God reinvented to fit my agenda

5 Jul

Wisdom for the week

I don’t want to leave Jude before pointing out that he shows us that it was Jesus who saved Israel from Egypt, Jude 5. Add that to the other Old Testament passages that show God appearing to man and you have the first glimpses of God as Trinity.

Jude describes false Christians as blasphemers of what they don’t understand, 9-10, especially they fail to understand the glorious ones, 8. We see a lot of that in our time. People make light of heaven and St. Peter and even God, as if they could define the glorious ones. They say things such as “my God would never cause a flood to destroy all humanity, except for Noah’s family.” In so doing they make the worldwide flood just a myth, at best, or a lie, at worst. By ‘my God’ they mean the God of their imagination. Thus they blaspheme God by reducing him to what they can imagine. In so doing, they reinvent God to serve their purposes.

God is much more than the small box of our imaginations, but what can be known about him is accurately described in Scripture. Build your understanding of God around what the Bible tells us about him, not on what you wish he was.

So not by merely knowing God’s word, but by doing it, we build ourselves in the faith, growing in our love for God and waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Keep in mind that the merciful One is able to keep you from stumbling* and present you blameless in his glorious presence. And doing this gives him great joy. So let him do it. To him be the glory, 20-21, 24-25.

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*Other versions say Jesus keeps us from falling. As a person with Parkinson’s Disease, I’m convinced that he has been with me to prevent physical falling as well as the spiritual falling that Jude 24 refers to. So I often think of Jude 24 when I almost fall and praise Jesus for keeping me from both kinds of falls.

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Heaven silenced

20 Sep

Wisdom for the week

When you get to the seventh seal, it opens into seven trumpets, Revelation 8:1-2. And the seventh trumpet opens into seven bowls, 10:7; 11:15-16:1. Between the trumpets and bowls, warfare takes place, pitting the Lamb and his people against Satan’s forces, resulting in Satan being cast out of heaven and falling to the earth, 12:7-11, where he and his agents, the Beast and False Prophet appear to take control, as they torture and kill God’s people. God shields some of his own from Satan’s onslaught, but others join the ranks of the martyrs. It seems that the judgments are getting more severe as one follows another. Possibly the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments are the same judgments with the trumpets giving more detail and the bowls giving even more detail. But for sure we know that this section of the book describes God’s judgment coming in waves.

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about a half hour, 8:1. What does this silence mean? Is it the silence that makes room for us to hear God? Is it the silence of faith that stops clamoring for answers and trusts and rests because we know God is in charge? Is it the silence of knowing that what I say is not that important, so I wait to hear what God has to say?  Is it the silence of knowing something earth-shaking is about to happen? Is it the silence of realizing that God’s judgment of humanity doesn’t end with the seal judgments? They are merely the beginning of judgment. We’re thinking about the cause of heaven’s half hour of silence. Maybe the silence is due to all of the above. Maybe it’s none of the above. What do you think causes the silence? Read 8:1 again.

 

                          Who makes it to heaven?

13 Sep

Wisdom for the week

Some people say that only the 144,000 Jews mentioned in Revelation 7:4-8 will have a place in heaven while Christ’s other followers will have their place in some region other than heaven, such as paradise. But Revelation 7:9 shows heaven populated by innumerable nonJews. Heaven’s population includes people from every nation, tribe, language and peoples.

So why this fuss over 144,000 Jews? We can and should be glad for this special recognition of God’s chosen people. He hasn’t forgotten these children to whose forefathers he made many precious promises. These 144,000 Jews will be able to say with Joshua, “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord…made to the house of Israel…failed; all came to pass,” Joshua 21:45. But we can and should be glad that nonJews have a place in the new Jerusalem also.

Look how often the citizens of heaven stop and devote themselves to praise. Once again these people stop everything to worship the Lord, 7:10-12. Why?

What benefits come when your shepherd is a lamb, 7:15-17?

Come, see how God will judge

6 Sep

Wisdom for the week

As the Lamb removes the first four seals of the scroll, the four creatures near the throne call us to come and see how God is going to judge the world, Revelation 6:1-8. Why does God want us to know this?

Each seal opens our eyes to a different kind of catastrophic judgment. All over the world people are conquered, enslaved, 6:1-2. Conflict ruins peace as people fight for their rights and ignore their responsibilities, 6:4. Famine weakens and destroys many, 6:5-6. Death lies coldly on one-fourth of the world, 6:7-8.

When the lamb opens the fifth seal, it’s as if a curtain opens up and what do we see, 6:9-11? We see martyrs crying out for their blood to be avenged. Is it right to want vengeance to fall on those who persecute and kill Christians, 6:10? What’s the difference between wanting God to avenge us and taking vengeance ourselves?

Do you think earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, tsunami’s, floods and other natural disasters are God’s judgment on our sinful nations? If not, will God ever use natural disasters to judge the world? Why do you think nature acts so fiercely, 6:12-17?

What kind of wrath would come from the Lamb? Can unrepentant sinners successfully hide from it, 6:15-17?

 

Who opens scroll? Lion or Lamb? Might or Meekness?

30 Aug

Wisdom for the week

In God’s right hand is a message, Revelation 5:1. Obviously, God wants to say something to us and to the world, but no one in all of heaven and earth is worthy to bear God’s message. Then a lamb walks out on the stage. He is worthy. Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the only one in all creation worthy and able to open to us whatever God has to say (John 14:6, 15:15).

Is anything strange about this lamb? Find at least three unusual things about this lamb as described in chapter 5? Whatever you discover about the Lamb keep in mind he is also the mighty Lion, King of Judah. So the one worthy to open the scroll is not either Lamb or Lion, but both Lamb and Lion. His might is meekness, that is, as he in meekness does all the Father desires he is demonstrating great strength. This is the power of God with man. He doesn’t ordinarily overwhelm with irresistible might, but conquers our hearts with loving meekness.

 

According to 5:9-10, what makes the lamb worthy to open the scroll?

 

What’s the loudest applause you’ve ever heard? That shouting and clapping and whistling would be like hearing a fur glove fall into soft snow in comparison to the applause given to Jesus in heaven. How many angels speak out their love for and praise of the Lamb?[i] Try to imagine how loud their united voices would be, 5:11-12.

 

Verse one shows the scroll of judgments in God the Father’s hand. He passes the scroll to his Son, 5:7. Why do you suppose that Father, Son and Holy Spirit assigned the Son, Jesus, to be mankind’s judge?

[i] Look up “myriad” to find what John means when he counts the angels praising Jesus. Are people and creatures in heaven excited about Jesus or what? Why?

Imagine praising God 24-7

23 Aug

Wisdom for the week

For your reflection on Revelation 4: The writer tells us there is a throne in heaven. That means Someone is in charge. Heaven’s power, authority and wisdom govern all that occurs on earth. Heaven’s rule will become more obvious as we continue reading The Revelation. Does that make any difference in what you believe about these times?

The one on the throne is not described except that he has the appearance of gemstones—jasmine and carnelian. The brownish-red jasmine and the varied colors of carnelian shine brilliantly. An emerald rainbow shimmering in the sky forms a kind of frame that magnifies the beauty of the one on the throne. Why might it be important that the Maker of all things, the one in charge of the heavens and earth is beautiful?

Boring! Can you imagine standing around someone and twenty-four seven saying to that person, “You’re really cool”?  Well, think of it this way. Have you ever seen a dancer or gymnast or figure skater or a beautiful person that you just couldn’t take your eyes off of? Imagine now how much more beautiful is the one who made the dancer etc. What if God is so beautiful that once you see him it’ll be next to impossible to pull your eyes away? Would that vision of absolute beauty be boring?

Oh, and by the way, did you notice how many eyes the four heavenly creatures had? Why so many? Could it be that there are so many wonders to behold that one needs increased vision to take it all in? When I looked out over the Grand Canyon or Bryce and Zion Canyons, I wished that I had more eyes to take it all in and a brain powerful enough to process what I was seeing.  For what other reasons do you think the creatures had so many eyes?

Someone is on the throne

16 Aug

Wisdom for the week

As the world spins more and more out of control, it becomes increasingly essential that someone be in charge. Because I know the Bible, I know that Someone is in charge: “Behold a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne,” Revelation 4:2-11. Since childhood, I have known that God was on the throne, ruling over all. But I have taken that knowledge for granted. What if, similar to the majority of humanity, I had no clear idea of any power outside of the earthly powers? Let me tell you, I’d be frightened.

Are my neighbors scared by narcissistic little dictators with giant weapons? Does it unnerve them that leaders gas their innocent subjects to death, simply because they live in rebel-held territory? We’re disrupted and disturbed by suicide bombers, land mines, beheadings, attacks on churches, mosques, or any peoples who don’t join a given cause. Yes, people discuss these things and shake their heads, but go on with life as usual. Why are they so calm before the approaching storm? Are they anesthetized by work, computer games, sports, the arts or some all-consuming cause that allows little time for careful thinking?

In such times, it’s comforting to know God is in charge. He is working in all of these things, including the worst, for the good of those who love him and, according to his purpose, are called to trust him in such a time as this. Some may complain that he is letting evil have too much sway. But God is on the throne, not these complainers. He knows the exact limit to which evil must go and the exact amount of overcoming that righteousness must achieve to prove its power over maximum evil.

At Calvary, God allowed evil to do its worst (the murder of God), so Jesus could reveal the exceeding superiority of his power in conquering full-blown wickedness. The Revelation shows the horrors and terror of evil unleashed to wreak havoc on the earth once again. Humanity without God will see its own depravity as never before, except at Calvary. The climax will pit maximum evil against maximum righteousness resulting in maximum awe as the Righteous One triumphs. It will be the ultimate fulfillment of Romans 5:20: “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” We should be glad that we don’t have to measure these matters and decide when evil has reached its highest summit. But God is measuring. He knows when Satan’s power will be at full strength. It will look like Satan has triumphed, then Jesus will once again overcome the evil one. From his throne, God can see the exact moment when all this shall be ready and he will choreograph the triumph of his Son.

He knows his people inside and out

9 Aug

Wisdom for the week

As I consider Jesus relating to his churches, I see a person who knows when and with whom to be tender or tough, severe or comforting. Genuine love informs all he says and does for and with these churches. As I read chapters two and three of The Revelation, it’s obvious that he truly knows his people and understands what they face and how they are dealing with it.

He knows, for example, that Pergamum will not yield to the Tempter when he threatens death. After all, they sided with Antipas even though doing so exposed them to the risk of execution with him. But some among them could be tempted by sexual immorality, so that’s the route Satan took with Pergamum. Balaam counseled Israel’s enemies to seduce Israel’s men into sexual immorality. And the same temptation caused a number of Christians in Pergamum to stumble, Revelation 2:12-17.

For further reflection: What impressed you the most about Jesus as you saw him relating to these seven churches, 2:1-3:22? What would you say are the key good and bad characteristics of each of these seven churches? Jesus challenges all seven of the churches to overcome or conquer. What are the things that each individual church needs to overcome? For example, Ephesus has to recall what it was like when she first met Christ and recapture that first love, 2:4-5. She needs to repent of taking Jesus for granted and get back to treating him like the very special person that he is. How about the other six churches? What is Jesus calling them to do? What will be the consequences if they do what Jesus commands?