Revelation 21 & 22

A New Heaven and a New Earth…

It’s hard to imagine something we’ve never seen, especially for John who’s trying to describe for us the unfathomable. John is writing the book of Revelation while imprisoned on the island of Patmos. We get a sense of his awe as we read the descriptions of this New Heaven & New Earth. 

He paints word pictures for us, but it can’t fully explain the grandeur of heaven and new earth. Gold as clear as glass. What? Jasper as clear as crystal? Huh? Huge jeweled walls and gates. Wow. 

I liken his attempt to explain what he’s seeing to Dorothy’s expression when she unexpectedly lands in Oz. We see the wonder and astonishment and we get to experience that with her. This is a new place, indescribable–like heaven in a sense. 

Reading through Revelation 21 and 22, here’s what we know–the story ends well for those who have placed their faith in Jesus. 

What John describes is in all reality the reunification of heaven and earth. God is redeeming what was broken in the garden of Eden. We get to be with God, face to face, forever, in a perfect place. No sin. No death. No struggle. And it’s all because of Jesus. 

This promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth not only offered John a hope for his future, but it offers us a hope. It’s a promise that being a follower of Jesus is worth it, and worth giving up everything for. And this promise is also an invitation to those who are not yet followers. Jesus waits for the unbelievers and wants them desperately to follow him and join him in the New Heaven and New Earth. 

Our God of creation is the God of redemption, and all of history, which he controls, is racing toward this very moment–the end of the world and the beginning of forever.

And this is how the greatest story ever told ends…but really, it’s how it begins.

James 5

James chapter five offers solid counsel for the faith life. Maybe not easy advice to put into practice, but worth the effort. He tackles topics still relevant today: fiances, suffering, and health. 

Take time to reflect on your prayer requests. Odds are many surround those very topics either for yourself or for those you know. 

He issues a strong warning to the rich in verses 5-6, not condemning those who have money, but what they have decided to do with their money. James is talking about people who’ve swindled their workers, given them unfair wages, they’re greedy, and lived in luxury while not giving thoughts to those around them. 

I openly admit reading this and thinking, “Yeah, rich people who don’t share what they have totally deserve punishment.” But, then I’m reminded that even America’s poorest 20% are wealthier than a large portion of other countries around the world. 

We’re not here to debate why, the social and political issues surrounding that fact, but I do want to point out how we handle our money matters. We are accountable, and James reminds us of that. All we have belongs to God, and we should give back as we are able. 

After tackling finances, James moves on to suffering. His words are inspiring and motivating. “Be patient,” he says in verse seven. We see words like “steadfast” and “established” giving this image of holding on because what’s coming–the Lord–is better. He’s worth any suffering we may endure. 

It’s worth noting that James moves into health after talking about patience in suffering. Many health problems we face require patience. Whether it’s dealing with a series of doctor appointments, the red tape of insurance companies, chronic pain or cancer treatments, health problems often lead to suffering, which requires patience, and prayer. James knows this and says to pray when someone is sick. He points out the power of prayer and even links confession to healing. In a world where pills are prescribed, James says to pray. 

 From finances, to suffering, to health, James covers it all–all the things that still matter to us today. Though there may be no easy answers, James reminds us of the One who holds all the answers and encourages us to prayer. 

Give God your finances, your suffering, and your health.

Nehemiah 8

Before diving into Nehemiah 8 it’s interesting to note that we see Ezra. The books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther actually have overlapping timelines when they were written. Ezra and Nehemiah are doing ministry together just like we do ministry with each other. 

In Nehemiah 8 we go from rubble to revival and it’s God’s Word that brings it about. Nehemiah leaves his job of comfort as the King of Persia’s cup bearer to go and repair the wall around Jerusalem. He wasn’t a priest or prophet. He was Jewish man working in a palace who had a burden for his people. God made a way for Nehemiah to go and rebuild the way and through great trial they did so. 

It was Israel’s sin that brought the destruction of their city and led to their captivity. Nehemiah was a product of that captivity–born away from his homeland and serving another king. But it was God’s grace that allows the city walls–it’s source of strength and protection to be rebuilt. When Ezra brings the Word forth and reads it, Nehemiah reminds them in verse ten that “the joy of the Lord in your strength.” It’s not the walls, it’s the Lord. Following the Lord and keeping his commands would be their source of joy and strength.

In our own lives we may find rubble, broken pieces, shattered places, perhaps by our own sin or the effects of someone else’s sin. While these metaphorical walls can be rebuilt, God redeems, restores, and rebuilds, it’s not the walls that are our strength. The joy of the Lord is our strength. We must continually go to the source for this joy and that is the Word of God–the Bible. Like living water, we must drink God’s Word and drink it daily. 

2 Kings 25

What we see happening to Judah in 2 Kings 25 is God’s judgement for the evil they continued to do. God used the Babylonians to carry out his punishment and it’s hard. Honestly, it’s hard to read. You can almost hear the anguished cries of the people as their homes, lives, freedom, and all they once held dear are stripped away.

Even after repeated warnings from the Prophet Jeremiah, the people of Judah chose to rebel against God and this was the consequence. There are always consequences when we choose our own way instead of God’s way. Sometimes there are natural consequences to our choices and other times we see God’s hand of discipline in our lives. 

The people of Judah were receiving the full wages of their sin. Keep in mind that God disciplines those he loves, and sin cannot go unpunished. 

Note the severe consequences of sin in verse 7. King Zedekiah was forced to watch his sons die. His eyes were then gouged out, and he lived as a slave until his death in Babylon. Zedekiah’s rebellion took him further than he could have imagined. That’s what sin does–it leads to a host of unintended consequences. 

While 2 Kings 25 stands as a warning to those at odds with God, it also stands a testament to God’s great mercy. 

Look at verses 27-30. King Jehoiachin was King of Judah before Zedekiah, and he was rebellious too. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon had Jehoiachin imprisoned, and there Jehoiachin sat for thirty-seven years. 

His sin put him there. It was his own fault. His wife, kids, servants, all taken away and he would die in prison. But one day, a new King of Babylon ascended to the throne, showed kindness to Jehoiachin and released him from prison. He was given new clothes and allowed to dine with the new king for the rest of his life. 

There was nothing Jehoiachin did to earn this kindness, it was simply given. God showed grace, mercy & His heart for restoration. 

This is what God does for us through Jesus. We are sinners deserving the full wages of our sin like the people of Judah, but instead, we are offered freedom from our prison of sin and a seat at the King’s table through Jesus. 

This is the best news ever. It’s good news–the Gospel

2 Kings 4

After reading 2 Kings 4, I can’t help but visualize Elisha like a Gandolf sort of character from Lord of the Rings. Older, wise, probably long hair, long beard, robe, carries a staff–and performs incredible miraculous acts. 

And he does these things so matter of factly, so nonchalantly. Wow. God worked through Elisha in powerful ways that boggle our mind. His faith must have been second to none. It has me wishing for a faith like that. A faith that produces miracles. 

While Elisha is worthy of our focus–there’s lots to learn from him–there’s also plenty to learn about the other characters or scenes of 2 Kings 4. 

The widow, who is about to lose her sons to debtors. She has no way to pay them. 

Then there’s the hospitable Shunammite woman without a child. Next we meet the sons of prophets about to eat a poisonous meal.

In each situation, God works through Elisha to perform a miracle and bring glory to himself. 

Here’s what we learn from each scenario: 

  1. Go to God with our needs
  2. We’ve already got what we need to follow God
  3. God will give us more than we expected

The widow went to Elisha with her problem knowing he was a man of God. She offers up what she does have, a little oil, and then God shows up and shows out. Not only did she have enough to pay the debt, save her sons from slavery, but she and her sons lived off ther rest.

The Shunammite woman without a child, asks for one, then has a baby boy. When the child dies unexpectedly, she offers what she does have–her faith. God again shows up and shows out by using Elisha to bring this boy back to life. 

The sons of the prophets are served poisonous stew by accident. They tell Elisha about the problem, and he uses flour, a common household pantry staple, to purify the stew. God saved them from their own stupidity, and gave them a second chance at life. 

All of them, the widow, the Shunammite woman, the sons of the Prophets, all believed–they had faith. And their faith led them to act on their belief. They trusted God with what they did have, offered it to him, and he gave back more than they expected. 

Luke 6:38 says, “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Remember: 

  1. Go to God with our needs
  2. We’ve already got what we need to follow God
  3. God will give us more than we expected

2 Samuel 22

2 Samuel 22 mirrors Psalm 18, both written by David, and opens with hints of a political mess. 

I bet we can relate…

But seriously, let’s pray our country’s political situation never escalates to the level in which David experienced. 

King Saul, among David’s other enemies, had been pursuing David relentlessly. Saul didn’t want to lose his throne to David, and decided to kill him. So David was running for his life. The soon-to-be king was in a desperate situation that he describes in verses 5-7:

“For the waves of death encompassed me,

    the torrents of destruction assailed me;[b]

6 the cords of Sheol entangled me;

    the snares of death confronted me.

7 “In my distress I called upon the Lord;

    to my God I called.

This is about as bad as it gets people, yet David doesn’t start this chapter with this dire scenario–he starts by declaring “And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.”

Notice who David is writing to. He’s writing to God. Not Israel, or Samuel, or his family, or even for our benefit–his audience is God. He’s praising God for the sake of praising God.

We can take note of that and apply it to our own lives. There’s nothing wrong with praising God in public, but do we praise Him when no one is listening? Something to think about. 

And the way David praises God–the names and imagery produced is nothing short of incredible. Incredible and personal. 

After going through an intense time in his life, we see David express the intimate relationship he has with God. He says the Lord is “my rock”, “my fortress”, “my deliverer”, “my shield”, “my salvation”, “my stronghold”, “my savior”. The keyword is “my.”

God became real during this terrible and strenuous time in David’s life. Without the struggle, would David have known these things about God? Would we? 

No one wants the struggles. We don’t pray for God to give them to us, and we definitely don’t want to be on the run for our life, but be certain of this–God shows up & grows us up in mighty ways through the most challenging times in our life. 

Note this: God doesn’t like when we hurt or struggle or experience an injustice. He’s upset when we’re wronged. He allows it, yes–but that’s Him working all things together for those that love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). His response to our cries are rescue–a strong, mighty, relentless rescue (see verses 8-17). God was angered by what happened to David, but not once did He leave David’s side.

David clung to God in his time of distress and in his time of rejoicing. He gives God the glory for the victory and is able to say, “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation” (vs 47).

Let’s cling to God in our distress, cling to God in our rejoicing and say, “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation” (vs 47).

Blessings.

Judges 15-16

Judges chapter 15 begins with Samson returning home to see his wife only to find out that his father in law had given her to his buddy. So, what does he do? What any rational married man would do… proceed to seek revenge on the Philistines by burning their crops down. Right? To settle the score, the Philistines hunt down Samson’s wife and father in law and burn them to death. So, again, being the rational man he was, Samson seeks revenge and kills many of them then goes to stay in cave in the rock of Etam. It doesn’t end here. Three thousand men from Judah came to the cave to tie him up so that they could turn him over to the Philistines. Now we are here at verse 13 and he is bound up and in route then – 14 As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. 15 Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.16 Then Samson said,“With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them.[a]With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men.”

Take a second to breathe.

Now on to chapter 16 where we see Samsons interactions with Delilah, his eyes were gouged out, and he seeks revenge on the Philistines for his eyes by bringing down the temple causing many to die, including himself.

Samson was such an interesting character. One who many of us can relate to if we really search ourselves. We can often be people who throw fits because of our temper, we can whine at times, and we may even claim glory for accomplishments in our lives that we should be giving glory to God for. You see Samson was chosen to judge Israel. He was set apart, but he did not live like it. His faith life was sloppy and hypocritical. Samson was given chance after chance to get his act together but he doesn’t seem to come to his senses until it’s too late. We see him at the end of chapter 16, the end of his life, realizing where his strength really comes from and who it was meant to be used for.

I want to offer a couple of quick observations that I draw from these two chapters.

One is this. God used Samson even though he was blatantly flawed. This should give each of us hope in that even if we choose wrong, somehow God is still weaving it into His UNBROKEN plan. Second observation is this. We do not want to wait until the end of our lives to realize where our strength comes from and who we are supposed to be using it for.

Blessings.

Joshua 10

Moses is gone and Joshua is now leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. And if you’ve taken the time to read Joshua 10, he’s leading like a boss. The Gibeonites have made peace with Joshua and the Israelites and they were attacked by the five Kings of the Amorites. 

Joshua gets word from Gibeon that they have been attacked so he marches all night and takes the enemy by surprise. Enter now, a scene from the manliest, most battle heavy combat war hero movie ever filmed. 

So much happens throughout Joshua 10 and you should absolutely read through it for yourself, but here is my perspective as I dove into this chapter and sought to relate it to my life.

We want this to be about God taking down our enemies until we realize we are the enemy unless we have surrendered on His terms.

Look at verse 25. “And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For this the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.” 

Joshua has summoned the five Amorite Kings who were hiding in a cave, and basically made a public display of them. Having the Israelite leaders step on their necks, put them to death, and offer the pep talk he gave here in verse 25 before hanging their bodies on display until sundown. 

Joshua has now taken the entire region through a war the God waged…against His enemies. 

Here is where it hits home. 

If we aren’t for God, if we aren’t on His side, then we are at war with Him. In fact, our sin causes this to automatically be the case. We are like the countries that Joshua was hunting down and conquering. 

While Joshua 10 is definitely a strong reminder of how much God cares for us, it’s also a strong reminder of why we need God. We see a picture of the severity of sin that must be punished, and that punishment is death.

The good news is this. We don’t have to be at war with God. We can surrender on His terms and those terms are Jesus. It’s Jesus or nothing. Those are terms of surrender I’m good with and I pray you are too.

Blessings.

Exodus 14

2020 has played out like the plot points of a thriller-suspense novel with jaw-dropping twists popping out from every which way. 

First, it’s wildfires in Australia. The death of Kobe Bryant–a basketball legend. Then a global health pandemic that also shook the economy and held us captive in our homes. And then racial, political & civil unrest, earthquakes, hurricanes…and, well, let’s pray that’s all.

It’s like this year keeps getting worse. 

Personally, our family has experienced a lot of death, and throw loss into a year like 2020 and it can be a real dumpster fire. I’m reminded of a situation in Exodus 14 that plays out eerily similar to our current life circumstance.

Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt after four hundred years of slavery. But it wasn’t an easy or joyous journey. Prior to Exodus 14 we see Pharoah increasing the Jewish people’s workload after Moses demands Israelites to be freed. Not cool. Then we see God pelting Egypt with plagues in order to force the Pharaoh to set the Israelites free. The Jewish people experienced most of the plagues. Not cool at all. And now in Exodus 14 the Israelites are being hunted down by Pharaoh and his army. They are faced with either drowning in the sea too wide and deep to cross, or being slaughtered. Things couldn’t get worse. 

We get that. We may feel like things can’t get worse right now.

But here’s the thing–God shows up in moments like these. When problems are too big to solve–God can. 

What if God puts an Exodus 14 sized problem in our life on purpose? What if God put 2020 in our lives on purpose? 

He did. But why? 

Three things that I want to call out:

1: Check out Exodus 14:31. God says: 

“Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”

God will put “problems” in our life so that we can see his power and learn to follow him, and to trust him. 

2: Check out Exodus 14:18: God says:

“And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

God will put problems in our life so that others can see His glory. 

3: Remember Romans 8:28 from a few weeks ago. 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God will put problems in our life in order to work them out for the good–of those that love him and are called according to his purpose. 

Nobody ever said the faith road would be easy. You must first love God before you are able to have eyes that see Him working ALL things for His glory. 

So whether it’s Exodus 14 or the year 2020, it’s all for the Glory of God.

Blessings.