Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The View from a Pastor's Wife's Chair

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.  Proverbs 12:15

As the old year draws to a close and a new one waits in the wings, I find myself eager to move into 2020 with the obvious, intentional pun of clearer vision. I find that in looking back on my old attitudes and perspectives I am longing for a change, to embrace a sharpened and honed vision for the future.  My desire for a less encumbered, more thoughtful and purposeful life includes it being a more grateful one.

One of the wisest things my husband has ever told me (and he tells me many wise things as my best friend and my most trusted counselor) is that I have to learn not to count my life in losses but in blessings.

Unfortunately, I find at the ripe old age of 59 that the ageless enemy of idolatry still lives in me, manifesting itself in shortsighted ingratitude. 

The lines of my boundary have fallen in pleasant places; surely my inheritance is delightful. Psalm 16:6

How can a human soul so blessed stay in a place of misguided loyalty? Surely this is what idolatry is - lingering and looking into something, ascribing it the highest value, above all others, above God and His truth?

Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:2

My life is sweet - not without its own version of trials and failures, but the hard times have *eventually* led and hopefully will continue to lead me deeper into Christ. 

"I am the Light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life."  John 8:12

This year I want to work at setting my sight on how beautiful God is in every situation (meaning in others’ and my own failures too), how faithfully He stays with us in pain and loss (family, business, health), how lovingly He pursues those He is calling and has already called His own...

how intentionally He saves us and how graciously He is ever refining us, opening our eyes, revealing our imperfections - not to call us solely to an inward estimation of worth or lack thereof, an introspection which often backfires and stalls into self-glorification or self-abasement, 

but one that leads us ultimately upwards to a holy God who lives in us and made it possible for us to live a Light-filled life. 

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ... Ephesians 4:15

What a high calling of choice we have, to dwell in and on the truth, speaking it in love, to ourselves and others. I/We must be careful though. This is not simply sending happy thoughts to ourselves or others. That would be like throwing an empty styrofoam cup to a person drowning in deep waters.

It’s more a strategic launching of a life-saving instrument (God's word), targeted to reach the hands and heart of the one in need, being careful not to strike the head with an intentional knock-out.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

Perhaps you’d like to join us (online or in your own devotions) in studying the book of Luke, the Gentile doctor who traveled extensively with the Apostle Paul and wrote out the testimonies of his own acts and the acts of the eyewitnesses’ who lived and walked with Christ?  Within these pages you’ll see God’s love IS for everyone, as my dear hubby’s sermon series title proclaims. 

He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His beloved Son. Colossians 1:13 

Whatever our choices for this year, may we and they be informed with God’s word, and may we live graciously with ourselves and each other, overflowing with the gratitude of one who has been lovingly pursued, rescued, and is being slowly but surely shaped and fashioned for life in a kingdom that's not only here and now, but also out of this world. ;)

Happy New Year, dear ones.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Daily Bread for Dec 30, Rev 20-22

Today’s readings are Rev 20-22.

In Rev 20, we see the beginning of the thousand-year reign of Christ. The chronology is a little confusing in these chapters. Suffice it to say that there is a wedding and there is a reign. At the end of the reign, which lasts a very long time, perhaps a literal thousand years, perhaps not, there is another battle between the Lamb and Satan. This battle leads to the final defeat of Satan and judgment on all who opposed God.

A new heaven and earth appear. This is the new creation. Bear in mind that much of the language used is symbolic and metaphorical, meant to convey the perfection and holiness of heaven and the presence of the unbridled glory of God. Many pages have been written trying to formalize what John describes in these chapters. Most of it is indescribable. God is not giving John blueprints here. He is revealing His glory.

Once again, God reigns in sovereign authority over all. In the beginning, man fell and was separated from God. Now man is restored to God. The journey back to the garden has been completed by the grace of God, and all things have been made new again. We see a new Jerusalem, this one with no temple, no sun or moon. It is lit by the glory of God with the Son as the lamp. It is a safe, pure and holy place, eternally preserved in its holiness (Rev 20:25-27).

The new city is marked by multiples of twelve. It is 12,000 stadia (presumably, squared). The walls are 144 cubits. There are twelve gates built on twelve foundations, each of the foundations representing one of twelve Apostles, each gate named after one of the twelve tribes. The foundations are a clear allusion to the new church which has been built on a “foundation of the Apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20). The text does not distinguish which of the twelve Apostles are honored in this fashion. Note that the text does not limit the number of Apostles to twelve. It only says that the foundations of the gates numbered twelve and each bore the name of an Apostle. No mention is made as to who may be included in the twelve.

Laboring over that detail can be an intriguing exercise but would miss the point being made here. Heaven is all about inclusion of all believers to the glory of God. The Bible, which is rapidly coming to a conclusion, is the story of God and His plan to reveal His glory in the redemption of His children. It's not about who's who in heaven.

In the designation of the tribes and the Apostles on the gates in Rev 21 we see a union between the Old Testament and the New. This is symbolic on several levels. It honors the original, faithful Jews who are now united with the new church, all of them occupying the new Jerusalem. It recognizes that they have all been part of God's plan to bring His chosen ones into His presence. It shows that God has been actively working throughout the history of the world. The multiple twelves we see in the walls, gates and dimensions of the city indicate perfection. Trying to determine actual measurements or literalize any of these details would again miss the point John is making. He is portraying a city that is intricately perfect in every way, existing for the glory of God.

Rev 22 depicts the river of life, running through the city. On its banks, we see the tree of life, hidden since Adam and Eve's ejection from the Garden. The curse has been reversed, man is restored to an intimate, eternally secured relationship with God and His blessings are abundant and never-ending.

John ends his book with the encouragement and assurance that Jesus will return soon. Meanwhile, we see a reminder that the Bible is the complete and perfect self-revelation of God and is not to be tampered with, edited or improved upon. Rev 22:20 makes it clear that the Scriptures are the words of Christ. It is fitting that the last verse is a testimony to the grace of God.

It is compelling that the first verse of Genesis tells us, “In the beginning God…” This occurs at the very first moment of human history. Thousands of years later, as those who believe in Him take their first steps into eternity, the Bible ends with “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” The first and last words of the Bible are about our holy, sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, loving, triune God. We would do well to remember that all that lies in between are about Him as well.

God is on the throne, Jesus is at His side and He has brought His children home.

Daily Bread for Dec 29, Rev 17-19

Today’s readings are Rev 17-19.

Rev 17-18 retell and lament the fall of Babylon as a way of symbolizing what is about to happen. Babylon is symbolic of the world system, which has been in place since the fall in the garden. Just as Babylon did at the hand of the Persians, the world system will come to a violent end when Christ returns.

With the battle over and the victory won, worship commences in heaven, as we see in Rev 19 -- intense, loud, joyful, unbridled worship. The Lamb is now on a white horse and is portrayed as an all-powerful, conquering king. The bride is presented to the Lamb. She has "made herself ready," but her beauty has been "granted" to her (Rev 19:8) in the form of righteousness, described symbolically as “fine linen, bright and pure.”

Significantly, the bride is not beautiful in and of herself but derives her beauty from what has been given her by God. This is a lesson in how God relates to His children. Any value the children may have comes directly from their relationship with His only Son. 

The beast, the false prophet and everyone who followed them become dinner for the birds. They are utterly defeated (Rev 19:17-21). Of course, this is not news. It was foretold in Gen 3:15 and has been a consistent theme throughout the Bible. Satan is subject to God’s authority and used for His divine purposes. The devil is a created being. God is the sovereign ruler over all creation.

Daily Bread for Dec 28, Rev 13-16

Today’s readings are Rev 13-16.

Rev 13 speaks of the era between Christ being seated on the throne and His return. Satan (the dragon) wages war on the woman (Israel and the church), during this time. However, the dragon remains subject to the authority of God in all he does (Rev 13:5-7).

Rev 14 is an encouragement to believers, who are blameless, for not aligning themselves with the beast (Rev 14:5). The faithful ones will be rewarded when they are taken up into heaven.

Rev 15-16 describe the seven cups of wrath, which are like the seven trumpets and the seven seals, but far more severe. While the trumpets and seals were used by God to call people to repentance, the cups are the unbridled wrath of God being poured out on those who have rejected Him and embraced the beast.

"The mark of the beast" is mentioned in Rev 16:2. This is another warning that has frequently been misunderstood and misinterpreted. Whatever physical form this mark may take, it will be consciously received in commitment and surrender to the beast. Many fear that using a credit card, a microchip or even things like the Euro can inadvertently bring eternal damnation upon a believer. This simply isn't true. The mark John describes is not just a monetary system. It is the willful, conscious rejection of God while embracing Satan. The mark cannot be inadvertently received. It comes as a decision to follow Satan.

Read these chapters carefully. Notice that the events described are not possibilities nor are they conjecture. They are depicted as having already occurred. While they remain in the future, the outcome of all this battling and war in the heavenly realm has a foregone conclusion. God remains in control of everything throughout. Satan is not God's opposite nor is he God’s equal. He is a created being functioning under the sovereign authority and power of God and will be held accountable for every evil deed he does. This is true of the end times. But, it is true today as well.

Daily Bread for Dec 27, Rev 9-12

Today’s readings are Rev 9-12.

In Rev 9, having blown the trumpets, the angels are the heralds of the living God, pronouncing His judgment on the world. Notice that, as the woes are released, they are subject to God’s authority who limits them as to what they may do. Meanwhile, God’s children are protected from the trial and suffering the woes bring (Rev 9:4).

The first four trumpets affect a part of the world but not all. Judgment is being poured out. Justice is being served. But, there is still time for those who remain to repent and be saved.

God is in sovereign control of all that is occurring. He is orchestrating the events at the end of history with the same precision and power that He has been exercising throughout the Bible from the beginning of Genesis (Rev 10:7-11).

We see God’s accuracy and precision in the measurements prescribed in Rev 11:1-3 which shows us that God is omniscient down to the slightest detail. His omnipotence is on display in Rev 11:4-14).

Rev 12 depicts war in the heavenlies between "the woman" and "the dragon," both of which are symbolic. The woman is a sign of God's goodness and sovereign authority and the dragon a symbol of pure evil. The dragon loses and is ejected from heaven. These signs, whatever earthly counterparts they may or may not represent, are also representative of all spiritual warfare. The battle may be fierce but will be dominated and controlled by the power and presence of God.

Notice that God preserves and protects His people throughout (Rev 12:6, 14). Also, notice that the woman's baby, who is Christ, soundly defeats the dragon once He is seated on the throne. This is a depiction of Christ's ascension into heaven shortly after the resurrection, where He was "seated at the right hand of God." (Eph 1:20). This is not to say that all spiritual battle ceased at that point. But, it certainly guarantees that the outcome has been predetermined.