Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

This is from a message I shared at my home church a few weeks ago.

It’s my passion.  It’s the reason for the name of this blog.  It’s changed my life.  I  believe it will continue to change my life going forward as well.  I pray it will change yours, too.

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Read Revelation 4.

Here it is in the NIV (thanks to Biblegateway.com):

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits[a] of God. Also in front of 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. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’[b]

who was, and is, and is to come.”

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”

Is it just me, or does that all remind you of the scene in the movie The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion enter Oz’s great and terrible emerald throne-room?

Can’t you just hear the booming voice in your head?  “COME FORWARD!”

I have loved that Oz story for a long, long time, and I could spend several blog posts telling you all the reasons why, explaining all the symbolism that exists in it for me (regardless of L. Frank Baum’s intent).  But I won’t today.

Because today the point is this:  most of my life I read Revelation 4 and saw God’s throne through Dorothy’s eyes, and subconsciously played the scene forward to…

DISAPPOINTMENT.  Betrayal.  Confusion.  Despair.

There was no great and powerful Oz.  There was only a man  behind the curtain, a man who hoped we would not notice how small and weak he was…hoping we would not find out that he was a humbug.

This is the experience of so many people who go to church looking for God.

They enter through the glass doors thinking that’s the way to enter the throne room of God.  They have a need that must be met; they tremble in fear of what will happen to them, and they receive orders to carry out difficult tasks so that they might receive blessing and provision.  (Read your Bible more, give to the poor more, bring me the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West…)

At every moment they fear that Toto will pull back the curtain to reveal that it’s all humbug, just a show, and they will be left in despair.

The truth is that many people ARE betrayed…because they don’t realize that they are in the wrong throne room.

The organization called the church is not the throne room of God.  It was never intended to be.  You are no closer to God in a formal church service than you are all the time because the Spirit of God dwells within you if you are born again.  We do not come to church to meet with God.

We come to church to meet with EACH OTHER so that we can encourage one another to stay AWARE of GOD’S PRESENCE in our lives 24/7.

For many people, the confusion over entering the presence of God, His throne room, leaves them feeling betrayed.

If you believe that coming to a church service is the way to enter the throne room of God so that you can be close to the King, you will be disappointed every time the worship team hits a sour chord, every time an elder prays with you and you are not instantly, miraculously healed, every time the pastor’s preaching doesn’t quite touch your heart.

So, what IS the throne room of God?

The throne room of God is YOUR HOME.

It is where you were designed to live.  When you begin to spend more and more time there, breathing as He created you to breathe, you will find power to live like you have never before experienced.

The church will no longer be the place you come to meet with God.  It will become the place you come to encourage your brothers and sisters by sharing all that God has been doing with you all week.

What does Colossians 3 say about this throne-room-home of ours?

(Thanks again, Biblegateway.com.) (NIV)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is yourlife, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

If we do not have to come to a church service to FIND the throne room of God, if we actually LIVE THERE, let’s explore it.

The door is open (v.1).  We ask, seek, knock, and the door is opened to us.  There’s a voice like a trumpet – it extends an invitation, a plan.

Immediately we are equipped to obey (v.2).  “At once I was in the Spirit…”

(v3) The Person on the throne is even more riveting than the incredible throne itself.  (Quite the opposite of the humbug of Oz, hmm?)

Who else is here?  If this is my home, I want to be familiar with everyone who lives here.

Twenty-four Elders (v4) who may represent the Sanhedrin…the 12 tribes of Israel….the 12 apostles….WHO CARES?  Regardless of what they represent, they are clearly named “ELDERS.”  They are respected, worthy of my attention, forefathers equipped to direct other younger followers of Christ.  I should learn from them.  I should imitate them as they live in obedience to Christ.

(v5) The throne itself is crazy – lightning and thunder – and there are blazing torches that are the 7 Spirits of God.  Again, there’s hours worth of study we could explore about these spirits, but suffice it to say for now that there is power and life abounding, the presence of God in fullness.

(v6) A glassy sea in front.  That means the floor is a glassy sea.  That means when I stand at the foot of the throne of God I am walking on water.  Too cool for words!

There are the four living creatures.  Again, without digging too deeply into all that they represent, let’s acknowledge the basics:  they are knowledge (eyes all around), personality (faces), power (wings) and voices (speech).  And all they do, all the time, forever and ever is say:

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty

who was and who is and who is to come.

And what do our role-models, the Elders, do?  They fall down in worship, throw down their crowns (their own awesomeness), and cry “Worthy!”

When do they do this?

Every time the four living creatures say, “Holy! Holy! Holy!”

And when do the living creatures say that?

Day and night, always; they never stop.

So when do the Elders fall in worship?

Day and night, always; they never stop.

They don’t fall down, hit the floor, get up, pick their crowns back up, sit back on their thrones, then fall again a minute later.

Somehow, unfettered by space and time, they PERPETUALLY FALL in worship.  They never hit the floor.  They never put their crowns back on their heads because they are perpetually taking them off to throw at the feet of the Lord.

And they are my role model. 

I was designed to be perpetually falling in worship.

The throne room of God is my home.

The praise of God is my native language.

There is no man behind the curtain; this throne is the real deal.

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How would your life look different if you meditated on this truth for a moment or two every day?

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Giving Praise Generously in Your Homeschool

This post is running concurrently on www.7sistershomeschool.com

The new year has begun! Before we get too far into things, let’s set a tone of

generous praise in our homeschools.

Sometimes you just gotta clap and cheer!

Praise definitions run something like this:

n. The expression of approval or admiration for someone or something;

v. To express a favorable judgment of: to commend.

Give your children generous praise.

Our kids need to be praised when they follow our instructions. Obedience is a quality deserving of approval and admiration. We are quick to correct when there is disobedience (and children NEED correction), but let’s be just as quick to express a favorable judgment of the moments when they obey quickly and with a cheerful attitude.

Our kids need to be praised when they put forth a full effort and fall short of the goal. Perseverance in the face of apparent failure is a quality the scripture tells us to applaud. Continuing on after a fall is almost impossible for a child who is not praised for his diligent efforts.

Give yourself generous praise.

We need to praise ourselves for godly choices we make in managing our homeschools. If our definition of praise is “to express a favorable judgment of something,” then we need to look in the mirror and say without reservation, “I just took three times as long to teach that lesson as I thought I would, but I hung in there and kept the tone positive until she really understood it….hooray for hanging in there, Mama!

Or maybe even this one: “I just ditched that math lesson because his little eyes were so glazed over that I could see what he needed was to go play outside in the fresh air for a half an hour. Good job ministering to my child instead of just stressing about the schedule I set for his academics!

Most importantly –

Give God generous praise.

Not just thanks for the things you noticed Him doing.

Not just trust for the solutions to your problems.

Praise.

Do you ever look at a field of sunflowers and just applaud because God did such a nice job?

Have you ever read your passage from the Bible out loud because it needs to be said for all to hear, “Who is like You, O Lord? My tongue will speak of Your righteousness and of Your praises all day long!” (Ps. 35)

Give it a shot, just simple and from the heart: “Wow, God, You do this whole running-the-universe thing so well! I am so glad You are in charge!”

Remind yourself and your kids of who He is: “Jesus, You are Savior, Redeemer, Bridegroom, and King of kings….You alone!”

Join your voice with the hosts of heaven around the eternal throne. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty who was and who is and who is to come!”

A homeschool mom who is generous with her praise is a homeschool mom who will make it through the year victoriously!

Holy, holy, holy

I’ve gotta start here.  Revelation 4 and 5 have been on my heart and lips so much in the last year.  Sometime during the summer of 2011 I began getting this cool picture from God about praise.

True confession:  I have always struggled to praise God.  I think He’s really cool, and I thank Him for stuff all the time, but straight-up praise is tough for me.  It always felt kind of phoney somehow.

Here’s what helped me get a new take on it:  People long for a touch of the supernatural.  All people.

Little kids like to pretend that they can magically accomplish things like flying or creating chocolate donuts out of thin air.  (I sometimes like that second idea myself.)

Teenagers and adults consult their horoscopes, dabble in occult practices with tarot cards and play with ouija boards.

Christians love the idea of receiving a prophecy about something God has lined up for them in the future.

Human beings like power, and we like the idea of tapping into a supernatural source of power.  We long for that connection because we were made to be in relationship – intimate relationship – with the God of the universe Who is vastly more supernatural than we can really fathom.  There’s a hunger in our natural selves to be supernatural.

Okay, here’s where the praise thing clicked in for me.  What do we know from Revelation 4 and 5?

We know that in the throne room of God (think: “Supernatural Central”) the constant sound is this:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.  You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being….You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased for God men from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth….Worthy is the Lamb, Who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!…To Him Who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever.

And that’s when it hit me.  When I say those words (out loud or in the privacy of my own heart and head), I am touching the supernatural.  I am guaranteed, absolutely, no-questions-asked, for-sure praying in agreement with God because I am speaking the words of the throne room itself.  I may not know specifically how to pray about the solution to a particular situation….but I have power over it anyway when I begin to declare the Lordship of Jesus over it and everything else in life.

I started memorizing the straight-up-no-chaser praise passages in Revelation (beginning with the section in italics above) and incorporated it into walks I take, or time behind the wheel of the car, or the time I spend in the shower conditioning my hair.  And it’s awesome.  It’s easy to praise.  It’s exciting to praise.  It dilutes the acid of fear in my stomach when I am feeling overwhelmed.  It clears my cluttered mind when someone knocks me out of my productive groove with a crisis that must be fixed yesterday.  It has become my go-to place of prayer multiple times a day.  It is teaching me to pray His will rather than wasting time, emotion and breath praying out of my feelings when they are scrozzled.

What do you think?  Praise much?