Today’s reading is Revelation 17.
A great contrast starts in this chapter. We finally meet the immoral woman. The seductress who competes with the Bride to steal the love of the Hero, or at least keep the proper marriage from happening. Think Ursula in the Disney version of “The Little Mermaid.” Or the step-sisters in the stories of Cinderella. She has been mentioned earlier in the book (think Jezebel in the letter to Thyatira). John sees her as a woman on a seven-headed dragon. She is named Babylon and is described as a city. Doesn’t that also fit the hero stories we’ve read in the past. This is the enemy city that needs to be defeated for the Hero to win the day. The one key I hope we notice in all this is a statement that is often overlooked. The ten horns are ten kings. We often get so distracted by trying to figure out who the ten kings are that we actually miss the important part. These ten kings will receive authority. They will make war on the Lamb. However, that authority is only for one hour. Doesn’t that highlight what we’ve noticed about everything in this book. Yes, at times it looks like the enemy is winning. Babylon is drunk with the blood of the saints. Her supporting kings have authority with the beast who in earlier chapters made war on the saints and even conquered them (Revelation 12:7). But this authority last for only one hour. That’s it. Just one hour. Then the Lamb conquers them. Obviously, this is not a literal amount of time. It is, however, demonstrating that the time is small, so hang on. Yes, the immoral city arises and conspires with the kings of the earth in great immorality and attack on Christ and His Bride. But their victory is short lived. So hang on. Jesus always wins! Judgment is coming on the seductress, the immoral woman, the sinful city. Don’t join her, avoid her. Which, by the way, was the heart of the warning to Thyatira.
Monday’s reading is Revelation 18.
Continue reading “Babylon”
Today’s reading is Revelation 2.
As confusing as Revelation can be, I have found it simplifying to see it as a story. It is actually a very common story. It is the story of the Hero saves the Girl. I know it is out of vogue to have a damsel in distress saved by a knight in shining armor, but that is exactly what this story is. And, in fact, I would it is one of the reasons we shouldn’t be so quick to abandon that story. In this and in our next reading, we meet the girl–or rather, in Revelation, the Bride. We already know from Ephesians 5 that all brides are to represent Christ’s church. In Revelation, we see that played out literally. The Bride is the church. That will become completely clear in Revelation 21:9. However, please note, while the damsel is in distress, she is not exactly presented as utterly helpless and just waiting around for the Hero to save her. She is embattled, but as the Hero is fighting to save her, she must fight to be true to the Hero. She must fight against enemies that would destroy her. She must especially fight against Jezebel, the Harlot, the seducing woman who would encourage the bride to fall from her virtue, purity, and devotion to the hero. Will the Bride stay true to her first love? Will she be faithful even if it means her own death? Will she only eat at her coming Groom’s banquet table, or will she eat at the table of false idols? Keep reading. And as you do, remember that we Christians make up that Bride. These are really questions for us today.
Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 3.
Continue reading “The Bride”
Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 12.
Okay, wait a minute. Paul says, “No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says, ‘Jesus is accursed!'” And yet, Paul, speaking in the Spirit of God, just said those very words. What’s up with that? His point is not that someone in God’s Spirit can’t even utter those words in any context. His point is people who abide in God and His Spirit know Jesus is Lord. Anyone who truly denies Jesus’s lordship is separate from God. No matter how spiritual they seem, no matter how nice they are, no matter what good works they do, they are not in God and God’s Spirit is not within them. In like manner, his point about those who say, “Jesus is Lord” is not that people separate from God are physically unable to say those words in any situational context or that they are unable to fake it. Neither is he saying that anyone who makes this claim is automatically right with God just by saying these words. His point is everyone who sincerely and truly confesses and surrenders to the lordship of Jesus has the same Holy Spirit we do. They may not have the same gifts, abilities, opportunities, and resources as we do. They may be at a different level of spiritual maturity. They may have a completely different ethnic background, skin color, gender, national history, language, socio-economic class, but they are filled by the same Spirit. Since we have the same Spirit, let us work together in the same Body, remembering we are not only members of that same Body but members of one another.
Monday’s reading is 1 Corinthians 13.
Continue reading ““Jesus is Lord!””
Today’s reading is Acts 20.
The gospel, at heart, is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in accordance with the prophetic Scriptures in order to save us from the wrath of God against our sins. However, did you catch the gospel parallel in Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders? In vs. 24, he said he only wanted to be able to finish the course of testifying to the gospel of the grace of God. Then in vs. 25, he said what he had been doing was proclaiming the kingdom. The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of our King, but the gospel, that is, the good news, is also the kingdom established on the rock of our resurrected Redeemer. We sometimes talk about the gospel of the kingdom; we need to be aware that this is not talking about the gospel or good news that belongs to the kingdom, but that the kingdom is itself good news. We have a King. He established a Kingdom. Let us press into it, because citizenship in that kingdom is where true blessing is found.
Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 21.
Continue reading “The Kingdom of the Gospel”
Today’s reading is Luke 16.
I admit it; what we call “The Parable of the Dishonest Manager” or “The Parable of the Unrighteous Steward” is, to me, the oddest of Jesus’s parable. Here is a person so absolutely opposite of everything Jesus teaches held up as some kind of example. He is a terrible steward. Then as he is being judged, he uses his stewardship authority to provide for himself instead of helping his master. However, the master is able to say what he did was shrewd, cunning, prudent. Why? I think it is because he used the stewardship authority he was given to focus on the future. The story tells us again and again the man is unrighteous. Jesus isn’t giving us an example of righteous behavior, but of shrewd, cunning, prudent behavior. Unrighteous people know how to use unrighteous mammon to prepare for the future. Of course, the problem is they don’t think far enough in the future. Jesus’s point, I believe, is children of light need to couple their righteous behavior with a shrewd, cunning, prudent use of money, material goods, and finances not to prepare for the same future the unrighteous dwell on, but to prepare for eternal dwellings. We need to remember God has given us stewardship authority not to provide a house, a car, clothes, even an earthly retirement. Rather, we should use it to populate the eternal dwellings with people who will receive us into those dwellings. In other words, God blesses us with financial resources so we can share the gospel of the eternal kingdom. Let’s be shrewd about that–not skimpy, not tight-fisted–shrewd.
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 17.
Continue reading “How Shrewd”
Today’s reading is Luke 6.
One of the big mistakes we make when we get to the Beatitudes in Luke’s account of the gospel is to immediately jump back to Matthew’s version of them, decide what they mean there, and then just read it into Luke. Whether these are records of two different teaching events where Jesus said something similar or whether they are two versions of the same event, Jesus clearly didn’t mean contradictory things. However, Matthew and Luke are using them to make distinct, but complementary, points. Matthew focuses on spiritual humility, but Luke really is focusing on financial poverty. However, notice Luke’s good news for the poor, the hungry, the mourning, the despised. His good news is not, as so many try to make it today, a better life now. His good news is not, “Turn to me and I will give you sumptuous meals, fine clothes, the house on the hill, and leisurely retirements.” Rather, it is “Turn to me and I will give you the kingdom of God and your reward in heaven will be great.” In fact, the very thing many today make out to be the reward is what Jesus says the rich, well-fed, merry, honored people have now, and it is all the reward they are going to get. That is not a good thing. Why would we want to make that the great blessing of turning to Jesus. No, this doesn’t mean we ignore helping those around us in need. That is covered when Jesus teaches us to do good and give expecting nothing in return. However, let’s understand what the good news really is. It is so much better than social justice, benevolence, and equity. It is eternal life. It is the kingdom. It is the very presence of God throughout all eternity. The true good news is unsurpassed. And I am unashamed. Praise the Lord!
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 7.
Continue reading “Blessed are the Poor”
Today’s reading is Revelation 22.
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
I know this will sound shocking, but I do not believe this statement is limited to what we commonly call the “second coming.” Jesus is not saying, “At the end of time, I’ll come and bring judgment on everyone.” He is telling the original readers of Revelation, He will come in judgment on Rome (possibly Jerusalem) and it will be soon (for them). The message for us is not: at the end of time Jesus will come and bring final judgment on everyone, so get ready. The message for us is: no matter who our enemy is, no matter how strong a front they put up, no matter how much success they seem to have in the fight, no matter how bad it looks for our side, Jesus is coming in judgment on them and they don’t stand a chance. Sure, at this point, the next judgment may be the final one on all the world. But then again, it may just be a temporal judgment on Washington and the Unites States of America, or a temporal judgment on Mecca, or even just a temporal judgment on your co-worker who mocks you for your faith and your spouse who denies your faith and mistreats you. John’s point to us is whatever our enemy does, hang on. Jesus will judge. He will win. Don’t abandon Him. Don’t quit. Don’t concede. He is coming, Jesus will judge our enemies, and Jesus Always Wins! Praise the Lord!!!
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 1.
Continue reading “He Is Coming”