Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is God's Arm Too Short?

Luke 1:26-38 NLT  
   In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” 
   29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 
  34  Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 
  35  The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.” 
   38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. 

Two special appearances by the Arch Angel, Gabriel (the one tradition says is the horn blower of the last trumpet). He comes to bring unique news to two unique people. First to the father of John, supernaturally born in his parent's old age as a harbinger of Isaac, son of Abraham. Next to Mary to be the virgin mother of the human savior, and Sacrificial Lamb, Jesus. Notice how Mary responds to the mind-boggling news brought by the angel. First she simply struggles to understand. Scripture tradition has Mary being a very young woman, possibly in her teens. Perhaps this helped her not give in to the cynicism that years bring us. Her only question was not for proof but in wonderment as to how such an event could be possible given her virginity and obedience to that part of God's law.

Mary surely knew what society would make of your supernatural pregnancy, but she did not protest about that to the angel. After Gabriel explains by reminding her how with God nothing is impossible, she accepts the promise with the words "may everything you have said about me come true." The perfect faith, without detailed understanding but in complete Trust that God was in charge and going to work out His will for His glory to save humanity from sin.

We can learn from Mary that we need not posses detailed understanding of the mechanics of God's promises and miracles to yet receive them. All we need to do is simply believe and trust. Certainly there are things you wish to believe God for that are not nearly so supernatural as were these two births, especially the birth of The Savior. We can stand with Mary in this passage and hear God's messenger tell us as well that "with God nothing is impossible." Or some like to paraphrase Isaiah 59:1 'Is God's arm too short?' Certainly it is not. With God's will all things are possible. What are you willing to trust God for this day and say as Mary did "may what the Lord says about me come true."

Your servant in Christ's Love

Monday, November 29, 2010

You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth

Luke 1:8-25 NLT  
   8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying. 
   11  While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” 
   18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” 
   19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” '
   21  Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary. 
   23  When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”

All of the stories told around Advent season each year are dear to our hearts and this one is no exception. It almost comes off as a sad bit of buffoonery, with Zechariah asking too many questions and being stunned into loss of speech until the birth of John. But it is not buffoonery, it is a near tragedy. Zechariah-- a spiritual leader in Israel, who had been praying faithfully for decades for a child received an answer, His response, however was to question the veracity of the angel and the power of Creator God.

Unlike Mary, who would later ask "how is this possible. . ." Zechariah made the error of asking for a sign of proof. The angel appearing should have been all the proof anyone should have needed.  Not only was Zechariah doubting the Angel he dared to ask God for even more signs. That was the very same sin that often frustrated Jesus about the Jewish leaders in that they ignored the obvious miracles and asked for more 'signs.'  The angel silences Zechariah and he must remain that way until later when the child is born and he complies in naming him John, rather than after himself as would have been the custom. 

The greatest thing about this story is that His prayers are answered even though he made an error in judgment about how to respond to an angel delivering God's promise. And the promise was to more than he and his wife-- it was to all human kind. The promise was the miracle of the Savior, Christ the Lord, the Sacrificial Lamb, the hope for life eternal to all who are willing to believe. An angel has delivered us great news as well, albeit through Zechariah's story. That promise comes with complete written explanation in the inspired Scripture the Holy Bible. I don't think it is a good idea for anyone to doubt and demand even more proof. God may give it in a way that you are not expecting. Why not simply listen, ask God for more strength of faith to believe, and apply that faith to your ongoing walk with the Messiah?  We, too, can have great joy and gladness and rejoice at the Messiah's coming into the world.
Your servant in His love

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations

Rev. 15 NLT
1 Then I saw in heaven another marvelous event of great significance. Seven angels were holding the seven last plagues, which would bring God’s wrath to completion. 2 I saw before me what seemed to be a glass sea mixed with fire. And on it stood all the people who had been victorious over the beast and his statue and the number representing his name. They were all holding harps that God had given them. 3 And they were singing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:  “Great and marvelous are your works,  O Lord God, the Almighty.  Just and true are your ways,  O King of the nations. 4 Who will not fear you, Lord,  and glorify your name?  For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you,  for your righteous deeds have been revealed.” 
   5  Then I looked and saw that the Temple in heaven, God’s Tabernacle, was thrown wide open. 6 The seven angels who were holding the seven plagues came out of the Temple. They were clothed in spotless white linen with gold sashes across their chests. 7 Then one of the four living beings handed each of the seven angels a gold bowl filled with the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. 8 The Temple was filled with smoke from God’s glory and power. No one could enter the Temple until the seven angels had completed pouring out the seven plagues.

The Song of the redeemed sung only by those redeemed by the blood of Christ in heaven is followed by a reprise from a smaller group-- those who had been martyred for not worshipping the false messiah under his reign during the last seven years of the old world. Their reprise is repeated in many praise songs of our day as well. They celebrate how great the works of God are, in the face of the counter fit ones performed by the false messiah and the Dragon. They sing of God's justice. They sing of God's ultimate truth. They sing of God's holiness. They sing of all nations recognizing and worshipping God at the end as His righteousness is completely revealed.

Next, the team of seven angles reappear, and receive their bowls of ultimate and complete destruction over evil. The sign that signals their actions is the smoke in the temple of heaven. Since no one could enter, then no one could receive forgiveness any longer. The opportunity to become redeemed by Christ came to an end at that point. The bowl plagues would unleash total destruction of the evil world. God's people were removed and what remained would be burned, evaporated, shaken to pieces, smothered, and ground to dust by unimaginable hail stones. It was heart breaking for God who is Love but is also Justice, to complete the cycle and now repay evil as had been long prophesied. The subsequent chapter describes the destruction. The one after that narrows the focus on the destruction. Then comes the return and millennial reign of Christ, the second final battle with the Dragon, and then the New Creation.

The thing that keeps the Redeemed singing is knowing that God brings ultimate justice to all creation and fulfills all His promises. God's promise are enough for us to sing praises and thanks even today.

Your servant in Christ's love

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No one could learn this song except those who had been redeemed

Rev. 14 NLT 
   1 Then I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of mighty ocean waves or the rolling of loud thunder. It was like the sound of many harpists playing together. 
   3  This great choir sang a wonderful new song in front of the throne of God and before the four living beings and the twenty-four elders. No one could learn this song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 They have kept themselves as pure as virgins, following the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been purchased from among the people on the earth as a special offering to God and to the Lamb. 5 They have told no lies; they are without blame. 
   6  And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people. 7 “Fear God,” he shouted. “Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.” 
   8  Then another angel followed him through the sky, shouting, “Babylon is fallen—that great city is fallen—because she made all the nations of the world drink the wine of her passionate immorality.” 
   9  Then a third angel followed them, shouting, “Anyone who worships the beast and his statue or who accepts his mark on the forehead or on the hand 10 must drink the wine of God’s anger. It has been poured full strength into God’s cup of wrath. And they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. 11 The smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they have worshiped the beast and his statue and have accepted the mark of his name.” 
   12  This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus. 
   13  And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” 
   14  Then I saw a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was someone like the Son of Man. He had a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 
   15  Then another angel came from the Temple and shouted to the one sitting on the cloud, “Swing the sickle, for the time of harvest has come; the crop on earth is ripe.” 16 So the one sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the whole earth was harvested. 
   17  After that, another angel came from the Temple in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18 Then another angel, who had power to destroy with fire, came from the altar. He shouted to the angel with the sharp sickle, “Swing your sickle now to gather the clusters of grapes from the vines of the earth, for they are ripe for judgment.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress of God’s wrath.  20 The grapes were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle.

The entire chapter 14 is quoted above because it loses focus if I try to apply it in segments. It is a single picture given to John about the end. We know it is the end of the way things are now because the vision starts with Jesus "standing on Mount Zion" with the completed people of God (the 144,000). Mount Zion is the metaphor used for Jerusalem, from where Jesus rules from during His millennium kingdom. John paints this picture to give hope to the persecuted peoples of God in his day and in the days since until that great time. The message is that we must trust our Lord and hold tight no matter what we face, until He comes. His coming is an assured thing! While we may not understand well the timing and the mechanics of it, we can trust in its absolute truth.

I started to fret about the level of purity described for those people with Jesus until I remembered that the rest of scripture say that none of us is pure none of us is good, not one. It is only through the purifying blood of Christ that we receive this level of purity. The phrase that they "follow the lamb wherever he goes" clarifies that these are the obedient believers making Christ's will their highest priority. And, just as sure as is the coming of Christ the King, so is assured that the evil kingdom of commerce and avarice that drives the world today will crumble and fall-- "Babylon the great is fallen."

Verses 14 through 20 describe two harvests. The first may be the harvest of the righteous. The second may be the carnage that will happen at the battle of Armageddon described in more detail in the next chapters. The winepress, throughout scripture was always illustrative of God's wrath. And it would be a perfect wrath, perfectly justified, perfectly complete, and perfectly appropriate and fitting for those who resist, rebel and refuse until it is too late to do other wise.

John and the angels could hear the singing. It was The Song of the Redeemed-- only we (I pray that includes you) will be able to sing it!

Your servant in Christ's love

Monday, November 22, 2010

Use Hard Times to Grow Strong Testimonies that Encourage Others

Rev. 13:11- 18 NLT 

  11 Then I saw another beast come up out of the earth. He had two horns like those of a lamb, but he spoke with the voice of a dragon. 12 He exercised all the authority of the first beast. And he required all the earth and its people to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 He did astounding miracles, even making fire flash down to earth from the sky while everyone was watching. 14 And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world. He ordered the people to make a great statue of the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life. 15 He was then permitted to give life to this statue so that it could speak. Then the statue of the beast commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die.

   16 He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. 17 And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. 18 Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.

The collection of images shown to John continue to portray various circumstances relating the God, human kind, redemption, and ultimate judgment. We are introduced to the unholy trinity. First there was the Dragon-- clearly explained as Satan, the one fallen from Heaven because of pride and sin, who took a third of the other angels with him into pride and arrogance. He raises up his own false messiah-- the Beast out of the sea (the sea representing collective humanity). This next beast out of the earth is the false prophet, the evil counterfeit of God's Holy Spirit. The false messiah will even stage a false resurrection (13;14. People will worship him because they are impressed by his power. He will unite the world under one leader for the first time in earth’s history since the fall of man. He uses power to point to himself and promote evil plans.

God, by contrast uses his infinitely greater power to love and build up. We must encourage others to not be misled by claims of great miracles or reports about a resurrection or reincarnation of someone claiming to be Christ. When Jesus returns He will reveal himself to everyone (Matt 24:23-28)

Verse 7 reveals that the best conquers Gods’ people and even rules over them, but cannot harm them spiritually. His worldwide dominance and demand for personal worship will not fools true believers. It may be that Christians are not raptured at this point in future events, but must endure this process. If so we must be equipped and empowered by full submission to God and filling of His Holy Spirit so we will not be deceived.

A time of persecution described in verse 8-10,  will provide opportunity for believers to exercise patient endurance and faithfulness. The tough times we now face are also such opportunity for spiritual growth and preparation for more serious times to come. Pray for believers that we will not let hard times turn us away from trust in God and the Lord.  Pray that we will use hard times as opportunities for spiritual growth and to be strong testimonies to others.

Your Servant in Christ's Love

Friday, November 19, 2010

God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.

Rev. 13:1-10 (NLT)  
   1 Then I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. It had seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns on its horns. And written on each head were names that blasphemed God. 2 This beast looked like a leopard, but it had the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion! And the dragon gave the beast his own power and throne and great authority. 
   3 I saw that one of the heads of the beast seemed wounded beyond recovery—but the fatal wound was healed! The whole world marveled at this miracle and gave allegiance to the beast. 4 They worshiped the dragon for giving the beast such power, and they also worshiped the beast. “Who is as great as the beast?” they exclaimed. “Who is able to fight against him?” 
   5 Then the beast was allowed to speak great blasphemies against God. And he was given authority to do whatever he wanted for forty-two months. 6 And he spoke terrible words of blasphemy against God, slandering his name and his dwelling—that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 And the beast was allowed to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation. 8 And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the beast. They are the ones whose names were not written in the Book of Life before the world was made—the Book that belongs to the Lamb who was slaughtered. 
   9  Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. 10 Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison. Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword. 
   This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.

In the previous chapter we read where John saw the significant even where Satan took his stand awaiting God to come for the great conflict, that would end in binding the author of evil for a millennium. Things appear to be proceeding according to God's plan. The next image John reports is not subsequent to the last but prior to it. It is another look at that beast and the unholy trinity that he tries to empower to oppose God at the great battle. Where did they come from? One from the sea, the other out of the land. The beast from the sea represents the city of greatest power and authority In John's day that was thought of as Rome. Other images call it 'babylon that perished centuries earlier. Still others refer to Babylon as a metaphor for the evil Jerusalem that becomes co opted by Satan.

In this great city, wherever it is, The fallen angel leader ruled with the sin nature of collective humanity. The political power of the city came from people granting their will to this enemy of righteousness in exchange for the illusion of power. Ten of them, leaders of their own kingdoms would do this. So the "Beast" is the false Christ or messiah that Satan grants authority to rule in his name as God granted to Christ to rule in His name. The second beast will become part of this unholy trinity too but we'll see more on him later. The purpose of the first beast-- we call him the "Antichrist," was to get people to worship the Dragon, or Satan. He dies this by getting people to worship himself. Satan knows that when we worship anything else other than God then we are worshipping Satan-- the anti-god  or the opposite of God. The picture unfolds with people who have resisted surrender to the true God bowing to worship the false God who will let them have things their own way. But even that turns out to be a lie and none of the promises this anti-god promises are ever delivered.

It's a lot like that even now. We recognize that all the promises of our past evil practices never brought the satisfaction or fulfillment they promised us. But our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ always brings us that fulfillment when we remain true in it. The vision taught John that there may well be persecution in physical life and the Beast will even be allowed to politically conquer God's holy people, though it will never defeat them. Those who worship the best are the ones whose names are not written in "The Book of Life." They are chained to their evil choices by self-selection.

God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.

Your servant in Christ's love

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Heaven's Album of Significant Events

Rev. 12:1-18 NLT  
  1 Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth. 
  3 Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born. 
  5 She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne. 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place to care for her for 1,260 days. 
  7 Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. 8 And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. 9 This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels. 
  10 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens,
     “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth—the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. 
  12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea,  for the devil has come down to you in great anger,  knowing that he has little time.” 
  13  When the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But she was given two wings like those of a great eagle so she could fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness. There she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time. 
  15 Then the dragon tried to drown the woman with a flood of water that flowed from his mouth. 16 But the earth helped her by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that gushed out from the mouth of the dragon. 17 And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus. 
  18 Then the dragon took his stand on the shore beside the sea.

It would be an error to try to read this passage as a sequence of events. I think it is better to view it as a photo album in which significant events are recorded and browsed at random. Certainly there would be problems with time-lines were we to try to create one. It is clear that the child who is born is the Messiah, the sacrificial lamb who would take away the sins of the world. It is clear that the dragon spent his time throughout the ages trying to prevent God's messiah from coming, and then trying to prevent the sacrifice. But in moving people to kill Christ, the Great Serpent played his role in bringing about the redemption of mankind. He defeated his own purpose because he was not as great as the thought.

The Woman clothed in purity and crowned with the twelve stars clearly were the people of faith. She could not be the 'Bride of Christ' as some think because she gives birth to the the child. Was this the person Mary? We can't be sure but we know that Mary did not get carried away to a safe place. Christ, however was caught up into heaven after his resurrection fulfilling the prophesies and promises of redemption from sin.

The great dragon and a third of the angels (stars) in Heaven are ejected to the earth. We can't be sure if this took place during ancient history, or after the birth and resurrection of Christ. It is clear, however, that Satan no longer has access to Heaven and that he and the demons ceaselessly seek to trip up and destroy faith in believers as well as prevent non-believers from coming to faith. As the enemy opposes the people of faith in physical ways, the creation supports the work of the Creator to uphold believers and protect them in physical ways as well. The spirit warfare that this describes is actually going on around us 24/7. We ought to be in prayer and appreciate others who are in prayer for us. We want to be included in Heaven's Album of Significant Events.
Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Last Trumpet

Rev. 11:15-19 NLT  
   15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven:
     “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,
         and he will reign forever and ever.” 
   16 The twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones before God fell with their faces to the ground and worshiped him. 17 And they said, “We give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty, the one who is and who always was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign. 18 The nations were filled with wrath, but now the time of your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets, as well as your holy people, and all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest. It is time to destroy  all who have caused destruction on the earth.” 
   19  Then, in heaven, the Temple of God was opened and the Ark of his covenant could be seen inside the Temple. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed and roared, and there was an earthquake and a terrible hailstorm.

Other New Testament scriptures speak of the events taking place "at the last trumpet." That sound signals the rising of the Christian dead and the translating of the Christian saints to meet the Lord in the air. This reunion is preparation for the grand return of Christ to earth in setting up the Kingdom of God and destroying all evil. John's revelation also sounds a last trumpet and this event comes with the announcement that we see in verse 15, the world no longer will be under the control and influence of Satan but will now belong to God. It always belonged to God but now God comes to take possession of it and depose the unlawful squatters-- Satan and evil. The event is so awesome that the 24 elders on thrones around God's throne fall to the ground in praise and and thanksgiving to God for bringing it all to a conclusion. The event brings about a sequence that will end in judgment and eternal punishment for the dead. Jesus often spoke about the living and the dead-- those saved from their sins through faith in Him and those presently dead in their sins because they refuse to believe.

The wrathful unbelieving humanity of the world will face the furry of perfect wrath, justified wrath, wrath they could have avoided if they would have surrendered and humbled themselves. Let us pray that no one whom we know ends up facing God's wrath. Let us pray that we can be lead by the Lord to reach out to those persons yet again in Christ's name and that the Holy Spirit will draw them to Himself as we obey the Lord and disciple in His name.

Your servant, in Christ's love

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

For whom should you be praying now-- before it is too late?

Rev. 11:1-14 NLT  
   1 Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told, “Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers. 2 But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the holy city for 42 months.  3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will be clothed in burlap and will prophesy during those 1,260 days.” 
   4 These two prophets are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth.  5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies. This is how anyone who tries to harm them must die.  6 They have power to shut the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy. And they have the power to turn the rivers and oceans into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish. 
   7 When they complete their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the bottomless pit will declare war against them, and he will conquer them and kill them. 8 And their bodies will lie in the main street of Jerusalem, the city that is figuratively called “Sodom” and “Egypt,” the city where their Lord was crucified.  9 And for three and a half days, all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will stare at their bodies. No one will be allowed to bury them. 10 All the people who belong to this world will gloat over them and give presents to each other to celebrate the death of the two prophets who had tormented them. 
   11  But after three and a half days, God breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them. 12 Then a loud voice from heaven called to the two prophets, “Come up here!” And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched. 
   13 At the same time there was a terrible earthquake that destroyed a tenth of the city. Seven thousand people died in that earthquake, and everyone else was terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 
   14 The second terror is past, but look, the third terror is coming quickly.

The measuring of the Temple of God would be an impossible task because elsewhere we read that there is no need of a temple in heaven for God is the temple. Thus the Temple of God will be as immeasurable as God Himself. God's temple is made up of His worshipers-- God's people of all ages. The people of God are where the Spirit of God resides within and among, so they are His temple. You, Christ-follower, are part of the Temple of God. The task was given to introduce the coming period where a place called the holy city would be trampled by the forces of evil. Yet we have seen through the Book that the time of the end for evil will come and now is coming soon.

The periods of time described in this passage are the basis for what some teachers say are the two divisions of the seven-year tribulation period-- one part of lessor troubles and one part of horrific troubles. We are in the latter period as we begin this section of Revelation. The witnesses that come, may be two literal men-- some say Moses and Enoch. Others say they represent the testimony of the Church across the centuries. In either case, there will be witness, the witnesses will be persecuted by the forces of evil who will appear to triumph. The Dragon, himself will appear to overpower them. Yet their resurrection will take place as witnessed by sinful mankind refusing to trust God.

Some say that verse 11 represents God calling the Church-- the body of believers in Christ from all over the world-- to Heaven. This event is often referred to as The Rapture. Others say that had to happen before the seven years of turmoil ever began. Again, it is not important which description is correct as both terminate in the same outcome-- God's believers with Him and the enemies of God standing in judgment.  The earthquake described is not the final one that brings ultimate destruction upon earth-- that will be described in later chapters. This is just a tremor by comparison-- though it destroys ten percent of the city in which it takes place. Even that is a large earthquake.  It is interesting to read in verse 14 that everyone left living gave glory to God. Yet in the very next judgment they are back to cursing God and refusing to repent of their evil self centered ways.

We see how pervasive and consuming the bondage to sin is for human kind. Without the intervention of God's Holy Spirit to give us power to say "no" to self and sin we would not have been able or be able now to live for God. Even our repentance had to be empowered by God-- we cannot generate it on our own. How did it happen?  Someone asked God to save us. Someone prayed that God would help you to hear His call and have the ability to repent. Someone continues to pray that you receive the power from God's Holy Spirit to live for him. Seeing miraculous events will never change you, as they will not change these people of this nearing future time described in the book. For whom should you be praying now-- before it is too late?

Your servant in Christ's Love

Monday, November 15, 2010

God's Mysterious Plan Will be Fulfilled

Rev. 10:1-11 
   1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. 2 And in his hand was a small scroll that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. 3 And he gave a great shout like the roar of a lion. And when he shouted, the seven thunders answered. 
   4 When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. But I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Keep secret what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down.” 
   5  Then the angel I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand toward heaven. 6 He swore an oath in the name of the one who lives forever and ever, who created the heavens and everything in them, the earth and everything in it, and the sea and everything in it. He said, “There will be no more delay. 7 When the seventh angel blows his trumpet, God’s mysterious plan will be fulfilled. It will happen just as he announced it to his servants the prophets.” 
   8 Then the voice from heaven spoke to me again: “Go and take the open scroll from the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 
   9  So I went to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. “Yes, take it and eat it,” he said. “It will be sweet as honey in your mouth, but it will turn sour in your stomach!” 10 So I took the small scroll from the hand of the angel, and I ate it! It was sweet in my mouth, but when I swallowed it, it turned sour in my stomach. 
   11 Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.”

Whenever we hear from God, His angels, or His people in the Revelation, it expresses the wonder, majesty and limitless power of God and His Kingdom. The sheer size of this majestic angel shown to John illustrates how lopsided the power of God is. The angel must have been a giant of giants since he was seen straddling both land and ocean. His head must have reached out into the stratosphere. Yet the 'beast' and people of earth not committed to Christ continued to resist God. The angle demonstrates God's power and proclaims the ultimate victory, announcing that the time of the end, would no longer be delayed. This encourages you and me if we will remember in those times of trouble that we face-  when things may seem to go badly, that this angel represents the kind of power that is on our side! God's Giant angelic forces are with us (see Matt 18:10 or Hebr. 1;14). This image helps us to keep our troubles in proper perspective.

In 10:7 we read about the fulfilling of 'God's mysterious plan." This plan  is that God removes all evil from His creation and brings the ultimate exaltation of Christ. Such a pronouncement brings fear within God's enemies and they continue to panic, blindly resisting until the very end. For God's chosen people of faith,  this image brings hope and peace. Do we really long for Christ's return? Are we really eagerly watching for it, or is it merely an idea on the back burner of our mind? We should be praying for God's justice to be carried out and his plan fulfilled. We should desire Christ to come in the triumph of His Kingdom.

The scroll John was told to eat, reflects the scroll of Ezekiel as well, Ingesting it means it was to be internalized and then fuel John's prophetic message. Its sweet taste meant such message is received joyfully by God's people. It's sower effect on the stomach meant that it always hurts us when we prophesy and teach the truth that those who continue to rebel against God will, in the end, suffer eternally.

How have you prayed recently concerning the coming Kingdom of God?
Your servant,

Friday, November 12, 2010

Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet,

   Rev. Chapter 9 NLT
   1 Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen to earth from the sky, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.. . . .11 Their king is the angel from the bottomless pit; . . . .

   13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice speaking from . . .presence of God.  14 And the voice said to the sixth angel who held the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great Euphrates River.”  15 Then the four angels who had been prepared for this hour and day and month and year were turned loose to kill one-third of all the people on earth.  16 I heard the size of their army, which was 200 million mounted troops. 

   17  And in my vision, I saw the horses and the riders sitting on them. The riders wore armor that was fiery red and dark blue and yellow. . . .18 One-third of all the people on earth were killed by these three plagues—by the fire and smoke and burning sulfur that came from the mouths of the horses.  . . . 

   20 But the people who did not die in these plagues still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk!  21 And they did not repent of their murders or their witchcraft or their sexual immorality or their thefts. 

As depressing as these passages can be, when taken alone, without the wondrous visions of Heaven, of the Throne of God, and of the Saints praising God, There is a glorious point. God is perfect and his perfection includes justice. God provided a means by which humanity could be redeemed from the consequence deserved by choosing to be evil and self centric. God's love is forgiving but God's Justice requires that those not electing to humble themselves and accept Christ's sacrifice and Lordship cannot be allowed to escape the consequence of their choices. God continues to allow the supernatural events to take lives of those who will not believe, as a witness to those who might believe. The fallen star (Satan) opening the bottomless pit and releasing his army of torturing locust was permitted by God. Even though Satan was fighting against God, we see that all he can do is to torture humanity. Humanity is not necessarily aligning with Satan, they simply align with self and have self in common with Satan, the demons and the rest of fallen humanity. The terrors are giving them time to yet repent. But as we see from verses 20-21, they refuse to repent and insist on remaining in self-will 

There is yet time for those whom we love to repent. There is yet time for us who Love Christ to teach those who do not know Him, that they can be delivered from this future terror. We don't know how much time there is. Why would we wait any longer. Who should we tell about Christ's love today? Tomorrow?

Your servant in Christ's love


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Catastrophe! Yet you Can Be Preserved!

Rev. 8 NLT
  1   When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2   Then I saw the seven angels who stand in God’s presence, and they were given seven trumpets.  3 Another angel came with a gold incense burner and stood at the altar. He was given a lot of incense to offer on the gold altar in front of the throne. He offered it with the prayers of all of God’s people.  4 The smoke from the incense went up from the angel’s hand to God along with the prayers of God’s people.  5 The angel took the incense burner, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it on the earth. Then there was thunder, noise, lightning, and an earthquake.
   6   The seven angels who had the seven trumpets got ready to blow them. 7   When the first angel blew his trumpet, hail and fire were mixed with blood, and were thrown on the earth. One-third of the earth was burned up, one-third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. 8   When the second angel blew his trumpet, something like a huge mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea. One-third of the sea turned into blood,  9 one-third of the creatures that were living in the sea died, and one-third of the ships were destroyed.
   10   When the third angel blew his trumpet, a huge star flaming like a torch fell from the sky. It fell on one-third of the rivers and on the springs.  11 That star was named Wormwood. One-third of the water turned into wormwood, and many people died from this water because it had turned bitter.
  12   When the fourth angel blew his trumpet, one-third of the sun, one-third of the moon, and one-third of the stars were struck so that one-third of them turned dark. There was no light for one-third of the day and one-third of the night.
   13   I saw an eagle flying overhead, and I heard it say in a loud voice, “Catastrophe, catastrophe, catastrophe for those living on earth, because of the remaining trumpet blasts which the three angels are about to blow.”

Pages and pages of scripture describing ongoing praise and worship of the most inspiring sort have gone before our eyes. Now, silence. One has to wonder just how serious it is for a heaven filled with creatures who love to spend their time singing praises to Creator God, for things to become silent. The silence must have been rather like a time of deep contemplation about what was to take place next. Seven angels next line up to play their horns. But these horns were not horns of praise. They were announcements of disaster upon creation.

God loves. He loved while he created. He loves His creatures. And now many of those creatures were about to make the ultimate choice to turn away from Him, in spite of all the warnings. The seven horns will bring the next level, and ultimately the most terrible level-- the well-deserved WRATH of God. And that wrath would be taken out not just on fallen man but on all creation, beast, plant, and human.

We see here a plague of bloody hail and fire destroying 1/3 of the earth. Calculate the size of that disaster. After the second horn, an asteroid falls destroying a third of the oceans and all the creatures living therein. Remember that our oxygen comes from microscopic life in the ocean so this destroyed a third of the capacity to produce oxygen around our planet!

After another horn, another 'star' falls and destroys 33% of the fresh water. Something interesting here is that a name of an angel is a "star" and a fallen angel is a fallen star. Wormwood is often associated with Satan so this may be the person of the Devil and this plague may be spiritual in nature. Whatever, the result kills 'many people.' After the next horn, light itself is reduced by 33%, whether moon light, starlight, or sunlight. Light brings about photosynthesis in plants and plants produce oxygen. So if plant growth is cut by a third, and another third had already been destroyed, then oxygen production in our world would be reduced to a mere tiny fraction of what it was. Breathing is going to be really hard to do.

Yet we are not done. The eagle calls what will come next as "catastrophe for those living on the earth." Catastrophe? What just happened, were they not catastrophic? No wonder the KJV translates the Eagle's warning as "terror, terror, terror!"

Yet you and I are somehow preserved through faith in Christ our Lord!
Your servant in His love

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Rev. 7:13-17 NLT  
   13 Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?” 
   14  And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.” Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white. 
   15  “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his Temple.  And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter. 16 They will never again be hungry or thirsty;  they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. 17 For the Lamb on the throne  will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

John's tour guide of heavenly visions and things outside of time, teaches John to consider and then learn in his question about the ones clothed in white. White always symbolizes purity in the scripture-- in human tradition too. That's why brides always wear white in our western wedding traditions. It is interesting to think that their robes could have been made white by washing in "the blood of the Lamb." This very metaphor confirms the meaning of these white robes because a literal act would not have made them white but brownish red. In stead, their outer selves are now visibly pure because Christ's sacrifice and their obedience to God through faith in Christ has caused their inner purity to form-- or rather, re-form in the image of Christ. When Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that he would give her water so she would never thirst again, He was inviting her to become one of these saints clothed here in white.

Since these are ones who came 'died in the great tribulation' and since Jesus invited persons in 33 AD to become one of these, then we have to think that this 'great tribulation' is a process going on all through time. It is the great contest between Good and Evil-- between God and Satan. Of course there is not a real contest on God's side, any more than it would be if you had a sports challenge by a two-year-old. But the enemy fights for all he is worth and part of his fight is with us. We will see that specified in a later chapter.

Many of us have had sadness throughout our days. Life has not been fair to some and heart-break has abounded for others. However, the promise to all who are willing to trust in Christ for it all- is at the end of verse 17-- "He will wipe away ever tear from their eyes." Would you like that to include you? It can if you wish. Just say "yes" and then "thank you" to the Lord.

Your servant in Christ's love

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

They sang, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom . . .belong to our God

Rev. 7:1-12 NLT  
   1 Then I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds so they did not blow on the earth or the sea, or even on any tree. 2 And I saw another angel coming up from the east, carrying the seal of the living God. And he shouted to those four angels, who had been given power to harm land and sea, 3 “Wait! Don’t harm the land or the sea or the trees until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants.”
   4  And I heard how many were marked with the seal of God—144,000 were sealed from all the tribes of Israel: . . .
   9  After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne  and from the Lamb!” 
   11  And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. 12 They sang, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor  and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

John saw awesome things in his vision that Christ gave. He was shown it all in connection with a message that Christ wanted written down for His churches to know across the millenia to hold the church strong. The words repeatedly made it seam to these first century believers, as well as all ages since, that Christ was about to fulfill the vision and return at any time. In fact, the teaching lessons of Christ when He walked the earth often were to advise people to be ready for God at a moment's notice or less. He wants us to be living our lives ready for Him to appear.

A new round of strong signs are about to be unleashed by more of God's angels but they must wait until one of them places a seal upon the forehead of God's people.  A strange identity is given for they are called 144,000, 12x12, a symbolic concept to the early Christians and former Jewish believers. Some say this means the completed people of God, all who were God's people at that point in time alive on the other. Others say it means an actual number of very unique completed Jewish Christians who have been designated by God and supernaturally empowered to teach and witness during this time of terrible testing and the rise and fall of the Anti-Christ until the end. Either way, we can tell from their description that they are supernaturally purified. We know from scripture that such purification can only come through the Holy Spirit taking up residence within believers in Christ. Thus, whoever they are to be, they are ones God calls and uses for a mission at a point in time. Are you ready to be called and used for God in this point of time?

Next we see the vast crowd that came from all the people of the world throughout the age of God's Church. Could this mean that all believers have been removed from earth and are present before the Lamb singing this song of Praise? Yet, in the passage we shall soon consider there are believers yet on the earth. The most exciting point for me in verses 9-12 is that this vast number of people were singing with one voice and were agreed in the4ir expressions of praise to the Lord Jesus Christ. There were no bickering arguments, disagreements, struggles for determine who is more in control than whom else, as we sometimes see among churches today. There was unabashed joy and unity together among God's people. Are you ready to be that united together with God's people? Are you willing to humble self and embrace service to others as your primary purpose in living for Christ? Can you see yourself in verses 9-12?
Your servant in Christ's Love

Monday, November 8, 2010

The King is Coming

Rev. 6:9-17 NLT  
   9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. 10 They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters—their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred—had joined them. 
   12  I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. 13 Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from a tree shaken by a strong wind. 14 The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places. 
    15 Then everyone—the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person—all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive?”

A message that the Lord has for His people in this passage is in how He comforted the souls of the martyrs.  There is a point coming when the final martyrdom of God's saints will be complete and God will not tolerate one more! God has set and appointed that time to act. The seals, the trumpets, and the bowls of revelation unpack the steps of the Lord, the Lamb of Sacrifice, taking His place on the Throne of God and setting up the final judgement.

There are different interpretations about how to apply these images. Some would find their fulfillment across the centuries of human experience since the first century. Some would say there are different dispensations of time that take place, a pre-christian era, a 'church age' ending in a rapture of saints, and a tribulation period ending with the Return of Christ and the saints the binding of Satan for a Millennium, and Christ's reign on this earth. This then is followed by the last battle by Satan and his ultimate destruction, along with a whole new heaven and earth and God's people transitioning to their new bodies. Dispensationalists, themselves, do not fully agree on how to they interpret the timing. 
We can realize that we were not meant to identify the timeline of these events. We were merely to recognize that God has already won, and our job is to persevere in His love, grace, and in obedience until He comes or takes us home.

The other message we can draw from this passage is that people are more than deceived by sin. They are captured and enslaved to it. Unless they are willing to deny their self-centered nature to humble themselves before God, they cannot overcome sin. You, however, can. However, for those who do not, there will come a time when, even faced with supernatural events depicted in Revelation, they will not. They will, rather, futilely try to hide from the face of God-- the Lord Jesus Christ, coming to judge. They will fail.

You who walk with Christ, in the end, you win because He has won. The King is coming.
Your servant in Christ's love

Friday, November 5, 2010

Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever

Rev. 5:1-14 NLT 
    1 Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it. 
   4  Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. 5 But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” 
   6 Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth. 7 He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. 8 And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song with these words:
     “You are worthy to take the scroll  and break its seals and open it.
     For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 And you have caused them to become  a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.” 
   11 Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. 12 And they sang in a mighty chorus:
     “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—  to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength
         and honor and glory and blessing.” 13 And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea.
  They sang: “Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” 
   14  And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.

We were talking about truly moving worship services that left a lasting impression upon us.  Can you hear the choir of Millions of angles, the living beings, the 24 elders, and countless millions of redeemed saints of God singing this call and response refrain that sounds a lot like G.F. Handel's Messiah?   Can you see the lights flashing from the Throne of God as God, Himself praises God the Messiah, the Sacrificial Lamb who had overcome.  We could spend a lot of energy trying to place this event into some sort of a timeline of events and debate when it did take place or is to take place, but why do that? Why not just join the Chorus?  Why not sing the Hallelujahs to our Redeemer who has overcome sin; who has overcome the enemy's power over humanity; who has called us to Himself to become like Him?  The greater joy can be found there.

The scroll contained the scenario for the redemption of humanity from sin. No one was worthy because 'all have sinned' as Paul wrote to the Roman Christians.  The one perfect one was God the Messiah who relinquished his rights as God, humbled Himself and suffered for our redemption. The millions of Angels in Heaven did not miss the significance of this victory.  Nor do the present millions of redeemed saints miss it.

Notice the Lamb's description. He has the Power of God (seven horns) and the Holy Spirit of God (Sevenfold Spirit). His appearance was as a lamb already slaughtered, except He stood in the center of the circle at the Throne of God. Notice the praise song tells His story-- the most important story in the universe. The song was the Gospel. Why not sing it with me just now in whatever tune the Spirit places in your mind?

Your servant in Christ's Love

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I saw a door standing open in Heaven!

Rev. 4:1-8 NLT  
   1 Then as I looked, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before spoke to me like a trumpet blast. The voice said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.” 2 And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it.  3 The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow.  4 Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads.  5 From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God. 6 In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal. In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. 7 The 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. 8 Each 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,
     “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—to the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Have you ever found yourself in a place so utterly beautiful that you were dumbstruck and overwhelmed to tears? Have you ever heard sounds so amazingly beautiful that you wished you could just stay in that one spot listening to that sound forever? Well, multiply that by a 'gazillion' and we might approach what John experienced in this vision of heaven. John was not the first prophet to experience Heaven. But not just Heaven, John experienced the Throne room of God, the center of Heaven. He tries to describe the layout and his words just begin to fail with the first sentences. We see that God is on His throne. The Throne itself is beyond description in its glory. And God's brilliance and beauty was so pure that no one could look upon Him without being left to feel utterly destitute and ugly by comparison. This is why the Spirit of God went before Him into all who looked upon Him so that they would be strengthened in doing so, rather than crushed with the comparison. With some of God's beauty within them, the Angels, the Seraphs, the Elders, the martyrs, and the countless believers in the assembly were able to rejoice at God's appearance because it improved their own.

The 24 elders representing all believers from the Old Testament and the New Testament people of God were on thrones. They are illustrating how the Saints of God are going to rule with Him, in times to come. The white clothing illustrated how all present had been purified by God's holiness and Christ's sacrifice. The Living Creatures represented all of creation and how it was intended to praise God at all times, living for nothing else than the Glory of God.

What was the purpose of this awesome assembled worship service? It was the revealing of the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the World, as He would begin to open the end of ages and bring fallen creation to a close. He had paid the price to rejuvenate fallen creation and now He was the one entitled to initiate the end. We will look more closely at the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls in coming days. Today I want to focus on the worship of God and invite us to imagine the most inspiring, beautiful God-glorifying time we have ever experienced. Try writing that down and then meditating on that time in prayer communing with the Spirit of God. See if you can't see a door standing open in heaven in the passages of God's Word as you pray.
Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Are we "Hot? Cold? or Repulsively Tepid?

Rev. 3:14-22 NLT  
  14 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation: 15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. 20  “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.
  22“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

Jesus had kind things to say to the other churches along with the correction and challenges. But not this complacent church. Some historical theologians say Laodicea was intended to represent the complacent church of the final days prior to Christ's return to earth and the drama of the end times. If that was so, then it fits in the pages just prior to Jesus revealing to John the symbolic drama between God and evil, that begins to unfold in chapters four and following. Others say that Laodicea represented a certain stage of all church organizations and that they reach this stage and listen to the challenge, responding with revival or they die and the church is buried.

The truth is, however, that the words of the Lord are honest and accurate. He cannot stand complacent members of his body. He died so that we might have a vibrant Holy Spirit centered life. Complacency in the church is not that life, but merely a terrible counterfeit. And, worse a complacent church destroys faith in other believers. Complacency is like a cancer in the body, growing insidious death until nothing can be done to prevent it.

Jesus calls us away from complacency and toward life in our church. He offers us the power to make a difference in the world, if we will but commit to using it, laying aside all that distracts us from His plan for success. What are you seeking in your church-- world-changing power or a quiet comfortable non-controversial feel-good religion?

Your servant

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

You Have Obeyed my Command to Persevere

Rev. 3:7-13 NLT  
  7 Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open: 8 I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me. 9 Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.
  10 Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. 12 All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.
   13 Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

Sometimes, when I was pastoring, I was tempted to feel bad because the church I served was a little church and I had not grown a church like the big one across town or the large independent congregation around the corner. I knew better that to think that any church is big or little based on any pastor, but it was a good excuse for my personal pity party, I suppose.

Jesus does not call us to 'make a big church.' He called us to 'make disciples.' He called us to 'persevere until I come.'  He called us to believe in Him sent by God as the sacrifice for sin. He called us to teach others the truth of the Good News. It is our obedience and trust that makes the difference in the lives we live for Christ. It is not the number of believers we produce but it is that we obey and share our faith in Christ. It is not how much money a church raises but that members in that church share His story to change history.

Philadelphia was not known for riches, power, political influence, great worship teams, great authors in the pulpit, or great numbers of attenders. It was known to be surviving persecution by Satan and his followers. It was known as once with little that the world calls strength by people. However, Philadelphia did not live for people. This church lived to obey God, trusted in God, and received strength beyond their own from God's Holy Spirit who inhabited them. There were victorious. They heard and understood what the Spirit was saying to the churches. What about your church today?

Your servant in Christ's love

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wake up! Strengthen what little remains. Become Victorious!

Rev. 3:1-6 (NLT)  
   1“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars:  2 “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. 3 Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief. 
   4  “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. 6 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

Churches can seem to have lots going on: radio programs, missions programs to promote funding for various projects, raising lots of money, hiring lots of ministerial staff, having pastors who publish lots of their own writings, groups here, there and everywhere. But the think Jesus wants to know about is our faith, and our obedience to his command to 'go and make disciples.'  Being highly active in a busy church may not necessarily be obedience. It may rather be just another sort of social fun.  The Sardisian church believed their own press that promoted them as a lively church. Jesus writes to alert them that they are, in fact, dead, or nearly so. It is as though their efforts to maintain and extend their reputation was draining the life from their faith, at least those who were making the leadership decisions.

Jesus calls them, and us as well, to 'wake up!'  He instructs us to strengthen our faith through submission and surrender to total and complete trust in Christ. He invites us to remember our early days of faith when we laid aside the ways of 'the world' and embraced the ways of The Holy Spirit of God' by following Christ's example. And, he advises all that failure to repent of compromise with the world will bring disappointment at his sudden return-- disappointment because we won't expect it and won't be ready for Him.

Yet there were some in Sardis who were not making such compromises. Jesus assures them that they are well known to Him. His promise to them, and to us who are like them, is that we will be among the victorious in God's presence. Verse 5 points out how the victorious are "clothed in white" representing the purity of Christ within them.  He says that they will be formally announced as Christ's honored ones, much in the way that someone at a very posh state dinner announces their names as they enter the room. Are we listening? Do we hear what the Holy Spirit is telling us today in the 21st century?
Your servant in Christ's Love
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