Friday, May 29, 2009

Song of Deliverance

music And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."

Revelation 15:3-4

This is a song unique to all those who have conquered the beast that had risen against God and persecuted His people. They sing the song of Moses (the first great leader who knew what it meant for God to save His people) and the song of the Lamb (the great King of the nations Who is our deliverer). They rejoice in God’s great deliverance.

Of course, in order to be around God’s throne in this worship service, one cannot be on earth any longer. These delivered saints have died for their faithfulness to the Lamb of God. But that is not even a consideration for them. They just go on rejoicing in God’s goodness. All the cares and pains of their persecution on earth are quickly forgotten in the joy of the worship of God.

They praise God for His deeds, amazed to be with Him. They praise God for His just dealings and truth. They extol Him for His pre-eminence among the nations. The worship Him for His holiness. They call the nations to worship Him in His revelation of Who He is. This is pure recognition of the greatness of the God that all His people know, love, and serve.

My takeaway from this passage is simple: praise should come from my pains. That is what happened with these former suffering saints who have been relieved of their pains in the presence of God. They see heaven and the presence of God as the great deliverance that it is, because their viewpoint is not limited to earthly life. And I should view my life, and my difficulties, from this eternal perspective.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pump up the volume!

waterfall And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders.

Revelation 14:2-3a

The next time I hear someone complaining about the volume of the sound system in a worship service, I want to point them to the passage. John said the worship in heaven was loud. The voice from the heavenly throng was like the roar of a waterfall. Ever heard that watery roar? I have. I have experienced it from both sides. Alberta Falls is a small fall in Rocky Mountain National Park. And it is loud when you get to it. In fact, one of my great anticipations when hiking is to begin hearing it a few hundred yards away on the trail. It quickens my pace. And if you know what you are doing, you can climb behind it and sit on a wet ledge with the cold falls all around you. You can’t begin to describe the loudness. You can shout to the person next to you and they will not hear. But the volume is impressive.

This is the volume of the voice that accompanies the “new song” of worship in this passage. It is loud. It is also musical, described as the sound of harpists playing on their harps. I hear something symphonic in this description. Multiple stringed instruments and a loud volume all accompanying a new song coming before the throne of God. He seems to be OK with volume. In fact, it seems to surround His throne.

Why is it that my easiest temptation is soft Christianity? I keep it low-key. Not so much in public worship, but in personal practice. If heaven is a place of unbelievable volume and harmony, what should my life sound like and look like if it has been touched and changed and controlled by a magnificent God? I probably ought to make a little noise!

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

God’s Sovereignty in the book of Revelation


Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

Revelation 13:7-8

It is clear from John’s visions in this book that God is in control. We know this from the fact that God would let John record in “the words of the prophecy of this book” the visionary details concerning the future. We also know this from the way in which the leaders of a worldwide resistance against God are described. In the case of the first beast mentioned in chapter 13, it’s blasphemies and persecutions are “allowed” by God. He takes ultimate responsibility for the sovereign control of even the outcome of this rebellion against Him. Nothing takes God by surprise.

The first beast leads the world in blasphemy and idolatry, receiving worship from all those who have not turned to Christ. But God will ultimately conquer those who have rejected Him. Even as they are described, it is in terms of their elect status. Some have been written in the Lamb’s book of life. Others have not. But all made a free choice to obey either God or the beast.

The doctrines of sovereignty and free will are never in conflict. I really am disappointed by those who want to treat them that way. It is clear that man’s free will is a reality for all of us. as is God’s absolute sovereignty. And in these future descriptions, we see one way of seeing them free of the tensions we tend to assign them. The beast rages against God, but not outside His controlling power. The people worship Him, but not those who have been written in the Lamb’s book. God is in control, even when the world is at the worst it will EVER be!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Who wins the spiritual battle?

devil mask

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!"

Revelation 12:10-12

There is no doubt that we are involved in a conflict much greater than ourselves. That is one of the lessons of the book of Revelation. We get a glimpse into the spiritual world and the activity there that so drastically effects the lives of human beings.This passage shows us the spiritual battle that leads to the final conflict God has with those who will not turn to Him. And it is summed up in a struggle with Satan.

We don’t have to look for the bizarre manifestations of Neil Anderson’s version of spiritual warfare. Satan goes after the nation of Israel in this passage. When he cannot succeed against them because of God’s protective care, he goes after the Christian believers. He is at war with the people that God has made His own. And He will work non-stop against them because he is against God.

But the passage says something interesting. The saints in heaven are rejoicing at Satan’s fall to earth because the saints have ALREADY conquered the devil through the blood of the Lamb. Satan cannot win. He has already lost. That is the perspective of the saints in heaven that helps us on earth. He is conquered. He is a defeated foe. Satan has no chance at all of winning. He will fight, but He is a loser. Why should we worry ourselves with a beaten foe? That is how we handle spiritual challenges. We remind Satan that he has already lost in the blood of Jesus. And thus ends the conflict.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Seventh Trumpet


Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever."

Revelation 11:15

Again, the uninterrupted worship service in heaven keeps moving forward as events on the earth become more and more dramatically difficult. God is being worshiped even as humanity is rebelling against His judgments. At this point the worship has reached a climactic crescendo. It affirms God’s sovereign rule over the world of humanity.

As heaven worships, the text in Revelation 11:17-18 goes on to point out four aspects of God’s sovereign rule that are worth reflecting upon.

1)  The nations of the earth rage sinfully, but God still displays a righteous wrath that is meant to be corrective and reflective.

2)  The time for the dead to be judged is coming. No one will escape this scrutiny.

3)  God’s servants from the ages will be rewarded. Final vindication is coming.

4)  Those who have been complicit in the destruction of lives on earth through selfish disobedience will themselves by destroyed. God will “destroy the destroyers”.

Of course those are not idyllic reflections. They aren’t inspirational in the “pretty picture” sense of the world. But they are true and they are just as much a part of our future as heaven and eternal joy are a part of our future. God is worthy to be worshiped in judgment just as He is in grace and mercy BECAUSE His judgments are always fair, holy, and right.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Burden of Prophecy.


And I was told, "You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings."

Revelation 10:11

When John is again instructed to write down words of prophecy, it is after an event is recorded in which specifically “seals up” some of the detail so that it might not be known. God does the revealing in the book of Revelation. He chooses when it is best to say it as well. And John learns this at this time.

When God sets John free to record again, there is this symbolic moment where an angel instructs him to eat a scroll (yum… fiber). In his mouth it is sweet as honey, but once it hits his stomach, it turns bitter. A little divine nausea comes with the preaching of God’s Word. This is the picture of the burden of prophecy.

Carrying God’s truth and proclaiming it are instantaneously sweet experiences and also painful realities. It is both dessert and indigestion, all at the same time! I have felt this sort of feeling at times with a Sunday message that I knew was particularly needed, but also hit me square between the eyes. And I think, that as John prepares to “again prophesy”, that feeling has hit him in the pit of his gut. And only the faithful reporting of God’s Word will relieve his condition.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009



The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Revelation 9:20-21

This may be one of the saddest verses in the Bible. As God continues His relentless revelation through judgment, the human race continues on its course against Him. Even as the very demons of Hell torture humanity, the people of the earth will not turn away from the worship of demons nor will they see that their worshiping hearts have been worshiping the wrong things. They refuse to take moral responsibility either.

There is a strength in disobedience that staggers the imagination. As I read a passage like this, I am amazed at how people can willfully continue in sin. Until I look deeply at my own heart. And I know that sin is a cruel master. And although I am now under “new management” in Christ, I find that sin can still be deceptive and my sinful choices can want to circumvent God’s truth. Self-deception is common in my own sinful struggles. So in that understanding, this continuance in a logically defeating religion is expected human behavior. We love sin too much.

The difference in the book of Revelation is that God is moving much more overtly. There is greater light. And His “witnesses” are on the earth as well, as well as those who bear His mark. So the world is not entirely Hell on earth during this time. Humanity may be characterized by open rebellion and unwillingness to turn from sin, but some have done so. There is a remnant, and a strong one, even during the scorching judgments of Revelation. So unbelief and lack of repentance do not ultimately go unchecked. It is sad to see them so flagrant. But God will continue to get the attention of rebel hearts, even if they refuse Him.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

The Prayers of the Saints.

incense And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

Revelation 8:3-4

This chapter marks a turn in the book of Revelation. The imagery is filled with judgment and terror on the earth. It is part of what makes the book and its apocalyptic descriptions so hard to understand. But this little passage makes it clear that one of the reasons these judgments come to the earth has to do with the treatment of God’s people. The study notes in the ESV Study Bible provide a concise description of this:

As incense was associated with the prayers of the saints in the earthly sanctuary (see Ps. 141:2; Luke 1:9–11), so it is in John's visions (see Rev. 5:8). Not only martyrs under the heavenly altar (6:9–10) but also suffering saints on earth cry out for justice. Therefore fire from the altar, from which the saints' prayers rise, will be flung to earth in judgment, indicating that the judgments to follow answer the prayers of the saints.

Part of the reason that Revelation contains such stern and difficult descriptions is that God has prepared His Day for all judgment to be rendered. The saint’s have been offering prayer for deliverance and justice throughout the ages, and I believe that it is the events of this book that show God’s answers in their fullest.

When I pray for justice now, and if God chooses to withhold it until this future time, I can only know that I can see the clear answers coming in the biblical text. Patience is part of the character of God. Even during this time of intense tribulation, He will have His witnesses on the Because He has revealed His future plans to us in His Word, we can pray confidently for His will to be done, even in our worst circumstances, and our prayers surround His altar like fine incense.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Big Picture: why I should do what I do.


After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"

Revelation 7:9-10

Companies have their visions statements and their mission statements. Sometime in the late eighties that became an overt corporate practice. And it is not a bad thing. But Wall Street was just catching up with the church in that practice. When I read scripture there are clarifying portions that show me clearly why it is I serve as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This passage is one of them.

The scene of worship of God in heaven by an innumerably diverse crowd of human beings from every ethnic group imaginable is quite stirring. It is the ultimate worship service. And their worship is significant. They cry out with palm branches in hand (a symbol of Jesus’ triumph as Messiah and Deliverer) in appreciation and recognition of God as the sole provider of salvation in Jesus. This crowd knows they are there because of the work of Christ. And they worship wholeheartedly.

This scene keeps me going. It is why when I have opportunity, I will share the gospel with anyone who may not understand their need of Christ. It is why I will work among redeemed sinners who do not always act like the saints they are supposed to be. Yes, church work has its ugly side as well. I am OFTEN judged, misunderstood, spoken down to, even dismissed by Christians… some of them in my own church. I would expect that from outside the church. It is difficult to take inside the walls. But it is worth it to know that at some point, I will not feel the slights and we will ALL stand together affirming what we have known all along: Jesus is Lord and Savior. That is what matters the most. We will be thoroughly satisfied with that worship.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Irrational Idolatry & The wrath of the Lamb

rockslide Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains,
calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"

Revelation 6:15-17

This vision describes a very different planet of people, and a very different response of Jesus to them than what I know today. Part of me wonders if the spiritual climate of the western world right now would even want to hide from God’s wrath. Would they even care that Jesus was judge?

What interests me in this passage is the idolatry of the peoples of the earth who are aware of the wrath of the Lamb. It is a naturalism that is an idolatry. They cry out to mountains and rocks to kill them. They would rather die by their idols than from the truth of the fact that Jesus is the Judge to Whom they must answer. They hope to be buried by an avalanche and somehow to miss being part of the wrath of the Lamb. They know He is invincible (“the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”) yet they refuse to yield. Their idolatry is strong and irrational.

Even to the very end,  blind naturalism will refuse to bow. It would seem that Jesus “telegraphs” His role as Judge enough that the people of earth are well aware of what is going on. They have survived unification in empire, war, famine, disease and natural catastrophes. And yet they wish for one more global upheaval in order to keep themselves from accountability before God. They know they will answer to God at this point. Trial has reduced them down to that clear understanding. But sinful rebellion remains enough for those in that day to turn to the senseless commitments of the idolatry of pure naturalism. These men pray to rocks and geographic formations, while acknowledging the anger of God against them. Incredible. Sin truly deceives… right to the very end.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

So is this the spark of life?

Read this story at wired:

Now notice several key considerations:
1) This had to happen under really controlled laboratory conditions.
2) It involved "intelligent" manipulation of the process. It really was not random like evolution would demand.
3) The repeated speculatory language: "probably", "might have", "theorize".

This is nowhere near creating or discovering an origin of life. It is the creation of RNA using its precursory chemicals. We had to know what they were and then we had to play with the process to see RNA synthesize. This is no different than growing a crystal under the right conditions, or for that matter, mixing together any other chemical compound. It is just more complicated. If this is a true "origin", then it should be observable, say in the Mojave desert, or a current climate here on earth, maybe in a volcanic area, mineral deposits, etc. I wonder how many serious media outlets will point these things out...

The language of heaven.

cloud Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" Revelation 5:11-12

I have made a commitment with my reading of the book of Revelation to pause and observe the worship. It seems that at every action around the throne of God, there is this spontaneous worship service in action. When Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, comes forward to receive the scroll and open it, the multitude of angels erupts in magnificent song again! It is as if they cannot help it. To be around God’s presence is to actively praise Him.

Praise seems to be the very atmosphere around God’s throne. It is the language and culture of heaven. And it is not self-centered. Many of our attempts at worship focus on what we get from God. And thankfulness is important. But this worship, in its pure praise, is focused again on Who God is and what He does in the universe. The Lamb is worthy for He is slain. And He receives all that should be valuable to us.

The chorus of their worship song offers Jesus seven commitments of praise (perhaps in keeping with the seven-fold descriptions of the Lamb as having seven horns and seven eyes in Rev 5:6). He is worthy to receive power. He has the power to save and to judge. He is worthy to receive wealth, for He controls all things. He is worthy to receive wisdom, for He is the wisdom of God. He is worthy to receive might, for He is the Mighty God and the Prince of Peace. He is worthy to receive honor, for He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is worthy to receive glory, for He has won the ultimate victory over death and sin. He is worthy of blessing, for He is the One in Whom the Father is well-pleased.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Another worship song


…the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

Revelation 4:10-11

Revelation is full of these scenes of worship, and they are well worth stopping to linger on their significance. This chapter is a vision of the throne of God. John witnesses the throne and sees it surrounded by 24 “elders” and 4 “living creatures”. The elders appear to be human and the creatures appear to be covering angels. The angels worship the Holy God Who always is. It is the elders’ worship that is most fascinating.

The elders have smaller thrones of their own right, and they quickly desert them, throw their crowns down before God’s own throne and worship God. There song is one that acknowledges the worth of God. In in they pledge three things and exclaim why God is worth the pledge of these three things.

The song pledges to God glory. They cannot add to the glory that is already His. But they can acknowledge that the glory the human heart might hold for itself, or for some other thing greater than a man, is fully due to God. The second pledge is honor. We honor what we admire as great. And God alone deserves true honor and respect. And keep in mind, the description of the elders makes it clear they are great people, honored by God with their position before His throne. And they give all honor to God. The final pledge is the pledge of power. Again, we cannot add to the Almighty in terms of power. But we can offer to Him whatever resources and power are ours for His service. He deserves what energy, all energy, that we have to serve Him.

The reason these 24 elders pledge these things has to do with God’s supremacy. And it is seen in the first thing we learn about God in the Bible: He created all things. He deserves recognition from all men. He is the source of all things. And His will brought everything, the entire universe, into existence. That is a crucial thought. It is why insidious naturalism and scientism are not to be ends in and of themselves. We cannot let our appreciation of the understanding of the universe become greater than the mind that created it! That is why acknowledging that by the will of God everything exists is one of the strongest statements of worship. Those closest to God around His throne are thrilled to acknowledge His Intelligent Design, and to worship their Creator!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Neither cold nor hot.

starbucks1 I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:15-16

Jesus wants me to do something! The worst temptations are the temptations to be lukewarm. Those are the ways in which Jesus’ name is buried in lackluster performance. I used to think that the way this message should be understood was in an absolute sense of cold or hot. In other words, we grow cold, that is bad. We are hot – we are on fire for the Lord! But that does not seem to be the point of Jesus’ words.

Cold beverages are refreshing. An ice cold cup of water on a hot day is the best refresher. Or for a treat, how about a glass of iced tea, or a icey Coca-Cola? That is refreshing and a joy to the palate at the same time. And hot drinks have their place. In fact, as I work away at this meditation, I am sipping on a hot cup of coffee and it helps the thoughts flow. Both hot and cold are what we want in a beverage. Both are acceptable.

But a lukewarm cup of java? Eeeewwww! Or a room temperature glass of water? Barely able to swallow it. Jesus won’t even try when that is the spiritual condition of His people. We give Him the gag reflex! That is why He spits us out when we are lukewarm. I don’t think the message has anything to do with our eternal standing. It has to do with His opinion of us. And we are just a big spit take if we aren’t going somewhere with our faith. Our works should refresh or invigorate the body of Christ. It is that simple.


I have the capacity for cold or hot today. But save me from mediocre lukewarm stagnation! I don’t want to be sitting at room temperature with my faith. Amen.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The only evaluation that matters


I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.
Revelation 2:19

The inescapable reality of the first few chapters of Revelation are the Jesus calls His people to account for their activity. And the individual churches are examined by Him. He comments on what is good. He chastises them for their respectable sins. He promises them what is good for a repentance and renewal.

Jesus knows my church. I wonder what He might say about us? Are our works characterized by love, faith, service, and patient endurance? I could easily pick on the evangelical church as reflected in its various leadership movements. But that is not what Jesus did in this context. He walked congregation by congregation through the individual churches of Asia Minor and made His assessments. I have to think He does the same today.

I find an interesting analysis in the ESV Study Bible that might serve as a pattern for evaluating my own congregation:

7 church chart

So what does this all mean? I think the big issue is to brace for what He will say. And know that with repentance comes forgiveness, new grace, and the chance to honor Christ.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The King is Coming


To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood  and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
Revelation 1:5b-7

Following on the heels of my recent time in Matthew, this passage just seems to fit right in. The last words I heard from Jesus were the Great Commission and the promise that He would be with His people to "the end of the age". And now, as the words of the prophecy of the book of Revelation ring out to describe a vision of "the end of the age", this prayer addressed to Jesus has incredible significance. In it, we see who Jesus is, what He did, what He deserves, and what He will do.

First, who Jesus is. Jesus is the love of God for us. He loved us through His ministry and through His sacrifice. He freed us from our sins by His blood as the sacrifice acceptable to the Father. He is our atonement.

Secondly, what Jesus did is tied to all this. He freed us. We were in bondage to sin's guilt and He set us free. We were liberated by Him. And He did not just turn us loose as former slaves to a new free pauper status. He made us His kingdom. We became the place where He ruled. We are His domain. And He made us priests. By representing the gospel to men, we are acting on His behalf. By offering our lives in His service, we are offering sacrifices to God pleasing to Him.

Thirdly, this prayer confirms what Jesus deserves from us. He has earned dominion forever. God has highly exalted. God the Father has given Him the name above every other name. It is at Jesus name that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. He rules His kingdom forever.

And finally, in true form to the bulk of the book of Revelation, we get a glimpse at what Jesus will do. He is coming with the clouds. This will be global phenomenon. Every eye will see Him. Even those who pierced Him (which technically are the sinners of all the ages) will know He is coming. And not a people group on earth will miss it. Every tribe will be troubled by His return as judge. He is awesome as Savior, as King, and as Judge.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fear & Joy & Worship


So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.
Matthew 28:8-9

There were three clear emotional responses to the news of Jesus' resurrection that swept through the first people to hear the news. These two women were privileged to find out first that Jesus had indeed conquered death. And there immediate response after being told by the angel that Jesus is risen and that His disciples should meet Him in Galilee was to run with the news to the disciples. And the driving feelings were adrenaline filled! They were filled simultaneously with the conflicting feelings of fear and great joy! And that is really the kind of thing that happens in my heart when I contemplate the reality of Christ's life in me. It is fearful thing to know that He has destroyed death: the great fear of my heart. It is also a joyful thing, because this great God Who has suffered and died for me also loves me enough to provide safe passage into eternity by His blood.

The fear and the joy were deeply felt as they ran from the tomb. And then they ran smack dab into Jesus Himself. And those feelings welled up into the most expressive and personal worship they had ever known. They threw themselves down at His feet, hugged themselves around His ankles and worshiped Him. The fear, the joy, the wonder, and the thrill of it all fell into that marvelous act of complete surrender to His authority. And how wild that moment must have been. They were simply greeted by Jesus, almost nonchalantly, and they were profoundly affected by the sight of the One Who is our victory!

My risen Lord is worthy of my worship. He will come to me in my day as well, not dramatically, but in simple greeting. He has done so just in the last few moments as I have done the "simple" act of opening His Word, reading the text, and letting Him speak clearly to my heart. And there is a tingling of awe and joy that leads to worship. It is an important daily experience of that which is ultimately transcendent. It is fear and joy and worship.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In Your Dark Day

dark day

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Matthew 27:45-46

As the sky went black
and as mockers laughed
You died for me
breathing your last

As all around
people joked and stared
You felt all alone
hanging there

And in God forsaken pain
My sin borne upon Your cross
Guilt weighed down Your soul
Innocence suffered my loss

Forgiving to the last
You yielded Your life
to reconcile God and man
and end the strife

They pulled Your body down
and carried it to a grave
but death would not win
because You came to save

In Your dark day
My victory won
a temporary grave
would not hold God's Son

And a bright morning came
to bring eternal dawn
breaking forth in my heart
Over death You have won.

Monday, May 4, 2009

betrayal, abandonment & denial

depressed thoughtful

"But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Matthew 26:56

When reading about the betrayal of Jesus in the garden by Judas, I tend to forget that all the disciples, even stalwart Peter, would abandon Jesus in His hour of trial. Jesus predicted that Judas would betray Him. (Matthew 26:21-25) He predicted that Peter would deny Him. (Matthew 26:34) He predicted that all of the disciples would abandon Him. (Matthew 26:31) This is exactly what occurred.

So even as the disciples face their most cowardly moments, Jesus bravely, confidently, and with conviction stands before His accusers. The road to the cross is now the only path He will take. And it will come with this first devastating pain of abandonment. I see Jesus giving Himself to this task and purpose with the full knowledge of all that it will mean.

The emotional trauma of abandonment should not be overlooked as one of the sufferings of His Passion. I know from my counseling ministry that shattered relationships are difficult to deal with. In fact, part of the ministry of reconciliation that I am committed because of the gospel is the reconciliation of lives and families shattered by sinful actions and desertions. These are not easy moments. I have seen the toughest exteriors crumble into emotional messes as these issues came to light. Jesus had to feel the pain. I know that His men did as well. Peter wept bitterly when the impact of his personal denials of his Master hit him.

But in this agony, Jesus saw the atonement ahead. He endured the cross, despised the shame, knowing that He would again be seated at the right hand of the Father. But the cross, the sin of the world, the shame of human betrayal were all very real experiences.

Because my human tendency is to run from acknowledging Him in the hour of trial, I should pray for the strength to endure. I should know that the grace of Jesus will extend to forgive my failings. I should still see His example in suffering the cross as the supreme picture of why Christians should be willing to stand up to what ever may await us as we follow Him.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Ultimate Epic Fail

game over

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Matthew 25:46

The doctrine of hell and eternal judgment really is derived from the clear teaching of Jesus. He made it quite clear that He is the Judge of all men, and the parables and teaching in Matthew 25 make this abundantly clear. The fate and destiny of all people hinge on His opinion, and are related to the response each individual has demonstrated to Him and to His people.

Now there is a specific context in Matthew 25. It has to do with "the kingdom" and as such I believe it has to do specifically with the fates of those who will be part of Christ's future millennial reign. But the bit of this that gets my attention has to do with Jesus' insistence that He as the King will determine the eternal fates of those present in this judgment. For those declared righteous, there is eternal life. For those who did not welcome Jesus and care for His "least of these", there is eternal punishment. Heaven and Hell are real fates according to the teaching of Jesus.

There is a growing reluctance to preach this in the current evangelical climate. Two doctrines have crept in to replace Jesus' clear teaching. One view, Universalism, claims that specific faith in Christ, repentance of sin, and a Christian understanding of God will not be necessary to be accepted by God. What matters is sincerity and a commitment to whatever good the person knew. But this is not taught in the Bible, and false religion.... especially ones that promote human works over God's grace, are decried throughout the Bible as insufficient to save. The second usurper is that of Annihilationism, which says that Hell exists, but the soul sent there does not eternally suffer, but instead is destroyed, thus making God somehow more "pleasant" in His role of Judge. Again, this does not square with what Jesus taught specifically about the destiny of those in Hell (see Mark 9:44-48).

So the reality of my life, just as important as the food I eat and the air that I breathe, is that eternal destiny is the fate of every human soul on the planet. It is the first priority for understanding the human need and bettering the world of humanity. It is the first need of my life and should be a driving force for my love for the world.

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