Today’s reading is Luke 2.
Almost everything I grew up picturing about Jesus’s birth was wrong. Does this sound familiar to you? Because there was a census, Joseph takes his pregnant wife Mary on a solitary journey into their ancestral home arriving late in the evening. The local inn is already full, so they hole up in a nearby stable. Perhaps because of the trip or the stress or maybe just because it was time, Mary goes into labor that night. Almost none of that is how it would have happened. First, folks in that day rarely traveled alone for fear of bandits. Joseph and Mary would have been in a caravan of family making the exact same trip. The word translated “inn” doesn’t refer to a motel (this is not the same word as found in Luke 10:34-35 but rather in Luke 22:11 where it is translated “guest room”). Joseph and Mary were going to their ancestral home. They would have had all kinds of family there. In that culture, they wouldn’t be staying in a hotel, but with family. Mary didn’t go into labor the night they arrived. This wasn’t a day trip. This trip wasn’t “there and back again.” Considering the visit of the wise men in Matthew 2, it seems they essentially moved to Bethlehem. The text says, “While they were there, the time came for her to give birth.” They had been there for a time and she gave birth. This makes the issue of no room all the more poignant. This wasn’t an issue of getting to the hotel too late and there is a “no vacancy” sign. Rather, this is the picture of families opening their homes to one another, but when the baby comes, there is no room for that among all the guests staying in the guest room. If you are going to have a messy, screaming mother giving birth to a messy, crying baby, don’t do that in the guest room where the rest of the family is wanting to sleep and live. Put them out in the stable where they won’t bother anyone. It never really gets any better for Jesus. When we get to Luke 9:58, we will read Jesus saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” The fact is from His birth to His death, folks saw Jesus as an inconvenience. There was no room for Him. This leads to a question for us. Do we have room for Jesus? Are we willing to welcome Him in to our home, our heart, our lives, letting Him take up residence no matter how messy and inconvenient it becomes? Or will we send Him out to the stables? Do you have room for Jesus today?
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 2.
Continue reading “No Room for Jesus”
Today’s reading is Revelation 21.
I know we’ve talked about the Bride before, but now we meet her again in all her glory. At the beginning of Revelation, we were introduced to her in the image of the seven churches. At that time, they were struggling with faithfulness and loyalty to the Hero. But now, just as one of the seven angels with the seven bowls of God’s wrath introduced us to the seductress (Revelation 17:1), one of those same angels shows the Bride. The seductress was out in the wilderness, the Bride is at the top of a mountain. The seductress was pictured as a woman on the back of dragon, though she was called the city Babylon. The Bride is pictured as a city. And what a city. Perfectly square, with insurmountable walls, unassailable gates, unbreakable foundation. It is full of the glory of God. The Lamb is it light. God Himself is its Temple. While I don’t want to take away the beautiful picture of eternity most of us jump to when we see this picture, we need to understand that John’s point was not simply that in the end we go to heaven. His point was this is the bride of Christ; this is the kingdom of Christ; this is the church of Christ. Yes, the enemies gather around our city. Yes, they besiege our city. Yes, they mount their attack against our city. But our city is unassailable. The question is not who will win this war. The question is to which city will you flee for refuge: Babylon or the Heavenly Jerusalem? When you see how the story ends, the choice is obvious.
Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 22.
Continue reading “The Bride”
Today’s reading is Revelation 14.
In contrast to the monsters of the previous two readings, our Hero stands on the mountain. But as a Lamb. Picture that, a Lamb walking to battle against a dragon and two beasts. However, He does have 144,000 with Him. This is interesting because if we removed the chapter break, we would see this 144,000 right after we hear about those the beasts had sealed with the number 666. If we didn’t have the chapter break, we might remember that the 144,000 are the group of people God had His angels seal showing that He knows exactly who belongs to Him. We spend so much time getting bent out of shape trying to figure out who 666 represents and what kind of seal that is that we miss the obvious. There are two groups of sealed people. Not only does God know who belongs to Him, the dragon knows who belongs to him. God also knows who belongs to the dragon. The question is not whether we are sealed, the question is whose seal do we wear. If we are God’s, He knows. If we are not, He knows. To whom do you belong?
Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 15.
Continue reading “The 144,000”
Today’s reading is Revelation 13.
We’ve all read or heard stories like this before. The Hero has to defeat a monster to save the kingdom or deliver the damsel in distress. Beowulf delivered Heorot from the monster, Grendel, and also from Grendel’s mother. Perseus saved Andromeda from Cetus. Our Hero must defeat His own set of monsters as well. We met the dragon in our previous reading. Today we meet the sea beast and the land beast. No doubt, we may find representative meanings for this triumvirate of monsters, but for the most part, we should see how this trinity of monsters mirrors and distorts the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit. Further, at this point, we see the repeated cycle that it looks like the monsters are winning. The sea beast was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. The land beast is permitted so slay those who refuse to worship the beast. And that is where this reading ends. Sometimes it looks like our Hero is losing. But hang on. Jesus always wins!
Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 14.
Continue reading “The Monster”
Today’s reading is Revelation 6
The Lion, who is the Lamb, opens the seven seals, and the plan of God unfolds. How does it begin? The rider on the white horse bursts forth conquering and to conquer. Who is this guy? I know not everyone agrees with me on this, but up until this point, the conquerors have been the faithful Christians in the seven churches and the Lamb in Revelation 5:5. I think Revelation 19 pretty much nails down for us who this is. It is the Faithful and True. He is the Rider on the White horse and He has gone forth to do what the Hero is supposed to do. He is going forth to win. But then the next horse comes out, and the next, and the next. And the story takes a dark turn. The Hero has gone forth to conquer, but rather than immediate victory, the enemies seem to get the upper hand. Instead of the enemies being immediately vanquished so there is expanding peace, there is war, famine, death. Even those who have followed the Hero get martyred and are begging for vengeance. But God tells them to wait. And this is what happens throughout the cycles of this story. The Hero goes forth, but victory is not immediate. However, the point is, in the end, the Hero always wins. And that is what happens in this cycle as well. When the sixth seal is opened, the wrath and judgment from God and the Lamb comes forth and the enemies hide before their conquerors. Jesus’s battle plan doesn’t work out the way we might initially think. But He always wins. Hang on to that.
Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 7.
Continue reading “The Hero Rides Forth”
Today’s reading is Revelation 5.
We’ve met the Bride and the Father, now we meet the Hero. Of course, the Hero was the one walking among the lampstands, but we meet Him in the story. He is the Lion. However, He didn’t play His part by attacking the prey. Rather, He played His part by being the Lamb that was slain. Because He was willing to step down from His role as Lion and into the role of Lamb, He became worthy to open the scrolls of God’s plan. He has become worthy to receive honor and glory and blessing. He is worthy for every knee to bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord and He is worthy. That is our Lord. Praise God! The story is going to get bleak over the following chapters. But this is our Hero, and be aware right here from the beginning: He always wins!
Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 6.
Continue reading “The Hero”
Today’s reading is Revelation 1.
John sees Jesus walking among the lampstands and falls on his face as though dead. Jesus lays His hand on John and says, “Fear not.” What a great kick off to this book. Obviously, Jesus is addressing John’s fear in the presence His own divinity. However, this is also a summary of the book. Jesus is the first and the last. He is the Living One. He lived, He died, but now He is alive forevermore. And that sets the stage for everything Jesus is going to reveal to John. A lot of things were going to happen to Christians that were pretty frightening. Frightening in the same sense that being unjustly arrested, tried, and crucified is frightening. However, though Jesus died, He was still victorious and is now alive forevermore. In like manner, John has nothing to really fear from anything Rome, Jerusalem, name the enemy of your choice, would do to him because no matter what it looks like, Jesus always wins. Whatever else you get out of reading Revelation this time, get this. Sure, death may be coming. But, for us, even death is the pathway to victory. We have nothing to fear. Praise the Lord?
Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 2.