The River of Life

Today’s reading is Revelation 22.

John’s story telling expands even more. We’ve had the repeated cycles in the book. Further, we’ve seen how as he ended his story, he went back to pick up themes he used at the beginning of the book. Now, here at the end of our entire Bibles (can that be a coincidence), John goes all the way back to the beginning of the whole story. What we are witnessing is the restoration of the Garden, but it is a new and improved Garden. It is not just a tree of life, but a river of life surrounded by life-giving trees. There is no night because God is it’s light. And the inhabitants reign forever and ever without fall or failure. WOW! No doubt the ultimate fulfillment of this picture is in eternity where Christ’s church finds its ultimate victory. However, don’t miss the point John is making for his readers in their particular predicament. He is pointing out that this imagery is not merely the church in eternity. This imagery is Christ’s church at all times. Christ’s church, Christ’s bride is this garden city. As the Garden was God’s first sanctuary, His first dwelling place with man, the church is God’s final resting place with man. Whether on earth or ultimately around His throne in heaven, Christ’s church is His temple, His dwelling place, His city, His kingdom, His Bride. And here is the kicker. If you want to be part of the Bride, the city, the kingdom in eternity, you have to be part of it now. The Spirit and the Bride say come. Come now. Come drink from the fountain of living waters that flows from God’s throne, by Christ’s cross, through the Heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, the church. And never leave this refreshing stream. I understand, in its present form, we don’t always see it as this image at the end of Revelation. But this is what it is and, in time, it will be vindicated and demonstrated as such. So, get in now and stay there.

Next week’s reading is Luke 1.

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Why Water to Wine?

Today’s reading is John 2.

Why on earth does John give such primacy to such a seemingly minimal miracle? Why does he treat the water to wine as if it is the first miracle Jesus ever did (though what he actually says is that it was the first in Cana of Galilee)? You would think John would want to pick something more public, something more amazing, something more phenomenal. Almost nobody even knew this miracle took place. So why does John even tell us about it? He doesn’t tell us about it to teach us something about drinking intoxicants. (Honestly, I have a hard time believing Jesus was at a drinking party full of drunk people to whom he gave more intoxicating alcohol.) He doesn’t tell us about this miracle in order to place a stamp of approval on marriage. (As if we needed another stamp of approval other than the one God gave in the beginning.) Nope. This miracle is all about Moses. Rather, it is all about demonstrating Jesus is greater than Moses. What was the first plague/sign God gave through Moses to all of Egypt and Israel? Water turned to blood. As amazing as that was, it was a sign that produced death and misery. Jesus, on the other hand, provides something drinkable and life-sustaining. Jesus is like Moses. But Jesus is not just like Moses, Jesus is greater than Moses. Moses delivered Israel from the bondage of Egypt. Jesus delivers all who believe from the bondage of sin and death. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is John 3.

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It Costs Too Much for the Rich

Today’s reading is Matthew 19.

The rich man asked, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” He was, after all, rich. Good deeds were easy for him in his privileged state. Just name it. “Do you want me to give alms to that guy over there? Do you want me to finance the building of a synagogue? Do you want me to make a donation to Your ministry, Jesus? If it will secure eternal life for me, tell me, and I’ll do it.” The rich man thought his riches would make getting eternal life easier for him, but they didn’t. They made it harder. Why? Because the rich, like the strong, the powerful, the wise, the industrious, the gifted, believe there is something they can do to secure eternal life. They believe they will spend some money, perform some feat, achieve some accomplishment that will secure salvation. The problem is eternal life, while free, costs everything. The admission price to eternal life is admission that I can’t afford the price for eternal life. For many, that admission simply costs too much. Jesus tells the rich man, “This thing you think you can offer to pay for your eternal life, you need to get rid of it, and instead follow Me.” Is there something you keep trying to offer to God as payment for eternal life? Realize that by that approach, the cost is too high for you. Count it as loss. Lay it at the cross. Follow Jesus. He is the only one that can afford the price. He has already paid it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 20.

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Lips and Heart

Today’s reading is Matthew 15.

I’m reading a book right now on what the author has labeled “Cultural Christianity.” It’s all about people who claim to be Christian, but its not because of real conviction. It’s because of culture. Today’s reading couldn’t hit on that topic any better. Isn’t that what is happening when people honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far away? Of course, Jesus was talking to Jews, but the same problem can happen among “Christians.” It’s easy to have Jesus on the lips. It is an entirely different matter to have Jesus in the heart. It’s easy to know how to answer the questions with a Bible verse. It is an entirely different matter to apply the Bible verse answers to daily life. A culture of Christianity includes church attendance, it includes prayers in Jesus’s name, it includes Bible verse plaques on the wall, it includes marking “Christian” on the latest census. A conviction of Christianity includes Jesus in the heart, it includes Jesus in every decision, it includes doing the next thing to get closer to Jesus, it includes a life completely changed because God has made Jesus whom we crucified to be Savior, Lord, and King. If Jesus is in our hearts, He will be on our lips. If we are convicted, we will also have the culture. But just because we have the culture and just because He is on our lips, doesn’t mean we are near to God. Let’s keep the cart behind the horse. Let’s get near to God. The rest will take care of itself.

Monday’s reading is Matthew 16.

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If They Kill Us, So What?

Today’s reading is Matthew 10.

I sometimes have the idea that if I share the gospel at just the right time in just the right way, everyone will accept it. However, if anyone knew exactly the right time and exactly the right way, surely it was Jesus. And look what happened to Him. They killed Him. However, when they killed Him, He was resurrected. Certainly, the pain Jesus went through was no picnic, but ultimately, He had nothing to fear from those who executed Him. In like manner, if those who killed Him decided to kill us, so what? All they are accomplishing is ushering us into the very presence of our Savior and King Jesus Christ. We have nothing to fear and nothing worthwhile to lose. Let’s share the gospel in the light and on the rooftops. Let’s expose what Jesus has said and taught and done. Let’s be unashamed and unafraid. And if they kill us, so what?!

Monday’s reading is Matthew 11.

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Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 5.

Paul may have been speaking specifically of himself and his travelling companions or the apostles, but I love that ambassador imagery. Really, this is exactly what anyone who shares the gospel with someone is. We are ambassadors. When we proclaim the gospel, God is making His appeal through us. What a powerful picture. What else can we do that is so clearly in communion with God and His work than to unashamedly let people know about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the forgiveness that comes by His grace, the strength and victory that come by His Spirit? Our congregation is Christ’s embassy and we are His ambassadors. God is just chomping at the bit to make His appeal through us. Let’s give Him that opportunity today.

Tomorrow’s reading is 2 Corinthians 6.

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Our Labor is Useful

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 15.

We are in the Lord. The Lord is saving us. The Lord is giving us victory. Do you know what that means? That means our labor is useful. That means our work matters. For some reason, some people have the idea that being saved by grace means what we do doesn’t matter. Not true. Being saved by grace is the only thing that makes our work matter. Because the Lord is working, my work matters. If He weren’t working, my work wouldn’t matter at all. If I am not working, then the Lord’s work is vain. But as Paul says, God’s grace was not vain toward him because he worked. And as he also said, because the Lord is giving us victory, our work in Him is not in vain. Today, let’s get to work in the Lord. That will not be in vain.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 16.

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