Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sharpen your blade

When is the last time you sharpened your go-to kitchen knife?
You know, the one you use to chop everything from onions to kielbasa?
Unless you're an extra-regimented cook, chances are the last time you sharpened that bad boy was also--coincidentally--the last time your trusty blade squished a tomato and made straight for your left thumb.
It's just that way with tools that are meant to be sharp: If they're neglected, they not only become ineffective, they actually turn on you and leave you grasping for an empty box of Mickey Mouse band-aids.
(No, I haven't had this experience lately, why do you ask?)
Where were we? Ah yes, sharp tools. They're either sharp and good, or dull and bad. Effective instrument in the hands of its wielder, or tomato-smashing turncoat in need of a good sharpening.
And so it is when it comes to truth.
Truth is sharp, by its very nature. And, when truth becomes dull, it doesn't just become less effective... it becomes downright dangerous.
Two Presuppositions About Truth
In talking about truth, I'm making two, what I believe to be key, presuppositions I'd like to let you in on. 
First, truth exists. That is, truth isn't relative. It's not bound by time, dictated by social trends, defined by media pundits or created by religious authorities. This is not to say the truth that exists never lines up with time, social trends, the media, or religious authorities. Thank God, sometimes it does. Without His help, truth would be opaque, general at best, and ultimately, unknowable. 
Which leads to my second presupposition: truth is knowable. How do I know that? Well, I could reason (actually, tons of alive/dead guys a million times smarter than me have already done this) from natural laws like gravity and the Second Law of Thermodynamics that, since these immutable laws exist, the truth of these immutable laws therefore must exist, which points to an underlying truth that must therefore undergird all truth.
But then again, I'm not that smart. More to the point, even if truth's existence could be proved by this kind of reasoning (and I think it can be and has been by many), I might emerge from the process with enough confidence to cut through a tomato, but not nearly enough to take a sword into battle.
No, the real reason truth is knowable is that truth is revelatory. That is, truth is made known because God has chosen to make it--and Himself--known to humans by the creation itself, by countless actions of self-disclosure--flowing forth from sheer grace--and by the ultimate act of revelation called the Incarnation, when, the eternally existent Word of God took on flesh and dwelt among men.
The Story of Increasing Specificity  
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:1-3a)
When God desired to show "his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature" (Romans 1:20), He created the world and all that is in it--especially man and woman to behold and delight in our Creator.
When, after our first parents rebelled against him, God desired to show His unstoppable, gracious purpose to rescue His image-bearers, so He swore to save them through a promised Rescuer (Genesis 3:15). 
When God, with an eye to the ultimate deliverance that would come through the Rescuer, desired to show His people--and eventually all people everywhere--our desperate need of him, He sent Moses down Mt. Sinai, not with an ethical code by which men and women would be saved, but with 10 specific ways His people should gain a hunger and thirst for the righteousness these Commandments prove we do not possess.
And God continued this process of creating a hunger for His Rescuer in the "many times and... many ways" in which "God spoke to our fathers by the prophets," all throughout the history of Israel, until finally... finally... FINALLY!!! ... "in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son..."

Jesus is the Father's 'Selfie'

In His Son, God showed us "the exact imprint of his nature." My good friend, Garrett, recently captured this idea perfectly when he said, "Jesus is the Father's selfie." 
And God's selfie doesn't just end when a baby is born in Bethlehem. God's selfie isn't fulfilled in with a teacher in Galilee, or a healer in Bethany--even one who brings a man back from the dead (John 11). No, God's selfie goes all the way to Mt. Calvary, where Jesus Christ--sin-bearing Savior--bore the wrath reserved for sinners like you and me (2 Cor. 5:21).
God's selfie includes an empty tomb three days later, when God's Savior, Jesus Christ, broke the back of sin, death, Hell and Satan by rising from the dead (1 Cor. 15:55). God's selfie continues today at the Father's right hand, where Jesus pleads for sinners by His blood, ensuring God's acceptance of all who put their trust in Him (Hebrews 7:25).
God's selfie will one day be consummated when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead (Hebrews 10, Revelation 20:11-15, Matthew 26:31-46), as He takes His rightful place at the center of the new Jerusalem, where--finally!--there is "no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb." (Revelation 21:22-23)
Friends, Let's Sharpen our Blades 
All this to say, God has not left us with vague truth. 
He didn't send Jesus as a stick figure, for us to fill in the details. He left us with specificity in revelation, at great cost to Himself, and for our salvation by faith in the shed blood of Christ on behalf of sinners.
We who were dead enter life by believing in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who bore the terrible--appropriate, righteous and fierce--wrath of God for sinners like us. 
He takes our sin and we take His righteousness by faith alone. That's called the Great Exchange--"imputation"--and it's the foundation on which the church is built. We perish without imputation, and with it, "we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:2) This is a specific, exact truth.
No wonder, then, God's Word is compared to a sword (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12). 
His revelation is specific. His work is precise. His disciple-making mission is as clear as it is unshakable. 
Then so the Christian's message to a watching world. 
Friends, let's not settle for general, sloppily applied truth. Let's not equate testimonies of "faith in God" through a difficult time with "faith in the work and person of Christ." One is a vague claim any theist can make, while the other implies and requires a total life change, a daily death to self, and a Spirit-wrought resurrection by trusting in the sufficiency of Christ alone.
One may get us through a tough season. The other gains us access into the presence of God as we enter through the wounds of God's Son.
Friends, let's always be about the hard, joyful work of sharpening our swords. That's what our world needs. That's what we need. That's what I need.

Friday, August 9, 2013

To Lucy, on her birthday

My sweet daughter,

I want you to know, first of all, that I love you much more intensely than words on a page could ever express. I've only known you for a matter of hours, but from another perspective, I've known you your whole life.

Most people speak in terms of pride when they try to capture the feeling of holding a newborn baby, watching a toddler learn to walk and talk, and seeing their children blossom into the kind of adults who are able to handle life excellently.

I don't know if pride is the best word to explain what I've felt in the first couple of hours I've known you. But that's most likely because pride doesn't feel like it's a strong enough word to handle the situation. Honestly, I don't know what word is sufficient for today.

Today, your big sister will meet you for the first time. When your momma and I welcomed Anabelle into this world just two and a half short years ago, we really had the feeling we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

Sometimes we still feel that way, but every day with Anabelle has been an unspeakable blessing from God Himself, so it's with a much deeper, much more informed sense of anticipation that your momma and I welcome you into our little sapling of a family.

As an aside, you look exactly like Anabelle when she was born. That's a good thing, because she was the most beautiful little person I've ever laid eyes on. And so are you, Lucy. As far as your momma and I are concerned, you will never have to compete with your sister for approval. I promise you that.

My first and most ultimate prayer over you is the same one I had for your big sister, and it's one I pray every day over her, and have prayed every day over you, even as you were being knit together in your mother's womb. My prayer is this: That you would know the Lord. That you would be found in Jesus. That you would grow to delight yourself in Him.

That's not my only prayer for you, Lucy, but it is my highest, and it is the one prayer weaving through and tying all my prayers for you together. I pray you will always know I love you and accept you, no matter what, for no other reason than that I'm your daddy. That's how my dad has always loved me, and more importantly, it's how my Heavenly Father has loved me, even at the cost of His own Son.

I pray your momma and I's love for you will paint a clear picture of the unconditional, active, pursuant love of God expressed in joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.

I cannot wait to watch you grow, my sweet Lucy Ann. I cannot wait to watch you learn walk, talk, and play with your big sister. And I cannot wait to watch God work in your life to draw you to Himself so that you find your salvation, identity, and source of joy in Him alone.

But for now, please don't be in a hurry to make any progress. Sleep tight, my sweet Lucy.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Be you, just like me

It finally happened today. An active professional athlete in one of America’s identified himself publicly as a homosexual.

In a matter of hours, representatives from all across the sporting spectrum had anted up to express their unqualified support for Jason Collins, who as a less-than-even-casual basketball fan, I had never heard of before this afternoon.

One basketball player I had heard of, Kobe Bryant, summed up the seemingly mandatory reaction that everybody—player or not—is required to have within the space of 140 characters. He tweeted:

"Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU"

Did you catch that last hashtag? BYOU, as in, “Be you.” Alright, Kobe, I will be me. Thanks for your permission.

I—me, that is—am told, in no uncertain terms, in passages like 1 Timothy 1:8-10 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 that the God of Heaven condemns the sin of homosexuality in the same category as slave-trading and mom-slapping.

Just being me, I’ve got to say that homosexuality is held out as a paradigm for sin in Romans 1. Not as the worst of all sins, nor as an unforgivable sin, but as a paradigm of the intrinsic backward-ness of all sin, mine included.

I also look with my eyes and see friends who self-identify as homosexuals, “receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error,” as Romans 1:27 states. I see this and I weep for them. Homosexuality, like all sin—yet uniquely—is a self-destructive lifestyle, and I hate to see my fellow image-bearers of God destroyed.

These are my friends, and they are miserable because of their sin, which cuts them off from God himself. I know that misery because I belong in those lists in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians. I speak not as a condemner, but as one once condemned and bound by sin, but now set free and re-made by the atoning death and resurrection of my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

Room to #BYOU?

What’s going to happen to the first professional athlete to say what I’ve said—in any format? Will a Christian athlete—or columnist—who is asked his take on Jason Collins be given the same status as all the others if he dares speak the truth of God as it has been given him in Scripture?

Will anyone applaud Joe Christian, pitcher for the Houston Astros, when he says the following?

"I love my teammates and will go to war with a guy who does his job any day of the week. If you want to know my take on who I will play on the same team with—and be proud to do so—then that’s it.

But, if you want to know where I stand on homosexuality, then I’ve got to say that my God has spoken clearly on this topic. He has called it sin, which results in death. He does not desire that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance and come to a knowledge of the truth.

I myself am a sinner. I don’t happen to struggle with the sin of homosexuality, but I struggle with lust, greed, pride, worry, and 10,000 other forms of idolatry. These things would keep me enslaved to the power of sin if not for the death of Christ in my place."

Will such a statement be applauded or denounced? Clearly, this would be denounced as the words of an “ignorant”, to-be-pitied, backward religious fanatic.

How do I know that? Because of Tim Tebow.

The curious case of Tim Tebow

Today also happened to be a turning point of sorts in the professional football career of Tim Tebow, who was released first thing this morning by the New York Jets.

Why did he get released? Because they didn’t think he could play quarterback at the NFL level, period. That’s perfectly fine, I saw a few of those Denver Broncos games in late 2011, and I tend to agree. It seems like there are plenty of other quarterbacks better than him.

So why do I bring him up? Well, in the same 20-minute drive that I heard the monochromatic reaction of one pro athlete after another to today’s “groundbreaking” announcement by Collins, the radio show hosts let loose with fury on Tim Tebow, the person—not the football player.

Fact is, nobody’s really arguing whether or not Tebow’s a good football player. That’s yesterday’s news and there’ve been two drafts since he played a significant role on the gridiron.

What my esteemed radio hosts were bantering about, however, was what a “phony” Tim Tebow is—which they made no attempt to qualify with evidence of any kind. As the segment wore on, these radio broadcasters let loose the vitriol, leaving no doubt as to how much hatred and animosity they have against the guy.

And why? Because they prefer pocket passers to read-option QB’s? Not likely, is it? No, the hatred is simply owing to the fact that Tim Tebow stands for something. Tebow is a guy who, for all indications, loves his Savior and is governed by God’s truth.

The world sees that, and recoils against it.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…”

It’s like that moment on a dark morning when my alarm goes off, but I stay under the covers. Before long, my wife turns on the light and pulls off the covers. I’m offended. I shrink back. I want to curse her for turning on the light.

That’s the difference between today’s two reactions—one to Tebow and one to Collins. One quietly, unassumingly exposes sin in each of our hearts while the other gives hearty approval to autonomous, God-neglecting hearts.

One leaves us cozy in bed while the other pulls off the covers and turns on the lights.

Wrapping it up

I knew this day was coming. Ever since I was 12-years-old and a sportswriter named Marcos Breton wrote a piece about how it was just a matter of time before a pro sports athlete came “out of the closet,” I’ve known this day was coming.

I’ve also known it was coming because our concept of “tolerance” has been shifting for some time. “Tolerance,” which should mean that I love and respect my neighbor even while disagreeing with him and seeking to persuade him to my position, has now come to be synonymous with “approval.”

Tolerance and approval are not the same thing, however. Kobe’s tweet says as much. It sends the message loud and clear—approve of homosexuality or be called an ignorant suffocator. Accept homosexuality or become unacceptable yourself.

BYOU, as long as “you” happen to sign onto the mandate of the day.

My apologies to the Black Mamba, I can’t get behind that. I love my neighbor too much to pretend he’s living when I know he’s truly dying.

And I must, as the early apostles said, “Obey God rather than men.”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Rifle is Mightier than the Shotgun

I had a history professor named Dr. Marler. He spoke like a Southern gentleman and he read like his life depended upon it.

Perhaps it did, because in addition to the mountain of books that cluttered his office, rumor had it that he rented an apartment in town solely for book storage.

Of all the classes I took from him, the best, most memorable piece of wisdom I ever heard from him came after he reviewed my behemoth of a paper known as a senior project.

I sat down across from him in his office, and he leaned back in his chair, as he was wont to do. Looking off as into the distance, he gestured with his hands as he spoke what I was sure to be an unrestrained blessing over the paper I had labored so hard to produce.

“This paper,” Dr. Marler said, “is like a shotgun. I need it to be more like a rifle.”

In an instant, I knew exactly what the old man meant—the paper needed a focus, a clear direction, a precision that just hadn't been there before.

Shotgun writing covers a broad range of issues, much like the spray of birdshot from a 20-gauge pump-action. The problem is, writing like that fails to pierce, to bore in, and to effectively accomplish its goal. Shotgun writing wounds its target, by addressing multiple issues on a surface level, but in the end, it is less than lethal.

Rifle writing is killer writing. It’s lethal. It takes one subject, focuses sharply on that subject, and bores in on the reader until he or she has no choice but to respond—repenting, rejoicing, buying, giving, blessing, working, or even arguing.

Rifle writing is the kind of writing that would make Annie Oakley proud. Not to mention Dr. Marler.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Defending Hope, Learning Lessons

"... (A)lways being prepared to make a defense to anyone 
who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you..." 
-1 Peter 3:15

Up until tonight, I'd never experienced the full force of this verse. If anything, when I've had this verse in mind, it would make me wonder just how a conversation like this might go:

"Hey you! Defend yourself! Give me a reason for the hope you have within you or else!"

Maybe it wouldn't go quite like that--though in the context of 1 Peter it might. Still, I've just had a hard time getting a sense of what it would be like.

But tonight, God in his infinite wisdom and grace allowed me to get a taste for what this verse is all about.

There's a regular at my restaurant who stops in every night after work just to grab a Bass, a Dewar's neat and maybe an appetizer. He's always a friendly guy, and a bit of an outdoorsman, so we usually have something to talk about when we see each other.

Tonight was going just like any other night, a bit slow for a Friday night, in fact, when "John" struck up a conversation with me. Normally, he'll stop me to show me a YouTube video or tell me about a recent bike ride. But I could tell right away that he had something else in mind tonight.

"Jay, I've been watching you over the past year, and I've got to say I never see you down," he said. "You just always seem to be happy and unaffected by what's going on around you, like water off a duck's back. I've just got to ask you why."

Now, anyone who's known me for more than two seconds can tell you that I'm about a thousand miles away from being someone who let's things roll off him like water off a duck's back. I mean, my joke with Janelle is that the phrase "pet peeve" really gets under my skin and bothers me.

But then, here's this guy who's become a friend over the past year, who's seen me at work and even with my family--both church and nuclear--and he's really asking the question that 1 Peter 3:15 presupposes people are asking the Christ-followers around them.

What would my response be? Would I be prepared to give a reason for the hope this friend sees in me day in and day out?

I said, "John, that is really great to hear. I've got to say first that I'm a long ways away from really being the person you're describing. But I'll tell you why I'm happy all the time: I'm accepted by God, and that's where I find all my significance."

As we continued to talk, John told me a bit about his struggles with life. He's an established professional who's lived a good, respectable life, but he really feels like there's something missing and a change is needed.

While we chatted, I prayed that God would give me wisdom, clarity and courage in the conversation. I was also convinced that I did not want to leave the conversation with any lack of specificity. 

So, when the time was right, I said, "I just want to be clear about something. I don't think that God accepts me because I'm a good person--I'm not a good person, and nobody is. What I believe is that Jesus died in my place and was raised from the dead, and I live the life of his resurrection."

Just then, the bartender brought John his check and I got a new table. I walked away from that conversation thanking God for the work that he's doing in my life through waiting tables.

Four specific areas where God is teaching me come to mind:

1. Never to delay a conversation. If it's there, take a shot and get as specific as you possibly can. An acquaintance may or may not meet you for coffee (let's be real, it ain't gonna happen), but if they ask you about the hope you have within you, draw your six-gun and fire away right then and there. 

2. Sometimes takes a lot of time and a lot of head-down-working to build a platform for the gospel. I've been at my restaurant for a year, and God has given me most of the best gospel-oriented conversations within the past two months. Those first 10 months weren't wasted at all though. God is using them now, and I trust he used them then as well.

3. Be specific and to think on your feet. Nobody needs merely to know that there is a God, or even a God who loves them; everybody needs to know that the Son of God took on flesh, dwelt among us, died the death that sinners deserve and was raised to life by the power of God so that those who trust in this Person--Jesus Christ--would be reconciled to their Creator. 

4. To be content and productive wherever God places me. To bloom where I'm planted. I've spent so much time oscillating between worry and contentment about working in a restaurant this year that it's actually pretty embarrassing. God may move me to a different work situation soon or not soon, but either way, he has me here for a reason, and I need to trust him in that. It's like the Caedmon's Call song says, "You know the plans that you have for me/and you can't plan the ends and not plan the means."

God wants his ambassadors to work heartily and speak clearly. I'm learning that one happy hour at a time.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Lion's Roar, the Prophet's Word

"The lion has roared; who will not fear? 
The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?" 
-Amos 3:8

When I was 10, there was a lady who was killed by a mountain lion while she was out jogging just a couple of miles from our house.

It was already common knowledge that there were mountain lions in the area--there still are, in fact--and within a week of Barbara Schoener's fatal attack, our dog had been killed, along with several of our neighbors' goats, pigs, etc.

The game changed in an instant, though, when the reality that a jogger could be attacked and killed by one of those cats on a paved jogging trail struck our family and our community in all its undeniable certainty.

In the following days and weeks, our parents told us what we could do if we were to encounter a mountain lion, which consisted of standing up as high as you could, yelling and throwing rocks to try and scare it away. With that knowledge filed away, however, we entertained no false illusions of our invincibility in the face of God's majestic, territorial, predatory cat.

What I don't remember, however is my mom or dad sitting us boys down and telling us to be afraid of the lions. Who needed to be told that? Fear in that sense is the natural reaction to the light of reality.

In the years that followed, the nearby attack was always in the back of our minds. Whenever a wiffleball game went into extra innings and required a twilight walk up the long, gravel driveway, or a moonlit trip to take the out the garbage was interrupted by an unaccounted for rustling in the bushes, the thought of a lurking mountain lion rightly haunted us and reminded us to keep on the alert.

That fear wasn't paranoia, but a right reaction to the light of reality.

So it is when God speaks. The shepherd-turned-prophet Amos plays upon the universally understood lion-o-phobia in each of our hearts when he relates that fearful reaction to a person--in this case, a prophet--hearing the God of heaven speak.

The point is this: When a lion roars, we fear. And when God speaks, a Christian not only hears it, but we in turn speak it.

We Christians need a constant reminder of our innate duty to speak God's word to those around us. As natural as fearing a lion when he roars, that's how knee-jerky God's people should be when it comes to communicating his truth, his self-revelation in his Word.

It's not on us to decide whether or not a message will be well-received, it's on us to deliver the message.

It means when God speaks in his Word about issues pertaining to his glory, his Son, his authority, his creation, marriage, sexuality, sin, holiness, grace and wrath, we not only listen, but we prepare ourselves to then deliver his message to the world he has saved us out of and unto.

Friends, if you are a Christian, you are one of God's spokespersons. He has entrusted us--the church and all who dwell therein--with the ministry of reconciliation through the shed blood of Christ.

He has called us the ambassadors of heaven who beg others to be reconciled to God and taste of God's undeserved grace even as we have (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).

What hinders our witness, more often than not, is an off-kilter version of reality. That is, we fear man's opinion of us more than we fear the Lord of Glory. The lion roars and we don't fear. That's a foolish, deadly reaction to reality.

It's what happens when we blush and apologize at the time to speak for the King of Heaven, and it's deadly. Jesus says it is in Matthew 10:32-33 and Paul says it again in 2 Timothy 2:12.

Let's take God at his word and own up to the reality of his authority, expressed clearly through the pages of Scripture. It's there we find our marching orders, there alone we look reality in the face.

There alone, in the fear of the Lord, we find freedom from the fear of man.

The lion has roared, who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Tale of Two Temples

In all of life and human history, there are only two temples. 

There's the temple where Man Meets God and the temple where God Meets Man. There's Babel and there's Bethel.

They may sound similar, and it may seem like hair-splitting to say there’s a difference, but these two temples could not be further apart.

The first temple, the one where Man Meets God, is constructed at a place called “Babel”, and you can read about that in Genesis 11. 

At Babel, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men gather together to build themselves an enormous tower, with the top of it “reaching to the heavens”. There were a couple of stated goals in the building of this “stairway to heaven”:
  • “let us make a name for ourselves”
  • “lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth”

While these may not seem to be that bad of goals on the surface level, in reality, they are both wicked, awful goals.


Because they are both declarations of war against God.

God had created man, along with every other thing that exists. He says in Isaiah that he will not “share his glory with another”.

To work so as to make a name for yourself—that is, to build up and accrue your own glory, reputation, honor or fame—is adamantly opposed to the God of Heaven.

And what about that second goal? “Lest we be dispersed over the face of the earth.”

That one seems pretty benign when you first look at it, to be honest with you.

But the fact is that God—both in creation and again after the Flood—had commanded and even blessed man with the words, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”.

So, when the workers went to work with their blueprints and their bricks and their mortar, they were openly rebelling against God as their king.

That tower, which God immediately destroyed, is a perfect picture of the temple of Man-Meets-God. But even though the tower at Babel was destroyed, the Man-Meets-God temple is still alive and well.

There’s all kinds of flavors and variations to choose from at the Man-Meets-God temple, and they range from mere religion, which can be summed up as strict adherence to a set of man-made rules, to irreligion, which is a complete absence of rules and morals, and to be fair, is much more common than its ugly step-sister.

But the tricky thing is that, whichever camp you may belong to—whichever end of the spectrum you find yourself on—either way, the Man-Meets-God temple is a mirage, an utter failure. 

The Man-Meets-God temple fails because it refuses to receive God on his own terms, to let him reign as king, to let him define and declare what is most valuable.

The Man-Meets-God temple fails because it tries to back God into a corner or force his hand or, just as bad, to simply cut him out of the picture altogether. 

So, what about the God-Meets-Man temple? 

We get a good picture of what this temple looks like in Genesis 28, at a place called “Bethel”.

The story goes like this: 

Jacob has been a lying, cheating snake-in-the-grass, and he’s stolen both Esau’s birthright and his first-born blessing. As a result of his bamboozling, Jacob finds himself on the lamb from his brother, escaping the land that was promised to his granddaddy, Abraham and his father, Isaac.

But, just as he’s lying down to sleep on the first night of his journey, Jacob has a dream.

“And he dreamed, and behold, a there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it…”

As the story unfolds, God promises that Jacob will inherit the birthright—even though he stole it. Jacob will have the land, a people, God’s blessing and God’s presence.

When Jacob wakes up, he’s afraid, and he says, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”

God comes down at Bethel. It’s where he makes his dwelling place with man and promises to bless and rescue sinners.

Babel is the place where good people go to get better, but Bethel is the place where God interrupts, redeems and changes godless cheaters into God-fearing worshipers.

In the end, Babel was destroyed--quite unceremoniously, I might add--but Bethel only gets better.

In the end, Bethel moves from a place to a person, as Jesus--the Word Taken on Flesh--completes and fulfills what started as Jacob's ladder, the stairway to heaven. It's Jesus who tells the first of his disciples in John 1:51 that they will see heaven opened up and the angels ascending and descending on him. That means access, full and unhindered access between heaven and earth.

In Jesus, those of us who trust him as Savior, obey him as King and treasure him above all else have union with our Creator and access to the very throne of God. 

If you're a card-carrying member of Babel--where Man Meets God--lay down your arms, lay down your bricks and lay down your mortar. Look to the true Temple, Bethel--where God Meets Man--look to him and worship.

Look to him and you'll see God himself.