Thursday, March 27, 2008

A significant part of our identity is found in our ancestry. Perhaps that explains the fascination and energy many devote to discovering their family's genealogy.

Matthew 1:1 lists "The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham". The human connection of Jesus is inescapable; He could no more divorce Himself from His human genealogy than you or I could. It's an intrinsic part of His very being.

The public record of Jesus' ancestry is openly displayed for all to see and there are a few "skeletons in his genealogy closet". He is related to famous cheat (Jacob); a murderer and adulterer (David); and a prostitute (Rahab), to name a few. His ancestry seems just a bit too human for the sinless Son of God. But, warts and all, His ancestry is significant to His identity.

I find comfort in Jesus' all-too-human genealogy. He really is one of us. True, none other can claim Divine parentage as he can, but His human connection is inescapable. His human DNA firmly embeds Him in the human race.

A family historian has shed some light on our family tree and it's at least as flawed as that of Jesus. There are some swindlers and thieves in our past as well as a preacher who got in a bar room brawl and lost his ministerial license, if I understand correctly. It's nothing to brag about but it is a significant part of who I am.

The genealogy of Jesus matters because it clearly indicates that He is one of us. To convert Jesus from the Son of God to God, the Son is to eradicate His human ancestry and radically distort His true nature. To remove Jesus from His human ancestry is to negate the truth that "we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus' human connection puts Him in touch with the reality of sin and temptation and qualifies Him to truly conquer both for our benefit.

The humanity of Jesus in no way diminishes Him but instead perfectly defines Him. Because of it we find great comfort, reassurance, and hope in knowing that "there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).

May the Jesus who is inseparably connected to us in our humanity bring peace, joy and victory today as He ushers us into the very presence of His Father and ours, the One true God.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's like standing on the edge of a beach and gazing out at the vast expanse of the ocean. That's the feeling I have when I get to the end of the Book of Revelation: I've come to the end of the Bible and I stand awe-struck looking out at the vast expanse of God's eternity.

Just as one is as close as possible to the ocean while standing on a beach, so we are never closer to the realization of all of God's promises then when we come to the end of Revelation. We are repeatedly reminded of this fact:

And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book." (Revelation 22:7)

And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near." (Revelation 22:10)

"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done." (Revelation 22:12)

He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:20)

Sobering as it is to consider, our limited, uncertain lives are like the beach that borders the ocean. We literally stand only a heartbeat away from the return of Christ and the fulfillment of the promises and plan of God. And we only have this brief moment to ponder and prepare for what God has prepared.

Revelation calls us away from the routine and ritual of life to stand and gaze at God's eternity. To gaze at the vastness and greatness of God's plan is to view life today from its perspective. And that, I think, is the most important purpose of this puzzling and sometimes troubling book of visions.

God's tomorrow is approaching much faster than we realize. We have this day to invest in that Day. Let's make it count. "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen." (Revelation 22:21)


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Nothing is more motivating, or exciting. It's the event of the ages.

"And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." (Revelation 19:11-16)

With a trumpet blast and an angelic shout, the great hope of the ages will become reality. And that word, "reality", is important to ponder. What is so majestically described for us in Revelation 19 is an event as real as tomorrow's headlines. What we read is not the "doctrine of the Second Coming", but a literal event as real as the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It's a very real event that serves as doctrine, or teaching.

"His name is called The Word of God". This Jesus, who is destined to return to earth in triumph, is the literal embodiment of God's Word. As John reminds us, He is "the Word made flesh" (John 1:14).

The Living Word of God comes to us today to bring full life and meaning to God's written word. The risen Christ is the indwelling, teaching Christ in every believer today. As we devote ourselves to reading and studying the written word, the living Word breathes life and understanding into that which we read.

"And I saw heaven opened". A recurring message in Revelation is that through Jesus we have access to the heavenly realm where God, our Father, dwells. Through Christ we access heaven in worship and prayer.

But there is a day coming when heaven's gates will literally stand open as Jesus begins His descent to planet earth. The angelic armies of heaven will follow in full battle readiness.

The day and hour of this dramatic event are unknown (Matthew 24:36), but the reality is certain. No event provides greater incentive for a dedicated, disciplined walk with the Lord than this one: "everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself" (1 John 3:3)

May the reality of our hope be the powerful motivation for living today - and every day!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's the main point. If you miss this you miss the point of everything else.

For many students of the Bible, the Book of Revelation is the most troubling and puzzling of all the Bible books. Its demonic and beastly images and horrifying plagues are enough to unsettle even the most solidly-grounded Christian. That is, unless we remain focused on the main thing.

We must never lose sight of the fact that all that unfolds in Revelation centers around the throne of Almighty God, our Father and Creator and Father of our Lord Jesus. We are reminded, amidst the plagues and judgments, of the majesty and might of our Father and the unceasing worship that occurs in His heavenly realm.

Consider this great song of worship and praise offered before the last great set of plagues poured out upon the earth:

"And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! "Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED." (Revelation 15:3-4)

Whether rewarding the righteous or punishing the wicked, the Lord God's works are great and marvelous. All His ways are righteous and true. He alone is holy and King of all the nations. When He acts in judgment and grace, who would dare not worship and glorify Him and exalt His great name, Yahweh? When all is said and done, all nations will bow and worship.

One of the great mysteries of the Book of Revelation is how people can witness the mighty acts of God in judgment and refuse to repent. Even in judgment, God's purposes are to call people to repentance.

We enjoy the greatest privilege of all in knowing God our Father and Jesus, His created and exalted Son. We too can offer the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb as our praise.

Troublesome times are destined to come into the world before the Kingdom of God arrives, but unceasing praise is the constant around the throne of God and with the people of God. Amidst uncertainty and change, genuine heartfelt praise remains our constant.

The great invitation is for us to add our voices to the symphony of praise around the throne of God. It is our privilege to do so through word and lifestyle.

"Father, You alone are worthy. We acknowledge that You act in perfect fairness according to Your holiness. In our unsettled existence in a changing world, we acknowledge You as the only true constant. The upheaval of this age is not beyond Your notice or control but instead is directed according to Your perfect Kingdom purpose. It is our supreme privilege to add our voices in praise along with the angelic chorus that surrounds Your throne. In the name of Your Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen."


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Is it a harmless habit or a deadly addiction? For many it's a "window on the world" as well as a source of entertainment. It's a sensitive issue to say the least; this practice of watching television.

"And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak" (Revelation 13:15)

Even non-Christians are familiar with Revelation 13 and its cryptic message. In the end times a great beast arises out of the sea of humanity and, through the empowerment of "the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan" (Revelation 12:9), he achieves world-wide domination. He is aided by a sinister assistant who performs miracles and directs people to make an image to the beast, to which he gives breath so that the image even speaks.

It's a stretch to say that television is that beastly image, but there are some unsettling parallels. Television is an image that many literally worship through devoting vast amounts of time. Those who produce and program its content so that it "would even speak" assert tremendous influence over thinking and actions ("a mark on their right hand or on their forehead" (Revelation 13:16).

Perhaps it borders on paranoia to even consider similarities between television and the beastly image of Revelation 13, but the applications and lessons are valuable. Anything that dominates our time and influences our thinking is potential antichrist. And the systems of this world, through a variety of forms and methods, vie for this influence.

Perhaps one of the devil's great tricks is to have us looking for "666" and "the mark of the beast" all the while that we've allowed his beastly influence in its more subtle ways.

The only known remedy for evil influence is saturation in the things of the Lord. By craving time in the word, time in prayer, and time together with true believers, we powerfully counteract the influence of evil.

The battle belongs to those who take a stand strong, "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Make no mistake; the nations of the world are not friends of the people of God. At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, even a so-called "Christian nation" is an oxymoron because, "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." (1 John 5:19)

The reign of God is in complete opposition to the rule of nations. With the blowing of the final trumpet, when Jesus returns and the righteous dead are raised, it is said:

"We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth." (Revelation 11:17-18)

Did you notice that phrase, "the nations were enraged"? Such is the response when the Lord God has "begun to reign" through the direct jurisdiction of His Son as King over the 1,000-year kingdom. The government of the world and the government of God are in radical opposition to one another.

It's a challenging dilemma but every follower of Jesus Christ must decisively determine his/her true allegiance: the system of the world or the system of God. Jesus calls us to that choice:

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Matthew 6:24)

There is an uneasy coexistence of the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God today. Followers of Christ, out of necessity, have dealings with both systems. The challenge is to be certain that our true allegiance is to the kingdom of God even as we use the systems of the world to advance the purposes of the kingdom of God. My struggle is in working out the proper balance and relationship between these two systems in my own life, just as it is your struggle.

I'm reminded of Joshua's challenge to the nation of Israel: "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve ...but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)

May we each clearly see the distinction and delineation between the system of God and the system of the world and decisively choose throughout our activities today.


Friday, March 14, 2008

It's not a very pretty picture. Every time an angel blows a trumpet, some terrible cataclysm is unleashed upon the earth. Such is the picture we see in the Book of Revelation. But, a final seventh trumpet will sound and what it unleashes will be worth it all:

"but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets." (Revelation 10:7)

There is an exciting picture for us to see when we piece this verse together with several others. For example,

"Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, "We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign "And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth." (Revelation 11:15-18).


"Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

A day is coming when a final trumpet blast will sound, and all of God's plan will be brought to completion. The completion of this plan, to be brought about through Jesus the Christ, was the message proclaimed by the 1st-century church: "whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time." (Acts 3:21)

With abrupt suddenness a final trumpet will one day sound to bring to full completion God's plan of the ages. Everything is prologue in preparation for that time and event.

Are you living today with an awareness of the reality of the coming trumpet blast? Today is a day of preparation; a day to live according to spiritual priorities. The suddenness of the trumpet blast will afford no opportunity for the preparations that need to be made today.

May we each live life today as though this were the day of the blowing of the final trumpet.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The great "God surprise" is the good that comes out of dark times. It's an affirmation of a familiar truth expressed in Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

The Book of Revelation largely describes the darkest period of all time - the Great Tribulation. It can well be described as "hell on earth" - plagues, death, destruction, and great cataclysm. But out of this unprecedented dark time comes incredible good:

"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9-10)

The identity of this vast multitude is revealed in verse 14:

"These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Out of the darkest period in all of history comes the greatest ingathering of people into the Kingdom of God! God's greatest good is accomplished in our darkest hour.

Many lament the difficulties that today's Church faces. Attracting new people is a challenge, and many churches seem to struggle for their very survival. And yet this very institution is that of which Jesus confidently asserted, "I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." (Matthew 16:18).

"Church" may take a different form during the days of Tribulation, but be assured of this: it will experience unprecedented growth and effectiveness in those days (Daniel 11:33-35 gives a similar, "coded" description). Challenging as those times will be, it can be said that our best days are yet to come.

Few things are as exhilarating as being on a winning team. But, as anyone who has ever competed in any athletic sport knows, winning takes work. As the old locker room saying goes, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going".

Bible prophecy indicates that "the going will get tough" but it also reminds us that "the tough will get going". The darkest hour will also be the brightest hour.

Whatever challenges you may face today, be assured that God's brightest and best results often come through times such as these. The ultimate victory is assured to him who overcomes.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Do you remember Cliff Notes from school? They were the summary booklets of the great literary classics that we reached for the night before a test because we hadn't read the book:)

There is a very important Bible passage that is the ultimate "Cliff Notes" of the entire plan of salvation. It's Revelation 5:9-10 -

"And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."

After Jesus' suffering, crucifixion, and ascension into heaven, he took possession of a very important document: a 7-sealed scroll containing key future events. His sinless sacrifice made Him worthy to take charge of the unfolding of future events, as well as to purchase for God with His blood people from every nation, language, and race. Their destiny is to be made into a kingdom, and to perform priestly service, and to ultimately rule with Christ upon the earth. And that's a great summary of the great plan of God!

The work of Christ, according to the plan of God, is all-inclusive. None are excluded; all have opportunity to be drawn in to the salvation and plan of God. Those who respond He has "made them to be a kingdom".

It would be easy to conclude that to be made to be a kingdom is to be the church. And there is a sense of connection between the Church and the kingdom: the Church exists to serve the purposes of the kingdom. But, "they WILL reign upon the earth" (emphasis added). All who are called out from all nations are being formed into a kingdom today to one day reign with Jesus upon the earth in His coming kingdom.

Out truest identity is found in these 2 verses. We are among the called-out ones of all nations who have been purchased for God through the blood of Jesus. We are presently being formed into the government of God in preparation for ruling the world with Jesus for 1,000 years at His return.

Never lose sight of your identity and destiny, because these provide the motivation and energy for living today. It is along these lines that we "dream dreams and see visions" (Acts 2:17).

John 3:16 is perhaps the best-known verse in the Bible, but I suggest to you that Revelation 5:9-10 should instead be best-known because of its vitally important summary statement. May its message encourage and energize you today.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Camelot was the stuff of legend. It's actual existence is debatable, but the hope that it inspires is very real. As a line from the famous play goes, "Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot"

A mythical castle and throne is fodder for folklore but there is a 'Camelot'-type place in which a mighty King truly does rule:

"After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things." Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne." (Revelation 4:1-2)

What follows is a description beyond imagination of the One True God, regally seated on His throne, surrounded by never-ceasing angelic worship. There are creatures that "do not cease to say, "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME." (Revelation 4:8)

Adding to this great chorus of praise are twenty-four Elders who cast their crowns before the throne and declare,

"Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created." (Revelation 4:11)

"Camelot" does exist and the King rules and reigns forever. This majestic vision of the throne of God inspires hope for the future because His mighty commands bring to fulfillment all of the great hopes and promises that He has made concerning our future.

This "Camelot" scene calls to each of us to join in never-ending praise of our Creator as well. Amidst the upheaval of our times and the cataclysmic events yet to come, as predicted in Revelation, remains the steady, unchanging reign of God. His position is never threatened as He patiently unveils His plans for His children.

The One who is truly worthy to receive glory and honor and power is worthy to receive from us even as He does the angelic beings ever surrounding Him on His throne.

May our lives be lives of praise to the One today.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The date had been fixed on the calendar for a long time. Meticulous plans were made but it seemed at times as though the day would never arrive. And then, suddenly, it was upon us. The guests arrived and all the carefully-made plans unfolded. The wedding day arrived.

Many of us view the Second Coming of Jesus similarly. We know that the date is fixed in time, and countless numbers of Christians have lived their lives in preparation of this great event, but it has yet to happen. But the day WILL come:

"BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen." (Revelation 1:7)

Confusing as the Book of Revelation can be, it reverberates with a vital, motivating theme: Jesus is coming back and God's ultimate plan for humanity is destined to be fulfilled.

John beings writing the Revelation with a note of urgency:

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw." (Revelation 1:1-2)

"The things which must soon take place" encompass events that were launched 2,000 years ago and continue on course even today. Those events include the the plan of God for each believer, as is so well described in Revelation 1:5-6:

"Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood-- and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father--to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen."

The plan to make each of us into a kingdom is well underway even as we look forward to the day of Jesus' return to inaugurate the visible kingdom on earth.

May both the present reality and the future hope of the kingdom be an encouragement and motivation to you today as you live and serve in and for Him.

Come, Lord Jesus!