The Light of the World and the Light of Heaven

God will shine so brightly that we won’t need the sun to see

The Light of the World and the Light of HeavenAs the epic battle in Revelation continues, just before Babylon—the symbol of all that’s evil—is about to receive her final punishment, an angel comes from heaven.

John writes that this angel has great authority, and his splendor illuminates the earth (Revelation 18:1). I don’t know if this angel’s great authority makes him an archangel or not, but it does make him a very special angel. This may be why he shines so brightly.

Imagine that. An angel who shines bright enough to light up the whole earth. This is not a searchlight that illuminates one spot at a time, but a floodlight that lights up everything.

But this angel isn’t the only one who shines brightly. Later on in Revelation, John writes that in the future, there will be no need to light a lamp or for the sun to shine, because God will be our light, the only light we need to see (Revelation 22:5). In our future home, God’s splendor will shine so brightly that we won’t need the sun. Click To Tweet

Isaiah says the same thing. In the glory of the future city there’s no need for sun or moon to shine, for the brilliance of God will provide all the light we need (Isaiah 60:19). God will be our everlasting light. He will surround us with his splendor.

When we think of an angel lighting up the world by the glory of his authority, that’s an amazing image. I don’t know if he’ll shine as brightly as the sun, but I do know that in our future home, God’s splendor will shine so brightly that we won’t need the sun to be able to see. The light of God will be the only light we need. And that’s more than enough.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Revelation 18, and today’s post is on Revelation 18:1.]

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 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.]

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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.]

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The Bible Informs Our Understanding of God

We get to know God better as we read about him in the Bible

The Bible helps us understand God. Read itIs the Bible a book about God or a book about his crazy people? The answer is yes. In combining these two ideas, we can say the Bible is a book that addresses God’s relationship with his creation. Therefore we can better understand God by reading about how he interacts and deals with people.

The Bible mentions God thousands of times. He appears in every one of its books,  (though his presence in the book of Esther is implied). His being permeates every page of the Bible.

To better understand God, we need to set aside the world’s unbiblical view of him. Humanity has a skewed perception of his character. And often they are just plain wrong. Popular culture is not a good source to learn about God. The Bible is.

Love: The prevailing theme I see in the Bible is love. The Bible shows God’s love of us and looks at how people respond to that love.

God loves us and we can love him in return. That’s what he wants. Though he won’t force us to love him, he does desire us to choose to do so. It’s called free will.

In the Old Testament, we see this love for him borne largely out of a healthy fear. In the New Testament, our love comes from the mercy he offers us through Jesus.God patiently waits for us, scanning the horizon in hopes we will come home to live with him. Click To Tweet

Patient: Though the Bible contains a plethora of themes that reveal much about God, I see patience as a key one. God is patient with us. Like a loving parent, he gives us chance after chance. He wants us to learn and to do what is right. Like the father in Jesus’s parable of the wayward son (the Prodigal), God patiently waits for us, scanning the horizon in hopes we will come home to live with him.

Personal: It’s clear God wants to have a relationship with us, so we can be in community with him. He walked with Adam in the garden. He revealed his being to Moses. He affirmed David’s heart toward him. He talked to Paul. He gave visions to many. He guided people to write about him and then compile these writings into the Bible we enjoy today. And, most importantly, he dispatched Jesus to point us to him and provide a means for us to be with God.

Eternal: The Bible shows God as existing outside of the time-space he created. Though beyond comprehension, he is eternal, with no beginning or ending. And he wants us to join him in that.

Though the Bible reveals much more about God, these four traits are a great start: God loves us and patiently waits for us to have a personal connection with him that will last through the rest of eternity. And that’s good news.

Are You Grafted Unto God’s Family Tree?

God removes branches from his tree and adds others to it

Are You Grafted Unto God’s Family Tree?In Romans 11 Paul talks about graft. Not political graft but the biological kind. In this case, grafting takes a branch from one tree and attaches it to the stock of another tree. When done correctly the added branch will grow into the trunk of the other tree and will thrive.

Farmers often do this to combine the fruit produced by one tree with the hardy stock of another. In this way they get a resilient tree that yields desirable fruit.

Paul uses this type of grafting as an analogy to teach us about God’s kingdom and us.

Think of God and his people as a tree, with him as the root and us as the branches. Some branches of the tree are unworthy, and he breaks them off. But he also takes branches from other trees and grafts them on. The result is a beautiful hodgepodge of different branches all growing on one tree, God’s tree.Think of God and his people as a tree, with him as the root and us as the branches. Click To Tweet

From this Paul makes several points, implicitly about Jews and Gentiles:

  • When people reject Jesus, as some Jews did, God will remove them from his tree.
  • When people on the outside, Gentiles, accept Jesus, God grafts them onto his tree; he unites with them.
  • Just as God grafted Gentile branches onto his tree, even more so can he reattach the Jewish branches he once removed. This is exciting news.
  • Last, just as God removed some Jewish branches from his tree, so too will he remove some Gentile branches if they don’t produce fruit.

This analogy gives us much to ponder. It provides hope for all people. But along with it comes a serious responsibility to not take our standing with God for granted and to make sure we produce fruit.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Romans 11, and today’s post is on Romans 11:16-24.]

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God Deserves Our First, Our Best, and Our Most

How much time we spend on our activities reveals our priorities

God Deserves Our First, Our Best, and Our MostKing David longs to build a temple for God, but God says this is not to be. Another, a descendant of David, will attend to its construction. Instead David must content himself with the temple’s planning and in accumulating its building materials. Then he dies, having never seen the temple he desired to build.

Solomon succeeds his father, David, as king of Israel. Solomon oversees the construction of the temple. A grand edifice, it takes seven years to build, a fitting effort for God’s earthly dwelling and the center of Jewish worship and life.

However, in a telling aside, the Bible indicates that Solomon spends almost twice as much time building his own residence. This seems out of balance: seven years for the house of God and thirteen years for a house for Solomon. What does that say about Solomon’s priorities? The temple is for all the people, as well as for God; the palace is for Solomon. Yes, the palace must be a structure worthy of a king, but spending over a decade on its building may be a bit much, especially given that it consumes almost one third of Solomon’s forty-year reign.We must truly make God our priority. Click To Tweet

Yet I wonder how often we effectively do the same thing, placing greater emphasis on the things we do for ourselves than the things we do for God, the time we spend with him, and the offerings we give. We need to not only put him first, but he also deserves our best and our most. I fear we too often fall short in those areas.

We must truly make God our priority.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Kings 5-7, and today’s post is on 1 Kings 6:38-7:1.]

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Why I Love God But Hate Theology

God wants us to know him and be in a relationship, not to study him or try to explain him

Why I Love God But Hate TheologyWhen people learn of my deep interest in studying the Bible and my passion for God, they often ask me a theological question. I groan when they do. While a few may have a genuine interest in knowing my answer, for most their query is a test of sorts to see if my views align with theirs. If we agree, they accept me; if we disagree, they dismiss me.

Regardless of the question, it usually involves a big theological word or two, a label so they can more easily judge my philosophical perspective and ascertain whether we are kindred believers. It doesn’t matter if I know the meaning of their five-syllable abstraction or not, I usually shrug and say, “I don’t care” or “it doesn’t matter.”

I need a better response because this irritates people. They assume I’m being dismissive. But I’m not; I’m serious. Totally.

At its most basic level, theology is the study of God. I love God, but the idea of turning him into an academic construct with philosophical underpinnings sickens me. I refuse to go there.

I don’t think God wants me to study him; I think he wants me to know him. There’s a difference. I see no value in being able to articulate a systematic theology because God desires a relationship, not a dissertation.

Think of a significant person in your life. For me, that would be my wife. What if I told her, “I’m going to devote the rest of my life to studying you from afar, and then I’ll write a book explaining you in highly philosophical terms to everyone else?” Would that win her heart?

No. She wants me to spend time with her. She desires me to know her. To attempt to turn our relationship into a theoretical abstraction dishonors her – and would make her mad. Rightly so.God doesn’t want me to study him; he wants me to know him. Click To Tweet

The same is true with God. He wants me to spend time with him. He wants me to know him, not on an intellectual basis but on a personal one. To truly know him means to experience him in relationship, not as an academic pursuit.

As I read the Bible and write about the Bible, it’s not to add to the towering mountain of theology about God, it’s so that I can spend time with him and know him through relationship. Anything else dishonors him, and likely makes him mad.

Just as my wife is a mystery I will never fully understand, so is God. And it’s a wonderful thing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Jeremiah Teaches Us About the Lament

Sometimes our laments blame God for our pain, when we are the source of our troubles

Jeremiah Teaches Us About the LamentA lament is an expression of grief, sorrow, pain, regret, despair…you get the picture. Lament occurs when life overwhelms our hearts and steals our tomorrows. Many of the Psalms are laments. Though lamenting is biblical, our church services seldom includes the lament. We need to understand the lament and reclaim it.

Jeremiah’s short book of Lamentations contains six laments. Those who don’t identify with the lament breeze past them or even skip this book. For others these six dirges touch at a heart level and express an unfathomable angst in their souls.

Look at the strong themes of hopelessness in just one verse, Lamentations 1:20:

Distress: We feel anxiety and strain; we suffer in our situation.

Torment: We are harassed; we experience physical pain or mental anguish.

Brokenhearted: We are desolate; we grieve over loss.

Violence: The threat of physical force surrounds us.

Death: The end of life confronts us.

While the source of lament may spring from external sources, it can also result from our own choices. In this particular case, the cause for lament is self-inflicted. It is rebellion. Though the author, Jeremiah, carries this weight on his shoulders, his words serve to reflect the plight of the nation. The entire populace laments, but they are the cause: they rebelled against God.Don’t criticize God if your rebellious spirit is at fault. Click To Tweet.

Sometimes our own actions take us down a wrong path, one where the likely outcome is distress, torment, broken heartedness, violence, and death. We cry out to God in the midst of this, but he is not at fault; our rebellious spirit is the cause.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Lamentations 1-3, and today’s post is on Lamentations 1:20.]

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Does God Ever Change?

The God of the Old Testament seems different than in the New

The book of Hebrews says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). And since Jesus is God (John 1:1), doesn’t that mean the God never changes? That’s what I’ve been taught. That’s what this verse in Hebrews seems to say.

Yet as I read my Bible the God in the Old Testament comes across as a God of judgement while the God in the New Testament is all about grace. We fear Old Testament God and love New Testament God. Perhaps fear and love are opposite sides of the same coin. Yes, we do see God’s love in the midst of Old Testament fear and have reason to fear God among his New Testament love, yet neither is the prevailing thought.

But I see even more differences than just Old Testament versus New Testament archetypes of God.

Does God Ever Change?In the Garden of Eden God walks with Adam and Eve; they enjoy community with each other. Then Adam and Eve sin: banishment, judgement, separation; God is distant. The God of Abraham and Job seems hard to understand, yet emerges as patient despite his clear sovereignty. To Moses God shows relationship, power, and a grand plan. In the era of Judges God seems mostly uninvolved as his people flounder. After they demand a king, much to God’s dismay, he actually seems more present, more involved in the United Kingdom under the rules of Saul, David, and Solomon. Next is the time of the prophets: warnings, short-term repentance, and eventual judgement; God offers much patience before exacting his punishment. And if we read the Apocrypha we see God as involved but ethereal – compelling, yet a bit aloof.

In the New Testament we see God as love through Jesus in the Gospels. Then we see God as power through the Holy Spirit in Acts through Revelations.

Depending on which section of the Bible I’m reading, God seems different, like he’s evolving over time. Of course I like the New Testament manifestations better and see Holy Spirit power as the most relevant understanding of God for our world and the church today.

Yet the Bible says God doesn’t change; he is the same. I think that’s right: God doesn’t change, but how he relates to us does.

How do you perceive God? What characteristic of God do you like best? The Bible says God doesn’t change, but how he relates to us seems to evolve over time. Click To Tweet