The Bride

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.

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Babylon

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.

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Waiting for Help

Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 9.

So, I admit I’m not very well-versed on the timeline of events regarding the famine in Judea and the need for help among the Jerusalem saints. However, I know Paul was writing to the Corinthians about taking up collections in his first letter. Then he visited them. Now he has written another letter and is still talking about it. He even says he has been telling folks the Corinthians have been ready to give “since last year.” I have to think about this from the standpoint of the saints in Jerusalem. They have been in need for some time. We are talking months, maybe even more than a year. I live in such a fast paced world, I am blown away. A hurricane, an earthquake, a fire, a mudslide hits an area and within two weeks the area has aid. The Jerusalem saints had been waiting for months and months and months. I think about this when I am facing a hardship. I ask God to do something about it and expect a positive response in less than 24 hours. Here were these Jerusalem saints waiting for…well…I don’t know quite how long, but it was longer than 24 hours, likely longer than 24 weeks. I need to remember this as a model for my own patience. God is listening. God is planning to come to my aid (and I’m sure it will be at just the best moment). He will not act on my time table. But He will act. I need to be patient and wait for His help.

Tomorrow’s reading is 2 Corinthians 10.

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The Gospel in Athens

Today’s reading is Acts 17.

Did you see how similar Paul’s sermon in Acts 13 was to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2? Did you see how different Paul’s sermon in today’s reading was from either of the above? Yet, they all proclaimed the same gospel of a resurrected Savior. Why the difference? Because of the background of the audience. In Acts 2 and 13, Peter and Paul were addressing Jews familiar with the Law and the Prophets. So they quoted those repeatedly. In our reading today, Paul’s audience has a different background. They don’t know the Law and the Prophets. What good would quoting them do for the Athenians? What a lesson we can learn from this today. Twenty years ago and beyond, you could be relatively certain Americans were somewhat familiar with the Bible. Even if they weren’t Christians, they lived in a Christianized culture. Not so anymore. We have to learn to spread the gospel like we are living in Athens, not Jerusalem. We can’t assume folks know the Bible or anything about it. But, that doesn’t mean they won’t want the gospel. We need to preach the same gospel, but we need to learn how to present it in different ways. We are part of an unchurched generation, with little Biblical background and almost no Christian mooring. And that’s okay. They still need the gospel. We still need to bring it to them. But let’s present it in ways that will impact our audience, just like Peter and Paul did.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 18.

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God’s Way, Not Mine

Today’s reading is Acts 15.

Today’s reading contains what is to me one of the most shocking events in all the Bible. It isn’t shocking to me that people, even Christians, disagreed. It isn’t shocking that they debated. The shocking point to me is  when it says, “Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church…” Despite the disagreement and debate, this congregation came to unity. That shocks me. It has been my experience when people disagree, they don’t come to unity, they dig in and polarize even more. Just look at the American religious landscape with hundreds of denominations all claiming to be Christian. The key in Acts 15 is these brothers and sisters were more concerned about following God’s way than proving their own way. I need to learn that. God’s way works, not mine.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 16.

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She’s Back

Today’s reading is Revelation 21.

We met the Bride in Revelation 2-3, represented by the seven churches of Asia to whom this book was addressed. Now we meet her again. This time she is a city, a kingdom, coming down from heaven. Her dimensions are perfect. Her foundations are unbreakable. Her walls are unassailable. Her gates are uncompromising. God is her light. The Spirit is her life. The Son is her King, her Hero, her Groom. It is important to understand that this is not a picture of heaven. It is a picture of Christ’s Bride, His church in victory. And while that will certainly apply to Christ’s church in eternity, in heaven, we need to understand the picture is not merely about that. The point is if we want to be part of the Bride, the city of God, the kingdom of Jesus Christ in eternity, we must be part of Her now. No matter what is going on. No matter who lays siege to our city and who sets up the battering rams to our gates, Hang On. Jesus Always Wins! Don’t wait to see which way the wind blows, it will be too late. If you want to be part of the victorious kingdom in eternity, you must be part of it now.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 22.

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Ready for Prison

Today’s reading is Acts 21.

What would you think if you were told when you get to a certain town, you are going to prison? Me too. I’d be heading anywhere but that town. But Paul says, “I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” I want to be there. I’m not sure I am. I have a tendency to think God would never want me to go to prison, or worse die. But Paul was ready for that. That is how important the name of Jesus was to him. Let’s help each other grow to that kind of faith and perseverance.

Monday’s reading is Acts 22.

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