Revelation 22

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “Revelation” 3 ways:

  1. An act of revealing or communicating divine truth
  2. Something that is communication from God to humans, and
  3. An act of revealing to view or making known.

It’s important for us to understand what the word means so we don’t lose sight of the meaning we read through it, but what is being revealed or unveiled in this book?


It’s easy to see Revelation as a terrifying apocalyptic novel. On the surface we are shown wars, beasts, and economic crashes that many believe reflect current events. But, what if we have spent so much time trying to interpret the book and have missed the most important part?


Revelation reveals Jesus Christ. Though we can read about the antichrist, wars, etc,our main takeaway should be that Jesus is exactly who He says He is and does what He said He will do.


Revelation 22 begins with John finishing his description of the New Jerusalem the angel of the Lord shows him. In verse 7, Jesus exclaims, “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” Jesus says again in verse 12,, “Behold, I am coming soon” adding “My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. (13) I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”


Jesus is making it known that He is coming and that when He comes back, it’s game over. He returns as conquering King. However, because of who He is, there is hope.


He says in verse 17, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” The word “Come” can be described as to draw near or to move from a far position to a position nearby. In other words, it’s an invitation.


Still, here in the last book of the Bible we are offered an invitation to accept Him and to receive that free gift of living water and eternal life.

Blessings

Acts 17:16-34

“Books don’t change people, paragraphs do—sometimes sentences.”

I remember reading that quote from John Piper some time ago and thinking, “That seems a little hyperbolic, but whatever.”

And then I ran face-first into Acts 17:26:

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…”

For context, Paul is addressing some of the “men of Athens” (v. 22), some of which believed that if some sort of divine being even existed at all, he certainly wasn’t interested in human affairs. Paul confronts their enlightened philosophy with the revelation of the God who is not merely interested in human affairs but actually sovereignly superintends them.

Stop and think about what Paul is saying. No, seriously. Go read verse 26 again. God, the Creator of all things who rules over all things (v. 24) has sovereignly determined where you would be and when you would be there. That is a sentence—actually only a fragment of a sentence—that can change you.

Why are you where you are? Because for whatever reason, even if it’s unknown to you, it’s exactly where God wants you. Your neighborhood. Your job. Your church. And sometimes those places that are not so neat and tidy. The hospital room. The court room. The unemployment line.

I won’t pretend that the “allotted periods and the boundaries of [our] dwelling place[s]” are always enjoyable or even understandable, but if we really believe that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28), we can trust that whatever places and spaces we find ourselves in are part of God’s good providence in our lives.

Isaiah 6

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Isaiah 6:3b-5

Holy, holy, holy. There is a reason for the repetition in this chant of praise. Our God is not one to be flippantly referred to as “holy.” He is to be feared and praised for He is not just holy but perfectly holy. All glory and honor rightfully belong to Him. So often as we go through life, we simply walk through the motions of worship. We go to church on Sundays because that is what we do. We worship through song, because there is a certain time for this. We read God’s Word because it’s just part of our routine. What would our life be like if we regularly sought God out of an outpouring of adoration and worship? If we regularly realized God’s greatness and our need of His saving grace and mercy?

Isaiah is encountering God and being commissioned to a task that will be excruciating and exhausting. As he begins his encounter, I am shaken by his reverent fear of the Lord and his awareness of his sinful state. We may not have the same call as Isaiah, and we may not have had the same intense interaction with the Lord, but we too have been commissioned for a task that is of great importance. We are called to go and share the gospel to all the nations and bring glory to our Father in heaven. We may feel as though we do a fairly decent job of living for Christ and glorifying His name . . . but this passage spurs some questions in my heart: what if I lived every day with a true posture of reverence toward our God? What if the mantra of my spirit was “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is filled with His glory!”? What if I had a keen awareness every day of my ultimate lacking and His ultimate provision? I challenge you, my friends, to ponder these questions with me as we embrace our commission as believers to live on mission.

Isaiah 2

Stop in trusting in man,
who has but a breath in his nostrils.
Of what account is he?

Isaiah 2:22, NIV

I love people. They fascinate me. I always try to pick out (and sometimes point out) the unique qualities in those around me. Sometimes I even get caught up in pointing out the things about myself that I find uniquely interesting. As a church worker, I have the great privilege of working with and attending church with an above-average concentration of good people. I turn to my brothers and sisters at Valley Creek for fellowship and support. I turn to the gifted pastors and other equally-gifted staff members of the church for assistance with tasks and even for advice from time to time. At home, I am blessed to have an amazing wife who puts up with me during every minute that I don’t spend at the church. I am surrounded by great people. But they’re just people.

In Isaiah 2, we see some words about the last days. At risk of oversimplifying the chapter, the main point is that God will be exalted above all else. Anything and everything that we have held higher, including ourselves, will be so completely overpowered by His glory that they will practically disappear. But we don’t have to wait. We can put Him above all else right now.

What are your idols? Possessions? People? Yourself? Things are just things. People are just people, even if they’re great people. God is GOD. A day is coming on which he will take his rightful place above everything else – let’s get a head start and put Him there in our own lives.

Job 12

As we’ve traveled to various biblical locations on this summer vacation, one of the truths we have seen with the most frequency is that God puts us in a particular place for a particular time with a particular purpose. From Eden to Horeb, from Babylon to the valley of dry bones, even in the unexpected pit stops along the way, God is at work. We’ve seen it on this journey and in our own lives, and we read it in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

We know this to be true because the Spirit of God impresses it upon our hearts, but we also know the Scriptures are honest about another reality–because we don’t see all things, we don’t always see how all things are working together for our good. That is where we find Job–right in the middle of the darkness with nothing left but a few friends who are more eager to cast blame than to offer comfort. Job’s response to those friends in chapter 12 begins with a biting sarcasm, “No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you.” Job’s friends thought they had it all figured out. They did not. So Job goes on to let them know that he has a few things figured out himself, “But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know such things as these?”

Job had some things figured out, but he knew he didn’t have everything figured out. He also knew that the wisdom of God has no rival, “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding.” Job didn’t see how all the pieces of his life fit together, but neither did his friends. They just thought they did. Job spoke of a God who puts people in a particular place for a particular time with a particular purpose, a reality that he knew could be both comforting and confounding (even at the same time).

For us today, Job’s words don’t answer every question we might have about our lives, but they do contain reminders we need. They point us to the One who actually does have it all figured out. I pray we seek His wisdom for this day.

Luke 24

Life is often compared to a journey. It’s full of ups, downs, joys, pains, surprises and no doubt has its share of twists and turns. The faith life is no different–it’s a journey. The ultimate journey. 

In Luke 24 we read where Jesus has risen. Those following Jesus believed he was indeed God, the Messiah, who would save them from Rome, save them and set them free. They weren’t expecting their savior to die, and they definitely weren’t expecting him to rise again. But he did. And the world would never be the same.

Luke describes people at a point on their faith journey who are confused, bewildered, and dismayed. From the women who find an empty tomb, to the disciples who can’t believe the tomb could be empty, and to followers on a road unsure of what to make of this possible resurrection. And then we see Jesus joining them on this journey. 

Jesus literally walks with two followers and explains the scriptures to them. Not long after, he appears to the disciples as proof of his resurrection and calming their doubts and fears. 

Jesus will join us on our journey too. Wherever we find ourselves–excited about good news, confused, doubting, scared–he will meet us there, and walk with us. He will help us understand the scriptures, and show us who he is. 

Who better else to journey through this wild life with than Jesus? It’s truly the ultimate adventure.

Blessings

Mark 11

Less than two miles outside of Jerusalem was the small town of Bethany, nestled up against the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. This is where Mark picks up his account in chapter 11:

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it . . . And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (Mark 11:1-2, 7-9)

Up to this point, Bethany was probably best known for the raising of Lazarus—you know, the place where Jesus told his friend that he wasn’t allowed to be dead anymore (see John 11). But at this point in Mark’s gospel Bethany marked the beginning of Jesus’ journey that, in many ways, would mirror that of his friend Lazarus. It was Bethany where Jesus began his entry into Jerusalem and, ultimately, toward death on a cross. Yet, at the same time, Bethany marked the beginning of a journey that would end with Jesus being raised to life.

As we read through the gospel narratives some 2,000 years later, the town of Bethany serves as a quiet little reminder that death does not win. He who spoke Lazarus back to life and he who rose to life himself offers this invitation: ”I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). Because of the death and resurrection of Christ, the invitation to you is the same as it was to Lazarus: come out of the grave—you don’t have to be dead anymore.

John 12:1-10

Extravagant love. The kind of love where you are willing to sacrifice more than what seems logical or reasonable to show your love. The kind of love that is manifested through actions and not simply words. The kind of love not marred with hidden agendas and selfish motives. The kind of love that was on display the night Mary anointed the feet of Jesus. Every time I read this account of Mary’s devotion and love, I find myself reading it aloud and with a with a sense of reverence. It’s not a just a picture of Mary’s deep love for Jesus, which is powerful enough on its own, but rather it points me toward the picture of Jesus’ love for us. The beautiful picture of God’s provision and Jesus’ sacrificial gift. Yet, even in the midst of this magnificent scene mirroring Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice of love, present still is the image of Judas’ disingenuous concern for the poor–the picture of a sinful heart separated from God and the reason such a sacrifice is needed.

The people around the table that night may not have had a full understanding of what was to come or the gravity of the situation into which they were immersed. Yet we have the opportunity as we read this passage to peek in the window and watch it unfold with a full picture of what was to come in the weeks to follow. My hope is that we don’t squander this perspective but rather we take the opportunity to slow down and really lean in to Mary’s example. That we would grow in our own love for Jesus, so much so that we are willing to set aside our own desires, comforts, and plans to love him with this type of extravagant love. A love that points not to our own worth, but to the One in whom our worth is found. That we would look at Judas’ seemingly loving objections, understanding the selfish and sinful motives from which they came. What areas of our own sinful hearts are we clinging to and needing to turn over to Him? Are our motives for service and love pure as are Mary’s or are they entangled in our sinful desires?

John 11:38-57

There have been various times when I read the Bible that I want to ask how some people walked with Jesus but failed to believe. In John 11 we find one of these occasions. Jesus performs what might be considered his greatest miracle–He raises Lazarus from the dead. Surely raising the dead would prompt everyone to follow Him. How could someone not follow someone so powerful? However, the reactions to this miracle varied. Verses 45-47 read this way…

“Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.””

Yes many believed, BUT some went away asking “What are we to do?”  We think the answer is obvious. They should believe. Yet their question wasn’t so much about whether they believed in Jesus’ power, it was really a question of whether they were going to follow Him with their lives. If we read verse 48, we really get to the heart of the matter…

“If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.

The heart of the matter for these religious leaders was they were afraid of losing their power. They had actually been given a measure of authority by the Romans, and the Jews looked to them for spiritual guidance ,so they were enjoying a huge amount of power and control. Jesus was a threat to all that. Jews were looking to Jesus now for spiritual guidance. The Romans were concerned about Jesus leading a rebellion as he was being looked to as the Savior of the Jews, a King of the Jews so to speak, so they would have to crack down on this Jewish rebellion. Therefore, these spiritual leaders not only did not want to follow Jesus, but they were looking for ways to get rid of him. This might appall us, but don’t we do the same many days in our lives? When we know we should not only believe in Jesus but give him control we try to find ways to ignore his teachings. Remember what we are told in Matthew 16…

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.””

Before you get too critical of those who walked with Jesus who refused to believe and follow Him, take an account of your own life and ask “are there areas of my life where I too am failing to believe and follow Jesus because I want to be in control?” If you are like me, you will clearly be able to identify ways in which you too fail to believe Jesus and follow him. If you can identify any area of your life today where you are failing to follow Jesus, trust that area of your life to Him and follow Him. You will not regret losing your power in order to experience the power of Jesus in your life.

John 11:1-37

Our first visit to the village of Bethany, located about two miles outside of Jerusalem, doesn’t start out with a lot of hope. Lazarus was sick. His sisters were concerned. And Jesus–though he loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus–seems to be taking his time, finally telling the disciples plainly, “Lazarus has died.” Knowing the danger that awaited from those wishing to do Jesus harm, Thomas took it upon himself to motivate the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Not exactly the most stirring of “Let’s go” speeches, but nevertheless, the disciples followed Jesus to Bethany, where Martha and Mary were mourning the loss of their brother, and as Martha greets Jesus, we hear the tone of this passage beginning to shift. Martha knew that nothing was beyond Jesus’ grasp, but even when Jesus told her that Lazarus would rise again, she couldn’t imagine the miracle He was describing. She pointed to the future, but Jesus was pointing to Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” After confessing her belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, Martha went and called for her sister Mary, who met Jesus with the same belief as her sister, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Seeing Jesus weep, the Jews saw the love of Jesus for Lazarus, but they also had a question, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” That’s a question Jesus had already answered in his conversation with Martha and one that He would soon answer in a way that everyone could see, but the choice before us today is in how we answer that question and the one Jesus posed to Martha, “Do you believe this?” This passage shows us that answering “yes” to that question isn’t a removal of all suffering. Thomas’ summary was right, “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” but Jesus tells us that it wasn’t the full picture.

As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:8-11, ESV). Believing in Jesus and following Him doesn’t lead to death, but it does lead through death, to the glory of God. Do you believe this?