Jesus, Light, Revelation

The Throne of God

God is shaking the remaining leaves off the trees here in Michigan. Wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour are in the forecast, so are power outages. Therefore, lest I fail to meet the NaBloPoMo challenge for today, I will hurry up and post.

I’ve been reading and re-reading Revelation 4 this morning in preparation for teaching it to a group of high school students Monday night, and I noticed some things.

After John saw Jesus move among the seven lampstands, and after John took the dictation of Jesus’s letters to the churches the lampstands represented, he saw a door standing open in heaven. And he heard the same trumpet-like voice that he heard back in chapter one – Jesus’ voice – say, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

Instantly, John was in the Spirit, looking at the throne of God. He was looking at a powerful throne – with peals of thunder and flashes of lightening emanating from it. And he was looking at a room filled with praise.

In His loving wisdom, God showed John His power and His praiseworthiness before He showed him the scary things that “must take place.”

And it occurred to me that before we walk into the scary places of life, God reveals the power and goodness of His throne. We just have to come up and look.

I noticed that the One who sat on the throne looked sort of like jasper and ruby – precious stones that have a warmth to them. Rubies range in color from pink to blood red. Jasper comes in shades of brown, yellow and bordeux.

Look at this hunk of raw jasper:

jasper

And these two:

Mookaite jasper, photo credit: Tjflex2, Creative Commons

Mookaite jasper, photo credit: Tjflex2, Creative Commons

Mookaite jasper Tjflex2

Mookaite jasper, photo credit: Tjflex2, Creative Commons

Look at the many colors in the appearance of God.

All the colors of humanity are represented. A tune starts playing in my head: “Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Here’s something else I noticed:

Surrounding God’s throne were 24 elders sitting on thrones of their own. They all wore white garments and gold crowns. But they aren’t named. There are plenty of theories about who they might be – some think that Revelation 21 suggests they are the heads of the twelve tribes of Judah – you know, Jacob’s boys (minus one plus two grand-boys) and the twelve apostles. Could be, could be.  But, if the apostles occupied twelve of the thrones, wouldn’t John have recognized them?  “Heyyyy, that’s ME!”

John saw names spelled out in Revelation 21:12, 14, but no names were spelled out for us here, which leads me to believe a) it doesn’t matter who they are because, as the laying down of the crowns indicates, the throne room is all about Him; or b) God doesn’t want us to know who they are…yet; or c) He wants us to ponder who they might be. Which brings me to the theory I propose this morning:

Perhaps the identities of the elders are not given because they change, rotate.

Have you ever been to the fort on Michigan’s Mackinac Island? The whole island is a cool place.  And one of the coolest things about the fort is that every week from Memorial Day through Labor Day a different scout troop comes to the island, stays in the barracks behind the fort, and serves for the whole week.  They serve as guides at Fort Mackinac and State Park buildings, they raise and lower all flags in the State Park and city, help with tours every Wednesday at the Governor’s Summer Residence  and work on service projects.

Boy Scouts have been coming to Mackinac Island to act as the Governor’s Honor Guard every summer since 1929. Girl Scouts were added into the mix in 1974. I don’t know how the troops are selected, but the invitation to serve is quite an honor. I like that lots of troops are given a turn.

And, considering the multitudes in heaven who are wearing the unfading crown of life, it just seems hopeful that God would give us all a turn. We’re talking eternity, so there’s plenty of time.

Of course I don’t know if everyone gets a turn to sit on an elder throne and lay their crown at God’s feet, or if the same 24 people lay down their crowns, put them back on their heads and them lay them down again, repeatedly throughout eternity, but I do know this: Once you’ve been to the throne room, you want to take off any crown you were proud to wear.

“the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.’”

Once you’ve been to the throne room you realize that there is a God, and you are not Him. You realize that you are not the One who created all things and give all things their being.

You are so the opposite of the proud one who was booted from heaven and hurled to the earth.

Okay, this is getting long, so I’ll share just one more thing I noticed:  The four creatures who surround the center of the throne – the ones the likes of which we don’t have here on earth; the ones that represent God’s power (lion), strength (ox), intelligence (man) and span (eagle) – they all have eyes ALL OVER THEM.

And that made me think of 2 Chronicles 16:9a:

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

He sees us. He sees us clearly, as though looking through a crystal clear sea. He has eyes ranging throughout the earth looking for those who are fully committed to Him. So He can help us, strengthen us.

The first thing He did to strengthen John for the terrible things He was about to witness was show him His throne; assure Him that He had the power and the goodness to get him (us) victoriously through it.

“Holy, holy, holy,” those all-seeing, clear-eyed creature kept saying, “is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

Amen.

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Jesus, Light, Revelation

Enraptured

Just when you think you have Him all figured out, everything’s gonna’ change:

I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. Revelation 3:12b

Revelation 5:9 “And they sang a new song… every tribe and language and people and nation.”

I love, love, love how so many nations/languages are represented in this performance. Perfect!

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Jesus, Light, Revelation

Back on My Soapbox, Banging My Well-Worn Drum….

I hear you typing with your arrogant bravado. Slapping one another on the back with a hearty amen as you mock and ridicule and judge and slay your brothers and sisters in Christ. YOU have theology and doctrine all figured out and tied up in a tight, neat bow, and since their package does not look exactly like yours, they must be wrong, wrong, WRONG!

And I can’t help wondering whether you EVER stop to consider that maybe THEY are right and You are wrong. Or even that you might BOTH be right and you might both be wrong.

You say the Bible clearly says this and clearly says that and I think to myself, Where?

I’m guessing that it is your pastor and your Sunday School teachers and your well worn denominational traditions that clearly say it, not the Bible.

Just this week I’ve come across Christians who feel justified in judging and condemning Rob Bell (with whom I disagree, but whom I do not judge) and mocking and ridiculing Rod Parsley.

Some are so busy calling a spade a spade, that they have not taken the time to really get to know God at all. If they did, they would discover that the One they follow does not scoff or mock or ridicule.

A careful reading of the letters that Jesus dictated to the seven churches, as recorded in Revelation 2 and 3, would show you that He actually considers a lack of love (and by that I mean arrogant judgmentalism) WORSE THAN tolerating false teaching.

Check it out:

Jesus told the church at Ephesus that their hyper vigilance when it came to snuffing out false teaching had stripped them of their love.  And without love, their deeds, hard work and perseverance meant nothing. How do I know they meant nothing? Because He told them that if they did not stop and regain their perspective and ask Him to refill their hearts with love, He would take them out of the equation. Remove their lampstand. Make them no longer a church. Because there is no point in a lampstand that doesn’t shine love, since God is love.

So, no love equals no more church.

But, tolerating false teaching does not equal no more church.

Look here:

There were some in the church in Pergamum who held to false teachings which allowed them to commit sexual immorality and eat food sacrificed to idols. Jesus told them to change. “Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”

I will come to you (the church as a whole) and fight against them (those who are following false teaching).

He was going to fight them with Truth.

He wasn’t going to mock them, ridicule them, or destroy them, He was going to set them straight.

He was going to set them straight.

Likewise, some in the church in Thyatira were following the sexually immoral teachings of Jezebel.  Jesus warned that since Jezebel was unwilling to repent, He would cast her on a bed of suffering and her children (her followers?) would be killed.

Here’s the thing I want you to hear, dear brothers and sisters:

This is Jesus talking to you:

“Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’

‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’

Did you hear that? Jesus did not put the burden of judging, destroying, shaming, mocking or even setting those false teachers straight on YOU!

It’s not your job.

Your job is to hold on to the truth you have until He comes to set things straight. Your job is to love.

Until Jesus gets here, it’s His Holy Spirit’s job to guide us to the Truth. The Holy Spirit convicts, not us.

So, hold on to what you have, and before you started typing arrogant words, take a new look at God, and at Scripture, and take a look in the mirror, too. Work on getting that log out of your eye, because you really don’t see nearly as clearly as you think you do.

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Light, Revelation

It’s My Birthday & I’ll Post if I Want To…

…I’ll post if I want to…

When you read Revelation slowly, you start to notice some stuff.

Like the seven lampstands.  The KJV calls them candlesticks.  Either way, their purpose is to hold light.  To raise it up high enough to cut through the cold, dark night.  And isn’t that exactly what a church ought to do – raise Jesus up high enough to cut through the cold, dark night?

Jesus walked among the lampstands. He was the Light in them and He was the Maintenance Man walking among them.  Each lampstand was evaluated.  Each received a performance report.

And, I noticed, Jesus used the same technique I used to teach to the volunteer counselors at the crisis pregnancy center:  the critical feedback sandwich. Basically, it’s a slab of criticism sandwiched between a slice of commendation and a slice of encouragement. Because criticism is a whole lot easier to swallow if you use the right bread.

Jesus told the first church that He saw them. He saw their hard work and perseverance.  He saw their discernment and loyalty to the Truth.  Good job Ephesians!

Love

BUT.  They were taking their discernment a little, no a lot, too far.  They were loving their doctrine more than they were loving people, more than they were loving God.

I know exactly what He meant.  Several years ago, as I was preparing to speak to a group of middle school students, I mentioned to the youth pastor that I might show Rob Bell’s short video entitled, Fire.

“I wouldn’t show that video here,” he said.  “They hate Rob Bell here.  In fact, they have a whole committee actively devoted to rooting out heresy.”

Whoa! Hate?  This was back when Rob Bell was just starting to fall out of favor with the church at large because he said he doesn’t believe in a literal hell.  I don’t agree with Rob, but I don’t hate him.  And I don’t think being wrong about one thing negates every true and right thing a person has ever written or said.  But they hated him.  And they were determined to swiftly and completely cut him out – like a cancer – before he infected everyone.

Except that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.  And Jesus suffered life and death on earth for PEOPLE, not doctrine.  Even Paul – that great contender for the faith – instructed us to speak the truth in love.  Gentle restoration, my friends, gentle.

So, yes, I would say the letter to the Ephesians was also a letter to that committee. And to the guy whose post I read the other day while I was sitting in the waiting room.  He was mocking Priscilla Shirer because she hears directly from God and he doesn’t.  But that might be another post for another day.

The point is, if your church is working so hard to perfectly dot your doctrinal “i” and perfectly cross your doctrinal “t” that it is forgetting to love, then your church is missing the point of being a lampstand. And it will die. Because Jesus does not make idle threats.

He warned the church in Ephesus, “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

According to my Bible study notes, there is now hardly a trace of the Christian church in this region. The lampstand at Ephesus has been removed, the church is gone and the city is in ruins.

Jesus won’t stay in a loveless marriage.

The dim glow of doctrine is not nearly bright enough to illuminate anyone’s path, cut through their darkness or warm their way.  In the end it will only cause them to stumble.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not hating on doctrine here.  It just shouldn’t be your first love, your everything. And we all know that sometimes it is.

If you are quoting Paul a whole lot more often than you are quoting Jesus, then you need ears to hear.

If you and/or church lacks love, get it back.  Do the things you did when your wick was first lit, back before you got all tied up in the straightjacket of legalism.  Quick, before the Holy Spirit leaves the building.

“Love one another,” Jesus said. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Life

Oh and look!  “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

The tree of life. The one in Eden from which we’ve been banned.  The way to which is guarded by cherubim and a flaming, flashing sword.

We’re gonna’ get to eat from it again.

When we love again.

©2015, Light & life

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Jesus, life, Light, Revelation

Singularly Sensational

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The hub is up north fly fishing this weekend.  He sent a text last night reporting that he caught seven salmon.

“…Beautiful day in a great river.  I forgot how tiring it is to wade in current over rocks and logs.  Will sleep like a log tonight.”

So I’m home alone this beautiful, sunny Sunday morning watching leaves from a giant oak drift, dance, catch an updraft and then float gently to the ground. Listened to some Josh Garrels and some Micheal Card and now I’m reading the opening chapters of Revelation again, the sound of my slumbering beagle a soothing backdrop.  It’s worship enough for me.

His words thrill me:

“I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever.”

They are among the first words He said to His best friend on earth, and they are the words He keeps saying to me.

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

I’ve read those words small so many times, but they aren’t small at all, they are huge.

Maybe they’ve been huge this week because my sister died.   Maybe they’re huge because I’m awaiting the results of a biopsy.  Maybe they’re huge because they’ve ALWAYS been huge, I’ve just been reading them with small eyes all these years.

My thoughts keep jumping ahead to the opening scene of chapter 5:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”  But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.  I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.  Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne…  

He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.

John wept and wept.  No one was worthy.  No one anywhere was worthy.  It looked completely hopeless.

And along came a Lamb…

…looking as if it had been slain.

I mean, can you picture the scene?  Can you feel it?  I makes me weep.

Was this a glimpse of what happened in the throne room the day Jesus was crucified?

The day He rose victoriously?

Did He arrive on the scene fresh from the cross – like slain meat still bloody?

There was a hush in the room.  The Lamb, looking as if He had been slain went and took the scroll…

… and suddenly heaven swelled with the sound of thousands upon thousands of angels bursting into song.

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”

Am I coming anywhere close to conveying it?

He said, “John, Julie, I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever!

Write this stuff down!”

This morning the daily post asked, “If one experience or life change results from you writing your blog, what would you like it to be?”

I would like someone to think about Jesus for a minute.

I want Him to thrill someone. I want Him to thrill YOU!

And I want your day (or night) to be as perfect as the day is here – Crisp, cool, and sunny, with a bright blue sky.  A glass of sweet cider and a warm cinnamon spiced donut day.

A sun on your face long walk day.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Singular Sensation.”

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Light, Revelation

Prophecy: Telling it Like it Is, Telling it Like it Will Be

Elkl Rapids marina storm

Did you know that twenty-seven percent of the entire Bible is prophecy?  28.5% of the Old Testament and 21.5% of the New Testament.

At least 737 separate prophetic topics are covered in the Bible.

Sixty-two of the Bible’s 66 books foretell future events.

Ruth, Song of Solomon, Philemon and 3 John are the only books of Scripture that have no explicit prophecy.

All those facts are from my BSF notes.  I’m back in BSF studying Revelation.  This is week 2 and we’re still in the overview phase, and I’m itching to getting into the nitty gritty.  So as I share my daily life from now ’til May, it will likely be seasoned with Revelation this and Revelation that.

Yes, it will be scary at times, but then chapter 19…

Hallelujah.

Don’t worry, it’ll be good for you.

And it will be good for me, should you choose to toss in your two cents.

Oh and here’s something that wasn’t in the notes:

If you include the FORTHTELLING aspect of prophecy with the FORETELLING, then a much greater percentage of the Bible is prophecy.  It is one unified story of the glorious things God has done, is doing and will do.

And it’s all pretty thrilling.

In case you were wondering.

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