What Was God Thinking?

Today’s reading is Luke 2.

If God wanted to make a splash, He sure went about it an odd way. It’s almost like He was doing everything He could to turn people off from Jesus. Jesus comes from a poor family living in a backwoods town of a backwoods nation. Not only that, but everyone who knew anything about the family would think Jesus was an illegitimate child. I know that term is out of favor in our day and age, but that is exactly how those around Jesus would have viewed it. The birth is first announced to shepherds. Really? Of all people, not the Jewish Council, not magistrates, not officials, but shepherds? Why would God start this way? Perhaps for the same reason He whittled Gideon’s army down to 300 (Judges 7). When this story is done and it is successful, it leaves everyone knowing one thing. God must be behind this. And that really is where we are, isn’t it? We live in a world whose largest religion follows the Man described above. He not only came to popularity, but He claimed to be divine and was then killed. Did that end His popularity and His following? Nope. It only increased it. Everyone else, throughout all history, who claimed to be divine lost their following when they died. But not Jesus. That is amazing. How could this happen? Only if God is real and really behind it. Hang on to Jesus today. I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Next week’s reading is Luke 3.

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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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The White Horse Rider Returns

Today’s reading is Revelation 19.

Do you remember the rider on the white horse from Revelation 6:1-2? He’s back. And this time, we absolutely know who He is. He’s actually been riding throughout the book, but it is not until this last cycle we see His ultimate victory. He went out conquering and to conquer, but what happened next was shocking. Instead of immediate conquest and ensuing peace, the enemies seemed to be conquering. No doubt, we’ve read the cycle multiple times. We know Jesus always wins no matter how it looks in the moment. However, with each cycle, we got a fuller and deeper picture. Now, he circles back and brings complete closure and demonstrates full victory. He went forth conquering and to conquer, and now we see it truly happening. But not only do we see Him, we see the armies in fine linen, white and pure. Do you remember who was given the white garments in the fifth seal in Revelation 6:11? Those martyrs are part of the conquering army now. God had told them to wait. The waiting is done. Victory has come. In Christ’s kingdom even death doesn’t signal defeat. It is merely a rest stop on the way to victory. Praise the Lord! Over and over and over again, the message is found: Jesus Always Wins!

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 20.

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Repent and Give God the Glory

Today’s reading is Revelation 16.

Of course, there are some differences, but don’t these bowls of wrath sound familiar? Painful sores, darkness, water turned to blood, hail. Obviously, the Holy Spirit is again calling to mind the plagues of God on Egypt. Further, He is calling to mind Pharaoh’s own hardness of heart that refused to repent and give glory to God. However, notice right in the middle of this the interjection, “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” Does that sound familiar to you? It should. It is a mixture of what Jesus said to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:2-3 and to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:18. Smack in the middle of all this judgment coming on the Bride’s enemies, there is a reminder that these messages are for us, the Bride, the church, as well. This is not simply an issue of insiders and outsiders. This is not just an issue of having gone through some entrance requirements, having our name on the role, paying our weekly dues, and now it doesn’t matter how we live. We who make up the Bride are to stand against the enemy as much as God is to judge the enemy. How often do Christians end up turning their back on the Lord because of hardship instead of repenting and giving glory to God. Remember, no matter what, God is the Savior. He is the Lord. He is the deliverer. Even when it looks like He is going to lose, even when we can’t understand why He is behaving as He is, He deserves glory. Whether you are in the church or without, let God’s disciplines accomplish their goal. Do not curse God and die, rather surrender to God and give Him the glory. I promise you, in the end, you’ll be glad you did.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 17.

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The Monster

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.

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The Hero Rides Forth

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.

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The Hero

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.

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