Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Stairway to Heaven

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. John 1:1. 

Have you ever noticed that?  The Bible is not simple, and it's not man made.  It's all interconnected.  The first verse of the Old Testament says "in the beginning God created" it all.  Of course we know from Genesis chapters 2 and 3 that things went wrong.  

Then we look at the magnificent gospel of John, arguably the beginning of the New Testament, and it begins with the same words "In the beginning" but this time it says "was the Word" a term used to represent Jesus Christ.  In those first few paragraphs of John we have an incredible mystery.  It is stated that all things were created by Christ and for Christ.  But more so when examining John 1:1 we see that though there was a problem, there was already a solution to that problem in Jesus Christ.  From the very beginning there was an answer to the problem of sin.  

One of the oldest books in the Old Testament is the book of Job.  Job is a book very close to my heart.  I read it vigorously while I was in jail.  It helped me identify with the problem of suffering.  But in that book Job utters these prophetic words: 

"I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth." (Job 19:25)

It was said that Job was a righteous man in the sight of the Lord (Job 1:1).  Yet he suffered immensely.  Even though Job was so righteous and pure, he still knew that he needed a savior.  Job and God actually talk to one another.  And do you know what God says to Job?  He asks him somewhere between 50 and 60 questions regarding his worldview.  It helps Job understand himself.  God is not the problem.  Man's distorted worldview is the problem.

But Job knew deep down that God had provided a provision for his malady, Jesus Christ.  

Think of another Old Testament hero, not nearly as upright and true as Job.  We can think of Jacob.  He was a troublemaker.  If there is any one person in the history of man that I deeply identify with even more than Job, it's Jacob.  Jacob was trouble.  I used to be trouble.  Sometimes I still am trouble!  But God made a great nation of Jacob.  More so than Isaac or even Abraham, Jacob's name is forever connected to Israel.  The time in the book of Revelation when Israel's feet are placed to fire is called simply "The time of Jacob's trouble."  Not Abraham's trouble or Isaac's trouble, but Jacob.  Why is that astounding?

Because Jacob was such a screw up.  He ran from his problems.  But God pursued him as he fled.  Do you recall the night that Jacob had his dream?  It's one of the most majestic and haunting records in the Old Testament, as follows:

Genesis 28:10-22 (NIV)
10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it[a] stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[b] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[c] though the city used to be called Luz.
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord[d] will be my God 22 and[e] this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

And God and man met, wrestling all night in Genesis chapter 32:

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.

Do you know what "Jacob" means in Hebrew?  It means deceiver.  Jacob was willing to admit that he was a lying cheat who had stole the blessing from his brother Esau.  So once he had admitted his sin, and laid it bear, God made a great nation of him.

This story is very close to my heart.  I did not come to God on my shiny spotless record.  I came to God ahhnilated by sin and hanging off a cliff, below an eternal abode of outer darkness.  We each hang from that cliff, every single person.  Some know it, most don't.  And it won't matter who knew and who didn't know.  

Think again to the vision of the stairway to heaven.  The majestic stairway, with angels going up and down upon it.  What is the stairway?  

Perhaps a better question is.. who?  

In John 1:50-51 (NIV) Jesus said to Nathaniel, "50“Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on' the Son of Man.”
Jesus Christ is the stairway in the dream of Jacob.  Jesus told it to Nathaniel, referencing the dream of Jacob in Genesis 28.  Jesus was telling Nathaniel that he would see the path to heaven open up, finally, after thousands of years of waiting for the nation of Israel.  Finally the way would be made, by which man could be reconciled to God.  

Jesus Christ is the stairway to heaven.  And there is no other. 

As a gruff friend of mine says "Take the deal punk."  

Or as Brandon Summers (The Helio Sequence) accurately sung it: "I just wanna know,
Cuz it's time that we end the day,
And you can't even sleep at night
When will you realize?
You don't even know..
You're only falling to rise again.
You're only lost to be found again.
It only ends to begin again."

- (Let it Fall Apart)

Sometimes, things have to happen a certain way.  I used to feel singled out for suffering.  I feel so weak sometimes.  Not like those "strong people" out there.  But turns out I'm one of the lucky ones.  How can I rise if I've never fallen? How could I know that I need God if I feel I really don't?  There are a lot of unlucky people who haven't been through much.  I've been through it.  And I know.  I need God.  I just do.  There isn't anything wrong with that either.  It's the natural state.  It's right.

I've dropped my weapons, and ended my own personal rebellion.  Have you dropped yours?  Have you left behind the self serving rebellion/  Have you joined the resistance?  Have you stepped into the Spirit?  As Thom Yorke (Radiohead) might put it, maybe it's time to "give up the ghost?"

Falling to my knees in front of the fire place, I called upon Jesus Christ.  I called loudly, with all my might.  Now the painting at the top of this post hangs above that fireplace.  The ladder to heaven.  I've dreamt of forests since I was young.  I've dreamt of beautiful, majestic pathways through the wilderness.  For so many years I wondered what the right way was.  I asked the questions.  But I never had an answer.  Thankfully.. once enveloped by total darkness, Jesus Christ intersected me on my journey through that woods, along the yellow brick road.  Much like the way Eric Metaxas describes his dream of the golden fish he pulled from the meta-consciousness lake, Jesus Christ stepped into my demented delusion of the new agey meadow forest, and displayed himself as the passage, not to the left, but to the right, himself, as the way, the truth, and the life.  I need all three.  I need a passage out of this nightmarish false reality, this consumerist delusion.  And I need the truth so desperately, in a world full of lies.  Most importantly, I need life in a world where death is the norm.  

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”