Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Revelation 22 -- Jesus is Coming

That is it. Every chapter of the New Testament. We get to the end and what do we find? Jesus is coming. If we had been paying attention all along we already knew that information. Jesus is returning to set right all things. All of creation is waiting for that glorious day. There will no longer be any night, and the River of Life will flow freely from the throne out into all creation.

Another thing has been evident all along, the question are you ready? It is going to happen, Jesus is going to return, but will you be ready for that day? Will the city gates be open to you, or will you have to remain outside looking in. That is my definition of hell, realizing that it is all about Jesus, and that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life, but not being able to do anything about it.

So I end this journey with a short entry to ask a few simple questions. Do you believe the words of Scripture to be true? Do you believe Jesus to be sent of God, for the purpose of making the way for humanity to have a perfect relationship with God? Are you ready for his return?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Revelation 21 -- The Holy City

Finally, Satan is defeated for good and the full reign of God can begin. As we look at chapter 21 it is important to have words from Matthew 6 fresh in our minds. These words are a part of what we call the Lord's Prayer, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Week in and week out people offer these words, and some even in sincere prayer. Do we think about these words, we are asking the Kingdom of God to come and be on earth as it is in heaven. As we near the end of Revelation that is exactly what we see happening.

The common thought is that heaven is someplace else. That when all things come together and the end arrives we will go somewhere other than here. Now I have not made the journey so i do not know exactly what happens, however the Scriptures seem to paint another picture. The new Jerusalem comes down on a cloud from heaven to the earth. The cornerstone of the new kingdom is set up here on earth. Not just earth as we know it, rather earth as God originally called it to be. In other words we live in heaven right now, only if has not been totally fulfilled. That is the longing of the Lord's Prayer. Bring the fullness of your Kingdom God, to this earth. Restore and renew your creation.

In the restored and renewed creation God is the light and the life of all creation. Once again this is already true, yet our human will taints the light and life God offers to us. When the glorious day comes, the earth will not cease to exist, nor will the people, rather it will be the perfection God has been calling us to all along.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Revelation 20 -- The Thousand Years

Out of this one chapter of Revelation much debate and division has occurred. The discussion of the thousand years has generated different groups of beliefs which have often wasted time warring against each other. There are those who are called pre-millenialists, who say the 1000 years is yet to come. There are the amillenialists who say we are in the midst of it. The smallest group are the people who think we are post millennial. I fall into yet another camp that doesn't think it is worth the energy and effort trying to figure it out. Not to be confused with thinking it is unimportant, I simply do not think we can figure this one out, and I do not think it changes anything.

We can know a time exists, past, present or future when Satan will be allowed to have rule of the earth. We also know there will come a time when Satan will no longer be allowed to do that and will be thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, along with those who followed him. Once that happens the final judgment happens and the stage is set for the New Jerusalem. Anything more than that is simply not supported by the Scriptural text which we have been given.

However, unchanged is the question which must run through out the book of Revelation, are you ready? If the time has passed, are you ready for final judgment? If we are in the midst, are you keeping yourself ready for the day of Judgment? If it is yet to come, still we must ask are you ready? It might be safer to spend time trying to pin point the timeline, but it is misguided. We do not control the timeline, what we control is if we are ready for that day.

This is the perfect time of year to ask the question. Are we ready? If not what must be done in the next year to make ourselves ready?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Revelation 19 -- The Last Battle

I cannot image what it would be like to hear the sound of all heaven rejoicing. That is what begins chapter 19, the great multitude shouting praise to God in Heaven. All out party is breaking out as the final victory is nearly here. The moment souls have been waiting for is upon them the defeat of the beast and all who would follow the beast. The rider of the white horse comes in with the army of heaven behind him, ready to render final judgment.

As we ready to celebrate the coming of Jesus as a baby to our world it is more than a child we celebrate. As we celebrate Christmas we are joining in the celebration of heaven as we read it in Revelation 19. The moment the first cry pierced the air in the countryside of Judea, the victory was won. Many battles still lie ahead, but the victory was won in that moment. This is worth the party on earth as it is in heaven. The celebration and battle we read about in Revelation is not simply a future event. It is an event that is happening now, it is just not fully realized now as the fullness of God's time has not come.

I confess that I all too often live as a defeated person. I readily see all that is not what it should be and allow that to drag me down. For those who are followers of Jesus, we are to remember the victory which is already ours. Christmas morning is a victory party, and every year as we celebrate, is another victory lap. The victory is won, Satan is defeated, so it is time to stop living as defeated people and embrace our victory.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Revelation 18 -- The Fall of Civilization

In Revelation it is called Babylon. Over the centuries many have identified it with other cities or countries. For John's first readers they most likely thought about the Roman Empire. There are some today who would point to the United States. No matter, the point is not the actual city, rather it is the work of what we would called the civilized world which is defeated in that day.

Described in these verses we find the description of humanity thinking it has it all made to the point of desecrating and destroying that which is of God. It is bad enough to be found living independent of God, even worse when you have the ability to entice others into that life. Babylon represents all that is human driven, and how it will all fall short. When the judgment of God is handed out, human effort will account only for destruction.

Greatness in human eyes may have immediate gratification, but long term it will pass away. All that matters is honoring God, anything else falls under the category of Babylon. John tells about the Day when all that comes to an end and the great and powerful Babylon is no more. Still the question echos through my mind, are we ready for such a day? This is more a personal question than a corporate one. When individuals begin to fashion lives where God is at the center of their entire being, we begin to take power away from Babylon, and place it where it belongs, with God. The day of judgment will come, we do not know the hour. The day of Babylons fall will come. It could come today, so let us make sure we are ready today.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Revelation 17 -- The Woman

As we quickly move toward the end of John's vision the images take the opportunity to get a little more strange. This time they are so strange John is astonished. This is kind of comical to me when you take into account all he has seen and encountered. The woman he sees is not given the best or nicest titles given to a woman, Mystery, Babylon the Great, The mother of prostitutes, and of the Abominations of the earth. Wow, those are not exactly things to put on your business card. I think we get the picture this is not a good woman. Just in case we are not sure we are told she is drunk on the blood of the saints.

We know this image is more figurative than literal, not because we are really smart but because we are told what these things mean. Basically we are told the woman and all the heads and horns represent earthly kingdoms who will come and go before the final day. Additionally it is clear the last two are directly tied to Satan. In the last days all these kings, the woman and the beast will war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome. Before it is all said and done the beast and the kings will turn on the woman and destroy her. This is the image of what will happen on earth before the final reckoning.

So what does that have to do with you and I today? Honestly, I am not sure, but it does not change the question we have asked all through Revelation, are you ready? I do not know if we will be witness to such visions, nor do I think we are to know that now. It seems obvious to me that I want to be on the side of the Lamb and not the side of the beast. This is a decision I get to make now, today. I once again commit my life to following after Jesus Christ. He is more than Savior, he is Lord, leader of my life. Provider of hope. Deliverer of Peace. Source of all Love. My everything. Perhaps you can offer the prayer of your life as well.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Revelation 16 -- Judgment Delivered

The seven bowls of God's wrath are poured poured out in this chapter and it is bad news for those left on earth. The seas and rivers all become toxic. The sun burns people to a crisp, and there is an earth quake to end all earthquakes. To finish off the wrath there is a hailstorm with 100 pound hailstones falling from the sky. Destruction is upon the face of the earth, yet the people do not repent. In fact they get mad at God for causing all this to happen.

It would be easy to read this and think, those foolish people. All around them is the work and power of God in full display and they do not turn their hearts to God. I wonder how we would respond, or better yet how we do respond. The coming judgment is real, and will happen when God determines the time has come, but we do not need to wait until then to fall hopelessly in love with God through Jesus Christ. Honestly if we are not willing to do it now, we won't be willing to do it then.

I have no idea if the scenes painted for us in Revelation 16 are literal or figurative, some will argue this, but I do not think it matters. What matters is the day is coming when God is going to settle accounts with all creation. In that day there will only be two types of people, those who are devoted to God, and those who are not. For those who are not, they might not be out and out evil, they might even be church attenders, but it will be a bad day nonetheless. The book of Revelation writes about things yet to come, but we must be ready today.

In a few short days we will celebrate Jesus arrival on earth. The God of eternity breaking through into creation that we might be ready when that day comes. Still we fritter away the days in meaningless pursuits, and we are not constantly ready for that day. The time of preparation is now, Jesus is coming, are you ready?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Revelation 15 -- The End is Near

In this brief chapter we find the final judgment of God in the preparation phase. seven angels with seven plagues, with seven bowls of God's wrath. Once all the wrath and destruction is handed out, the doors of the Tabernacle are flung open and the angels proceed with their work. I love the note that the temple, tabernacle, is filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power. The Old Testament prophets talk about such things happening.

As we are getting ready for Christmas I wonder if we are expecting to see the temple filled with the glory of God. Sure many will go to church, and some will even go there seeking God. How many though, are going with not the hope, not the dream, but the expectation of God's glory filling the church? When we read passages such as Revelation 15 we might think those things only happen in heaven or during the end times. This means we do not expect it to happen now.

AS you might guess I think the filling of the temple is not something reserved for the end times, or the the Old Testament prophets. It can happen today! I do not mean in our time I mean today, this very day we have been given. I will be the first to claim my doubts in this subject. Also, I will be the first to tell you that not all doubting is sin. In this case my doubt does lead to sin because I doubt whether it is possible for the glory of the Lord to fill the church.

Today I lay this down at the cross. In a few short moments worship will begin for us. I will enter worship with expectation and anticipation of what the Lord is going to do. I am going with a heart seeking to see the glory of the Lord fill the temple so thick all we can do is worship and bow down. May the glory of the Lord fill this temple today!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Revelation 14 -- Judgment Begins

The whole book of Revelation is filled with images which are difficult to get our heads around. Some of these images are figurative while others are actual. Knowing which ones are which would create a great amount of clarity. I am always hesitant to offer which ones are figurative and which are real because I just don't know. Here in chapter 14 we are given images which could fall into both situations. I could spend hours, and perhaps sometime I will, trying to sort it out, however, I am not convinced that is the point of the vision John gives to us. There is a sick quest by those in the Western world to figure it all out, what about mystery?

In this chapter we have the Lamb gathering the 144,000 who have the name of the Lord written on their foreheads. We also have the angels announcing and starting the judgment. I am not sure if the angels thing will really happen or not, this is not mine to figure out. What I do know is there will come a day when the Judgment of God will begin. In that day it will be clear who is who, those who follow the beast will receive what their choice has given them, those who follow the Lord will receive what their choice has given them.

It is fascinating the judgment is in terms of a harvest. This is an important image throughout the Biblical text and makes some special appearances in Jesus teaching. God's wrath is being prepared for pouring out on all creation. Once again we are back to an image which seems to be figurative, but we cannot rule out what the Lord might do. Grapes in the wine press which produce blood four feet high for about 180 miles. If this is literal, there will be no question as to the Judgment time of God.

With all the images and questions around those images it is easy to lose sight of the most important message of Revelation. The events and images are outside of the control of humans. All we need to be concerned with is being ready. We cannot stop or start the events unfolding in the book of Revelation. We do not even have to figure them all out. We simply must have our lives in such a state that we are ready for the Judgment of God. Are you ready?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Revelation 13 -- The Great Deception

As we journey further through John's vision we find the events being described becoming more troubling. Chapter 13 is on where it is easy to allow the images used to confuse what is being taught. We have established through the previous chapters the dragon is Satan and these beasts are given power by Satan to work against God on earth. What the vision tells us is that it works. the people on earth are deceived and begin to follow the beast, and do what the second beast commands. There is also reference to the saints in this chapter, those who are following Christ. It seems as though not all the faithful have been removed from the struggle.

Here in chapter 13 is where we also find the marking of people with the number of the beast. All those who do not take on the number are closed out of the commerce centers. It was not possible for a person free of the mark to buy or sell. Those who have been deceived by the beasts will take the mark and those who have not will have to find alternative means of gaining the goods and services needed.

In a lot of ways it will be like the great depression of the 1930's in America. People will struggle to get by. The big difference this time around is some people will do just fine while those who follow Christ will struggle. Instead of a Great Depression, it will be a Great Deception. Before we think it will only people weak, or nominal Christ Followers who will be deceived we should be careful. It could be any of us. How do we protect ourselves from deception? Connection. In the Gospel of John chapter 15 we are told to Abide in Christ. This means our primary connection and relationship is with Christ. That we receive our life and breath from him. That our primary source of everything is Jesus. When we look other places for fulfillment, we can more easily be deceived.

I am not sure there is someone waiting in the wings right now ready to place the mark on people. There might be. Either way the question remains, are you ready? How is it with you and Christ? Are you abiding? Are you looking in other places for fulfillment?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Revelation 12 -- It Just Got Weird

Up to this point some of the images have been strange, and some of the concepts of Revelation have stretched us, but this chapter puts a new art to the weirdness. The woman giving birth to a male child and the serpent, the devil, waiting to devour the child. There is a torrent river, the earth opening up, and torment of all the other children of the woman. Closed with an encouragement to hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Strange I can do, I do not even mind weird, it simply takes some time to process. The great temptation is to declare with certainty that the woman is Mary, and the child is Jesus. That certainly is a possibility which can be supported by the study of scripture. Another possibility is the woman is a God figure, and the child is Adam. Many are not comfortable with God as a female, but God is genderless, and since the days of creation Satan has been attempting to devour the children of creation.

No matter who is represented by the woman and the child, I do not think we are suppose to always know, what we can know is there is a battle. Satan is working to stop all the works of God. Not only to stop it, but to completely devour all the things of God. This means until the final victory is seen as reality, we on earth are the object of the enemies attack. As we prepare to celebrate the coming of our victor, Jesus, we can expect the enemy to be active. If humanity were to focus on the true celebration this Christmas, the enemy might lose some ground, so the battle is on.

The final encouragement of the chapter are words for all of us to hold on to, hold on to the testimony of Jesus. Many things will tug at you this Christmas time. It might be easy to lose sight of Christ in this time. We must fight the good fight and do all we can to resist the pull of the enemy. This might mean changing the patters of what we do, so we are ready.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Revelation 11 -- The Two Witnesses

This has to be one of, if not my favorite part of the book of Revelation. By the way this is one of the few parts the popular Left Behind series got right on the button. Two witnesses are sent by God to prophesy about the Lord. They are much like John the Baptist in the Gospels. They stand out from the normal crowd by their appearance, and by their message. It seems as though they were given nearly unlimited power from God to communicate their message. Bringing plagues when they wanted, fire from their mouths at those who would come against them.

However, even these prophets when the time was right were done in by the beast of the Abyss. Yet, that is not where their witness ends, after three and a half days, that sounds familiar, they are given the breath of Life. The people are amazed, and begin to worship God as the two prophets are raised up on a cloud. Then something amazing happens that is easy to miss. Victory is proclaimed. "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.". That is a victory claim. What millions have prayed in the Lord's prayer will come true, May your kingdom come!

With these fantastic scenes which stretch our thinking and imagination we find the victory we are told about coming into reality. Now the battle is not finished for a few more chapters, but victory has been proclaimed. We are left with the question, do we claim the victory that has been given? Most of us, not the us, walking around acting defeated more often than not. Things do not work out as we have planned them, our hopes and dreams seem to be on hold, or delayed indefinitely, so we feel defeated. We have the victory! When we allow Christ to lead our lives, when we realize it is him who has won, we gain that victory. While we wait for the days which unfold in the book of Revelation, we know what will happen. Therefore we are called to be people who live the victory today. That victory was won the moment Christ arrived in the manger years ago. Are you ready to be a victorious person?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Revelation 10 -- No Delay

Okay so now things get real serious in the heavenly vision. There is a declaration that there will be no more delay, the full mystery of God was about to be unveiled. The time prophets talked about and others instructed was upon the people. This proclamation is followed by the eating of a scroll, which many presume to represent the word of God, that was sweet to the taste but soured the stomach. The Word of God is sweet like honey, but can cause men to stumble at its truth. After the souring meal, John the recipient of the vision, is sent to prophesy to the people. Can you imagine that job?

So if a third of the earth being consumed, the mutant locusts, and the C.S. Lewis style army, did not awaken the people to what was happening, John is given the task of telling them was is going on and about how bad it is going to be. There are times when I am not thrilled about the tasks God gives me, but this one takes the cake. The audience John is facing might be the definition of a hostile audience. Still in all of the destruction we find God hoping more and more will be saved. I cannot begin to imagine the pain God is enduring as the events of the end unfold. It is as if God were trying everything possible to get people to turn their hearts and enter in into relationship. Alas, they do not listen and the judgment falls.

All things are not completed yet at this point in the story. It is still the time of preparation, and the question still remains, are you ready?

Revelation 9 -- Paging C.S. Lewis

Now I like a good Sci-Fi movie as much as the next person. It might be hard to find a movie that is both Sci-Fi and good, but you would not expect to find the script in the Bible. The creatures described in this chapter are like something you would find in a C.S. Lewis novel. Locusts with human faces, the teeth of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion. And the two hundred million member army. This cannot be good. Well for those who have not received the mark of God, or who have not prepared for that day by having a growing, thriving, ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ, it is a very bad day.

The locusts do not have the power to kill, only torture for five months. Can you imagine wanting to die, but not being able to. The two million member army will wipe out a third of the earths population. This army has connections back to creation and the fall of humanity as they are headed by the angels bound at the great Euphrates river, one of the four rivers of Eden. They kill a third and the rest suffer in many forms. Still this is before the glorious return of Christ, this is still in preparation.

Interestingly enough these events are not enough to get the people of the earth to turn to God. They continue to deny God and embrace all sorts of evils. It might seem easy to criticism them and even call them foolish for their arrogance, however it could be anyone of us, so be careful.

Still the theme runs through, are you ready. If you have done your preparation now while there is still time to prepare, you will merely be a heavenly observer to all these things, not an active participant. Are you prepared?

Revelation 8 -- Judgment Enacted

In this chapter something new happens in the throne room, silence. To this point there has been singing and proclamation, but no mention of silence. I can only imagine it to be one of those disturbing silences that you know carries something bad. In the silence trumpets and a censer for incense are handed out and put to use. Remember this is before the return of Christ to the earth, this is all part of the preparation.

First we find the censer being used to lift prayers before God, then it is used to initiate the judgment of the earth. Filled with fire from the heavenly altar, it is flung to the earth with thunder, lightening and an earthquake. I am certain at this point the inhabitants of earth might have noticed something was about to happen. Then the trumpets start. First, hail mixed with blood fell from the sky burning up a third of the earth, a third of the trees and all the green grass. The second trumpet sounds and the seas are upset by a huge mountain like object. This caused a third of the seas to turn into blood, along with the death of a third of the creatures in the sea and a third of the ships destroyed.

As the third trumpet is sounded and the star Wormwood falls to into the rivers and a third of them turn bitter, bitter enough to kill people. The fourth trumpet blasts and a third of the sun is struck along with a third of the moon and the stars. A third of the day was without light as well as a third of the night. All of this seems to be the beginning of a recreation on earth. Think for a moment about the first creation, chaos covered the earth, and God spoke bringing it to order. Here God has spoken and chaos is being brought on creation. To me it is God setting the stage for the renewal of all things one earth as they were intended to be at creation.

By the end of the chapter a pretty grim picture is painted. The challenging news is given from an eagle who warns of the next three trumpet blasts. In essence telling us we have not seen anything yet. Keep reading the story is just getting good.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Revelation 7 -- The Sealed Ones

As we enter into chapter 7 we start to find a greater distinction of those who follow God and those who do not. Before the four horsemen of chapter 6 are allowed to do their work, God puts them on hold while the 144,000 get there seal showing they are with God. These are the representatives from the 12 tribes of Israel. There is an assumption that these 144,000 will not be harmed by the work of the angels, but that is never clearly stated in the word. It is stated they will have the seal of God, meaning they belong to God, however their safety is never mentioned. One might think by them having the seal of God they would be excluded from harm, however we evidence to the contrary in the scriptures. What we know is they are being claimed as belonging to God, that they are in fact Israel, the chosen of God.

We also now deal with the multitude who were given white robes. The elder tells that these are the people who have come out of the great tribulation, and have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. This is one of the classic passages used to support the rapture, that people came out of the tribulation. Again the support of the rest of the text is not there for that conclusion. What we can see in this passage is the multitude are the people who have been faithful from the fall of creation, to the return of Christ, or shall we call it the in between times. Classically this has been thought to be the time between the resurrection of Christ and the return of Christ. I cannot help to think we must go back further to the faithful of the generations. Those who followed after God even before the inbreaking of Christ to creation. They together with all the company of heaven sing praise to God who is above all things.

It would be easy to play numbers games to see who gets in and who is on the outside. There is a strange satisfaction found in judging others, especially when eternity hangs in the balance. Still when it comes to that day, we do not choose for anyone except ourselves what path we will walk. The question still remains the same, are you ready for that day?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Revelation 6 -- The Seals

From the scene of the throne room worship we next turn to the unfolding of the end of things. A great number of people have written a great number of words regarding the end of this age. Often missed is who and what initiates the end of things. People point to the Middle East, others to the economic markets. While later in Revelation those things are discussed in detail, the real beginning is found here in chapter 6.

As the Lamb opens the seals, the ones no one else in heaven could open, we find the signs of the end of this age. The first four seals being the four horses and horsemen. Notice this takes place in the throne room, not in the incarnation. The four are sent out to do what they have been summoned to do, that is begin the judgment. The fifth seal is still has action focused on the throne room and deals with the faithful saints of the centuries who have died in the faith. They are waiting for their justification. They are told not yet, but given white robes in preparation.

Then we get to the sixth seal. This is when events begin to unfold on earth. Again notice the events are not initiated by anything on earth, but the opening of the seal in the throne room. This means we will only know the end is beginning once it begins. All of a sudden stars will fall, the sun will be gone, and the moon will be like blood. Is this a literal image? We do not know, and again I do not think it really matters. What matters is are we ready because all these events come without warning from the throne room of God. We have no way of predicting them. The only thing we can do is be ready.

I am sure there will still be pages consumed about the end of this age. I am sure there will continue to be predictions about what things will look like. The reality all the predictions are just best guess. The real question to be wrestled with which is often ignored is, are people ready for the events once they come. Are you prepared for what is to come.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Revelation 5 -- Power Of The Lamb

We continue in the obscure as we read through chapter 5. Still in the throne room there is a break in the worship and the scroll appears. No one was able to open the scroll in all of heaven. To show the importance of the scroll we find John weeping because no one can open it. Enter the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The images of Jesus as the mighty lion emerge, and we await this figure like Aslan from CS Lewis fame to appear. Next on the scene, the Lamb, and it looks like it has been slain. That is a far cry form the Lion image just two lines earlier. The Lion of Judah is a slain Lamb, and that is our hope for opening the scroll? Yup.

The power of the Lamb lie not in its strength like the lion, though we should not doubt that strength. The strength comes in the willingness to be the sacrifice for all of creation so that all may enter in. The Lamb has the power to open the scroll which no one else can open. Power purchased by blood. When the Lamb enters the room the worship kicks into another gear. The angels come in by the thousands and give glory to the Lamb that was slain. By the end of the chapter we see the Lamb and the One who sits on the throne being given equal footing. As all of creation, in heaven, on earth and under the earth, worship them both.

The power which unlocks that which no one else can, is found in Jesus, the Lamb. The key to salvation is in the Lamb, the key to true worship is found in the Lamb. The key to life and breath is found in the Lamb. So perhaps it is time to stop striving to find that with in ourselves and let the Lamb do His job.

Revelation 4 -- Worship At The Throne

Here is where the images start to get a little more disturbing. We find creatures who are described to be some of the strangest beings we can think of. For those who might have read through the Old Testament prophets, you might find these beings to be similar to those described by the prophet Ezekiel. Revelation is certainly not the first time we have come across beings which are strange to say the least. Here we find them in the throne room of heaven. Also in the room are the twenty four elders. The scene is one of worship.

Seated on the throne is the King, presumably God, and all the activity of the room, the Heavens and the earth are directed at this being on the throne. Can you imagine what John is going through as this gift is given to him? Now some can waste time arguing whether John was actually in these places or if they were simply visions. That does not really matter. Actual placement of vision, John would have been deeply impacted by what he saw. In a day and age when we ask often what is it to worship, we find a profound answer here in Revelation.

Worship is to fully, totally without regard to self and our won desire, offer praise to God. There are not a lot of fancy words thrown in, simply praise of the One who is, who was and is to come. Pure, unadulterated praise lifted to God who sits on the throne. Do we have to wait until that day to experience this? I hope not! This is not reserved for some future date, it is to be experienced now. The primary reason we do not is ourselves. We allow too much of ourselves to be at work in our worship. This is not about a style issue, this is about a human control issue. It is time to give up control, so that we may witness the glorious worship of the One who sits on the throne now. That way when the day comes, we will be prepared and join in.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Revelation 3 -- Endurance

I wish when I opened the pages of my Bible it would assure me not only that everything was going to be alright, but that it would be easy and comfortable. It would be a great dream to find the Bible letting me know I will not have to struggle and suffer for my faith, and that I will always feel head over heals in love with God. There is no doubt some people would tell you that is how they experience life, for the rest of us who prefer authenticity to the dream know that life is hard, there is struggle and we waiver in our love and commitment for God.

In the final three letters to the churches, Jesus tells the churches to hand in there, have endurance. The struggles of the people are going unseen by the One who can actually make a difference. Jesus can see the struggle, and can see the faithfulness of the people. He offers hope. Notice he does not take away the struggle. Jesus doesn't just step in and remove the challenges, he encourages people to be strong.

In the final letter we find the famous lukewarm dialogue. We have all been there. Our passion for God has not and is not always red hot. Rarely is it stone cold either. It is easy to fall into the place where our relationship with God becomes pedestrian. Taking God for granted, and not seeing God as our source of life and breath. To us Jesus encourages us to light the fire again to burn with passion for the Lord.

All of this is in preparation of the coming king. This season of Advent we are in is a season to examine our journey. Are we discouraged, lukewarm, just going along? Are we ready for an in breaking of the King of Kings. I sometimes think we do not experience the fullness of God because we do not make ourselves truly ready for it. Let us us this advent to get ready to experience all God has for us.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Revelation 2 -- To The Churches Part 1

In chapter two we find the letters to the seven churches beginning. There are four in this chapter and three in the next. Each has a similar format of celebrating what they are doing well, then looking at the growth area. The common area of mistake is when we try to figure out which of the churches out current church is. These churches are not offered as a checklist for us to determine which one is us. We are all of these churches.

Any church fits into any of the celebrations and growth edges offered here in Revelation. We could all use to walk more closely with our first love, we must all be ready to persevere in persecution, we all have people teaching things contrary to God, and we all have people who we know to be leading people astray, yet we allow them to do it. So why include the letters?

The first reason is the writer was told to include them as a part of the vision given by God. This by itself is a good enough reason, but there is more. In these letters we find ourselves. In finding ourselves we find that the struggles of the church have not really changed over the centuries. Our modes of functioning have changed, and different times have highlighted different challenges, but overall, the church is still the church, people are still people, and God is still God.

Once again, and we will see this several times in Revelation, the details are not to be the tripping point. We focus on details because we have been trained most of our lives to look at details. The original audience would not have been looking for details, rather they would look for the overarching message. So what is it? Jesus is telling us to pay attention. Those who have ears to hear... that means those who are willing to really take a look. Those who are preparing themselves for the coming days. Often people say God is not speaking, what that often translates to is I do not like what God is saying. In other words, many people do not have the ears to hear.

Are we paying attention? Do we have ears to hear? Or are we caught in the details that really do not matter?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Revelation 1 -- The End, Now?

As we begin the final month of 2009, we reach the end of the New Testament. Up to this point we have journeyed through the Gospels, the works of Paul, and the many letters. We have read about the beginnings of this thing called the church, and seen the many warnings for the people of the church. Now we reach the end of the Biblical record. It seems like a strange time to dig into Revelation. We have now stepped both feet into Advent, the season of preparation, and it seems as though focusing on the birth of Christ might be more in order. This is the perfect time to wrestle with this challenging book, as we are in the season of preparation.

The birth of Christ has taken place, and that is cause to celebrate. While we celebrate memory is given to the fact of the cross hanging over the manger. Our Savior was born to die, only to be raised from the dead so we too might be raised. Ever since Jesus was taken back to the throne room we have been in the Waiting. Better yet to say, we have been in a season of anticipation and preparation. Humanity was given a promise, that Christ would return and set right all of creation in final victory over the enemy. While we hold the promise, it has not yet been realized.

Over the next month we will journey together through some additional warnings for the church, as well as begin to look at what it might be like when that day comes, and all is settled in creation. It will be a strange trip as some points, other times it will be a challenging trip, yet in the end it is all to prepare us for the return of the One.

So prepare your hearts. Prepare your mind. Get ready for what God is ready to do in this time of waiting and anticipation. I pray that we may find the end to be exactly where the beginning starts.

Monday, November 30, 2009

2 Peter 3 -- Are You Ready?

As I write this I am looking out the window at a gray and rainy day. If the weather people are correct this is how the last day of November for 2009 will go. As we welcome December first it become very real that Christmas is nearly upon us. Soon all the conversations will at some point turn to the question of whether we have all our Christmas shopping done. The real question that is being asked there is, are you ready? I wonder if we are ready for Christmas? Not the gifts and parties and all that. Are we ready to celebrate the coming of Christ to our world?

In 2 Peter the conversation is around the second coming of Christ. But whether it is the celebration of Christ's first coming, or the triumphal return of Christ, the question remains the same, are we ready? No matter what the so called experts say, and no matter what all the predictions might point to, we do not know when the hour will be upon us. Therefore we must always be ready for that moment. This is where being ready to celebrate Christmas collides with the second coming. Being ready means having our lives centered around Jesus Christ. There are many things which would distract us and draw our focus from Christ. Being ready means being deeply connected to God through Jesus Christ. Are you ready?

The moment will come when it is too late. That moment is not know by anyone except God. For this moment however, there is time to get ready. We have time to get our lives centered around Christ. We have time to get connected with God. So put down the credit card. Do not get that shopping cart. First, stop and ask God to meet you. Then follow what God puts in front of you. Conform your life to the life Jesus showed us in the Scriptures, and you will be well on your way to being ready.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

2 Peter 2 -- False Teachers

It seems as though as long as there has been time, there has been the potential for people to teach about God in false ways and for false motives. What we read in 2 Peter 2 was not the firs occurrence of false teachers. The Old Testament is filled with false teachers. All through the New Testament we find false teachings. Since the Biblical record was established we can look through the history books and find false teachers about the things of God. Even with it being nothing new the questions remains, why?

The list of reasons is as varied as it is long. Some do it for personal gain. Others doing it in good faith that what they are teaching is pure. Still others knowingly deceive. Whatever the reason or the time, there will be false teachers. They key is not figuring out why, or how to eliminate them. The key is keep ourselves from being sucked in. Emotion, desire and weakness can cause us to follow after teaching which we know is not godly. We must find ways to recognize and test what we are being taught so that we might discern whether it is godly or not. The first and best measure is to look in the Scriptures. All things must be consistent with the Holy Scriptures, if it is not, the teaching is false. Just because we do not like what is being said is not a reason. The test of scripture is the ultimate measure.

For those who would be false teachers the future is not good. Destruction and death await. The same goes for those who forsake God and follow after the false teachings. The signs of false teaching are all around, and God will go through great lengths to show us the truth, i.e. Balaam's donkey. We must submit to the guidance of God, and test everything that we might not fall prey.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

2 Peter 1 -- Keep Going

You know the day. It has been one of those long days where motion was constant. From the moment you stepped out of bed until the moment you find your bed again it has been go. There is something so satisfying about that moment. It seems as though we could stay in that moment forever. In our journey with God we have the same thing. We work hard to enter into a disciplined journey, curb the things which need it, and initiate the things which need it. The point comes when we are ready to sit back, relax and let our faith work for us.

Peter warns us not to do do this. We are in fact on a journey and we need to keep going. This does not mean we do not stop every once and a while to take in the view, or catch our breath. It means we continue to add to and build upon our faith. There is not a point when we are done. Being Thanksgiving, there is not a time when the little red timer pops us letting us know it is turkey time. The journey we are on is an effort. In the midst of the effort we find joy, peace and love, but it is an effort nonetheless.

The rest of our earthly pilgrimage is to be one where we continue to grow in faith, love and hope. Days when we are tired and just do not what to keep going. Take a few moments to catch your breath, rest a little, and then keep going. When on a journey that is the key to getting to the place of calling, keep going.

1 Peter 5 -- The Lion

One of my favorite places to go with my children is the zoo. The excitement the girls show, wait not show, they ooze, catches me every time. From the pacing tiger to the lazy alligator they love them all. The local zoos we go to do not have one of my favorite animals, the lion. There is just something about the lion which draws me in. It is a combination of fear and wonderment. This majestic animal who could tear me limb for limb also captures me. I love watching the shows which track the lion in the African Safari. Some poor unsuspecting wildebeest will be grazing and then wham the pride of lions is upon it. Before the attach there is a strange organization, followed by an intentional prowl, then the pounce.

Peter warns that Satan is the same way. This is where I break from liking the lion, love the lion, not at all a fan of Satan. The hunting technique is the same however. We go about our daily lives, doing what we always do. Often we are unaware of the danger which lurks around us. Satan is on the prowl like the lion. Measuring us up, planning and plotting for the opportunity to pounce. Like the wildebeest, we are oblivious to the fury that is about to be unleashed in our direction. Peter says be alert.

I do not thing we need to run around in fear of Satan, "Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world". Still we have to be aware that he is out there looking to have us for lunch. Fear is one of the greatest tools used by Satan to keep the Body of Christ at bay. Fear does not need to be our response. Awareness and connection with God are the ways we overcome.

May we know the lion is on the prowl. May we also know the Lion of Judah is a bigger, stronger and more powerful lion. May we be aware of the threat, but also the victory we have in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

1 Peter 4 -- What Makes You So Different?

There is an expectation that life will be easy. I am not sure where this expectation comes from, and I am pretty sure this expectation changes depending on the culture you emerge from. Here in the West, the expectation is life should be easy and when it is not we are really good a complaining. Peter seem to know that people would expect life to be easy, and that we would be confused when it was not. Most of his letter is spent reminding us that living for God will bring challenge and suffering with it. Yet, we fall prey to the idea that life should be easy.

What makes us think we will so different than all those who have come before us? Better yet what makes us think that we should have it any different than the One who sets us free, Jesus Christ? Sure because of Jesus we do not suffer in sin, that was cared for at the cross, but we suffer at the hands of those who knew how we use to be. A nasty gravitational like pull exists in our society which pulls us to a life filled with all the earthly pleasures. It is not that God does not want us to have any earthly pleasures, it is simply we must pursue God more than these pleasures.

For centuries the people called Christians have faced persecution and trail of many kinds. Living for God through the grace of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit will cause you to be at odds with the standards of this world. If it does not, then it is time to take a good look at your journey and see how closely you are walking with God. It seems pure pride and audacity to think we should have it different than all those who have come before us. The only time when the persecution and trail will end is when Jesus returns. Until then we can expect life to have challenges. The easy life is a myth the world offers to sidetrack humanity. The good life is not found in the stuff acquired, rather in the path followed.

May we all join the cloud of witnesses who remained faithful in the face of trail. May we know that part of our unity with centuries of followers before us, is the suffering, trails and tribulation. May we count is all joy to be considered worthy of suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 23, 2009

1 Peter 3 -- Suffereing For Good

The beginning of this chapter starts on a subject many are afraid to handle nowadays in the Western world. This hesitancy comes in part because of how the short passages have been lived out. Often the focus is heavily upon the role of the wife to submit. This is short sighted for two reasons, one there is plenty of evidence in the scriptures that husbands have some work to do as well. The second is our understanding of submission. We have taken the word to mean a form of weakness. This is not the original intent, it means yielding to a husband, but not simply allowing whatever the husband wants.

However that is not the focus today. This idea of suffering for doing good. Few things fly in the face of modern Western culture more than the concept of suffering for doing good. Evidence is seen early in life when we are encouraged to do the right thing in classrooms and school yards. While there might be some accolades from teachers, much suffering comes at the hands of peers for those who are the "good" kids. Rarely is doing good or the right thing rewarded in our culture. Yet the prevailing thought of many is if I do good things, I should get rewarded.

Peter tells us that we do in fact get rewarded, but it is a different kind of reward. Like Noah, our reward is from an eternal perspective not an earthly one. I cannot imagine the ridicule and out right persecution Noah faced as he was building the ark. I am sure Noah suffered for doing what was right and what God called him to do. The same is true today. The culture we live in has a distorted view of what is good and right, and often in conflict with the call of God. When we begin to follow God more than culture, we will suffer. The reality is we are all going to suffer in some form, why not suffer for doing what is godly and eternal?

Doing the good and right thing might be difficult. We must still however, continue to do it. Additionally we must not look around us for encouragement and support, sometimes our only support in doing good is from God. May we be found as people of God doing what is right.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

1 Peter 2 -- Cornerstone

The stone that the builders rejected has now become the chief cornerstone. In many forms and variations this quote has echoed through time. In the world of the church we know the chief cornerstone, or capstone, is Jesus Christ. A building is not complete without the capstone, and the capstone was the primary identifier of the building. It is not an easy job being the cornerstone, but it is the role Jesus plays.

All people must decide what they are going to do with the cornerstone of faith. Will we be counted in the people who celebrate Jesus, or will we be counted in the people who reject him. As the writer here in Peter says, those who believe will see Jesus as precious, those who do not will see Jesus as a stumbling block. Filled with all kinds of rules and regulations. For those who reject the cornerstone, all they will see in Jesus is someone who limits their freedoms, and someone who's name has been used to justify horrible things. These people will not see the true Jesus.

The true Jesus gives us freedom, but not as we are accustom to having freedom. Freedom in Christ comes from denying ourselves and the desires which rage with in. The greatest freedom is not defined by being able to do whatever we want to do, it is defined by not be captive to whatever we do. When we allow our desires to drive what we do, often the result is guilt and regret. If we allow Jesus to be our cornerstone, the completing force and primary identity, we will follow his ways. His ways lead to life, fullness and freedom.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

1 Peter 1 -- Be Holy

If that isn't a big challenge for the morning. Be holy, because I am holy. Many mornings I have trouble being awake much less holy. Ah, but if it is up to me I cannot find holiness, it is only through Jesus Christ that we find this holiness. It is helpful to look back a little in this section to see where the writer describes what it would mean to be holy. We are not left to simply guess we are given clues to what the holy life is all about.

The starting place is with Jesus. Without the sacrifice of Jesus, we do not stand a chance. From before the dawn of creation Jesus was selected for the work of making us holy. That is pure and presentable to God. If we are going to live into this holiness we must have a life characterized by a few things. Self control, the hope of grace in Jesus, non-conformity with evil desires, and to follow our leader. The section of Peter where this is outlined begins with some very important words, prepare your minds for action.

So often in our faith journey we sit around and pontificate about the great meanings of who God is and who we "ought" to be. People spend their entire course on this earth contemplating these lofty things and never find them. Why? The have prepared their minds, but not for action. There is a perfect balance to be found between knowing and doing. When our primary mode of operation is knowing God, we often know about God, but do not know God. When our primary mode of operation is to always be doing, our faith can lose its foundation. There must be a middle, and there is.

This middle is not easy. We must find time to think, ponder and study the things of God, while at the same time allowing the study and thinking to produce in us action and fruit. The holiness Peter refers to is totally about the work of Jesus Christ making us holy. It is also totally about being people who become like Jesus in our holiness though being about the things Jesus was about. Confused yet?

Being holy, is not about the knowledge of God, it is about knowing God, and doing what it is that God is about in our world. Are we being holy?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

James 5 -- Waiting

One of the hardest things for me to do is wait. Whether it is at a stop light, at the grocery store, or for things to develop at the church. Waiting seems to produce in me an anxiousness which is not always helpful or healthy. The ultimate waiting game is waiting for the return of Jesus to establish the fullness of the kingdom of God.

In the Western world I am not sure we anticipate this quite the same as other places. In our comfy Christian worldview we are not challenged much for holding to Christianity. Sure there may be criticism and name calling. I know people who have lost jobs because of the faith relationship with Jesus. Yet, I am not sure there are many people in the Western world who are at risk of their life because of Christ. Often it is not felt that we need Christ to return because we are doing just fine on our own. And they say people don't believe in myths anymore. For the audience James was written to this was a huge issue, an issue of life and death.

Most of the early followers believed they would see Jesus return in their lifetime. Couple that with a culture that was hostile to those who followed Christ, and you have a lot of suffering. People would hold fast to Christ, the government and other religious organizations would pressure and persecute the followers. All of the persecution would have gone away if they would simply give up on their Jesus. James reminds them to stay strong, and be patient in waiting for the Lord.

I wonder how many people think Jesus will return in their lifetime? I mean not as a theological possibility, but as an actual belief. Do we live our lives with a patient endurance, ready for that day at any given moment? How might we live differently if we truly expected Christ to return in our lifetime. What would life be like if we lived in a place where our life was in danger because of that belief? Funny in a place and time when there is room for people to safely hold that belief many have abandoned it, and in the time and place where it was not safe, many clung to it for life.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

James 4 -- You Can't Always Get What You Want

Very few are the people who do not have a running list of things they want. The list is complete with both material and non material things. On this list there are hopes and dreams, plans and desires. For the follower of Christ there is an appropriate tendency to bring these things to God in prayer. We pray fervently, with great hope of what God will offer to us. What do we receive? Nothing, or at least not what we have desired.

I know it seems simple and has been said before, but believe it or not what we want is not always in our own best interest. Have you ever had the experience of getting exactly what you were looking for, only to find out it caused more trouble that did good? The reality is we should take all of who we are to God and offer it up. This means our list, hopes, dreams and desires, however, we must remember that it is God who is in control not us.

Especially in the Western world we think we are in charge. What we do, where we go, all the details of life seem to indicate we are in charge of our lives. This is a false perception. Ultimately God is in charge of everything, and allows us choices, but we do not always make the best choices. When it comes to our list, it is not bad to have a list, we must remember that it is up to God if the list becomes a reality. We might have a three year plan to see the list come to reality, but we have no way of knowing what life will be like tomorrow, much less three years from now.

So, what are to do, give up? Yes and no. We should never stop striving or having a list. At the same time we should remember who is in charge of the list. Life does not always play out as we want, some would say rarely does it. If we submit ourselves to the author of life, God, than we might not get what we want, we will get what we need. Hey that is catchy, I think someone should out that in a song, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you get what you need." too late it is already there.

Let us thank God that we do not always get what we want, and that God offers to us what we need more. May we have the faithfulness and courage to choose what is being offered to us by the great God of the universe, and see it is what we need.

Monday, November 16, 2009

James 3 -- Watch Your Mouth

Humans are verbal people. No matter what the language or dialect, people communicate through verbal means. This is not the only way communication happens, yet it tends to be primary in our culture and many others. The words which come from our mouths have great potential. These words can build up or they can hurt. Words have the ability to enlighten, or they can cause greater ignorance. Whenever we have opportunity to speak, we have great ability to impact those who are hearing.

When you think about the words you say, are they carefully selected, or are they from the top of your head. If you are like me the answer depends on the situation. There are times when I carefully select the words, other times when I do not. No matter what the situation, it is important that we are mindful of our words. Those who are followers of Christ are to watch their mouths.

It use to be the grandmother rule could be invoked. I no longer use that rule. It seems no matter who you look at the potential for poor of foul language exists in all of us. The times when those impure words jump from my mouth, I feel a sense of loss. It shows my connection with God is not as strong as I would like it.

After spending a few moments scolding myself, I quickly move to seeking God. Only with a connection with God can I offer pure and holy words. Without God my words quickly become tools of hurt, pain and ugliness. The closer I grow with God in my journey the less I find these words coming out of my mouth. The frequency they come to my mind is sad, but even that is becoming less as I journey closer.

May we all watch out mouths today. May we speak words of purity and encouragement. May only praise of God come from our lips.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

James 2 -- Faith and Works

How is it that we can tell whether someone has faith or not? They can tell us all about their faith. How much they love Jesus, and how great they think the commandments are. It is easy to talk a real good faith, but is that the measure? James would say no, and I would agree. The best measure of a persons faith, or relationship with God through Jesus Christ is found in their actions.

James proclaims that faith without works is dead. The relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ is seen in the actions we take. When we look at the life of Jesus the gospels tell of his death and resurrection, but most of their effort and energy focus on his life, how Jesus lives, the actions he was about. Had Jesus simply said I am the Son of God, the Messiah, the One you have been waiting for, and had not works to support it, people would not have followed. Claims alone will not get you very far, we must put actions to our claims.

While we are putting actions to our claims there is an important truth which cannot be overlooked. Our actions alone will not get the job done. If we do all the right stuff, minister with the people God brings our way. If we major in deeds, but do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ we are lost. It is through the grace of Jesus Christ alone that we enter into a full relationship with God, no amount of good deeds can do this.

So we see it is the two working in harmony. We must claim and accept the grace of God offered through Jesus Christ. We must also have that claim produce in us all kinds of good works for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

James 1 -- Killing Sin

"Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when fully grown, gives birth to death" v15.

Wow, James sure lays it out clearly. Those impure desires which show up in our lives if allowed to grow and develop will give birth to sin on our lives. Sin starts with impure desires. We have a chance to cut sin down before it takes root. Many people do not live mindful of their desires, or even measuring whether their desires are pure or not. This comes from the fact that an increasing number of people live totally out of their desires. If we test our desires, and find ways to stop the impure, or unholy desires, then we stop sin before it can be born.

What happens when one gets through? When desire gives birth to sin then what. The way James lays this out, even that is not terminal. Once sin blossoms into life, we can still keep it from resulting in our death. This is where Jesus comes into play. We can put sin to death through Jesus before it has a chance to invade our lives and lead to our destruction. Once again this does not have to be terminal. Sin which is not dealt with will grow, and rule our lives. This will ultimately lead to death. It does not have to. Kill sin while it is still young and has not grown to control our lives.

Take some time today to look at your life. Where are you having desires that are not godly and pure? Where have you allowed sin to grow? It is not too late. As long as you have breath, and the Lord waits for the return there is time to embrace life. The scary part is we do not know how much time we have. The hour and day of the return and final judgment are not know. We cannot do anything about that. What we can do is be sure we are ready at any given moment. How are we ready, we put sin to death, before it has a chance to grow and kill us.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hebrews 13 -- Just In Case

Here the writer concludes the letter titled Hebrews. In this last section labeled chapter 13, we find a whirlwind of encouragements. It is almost as if the writer were running down a list of things they wanted to make sure and say. With so many different things thrown in it is hard to focus on any one. We must consider them as a whole, as a just in case I forgot to mention something here is a list.

Prayer plays a big role in this chapter. Praying for others, the imprisoned, those being mistreated, the writer themselves. There is a call to remain true to the teachings of Christ and not get drawn away. We find an exhortation to obey and submit to leadership. This hodge podge of encouragements comes together to offer words of how to continue in the covenant of Christ.

These words are not simply locked in a time long gone by. These are words which are important for us today. We must continue to live the eternal covenant which we are sealed to through Christ. It matters how we live out our faith. It matters whether we simply recognize Jesus as Savior, or if we journey to have our lives look like his. Keep on walking the journey.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hebrews 12 -- Discipline

Just the mere presence of the words causes all kinds of issues for us. Whether it is the correction of a behavior, or the commitment to engage in a process of health, discipline is usually high on the to do list and low on the follow through. Discipline is one of those words and ideas which has become outdated in some circles. Yet here we find in the Scriptures Hebrews 12 and a discussion about discipline.

The writer is clear, no one really enjoys discipline when it is going on. Usually there is a measure of pain and dissatisfaction with discipline. Oh, but when we come through the round of discipline and look back we are often thankful. When it comes to discipline in our lives the way we experience the discipline of God has a lot to do with how experienced discipline in our formative years. Some were fortunate enough to live in homes where discipline while tough was done with great love and grace. Others lives in homes where discipline was metered out higher of the tough and lower of the love and grace. While others still had to deal with brutal discipline, often physical, and an absence of love and grace. It is easy to transfer the way we were disciplined to the way that God is going to discipline.

I am going to focus on those who experienced a very harsh and unloving discipline in their formative years. When folks in this group experience the discipline of God, there is an increased focus on the pain and suffering. This is the only way they know discipline to function. There is an expectation of God simply beating them, and moving on. That is not how God disciplines. The pain may be there, the suffering may be there, so won't God. We have heard it said, "This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you." In earthly terms, that is not always real true. When it comes to our godly correction, the hurt and pain are equal. God is not looking for ways to get us, and to have to go through trial. God would rather spend all the days in delightful conversation. We, humanity, tend to stray from the plan and the result is discipline. It breaks God's heart to see us in pain, yet God knows that is how we will learn and be trained in the ways of following.

Discipline is painful, none of us really look forward to it. Yet, without discipline we would be even more trapped in the endless cycle of going our own way. Remember when times of discipline come, find a way to see God with you, growing you, longing to see you become more of who you are designed and created to be.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hebrews 11 -- By Faith

Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the Hall of Faith. References to many of the faithful described in scriptures offered to us as examples of faith. While I would like to play editor with the list to be include a few others like Ruth, and Deborah, possibly Esther, the list stands before us a testament to what faith in God can produce.

Each of the individuals listed were ordinary people. They may have been elevated to great position, however, they were anybodies just like you and I. The thing which qualified them for this list was not their greatness, it was the faithfulness. In the midst of big challenges and overwhelming odds, these people trusted God more than they trusted what they could see right in front of themselves. Faith was the qualifier, not results in and of themselves. By faith these men and woman lived as examples to us all what happens when everyday people have faith in God.

God may be calling you to build an ark, to sacrifice that which was promised, to put it all on the line. What you are able to see right in front of you might be telling you to do something else. What will you do? Faith is having more trust in what is unseen than in what is seen. Circumstances can seem huge, and too much to overcome. The visual mountain in front of us could cause us to give up. It was Jesus who said if you have faith even as small as a mustard seed you can tell that mountain to move, and it will. I do not rule out God's ability to move a physical mountain, however, I cannot help but wonder if Hebrews 11 is connected with the prayer that moves mountains.

What mountains are you facing today? Do you have more faith in the mountain or in God? Where you place your faith will have everything to do with how you view the mountain.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hebrews 10 -- Let Us

Here in Hebrews 10 we have a series of let us statements. Let us draw near to God with sincere hearts. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. Let us consider how we may spur one another on in love. Let us not give up meeting together. Let us encourage one another. Essentially all these things encourage us, the followers of Christ to live together in a community of hope. A place where the community does not simply coexist, rather it thrives as it comes together to be the people of God revealed through this earthly pilgrimage.

This is not a series of may yous, no it is a series of let us. While each individual must do their part, it is the community that must work together in such a way that the love of Christ is evident to all those who would see this community at work. I wonder what it would be like to find a community that together drew near to God, that lived out the hope found in Jesus Christ. What would happen if a community of people spurred one another on in love, met together regularly simply to be together with God. How would it work for a community existed to encourage one another in the relentless pursuit of God with reckless abandon.

This has been the challenge to the church, The Body of Christ for centuries. For centuries the challenge has been amplified because of the same reason, humanity. Only through the power of Jesus Christ do we play well together. Left to our own devices we bicker, and take sides. We make the journey about us instead of being about God. It is easy for us to think we are the primary actors in the drama, everyone else is the supporting cast including God. As Francis Chan has stimulated us to think, what if we are a part if the movie God is watching. This life is so not about us and our desires. It is about a community of people becoming the people God intends us to be. This is not and cannot be an individual journey. This is one of the reasons the writer of Hebrews reminds, Let us.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hebrews 9 -- Gruesome Truth

The topic of sacrifice is never a pretty topic, especially when it comes from the Bible. It seems whenever sacrifice is mentioned in the scriptures it involves blood and the sprinkling of blood on things and people. This conjures up some pretty gruesome images. Could you imagine the next time you are gathered for worship is the pastor started sprinkling blood on everything including you? I am not sure there would be many people in church, and I am pretty sure the pastor would have an all expense paid trip to talk with the local authorities.

Still the Old Testament is filled with images and instances of blood. What is more, the images are connected with our redemption. Each year the high priest would take the blood of pure animals and use it to enter in the Most Holy Place and seek atonement for himself and the people. For centuries this happened. So why doesn't it happen today? Well scary as it is, there are some religious traditions and practices in the world who still carry this on. I do not mean in far off lands where people do not know better. Right here in these good ole United States there are groups in the name of religion who engage in blood sacrifice. Why not in the Christian church?

While the high priest had to go annually to offer the blood sacrifice, Jesus cared for this issue once and for all time. This is part of the whole new covenant. The old covenant required the gruesome act of offering blood. The new covenant still requires such a thing, however Jesus offered his own blood as an eternal sacrifice. Jesus' sacrifice is real, and the blood which flowed from him on the cross was real. The gruesome truth is without that reality we remain hopelessly lost. However, we need not shed more blood, because Jesus' blood still covers our sin.

Human reality has not changes. We are a rebellious bunch who thinks we know best how to navigate this world. Our greatest sin is how often we lean on our understanding more than trust in God. Because of this the gruesome truth remains, sacrifice is necessary for our righteousness. Let us be thankful we no longer need to have actual bloodshed at our gatherings.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hebrews 8 -- New vs. Old

When the New International Version of the bible describes what happens to the old covenant of God with the people the word choice fascinates me. Hebrews 8:13, "By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." For centuries this has caused more controversy and challenge than realized. The tendency is to try and make the new just like the old.

The place this challenge is most easily seen is in our clothes. Say your favorite pair of jeans gets to the point where there is no hope of continuing to wear them. When the search for a new pair of jeans commences we look for jeans that look and feel just like the old favorite ones. There is one problem, this is an impossible task, the old ones are obsolete and soon will disappear. The need for new is often clear and not debated. The great debate begins when we try to ensure the new is just like the old.

For centuries God had a covenant with the people. This covenant was based in the law given to Moses. The covenant through Moses was actually initiated in the covenant with Abraham. Nonetheless, the covenant of God called people to live their lives according to the laws. If the laws were kept, righteousness would be found. The old covenant didn't work. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, if the old covenant would have worked there would be no need for a new one, however, the old did accomplish the goal of God, so a new one was established.

The new covenant is not law based, rather it is grace based. Founded in Jesus Christ, the new covenant offers righteousness. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we find the offer of grace for life. There is still a call to holy living, and there are still standards by which the followers of Jesus are to live, only in the new covenant there is grace. the old covenant is still important, we must learn all we can from the former things. We cannot however, live in the former things we must live into the new.

Whether it is clothing or our covenant with God, the old cannot be held onto for dear life. God is doing a new thing do we not perceive it? (Isaiah 43). The new is among us, may we embrace it, and remember there is always a new, to our old.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hebrews 7 -- High Priest?

This is the section of Hebrews where the original audience is very clear. All the talk about a high priest is enough to make a Gentile, and most protestants more than a little creeped out. To really understand this section we must understand the role of the high priest in the Jewish tradition. The high priest is the one who would be the intermediary between God and the people. When there was sin to be atoned for, the high priest would offer sacrifice on behalf of the people. When there was prayer to be lifted, the high priest would burn incense and offer the prayers of the people. The Old Testament, more specific the Levitical, standard was to have only persons from the tribe of Levi to be the priests. The most glaring Old Testament exception is Melchizedek. He was a of God in the time of Abraham, before Aaron and the order of Levitical priests.

In the scriptures we meet Melchizedek before the giving of the law. Long before the captivity in Egypt, the exodus, and the giving of the law, God recognizes Melchizedek as a priest. Abraham also recognizes him and gives a tenth of the plunder from the recently won battle. This is a priest outside of the law. Jesus is a priest in this line, not the Levitical line. Outside of the giving of the law.

When the writer of Hebrews sets their sites on the law the Jewish audience would be outraged. The writer is saying that Jesus is bigger than the law, and the law has flaws in that it cannot make someone perfect. To say this would be controversial is among the top ten understatements of all time. It was through the law that righteousness was found, or so thought the Jews. The writer of Hebrews offers a different idea, Jesus.

It is through Jesus Christ that we are made right with God. Jesus as the High Priest. The one who offers sacrifice on our behalf, himself. The High Priest who goes to God on our behalf. Only through Jesus Christ can we be made perfect. The law failed in its attempt to present us to God without a blemish, Jesus Christ is the only way that can happen. Human priests are weak, and will let us down. Jesus, the ultimate priest will never let us down as he is perfect in every way and for all time.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hebrews 6 -- On Your Side

There are many challenges in life. When adversity and challenge show up it often shows up with a team of people. Some of those people are there to cheer you on, while others are there to work for your demise. The times when things seem most bleak and it seems like those who are against you are far greater in number and size than those with you it can start to feel very lonely. The writer of Hebrews reminds the readers then and now, there is someone on your side. Through the promise of God, God is on our side. God longs to see the best for us, and is our advocate and counsel through the Holy Spirit.

God sees the best in us in each situation, in fact that is why Jesus was sent to this earth. Not because all God could see is our brokenness. Rather because God could see the best in us, and knew to bring out our best there must be an atonement for sin. Our best is often marred by sin. The best in us can get buried and bruised. Yet God will look through it all and see the very best. After all we are created in the image of God. That image is perfection, and God is working through Jesus Christ to bring that image to the surface.

God is on our side. This is not a political statement. It is not a statement that says my God is better than your god. It is a statement that says the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who sent Jesus, the God who calls us today is on our side and wants to see our very best shine through. Through Jesus we have an advocate with God, a high priest working on our behalf. The high priest presents us to God at our very best. This is the promise of God for the people of creation.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hebrews 5 -- What Ya Eating

In our house right about mid-day there is a question which permeates the air, what are you having for lunch? With three young children you can guess this can be a very entertaining and exasperating activity. The requests are often far ranging and often do not include items we have. Over the years the requests have changed. When the children were really young they would be nursed by their mother. Eventually they moved to the fine line of baby food. Before long they began to eat more and more solid food. No longer do they live on milk.

The writer of Hebrews is telling us the same progression exists in our relationship with God. When we first realize the love God has for us in Christ Jesus, we need spiritual milk. Easy to digest, not teeth required. However, we cannot stay there, and many in the faith do. As we journey with Christ we are called to deepen our understanding and walk. To do this we will need to add to our spiritual diet. This will mean gaining the tools to not just read the bible but study it. It means reading books which push our understandings. What it really means is not being passive in our faith, expecting someone else to do the work.

So what are you eating? Is it time to take some next steps? Is it time to order up some spiritual steak? My hope and prayer is that we would all be growing in our relationship with God, maturing in our spiritual diet.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hebrews 4 -- Sabbath

For me it is Friday most weeks. The day set aside to rest, relax and reconnect with my family. Now there are times when this is interrupted and other details of life and ministry must be attended to, but for the most part Fridays are a day apart. Rest is such a vital part of life for all of us, yet we so often neglect it. The non-work days get filled with all kinds of errands and life maintenance activities that we often do not feel refreshed and renewed when we head back to work.

There is another byproduct of not really resting, and that comes with our service of God's mission. Because we become so busy, and try to cram so many things into our lives when we actually have time open for the service of God's mission we are too... tired, busy, or scattered. Having time for rest, not catch up on all the stuff of life, will allow us to be available to God's calling.

In the Jewish tradition this day of rest is set aside and there are strict rules about what can and cannot be done on the Sabbath. Here in Hebrews 4 there is a little different picture painted. Sabbath is not necessarily a day of the week, rather it is when the Lord returns and sets all of creation right. Until the return of Christ we will toil. During the waiting, we must practice rest in anticipation of that Glorious day called Today by the writer. Even now we struggle with what to do when times of rest come. Many of us scramble to stay busy. What will we do on that day when rest comes? Will we know how to rest? We don't seem to now.

Rest or Sabbath is something I am not very good at. I am a doer and resting does not come natural to me. I can tell you all the benefits of rest, and even encourage you to take rest. Still I will struggle. God is growing me in this area so that I will be ready when that Today comes. I pray that you all are growing in this as well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hebrews 3 -- Pushing It

If we remember Hebrews original audience is the Jewish community, then this section of the book is quite controversial. In the Jewish tradition there are a few who are the major figures. There is Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then there is Moses, the deliverer and receiver of the law. There are not many more revered than Moses in the tradition, yet the writer of Hebrews claims Jesus to be greater than Moses. This would have been just too much for many in the community. Already uncertain about this Jesus guy, now the claim he is greater than Moses, that is just pushing it.

The ministry of Jesus challenges everything that was held sacred by the Jewish community. I wonder if the same is happening for us now. Think about the American icon/heroes. Jesus is greater than JFK, or Martin Luther King Jr., or ____________ fill in the blank. There is not another person in all history who is greater than Jesus. The challenge is living like we believe that.

The highest percentage of people in America would tell you they believe Jesus to have been real, and they even leave the door open about Messiah. The gap is found in the claimed beliefs and the seen actions. Unbelief shows itself in actions long before it is heard in words. As evidence from later in this section of Hebrews and other places in scripture, unbelief is a dead end. Words are cheap and easy, conforming our lives to Christ is much more difficult.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hebrews 2 -- It Had To Be

Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to come to earth? There are the obvious answers of living to show us how to live, and his death to atone for our sin, followed by the resurrection which conquered death. But couldn't the God of all creation have come up with a better plan? The resources of eternity were available to God and yet incarnation was the way chosen. Hebrews 2 starts to answer that very question. It matters that Jesus was like us.

Jesus entered the human condition so that he could experience the fullness of being human. Essentially Jesus is able to say I have been there I understand what you are going through. The writer of Hebrews talks about this in the sense of Jesus being made like his brothers in every way, so that He could do the work of God for which he was sent to do. For the bulk of eternity Jesus sits at the right hand of God. For what is a blink in eternity Jesus has an earthly pilgrimage so that he would experience the temptation we experience, so he could interact with humanity.

Our Savior and Lord is not a remote and removed God. Our condition is known not just from afar, rather it is known intimately, as one who has walked a mile in our shoes as it were. This Jesus who died and rose on our behalf knows exactly what he is doing, and who he is doing it for. He has been there, and understands what we go through from personal experience. That brings me a certain level of comfort and joy in Christ.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hebrews 1 -- The Ultimate Messenger

The book of Hebrews is written to a mostly Jewish audience who is very well connected with the account of the People of God, Israel, throughout history. There is a deep connection with Old Testament in this book as evidenced in chapter on of which most is quoted passages from the Old Testament.

The preface to the whole book tells the reader/listener that throughout history God has been sending messengers to communicate with the people. However, now God is no longer appointing prophets, God has send the Son as the ultimate messenger. Jesus as messenger is far above the messengers who had come before. That is what the writer is showing with all the Old Testament quotes, Jesus is greater than the prophets, and greater than angels, He is the Son.

It might be easy to sit back and think about how all those people missed the ultimate messenger. I wonder how often the ultimate messenger speaks and I do not hear, or flat out ignore.? I have the same evidence and more to support Jesus as ultimate messenger. I can look at the amazing track record of Jesus' faithfulness, yet I still stumble. Thus we find another aspect of the ultimate messenger, persistence. Jesus does not give up on us, He keeps after us with grace and gentleness. If needed there are times when Jesus is more bold and confronting, yet He never gives up so why do we consider it as an option.


This wonderful yet short book is often one of the most misunderstood books of the Bible. The common thought is that Onesimus is a runaway slave who comes into contact with Paul. While with Paul, Onesimus commits his life to Christ and begins to grow in the faith. Once it is time for Onesimus to go back to his "owner" Philemon, Paul sends the letter to encourage Philemon to let Onesismus be free. This understanding is adequate, however it contains a major assumption which is hard to support in the text. No where does it tell us Onesimus is a runaway slave. It is entirely possible he is a slave, but the runaway part in conjecture.

It is entirely possible Onesimus was sent by Philemon to care for Paul in Rome for a defined amount of time. The letter is written as that time frame has come to a close. While with Paul Onesimus becomes a follower of the Way. Paul recognizing the condition of Onesimus, who most likely owes Philemon money, that is why he is a slave, tells Philemon he will settle the account.

If we look carefully we can see ourselves in the letter. God created us and send us into life. We owe God a great debt, due to sin. While on this earthly voyage we encounter Christ. If we choose to follow Christ, a letter is then sent on our behalf so to speak. Jesus tells the Father that he will settle the debt that we might be free. It is not that we were runaway slaves, it is that we have not been as useful to God because of our time away. Through Jesus we are made useful for the work of God. Interesting that Onesimus means useful.

Can you see yourself in the letter?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Titus 3 -- Foolish Controversies

Have you ever noticed the debates and arguments we get into often are looked back upon as foolish. In the heat of the moment there is great energy and passion displayed around each persons particular point of view. Yet when removed from the moment, the energy and passion seem to be used on something this is of little import in the grand scheme. There are issues, debates and even arguments which are worthy of much energy and passion, however, many are not.

Paul warns Titus and us to be careful about the controversies we engage in. Arguments often are unprofitable and useless. In fact the most common product is division. Paul addresses that as well with Titus. Warn the person instigating division once, then twice. If it continues have nothing to do with them. Wow that seems harsh but that is exactly what Paul teaches. It highlights the importance of not getting into meaningless arguments.

To put this into practice is going to require a good measure of humility. For many of us when we feel someone is being foolish we take it upon ourselves to correct them. What would happen if we let it go? Again, there needs to be a filter to measure how much the issue really matters. If it is an issue of great import, correction of the fool is warranted. On the flip side if it is of little consequence, you might join the fool rather than impact the situation. This is not an issue of right or wrong, it is an issue of fruit. If there is no fruit to the conversation, then take care in how you engage it. In the end the foolishness will bear itself out. We must make choices to determine where we will stand.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Titus 2 -- What to Teach

In this portion of his letter to Titus Paul outlines what things are to be taught to various groups in the church. Then about verse 11 Paul offers what I think is the overall teaching which is for all people, no matter what their identity or station in life is. "It teaches us to say "no" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." v.12.

It matter how we live out our lives. This seems like a simple truth, yet it can be so hard to put into practice. Worldly passions are all around us, encouraged and sold as normal. Yet for followers of Jesus Christ we are to live differently, say no to the pull of the world and live self-controlled and upright. This is no simple task.

How long must we live this way? Until Christ returns. That is our hope, that when Christ returns all that we have appeared to sacrifice will seem small compared to what is offered to us in the glorious appearance. Our blessed hope, in a world looking for hope, in lives where hopelessness is found, Christ offers hope.

There are many things to teach, and many people to teach. In them all we are teaching about the hope of living now for the glory of the age to come. This does not excuse us from anything now, it only means we have a hope in the future God is preparing for us. This is the heart of what Jesus teaches, and is the call of all who teach.

Titus 1 - Qualifications

The more I journey in the church the more I find people who want to be in charge of something, but are not willing to do what it takes to be in a leadership role. This must not be a new thing as Paul writes to Titus to let him know what to look for in a leader in the church. The qualifications are clear and rigorous. I wonder how many of us as leaders in the church can honestly measure up?

It is easy to look at lists such as this and consider them nice but ancient and therefore not applicable. On the contrary while these qualifications have been around for thousands of years they are not less valid, in fact their longevity seems to add to their validity. Leadership in the church is open to all people, and I do mean all people. The catch if you will, is we have to be willing to submit to something greater than ourselves and our own wants and desires. Leadership is not an anything goes activity.

Many great leaders forfeit their opportunities to lead because they are not willing to conform their lives to a standard other than their own. In the church that standard is the teachings of Scripture about how we are to live our lives. We might not like it, and can easily see where it might exclude some. However, it is not the standard which excludes, it is the choice to not meet the standard which excludes.

If you are not called to leadership, are you exempt from the teachings. Absolutely not. The qualifications for a leader are the standards by which all followers of Jesus are called to live. Leaders merely are called to model this lifestyle to the community of followers and the world at large in a more up front way. May we all live the call of Christ in our lives.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2 Thessalonians 3 -- Cruise Control

One of the most important features on a car for me is cruise control. I can get my motor running, get out on the highway and look for adventure without worrying about getting a speeding ticket. All I must do is set the speed and forget about it. Paul is warning the Thessalonian church about doing this in their life journey. We are not to simply sit around and revel in the glory of being followers of Jesus, we are to do the work Christ showed us to do.

This does not simply mean being busy for the Lord, it means not being idle for the Lord. Not setting the cruise control and going through the motions until the ride is over. Not being idle is not just about taking action it is about taking the right actions. It is real easy to allow our faith to become stagnant, not developing into a deeper relationship with Jesus. As followers of Jesus the love shown to us in Christ Jesus should be making all the difference in how we live our lives. Works of mercy, compassion and grace should not be a specialized activity, rather it should be the way our lives are known by others. This is not accomplished in cruise control.

Cruise control is great in the car, it is tragic in life. My pick up truck does not have cruise control, I have to pay more attention to what I am doing. I cannot simply go through the driving motions, I must actually be responsive to what is going on around me. Perhaps it is time to remove the cruise control from your life, and pay attention to what is going on around you. Perhaps it is time to become and active participant in the journey rather than letting it simply happen to you.

2 Thessalonians 2 -- Stand Firm

It seems as though everyday the world becomes more chaotic. Watching the news, reading the paper or surfing the news sites all return more evidence that our world is experiencing some interesting times. Some would say that we have reached the logical conclusion of the age of enlightenment. Others would say things are just fine. Yet others are looking at the events of our age as the signs of the End of Times. None of these points will I argue with or agree with today, rather simply look to the Scriptures.

Here in 2 Thessalonians 2 we find Paul's teaching about the Man of Lawlessness. We are not told when this man will appear on the scene of world history. We are not even told many details to know what the coming will look like. However, it is clear that a time of lawlessness is coming. This lawlessness might include world affairs, but the spiritual desecration is the greater clue. When the age of lawlessness comes there will be counterfeit miracles, the man will claim to be the Messiah. The people will not believe the truth but the lies, and people will delight in wickedness.

So what are we to do? Paul says stand firm because you have the truth. Whether the Man of Lawlessness is already at work or not, those who trust in the Lord have protection from deception. The truth is offered to us through Jesus Christ, we must choose to stand firm and trust in that truth. When that day comes there will be a great sorting. The wheat and the chaff will finally be recognized for what it is. Our task is not to sort now, our task is to live as fully as possible the live Jesus granted us when the tomb could not contain him.

As our world becomes more and more chaotic, we are to stand firm. As financial woes increase and war becomes commonplace, we must stand firm. We have but one hope, and that is Jesus Christ. In that hope we must stand firm.