12/15/17 - Rev 12

Dec 15, 2017

The believers triumphed over satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.   Rev 12:11

By knowing Jesus and His Word, we overcome death instead of being overtaken by it.

When people talk about end times & Revelation, one common topic discussed is something called ‘rapture’.  It’s the idea (from Scriptural indications) that believers will be relieved of the tribulation by being pulled out of life on earth by Jesus.  There are several texts that talk about Jesus and His rescue, and others that make it seem different.  (I’m not going to argue the doctrine in this blog.)

Whatever you believe about ‘rapture’, there is a common belief from all people of faith (and I would add everyone else on earth), that we ALL face some level of tribulation.  It may come in the form of a bad doctor’s report, or a broken relationship, or a rebellious child, or a lost job.  Some folks suffer far greater tribulation than others.  But all people face troubles.  Rapture or not, we have plenty of tribulation.

The last days will be the worst days ever seen (and history has seen some really bad days).  And just like all days of trouble, God has shown that He doesn’t always take people away from the trouble beforehand, but often takes their hand to help them overcome the trouble.  Consider some of the examples:  Joseph in jail, Joshua facing Jericho, Daniel in the lion’s den, 3 Jewish boys thrown into a blazing furnace, Peter in prison, Paul in the midst of a hurricane.  Knowing Jesus doesn’t mean avoiding all the struggle, it means overcoming the struggle!

I hope there is a rapture (and could argue there is a pre-tribulation rapture – but could also argue from Scripture differently).  But even without a rapture in your life & mine, I KNOW that God shall overcome!  It’s just much better holding His hand IN the tribulations of life than trying to manage them myself.

You may be in a season where life seems to be overtaking you.  Maybe the waters of trouble are swamping your boat.  Or maybe you’re deeply depressed and lonely during the holidays.  Take heart, Jesus has overcome the world, and He’s ready to help you overcome your troubles too.  Grab His hand and walk with Him.  Get to know Him better – read His Word to discover more about His ways and desires.  And before you know it, you’ll be on the other side of that trouble.  (Just in time to face another one with Him later.)

He promises: The Believers Will Triumph!!!

12/14/17 - Rev 11

Dec 14, 2017

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever."   Rev 11:15

Don't waste our life trying to build an earthly kingdom when the KING has one already started for us.

One of the most powerful songs ever written was the “Hallelujah Chorus” by Handel.  The whole masterpiece is quite lengthy – most people are only familiar with the shorter presentation of The Messiah.  But it ends with this incredible song describing the sounds and events of the end times, when everyone in heaven and earth declare the glory of God.  Revelations 11:15 is sung in the heart of the song, and draws out a powerful moment.  It’s the moment when every knee bows to God – believer and unbeliever, dead and alive, Jew and Gentile, animal and plant, saved and unsaved.  It describes the final victory when Jesus is given supreme reign, whether people chose Him or not.

There will be some great surprises when that happens:

-          All financial & retirement accounts will be transferred into God’s bank account

-          All the boundaries of every nation will be removed, leaving the entire world under God’s rule

-          Names of every building, park & street will be renamed to Jesus (and you thought there were a lot of streets named after ‘peach’ in Atlanta!)

-          The house and cars we used to own will become permanent loaners

-          The job we worked for our own purposes will now be managed by God Himself

-          Congress will be disbanded, the United Nations will cease to meet, and every national leader will be released from office to work in a different role

Much more will happen that day.  But most of all, our knee will pull us down to the ground.  In my head, I imagine our bodies driving us to the ground in a flat position, as low as we can get, so that the Messiah will be as elevated as possible.  We will not be able to stop the tears from coming out of our eyes, and yet, for those who have been long awaiting His arrival, the smile on our face will be the largest ever. 

Up to this point, we knew Jesus was Lord, but most of the time think He gave us a reprieve from living like it.  So we have continued to build up our own ‘kingdoms’ – acquiring assets, growing bank accounts, pursuing experiences, gaining power, and living for ourselves.  No more.  The King has finally arrived, and is now in full control.  What a waste of energy and expense!  If only we had spent more of it on the eternal Kingdom instead of the temporary one.

Use today to re-evaluate the goals for next year.  How could you live differently, knowing that you are investing every day of next year in one of those kingdoms?  Which kingdom will it be?

12/13/17 - Rev 10

Dec 13, 2017

And the mighty angel swore by him who lives for ever and ever, and said, "There will be no more delay!"   Rev 10:6

God's patience is not permanent ... judgment is coming, so we need to repent now.

In 1st Timothy 1:16 – Paul tells Timothy that Jesus gave unlimited patience to Paul because of his ignorance and disobedience, and it was a sign of grace from heaven.  Yet here in Revelations 10, we discover that God’s patience is limited.  Why the contradiction?

Actually, both are correct, because they are talking about two elements of patience. 

1.        God is patient when it comes to the volume of sin.  Since Jesus paid for ALL sins, God can be patient waiting for us to turn from our sin and be rescued by His grace.

2.       God is not patient when it comes to the duration of sin.  Since Adam, every person has a limited timeframe to choose – the length of their life – and at judgment, all life will have reached the limit.

Sometimes we get the two mixed up.  When we make a severe mess of our lives, we tend to avoid church, shut down the whispers of conscience, and nit-pick at the behaviors of anyone else that claims Christian faith.  Yet we are also the ones that complain how life is too short, and are appalled when someone’s life is shortened by the sinful act of another.  We have it backwards -- God’s patience IS all-inclusive, but not permanent.  He wants everyone saved, and sacrificed for EVERYONE’S sins (no matter how heinous or voluminous), but the timeframe is what’s short. 

The longer we avoid repentance, the harder our hearts get.  Why do that to ourselves? 

Jesus made it very simple.  He did all the work.  All we need to do is man up to the sin and come with humility before Him, asking for forgiveness.  Repentance doesn’t permit repetition, but God is even patient with that.  What God will not do is be patient forever.  His holiness has a limit to sin: duration. 

Christmas is a season we celebrate with joy & love.  Maybe that’s also a good time to come back before God and make this right with Him.  Start your new life now!  Don’t wait until it’s too late.

12/12/17 - Rev 9

Dec 12, 2017

In spite of the judgments, the rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent...   Rev 9:20

Sadly, if we don't repent before the punishment comes, we won't after---so turn back to God now!

It’s a weird thing.  You would think that punishment would change our hearts, but it usually doesn’t.  It may change our behaviors (temporarily), or change our approach, or maybe change our perspectives, but it doesn’t do much to change our hearts.  If we wanted to sin before the threat of punishment, we still want to sin after the threat.

Revelation is the ultimate punishment.  We have heard for mellenia that God was going to judge the heavens and the earth.  Everyone will be judged according to what they have done.  And as time draws to a close, the intensity of the warning and temptation will grow.  Even when the tribulation of men occurs, they do not seem to change hearts, but only grow harder in the face of judgment.

Pharaoh is the primary Biblical example of this.  As each plague occurred, Pharaoh would ask Moses to intercede and remove the problem.  When Moses complied, Pharaoh’s heart would not change – it would only get harder.  His words and behaviors changed temporarily, but his heart became more hardened by each judgment, until finally his first-born son died as a result of the final plague.  Even then, Pharaoh recanted from his release of Israel, and chased them down in the Red Sea only to watch all of his army destroyed.

God is not just interested in coercing us to change our behavior, He wants to call us to change our hearts.  That’s why Jesus came – to show His love, to die in our place, and to call us to pursue God out of love for His gift He gave us.  The warnings of judgment are inadequate for changing hearts, but they are excellent reminders to encourage those who CHANGE their hearts. 

It’s sad to think that people in the last days would miss the warnings and choose judgment over salvation --- yet aren’t we seeing that today??!!  People who know about Jesus choose to live for themselves instead of living for God.  Many call themselves Christians yet live like pagans.  The judgment is coming, and people still keep on living a life of sin.  Apparently the threat is not good enough to change a person’s heart.

Stop focusing on how to get away with sin, and start focusing on God.  Turn back to Him, and grow in love with Jesus.  Recognize the blessings He already has given, and love Him back.  Then you won’t be hardened by judgment, and avoid the punishment to come.  And what’s more … you’ll have a personal relationship with the God of the Universe!

12/11/17 - Rev 8

Dec 11, 2017

The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God's people, went up before God from the angel's hand.  Rev 8:4

Every believer's prayer matters to God---He listens and holds them until they are fully answered.

Smoke is an interesting element in the Bible.  It is recorded as a physical representation of worship.  In the Old Testament, the sacrifices were pleasing to God because of the odor of the smoke.  Some of the sacrifices were from cooking the meat, and others were from cooking grain or burning incense.  God also was surrounded by smoke in many of His appearances – the burning bush, His appearance on Mount Sanai, and the pillar of fire and cloud of smoke that led Israel through the desert.  Smoke has a connection to worship.

In Revelation, that same connection exists in heaven.  The picture of worship shows smoke rising before God’s throne, connected to the prayers and praise of people.  Somehow, smoke is a powerful function of worship. 

So how does that metaphor fit with Christians?  Here are some thoughts:

-          Smoke is often visible – seeing it reminds us of a fire underway

-          Smoke rises – when our hearts are on fire for God, it rises to

-          Smoke is evidence of change – just as fire changes an object, it also changes our lives

-          Smoke has odor – it’s smell represents the impurities being removed to make the object pure

-          Smoke lasts – it dissipates into the air, but still exists until combined with other elements

We often are interested in the objects or the fire, but God is moved by the smoke of our lives.  He sees the smoke of our prayers, He smells the smoke of our praise, He enjoys the odor of life change.  Heaven celebrates when we are on fire for God, and let the smoke rise to heaven.

Sometimes we may feel like are prayers are not producing anything, like they are a vapor vanishing into the air.  But God sees & smells the smoke!  He hears every prayer.  He knows our needs.  He enjoys our praise.  He welcomes our worship. 

So keep praying!  Keep praising!  Keep serving!  Keep loving!  Let the smoke of your life move the heart of God.  Every vapor matters to God.

12/08/17 - Rev 7

Dec 08, 2017

The Believers are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.   Rev 7:15

His Presence is the only place we are fully protected... So come before Him and worship.

My daughter recently made me aware of a new housing phenomenon – homes built in fallout shelters & missile silos.  Crazy as it sounds, there are many of these places being built out of old facilities, providing huge space at a low cost and very high level of safety.   I was quite skeptical until she showed me designs and pictures that are beautiful and intriguing.  (I’m not looking to move to one any time soon – but it did create a new perspective!)

While we may dismiss that idea now, there have been times in recent history that people would have jumped at the option.  Some seasons of life are flooded with dangerous and harsh circumstances, and a safe room or protected place to live would bring incredible relief.  There are times in history, and even times in our lifespan, where safe shelter is a top priority.  (Just ask someone who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 60s.)

The problem with physical shelter is that it never works forever.  No physical shelter has ever been enough to protect us from the advances in warfare or attack.  When the Great Wall of China was built, it was considered to be the safest protection ever created for a country … until men started learning how to fly over the wall in balloons and aircraft.  When countries started protecting themselves with anti-missile launchers, it worked for a little while, until terrorists started bombing countries from within.  Even people in ‘earthquake-proof’ buildings and ‘bomb-proof’ shelters have found themselves at great risk by an unexpected strike.  We will never be fully protected from the dangers of life.

But there is one place that is completely safe from all risk.  According to Revelation, it’s the shelter that comes from God’s Presence.  Even when our life is filled with high-risk challenges, the one place we can go and find restful shelter is under the canopy of God’s Love.  Worshipping God can remove the fears, calm the spirits, push back the risks, and create protection that nothing else in this life offers.

That’s why people who are going through severe trial always seem to find peace and encouragement when they gather in a body of believers to worship.  The best shelter for pain and heartache is in the Presence of God – because nothing in life can overpower Him.  Our best home is not built in silos & shelters, but under the umbrella of God’s love.

12/07/17 - Rev 6

Dec 7, 2017

The martyrs given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.  Rev 6:11

Dying for Jesus is far better than living without him.

The greatest danger to our lives is not unsafe environments, but comfortable ones.

These days, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find people who want to serve on mission with Jesus.  Many love Jesus, and want to have Him in their lives, but still fear “being sent to Africa”, or facing persecution, or being rejected by friends & family for their faith.  And many who are interested in missions don’t want to leave behind their conveniences – like cell phones and internet and personal assets.  To be on mission is fine as long as it doesn’t require risk and doesn’t take us out of our air conditioning and hot water homes.

Let’s face it, we don’t like to think about being martyred for our faith.  And just to be fair, who would?  People would rightly question your sanity if you WANTED to be martyred for your beliefs.  That’s not much of a testimony, and often doesn’t really produce much good.  What makes a martyr’s testimony powerful is their commitment to faith in Christ in SPITE of the threat, even maintaining their hope for God to rescue them or overcome through them.

But in the end, it is those who are martyred whom God respects the most.  They are protected in the central altar of heaven.  They are the first to be given white robes, symbolizing honor and holiness, while we wait for the final day of judgment.  These folks are the ones God WANTS to see lead His Kingdom, even to the point of waiting on the full number of them to finish their work. 

That doesn’t mean you have to seek crucifixion or hanging to enjoy the respect of God.  He values the other ways people are martyred too.  He is honored by the spouse who remains faithful in an unequally yoked marriage.  He pays attention to the student who speaks for Jesus while friends and classmates ridicule them.  God is awakened by the sounds of persecution that happen all around us, when Christians are demeaned or attacked by the media, by government, by EVEN OTHER CHRISTIANS, just because they stayed faithful.  Martyrdom doesn’t always mean execution, but it always involves persecution – and while Satan sees it as the best tool to shut up the Christians, God sees it as the greatest testimony to eternal life.

Stop being afraid of the risks, and start living out your faith boldly!  That doesn’t mean we have to be rude or judgmental (God is in charge of judgment), it just means we need to live out loud, speak up when needed, and remain faithful to His Word.  Then, whatever happens, God will have your white robe ready for you.

And parents – let me speak some truth into our lives as well – sometimes WE are the biggest defeater of our kid’s faith when they feel the calling of God and we try to “keep them safe”.  Safety is NOT the greatest value in the Kingdom of God – faithfulness is!  So stop preventing their calling because of your fears, and start trusting in a God who is ALL POWERFUL over that risk.  Release your kids to God, because it is FAR Safer to have your kids in God’s hands than it is to keep them in yours!