Wednesday, December 30, 2009


How many of you read through the New Testament in 2009 like I did? I'd love to hear from you about some of the things you got out of it.

Any idea what you'll do next year? Please let me know.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Revelation 22

The scene around the throne and of the river is so peaceful; my soul is refreshed reading it. We are supposed to remember the opening of the Bible. A garden, a river, a tree of life and the magnificent presence of God remind us of Eden. All is now as God intended it to be in the beginning.

We are told these things will happen quickly (Rev. 22:6-7). Jesus says he will come soon (Rev. 22:20).

These words are faithful and true. If you keep them you'll be blessed (Rev. 22:7).

Monday, December 28, 2009

Revelation 21

This chapter opens with New Heaven and New Earth. As much as, "In the Beginning," this sentence changes everything. How could so many of the promises, allusions, and hopes be tied together in one sentence. Beautiful.

The beauty of the new Jerusalem is beyond description. The glory of it radiates from and reflects the Lamb. It is HIS city.

The language of God's covenants echoes throughout. "I will be their God. They will be my people."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Revelation 20

I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I know you want your name written in the book of life! Everyone who does not have their name written in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire . . . forever. Get your name in that book!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Revelation 19

A huge crowd sings Alleluia! The wedding supper is beginning. But all the conflict is not over.

A rider on a white horse assembles an army for the quickest, most decisive battle in history. They fought. The beast and false prophet were seized and thrown into the lake of fire and everyone else was killed by a stroke of the sword wielded by the one on the white horse. No contest!

The rider on the horse had a name known only to him (Rev. 19:12). Then we're told he is called the Word of God (Rev. 19:13). And finally, King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). These names tell us everything we need to know about him.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I hope and pray you have a blessed and happy Christmas. May the hope of the Savior give you every reason to rejoice.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Revelation 18

The fall of the great city is sudden and complete. There are no workers, no children and no workers left. The smoke of her destruction ascends to heaven for all to see.

Three groups mourn over her, all related to their economic loss:
  • Kings, with whom she was adulterous.
  • Merchants, whom she had made rich.
  • Sailors.
They watch from a distance because of her torment. The export list of this city is long and impressive.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Revelation 17

This chapter seems to obscure more than it reveals. He identifies a harlot, horns, heads, beasts and yet for centuries no one has been able to positively identify them -- but, not for a lack of trying.

Everything is now out of control. A harlot riding on a scarlet beast is defiling the nations with her immorality. This seems like one more powerful player lined up to oppose God. She is drunk with the blood of the martyrs (Rev. 17:6), not good. Add to that the sequence of kings that oppose God, Not good either.

They make war with the Lamb, and he conquers them. And, (Rev. 17:17), God puts in their hearts to carry out his purpose. Without their knowing, God directs their opposition toward his own goal. Wow! God is amazing and sovereign to the end.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Revelation 16

The seven bowls are full of the wrath of God. They are each in its own way unspeakably horrible, though the hail may be the worst.

Three times this chapter says something like, "They blasphemed God because of the plagues, but they did not repent." People who receive the wrath of God receive it because they would rather receive it than to acknowledge God as God (i.e., repent)! Wrath does not fall upon innocent people. Even the fierce wrath of God does not bring about humility and repentance.

Sprinkled throughout this futuristic terror are reminders to be ready, to watch, to stay dressed. Don't pretend God's wrath will never happen. Be prepared.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Revelation 15

This chapter is a pause in the judgment. Seven angels with seven plagues are introduced. They will complete the judgment.

Those who overcome the beast and his image and his number stood on the sea. Overcoming the beast I understand, overcoming his number and his name must speak to the completeness of their rejection of and victory over the beast. You overcome the image by not worshiping it and overcome the number by refusing it.

They sung the song of Moses and the lamb. It is not the song of Exodus 15, though both songs reflect God's great victory!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Revelation 14

As soon as the number of the beast is revealed we see the lamb standing on Mount Zion with 144,000 worshipers who learn a new song. They follow the lamb wherever he leads. They are blameless. Are they the same 144,000 as in Revelation 7:4?

Three angels proclaim messages. The first proclaims an eternal gospel for every tribe, tongue, people and nation. That is a recurring phrase throughout Revelation.
  • Message one: Fear God and bring him glory.
  • Message two: Babylon the great has fallen.
  • Message three: Those who accepted the mark of the beast and worshiped his image must face God's wrath. This also a call for the perseverance of the saints (Rev. 14:12).
Interesting summary of the angels' message, "Their works follow after them." (Rev. 14:13).

Then two angels thrust their sickles into the earth and harvest. They harvest to place clusters in the wine press of God's wrath -- devastating judgment.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Revelation 13

The most striking thing about this chapter is the use of the verb, "It has been given" or "it was given." A leopard-like, bear-like, lion-like beast arises from the sea. He deceives and frightens the whole world, yet he only has power that he 'has been given.'

He rules over every tribe, tongue, nation and people. This is one more clear indication of his direct competition with the Lamb.

Another beast arises from the land and deceived people for 42 months. He made an image of the first beast that came alive and was worshiped. Everyone was forced to get his mark, 666.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Revelation 12

Here is a Christmas story for you. It really does bear a great resemblance to the first advent. This seems to be a summary of Satan's whole-scale opposition to Jesus! The description of the beast in Revelation 12:9-10 gives some indication of his opposition both to God and to those who follow Jesus (Rev. 12:17).

I love Revelation 12:11. They overcome by him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. Allegience to and faith in Jesus is the way to overcome. If they didn't love their lives even to death, what did they love? They loved the lamb. They overcame because they loved the lamb!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Revelation 11

John was to measure the temple and discovered two witnesses with unusual powers testifying to the true God. The beast arose from the abyss and killed them. The whole world rejoiced. Their bodies were on display for three and a half days, then they rose to heaven.

A huge earthquake killed 7,000 and those who remained glorified God. I don't expect that would happen today. If a devastating earthquake killed many, the rest wouldn't respond in worship.

Then the seventh trumpet finally blows. This, too, resulted in worship.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Revelation 10

One powerful, enormous angel appears from heaven with a tiny, opened scroll. His appearance and voice are terrifying. He has one foot on land and the other on the sea, yet John can reach out and take a book from him. Interesting perspective. This angel vowed before God, "There is no more time!"

Eating the scroll, or acting, replaced writing. The voice of seven thunders told him he would speak or prophesy, not read from notes he wrote.

This appears to be a buildup for the 7th trumpet. The end is drawing nearer.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Revelation 9

This is the worst destruction so far. Demons are loosed from the abyss super-charged to destroy. They themselves are indestructible. They appear to be giant insects from hell -- literally!

One third of the people are killed. Those who remain wish they could die but can't. Even then they do not repent. Murder, witchcraft, sexual immorality and thievery are the predominant sins. The only familiar description is the one of idols, so frequent in the Old Testament.

This chapter contains no worship, no singing, no praise -- just destruction, full of fear and pain.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Revelation 8

Heaven is silent for a half an hour. That's curious. One half hour seems like nothing next to 42 months or other measurements of time in this book. Yet, to make note of one particular half hour seems important.

Seven angels prepare to sound seven trumpets and anoth3r angel emerges with a golden censer. The smoke from the censer centralizes prayers of the saints. What follows, in some way derives from those prayers. Were the saints praying for judgment to fall on people?

As the trumpets blow, one third of things are destroyed by catastrophes of various sizes. I cannot help but wonder what is going on here. What would a mixture of hail, fire and blood by like? One great star takes out one third of the rivers and springs?

A final eagle announces woes on everyone living on the earth. Yikes!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Revelation 7

Four angels are set to harm the earth with judgment but are held back until the servants of God are sealed. They were numbered 144,000 from Israel. Beside them he saw a crowd that could not be numbered of those who came from the great tribulation. Why number some and not others? I have no idea. They have had their robes washed and whitened by the blood of the lamb. Blood is not generally considered a whitening agent!

The songs and the scene appear to be a continuation of Revelation 5.

Two other interesting statements of relationship between this crowd and God:
  • The one seated on the throne dwells among them (Revelation 7:15).
  • The lamb shepherds them (Revelation 7:17). I cannot help but recall Psalm 23:1-2.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Revelation 6

The Lamb opened the first six seals. I expected them to have symmetrical results, but they didn't. The four horsemen went throughout the earth. The martyrs received white robes. The heavens and earth shook and began to disintegrate.

The point of all this seems to come at the end, "Hide us from the face of the one on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. Because the day of His wrath is coming and who is able to stand." The point is that the wrath of God is coming and Revelation is written so every person has fair warning!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Revelation 5

Again this scene appears more vivid than I can imagine. It strikes me as a summary of the redemption story. No law, no prophet, no human, and hero was found to open the scroll and all heaven mourns.

The lamb, the darling of heaven, steps forward to do what none other can do. He is a lion and a lamb. He is conquering and slain! He alone is worthy. That is the central feature of this chapter.

He purchase people from every tribe, nation, language and people. What a triumphant missionary verse. And, not only that, he transformed them into kings and priests. The numbers involved are intentionally staggering -- myriads upon myriads, thousands upon thousands.

All heaven breaks out into a new song -- the lamb is worthy!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Revelation 4

John is invited into heaven. All kinds of things come into focus for him:
  • Brilliant and vivid colors -- jasper, carnelian and emerald! This is not an ordinary black and white dream.
  • The arrangement of the furniture -- a central throne surrounded by 24 others.
  • Twenty-four elders on those thrones all dressed in white wearing crowns.
  • Seven lamp stands near the center.
  • Strange creatures who's chief characteristic is that they are alive!
  • A crystal sea.
The actions consists of the living creatures saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy," and the elders taking off their crowns and bowing to worship.

I think the seven lamp stands draw us back to chapter 2-3 and the seven churches, even though the immediate reference is the seven spirits of God. The whole scene intentionally reminds us of Isaiah 6. The thunder and lightning from the throne compound the overwhelming aura of glory surrounding God.

What am I to think? Is this a solemn and reverent scene? Is is joyful and celebratory? Is it serene and peaceful? It is so perfect and so intimidating at the same time.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Revelation 3

These three churches are in serious trouble. Sardis is about to close down. Philadelphia has an open door, but little else going for it, and an hour of testing is on its way. Laodicea is lukewarm.

Both Sardis and Philadelphia are to strengthen what they have (Rev. 3:2, 11). No matter how weak, they are responsible for what is left.

Laodicea is, of course, a warning to every rich church. They didn't know what trouble they were in. They are to buy from Jesus -- gold, white clothes, and eye salve! Christ rebukes and trains those he loves. Therefore, they are to be zealous and repent.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Revelation 2

Several things stand out here:
  • Each letter is written to the angel (or, messenger) of each church.
  • Jesus authors each letter and connects his byline to one of the characteristics in the opening description.
  • The general format is: 1) "I know. . ." 2) "I have something against you. . ." 3) "This is how to fix the problem. . . " 4) Here are the consequences (good and bad).
  • The reality of the unseen world leaps off the page. I can't help but wonder how this looked in each church. On the surface, it probably looked like a regular church. But, Jezebel and Satan were there!
  • The church at Ephesus had left its first love.
  • The last works of the church at Thyatira were greater than the first.
  • He had nothing against the church at Smyrna and only a small thing against Pergamum.
  • "To the one who overcomes." Jesus expects victory!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Revelation 1

The picture of Jesus is breathtaking. It is so easy to think of him as a baby in a manger, safe and cuddly. Here, however, He oozes power and radiates glory. He is frightening in any sane sense of the word. John's reaction of falling to his feet as dead seems entirely appropriate. And to think, he is walking among the churches!

Twice it emphasizes he was, and is, and is coming. He is living and eternal, the first and last. These are descriptions one would only use of the one true God, not of some created being!

This is a letter written to seven churches. It is not best-selling fiction. God sends this to churches because they need to hear what he says and it will help them.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


This book has a bunch of weird things in it. Jude, however, draws the same distinctions that all writers do between godly and ungodly. In fact, he uses that work, "ungodly", several times. His main concern is to correct and encourage people not be be ungodly. He lists several bad examples from the Old Testament -- Cain (Genesis 4:1-9), Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24ff), Korah (Numbers 16:1-33), and Balaam (Numbers 22:27ff). He threatens Gods judgment on ungodliness. He encourages godliness with the promise of joy in God's presence.

The benediction is spectacular, one of the most beautiful in all the Bible. God is able to keep you from falling and to present you blameless. He's able to do what we cannot!

Friday, December 04, 2009

3 John

For the third time in as many days we read of the co-mingling of love and truth. Healthy relationships must be important!

It gives John no greater joy than to hear that his children walk in truth. He speaks not of physical children, but of his church. It is a happy thing to see people staying happy in Jesus.

In the life of each congregation there are positive and negative people. Apparently this church had sent out workers and need to encourage and support them -- positive people. And, there was Diotrophes, who loved first place and manipulated people to keep it -- negative people.

The ending says a ton about early church life -- the 'friends' greet you. . .greet the 'friends'. That simple description of a church, "friends", tells us what is normal in church life!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

2 John

The subject matter of this second letter is very similar to the first. The writer is preoccupied with the truth. He's so stuck on it that he instructs believers not to welcome or greet those who are actively against truth.

And, like 1 John, he reminds them of an old command (1 John 5:3), love one another.

I am continually impressed with how love and truth come together. They first meet in the person of Jesus, who is both truth (John 14:6) and love (John 14:15). In that way Jesus embodies the very essence of healthy relationships. Relationships cannot endure without both love and truth. No wonder he is the way to have a relationship with God! The content and flavor of Christian conversation is love and truth(Ephesians 4:15).

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

1 John 5

It is possible to know (1 John 5:13-14), to know and not wish, or "hope so", but to know that you have eternal life! The life comes only through Jesus (1 John 5:11-12). If you have him, you have eternal life. Period.

If that is the case, it will change the way you related to God and to others. You will love God and keep God's commands (1 John 5:3) and you will love the children of God (1 John 5:2). Loving God prevents his commands from being burdensome. If you love God you love to do what he says!

If you have Jesus as your savior, you are born again and have overcome the world. Jesus keeps you from the evil one who rules the world, who seeks your destruction (1 John 5:18) and hates God.

Keep yourselves from idols. An idol is nothing more than a God-substitute. Everyone believes in an idol or in God. So, keep yourselves from idols.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

1 John 4

The centrality of Jesus again distinguishes between truth and error. If He is God come in human flesh -- you are from Him. If you deny Jesus is uniquely from God, you deny it all.

God sent him as a propitiation for our sins. That is, he loved us enough to send Jesus to receive and satisfy his wrath that we should have received. This is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us.

It is this love of God that needs to be passed around to one another. The proof that you love God is that you love others.

The love of god casts out fear and if I love him I demonstrate it by keeping his commands. We do not have a lvoe of equals, but of a subject to a master.