The “END” – but what about TODAY?

all-things-new

Photo credit here.

S (Scripture): Revelation 14:6 Then I saw another angel flying high overhead with eternal good news to proclaim to those who live on earth, and to every nation, tribe, language, and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come. Worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
8 Another angel, a second one, followed and said, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She made all the nations drink the wine of her lustful passion.”
9 Then another angel, a third one, followed them and said in a loud voice, “If any worship the beast and its image, and receive a mark on their foreheads or their hands, 10 they themselves will also drink the wine of God’s passionate anger, poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will suffer the pain of fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. 11 The smoke of their painful suffering goes up forever and always. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, and those who receive the mark of its name.”
12 This calls for the endurance of the saints, who keep God’s commandments and keep faith with Jesus.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Favored are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they can rest from their labors, because their deeds follow them.”

O (Observation):  Amidst the devastation of the world, three angels appear to John of Patmos, and bring good news to all who follow the Lord.  These angels promise that God remains faithful to those who follow him.

The second angel declares that Babylon has fallen!   What good news!  Babylon (likely referring to the power of Rome and its many foreign gods) is destroyed!   The symbol of oppression and lustful passions has been destroyed.

And to those who die “in the Lord,” they are favored.   Even death cannot destroy the hope that one finds in Jesus Christ

A (Application):  I wonder if the hope that so many people cling to in Revelation worry about this scenario playing out in our lifetime?  I have heard many arguments for why we are living in the end times now – in 2017.   They name one-to-one correlations between the book of Revelation and current events.   I don’t subscribe to these theories.

I’m not trying to just dismiss or discredit these attempts at prophetic predictions, I just simply do not worry about these things.

My call is to gather folks together in the name of our Triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and lead our people to spend time with God, spend time together bearing one another’s burdens, and to go out into the world with a servant’s heart.   This is what keeps me going.   I rejoice that Jesus wins in the end of Revelation and all tears are wiped away – once and for all.

IN THE MEANTIME, we have hungry that need to be fed, immigrants that need hope that they can create a way of life in this country, and we need to be gathered – weekly – to be reminded that our God is with us in all of our endeavors.

God goes out ahead of us.  God is with us.   God stays behind when we leave.   God is doing all of this all of the time.    We simply show up.  We set dates, and we show up: to worship, to gather for fun, to serve.

P (Prayer):  Lord, take away the burden of knowing the time of your coming.  Instead, help us to focus on the here and now.  Amen.

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Who Receives Revelations From God?

Photo credit here (This link references one of my former blog posts from 2015 : )

S (Scripture): Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.

O (Observation): A bit of an oversimplification this day, a verse out of context. Yet equally true on its own, as in the context in which it exists.

Amos declares the suffering that is to come for God’s people. God’s people have erred by dismissing their hopes in God. Instead of direct retribution, God sends messages to the prophets to help God’s people get back on track.

Unfortunately, God’s people don’t listen very well. So God takes direct action through drying up water sources and such. And yet…a word of grace comes. God never forsakes the people that worship God.

The prophets speak God’s message of truth. God’s followers would do well to hear those words. These words of correction are a blessing, especially when God’s people have gone astray and DON’T KNOW they have gone astray.

A (Application): Prophets have an extremely important role to play, today. A good prophet will take the revelation they have received and bring it to the community (or communities) they trust. In that sharing, the people can discern – together – the meaning of the Word from God.

A prophet who acts alone (with no attempt to bring the revelation to others) will likely be dismissed or labeled a wacko. This is unfortunate, because very few folks have this gifting these days, and I wish to encourage them to embrace this calling.

Sharing this burden brings hope to our community. In Murfreesboro, I have seen many “prophets” seeking to do good in our community…friends like Brian, Toi, Jason, Cary, Tricia, Abdou, Hibba, Ali, Kevin, Joy, Chris, Keith, Richard, Tim, and many, many more. I don’t know that they are all prophets per se, but they do speak words of justice and hope into the systems that oppress other in these days.

May the words of the prophets move you into a deeper understand of your relationship with God. May you know God’s presence in the difficult situations you face. May you speak God’s truth as you join God’s Mission today. Amen.

P (Prayer): Lord, we seek your glory and your Word this day – even if it stings a bit. Amen.

“What If…?” (The Family Man)

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S (Scripture): Revelation 3:14 “Write this to the angel of the church in Laodicea:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I’m about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 After all, you say, ‘I’m rich, and I’ve grown wealthy, and I don’t need a thing.’ You don’t realize that you are miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked. 18 My advice is that you buy gold from me that has been purified by fire so that you may be rich, and white clothing to wear so that your nakedness won’t be shamefully exposed, and ointment to put on your eyes so that you may see…”

O (Observation): Revelation – a story about the struggles between God’s people and evil in the world, told in an apocalyptic tale – reveals that the church in Laodicea is full of followers of Jesus who are “lukewarm.”

Many of these inhabitants are rich (well-off”) and don’t sense a need for anything from God. Yet God reveals that they are actually miserable in their existence.

The only wealth they need is the gold that God offers – refined by fire. This gold brings true richness.

The ointment for the eyes will help the rich ones to see clearly – through God’s eyes, rather than the eyes of wealth. Through God’s eyes, they will see that their earthly wealth amounts to nothing.

A (Application): I remember (years ago) seeing a Christmas movie called “The Family Man.” Nicolas Cage plays the main character. He’s a rich executive who cares very little for anyone other than himself. He has no sympathy for those who wish to take vacation during the Christmas holiday. He is very rich, and very alone…though he doesn’t realize that his “alone-ness” is bothering him. He can’t quite put his finger on it.

Then, heading out to the store, he encounters an angel of sorts, who helps him to see his life if he lived differently – if he stayed with his young love from years ago, pursued a life with her and had a family, etc. Then, one day, he wakes up – sees the world differently – and he realizes how alone he is…but that he can also change things.

Think “It’s a Wonderful Life” meets “A Christmas Carol,” but in the year 2000. That’s “The Family Man.”

Now, I know that this alternative reality doesn’t exist, but the appealing part about this movie is that the dream world he’s in isn’t perfect. Having kids is messy and exhausting, having a spouse and loving that spouse can be a challenging balance of self-giving, listening and sacrifice.

And I especially love the end, when Cage’s character tracks down this former mate and has coffee with her. And you don’t know what happens. The credits roll before you know the end!!!! I was so…melancholic afterwards, and I remain that way after seeing the movie to this day.

The question of “what could have been” rings loud and clear after watching this movie. And that resonates with me in my life as a follower of Jesus. This story in Revelation should move us from our thrones of complacency towards lives full of responses to God’s grace.

God wishes us to see our lives as they truly are, and how we draw closer to our purpose as the ointment is applied to our eyes…as we let go of the things in this world that promise hope, and purchase the gold that God has to offer: true life, everlasting and full of selfless purpose.

P (Prayer): God, help us to see beyond our own lukewarm feelings and station in this world. Give us eyes to see your glory in living service to those around us. Amen.

Everyone’s a Prophet

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S (Scripture): Jeremiah 38:1b Jeremiah had been telling the people: 2 The Lord proclaims: Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and disease. But whoever surrenders to the Babylonians will live; yes, their lives will be spared. 3 The Lord proclaims: This city will certainly be handed over to the army of Babylon’s king, who will capture it.

4 Then the officials said to the king: “This man must be put to death! By saying such things, he is discouraging the few remaining troops left in the city, as well as all the people. This man doesn’t seek their welfare but their ruin!”

5 “He’s in your hands,” King Zedekiah said, “for the king can do nothing to stop you.” 6 So they seized Jeremiah, threw him into the cistern of the royal prince Malchiah, within the prison quarters, and lowered him down by ropes. Now there wasn’t any water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah began to sink into the mud.

O (Observation):  The message God continuously shared through Jeremiah, was that the Hebrew people would need to go with the Babylonians, if they wanted to live.  Not only would they live, but God’s promise is to bring God’s people back to their homeland one day.   

If they stay, they die. These are their choices: life or death.  

Jeremiah was called to stay and continue to prophecy to God’s people, so he was sort of exempt from the proclamation (he is after all, God’s mouthpiece to the people).   Several of God’s people chose life; they chose to give to Babylon. 

Yet the king and many of the king’s advisors and false prophets declared that God’s people would withstand another attack from the Babylonians.  They would be wrong.  And they were so adamant about their prophecies (Israel victorious in battle) that they had Jeremiah thrown into the cistern full of mud, just to shut him up.  

We see how things turn out.  God’s people defeated, and yet, God’s promises coming true:  God redeems the people of God.  God brings them back, but not before the prophetic witness of Jeremiah is heard and ignored.  

A (Application):  How many prophets exist today?  True prophets.    Does someone have to be famous to be a prophet?   Rich?  Poor?   Wear clothing of camel hair?

I think many of God’s people today have a gift of prophecy, in the sense that they receive feelings / visions / thoughts of what God is saying to them as individuals or about us as a community.  

How de we know which prophetic message to follow?   This takes discernment amongst the Christian community.   Once one receives a message, one would be most wise to share it with a trusted group such that the community (however large or small) may discern the vision together.   Then, move forward with sharing the vision with the people at large.  In this way, the community can discern the truth of the vision and move forward.  

We all can act like prophets behind our keyboards these days (even myself).   And we can make bold, prophetic statements.  My suggestion:  gather trusted folks together (or share with several individually) before we share the vision.   And then move forward humbly, and with a strong will.  Let God be your confidence. 

P (Prayer): Lord, give us the gift of discernment. Amen. 

Some Sinners Left Behind

 
 S (Scripture): Revelation 9:20 The rest of humanity, who had not been killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so that they did not stop worshiping demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk about. 21 Furthermore, they did not repent of their murders, of their magic spells, of their sexual immorality, or of their stealing.

O (Observation):  So some freaky angels are set free to kill 1/3 of humanity. Then, 200 million scary horses with their riders came out and killed another 1/3.  The last 1/3 showed no signs of remorse of their idol worship.  

This “woe” had no affect on the remaining 1/3 of humanity. 

A (Application):  Who do the Angels represent today?  I don’t care. 

Who do the 200 million horsemen represent today?  That matters not to me. 

Why?  If all of this were to come to pass…I would have no say in their coming.   And we can only brig conjecture to the table.  And even if we DID get it right, that’s not the point!!!!   The point?   Just follow me here…

Here is what I do care about:  repentance.  These 1/3 remaining are said to have been non-repentant, even in the face of these consequences of their actions.  

I have a hard time reconciling God allowing this type of destruction.   We hear Jesus (in the Gospels) speaking of wailing and gnashing of teeth.  We assume a warning would have influence.  But we also know that God  was remorseful after the flood in Genesis.   Something doesn’t fit. 

Back to my takeaway: repentance.  I hope to be vigilant in my Obedience to Jesus Christ.  But I know that my Obedience is only a direct reflection of my Identity as a child of God.   I am claimed by a God who is ALWAYS in a posture of welcoming me…despite the grim picture painted by God (through John of Patmos) this day. 

Repentance and Forgiveness are a daily cycle for me, and I hope for you, too!   We are in a church in which Confession and Forgiveness are a part of our weekly rhythms. We corporately confess of our sins and receive absolution.  That’s an important recognition of our frailty and of our God who is always welcoming us in.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, keep us focused on being repentant and relying solely on you – day in and day out.  Amen.  

Locusts…really?

 

S (Scripture): Revelation 9:1 Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the abyss. 2 He opened the shaft of the abyss and smoke rose out of it like smoke from a giant furnace. The sun and the air were darkened with smoke from the shaft. 3 Then out of the smoke came locusts onto the earth, and they were given power like that of the scorpions of the earth…
10 They have tails and stingers like scorpions, and their ability to injure people for five months is in their tails. 11 They have as king over them the angel of the abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.

O (Observation): A clear picture is painted as the fifth seal is broken. Locusts like none have ever seen. These locusts belong to the Destroyer, known as Apollyon. 

Does this description actually foretell an actual description of what will happen when the fifth seal is actually and literally broken?

I think not. 

Does Apollyon need to be feared?

I think not. 

A (Application):  We can paint some pretty imaginative pictures. I’ve heard lots of conjecture about what the end times will be like, including this seal being broken.
My question is: does it really matter?  This writing is in a category known as apocryphal. That’s my presupposition. In that case, the message that is told is not a literal one, but figurative in nature. Given this, I’m not bound to try to apply the words from this text into any real world experience.

What can I take from this? I know that there is one who is against us, but we also have one who is for us: Jesus Christ, the lamb who was slain.  The lamb who reigns.

Will there be suffering?  Perhaps, yes.   Perhaps this text was to bring comfort to the persecuted church of the time.  That suffering is happening, but the one who reigns – The Lamb – will win the victory.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, we love a good conspiracy…but remind us that the scriputres  always point us to you, as Victor, as The Vulnerable One, as the One who reigns.  Amen. 

The Dark Side is here…

  

S (Scripture): Revelation 6:1 I looked on when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a thunderous voice, “Come!” 2 So I looked, and here came a white horse! The one who rode it had a bow, and he was given a crown, and as a conqueror he rode out to conquer.

3 Then when the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come!” 4 And another horse, fiery red, came out, and the one who rode it was granted permission to take peace from the earth, so that people would butcher one another, and he was given a huge sword.

5 Then when the Lamb opened the third seal I heard the third living creature saying, “Come!” So I looked, and here came a black horse! The one who rode it had a balance scale in his hand. 6 Then I heard something like a voice from among the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat will cost a day’s pay and three quarts of barley will cost a day’s pay. But do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”

7 Then when the Lamb opened the fourth seal I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come!” 8 So I looked and here came a pale green horse! The name of the one who rode it was Death, and Hades followed right behind. They were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill its population with the sword, famine, and disease, and by the wild animals of the earth.

O (Observation): Conquest.  Anger. Wrath. Death!   These are not pleasant thoughts.  And these thoughts seem to be emanating for God!   Didn’t God reveal that a new heaven and earth would come and all would be well just a chater or two earlier?   Yes!  But apparently this other stuff is gonna go down first!. 

The scene is laid out for us to consider.  Who are these horse riders and what comes with each one?   Many have tried to interpret…and even more (like me) have mostly ignored these verses (and others like these).   

Can God allow such death?   Can that be a part of who God is?   Is this type of action to be expected when evil is being rooted out?   Perhaps.  

A (Application):  These verses seem a lot less like the teddy-bear, grace-hugging God we like to hear about.  (Or that sweet, 8lb, 6oz, baby Jesus we all want to see in the manger.). And yet, here we are.  The beauty of the Moravian Daily texts revealed:  you encounter some Scriptures you just don’t want to deal with.   

The dark side is here.   And it is part of the Scriptures.  We cannot deny it.  And so we pray for revelation. We pray that God is the one in control, even when conventional wisdom fails.   

We do know this…especially highlighted in this season of Advent:  the light shines in the darkness and darkness cannot overcome it. 

 Can you think of other texts that are difficult to handle? If so leave them in the comments section below, and maybe we can banter back and forth a little bit about those.  

P (Prayer): Lord, you are beyond us at times, and in other times, so simple and close.   When we sense darkness, remind us that you bring light and life itself!  Amen.