Friday, April 30: 1Samuel 1- Promises kept.

Promises kept. That’s the phrase that sparked as I read. Promises kept.

Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, kept his marriage vows. He loved his wife, he valued her for whom she was and didn’t hold her barren womb against her (this was certainly swimming upstream in his culture). He affirmed and blessed her giving her a double portion of sacrificial offering food. He spoke encouragement to her, "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?" (8). Year after year Elkanah kept his promises…

Hannah, when her son was weaned (2-3 years old), kept her promise and took him to live at the house of the Lord in Shiloh. How hard it must have been to drop Samuel off and leave. Did the young boy cry for his mother? Did the young boy cling to her? And yet she kept her promise to the Lord…

Promises kept…

Lord, I want to be a promise keeper. Promises made to my wife and family, to friends and relatives and promises made to You. Lord, I know I cannot do this on my own. Only by Your strength can I keep my promises. Help me, Lord, strengthen me, Lord, that people will see in my life promises kept… amen.


Thursday, April 29: Jude- Contend

Jude pairs two complimentary messages: a warning about godless men who have slipped among you, who pervert the grace of God into license for immorality; and a denial of Jesus Christ (4) with a call to contend for the truth (3). I choose to dwell upon the latter. In my morning times with the Lord, I seek His refining work in my life…

Here are the verses and words/phrases that called out for my attention:

Verse 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

Verses 20-23 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Looking back over the words that called for my attention, they were verbs, strong verbs that require dedication and fortitude, sprinkled with wisdom.


Build up,


Keep yourselves,

Wait for,

Be merciful,


These are the labors I am (we are) called to, as I live for Jesus.

Each word, each verb is a significant task and God lays all seven in my hands. I am both overwhelmed and inspired by these calls to action.

Gotta go, I have work to do… beginning with prayer.

O, Holy Spirit, only by Your power in my life could I even set out to do what this Word calls me to do. O, Holy Spiri,t only by your indwelling presence can I hope to be the kind of person who could discern wisely when to show mercy and when to contend. O, Holy Spirit, create in me a heart that beats in rhythm with Jesus that I might do all that He wants for me to do. O, Holy Spirit, I need you . I need You recreating me in Christ’s image and filling me with His power to say and do and be who He needs me to be. Come, Holy Spirit, come into and upon my life…


Wednesday, April 28: Revelation 22-basking in the glow

As I sit this morning, the sun is rising brightly in the sky, day is dawning and it looks to be a beautiful spring day in CT. Bright blue sky, a few wispy clouds, invigorating temperatures… oh, what a day!

Mornings like today refresh and energize me.

Reading this chapter blessed and energized my spirit just like the beautiful dawn refreshed and energized my body and mind. I am in awe as I ponder the opening verses:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Seeing God face to face…

No light needed because God Himself provides the light…

No longer any curse…

Oh what joy fills my soul! All this for those who follow Jesus! I just basked in the glow of this word from the Lord.

O, God, what a glorious gift and lift this morning’s Word was from You. My soul feels lighter. To have this amazing glimpse of my future home, I am back to singing what I sang yesterday…

O, O Praise Him, O, O praise Him

Alleluia, Alleluia,




Tuesday, April 27: Revelation 21-Let the party begin.

Verse 5: He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"

Wonder, awe, perfection… John witnesses the re-creation of the world, a new heaven and new earth, and a new Jerusalem. The old is gone, the new has come. Let the party begin!

No more tears, no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (4). I tried to imagine what a life/world like that would be…

No tears, no pain, hmmm… What causes them? Physical hurt, injury, accidents, old age, frail and failing bodies. Emotionally, pain and tears result from broken relationships, unkind actions and words. Every person on the face of this earth has experienced pain and tears… everyone! And in the new world, heaven, there will be none of this!!!

No death or mourning… our bodies break down, accident, injury, age, disabilities…as we age, our bodies change. As decades mount we cannot do what we once did. When we are injured we don’t heal as quickly or as completely. All of this is the strangle hold of death slowly tightening around our lives. There will be none of this in the new earth. And since there is no death or pain, there will be no mourning. No loss of loved ones, no loss of relationships, no loss of this, that or another thing. Heaven is a perfect place. All that Eden would have been had Grandpa Adam and Grandma Eve not sinned.

God restores it all… new life, perfect life on the new earth, perfect earth… let the party begin!

Will there be baseball in the new earth? I don’t know, maybe? Will there be skiing, or sailing, or art, or dancing, or strolling, or eating… ? Will there be exploring new places and meeting new people and chatting and relating and…? I don’t know but it seems that if there will be a new earth that the good and fun things of our present world, as imperfect as it is, might be available without all the imperfections. It is possible, anyway.

God wins and the picture of life God paints for those whose names are written in the book of life (27) is magnificent! This is God’s reward for patient endurance… ahhh. It is all good!

Lord, just spending a morning wondering and imagining what life will be like with You in the new heaven and new earth is invigorating. I can feel life filling my tired body. Your gift, your wonderful gift, for those whose names are in the book of life!

O, O Praise Him, O, O praise Him

Alleluia, Alleluia,



Monday, March April 26: Revelation 20-Standing before God's throne.

The 1000-year period before the final battle remains a head scratcher for me. Just when I think it is all over (i.e. chapter 19), this paragraph about 1000 years without the Devil and then his release, takes me by surprise. It reminds me that I am not calling the shots, God is. And His ways are higher than mine. God has His reasons about this and my role is to try to understand, but more importantly, to be obedient and follow. The same is true for other things I don’t understand, like the illness of a friend or the untimely death of a loved one or faithful missionary on the field. To follow and obey, that is my role as a son of God through Jesus Christ.

The scene and thought that captured most of my attention this morning was standing before the White Throne, having all of my actions reviewed prior to final judgment being rendered. I am finding it hard to describe my feelings. Sobering… scary… intimidating… every scene of my life -good or bad- recorded and reviewed. Everything! Every hidden thought, every word, every deed rendered or not, every selfish motivation, every judgmental thought, every mumbled curse… the more I think, the more uptight and nervous I get. I can literally feel my heart rate increasing. O, God, I am a sinner. Episodes of my life that I want to forget….REVEALED.

After what may seem like an eternity, sweat beading on my brow, the Judge opens the last book, the book of life. I see his finger flipping through the book, Ds, Fs, Gs (I picture the book in alphabetical order). Next His finger begins running down each page… Ga… Ge… Geb… Ges…. Like a kid scanning the final cut list for the football team, I am mentally searching with the Judge for my name. Gestal, William Joseph Jr. I am in! The other books are closed, the Judge peers over the book… “Your debt has been paid, Bill. Welcome to My kingdom, My son.” Book mystically gone, I feel the Judge pull me into an embrace. His warm breath tickling my ear as He speaks, “Well done, Bill, My good and faithful servant. Well done. It is all over now, son. Death is defeated, the party is about to begin. Go freshen up; I have a room prepared for you. See you in a bit I have others to still to judge.”

As I step away I realize the fullness of the gift of life Jesus gave me on the cross…

O Jesus, my Jesus I thank You. O Jesus, my Jesus I praise You… words fail me as I bask in the glory of God… forgiven, redeemed, loved, cared for… home at last. Amen.


Saturday, April 24: Revelation 19- Hallelujah! The Lord wins!

I reveled in the praise offered in this chapter… the Lord wins! The Lord Wins! My heart was filled by the praises offered to God, so much so that I read them again and printed them here (1-8)…

… "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants."

And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: "Amen, Hallelujah!"

Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!"

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

"Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!

For the wedding of the Lamb has come,

and his bride has made herself ready.

Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear."

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

The Lord wins - my heart wants to shout. Then Jesus on a white horse, the conquering general, appears on the scene with that amazing name inscribed on His robe and on His thigh:


It is no wonder that the saints and creatures in heaven were shouting hallelujah! The Lord wins!

Lord,today I am exhausted; it has been a long couple of weeks. This was a wonderful word to read today. It lifts me to hear praises shouted out to You. It blesses me to see Jesus, the conquering hero, with that amazing name King of Kings and Lord of Lords…

Hallelujah! Hallelujah to my Lord and my God. Amen!


Friday, April 23: Revelation 18-Judged

On the one hand, I like movies where the “bad guy” gets it. The bloodied and battered hero wins the day in the end. Dozens of titles come to mind in a flash. You’ve seen them. I wouldn’t be surprised if you like them too. They are part of the American culture; John Wayne made a fortune as the hero in this genre of movie in years gone by.

When I read this chapter many of the same feelings rise within me… God’s enemy, Satan, the Devil, the Harlot, gets what is coming. I am comforted knowing that God wins and Satan loses. I am also comforted by the simple reminders throughout the chapter that God’s people are spared the judgment dolled out to the Devil and his cohorts (see verse 4).

But there is another part of me that weeps as I read this chapter. Unlike movies this will truly happen, judgment and pain will come on all human and spiritual beings not in God’s family. And eternal judgment and damnation is not a pleasing thought, but it is reality or will be when God’s day comes and He says the time is fulfilled!

O, God, as long as I have breath in me this side of eternity, O Lord, as long as time still remains, I pledge my life to You to do whatever You want me to do to be a light to Jesus and salvation;  that many might be spared Your judgment and receive salvation through Jesus Chris,t Your Son, and Lord. Amen.


Thursday, April 22: Revelation 17-Resident evil.

Chapter 17 is a mind bender for many reasons. If you are anticipating a linear explanation of events, then you may be scratching your heads and sayin, ‘what is going on?’ Chapter 16 ends with a voice from the throne of God crying, “It is done.” And now in chapter 17 John sees glimpses of kings past, present and to come. The best way I can understand it is that in chapter 17’ a new chapter of Revelation, flashes back to a time before the end of Chapter 16. Notice how John is “carried away in the spirit” (3).

So we have moved back in time.  In this scene we see some of the earthly images… images of kings and rulers. You can check out good commentaries if you want to dig into the specifics of this chapter.

My goal, as I read, is to feed my soul and experience some time with my Lord and God before I find myself surrounded by the duties and pressures of the day. What came through to me loud and clear is that resident evil is present in the world. There is a great prostitute lurking; descriptions are distasteful, including phrases like: blasphemous names and a cup filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries (3-4).

Resident evil seeks to lure people into her ways. Her lure has captivated kings as she bates them with power. Through her kings, she wars against the Lamb… so drunk with herself and her atrocities she even tries to kill God, but the Lamb prevails: the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings--and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers. (14).

I don’t like mornings like this.  What I hear is a warning. Evil is very real. Evil exists. Some in our world garner their power from Satan and his spiritual emissaries. I know this kind of thinking doesn’t sit well with our world. My meditation ventures not into naming who is or is not a puppet for evil. Rather my thoughts and prayers go to the heart of my life…

O, God, give me wisdom to see when evil is trying to lure me or trick me or bate me (and others) into following its’ intoxicating way rather than Your way. Lord, don’t allow me to live so naively as to think evil does not exist. Drugs, pornography, prostitution, (especially child prostitution) and sex trafficking, … these are evil. And I must not pretend otherwise. Lord, protect me and show me how to protect others, particularly the vulnerable.

And, Jesus, I hold on to the truth that You will not be overcome by this or any evil. When I stand with You, I am eternally-safe. When I bring others to You, they are eternally-safe… amen.


Wednesday, April 21: Revelation 16-Sad, sad words.

The seven last plagues are poured out. From the Throne of God, the cry goes out, “It is done!” Words of finality. About mid-way through the chapter, not once but twice, I read five sad, sad words …

Verse 9: … but they refused to repent ….

Again verse 11: but they refused to repent ….

Sad, sad words, especially in the context of finality. No more chances, no more opportunities to turn to God and ask forgiveness, seek His love, find His grace.

Even as a part of my brain contemplated the sad reality that someday, on a day of God’s own choosing, He will judge the world and those who refuse to repent will face the fury of the wrath of God and eternal punishment. Another part of my brain kept saying, “Don’t be smug Bill, your salvation, your repentance is by God’s grace NOT YOUR GOODNESS. That side kept talking because even I struggle to repent some times. The thoughts that flowed seemed to morph into God’s voice…

“Bill, you still harbor great amounts of pride for which you have refused to earnestly repent. Bill, you still harbor ‘xyz’(I know these but those of you who read this blog needn’t know) habits, behaviors, attitudes and all manor of sin.  How sad that is Bill. You have known My grace, My forgiveness, My love.  Why are you still hiding these areas from Me? Yes, you are saved for eternity, but your life would be so much sweeter if you would repent of these… Come to Me. Don’t hide from Me…”

Lord Jesus, Loving Father, Precious Holy Spirit, I come…


Tuesday, April 20: Revelation 15-Time for mercy.

Reading this morning, verse one and the closing words particularly struck me. I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues--last, because with them God's wrath is completed. It was the comment about the last plagues. So far, in the book of Revelation, there have been 7 seals and 7 trumpets and now 7 last plagues--last, because with them God's wrath is completed. I thought, as horrible as the wrath of God will be, God seems to be dolling it out in stages… seals, trumpets and now the last plagues. And the thought came to me, was God measured in the execution of His justice and wrath so as to give more time for people to repent and find mercy?

Again I cannot say for certain, but this thought is certainly in line with His character and it certainly is a thought worthy of considering during my early morning devotions.

With Jonah, God withheld His judgment at the last moment because Nineveh repented. In fact it was God’s propensity for mercy that was a factor in Jonah not obeying in the first place. Did not God withhold His righteous anger at Israel when they built and worshipped the golden calf while Moses was up Mt Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone? It seems to me that even here in Revelation, the story of the end, we see God offering one last opportunity to find mercy and peace before He executes final judgment.

And certainly God was merciful with me, withholding His justified wrath instead of coming at me again and again before I finally said ‘yes’ to Jesus. Join me in a few personal moments of recounting God’s mercy in your life or the lives of your loved ones and closest friends…

As this morning time with the Lord moves towards its close, begin with the song of the Lamb as your prayer introduction:

Great and marvelous are your deeds,

Lord God Almighty.

Just and true are your ways,

King of the ages.


Who will not fear you, O Lord,

and bring glory to your name?

For you alone are holy.

All nations will come

and worship before you,

for your righteous acts have been revealed (3-4).

Thank you, O God, for the mercy You have shown me! Thank You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for saving me. Great and marvelous are Yyour deeds… Just and true are Your ways. You alone are holy and yet in Your compassion and love You saved a wretch like me… I love You, Lord. O, I love You. Amen.


Monday, March April 19: Revelation 14-Who's marked your life?

   Two groups designated by a mark. In the imagery of this chapter people wear one of two brands on their foreheads, either God the Father’s name or the number of the beast. One mark or the other? It is as if the allegiance of the heart is displayed on one’s forehead. Your mark determines your outcome, your loyalty, your owner. And since God wins, those with God’s mark live and reign with Him. Those with the beast’s mark suffer with him.

My mind floated back to a sentence I wrote above: “It is as if the allegiance of the heart is displayed on one’s forehead.” In our world we can live secretive lives. We can be quiet Christians trying to blend in with everyone around us. Another option in our secretive world is that we can be ‘pretend believers’, going through the motions but not truly aligning our hearts with God’s. There are other options too. You can think about those if you like. Where I mused this morning was on my life…

How would I feel if my heart allegiance was emblazoned on my forehead? It is not that feelings are everything but feelings are an indicator of my reaction to something. How would I feel if everyone, all the time, knew my allegiance to Jesus? How would I feel when I was speaking harshly to someone, or stealing something, or taking the Lord’s name in vane, or…? Would I act differently if God the Father’s name was tattooed on my forehead? As I thought about my own question, my answer came back that I would probably act differently at times. 30 years ago I choose to put on and wear my wedding ring all the time. The only time I have ever taken it off was for surgery. I want people to know I am married and my ring reminds me daily that faithful-married men act a certain way.

O, God, I don’t know if I will be living when the allegiance of a person’s heart will be tattooed on their foreheads as in Rev 14. Whatever happens in the future, that is not the case today.

My prayer, O Lord, is that You would teach me how to live so that people will know You are my Lord, Savior and God even without Your ownership brand on my forehead. May that be so, may it be so… amen.




Saturday, April 17: Revelation 13-Patient endurance.

Over the last few days during my time with the Lord, He has been reminding me through the text that He Wins. God’s outcome is not in doubt. This morning it becomes clear why my faith must be built up. YES, God wins, but that does not mean times will be easy for me or us as Christ-followers.

The dragon, (Satan) the beast with 7-heads and the secondary beast with 2-horns (these are the human representatives of Satan and I will spend no time speculating who these people are), are given the ability and authority to deceive all the inhabitants of the earth and lead them away from God. That is all inhabitants except people whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (8). These beastly leaders are also given authority to make war against the saints (7). The words that caught my attention come next, verse 10b: …This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

Patient, endurance and faithfulness… my life might not be experiencing persecution like friends and missionaries in Nigeria, but those words still speak volumes to me. I have to keep at my faith, to not let up or become lax. It is as if God is speaking to me today, “Keep doing those things that keep you close to Me, incorporating those spiritual disciplines, examining your life in light of My Word. Keep close to Me, stay open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, don’t lose heart, don’t cave to the pressures of the world that are opposed to Me.”

Not long ago the Olympics dominated TV but now it’s baseball season. To win the prize, these athletes must show patient endurance and faithfulness to their sport year after year, day after day. Hours upon countless hours of training just to be ready to compete. God says to me, “There is an earthly model if you need one… patient endurance and faithfulness…

O, God, I can be weak and lazy. I am prone to give up and though I want the prize, I am not always willing to put in the work. Help me remain faithful to You. Help me develop the patient endurance necessary to stave off the enemy and to follow You with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. In Jesus’ name, amen.



Friday, April 16: Revelation 12-Again, God wins.

Revelation is a tough book with all its’ imagery and changing scenes. I remind myself each morning as I begin my reading that it was originally written to people scared for their lives, fellow believers undergoing persecution and torture for the name of Jesus. As difficult a book as it is for me, who knows no threat of torture for being a Christian, this same book brings comfort and relief to many believers around our world who face the treat of violence for Jesus’ name.

I don’t understand the plans of God. Not long ago the town of Jos Nigeria, where many of my friends and students live, experienced a bloody flare-up of violence. Hundreds of Christians, mostly women and children, were brutally and intentionally murdered because of their faith. My personal friends are safe, but fear builds inside of them. Why do I get to live in safety and they not? I don’t understand God’s plans.

But this text is for them.  When I place myself in their sandals and listen for God’s whispers from the text, I hear an amazing chorus: “I will win. Nothing is in doubt,” says the Lord. The Church will prevail. Even though some are martyred in the great struggle against evil, they have overcome the evil one by Christ’s blood.”

In heaven the dragon (Satan) was defeated by Michael and the angels…

When Satan tried to kill the child, Jesus, Satan was thwarted as the child was snatched up to God and his throne (7).

On earth, as the dragon wreaked havoc and led many astray,  the church - the woman - is protected by the care of God.

Yes, the dragon makes war against her offspring – believers - “those who obey God’s commands and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (17), They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death (11).

Chapters and books like this don’t explain the reasons for pain and suffering and persecution but they give hope to those enduring it. GOD WINS and WE WILL WIN WITH HIM.

If this life is all we know and all we believe in, all of this makes no sense. But eyes of faith that know there is a life to come, understand best the hope these words give.

O, God, give me eyes of faith. Too often I live purely on an earthly plane, living and thinking as if my 80 or 90 years this side of eternity is what ‘life’ is about. Today I am reminded that there is a much larger picture and an eternity to come. Lord, I don’t seek persecution… that would be crazy. But I do seek to live faithfully and radically for You no matter the plan and purpose You have for my life. To the ONE who WINS, - You, my God and the God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit - I submit my life, my future and my eternity… alleluia, amen.



Thursday, April 15: Revelation 11-God wins

I really don’t understand the two witnesses part of this chapter.  There are so many biblical illusions; illusions to Elijah and Moses and Jesus.  Is God giving the inhabitants of the earth one more time to repent? Possibly, and that would be God’s way, giving people ample opportunities to turn from their wicked ways to His way.

What I do understand, and what gives life and lift to my soul this morning, are the songs of worship and Jesus’ final return (15-18).

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,

and he will reign for ever and ever."

And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

"We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,

the One who is and who was,

because you have taken your great power

and have begun to reign.

The nations were angry;

and your wrath has come.

The time has come for judging the dead,

and for rewarding your servants the prophets

and your saints and those who reverence your name,

both small and great—

and for destroying those who destroy the earth."

Who is and Who was…

Earlier the saints of heaven sang ‘who is and who was and who is to come.’ But in the song above last phrase is omitted, which means HE HAS COME!

Amidst all the imagery and things I don’t understand, Jesus has returned as he promised. This is another indicator that God wins. If ever there was a primary message for this book, it is the surety of God’s victory and Jesus’ return.

I sit here this morning, again, bathing in the assurance of Your victory, God. Whatever my part to play, whatever the circumstances of my life and the tasks You have for me to do, difficult or easy, front lines or desk job, I have been invited to be a soldier in Your army, a combatant in Your triumph over evil. O, Lord, provide me with the strength to serve You well, to do my job. Tto You be the honor and the glory and the power. To You alone, O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.


Wednesday, April 14: Revelation 10-Never in doubt

I have come back to this chapter 3 times, now wondering, “Lord, what are you speaking to me through it today?” This brief imagery rich chapter didn’t have an immediate connection to me. But each time I read this chapter, the image of the mighty angel poised like a conqueror standing right foot in the sea and left on the land right hand raised to heaven captured my attention. “There will be no more delay! … the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets" commands the angel (6-7).

In this imagery I saw, yet again, God wins. Make no mistake about it, what the Lord God says will be, will be. God’s decrees are never in doubt.

I may not understand all the images or the specific timing of God’s ultimate victory but God’s victory is assured! End of story!

Then I thought: this message was originally given to people undergoing intense persecution. What amazing assurance this letter and the message of this chapter must have provided for our brothers and sisters giving their lives because Jesus was their Lord!

Jesus, I am reminded as I read this morning, that my future is in Your hands and my future is never in doubt. The earthly specifics of my life are uncertain but my eternal future is secure. You win! Your ultimate day of victory will come… and You will call me to come be with You forever.


Tuesday, April 13: Revelation 9-But by the grace of God

The chapter depicts the horrors God’s wrath falling on those who have not confessed faith in Jesus Christ. The scene follows yesterday and maybe even intensifies the picture. I almost don’t know where to go in my thoughts. The last two verses of the chapter landed like the final knock-out punch of a heavyweight boxing match…

The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood--idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts (20-21, bold mine).

I don’t understand why I believe and am saved and others don’t believe and are not saved?

Last night my wife left a poem on my pile, I read it waiting for my computer to boot so I could write this devotional. The poem, erroneously attributed to Maya Angelou, was written by Carol Wimmer (Copyright 1988, and it goes like this:

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not shouting, "I've been saved!"

I'm whispering, "I get lost! That's why I chose this way"

When I say, "I am a Christian," I don't speak with human pride

I'm confessing that I stumble-needing God to be my guide

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not trying to be strong

I'm professing that I'm weak and pray for strength to carry on

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not bragging of success

I'm admitting that I've failed and cannot ever pay the debt

When I say, "I am a Christian," I don't think I know it all

I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taught

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not claiming to be perfect

My flaws are far too visible but God believes I'm worth it

When I say, "I am a Christian," I still feel the sting of pain

I have my share of heartache which is why I seek His name

When I say, "I am a Christian," I do not wish to judge

I have no authority--I only know I'm loved


The version printed in that church newsletter included an additional verse (author unknown)

When I say… “I am a Christian,” I’m not holier than thou,

I’m just a simple sinner who received God’s good grace, somehow!


O, God,I don’t understand why I received Your grace, why my eyes were opened to Jesus and I put my faith in Him. I am first of all so grateful to believe and that I am sealed by Jesus’ blood from Your wrath to come. Lord, again, reading these verses I recommit to Your call to seek those who do not yet know and believe in You, I will do what I can, by Your Spirit, to introduce them to the love of Jesus, Savior and Lord. Amen.


Monday, March April 12: Revelation 8-It has begun!

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. My entire body gasped as I read verse 1. What could be so overwhelming that everyone and everything in heaven drops silent? No praise sung to God, no commands issued, no wings flapping… utter silence, sustained silence… silence for 30 minutes!

Then I realized the fury of the wrath of God was about to be released. I grew silent in my spirit as that realization hit me.

My mind flashed to the Engola Gay and the silence I imagine filled the plane as it flew on after seeing the mushroom cloud of destruction from the dropping of its’ nuclear bomb over Hiroshima. I read accounts of that day on the Internet and my stomach literally ached. The horror of all those lives and all that destruction. My mind shuddered. How awful! How tragic!

I realize that there is no real connection between Rev 8 and Hiroshima except the pain of the horror of death and destruction falling on unsuspecting people. The wrath of God is not a pretty sight. Heaven shuddered at the opening of the final seal.  As I sit here this morning I am shuddering, tears filling my eyes…

O, God, help me save some…  O, God, let me never grow complacent with Your command to ‘Go and Make disciples’… O, God, help me rely on Your Holy Spirit that, empowered by You, I may unrelentingly witness to You and thereby save some from Your wrath…



Saturday, April 10: Revelation 7-Protection and praise

Those two “p” words popped into my head as I mused on this text. I was asking the Lord what nugget, what gift, what word He was speaking to me today from this text. ‘Protection’ and ‘Praise’ is what came to mind.

Protection… the144,000 sealed, protected from the wrath of God that was about to fall upon the earth and humankind. They belong to the Lord and He was sealing them, claiming them to be His own. I thought of the work of the Holy Spirit from Ephesians 1:13-14: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory. God’s seal on their foreheads, the Holy Spirit’s seal in our lives guaranteeing (I love the certainty of the word guaranteeing) our/their future. That’s what came to mind with the word ‘protection’!

Praise… an innumerable multitude dressed in white standing before the throne waving palm branches, praising God loudly. At first I thought about the content of their praise and the palm branches which reminded me of Palm Sunday a few weeks back but then I noticed who this multitude was. Verse 14: These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. They were an innumerable multitude of martyrs. I know a little first century history and the horrific deaths that martyrs faced at the hands of Nero and Diocletian. Not a hint of the pain of martyrdom leaks into this text. What we see is unrestrained praise of the God they love and serve. Unrestrained praise…

I realized that when I come face-to-face with my God in heaven, not one pain, not one hurt, not one fear I encountered for His sake this side of eternity will matter. Seeing God face-to-face will wipe away every tear from their eyes (17) and blossom in unrestrained joy and praise of Him who saved us and loves us and names us to be His own.

O, God, give me strength this side of eternity to stand for You and You alone… to live for You and You alone… to receive what comes, to receive what the world dishes out without complaint. Lord, in the end it will not matter. When You call me home, You will wipe away every tear and I will join the throngs before Your throne praising You for eternity and living, basking, in Your presence and under the shelter of Your wings FOREVER!!!! AMEN


Friday, April 9: Revelation 6-


How dramatically the scene shifts. Yesterday was filled with praise and adoration for the Lamb. Today as the Lamb opens the scroll, and with the peeling off of each seal, a fierce horse and rider are sent out with a shout. What’s happening?

My early devotional moments were spent trying to hear and picture the scene. I wanted to step into it as best I could, pretending I was living it as John describes it,not worrying what it means, but being engulfed in it as if it were happening around me.

The absolute command of the Lamb, opening a scroll no one in heaven or earth could open but Him. And as He opens each scroll, the subordinate players fill their roles with precision. The scene reminded me of naval movies I have watched where the ship’s captain, surveying the situation, calls out “full ahead” or “right full rudder.” Some lesser officer standing by and repeats those exact orders to the engine room or helmsman. The Lamb opens a seal and one of the 4 creatures, pecking order previously established, shouts a command and sends forth a rider and his horse. The Lamb has ABSOLUTE COMMAND.

As I stood immersed in the scene, the opening of the 5th seal (v.9) burst unexpectedly with white-robed martyrs calling out, “How long until their deaths are avenged?”  Soon, very soon, only they must wait until the full number of martyrs has fallen. Were I one of the martyrs, what would I have heard? The Lamb knows our plight, the Lamb has everything in control, the Lamb has his timing and soon avenging will happen. Like a foot-soldier listening to his general’s pre-battle pep talk, the Lamb has a plan. He knows the score and soon He will strike. Again, everything is under control. The Lamb’s word gives ASSURANCE.

As the sixth seal is opened, terror falls. The world is shaken, kings cry out in fear,“Why?” I briefly think and then the answer… God’s great day of wrath has come… the one who sits on the throne and the Lamb release their wrath… the Lamb KEEPS HIS WORD… the “wait a little longer” has come…

The chapter ended, I wanted more. I wanted the movie reel to keep playing. I could have read on, but I paused, reflected, and soaked in the scene again…

The Lamb has ABSOLUTE CONTROL, gives ASSURANCE when needed, and KEEPS HIS WORD. My heart feeds on those character attributes of the Lamb, who is my Lord Jesus,the one I worship…

O, Jesus, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, no matter what today brings, no matter what happens today, I know You are in control. You hear my cries for help or vengeance and when Your time is right, You will come! I rest in Your sovereignty, Your control, Your perfect and ABSOLUTE COMMAND.  No wonder all heaven praise and worship You. I add my voice to the songs of heaven… You are worthy to received honor and strength and glory and power… YOU ARE WORTHY!


Thursday, April 8: Revelation 5-


Worship intensifies at the throne as the Lamb who was slain enters the picture. It is unmistakable that the Lamb is Jesus and Jesus, together with the one on the throne (God the Father), are worshiped. The scene leaves no doubt Jesus, the Lamb, is God too.

Songs of worship and acts of adoration erupt with the presence of the Lamb…

"You are worthy to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

because you were slain,

and with your blood you purchased men for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation.

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,

and they will reign on the earth." …


(Another song breaks out)

"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom

and strength and honor and glory and praise!"


(And then another)

"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honor and glory and power,

for ever and ever!"
The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped


To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb… the elders fell down and worshiped… What a scene!

For the second straight morning my heart is caught up into worship and praise. Oh, what it will be like to join this heavenly chorus and worship our God, THE ONE AND ONLY GOD, face-to-face when I, too, enter the throne room of heaven!

It hit me, in a mystical way. I enter the throne room every time I join together at the church and worship. Each Lord’s Day and every time the church gathers for worship, we join with the heavenly company in worship of our God. Worship is not about me, or a style, it is catching a glimpse of the MAJESTY of our God, Father, Lamb and Spirit, and falling before God in worship. The attention in the throne room is on God, not singers or flying creatures or anything else. So, too, God reminds me in my worship, all my attention should be focused on God and God alone… and nothing else.

A friend and the worship leader at our church regularly remind me, we worship an audience of one, God!

Oh, God, allow me a glimpse of Your majesty. Dear Lamb of God may I be blessed with the smallest glimmer of Your majesty today so that worship will rise within me. To You and You alone will I fall down in utter humbleness and praise. To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be honor and glory and power, for ever and ever. Amen


Wednesday, April 7: Revelation 4-A first glimpse

What will it be like when we see God? I don’t know and personally I don’t put a lot of stock in those ‘I died and saw God and came back to life stories’ that circulate every now and then. I guess I am a skeptic when it comes to those accounts.

This chapter (and the next, I peeked) touch me deeply. John was given a sneak peak of the throne of God and he puts into words what he saw and heard.

Majesty is a word that fills my thoughts as I read. A throne patrolled above by flying creatures and circled by 24 elders, God, indescribable, encircled by a jeweled rainbow the throne. Lightening and thunder pounding out.  Songs… songs of majesty, homage and adoration, at which the elders abase themselves, falling face down before The One on the throne!

The song rings… Day and night they never stop saying:

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come" (8).

And then…

"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"  (11).

This scene fills my heart with indescribable fullness. Whatever heaven will be like, whatever it will be like to see God face-to-face, it will be so beyond what I can comprehend that I, too, will fall on my face in homage and adoration.

Our God is so BIG, so Majestic, that to be in His presence will change everything I have ever thought or imagined. God is supreme, that’s what I am hearing and seeing in today’s chapter. God is so wholly other that whatever I think now will be dwarfed when I see God face-to-face…

And that I think is the way it should be…

O, God, I am filled with awe, amazement and wonder. You, the supreme creator of all things, have an interest in and love for me! Astounding, amazing, You are. Amen.


Tuesday, April 6: Revelation 3-Rich, yet poor

As I read Jesus’ words to these three churches I couldn’t shake verse 17. I even went back through the chapter a second time to see if something else might capture my attention. But no, it was 17 again. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

We are inundated with commercials asking, “What’s your number?” “How much do you want for retirement?” Ads for this or that trading firm; Chuck offers this and E-trade that. I do believe God wants us to be wise stewards. But I am rich. Many people in the world can’t worry about retirement because they aren’t sure from where todays’ or tomorrows’ meals are coming.

Those commercials ring again, “Chuck, E-trade will help you get there.”

What I am hearing from Jesus is with wealth comes complacency, particularly spiritual complacency. The more I have, the more secure in myself I feel, the less I need Jesus.

A second thought spins like this, “But am I rich in good deeds? Am I using my wealth (time, health, influence) to make a godly difference in the world, or am I hording it for me?

Well, this was not a fun time with Jesus. The Spirit kept pressing me to examine my life. When I came to my prayer, all I could do is mimic the words of a song:

O Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, melt me, mold me, fill me, use me… Holy Spirit fall afresh on me…




Monday, March April 5: Revelation 2- What would Jesus write to me?

A Little Background on Revelation

The author of Revelation identifies himself as John, likely the same John who authored the fourth gospel. The book was written during a time of persecution. The church is anxiously awaiting Christ's return. The book is written to encourage the believers to stand firm. God is in control and Christ is coming again. Christ alone has the authority to judge the earth, remake it, and rule it in righteousness. Revelation consists of a series of revelations/visions given to John by God.



I found myself wondering as I read God’s letters to these 4 churches, what would I read if Jesus wrote a letter to me? Then I wondered which of these letters would be closest to what He would write me? Your answer might be different than mine. If so, follow where God leads you in your devotional time today. I kept circling back to the letter to Ephesus.

Ephesus comes across as a faithful church who studied the scriptures, divided error from truth correctly and made sure that people who taught error were not tolerated. This is often hard, exacting work. It is not pleasant to confront error while standing for truth and while doing so, ones’ life can become callused. Engaging in the rigors of dividing truth from error, a person can loose sight of the people with whom you are speaking/arguing/confronting.

Jesus, not so gently reminds me of calluses … You have forsaken your first love. … Repent and do the things you did at first (4-5). That word love leapt out of the sentence. My first love was Jesus. I have to be careful that I don’t replace my love for Jesus with a love/desire to be right.

Do what you did at first… two thoughts came to mind. First, embrace Jesus. When I first become a believer, I couldn’t get enough of Jesus and His Word. I treasured times to read and pray and walk with Jesus. Secondly, because I was so new to following Jesus, my life was pock-marked with lots of sin. I was unrefined and so were my friends. However, rather than being repulsed by their sin, I just wanted them to meet Jesus. As my life has grown more ‘Christ-like’ and refined (which is a good thing), my ability to handle sin in others has shrunk. This I am afraid is not good because I could be giving off an air of being ‘better-than-you’and this takes me back to the first-love piece Jesus mentioned earlier.

I believe it was in John, chapter 1, where Jesus is described as full of “grace and truth.” I need the balance of both grace and truth. It seems quite possibly I have grown in truth but allowed grace to atrophy. It is time for me to pray…

O, God, help me balance grace and truth. To balance intolerance for error and wickedness with love… Your kind of love. Amen.






Saturday, April 3: Revelation 1-Odd feeling great truth

Here it is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the day between Jesus’ death and Jesus’ resurrection, and I am reading the opening chapter in the account of what will happen leading up to Jesus’ ultimate return. It feels like wearing white or bright yellow to a funeral service… it just doesn’t fit.

And yet on the other hand, there is something encouraging and strengthening about reading the ‘rest of the story,’ reading about him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood… the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty (5, 8).

What Jesus ‘did’ yesterday and what we will celebrate tomorrow has changed everything, the course of human history as well as the course and trajectory of my life as one who believes and trusts in Jesus. Reading this chapter has infused my life with deepened trust. Jesus will return and make all things new. The resurrection we will celebrate tomorrow is simply the first step in God’s process of renewal and restoration of the effect of the fall in the Garden of Eden.

I pause when I read verses 17-18: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.
18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

The one whom I worship is alive for ever more. The one whom I worship hold the keys of death and Hades. The one whom I worship will come again! Whoa, now I am ready for worship tomorrow!

O, God, may I live in Your presence today, contemplating Jesus, all He provided with His death and the cross. And Lord God, I ask that throughout today, your Holy Spirit would stir in me a heart to worship and praise You like never before as I celebrate the empty tomb and my risen Savior tomorrow on Easter Morn… Alleluia, amen.


Friday, April 2: 3John-who are you emulating?

In this personal note, John writes a friend and fellow Christian brother (‘brother in the truth’) ,Gaius, commending him for his faithful living. What struck me this morning was how John then goes on to warn Gaius about Diotrephes, and commend another brother, Demetrius. This started the wheels turning with questions like, ‘Who are we imitating, who are we emulating, and who are our role models?’

All of us have role models. These individuals may not overtly be our role model. We might not have posters in our rooms or read their biographies, but almost certainly we all have people we look up to and quietly emulate. I know I do.

John’s letter this morning caused me to ask what kind of people are my role models? Do they exemplify a life following Jesus? Are they known for faithful self-less living or, as John puts it, “do they love to be first?”

On this Good Friday, the day Jesus gave his life for me, these are interesting questions to start my day. I am reminded of Paul in 1Cor11:1 (NASB) Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. As people imitate Jesus, so I should emulate them.

Food for the day…

Jesus, today as I sit beneath the cross, help me to examine my life in light of Your grace… that by Your Spirit I might live to honor You. Amen.