Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Right from the start of me sharing my thoughts about The House of God I belaboured the fact that Him building His house amongst us and with us as living stones is the central theme on His agenda. I want to take this a step further.
I want to pick up from where I ended with the previous blog. You will remember that I spent quite a bit of time in dealing with the relevance of Haggai’s prophecy and the building of God’s house. God’s message to the Israelites was that they had abandoned the building of His house and were now focused on their own houses. Haggai called it their ceiled houses, or their panelled houses. The Hebrew word used here also means houses reserved for self, excluding others or houses that are hidden by covering them.
As a result of this God, in His mercy and love, allowed them to go through difficult times so that He could get them refocused on His agenda.
That is what makes this message prophetic for me. I believe we are entering into times where our expectations, even our expectations for that which we deem to be His house, will seem to fail and not produce the results that we were hoping for. My own experience has taught me that I tend to ignore these difficult times and press on with my agenda until I finally come to the conclusion that my way is just not working. It is only then that I realise that He is shaking me and that He possibly has something else that He wants to talk to me about….. His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time—he's told us this quite plainly—he'll also rock the heavens: "One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern." The phrase "one last shaking" means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered. Do you see what we've got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander.
I concluded the previous blog with the dream that I had 25 years ago in which God showed me how we separate ourselves from others and He said that a time would come where we will have to dig up the foundations of our lives, turn to one another and remove the over the top burglar bars that we have erected that keep us from authentic care for and connection with others. In essence He was speaking about our panelled houses.
With that being said, let me take the next PATIENT step in sharing my thoughts.
Plugging in on God’s conversation
When we want to join in with an ongoing conversation that a group of people have been engaged in for some time prior to us joining it, it is always wise to take time and connect with that which has already been said. If we don’t do that we will offer opinions, take positions and make decisions based on a valid but partial understanding of that which is being said. If that mistake is not addressed timeously we will progressively move further away from the actual conversation.
The same applies when we want to get involved with the ongoing conversation about God’s house; we need to take time out and become part of a conversation that we did not create or start. We are entering into something that originated in the heart of the Trinity, something that has been set in operation long before we came into being. As Eugene Peterson said, If we are going to live appropriately, we must be aware that we are living in the middle of a story that was begun and will be concluded by another. And this other is God.
That means that everything we want to do with regard to His dwelling place must be a response to His agenda. We never form an independent opinion and we never make the first move. We enter something that we did not create.
Was such a conversation ever started? For sure it was. If we could have been a fly on the wall in the eternal boardroom of the Trinity we would have heard this conversation: Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
That conversation was then followed by this action:
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them……And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Whatever our opinion might be about how God created man, the fact remains that He did so. Similarly with the physical creation that we live in here on earth as well as the vast expanses of space and the cosmos.
After He had formed man He blew His life, Trinitarian life, into him and Adam and his wife lived from that, it was their sole fountain of life. They were the definitive and complete version of God’s dwelling place on earth. That is the house that He is busy restoring in and though you and me. Believe me when I say that this all that God is working towards.
Some thoughts about Trinitarian life
They were defined by, knit together and in intimate fellowship with indwelling Trinitarian life, meaning that they were integrated with the quality of life as it exists within the Trinity. They were part of it and it was part of them. Trinitarian life was their life and it expressed itself through them. Looking at the life that they radiated must have been like looking at the life emanating from God because it was the same life. As the dwelling place of His life, they were image bearers or reflectors of His life. In case we might have missed it, this truth is attested to four times in the scripture I quoted - in Our image….. according to Our likeness…. So, God created man in His own image….. in the image of God, He created him.
Trinitarian life is the inter-relationship between Father, Son and Spirit and it is often likened to a dance or perichoresis.
Baxter Kruger says the following about perichoresis and the river of life:
The truth is, God is a circle of passion and life and fellowship. The Trinity is the most beautiful doctrine in the Christian faith…. And I saw that it all begins with the Trinity and the great dance of life shared by the Father, Son and Spirit. That is the rhyme and reason and mystery of it all….,. For me it was a given that human beings are part of something magnificent, that there is an invisible river of sorts running through our lives, that we are part of a great dance. I do not know how I came by this knowledge. It was always just there. It never occurred to me to question it. To do so would have been a violation of something more real to me than my own existence. It was also a given that, whatever this river was, this great dance, the passion of my heart was to be in the middle of it…… The great dance is all about the abounding life--the fellowship and togetherness, the love and passion and joy--shared by the Father, Son and Spirit….. Our humanity is the theatre in and through which the great dance is played out in our lives, and human history is the harrowing experience through which we are educated as to the truth of our identity….. To my mind, the central passion of the human heart is to be filled with the great dance, and the chief and maddening riddle of human life is to understand what the dance is and how to live in it.
The Trinity is a circle of shared life, and the life shared is full, not empty, abounding and rich and beautiful…... The river begins right there, in the fellowship of the Trinity. The great dance is all about the abounding life shared by the Father, Son and Spirit.
C S Lewis said:
The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us.
That is the quality of life that our first parents experienced in paradise. As a consequence of this they were in the midst of the totality of Godly comfort - cherished by the Father and held close to his heart. They lived in total harmony with one another, without fear or a sense of inadequacy or shame. And their mandate was to care for creation.
Where are we now?
The tragedy is that they, and subsequently us, chose the route of independence from the Trinity, believing that it is best to take care of ourselves. We bought in on the lie that God is not who He said that He was and that He can therefore not be trusted. We turned our backs on God’s purpose for our existence, i.e. union with Him and we became totally wrapped up and imprisoned in ourselves. We now need to seek the comfort that we so desperately crave within the limited resources of self, being self-referential, evaluating and judging ourselves and others against ourselves and being the sole determiners of what is good and evil or right and wrong for us and everyone else.
There are three more quotes that have always grabbed my heart with regard to all of this.
The first one is one by Blaise Pascal, a 17th century mathematician and Christian philosopher:
Man is so great that his greatness appears even in knowing himself to be miserable… It is true that to know that we are miserable is to be miserable; but to know that we are miserable is also to be great. Thus all the miseries of man prove his grandeur; they are the miseries of a dignified personage, the miseries of a dethroned monarch…What can this incessant craving and this impotence of attainment mean, unless there was once a happiness belonging to man, of which only the faintest traces remain, in that void which he attempts to fill with everything within his reach?
G K Chesterton said the following:
We are survivors of a wreck, the crew of a golden ship that has gone down before the beginning of the world. We have come to the wrong star…That is what makes life at once so splendid and so strange. The true happiness is that we don’t fit. We come from somewhere else. We have lost our way.
Gilbert Bilezekian’s quote is a follows:
Each one of us hides an awful secret. Buried deep within every human soul throbs a muted pain that never goes away. It is a lifelong yearning for that one love, …. the languishing in our inner selves for an all-consuming intensity of intimacy,….. a heart-need to surrender all that we are to a bond that will never fail.
When we take time to become silent and to listen, we may hear the scream from the depths of our being, the clamour to bear our souls and to reveal the mystery of our true selves. Just listen, listen closely….It is the distant echo of the wail in the garden at the loss of innocence, of the grieving after the remembrance of shared freedom, of the release of body and soul to the embrace of absolute oneness.
Our mourning is for the closeness that was ours by right of creation. Our grief is for the gift lost in the turmoil of rebellion. And now whenever there is hope, our hope is for paradise regained…..
Some years ago, I spent some time in prayerfully trying to get in touch with the comfort that I sought. I was, and still am, aware that I have Trinitarian life in me, but as Paul said, (my paraphrase) we have a painful yearning to experience the full cover of His house, we want our transitory lives to be fully absorbed into Trinitarian life.
This is what I discovered about my own deep needs:
To be loved intrinsically. By this I mean being loved for who I am, not for what I am thought to be worth or on the basis of performance. To be valuable and wanted as a person by someone else.
To have a sense of belonging. I do not want to experience life as a loner, I must know that at some level I am connected to someone else as well as the larger whole of humanity. This goes hand in hand with unconditional acceptance and a sense of being received as an integral part of a group of people.
To have sense of being. This is closely related to sense of belonging but goes a bit further. It includes having a sense of legitimacy of existence and not just being tolerated as an afterthought or an accident that happened.
To be secure or feel safe and protected in unsafe circumstances, even when there is no guarantee that the circumstances will change.
To have a destiny or purpose in life. I need to know that I am on earth for a greater purpose than just being entertained until the day I die, that I have a unique and valuable contribution to make to the lives of others.
To have a clear sense of identity. This means knowing where I come from or where I have been derived from or from where I have been sent into the world, who has ordained me and whose name do I bear. In his prophecy Isaiah says Ponder the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were dug. I must know that as I make my own way through life that I have an identity or source that is outside of myself that is not based on my last success or failure. In the midst of an environment that is competitive, hostile and in which outcomes cannot be predicted I need an anchor that will tell me who I am. That anchor is my identity or that which I believe myself to be.
It is therefore from a place of being whole, yet being made whole, that I am journeying into God’s house as He has intended it to be for me and for all of us. I cannot do that in isolation. I can only do it with others, whomever they might be. It is this journey on which we have arrived and yet are continuing to arrive, that we become God’s house, His place of dwelling, His place of imparting comfort to and through one another.
It must be safe place, a place where I embrace my cup of life, seemingly imperfect as it might be, with abandon and lift it up to you as you do the same and cry LE CHAIM – TO LIFE!!
More next time.