, and some of my crazy dreams. In any case, it should be good stuff.

Here's an interesting topic to start with, very timely considering I just got a job offer from microsoft (woohoo!).


Love of money vs. having money. Back when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do after graduating, I heard a lot of people give talks about the problems with the western church. Most of these talks focused on how the west is overloaded with money and therefore has become complacent. This is by and large true. These talks would then conclude, unless God has explicitly told you to stay in the united states, then assume He wants you to go overseas. For some reason they wouldn't mention actually seeking out the will of God, perhaps because they assumed that nobody would really bother to check with God if they did. So if you aren't listening to God, they perhaps reasoned, you might as well be not listening to God in another country rather than not listening to God in this one. Nevermind how that might produce a Works mentality, result in many people going overseas who shouldn't, to counterbalance the people who stay here who should rather be going overseas, and not really doing anything about the core problem, which is ignorance of God and lack of concern for the things close to God's heart. (For the record, I have since spoken to one of those people and without me bringing it up, he said that he wasn't worried about me because it seemed to him like I was seeking God's will. So I'm just talking above about how it *seemed* to me, even if that wasn't what they were really saying)

So I listened to these things, and prayed vigorously, and declared that yes, I would give up everything and become a long-term missionary. Since I had heard God tell me that I am a teacher, I decided that I would thusly become a teacher in a foreign country, like perhaps China, as cover for missionary work. Not all that bad of a plan, if it weren't for the fact that I probably wouldn't be very good at missions work and that it really doesn't seem like God's plan for my life. At least it seemed like it was at the time, and I really was seeking out the will of God for my life, so I'm sure I would/will find His will for me sooner or later. God very well might tell me to go do missions later, but that's speculative.

Anyway, one factor that played into my decision was to prove to everyone, both human and God, that I really was serious about living for God. I could go around telling my family and people on campus that I'm going to devote myself to long-term missions, and therefore it would become undeniable that I was serious about being christian and that I hadn't simply "christianized" my regular life by throwing in once-a-week church services; that I was allowing myself to be radically transformed in irreversable ways. I got to listen to many sermons about the complacency of the church, and every time I heard one I would check with myself about whether or not I truly was complacent. Most of the time my answer would come back, "no, you aren't complacent". But looking at this issue so many times, I was slowly starting to think, "maybe I really am complacent. I mean, I haven't done what the early church did which is give up all their possessions." So I then decided, I could prove that I really wasn't like the rest of the complacent church by becoming a missionary, because nobody could possibly care about money if they went overseas as a missionary. This brings up the relevant point; love of money vs. having money.

Simply giving up money doesn't get rid of your love of money. Like Paul subtly refers to in 1 Cor 13, you can give up your life and be martyred but not have love. Like Jesus talks about, you can pray, give alms to the poor, or go to church, and do all of these things out of selfish ambition. All you have to do is simply do them for yourself to prove your righteousness to others, and you're doing it as sin. Jesus says love of money is the root of all evil, not money itself. That is, you can be a missionary and still love money. You're simply denying yourself something you love as works, to prove to others that you really are righteous. You're doing it to earn something from God. Now this is all fine if the reason you're doing it is love of God, then surely God really will reward you. He has said as much in many places. However, if the reason you're doing it is to work for a reward on your own merit and not because you have broken your love of money, then you're doing it in your own will and in your own power, and the love of God is not in you.

On the other hand, you really can have a lot of money and still be righteous because the love of God is in you. Just look at David for an example of that. So we see that the problem, as the bible explicitly states, is the love of money, not money itself. If you simply give up money without giving up love of money, then you're still in your sin. If you give up your love of money, then it doesn't matter if you have money or not, either way you're living righteously and God will reward you either way.

I know that many people use this sort of thinking as cover for their complacency, but the way to combat that is not to simply say, "anyone who loves God must go overseas." I recall something about different body parts in 1 Cor 13. What we need to do is say, "anyone who loves God, LOVE GOD." Everything else will work out if we can just learn to love God.