Thinking Out Loud

October 29, 2011

Living Creatures: A Halloween Post

While surfing the blogosphere for material appropriate to Christianity 201, I came across the rather lively blog of Carole McDonnell and a particular post she wrote just in time for Halloween.   The line that convinced me we needed to borrow steal feature it here was,

…I figured I’d do something on Living Creatures who terrify. (Honestly, who fears dead stuff? Maybe corpses bring diseases and contamination but other than that…the dead are not particularly troublesome.)

Is that cool or what? Now then, internet etiquette dictates that you actually click over and view this at her blog, but statistically, most of you won’t which means you would miss out on something truly different…


My Halloween Post: Those Awesome Cherubim
Yep, it’s that time of the year again when folks celebrate dead creatures and stuff that terrify. But since hubby and I finished Revelations last week, I figured I’d do something on Living Creatures who terrify. (Honestly, who fears dead stuff? Maybe corpses bring diseases and contamination but other than that…the dead are not particularly troublesome.) And no I’m not gonna talk about demons either. True, they’re living creatures in their own way because they have immortal life. But they are evil. What I want to right about is Terrifying holiness.

With God is terrible majesty! With God is terrifying majesty!

God made many type of creatures, creatures who can live in the three-dimensional world and in other dimensionalities. And he also made the Cherubim. The Cherubim live in heaven…in fact they live in God’s throne room and are never out of the presence of God. God rides on the Cherubim, He is seated above the Cherubim. (Satan himself was the cherubim that covered the throne while the other cherubs surrounded it or were under it. But I digress.)

The weird thing is that as heavenly as Cherubim are, they are weirdly intertwined in human affairs. What their purpose is God alone (and great Bible students) know. They are carved over the mercy seat…which represents their place in heaven. They represent life forms on earth: tame animals, wild animals, humans, and birds. (No fish or creeping thing, but again, I digress.)

So this is what I want to talk about the Cherubim. Now, on earth we have one way of being: we are spirit, body, mind, but we are all in one visible package. Because God is above and beyond the third dimension, God can see our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.  But we humans can only see each other’s bodies. (Okay, if we have a gift we can see into spirits but I digress.)  Back to the Cherubim.

As we see them in the Book of Ezekiel, (the first time I believe in the Bible) we are told they all have one likeness:

The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness.  The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. “ (Ezekiel 1:1, 4-5,15-16, NKJV)

That is: they all look alike.

Under each of their four wings I could see human hands. So each of the four beings had four faces and four wings. 9The wings of each living being touched the wings of the beings beside it. Each one moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.

10Each had a human face in the front, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle at the back. 11Each had two pairs of outstretched wings—one pair stretched out to touch the wings of the living beings on either side of it, and the other pair covered its body. 12They went in whatever direction the spirit chose, and they moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.  Ezekiel 1: 8-12

Okay, so we accept this. One being has four faces, feet straight down so they don’t ever turn their face from God, and eyes everywhere just in case…so they don’t miss anything. And then there’s that pesky wheel-within-the-wheel which hints at all kinds of things.

The other thing we have to note is that these Cherubim move about in groups of four. Each four is one entity: a singular entity made up of four sub-entities who all look alike. This is something we can’t even begin to figure out. I mean, on earth a marriage is an entity but the hubby and the woman are not really alike to such an extreme.

Anyway, we accept this…and ponder and ponder. But then what happens when we arrive in Revelation?

In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. 7The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight.8Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,  Rev  4: 6-8

There are two changes here:

The first: the number of wings: two pairs each in Ezekiel’s vision, and 6 wings (not said if they come in pairs) in Revelations.
The second: The cherubim are now separate, kinda. . .and fully themselves but still a unity of four.

They’re still unified but one is fully human with six wings, one is fully a bird (with six wings), one is fully a lion (with six wings) and one is fully an ox (with six wings.

Again, they have all the eyes.  Now if there is any confusion here about these creatures: Ezekiel calls these living creatures “Cherubim” and John calls them “living creatures.”

Ezekiel 10:20 These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim.

Revelation 4:6 Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

But, what’s interesting here is how these cherubim are part of each other and a unity. Not a trinity but a Quatrinity (I just invented that word, I think.) On earth we can’t begin to understand beings who are part of each other and who can dismantle and reassemble themselves in different patterns….but wow! this is heaven! A spiritual sphere! A world of dimensionalities we cannot begin to understand. Question: do they really “look” like this? Or is the way they look the only way our human minds with its limited understanding of what a “person” is can understand?

And may I say, these are terrifying. I have never seen a cherubim — especially when it/they is in their one from column a, one from column b, one from column c, one from column d — and yet one-single-entity mode  And know what? I do not want to see them.

In Daniel, the angel Gabriel is often called “The man Gabriel.” He stands before God, in the presence of God. Just like the cherubim are always before God. And honestly, if God wants to send anyone to talk to humans, I think he knows enough of human fear to send someone who looks like one of us: Gabriel.

How terrifying and majestic holiness is! I imagine the eyes of the cherubim, always seeing God and yet possibly seeing all on the earth, seeing through the eyes of all on the earth, seeing the evil being done on the earth.

Yeah, no ghost or demon matches the terrifying majesty of God.

~Carole McDonnell


I hope you agreed that was worth it. Even though you didn’t click over to her blog, why not give Carole a courtesy click now and check out other stuff she’s got there.

Next, you need to see some of the other videos over at John8ThirtyTwo’s YouTube channel.

Carole: I think the word Quadrinity has been used elsewhere, changing the ‘t’ to a ‘d’.

May 24, 2011

Francis Chan on Erasing Hell

The hot topic of the spring of 2011 will forever be recorded as “Heaven, Hell and the Hereafter,” but probably the response of Francis Chan will be noted as one of the more heavyweight contributions, given the huge ongoing popularity of his first book Crazy Love.   The ten minute video clip below initiates that response and also serves to promote the July 5 release of Erasing Hell: What God said about Eternity and the Things We Made Up from David C. Cook.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

But first let me pause and point out a serious liability of the whole video upload thing.  Unlike a blog, where I have control of whose comments are posted, it would appear that YouTube selects “featured comments,” in this case choosing one for which I’m sure the uploader would not approve.  So let me encourage you to watch the video here, and to link your friends back here, not because I need the stats, but just to avoid a lot of nonsense.

I think what’s going to happen with this book is that a lot of people who are down on Rob Bell are going to say, “Finally, here’s a book to stop Love Wins in its tracks.”

And in case you miss it, I think what Francis Chan is saying is that we’re fighting over doctrine and missing the point that this is about the souls of real people some of whom we interact with on a daily basis; and saying basically, how dare you trivialize this or reduce this to a doctrinal debate.

October 21, 2010

Anne Jackson Redfines “Earning The Right To Be Heard”

I thought the service where we were guest worship leaders had gone rather well.   I had mixed some pieces this congregation knew with some extra verses that would be new to them, and had arranged the 20 minute worship set so that the songs would really flow from one to the other.   Frankly, I was looking to relocate to be able to continue leading worship in a church like this, where I felt the musical assistance would be truly needed.

Afterward, the pastor invited us out for lunch, but it seemed like an hour before we were finally eating a restaurant that seemed unnecessarily distant.   My oldest started wandering back and forth into the lobby which had chocolate bars and other confectionery items to tempt him.   I told him firmly, “no;” but my wife didn’t hear that and minutes later he came back enjoying a large sugar treat.   Furthermore, we were wanting to press on in our journey to visit my father, who was in hospital recovering from a heart attack.

So, it’s no surprise that we didn’t make a good impression.   A week later, our honorarium arrived with a multi-page letter, written in southern U.S. drawl, informing us, “Y’all shouldn’t be doing ministry; y’all are needing ministry.”

…I took several weeks to prayerfully consider everything he said in that letter, and finally I wrote back to say that life is not perfect and we’re not perfect; we’re a young couple with a couple of really young kids who were under a great deal of stress on the day we met; but that we felt the worship service had gone extremely well, and felt that once it ended, with just him and us in the restaurant, we could be completely transparent.   We felt at that point we were no longer “on the clock” in terms of public ministry.

# # #

There are going to be people who read Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely and say, “Anne, y’all shouldn’t be doing ministry; y’all should be getting ministry.”     There are ways in which they’d be right, but absent a book like this, the world would be a poorer place.   In fact, to make such a suggestion would be to miss the point of the book entirely.

This is a book about honestly and transparency and being willing to stick your neck out and say the things that nobody is willing to say in church.   It’s about being the one person in the small group who breaks the endless silence and is willing to be the first one to be totally vulnerable and thereby, in Anne’s words, give everyone else “permission to be second.”

After getting a very early copy of Anne’s first book, Mad Church Disease (Zondervan), I got a review copy of Permission to Speak Freely (Thomas Nelson) after most bloggers had finished covering this title.   In a way that’s rather appropriate, because this is a book that we need to be reminded of from time to time, that is going to be part of the help and healing of many who are broken.

I think it’s significant that Anne has found her writing to be a redemptive work for the things in her past.   It’s significant that she has been able to get two books (so far) out of those experiences.   It’s significant that two of our industry’s largest publishers have been willing to take a chance on her brutal honesty and openness.

Here’s what I mean (italics added):

I find it interesting that in our current culture we identify the church as a safe place for broken people to find refuge.  Church is a place for us to claim the right of a modern day sanctuary where we can name our sins and ask our questions and be protected and sheltered while we search for grace, forgiveness and answers.

Yet as history shows us, for hundreds of years churches have been sacrificing the beauty of confession and brokenness for religious trappings and the malady of perfectionism. In some cases if we don’t measure up to a man-made cocktail of moral codes and checklists — if we aren’t “good enough” — we no longer feel welcomed in a church or around other Christians.

The full title is: Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace (Thomas Nelson, paperback $16.99 U.S)   This isn’t about someone living an exemplary life and thereby earning the right to write a book about it.   It’s very much the opposite.

It’s a very messy story, which we so very desperately need to hear.

Related at this blog:   Here’s an early reference I made to the book last month in connection with a breaking news story.

Related elsewhere:   Here’s the link to Donald Miller’s blog, which is stop number one on a seven stop blog tour containing chapters from Anne’s book.   Each essay concludes with a link to the next sample chapter.

Here’s the link to Anne’s blog and also the link to the special Facebook page set up in connection of the book. (Must be logged in to Facebook; on arrival select “slideshows.”)

July 30, 2010

Jesus to Return on 5.21.11 — Colorado Bus Bench Ads

Filed under: evangelism — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:29 pm

Be sure to read the May 18th update below…

They’re nice looking ads.   Buying space on the bus benches in Colorado Springs probably doesn’t come cheap, either.  (Try $1,200 for the period from now through October.)   Especially for a 31-year old woman who is unemployed.   The theme is “Save the Date.”   (It’s a Saturday, if you’ve got plans…)

Left Behind co-author Jerry Jenkins is happy the discussion is happening, but calls it “folly” to choose a date, since Jesus himself knew “neither the day nor the hour.”   (Though we are instructed to know “the times and the seasons.”)

Watch the CNN video report here.   Or check the website, WeCanKnow.com

What do you do with people who are willing to spend their own money for something they believe in so passionately?    The woman in the story compares herself to Noah, who was derided by his contemporaries when he began to build an ark.   What do you do when there probably will be some positive spin-offs in individual lives, as people contemplate the return of Christ or discuss it with friends?

But then, on the other hand, what do you do with the negative publicity in the [most probable] event that life continues as normal into the day the follows?

For all the lessons we’ve learned from date-setters — the book 88 Reasons Why Jesus is Returning in 1988 comes to mind — why do people keep doing this?

With files from the Colorado Springs Gazette.


May 18th update...

Okay, so over 100 people showed up here today. For this blog, that’s a lot of traffic.  So what if it’s true?  What if the world as we know it were to end on Saturday?

Better yet, what if you’re standing at the gate of heaven and God (or St. Peter!) is standing there saying, “Why should I let you in?”

If your answer is because you went to church, or lived a good life, or never stole or murdered, or gave money to the poor; then you’ve missed it.  That’s “religion,” where standing before God is measured by what you “do.”  But the only acceptable answer is that admittance to heaven is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Only his blood can satisfy a holy God.  In other words it’s not based on “do,” but based on “done.”  It’s been done.  You simply have to tell God, through prayer, that you recognize the need for forgiveness for those areas where you missed the mark, or standard, of his holiness, and want to be included, or covered, in what Jesus has already done.

Then you can have the assurance that you don’t have to worry about whatever happens on May 21st…

Click here to learn more.


7:00 PM (EDT), Saturday May 21st:  Here’s my take on how the day went!

April 17, 2010

The Tree in the Garden

It was a simple test.   Other than this, you can do anything you want to, just don’t touch that tree over there.   Yeah, that one.

Adam and Eve lived in less complex times.   It was a good time to be alive if you were bad at remembering peoples’ names.   Or not so good at history.   And the only moral law they had was “The One Commandments.”  Thou shalt not touch the fruit of the tree in the middle.

You know the tree.  The one that looks so inviting.  The one thing you can’t have.   The big fluffy tree that’s like a giant “Wet Paint” sign that’s just begging you to touch your finger to it.   Except they didn’t have paint back then.

Anyway, you know how that story ended.

I believe that throughout history there has always been a tree in the middle of the garden.   It’s there in the garden of our world.   In the garden of our society.   In the garden of our nation.   In the garden of our community.   In the garden of our families.   In the garden of our hearts.

There’s always a tree.

The warning not to touch its fruit is given to some by direct command, though others believe that the idea of not tasting of its bounty is written on the hearts of people; they simply know.

Some people say that everyone knows this, some people think people do need to be commanded, to have it spelled out for them; while others spend long hours drinking hot beverages wondering what then of the people who haven’t heard of the command.

In some cases, there is always one large tree to confront.   In other cases there are several trees which must be avoided.    Some reach a point where they simply lose interest in the forbidden fruit, it no longer tempts them, only to find themselves looking squarely at another tree, which holds a similar prohibition.

“Why, when I have lived my whole life never having been tempted to touch the tree in the middle of the garden, do I find myself now, at this stage of life, looking squarely at another tree in another part of the garden which is so very captivating, but apparently so equally off limits?”

Many, therefore, succumb.

Meanwhile others say there are no trees that are verboten.   The time of such restrictions has passed, and one is free to enjoy all the fruit of all the trees.   They entice others to eat, and the penalty for such as trespass doesn’t seem to befall these, though the eating of the fruit does leave a kind of stomach ache that lasts for a long, long, long, time.

At the other extreme are those who manage to transcend all of the temptations and all of the trees.   These people enjoy a kind of regret-free, stomach-ache free existence.   They are above such weaknesses.  They don’t eat the fruit.   They don’t touch the tree.   They stay away from all the trees in all the gardens that might be simply wrong to taste, touch or even look back on.

They are however, rather quick to condemn those who who do succumb.   “We warned them;” they say.   “We put up signs that pointed people to the other trees; the safe, practical trees; the open spaces free of vegetation.”

They do this, not realizing, that their response is their tree.

Their careful analysis of the condition of gardens inhabited by weak people who do in fact stumble, who do in fact fail; their commentary on the nature of human weakness; their lack of compassion for those who have been unable to resist the appeal of the tree and its fruit… somehow… in some way… that became their tree.

They have gazed at it.   They have touched its trunk, its branches and its leaves.   They have tasted its fruit.

They are really no different.

For all have missed it; coming up short in understanding of the true nature of the creator and his expectations.

They forgot to look at the tree they were standing next to all along.

August 1, 2009

Toxic Faith – A Religious Spirit

Those of you who are RSS readers will need to either visit the blog today, or click on the link below for text of today’s post (and yesterday’s for that matter).   J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma Magazine and one of my favorite columnists.   Here he addresses the issue of people who have “a religious spirit;” and eight warning signs if it might apply to you!

Lee Grady banner

To read the story at source, click here.

Grady part one
Grady part two

December 15, 2008

Editorial: Death at Wal-Mart

Filed under: Christianity, ethics, Faith — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:16 pm

Jamie Arpin-Ricci blogs at A Living Alternative, and has written a piece on the death of the Wal-Mart worker on the Friday after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday; in which he finds us all somewhat complicit in so many similar things going on in our world.

Read the article here.

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