Thursday, November 30: Ecclesiastes 6- Searching for the elusive 'something more'.

This chapter strikes me as a bit depressing. But then again it may be very real. How many people enjoy the life they have? How many people trudge through day after day with little or no enthusiasm for living?

Verse 9 provided my words of contemplation. Better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

What I understand the writer to mean is that life is better content with what one can achieve rather than constantly chasing after things you will never have.

The lure of more can make me restless. I see a new this or that and I find I do not appreciate what I do have or realistically could have. This is obvious for me in my shop. My hobby is woodworking. There is something satisfying about creating things out of wood for me. As I thumb through magazines and watch ‘do-it-yourself’ videos on ‘youtube’ invariably a new tool pops up… ahhhh, just what I need. That thought hits me like a thunderbolt. I never knew this tool existed. I was getting along fine without it but now that I know it exists “I need it.”

It is scary. How much of my accumulated stuff is in this category. Isn’t this, in part, what the writer warns us about… the roving of the appetite?

I don’t want to be a miser who cannot appreciate and enjoy the life I have been graced to live, but neither do I want to be always searching for that elusive ‘something more.’

Oh, God, help me strike a balance to enjoy the life You have given while cultivating generosity and a caring soul for people I can help. Lord, continue to send Your Spirit, reminding me life is not about me but about living for You and serving others in Your name. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, November 29: Ecclesiastes 5- A money pitfall.

So many good places to pause and ponder. For me chapter 5 was rich with wisdom from the Lord. It was verse 10 that drew me to write my ponderings.

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.

Money and riches can be an absorbing bedfellow. The more you have, the more you want. Paul writes in the NT, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1Timothy 6:10). This seems to repeat what the writer of Ecclesiastes is saying.

When money become our aim, it swallows us… we are never satisfied with what we have and this can easily lead to all kinds of evil.

How many news headlines boil down to a desire for more money? When prosecuting a case, the DA looks for motive and money is a most common motive!

The antidote I suspect is contentment, being content with what we have. As Paul says a few sentences before his love of money quote: But godliness with contentment is great gain (1Timothy 6:6).

So if you or I want to avoid love of money troubles… seeking contentment is our best corrective…

Lord, I pray for contentment and seeing the blessing in what You have provided rather than routinely seeking more, more, more… I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Tuesday, November 28: Ecclesiastes 4- The oppressed have no comforter.

The first verse grabbed me as soon as I began reading. So immediate and tight was the grab that I had to force myself to continue reading the entire chapter. In doing so, I saw so much more. So many stopping and pondering points in today’s chapter. And yet at the end I returned to the first words that grabbed me.

Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed— and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors— and they have no comforter (1).

I am sure the tenacious hold of these words is due in large part to the time of year. It has been a number of years now that my wife and a growing number of women in my church have participated in Dressember (www.dressember.org), where women where only dresses throughout the month of December. Dressember is a fundraising and awareness campaign for the plight of the 36 million people, mostly women and children, who are enslaved around the world. Women where dresses to show off the dignity of women and to produce conversations about the plight of theses modern day slaves. Money raised is given to International Justice Mission (www.IJM.org) and other organizations who are working to end today’s slavery horror.

Men are joining this cause, some wear bow ties, I have chosen to wear a vest –Vestember –every time I leave my home to show solidarity for this cause.

The writer’s words struck me as I opened my Bible… Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed— and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors— and they have no comforter.

Oppression has been around as long as people… it goes back to Cain verse Abel. We are a cockeyed species, we human beings!

I just finished reading T.H. White’s Once and Future King. This Arthurian Legend makes a point that we humans are the only animal species to war among ourselves. Oppression comes in many shapes and sizes.

Oppressed people have no comforter… the writer is correct and by God’s grace I am hoping my small gesture wearing a vest will bring some comfort and possibly help raise awareness for the need of a comforter… maybe you can be a comforter too?

O God, help me grow a heart for the oppressed, down trodden, and looked passed. I can’t eradicate sin –the source of our oppressing –only You Lord Jesus can do that. But I can be a human agent used by You to speak and help people who are oppressed. I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.

 

Monday, November 27: Ecclesiastes 3- How well am I using each season of life?.

I love the rhythm of the poem on time. Whenever I read it, the poem causes me to ponder time and life. The rhythms, the changes, and the seasons we all go through. Rich or poor, male or female, no matter what continent we live upon or what century we are from we, all humans, experience similar seasons and rhythms. With respect to time, life is quite universal. Different for each person to be sure but yet universal as well. Every person I have met can relate to this poem.

Time is gift.

I wonder how much time I use well and how much I squander. I also wonder if that matters, or is use of time another ebb and flow toggling back and forth between the two.

Then later in the chapter the writer profoundly realizes… “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed” (17).

This causes me to think, maybe I have wondered about the wrong aspect of time. Maybe the idea of squandering time is the wrong question. It seems the question should be how righteously, morally and God-honoring have I acted during each season I have been given? God will judge how I have lived… it would be wise for me to keep that in mind as I ebb and flow from season to season in my life.

Hmmm… something to think about today as I live.

Oh, Lord, you are the provider of the gift of time, of the ebb and flow of seasons. In each season help me to seek and find You and to live with and for You. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

 

Saturday, November 25: Ecclesiastes 2- What am I chasing?.

To be so wealthy and important that whatever you want to do you can do is a life beyond me. I cannot fathom living like that. Yet, that was the life of the writer of Ecclesiastes. In his exploration of meaning he tried pouring himself into everything he could think of … great building, great fun, deep thinking. Nothing satisfied the deep itch within.

We haven’t changed much as humans in the millenniums since his writing. What do people continue to pour their lives into… building personal ‘empires’, having all the fun they can imagine, thinking and study. Oh, maybe people cannot do it to the degree the writer did, but it is focus rather than amplitude that matters to life. Whether our ‘empire’ is a simple house and a comfortable life or the empire of a one-percent-er it doesn’t really matter because the focus for both is me, myself and I.

The writer is wise enough to pause and ponder meaning. He discovers, A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? (24-25).

Though his quest isn’t over, he is beginning to see the light. Without God in our lives and providing focus for our lives we accumulate things, material goods, wisdom or experiences only to hand what we have accumulated off to someone else when we die. And they may or may not treasure what we give them; they certainly didn’t earn what we give them. This all seems quite meaningless. We strive only to leave all our accumulated striving to another. Meanwhile we miss out on finding deep satisfaction in life.

The deep satisfaction, according to the writer comes from God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

Now is the time for me to pause… to ponder what am I about in life? What is my focus? What drives me forward? Is God my drive?  For only then will it satisfy?

More to ponder and consider…

Lord, on this eve of worship, may I probe my life to make sure You are central to what I do but, even more importantly, who I am. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, November 24: Ecclesiastes 1- What is the meaning of life?.

Ecclesiastes is quite a switch from Revelation!

What is the meaning of life? The writer is wondering; most of us wonder about this from time to time. What is the meaning of life?

Is it to grab as many new and fresh experiences that one can? Is it a quest for knowledge or sensual pleasure?

So much of life is a never-ending circle of this, that or another thing. The writer puts it far more eloquently: Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again (4-7).

Where do I find meaning?

Where do you find meaning? This will be the great question of this book. Ask it! Wonder, think, question, probe your heart and your mind. What makes you tick. What keeps you going? What fills your life and empowers you to live?

Lord, I have found my answer in You… Amen.

 

Thursday, November 23: Revelation 22- Worship God alone!.

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!” (8-9).

John’s reaction of falling before the angel in worship seems like such a natural reaction. This angel of God gives you a tour of heaven and what is to come… speaking for God, showing what God will do and leading you to the wonder of God. Worship and praise seems like an innocent reaction, but John is met with an instant and stinging rebuke.

“Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”

It hit me, how easily and innocently we can make the same mistake, worshipping –and if that word seems too strong, adoring –the messenger rather than God who sent him.

As I consider this scenario, I see dangers on both sides of the action.

For the ‘adorer’ we set our eyes on the wrong target. God himself fades into the background as the messenger takes center stage. This is idolatry no matter how ‘innocent’ it might be. When anyone or anything displaces God from the center, sin has crept in and taken hold!

For the messenger to receive the adoration of another that is rightly due only to for the Lord is blasphemy… taking the place of God when you are not God.  The angel in the book of Revelation understood that and immediately rebuked the wrong and spoke truth. How often, sadly do preachers and teachers and leaders in similar situations revel in the praise rather than giving due honor to the Lord. Many a pastor has fallen into this sin, I fear. Herod, in Acts 12:23 was struck down by God because he accepted praise reserved only for God.

I need to examine my heart…

·         Have I misplaced my praise in any area no matter how seemingly small, placing it on men rather than God?

·         Have I accepted inappropriate praise or adoration from someone instead of deflecting it to the rightful one, the Lord God almighty?

Oh, God, penetrate my heart, show me if I have sinned or am sinning in either of these ways. Show me, Lord, that I might repent before You, my Savior and my God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

Wednesday, November 22: Revelation 21- The glorious reward.

Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children (7). Finally, John paints pictures of the glorious reward for all the saints. God gives us a glimpse of eternity for those who love Jesus and live honoring the Lord.

My heart sighs in relief… everything in the book and in life led to this… the wonder, the beauty, the serenity, the perfect of life eternal. I re-read the chapter just to lap up the imagery. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (3-4).

Joy fills my heart… stay faithful. Stay true to the Lord and this is God’s reward.

Day by day, Lord, I pray for strength to live for You, to honor You, to serve You and to be a tool in Your hands. Amen and amen.

 

Tuesday, November 21: Revelation 20- The only escape is faith in God -Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit .

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. … The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire (10, 13-15).

Finally judgment has come. God’s verdict is issued and the sentence is executed; God’s enemies are thrown into the lake of fire where [t]hey will be tormented day and night forever and ever. The imagery is horrible. It is difficult for me to imagine eternal torment. I honestly don’t want to imagine it. It is frightening,

And yet, this destiny is established and set for anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life. The only escape is faith in God -Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

I am humbled. I am grateful. I have few words…

Thank You, Oh, God. But for Your grace there go I… Amen.

 

Monday, November 20: Revelation 19- Worship is central to our relationship with the Lord.

With the great prostitute defeated, the beast’s power is gone and the Lord wins the decisive battle with ease. Halleluiah! Cut off the head and the snake dies! Halleluiah.

From the victory my thoughts traveled to worship. How often heaven erupts in praise to the Lord. Halleluiahs ring out over and over again to the Lord throughout this book.

A friend has said that worship here on earth is rehearsal for worship in heaven. Seeing all the time worship breaks out in the book of Revelation makes me think we need more practice!

Worship is central to our relationship with the Lord. God is worthy… oh, so worthy. God is worthy now and He is worthy forever. So we should be lauding and praising and worshipping and singing to the Lord regularly.

Jesus Christ has conquered the grave and defeated the powers and principalities. Jesus has redeemed us and brought us into His kingdom… each of these and so much more God has already done for us. Yes, God is worthy of praise, indeed…

And our worship and praise is always GOD focused and GOD centered. We worship God because of who He is and what the Lord has done…

Halleluiah.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty the King of creation. Oh, my soul praise Him for He is our help and salvation! All you who hear now to His temple drawer near….

Halleluiah. Halleluiah. Amen.

 

Saturday, November 18: Revelation 18- God's enemy vanquished, defeated and judged .

The theme continues… the end for the enemies of God and all who side with her is sure. While the world and all who made their living supporting Babylon the Great receive their God-ordained punishment, the people of God are called out of Babylon to safety. They rejoice… For God has judged her with the judgment she imposed on you (20c).

Like watching war criminals get their just punishment, the people of God see God’s enemy vanquished, defeated and judged.

These are not pretty days. Judgment never is. However, when judgment is just and true they are good days…

Come, Lord Jesus. Come. Vanquish Your enemy. Establish Your throne in fullness and splendor. Come, Lord Jesus. Come!

 

Friday, November 17: Revelation 17- God's words will be fulfilled .

Through my window I watch the small wildlife in my yard scurry around. Chipmunks galore rarely rest. They scurry here and there, looking under leaves for morsels to eat or stash away as fall moves along and winter looms.

I felt a little like a chipmunk looking here and there in this chapter, turning phrases over in my head as I look for God’s morsel today.

I am not good at deciphering fantasy language so beasts and the like are a struggle for me. So devotionally I looked for kernels of truth to cling to. And God provides…

Verse 1: “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters… The Lord God is in control. I may not understand everything and how it all works out, but the Lord does. This is what matters to me. The God I love, honor and serve is in control and John is given a glimpse of God’s just retribution on His enemy.

Verse 6: I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus… Following Jesus is not necessarily an easy road. Many will pay dearly for their faith in Jesus. This causes me to ‘buck up’ to be ready and prepared for persecution, which could come. I haven’t faced anything of this sort but I could and I need to be prepared… to continually bear testimony to Jesus through the way I live.

Verse 8b: The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished… A book of life with names written or not written from the creation of the world.  The theological word ‘predestination’ comes to mind. Predestination is a concept I do not fully understand, but it lives in the pages of Scripture. The words of the Prophet Isaiah come to mind: As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). I don’t understand why some have their names written in the book of life from eternity and others don’t. But putting my trust in the Lord’s will rather than my own gives me comfort, because He is just and I am sin-filled and frail. I can rest in the will of my God, even though I do not fully understand.

Verse 17: For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. I am back where I started. God is in control. God is even able to have His enemy do His bidding and in the end God’s Words will be fulfilled. I have staked my eternity on this!

Have you? Think about it…

Oh, Lord, You met me today in Your Word. You fed me with truth and beauty. Your Spirit encouraged me and provided for me yet again. I am blessed. I am humbled. I am Yours. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

 

Thursday, November 16: Revelation 16- Too late to repent .

“It is done!” (17). Terrifying words coming from the throne of God as God pours out His wrath.

Sobering… sitting here thinking about God meeting our just judgment.

My world is, in large measure, completely oblivious to the ways of God and the judgments of God.  And, Lord, I simply do not know how to tell them these things in a way that they can hear.

Religion with any kind of judgment is summarily dismissed by many people.

Even “spirituality” is perverted into ways that can improve my life and make things better for me.

Lord, I am at a loss to make Your will know to people…

Someday those words will be spoken, “It is done!” Then the world will learn what folly it was to serve any other god but the Lord. Sadly, then it will be too late to repent! How sad it will be for those who don’t believe… Sobering. Oh, so sobering…

Lord, give me strength to live for You and wisdom to know how to best speak of You to those who do not yet know You. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, November 15: Revelation 15- Singing thoughtfully in my heart .

Throughout Revelation songs are sung to the Lord, worship in the heavens to the God of God’s. The latest song is verses 3-4:

“Great and marvelous are your deeds,

Lord God Almighty.

Just and true are your ways,

King of the nations.

Who will not fear you, 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.”

I sat and read these words over and over, allowing each line to soak in. Great and marvelous are your deeds… I considered the span of Scripture and many of the Lord’s great and marvelous deeds

      Creation

      The ark and flood

      The burning bush calling out to Moses

      The signs (plagues) before Pharaoh

      The day the sun stood still

And so my thoughts went as I traveled through the OT and onto Jesus and the NT. Marvelous deeds indeed.

I wondered about the spectacles described in Revelation; God declaring His name and rule as He brings to a close the age of sin and readies to inaugurate the age of eternal life.

Just and true are your ways… though some of the scenes repeated what I found myself dwelling upon was times of God’s judgments... Pharaoh, the Amalekites, Israel sent to Babylon, Jesus on the cross. The Lord’s judgments are just and true.

I pondered the end of another song, Philippians 2:9-11: Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. It connected with the words song above, Who will not fear you, Lord… All nations will come and worship before you, Eventually everyone will fear the Lord, some out of reverence and love –His redeemed –and the rest due to His wrath. But all will eventually fear the Lord.

And so it went this morning, connecting this song with thoughts, memories, Scriptures. In essence singing this song thoughtfully in my heart and soul.

Lord God, You are so good. Your steadfast love endures forever. Lord, Your ways are inscrutable. I am awed and humbled that You called me to Your heart. Praise be to You, Lord God Almighty. Amen and Amen.

 

Tuesday, November 14: Revelation 14- In battle there are winners and losers .

A pair of phrases garnered my attention as I read this chapter. First came the phrase ‘firstfruits’. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb (4).

The 144,000 preserved for the Lord were firstfruits. This spun an image of harvest. Firstfruits are the initial crop, the first to ripen. They are the indicator of the harvest to come. My wife grew a vegetable garden this summer. The first beans, lettuce and spinach were tasty, but they also filled us with delight because they were a constant (tasty) reminder that more was coming, which she tended. All summer long we enjoy these and many other crops. But those firstfruits are particularly delightful because they signal all that is to come.

These 144,000 signal the full harvest of redeemed who will eventually join the Lord during His conquest and forever-kingdom establishment.

The second phrase sparked a more sobering meditation. It was ‘full strength’ as in the ‘full strength’ of God’s fury. A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb (9-10).

Restraint is over, the end is near. The fury of God will be poured out full strength on those who have been opposed to God and God’s people. Throughout our yard we have poison ivy pop up here and there. I am allergic, so my wife, our prime gardener, keeps a keen eye out for poison ivy when it shows up. Her immediate course of action is to spray it with Roundup a strong root killing poison. We buy it in bulk and according to directions dilute it something like 100:1 before using. It kills within 24 hours. It is strong stuff even diluted.

God’s fury and wrath is strong stuff but no more will it be diluted… the day has come when God will pour it out full strength. His enemy will be vanquished and the days of mercy are over.

‘Full strength’ paints a stark image…

As I sit, these two phrases are the flipside of each other. The joy of salvation is balanced by the punishment of evil and vice versa. In battle there are winners and losers; the victorious and the vanquished. Today God led me to contemplate both… and This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus (12).

So, Lord, I wait, I pray with patience and endurance for Your day. And until then may my life be pleasing in Your sight, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.

 

 

Monday, November 13: Revelation 13- Troubling times.

Whatever all the symbolic imagery means with its dragon and beast and 2nd beast, there are problems in store for God’s people.

It [the beast] was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. ll inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world (7-8).

With these words Saturday’s theme is repeated. The Devil will be coming after God’s people. It is one thing to be warned, but what should we do?

Answer, brace ourselves… “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.” This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people (10).

Yes, brace ourselves… This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.

This may not be the most comforting answer but it is a real one. When hardships come that test our faith –directly and indirectly –hold on, endure, stay faithful. What you are going through is no surprise to the Lord. God was not caught off guard. He knows and somehow His plan is working out. Salvation is still ours. Attacks and problems are not indicators that we are bad, or deficient. In fact, it may just be happening because we are faithful.

Discipleship costs in the here and now, but its rewards are great beyond what we can imagine.

The story of the Revelation is not over. God wins and we win if we stand faithfully with Him. And [t]his calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.

Lord, give me strength to have the patient endurance to finish my race honoring You, service You and being faithful to You and YOU alone. Through Jesus, the Lamb, who was slain, I pray. Amen.

 

Saturday, November 11: Revelation 12- As real as the Devil is, our God is stronger and wiser .

It is no fun thinking about it, but the Bible is clear that those who follow Jesus are opposed by the Devil who will try to defeat them. We read again about God’s enemy and ours in this chapter. Verse 17, paints a picture of the battle we, who follow Jesus, are in. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

Many today try to deny the truth that Christ followers have an enemy who is after them and who is keeping those who do not follow Jesus blinded. But believing in Satan and demons and angels, for that matter, is the Biblical worldview.

As much as I don’t like the truth that God’s enemy, the Devil, is trying to derail Christ-followers from faithfulness, it is difficult to read the Bible and not face that reality. CS Lewis’ ‘Screwtape Letters’ is an ingenious book about the warfare that the Devil uses to get us to live ineffectual Christian lives. If you haven’t read that book I commend it to you!

As real as the Devil is, our God is stronger and wiser. And although we may not be completely shielded from the Devil’s fury, we are sealed by the promised Holy Spirit who will see us through to our salvation! (Ephesians 1:13-14: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you 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.)

So while I am wary of the enemy, I recognize that the Lord is stronger so the closer I stay near Jesus the safer I am because Jesus wins!

So as I settle into my day before the Lord’s Day I contemplate the words John heard spoken which he recorded this chapter:

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over 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. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (10-12).

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Halleluiah… You win. Give me Your strength to live until Jesus returns or You call me home. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, November 10: Revelation 11- God is worthy .

John’s Revelation is a difficult book to follow, but major themes do emerge even though I might not understand everything. Today I received the first glimpse of God’s future reign.

God wins! This is never doubt in the revelation.

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 Messiah,

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 people who revere your name, both great and small—

and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm. (15-19).

The first thing that hit me as I read this was the Halleluiah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah..

The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ, And he shall reign forever and ever… Halleluiah, halleluiah, halleluiah halleluiah!

The tune is exploding in my mind… I had to listen to it. Oh, my tears welled in my eyes! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUZEtVbJT5c). What a devotional moment. God reigns… all the pain and struggle and the service is worth standing with the Lord as He reigns!

It is no wonder to me that the 24 elders fell in worship. That is exactly what my soul did. He is worthy, Oh, so worthy of all my worship… all our worship… all the worship creation can possibly muster. God is worthy!!! Halleluiah!

Oh, Lord, You are worthy to receive all praise and honor and glory for You are mighty and full of wonder. Halleluiah! Amen!

 

Thursday, November 9: Revelation 10- following the evil one is like doing hardcore drugs .

“There will be no more delay!the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” (6c & 7b).

Terror and hope filled my thoughts in quick order as I read these words. Terror for all the people who will hold on to their idolatries rather than bow to Jesus as Lord.

Hope for all in Christ. And also hope for justice. The Lord is just so His decrees are just. The evil one is that, just plain evil so his lure of ‘fun’ or power or whatever is a fa├žade that sadly entangles people.

A thought flashed… following the evil one (whether you realize it or not) is like doing hardcore drugs. It feels good at first and it can seem cool, but shortly the drug owns you, controls you and ultimately destroys you. That is the Devil. He dangles enticement of some sort in front of people only to hook them and destroy them.

No more delay means the Devil’s end and that is a wonderful thing… it is however sad that all who are entrapped by him meet their end as well. The Devil’s end is a sinking ship…

However, God has sent a lifeboat, Jesus. Faith in Jesus transports us from the Devil’s sinking ship to the lifeboat of God’s love, grace and eternal salvation.

Readers, we all have a choice as long as we have breath… reach out for Jesus. Place your trust in Him, follow Him and serve Him and be saved.

Oh, Lord, pour out Your Spirit that millions and billions put their faith in You before the time ends and there is no more delay. Use me, use Your church as a megaphone for Your saving love. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Wednesday, November 8: Revelation 9- How sad, people do not want to repent .

This section of Revelation is so difficult for me to read. To contemplate the horror of the wrath of God and the utter degradation of people given over to sin… ugh, my whole body cringes.

Is there a more vivid way to describe torturous pain than the words of verse 6? During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.

Oh my…

The chapter continues as God releases warring angels to kill one-third of humankind (15). And, yet, with the wrath of God marching out, the surviving people will not bow to the Lordship of God. The grip of sin is so tenacious. The rest of mankind who 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)

My second ‘oh my’…

One of the most chilling aspects of these two verses is that if I removed the words worshiping idols, and (because my 21st century culture doesn’t acknowledge demons except in horror films) the content of these verses are the content of the news virtually every day.

In recent days there has been a mass killing in Las Vegas (murder), not to mention the many single murders here and there. Hugh Hefner, king of the Playboy Empire, died with many comments lauding the man who was a kingpin in the rise of porn and sexual revolution of the late 20th century. Ugh! And regarding idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood, has a human culture worshiped money more excessively than our present one?

How sad, people today do not want to repent… and it will be so right up to the end.

Lord, why did You grace me? How is it my heart and mind saw You and worshiped but so many do not. I don’t understand? GRACE… is all I can figure. With all my questions… I worship You still and even more vigorously for You alone are worthy of worship. You alone are Lord… Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, I worship and adore You. Amen.

 

Tuesday, November 7: Revelation 8- Spread the news while there is still time .

Death and destruction… my mind sees death and destruction all around. The sea turning red with blood, people dying… the wrath of God is a gruesome sight.

I find no comfort reading this chapter. Yes, the people of God are vindicated, but that gives little comfort given the death and destruction of those who don’t believe.

How sad this is… millions meeting their faithless end.

Could I be doing more? Could I be giving more? Every person introduced to Jesus is a possible person saved.

I am quiet and still today. The reality of the wrath of God is almost too much for me.

Spread the news while there is still time… Jesus is the way of salvation. He is the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6)

Lord, do not let me lose this picture as I go about my day. Please, do not let me become distracted for the spiritual realities… with Christ comes salvation; without Christ is wrath.

Amen.

 

Monday, November 6: Revelation 7- No matter what.

On Saturday the idea of martyrdom dominated my devotions. Martyrdom again rises today. Verses 9-10, 13-14 places this issue on the table again.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb”…

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “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.

No one knows then this ‘great tribulation’ will happen. And I suspect people living through some of the large scale persecutions of Christians the world has witnessed may have thought, “This must be it.” But since Christ’s return hasn’t occurred, we know the great tribulation has not yet happened... but lesser tribulations can be horrible for those living through them.

Believers anticipating the church creating some utopia on earth miss the fact that a great tribulation is looming. Maybe in a decade, maybe in a century, maybe in a millennia, but at some time before the end there will be massive persecution.

Will I witness and live through it? Only God knows. The question remains, “Is my faith strong enough to survive?” I cannot control the time and the place evil will erupt, but I can own my faith and hone my faith to be as strong as possible. I can put my shoulder to the plow and not look back (see Luke 9:62). I can press on, study, pray, read, and serve so that my faith muscles grow strong. I can worship and surrender my will to God’s so that my heart grows strong. I can keep my eyes and ears open to the leading of the Lord so that I know His voice and can follow Jesus no matter what comes.

Jesus stayed strong facing and on the cross; keeping faith in Him I can weather whatever trials come my way. But only if I remain in Him (John 15).

I don’t know what the future will bring for me, but I do know that faith in Jesus will see me through no matter what.

The saints in white robes made it, thanks be to Jesus. And I will, too.

Praise be to You –Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Salvation belongs to You. I will hold onto You with all I have, trusting that when my grip on You fails, Your grip on me will never fail. Amen and Amen.

 

Saturday, November 4: Revelation 6- The issue of martyrdom.

The message of John’s revelation is a tough one. Imagery, death, wrath and martyrdom fill its pages.

Martyrdom caught my attention reading today. Verses 9-11: When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

The words I bolded make it clear that more martyrdom was still to come. Many apparently had already died for their faith, but they were not to be avenged until the full number of their fellow servants… were killed just as they had been.

Martyrdom is not something I think about often, if at all. Being a Christian is so safe in my country and community. Even where I go in Nigeria, I know there is religious violence and some horrible things happen. But still I don’t know people who live with the impending doom of martyrdom. Still around the world people are martyred for their Christian faith (and other faiths, I might add).

If I am listening to the words from Revelation correctly, martyrdom should not surprise us. As horrible as it is, the enemy doesn't play fair and having people pay with their lives for following Jesus is no big deal to the Devil. He is evil and vile to the core.

My particular world would have to change dramatically for me to be legitimately concerned about having to give my life for my faith… but that is not the case for brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.

I wonder when the full number will be fulfilled and Jesus will return.

Until then I pray for the fullness of the Spirit to live faithfully, advancing the will and way of Jesus…

Lord, give me strength, give me courage to live for You, to serve You with vigor and to bring honor to You by the way I live and the things I do. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Friday, November 3: Revelation 5- All eyes on God.

John continues to witness worship in heaven… all eyes are on God. The songs praise God, the body posture of those in heaven honor God. All focus is given to the One on the throne and the Lamb.

Someone has said that worship today in our churches is rehearsal for our eternity of worship in heaven. If that is so, then we have a great lesson to learn from this scene.

Worship is about God not us. Worship, rightly understood, focuses on God not us.

The question is not whether ‘I like’ worship or I am blessed by worship or I learn how to live better during worship. NO, the question is, “Was the Lord God honored and praised and lifted up in worship? Was His story told? Were the participants drawn to venerate Him?”

All eyes should be on the Lord, not ourselves. Is God honored is the crux of worship.

I returned to the text and focused on the songs… putting my attention on the Lord for the remained of my time this morning…

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons 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.” …

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

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (9-13).

You alone are worthy, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit. You alone deserve praise and honor and thanksgiving. I lift my heart and voice and praise You, Lord God Almighty… Who is and was and is to come. Amen and amen.

 

Thursday, November 2: Revelation 4- Indescribable.

How do you describe something that is beyond description? That is what I felt when I entered chapter 4.

John seems to be describing something that is beyond human eyes to take in and human words to describe.

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. (1-3)

What does it mean to have the appearance of jasper and ruby? What is a rainbow shining like an emerald?

There is more later in the chapter that is simply beyond human ability to describe.

I thought how does one describe seeing God? God, the One beyond all things, is wonder-full and cannot be reduced to words on a page.

This chapter and the next few fill me with wonder and awe every time I read them. The inexpressible imagery... the simplicity of worship and utter devotion to the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.

My heart soars. My God is front and center. And the inability to adequately describe the Lord only adds to the beauty and wonder.

Our God, my God, the God of the Bible is beyond description. Halleluiah!

I don’t want a God who is humanly fathomable, I want to serve a BIG, Awesome, Beyond-Description God and that is Who I meet in these pages.

Oh, Lord God, forgive me for all the times I try to reduce You to something completely knowable, to a formula, a precept. You are beyond description. You are great and awesome… You are God who reigns over all because You created all things.

I praise You, Lord. I am reduced to a humble ball of nothing before You and joy fills me heart as I worship You.

Through Jesus Christ, my Savior’s name, I pray. Amen.

 

Wednesday, November 1: Revelation 3- Ugh we are a sin-filled people..

Verse 11 caught my heart as I was reading. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

I don’t know when Jesus is returning and still these words seemed to speak to my heart, particularly the word to Hold on to what you have… I take that to mean, hold on to the faith in Jesus that you have.

The world seems to be changing at an accelerating pace. The ‘rich poor divide’ is widening. General views regarding faith of any kind, Christianity in particular, are fading as people become more post-Christian and post-spiritual. Tensions between East and West are growing. Politics is growing more mean spirited, racial and nationalistic tensions are also growing. I could go on.

Maybe the civility of the past hid many of these same divides, certainly people were no better, but things seem to be rougher and more caustic these days.

Jesus’ call to hold on to the faith seems timely. Hold on to the whole of the faith. Maintaining Jesus’ values seems more counter cultural today. And sadly some people use the faith to further some of the divides… Ugh, we are a sin-filled people!

Oh, God, help the church be the church! Help me be a faithful Christ-follower in my changing world. Lord God, pour out again Your Holy Spirit so that I and we Your people can rise above the tides of meanness and live counter culturally for YOU. Lord, show me what that means for the remaining years I have this side of eternity.

How shall I use my wealth, my time, my influence to strengthen Your people and Your reign here in my world. I pray this in Jesus’ name and for the advancement of the Gospel. Amen and amen.