Revelation, or God Cleans House

Revelation. The end of the Book, the closing of the story.

Do you know what I learned? Everything that is not in God and of God goes away.

Everything that distracts and destructs, all the shiny things. All the illness and pain. All the tanks and the torments, all gone.

It’s a sobering reminder.

Paul reminds us that in the end of days, all our work shall be tested (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). The work that began with our fire baptism by the Holy Spirit when we accepted first Christ into our hearts will at last be complete.

We owe it to God and to ourselves to keep our priorities straight.

Love, community, the things that edify and inspire. Time spent with God and one another, these are the things that matter, whose legacy outlasts us all.

Whether we experience that “day of the LORD” on a personal level or with the entirety of humankind, there shall come a time when our heart will stop beating and  our days and ways shall be counted up.

Let us not be found wanting. Let us abide in Jesus Christ.

 

“Who is worthy to open the scroll and break the seal?”

John finds himself in the throne room of heaven, surrounded by twelve elders and four winged beasts, representing the totality of all kingdoms both of animal and of man. An angel appears with a scroll with seven seals, asking a simple question, “who is worthy to bust this thing wide open?” (Revelation 5:2)

Despite their lofty status, none of those present in the room can open the seals. It’s like the sword in the stone, yet none are able to pull out Excalibur.

Then the Lamb arrives, bloody as if sacrificed. It walks right up, takes the scroll, and breaks the seals.

This is Jesus. Jesus alone is worthy.

Everyone in the room flips out and begins to worship Jesus, the once and future king.

Paul tells us that all creation waits and groans for a redeemer (Romans 8:18-25). Look at us. We age, we grow weary, we grow sick, we die. We are burdened by anxiety and regret. Then along comes Jesus. We find life and strength, healing and the promise of eternity in Him. He holds record of our sufferings (Psalm 56:8). We leave our past at His feet (2 Corinthians 5:17).

This Jesus, this resurrected King, gave His life so we could have all these things.

How could we not worship Him, who breaks our many seals, who reads our names loud and proud out from the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12)?

“Don’t Let Anyone Despise Your Youth”

Timothy is the young disciple Paul takes under His wing during the latter stages of his life. Paul takes Timothy everywhere and where Paul can’t go, because he prior commitments or is in jail for preaching the Word, he sends Timothy.

In this second recorded letter to his young apprentice, Paul encourages Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth (1 Timothy 4:12).

We all have to start somewhere. People that have been doing anything for a while are quick to forget how long it took them to learn. Everything from acting to metalworking takes a while to get a hang of, and a lifetime to master. Yet we can easily look down on those who are just beginning.

The disciples turned away children (Luke 18:15-17) and believers that weren’t part of the “in” crowd (Mark 9:38-41). They even rejected Jesus at first because He was from Nazareth (John 1:43-46), the ancient equivalent of a one-horse town. The Pharisees turned away women (Luke 7:39), the sick, and social pariah (Matthew 9:11).

We can think of a thousand reasons why someone is not worthy, but Paul challenges Timothy to prove them wrong. In word and deed, prove them wrong. Demand your place at the table. And for those of us who are the “in,” our challenge is to keep our eyes and hearts open. Where we find exclusion, call it out. Jesus openly rebuked the disciples for pushing out the children. Paul called Peter out for neglecting the disciples. We must also be intentional about extending a warm welcome and following through with it.

Just look at Jesus’ invitation of Zaccheus, a despised tax collector (Luke 19). His dinner invitation changed Zaccheus’ life, so much so that he not only had an overnight conversion, but also became a leading and philanthropic member of society. Community changed people’s lives. It gives them a newfound sense of hope, purpose, and empowerment.

But first someone has to break out the Thor hammer and smash the socio-political glass ceiling to pieces.

So, if you’re new to whatever it is you long for, keep going. If you’re an old timer, stay open. We need each other to thrive.

“You have abandoned the love you had at first”

God is talking to John, passing out messages to give to key churches in the area (Revelation 2-3).

He tells John that the Ephesian Church is doing a bang-up job. They are keeping the faith, rising up to any challenge that presents itself.

He goes on to say, however, that they have lost their first love.

The longer you have been in ministry, the longer you have walked with Jesus, the easier it is the go through the motions. You’re living in a spiritual deficit, and if you’re like me and are paying off credit card debt, you can agree how easy to go through life looking just fine, but really digging yourself into a deeper and deeper hole.

Now, you may not feel like you are. You know all the spiritual buttons to hit and when to hit them. You take on greater and greater responsibilities in the church. You may live and breathe Christianity, be a scholar or a worship leader, an event organizer, social warrior, pastor, or elder, and yet still miss out on Christ being your first love.

It’s about passion and priorities. You can pass on everything else, but God knows the difference there.

It’s all about “first.” Seek ye first the kingdom of God, Jesus says (Matthew 6:33). Give Him your firstfruits. Think of the tithe: ten percent, such a small amount, less than we are asked to tip our server. The server needs your money to live, God doesn’t need anything. He created the Universe. He has more riches than quantifiable data can even fairly summarize. For God, it’s all about the heart.

You see, all the other stuff, it can easily get ostentatious, a game show if you will. Jesus speaks of the widow’s offering (Mark 12:41-44). Whereas many around her gave much, yet all for show, the widow gave little, but out a pure desire to worship the LORD.

Works build upon the foundation. Where the foundation is weak, the building crumbles. Where the foundation is strong, the building endures. Paul calls us God’s holy temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). A temple is a massive structure. A massive structure requires a massive foundation, or all of for not, lest the building fall (Matthew 7:24-27). I have seen spiritual buildings crumble too many times for me not to testify that this is true.

So the love the LORD your God with all your mind, all your heart, and all your strength (Leviticus 23:22). May your temple be high and wide, and your foundation deep. Seek Him first in all things.

“Children… Your Children… My Children”

There is a cool progression between 1, 2, and 3 John.

In 1 John, he addresses little children (as well as young men and fathers), encouraging them in the faith.

In 2 John, he is speaking to the “elect lady and her children” and rejoices in the fact that some of her children walk in the truth.

In 3 John, there is no “some.” He simply finds joy in the fact that “my children” walk in the truth.

There is a building sense of ownership here, not in terms of possession, but rather of responsibility.

In the beginning, John speaks of children in the vague and general sense, routing them on in a scholarly fashion. Then, we see him draw nearer to them. They are you children, still holding some sentimental value but ultimately someone else’s problem. Then, finally they are wholly and fully his. Their well-being is his “greatest joy.”

It reminds me of Jesus’ final intimate encounter with Peter (John 21:15-19). Three times Jesus asks if Peter loves Him as He asks him to lead His church. Twice, Jesus uses the word agápē, an all-encompassing love, God’s love. Twice, Peter uses the word phileō, a friend or brother kind of love. Jesus changes His word to phileō, meeting Peter where he is at, and Peter responds in kind. Then, Jesus lets Peter know he will one day die for His church, just as Christ died. And indeed, Peter did die that way.

Peter’s love for Jesus ascends through time. He begins with acquaintance, then familiarity, then friendship, then deep affection, and finally love to the point of death. And his love for Jesus reflects his love for the church. John 15:13 tells us that if we love Jesus, we will love one another. 1 John 4:20 goes on to say that if we say we love Jesus but hate one another, then we are liars. We are commanded by our ever-loving father to love our fellow human being with the same love He has for us. They are our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. They are ours.

God once asked Esau, “where is your brother?” (Genesis 4:1-16) Esau answered, “am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer to that question is yes. Let us keep them well.

 

 

“Sin That Doesn’t Lead to Death”

1 John is another one of those little books with bits of wisdom to chew on.

One passage that intrigues me is when it calls for us to pray for sin that don’t lead to death (1 John 5:16-17). It has us leave sin that leads to death alone.

I think this is fascinating.

What exactly the difference John sees between the two remains unknown, but allow me this: I like the fact that John has us focus on these little sins.

We’re always aware of the big sins: adultery and murder and devil worship. But it’s the little sins that so often go unchecked. Things like sloth, wastefulness, irritability, and envy. These are the types of sins that we tend of disregard. We’re not going around kicking babies and clubbing seals, so we’re good. In fact, we would go so far as to say these features are just part of us.

Christ calls us to be more like Him (Ephesians 5:1). Sometimes it’s perceived that means is that God wants to Etch A Sketch everything about us and superimpose His face onto our own, as if we’re this grand error waiting to be corrected. Rather, we’re a beautiful thing, waiting to be perfected.

Rest assured. Christ loves You. He designed You, brought You into this Earth, and died and rose again so YOU could be with HIM forever in heaven.

But God wants us to be best version of ourselves that we can be.

He doesn’t want you to waste your life saying, “I wish I were more….” or “if only I…” with a sigh of resignation or resentment.

Again, He busted down the doors of heaven and hell so we wouldn’t be stuck in that hell, or any hell for that matter.

I love the show Queer Eye. In it, loved ones of person nominate him or her for a full makeover. Then, a team of experts zooms in their GMC Sierra Denali and begins to go through all the aspects of that person’s life- clothing, hair, social life, eating practices, etc. They look at that person as they are and begin to make changes based on that person’s fundamental identity. Part of that process involves throwing out a lot of junk, part of it involves busting through comfort zones, part of it involves probing questions and lots of encouragement along the way. We call this process tough love.

When you do this process wrong, when we conform to a lofty ideal without grounding it our own personal best, it makes us feel empty and exhausted, violated and defeated even. But when it is is done right, everyone is happy. The makeover teams cries. The client cries. The family members cry. It’s a beautiful thing.

Christ wants this for you to fulfill our specially designed purpose, to become the best of us and the most of Him.

1 John says the first step in this process is to pray. Pray for God to reveal those little sins, the things that go unnoticed yet inevitably hold us back. Pray that God will give you the wisdom on what to do with that knowledge. Then take action, bring people in. Help each other achieve this greater goal.

Be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 9:7), and in all things bless Christ, who designed us from the very beginning to do great things (Ephesians 2:10).