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May 19

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

Do I call Revelation 15 the song of the saints or the calm before the storm? For this devotion, let’s go with both for that is what it is. Chapter 16 unleashes the bowls of wrath and Armageddon (I looked at the headings preceding the paragraphs. I have yet to read it).  🙂 But rather than try to put my stamp of interpretation of chapter 15, let’s just meditate on the song in verses 3-4. I wish I was a musician who could sit down and put this into song. What a powerful praise song it would be. But since I’m not…

Just a couple thoughts/highlights of chapter 15:

1. God’s works are great and marvelous.

2. His ways are righteous and true.

3. We will fear (adore, honor, worship) the Lord and glorify His Name.

4. God’s righteousness will bring worship from all people.

The consummation of this worship was the majesty and glory and power which filled the temple (not earthly but heavenly). The angels were being prepared for what was to come.

“Father, may my praise fill the temple. May my praise be that which flows from my heart of adoration to You, the One worthy of it.”

May 17

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Revelation 13 today…spells trouble. For me at least. 🙂 I’m sure there are prophecy buffs who will make much of this chapter. And I suspect they would have an adequate explanation. But since my idea is to “de-prophecy” this, I’m going to focus on two other things.

The first is the beast which comes out of the sea. In verse 2 it says, “and on his head were written blasphemous names.” What could those names be? My take is that blasphemy is anything that denigrates the holy God or depicts Him as who He isn’t. In verse 5 it says he was given authority to speak arrogant words and blasphemies against God-to blaspheme His name and those who dwell in heaven. He waged war and the only ones he couldn’t defeat were those whose name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from the foundation of the world.  (v.8)

The other beast reminds me of what we have today-false teachers who perform parlor tricks to deceive. Todd White. Paula White. Shawn Boles. Bill Johnson. Kenneth Copeland. Joyce Meyer. Benny Hinn. You get the picture. False teachers who deceive with false promises and false “healings.” (i.e. parlor tricks). This beast had a number: 666. The most imperfect number of all.

My take on all of this: Be aware. False teachers abound. They say things that tickle our ears. People misrepresenting God and His Word (blasphemy). Its all there and it is calling each of us to follow. Don’t! Stand on the truth.

“Father, the siren song of false teachers beckons. Help me to resist through the power of Your Word and the presence of Your Spirit within.  Help me to proclaim Your truth.”

May 16

Monday, May 16th, 2022

I’m looking this morning at Revelation 12. I don’t know what to make of it in the “Revelation scheme” frankly, but I do see something else. That in a moment.

To begin with there are 4 principle characters:

  1. The woman (1-2). I always thought this was Mary, but think this may be Israel, the “genetic” home of Jesus’ physical body.
  2. The red dragon (3-4). We are told this is Satan in verse 9. The dragon is pictured as waiting to devour the child from verses 1-2.
  3. The Male child (5-6). Without a doubt this is Christ.
  4. The angel, Michael (7). Michael and his angels wage war against the dragon and his angels.

This scenario confuses me a bit. It seems to picture Satan and his angels being cast out of heaven, which is depicted in Isaiah 14: 12-15. But at the same time, I’m confused as to when this is taking place. The beginning of time? Are the prophecy gurus correct that this is during the Tribulation following the Rapture? I don’t know.

He is my “something else” I mentioned above: The victory is ultimately God’s. Not only is the dragon cast down, but verses 10-11 leave little doubt who will win. I encourage you to read that on your own and then adopt it as a battle cry. I particularly like the words in verse 11: “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

GOD. WILL. PREVAIL. God’s people will also. There will be persecution and hard times but stand strong.

“Father, You win! He could not defeat the Son so he heads off, and even now, is waging war against Your people. Help me to remember I can overcome by the blood of the Lamb.”

April 27

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

There is a common saying one might hear: “God never closes a door that He doesn’t open a window” (or some form of that). As far as I can surmise, there doesn’t seem to be anything theologically wrong with that statement.

But I still struggle with it.

Like I said, I don’t necessarily struggle with it because it is wrong. I struggle with it because I have trouble recognizing open doors. I lack discernment sometimes.

Let me explain.

People say we ought to walk through open doors. But how do we know doors are open, and how can we tell whether it is God opening the door or if it just our own making? I’m guilty of bashing doors down, of not waiting on God to slowly open the door or to make it very clear to me to wait.

The church at Philadelphia (Rev.3:7-13) was faced with an open door. Least that is what verse 8 says. We are not told what that open door is. The Apostle Paul speaks about open doors in I Cor. 16:9 where he says, “for a wide door for effective service has opened to me…” In 2 Cor. 2: 12 he says, “Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord…” He also speaks of an open door in Col. 4:3.  So, could the Philly church have an open door to share the gospel? To influence their community? To take a stand which would  bring people to their knees? We aren’t told.

What we are told is that they were to remain faithful. To step through the open door. To stand their ground.

What a challenge for any church! For any individual follower of Jesus! See the open door. Walk through it. Trust God to give you the strength to remain faithful.

“Father, help me to keep my eyes open today for any open door there may be. Help me not to break them down, but to follow you and gently turn the knob and walk on through.”

Let me encourage you to check out my other blog. I have a song there I think you will like.

April 26

Tuesday, April 26th, 2022

I suppose most, if not all of us, have heard or used the phrase, “Your reputation precedes you.” That can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Take the good thing and let’s talk about the church. Your church has a good reputation. Local businesses are appreciative of your efforts. The local school can count on you to help. The community sees you working to help or fix up residences or paying bills if needed. You are known as a church who can be counted on.

It can also be a bad thing. Your church’s reputation is one of selfishness. One that keeps to itself.  One more interested in growing in numbers than helping the community. It is involved in “sheep stealing” (recruiting others from other churches).  It sees itself as the only beacon of truth in a community of lying churches and organizations. “We are right and you are wrong. Us four; no more; shut the door” type of thinking.

What about a church that has a good reputation but inside it is much different? Enter the church at Sardis (Revelation 3: 1-6). They had a name (a good reputation) in the community but were dead inside. This reputation said, “Look at us! We are active and caring” but according to Jesus they were dead inside. It seems to others they were alive, but to the One who knew and cared, not so. I’m not exactly sure what He means by “I have not found your deeds complete,” but it certainly wasn’t a good omen.

What I do know is Jesus was unhappy with the half-baked church. They were to repent or He would come when they least expected it.

Thank God for those few who remained faithful and refused to indulge in the fake pat-on-the-back and the self-aggrandizement of promoting themself “doing” but not “being.”

“Father, help me to be inside who I pretend to be on the outside. May the church I love and serve at be more interested in “being” than “doing.” And when we do, may it match who we are. ”

April 25

Monday, April 25th, 2022

One of the game-changer words in the English language is a 3-letter word- “But.” I think we have all experienced the power of “but.”

“I like you but…”

“You really do good work and you are conscientious but…”

“I love you and I know we have a lot of years together but…”

“We know you have a family and we really appreciate the years you have given us but…”

The power of “but.”

Here you go: “I know your deeds, and your love and faith, and service and perseverance and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. But…”  (Rev. 2: 13-20)  Oh, how that had to hurt! I think it hurt worse because of two things”

  • Their track record was solid and was recently getting better

BUT…

  • They tolerated evil. Sin. Jezebel. I don’t think this is necessarily the name of a real woman in the church (who would name their daughter Jezebel?), but a throwback reference to the Jezebel of the OT. Ahab’s wife. Evil to the core. The same Jezebel Elijah scuffled with.  The same Jezebel who led Israel (via Ahab) into sin. The same Jezebel who had Naboth killed over a vineyard that Ahab wanted. The same Jezebel who died and the dogs left nothing of her.

Pretty strong word: “but.” But a word designed to stop them in their tracks and realize her influence and what they have allowed in the church.

God’s plan: Get rid of her. Get rid of her children and that includes those in the church who have embraced her sin.

BUT…for those who haven’t good things are awaiting. I love that “but” there! (v.24)

“Father, may I not allow the power of sin to overwhelm me. Help me to say No to the influence of Jezebel.”

April 21

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

In Jesus’ message to the church at Pergamum (Rev.2: 12-17) several things stand out:

First, is the description of Jesus: “The One who has the two-edged sword.” Several verses flashed through my mind as I read that. One is “the Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword.”  (Heb.4:12).  I also flashed to the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6 which talked about the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (v.17b). Jesus will yield His sword (pictured elsewhere in Revelation).

Second, we live in Satan’s realm. We are told that he is the prince of this world…for now. One day his rule will come to an end…as will he. But I like what it says about some of the saints in Pergamum: they held firmly to their faith. They refused to compromise the Name of Jesus!

Third, even though they had some who held to their faith, they also had some who embraced false teaching.  And it was ugly. Compromise central. They allowed sexual immorality (teaching of Balaam) and the teaching of the Nicolaitans (similar to Balaam and also included sexual orgies).

Fourth, God did not then, nor will He now tolerate compromise.  “Repent” were His words.  False teaching is so insidious, so sneaky, so creeping, and so sinister. Look up and its there (and one often doesn’t even realize it).

That’s a warning…for me…for you…for the church. Be aware. Be on guard. Keep the sword handy. I/you may have to do some hacking away.

“Father, Your truth stands. It cannot be compromised. You won’t stand for it. Help me to be true to Your Word.”

Lord willing, I will be back Monday with the next installment/devotion based around the letters to the 7 churches.

April 19

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

Have you ever received an anonymous letter? I’m not talking about the one which included a note of appreciation and maybe even a monetary gift. I like those kind! 🙂  I’m talking about one that was vindictive, accusatory, and just downright mean. I have, but I was too naive, to feisty, and to quick to react to respond correctly. What I should have done was throw it in the trash…immediately…and forgotten about it. But instead, I chose to keep it and try to figure out who sent it. An anonymous letter is a coward’s way of spewing hate.

By contrast, there was no doubt who wrote the letters to the 7 churches…and it wasn’t John.  The author signed them. He also didn’t mince any words. Take Revelation 2: 1-7 for example, the letter to the church at Ephesus.

Commendable:

  • their deeds, labor and perseverance
  • their lack of tolerance for evil
  • their discernment of false teachers
  • their dislike (hatred) for the Nicolaitans

One bad thing:

  • they had left their first love

What does that mean? I’ve actually heard several different possibilities:

  1. Their love for Jesus had cooled.
  2. Their love for truth had waned.
  3. Their desire for truth and love had been skewed. There was an inbalance.

Does it really matter in the long run? Probably not. The words are harsh, condemning, and not easily forgotten. How do I know that? Because of verse 5: Remember from where you have fallen and Repent.

I have this sneaking suspicion that the Ephesian church got one part of the equation right but not the other. They got the love right but forgot the truth. Or perhaps they allowed false teachers to come in unhindered and spread lies and pull their affection from Jesus.

I’m wondering if this is a fulfillment of Paul’s words to the elders in Acts 20: 28-31a. (Click the link for the Scripture )

What are your thoughts?

“Father, may You always be first in my heart and thoughts. Protect me from false teachers who come in like wolves dressed as sheep.”

April 4

Monday, April 4th, 2022

As part of my ongoing posts about lessons from Wisdom Hunter I want to leave you with this one this morning:

The local church should be more than just a preaching station where people come and sit front-to-back as spectators, and listen to a one hour lecture before returning home.  It should be a spiritual support group where Christians get into one another’s lives. (p.249)

I realize as a pastor that flies in the face of what I do on a Sunday morning, but I do agree with it. Due to the church culture I work in, it would, or probably could, be detrimental to change things on Sunday morning. To divide into groups of 5-10 and scatter around the auditorium to pray or to talk about what you have heard may sound like a good idea, but there is a time and place for something like that. In our case, Sunday morning is not it. Now…if it is a retreat or a small group then by all means.  Another possibility is if it has been part of the church culture from the very beginning of the church’s birth, that may work.

But I also agree that there does need to be some interaction. Frankly, except for small groups meeting on other nights and using the sermon as a jumping off point, I’m not sure I have an answer. In fact, I know I don’t. Look in my eyes and see a big “L” for Lost on that topic.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any idea how we can change our church culture to be more participation-oriented than spectator-oriented? I would like to hear your ideas.

{NOTE: This will be my last post until Thursday morning this week. Jo and I left for Ohio right after the second worship service was over to spend the evening with our family there. We also plan to visit her sister in a nursing home in Sandusky on Monday, then stay to watch Braden play a game both Monday and Tuesday night (weather permitting). Lord willing, I plan to be back home on Wednesday in plenty of time for my Wednesday night “66” class.  I will post another devotion on Thursday morning. My plan to post ahead of time didn’t work out.  🙂 }

March 2

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022

Just a short thought this morning.

Today is what is called Ash Wednesday by the religious world.  It is considered the “kickoff” to Easter. 40 days lie between today and Resurrection Sunday.  This 40 day period is called Lent. I was raised in a church tradition that did not observe, teach or practice Lent. I remember being in a high school study hall and seeing a teacher, Mr. Bano, with a smudge on his forehead. I was clueless and almost- ALMOST- said something to him about the smudge of dirt on his forehead. Yeah…like I said…clueless.

Fast forward many years. Probably 35+. I was still fairly clueless about Lent. A little study showed me it was more than 40 days of doing without. My first foray into that fray was doing without Diet Dr. Pepper. I thought I would try it. I succeeded. Some do without coffee. Some do without pop. Some do without sugar (candy). Some do without (fill in the blank). I’m still not sure why doing without meat, etc is a sign of “spiritual awareness.”

Lent is supposed to be 40 days of reflection on God’s holiness and grace. It is supposed to be a time when we focus on the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus. Whether you do without something or continue as is, may the next 40 days bring you and me a new awareness of all Jesus did for us, culminating in the cross and His resurrection.

You may be wondering what I am going to be doing without over the next 40 days. Doing without sin would be really nice, but that would be an effort in futility.  🙂  I have no plans to do without anything in particular. I just want the next 40 days, the rest of my life really, to be a testimony of God’s goodness, forgiveness and grace.