Let’s Not Forget Who’s in Charge

Good and evil are not equal and opposite forces

Let’s Not Forget Who’s in ChargeIn Revelation we read about the dragon and the beast, a great battle, and the tribulation the whole world faces.

Embedded in the middle of this epic tale, we see a curious revelation. John writes that the beast is given power to wage war against God’s people that he created. John says the beast is given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation (Revelation 13:7).

Who gave the beast his power and authority?

God.

If God can grant the beast power and authority over the world and all creation, then that means God is more powerful than the beast and the forces of evil.

Think about this.

Contrary to what many people think, God and Satan do not exist as equal players in the age-old war of good versus evil. God is superior to Satan. God created Satan, albeit for good. Satan, in his pride, rebelled against God and has fought him ever since. You see, the battle isn’t fair. God has the upper hand. Satan functions within the limits God places on him.In the final battle, the victory goes to God. Click To Tweet

That means in the final battle, we already know the winner. The victory goes to God. Satan loses. Big time.

If we’re on God’s team, we’re on the winning side. And for those who follow the enemy, they’ll lose along with him.

God’s in charge. God is more powerful then evil. Let’s not forget that. When we go with God, we go with the winner.

To him be the honor, and the glory, and the power, forever and ever. Amen.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 13, and today’s post is on Revelation 13:7.]

Does Silence Scare You?

We need to learn to worship God in silence, doing nothing but standing in awe of him

Does Silence Scare You?The Book of Revelation is an amazing book. However, I fear that many people miss the point of it. The intent of Revelation isn’t to give us a detailed map of the future. Instead, Revelation provides us with a grand overview of God’s ultimate power and amazing plan for the future, our future.

The goal in reading Revelation isn’t to formulate a timeline, detail the future, or argue about the end times. The grand revelation of Revelation is to comprehend the power, the grandeur, and the glory of God.

So it is with today’s text. John writes that when the angel opens the seventh seal there is silence in heaven for half an hour.

Silence.

Total quiet.

Nothing.

How do you deal with silence? How much silence can you withstand before you go crazy? If you’re like most people, your answer is only a few seconds.

Imagine being in the presence of God. The setting overwhelms. God sits on his throne surrounded by his people and spiritual beings. An angel brakes a seal to open a sacred scroll. Silence fills the space in awe over God’s presence, power, and plan.

The only response is to do nothing, to stand quietly, and to not say a thing. To bask in God’s essence.

Nothing happens for thirty minutes. That’s 1,800 seconds.

Tick, tick, tick. That’s three seconds. Can you stand the silence? Do you feel the pressure to say something or for someone else to break the quiet?

Now wait 1,797 seconds more. That’s a lot of quiet. That’s a quiet that honors God. It’s a quiet that God deserves. It’s one way we can worship God. By sitting in silence, in the presence of his glory, we can worship God. Click To Tweet

No music, no song, and no singing. Just silence. By doing nothing we can worship God. By sitting in silence in the presence of his glory, we honor him.

Does silence scare you? It shouldn’t. When done rightly, it shows God our adoration.

Maybe we should worship God in our silence more often. We can start right now.

 

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 8, and today’s post is on Revelation 8:1.]

Does It Ever Seem Like God Hates You?

What we may perceive as a lack of love may actually be the embodiment of it

Does It Ever Seem Like God Hates You?In the book of Revelation, John shares a grand vision with an epic scope, far reaching and future focused. But before we get to that, God has some first-century messages for seven area churches. Three of these messages appear in the third chapter.

In John’s supernatural dream, amid the seventh message to the seventh church, the one in Laodicea, Jesus says “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent,” (Revelation 3:19, NIV).

We know Jesus and his Father are all about love. They love us. That’s why they made a way for us to hang out with them forever. Love sent Jesus to earth. Love sacrificed him for us. Love ushers us into heaven.

When I think of God’s love, I think of his mercy (not getting the bad things we do deserve) and his grace (getting the good things we don’t deserve). I like grace and mercy.

However, two things I don’t think about when I consider God’s love are rebuke and discipline. Yuck. Yet correction is part of love, too. Parents, discipline their children to keep them safe and healthy and to prepare them for adulthood.

So discipline, from both God and our parents, is a good thing. It’s an act of love.When God disciplines us, it’s because he loves us. Click To Tweet

When God rebukes and disciplines us, it’s because he loves us, not because he hates us, has given up on us, or is ignoring us. Correction is one way he expresses his love to us.

How should we respond to his discipline?

Jesus explains that, too. With all sincerity (earnestness) we need to change our ways (repent).

I think this might be one way we can show God we love him.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 3, and today’s post is on Revelation 3:19.]

Save

Do You Have Life?

Whoever has the Son has life

Do You Have Life?In the first of John’s three letters, he writes to the early followers of Jesus, reminding them of God’s essential message about Jesus, light, and life. Jesus, by the way, is the light and he gives life. So amid John’s poetic flare, his words all revolve around Jesus.

As John winds down his letter, he writes, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” He makes it so simple.

We take this word life to mean eternal life, that is, our future life in heaven.

Yes, it is that. But this future begins today, not later after we die. The life Jesus gives us is physical life, too. And this might be just as important. Really.

Too many Christians plod through this life, placing all their hopes in a future life in heaven. Their exclusive future focus robs them of what God wants to give them today.

We need to make the most of this life that Jesus gives us. Live for him. Love others as he does. Point them to Jesus, the Son of God.Seek Jesus and you will have him. It’s that simple. Click To Tweet

John makes it clear: Whoever has the Son has life.

Do you have the Son?

If so, the life he gives starts here, now.

If not, seek Jesus and you will have him. It’s that simple.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 John 5, and today’s post is on 1 John 5:12.]

Save

What Is Your Path?

When we focus on other people, we may lose sight of our own calling

What Is Your Path?As Jesus wraps up his stint on earth, he spends some time with his disciples, the core group he trained for three years. They will need to carry on without him, and he wants to make sure they’re ready.

First, he must deal with Peter, who, a few days earlier, denied he even knew Jesus. Jesus is gentle but sure. To counter Peter’s three denials, Jesus has his wayward disciple give three affirmations of love. After each one, Jesus tells Peter to “Care for those who follow me.”

Then Jesus tells Peter what his future will entail. It ends with execution. But Jesus tells Peter to follow him, regardless.

Likely squirming and wanting to change the subject, Peter notices John and asks Jesus what the future holds for this disciple, “What are your plans for him?”

Jesus won’t play along. He basically says, “It doesn’t matter. You must do what I told you to do: follow me.”

It’s easy to become distracted by other people: People who seem to have more success, at least by the world’s standards; people who radiate God’s love in a way we fear we never will; or people who pray with a faith that eludes us.God says, “It doesn’t matter what others do, you must follow me." Click To Tweet

Frustrated and discouraged, we may ask God, “What are your plans for them?”

To which God says, “It doesn’t matter what others do, you must follow me.”

Look straight ahead and follow Jesus. We shouldn’t concern ourselves with what others are doing.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is John 21, and today’s post is on John 21:15-22.]

Save

Save

Don’t Fight Against God

Too many people fail to see God at work and instead oppose those who follow him into his new ways

Don’t Fight Against GodJesus warns his followers what awaits them. First, they’ll get kicked out of their church and then people will kill them. Their opponents will do so in the name of religion, thinking they’re acting in service to God. This means the killers aren’t coming from the world but from within the family of God.

Historically this happens whenever a new move of God occurs. The biggest movement of God was Jesus coming to fulfill the Old Testament Law. Most people miss this, and so they oppose him.

There is also Moses who leads the people from slavery to freedom. He gives them instructions on how to live as a free people. They oppose him—for forty years. Though they don’t kill him, they provoke him so much that sometimes he wishes he was dead (Exodus 32:32 and Numbers 11:15).

The Old Testament prophets likewise suffer opposition and death. It seldom goes well for them.

The pattern of religious conflict continues since the time of Jesus. Most notably the Reformation. Christians oppose other Christians. Christians hate other Christians. And Christians kill other Christians. Another momentous time of Christian versus Christian hostility happens at the birth of the Charismatic movement in the early 1900s and again at its rebirth in the 1960s.Instead of arguing, let’s listen. Click To Tweet

Each time God is at work doing a new thing. Each time, many of his people mount a significant opposition. And God’s messengers usually suffer for it.

Don’t label the people who follow God into his new way of doing things as heretics and oppose them. Instead, we would be better off heeding the words of Gamaliel who told the religious leaders, “Don’t bother with them. If they’re doing this on their own, they will fail. But if it’s of God, we can’t stop them—and could end up fighting against God himself,” (see Acts 5:38-39).

Instead of kicking the people we disagree with out of church, we would be better off seeing if God is at work. Instead of arguing, let’s listen.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is John 16, and today’s post is on John 16:2-3.]

Save

Put God First: Don’t Lose Sight of What Matters Most

Too often we place our personal needs over what God is at work doing

Put God First: Don’t Lose Sight of What Matters MostWhen Jesus’s friend Lazarus dies, Jesus goes to were the man is interred and, with a dramatic flair, raises him from the dead. When the people see this miracle of miracles, many believe in Jesus.

Bringing someone back to life is an amazing feat, and surely everyone should be happy. But not everyone is. Do you know who’s upset? The religious leaders, the very people who claim to represent the God who sent Jesus in the first place. But they miss it.

They can’t see God’s hand at work. Or maybe they’re not willing to. All they can think about is themselves. Though under Roman occupation, they still managed to carve out a comfy situation for themselves. And they want to keep it. They enjoy their standing as religious leaders and the admiration of the people. Selfishly, they want to preserve what they have, to maintain the status quo. In their self-centered ambition, they lose sight of the God they portend to serve. They fail to realize that God is present.The religious leaders plot to kill Jesus in order to maintain the status quo. Click To Tweet

These religious leaders fear losing their position, their power, and their prestige. Their solution? Kill Jesus. Yep, they become so focused on protecting their current situation that they plot against their God.

It’s easy to criticize them. Yet this same thing still happens now.

How many religious leaders today have become so focused on preserving their job, maintaining their paycheck, and keeping their followers that they oppose the work of God, things contrary to their faith and what God has called them to do?

It happens too often, and it’s wrong. We must always put God first, even if we might lose something in the process.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is John 11, and today’s post is on John 11:43-53.]

Save

Does Jesus Offend You?

Though many people like an easy Jesus, not everyone accepts what he says

Does Jesus Offend You?Jesus normally teaches the masses in parables. Though most don’t really understand what he means, they like his stories because they’re so countercultural. Plus, he sometimes gives them food and heals them. He’s a cool speaker who does nice things for them. What’s not to like?

Then one day he speaks to them directly. He’s blunt. There’s no compelling story, just some weird message about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. He’s not talking about actual cannibalism; it’s a metaphor—of some sorts. It’s about life and death, sacrifice and reward.

The people grumble. They complain he’s hard to understand and say no one can accept his message. Many of his followers become ex-followers. They reject him and go in search for something else, but the disciples stick around; they’re all in.When things get tough, Jesus’s disciples stick around. They’re all in. Click To Tweet

Yes, the main message of Jesus is easy. He loves everyone and opens his arms to accept us. But sometimes he’s hard to understand, too. Sometimes his message offends people. Their response is to give up on Jesus.

But I’m all in. I hope you are, too.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is John 6, and today’s post is on John 6:53-68.]

Save

John Calls Jesus the Word; Does that Make Him the Word of God?

Considering Jesus as the Word of God shines new light on some verses in the Bible

John Calls Jesus the Word; Does that Make Him the Word of God?The book of John, which is a biography of Jesus, opens with a most poetic passage. It calls Jesus the Word. It confirms Jesus’s presence at creation and that he took part in it. In fact without Jesus creation wouldn’t have happened.

Life came through Jesus. His life gives us light, a light that shines for us in darkness. And, best of all, the light of Jesus overcomes the darkness (John 1:5).

While you may think I’m taking liberties with the text by claiming the Word refers to Jesus, keep reading the passage. Later on John writes that this Word became human and joined us on earth. The Word showed us his glory as the one and only son from Father God (John 1:14).

It’s easy to see from the above passage that Jesus is the Word, life, and light, as well as creator. But what if Jesus is the Word of God?

We commonly think of the word of God as the Bible, but remember that the New Testament of the Bible didn’t exist until several centuries after Jesus’s death and resurrection. In light of this, I prefer to think of the word of God as the spoken word of God, more so than the written word.

But let’s take this one additional step. What if Jesus is more than the Word? What if he’s actually the Word of God?What if Jesus is actually the Word of God? Click To Tweet

This thought isn’t mine alone. John thought it too. In another of his writings he, in fact, calls Jesus the Word of God (Revelation 20:4). Curious.

The Bible contains 39 mentions of the word of God. Though it doesn’t flow smoothly in all cases, as a thought-provoking exercise, let’s reword some of these verses to say Jesus instead of word of God.

Here we go:

  • “You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition” (Matthew 15:6) becomes “You nullify Jesus for the sake of your tradition.”
  • “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God (Luke 8:11) becomes “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is Jesus.”
  • “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28) becomes “Blessed rather are those who hear Jesus and obey him.”
  • “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables” (Acts 6:2) becomes “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of Jesus in order to wait on tables.”
  • “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John” (Acts 8:14) becomes “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted Jesus, they sent Peter and John.”
  • “The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God” (Acts 11:1) becomes “The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received Jesus.
  • “So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God” (Acts 18:11) becomes “So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them Jesus.”
  • “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit” (2 Corinthians 2:17) becomes “Unlike so many, we do not peddle Jesus for profit.”

There are many more interesting examples, but you get the point. Considering Jesus as the word of God and inserting his name into these verses elevates their impact for me. I hope it does for you, too.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is John 1, and today’s post is on John 1:1-5, 14.]

Save

Save

We Need to Have a Spirit of Generosity

Examine our motives when we give

We Need to Have a Spirit of GenerosityPaul writes a succinct reminder to Jesus’s followers in Corinth. By extension it also applies to us. He says “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously,” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Generosity produces blessing, whereas stinginess results in scarcity. In another letter Paul is more concise: we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).

So, we should give.

Why? Because the Bible says to.

How? Give with a willing spirit, not begrudgingly but happily (2 Corinthians 9:7).

What should we avoid? Giving to get. Giving to others in order to earn a return on our investment is not generosity but selfishness. Yes, I know people who have given from their poverty and God repaid them one hundredfold. But the hundredfold blessing seldom came quickly and often involved sacrifice along the way. When we give in order to get, we miss the point. God discerns our motives (Proverbs 16:2). God says that that when we bless others, he will bless us even more. Click To Tweet

Blessed to be a blessing: God promised Father Abraham that he and his descendants would be blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Or consider that “A generous man will prosper,” (Proverbs 11:25).

Full Circle: In the Old Testament God says he will bless us so we can bless others. In the New Testament he says when we bless others, he will bless us even more.

The point is, we need to give generously, but we best do so for the right reasons.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 9, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 9:6.]