Where do we live?

My wife Lisa had picked up an old note pad of mine, about 15 years old (!), to use up the paper in it before going to buy a new one. As she used it the other day, she ran across a piece I had written sometime in the late 1980s, and suggested that it was worthy of posting here. As I read it again, I had to agree. Although not directly related to my recent theme of how big God is, it does speak to our life in Him.

This was probably written in December or January of whatever year it was. Beth Hallel is a Messianic Jewish congregation in North Atlanta.

“This time of year, at least for me, is always a time for reflection on where I’ve been and what I’ve done in the last twelve months. During a visit to our brethren at Beth Hallel, Rabbi Solomon made a comment in his sermon about mountains that got me thinking. Upon reflection, I realize that I have been doing a lot of walking in the ‘valleys’ of life. It has been pretty comfortable, and pretty easy; but not where I, or any Christian, should be spending most of the time.

We Christians ought to be mountain climbers. Walking through valleys is not our place; living in valleys is not our destiny. Our lives ought to be measured, not by the valleys we’ve walked, but by the mountains we’ve climbed.

Moses is perhaps the clearest example of this in scripture. Moses’ life in the Lord began on ‘the mountain of God’ called Horeb in Midian. Moses met God on the mountainside and his life was forever changed. On Mount Sinai, Moses came to know God in a way no other man did; he came, literally, into God’s presence and spoke with him. On the final mountain, Mount Nebo, Moses saw the fulfillment of God’s promise and the culmination of God’s purpose for his life and was taken into God’s eternal presence.

These three mountaintop experiences were connected by a lot of climbing. It is here that Christians are called to live. The Jews knew this principle; they had to live it annually as they ascended to Mount Zion to worship at the temple. As they climbed, they sang the Songs of Ascent, preparing themselves for the mountaintop experience of worship. The climb challenges us and strengthens us. The summit exhilarates us and gives us perspective on the world.

Yes, we must cross the valleys, but having come from the mountain we can share the wonder of the summit and bring along other climbers. Valleys are for passing through, not for staying. Mountains are where we belong. ‘Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the Lord…'”

Face Down

In my recent contemplation of the bigness of God, I was thinking about the creation story. This has been in the news some recently, associated with the whole Intelligent Design debate in the scientific community. When you think about it, our attitude a Christians is often too passé about God and creation. We read through the first few chapters of Genesis pretty quickly, not stopping to think about the significance of what the writer is saying. Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We Christians sort of go past this pretty quickly most of the time, along with the verses that follow, all beginning with God saying, “Let there be…and there was.” Let’s just slow down for a minute and hang out in these verses.

The more we learn about the origins of the universe, the more awesome, breathtaking, and incomprehensible it becomes. Isn’t it often true that the more we learn about a subject, the more we understand how little we really know? How our universe came to be is one of those, and in that light, Genesis 1:1 could probably be safely described as the most colossal understatement in the history of the universe. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Wow! Given what we now know, or think we know, about how the universe got started, there a lot of stuff that happened inside those ten words.

First, God was there already. God is the only being that always lives in the present tense. No matter when God is, he always “is.” He never was or will be existentially. I have read just enough of William Lane Craig’s book Time and Eternity, which I think is the light version of a more academic work, to understand that part of what he is trying to grasp is that God is outside our experience of linear time and reaches into the timeline to do things like create the universe. You know, the little stuff. This is the kind of stuff that makes my head hurt to try and get hold of, but God is like that. His bigness is beyond our ability to reason it out. God’s very existence, not that He does, but how He does, is unexplainable in human terms.

God created it all. It was His conscious choice. It was an intentional act. It was no accident. Creation was not a random event, driven by a wildly improbable convergence of circumstances. God had something in mind when he created our universe. Our existence and that of the Earth we live on, and the solar system of which it is a part, and the galaxy of which it is part, and so on, has a purpose. That purpose is to please Him. More about this in a minute.

As God executed all the steps of creation as outlined in Genesis 1, He spoke everything into existence. Think of that. To be able to say, “Light, be” and have it happen is a level of power that we can’t even measure. Our most brilliant scientific minds can’t even describe how light really works except in a rough way. The knowledge that it takes to even conceive of light where it had never existed before, and then to create it with a word… Words fail.

On and on through this abbreviated story, God speaks a few words and amazing things spring into existence that had never been before. Fully thought out. Well ordered. Just what he wanted. And at the end of the six steps, including the creation of man in his image, which is another thing to think through on another day, he pronounced it not just good, but very good.

I’m not going to debate whether the process took a literal six days, or some other six-step process over a longer period. Neither position dilutes the fact of God’s awesomeness, or his power, or his creativity. It is no wonder that so many of the characters in the Bible spent a bunch of their time face down before God.

It occurs to me that we Christians need to redefine and rediscover a term that gets used today in the business world when it comes to our interactions with God. It refers to time with a colleague or client in a close encounter. I’m talking about the term “face time.”

We, no I, need more face time with God. And this kind of meeting is not one of colleagues across a conference table, or over coffee, or at dinner. I’m talking about time in the presence of the Creator. Given the nature of who he is, of how powerful he is, there is only one way to really have face time with God, only one posture that’s appropriate. Face down.