Revelation #5 Will you worship?

Revelation 4:11

“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.”

light-play-at-sundown

One morning, earlier this fall,  I felt particularly down and discouraged. I sat down to do my BSF and pray. I’d been waiting, not so patiently, to see God work. After praying, I looked up and out the window. At that exact moment a hummingbird alighted to feed on some late-blooming flowers in the planter on the deck. I was encouraged.

Yesterday a similar incident gave me pause. I had just heard of a death in my extended family. As I began to prepare dinner, I couldn’t help but feel sad for those she has left behind. My husband turned my attention from the stove to the window. The rain and wind of earlier in the day had settled down and clouds glowed the colour of pewter. Sunlight illuminated the trees and grass, revealing a brilliant contrast between land and sky. Just then, an eagle soared across this stunning scene, right towards our house. It all happened too quickly for the camera, or to even step outside, but it was a breath-taking moment that lifted my spirits.

It is not easy to really imagine heaven, but at times like these, I begin to understand there is some wondrous and real connection between heaven and earth.  Creation tells me so in Psalm 19.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.”

Can we hear what creation is telling us? When we don’t pay attention, it may seem unintelligible, but creation’s declarations have a lot to do with heaven and future things.  All creation is praising God right now and His creatures, including us, will do so forever!

To me, these scenes in my field of earthly vision, were more than a momentary gift, but a challenge to do what all creation is doing and will do forever.

Through His creation, God is asking, will I also worship? Will I praise Him in spite of loss and pain?  When I don’t know what to do or I wonder how and when my prayers will be answered, will I acknowledge the Lamb who sits on the throne? Will I quit being impatient and just worship?

With the winged creatures, the twenty-four elders and all of creation I will sing:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13b)

 

Note: This series of blogs, while growing out of a “Bible Study Fellowship” (BSF) study of Revelation, is not affiliated or endorsed by BSF. Nor are these blog any sort of definitive theological commentary. The opinions expressed here are simply my own thoughts and reflections on the book and what I am learning from the study.
image: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/ Light play at sundown

 

 

 

 

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Revelation #4: Chosen to be Changed

 

By Karelj (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the early 1980’s, I attended a small denominational Bible College. Occasionally, the Board of Governors met on campus and took their meals in the dining hall. On one occasion I observed a group of card players pick up their game and slip into a corner behind the door to finish out of view of the Board. I don’t recall that anyone had ever said we couldn’t play those kinds of cards. It was just an understanding that some might be offended at such a pursuit. For that reason, Rook®,  with its numbered cards was the game of choice for many of us.

My college was actually surprisingly free of strict rules which defined other similar evangelical institutions at the time. Sure, we were to stay out of each other’s dorms and were not allowed to wear jeans to class, but we often joked about schools with their stricter rules and “pink and blue” sidewalks to keep the guys and girls separated. While the sidewalks did not actually exist, presumably the comprehensive rules were to help remind students to live a life that was pleasing to God.

We, on the other hand, were told that young women were not to leave campus in the evening without a man. Why? Because this college was in the city and stranger danger was more likely than… Well mostly we had the sense to go out in groups in our evening hikes up to the nearest vista, which had been the local garbage dump.

Back in the dining hall, heated discussions, between third and fourth year theology students could be overheard. Election versus Free Will; The Sovereignty of God versus the Responsibility of man. Occasionally these discussions would disintegrate a little with one student good-naturedly calling the other a “Heretic!” Though I was just a second year and hadn’t taken any advanced theology, I found these discussions quite entertaining and informative.

What were they grappling with? God has chosen us, since before the foundation of the world. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Ephesians 1:4) At the same time we are responsible to reach out and grasp the salvation that we are offered. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— (John 1:12) It is a wondrous thing and I will attempt no further explanation of these truths!

The important thing is God’s work of Salvation doesn’t end when He grafts us into His tree (Romans 11). A graft needs to take root, to grow, to bear fruit. Otherwise it is a dead little stick, a useless branch.

We are chosen to be changed, as Linda, our teaching leader, stated in her lecture and as the apostle Paul stated in Romans 8:29a. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” Again in Romans 12:2, the believer is reminded to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

We are refined by the work of His Spirit as we serve Him. “…live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Ephesians 4:1b)

The transformation of the believer seems to be what some of the churches of Revelation missed out on. Let’s not miss this truth today!

I know many people are proud of their alma mater, but I think our college got something very right. We didn’t need pink and blue sidewalks or special edicts about card playing because it was never about the rules. It was about being transformed.

That is God’s work in us. Being changed is what He has chosen us for.

“Note: Although passages in Revelation aren’t specifically mentioned here, this part of the study is to remind us “who are God’s people?” (Notes, Second Day (Lesson 7)
(Image: By Karelj (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Note: This series of blogs, while growing out of a “Bible Study Fellowship” (BSF) study of Revelation, is not affiliated or endorsed by BSF. Nor are these blog any sort of definitive theological commentary. The opinions expressed here are simply my own thoughts and reflections on the book and what I am learning from the study.
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Revelation #3: El Roi; the God who Sees.

Revelation 2: 18, 23   These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze…I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

Question 8 in the BSF lesson 5 reads: What did you learn about Jesus when you compare verses 18 and 23 and how does this challenge or comfort you? What a question!

The images of Jesus in these passages are powerful and symbolic of the Risen Son. Eyes like blazing fire- eyes that burn through darkness and shadow, seeing beyond our façade into our hearts and souls.

In our small group, before open session, I shared that these verses brought to mind a hymn we sang when I was growing up, “Search me Oh God.” I recalled a sense of discomfort and sometimes conviction caused by the words.

Search me, O God, and know my heart today,
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free

(James E. Orr, Public Domain)

Nothing about us is secret.  He is El Roi, the God who sees (Genesis 16:3). Psalm 139 lays out the extent of this truth:

You have searched me, Lord,  and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.

Take a moment and really think about that.

We cannot hide who we really are from God. Nor can we hide our true motivations, our impure thoughts or the lack of forgiveness we may hold in our hearts. Might as well confess and be cleansed. Doing so will help us to lead a different life- one that proves out what we really believe.

Jesus knows that too.

In Revelation 2:19 the message to the church at Thyatira, continues:

“I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.”

Have you ever experienced those situations where you tried hard to do the right thing and somehow your true intentions were misunderstood? Or a time where you secretly helped someone but saved them the embarrassment of knowing who helped them? Or perhaps you instigated a successful project, did almost all the work and someone else got the credit?

So not only does Jesus see our sin and shame, he also sees our true convictions, our best efforts and good works done in secret.

Interestingly enough, the result of Jesus seeing both the good and the bad, if we believe and accept His complete work of His salvation, is the same. (Don’t forget, our good deeds don’t amount to much compared to what He has done.) It’s all covered over when we put on Christ.

Revelation 3:4-5 “Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.”

What a comfort! Jesus cleanses us, dresses us in white and has our name in His book.

After our discussion group, I walked into the church sanctuary and sat down. Guess which hymn appeared on the overhead? Here is the second verse.

I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy word and make me pure within;
Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.

Praise God, we are covered.

Note: This series of blogs, while growing out of a “Bible Study Fellowship” (BSF) study of Revelation, is not affiliated or endorsed by BSF. Nor are these blog any sort of definitive theological commentary. The opinions expressed here are simply my own thoughts and reflections on the book and what I am learning from the study.

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#2 Revelation: The Ultimate Blessing

 

The word is used a lot today. We use “Feeling Blessed” as our status when things are going well and we are able to look on the bright side. Signing off our correspondence we write “Blessings” to wish the recipient of our message well. Counting our blessings with a heart of thanksgiving, has even become an informal movement among believers, instigated in part by author Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts.

But then there is Laura Story’s chart topping song, entitled “Blessings”:

“‘…what if Your blessings come through raindrops…tears…sleepless nights”

Honestly, I wasn’t that thrilled when I first heard this song. My physical pain doesn’t feel like a blessing. I’m not fond of sleepless nights and I don’t do tears if I can avoid it.  While I understand that God works through difficulty and pain to refine us, I find it hard to see trials and suffering as blessings.

What is “blessing” anyway? A comprehensive answer would take longer than I have, so I hope this will suffice.  Some translations of the Bible substitute the word “happy,” but in my opinion the English word falls short.

Here are a few definitions of the noun “blessed”:

-a special favor, mercy, or benefit

-the invoking of God’s favor upon a person

Blessing, of course is also a verb, as used by God to Abraham (Genesis 12:2) and Isaac (Genesis 25:11).

Isaac, when blessing Jacob includes these words “heaven’s dew and earth’s richness, an abundance of grain and new wine.” (Genesis 27:28.) These would signify material blessing—you know, the kind we all want. Certain TV preachers would lead us to believe we are entitled to material blessings from God and that our happiness is the definitive goal.

Revelation 1:3 tells us we will be blessed. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

What kind of blessing is the apostle John speaking of? If I delve into the book of Revelation does this mean I get a new house, a new car, solid finances, perfect children and an end to physical pain? Will I wake up happy and smiling every day?

When the apostle John wrote these words, he wasn’t living it up. He was in exile, banished to an island for preaching the gospel. Not what most of us would consider “blessed.”

Going back again to Genesis, God also promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) a covenant blessing, one that was not dependant on what they or their descendants would do (Genesis 12:3, 26:4, 28:14-15) “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.”

Obviously this could not be a material blessing. Many nations of the world live in poverty and the nation of Israel has not exactly seen peace and prosperity throughout its existence.

As believers, we now know that Jesus Christ fulfills that promise of blessing for all peoples, through His salvation.

The blessing John was speaking of is also a spiritual blessing, the completion of that covenant promised in Genesis. The blessing of Revelation is to be found in knowing and worshipping Jesus Christ. Lesson 2 of the BSF notes states (p.2): “Revelation unveils God’s own Person, the greatness of His Son and the activity of His Spirit.” Knowing, understanding and taking Jesus to heart is the ultimate blessing.

Laura Story, the writer of the song, is a woman well acquainted with unexpected challenges in life and I’m sure she knows that it is in times of struggle, when we are driven to our knees and to the throne of God’s infinite grace that we get to know Jesus better.

That is the sum of all blessings, for today and for eternity.

Note: This series of blogs, while growing out of a “Bible Study Fellowship” (BSF) study of Revelation, is not affiliated or endorsed by BSF. Nor are these writings any sort of definitive theological commentary. The opinions expressed here are simply my own thoughts and reflections on the book and what I am learning from the study. Scripture passages quoted are from the NIV unless otherwise stated.
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#1 Revelation series: One Story

 

 

 

bible-open-to-psalm-118On occasion I visit and post on a social media site where people ask all sorts of questions and others post answers.  One of the topics is Bible and others are asked to interpret or define this or that incident in the Bible. Often, a question is posed from the most obscure and difficult passages. Whether they are skeptics, cynics or true seekers is hard to say, but it seems to me that a lot of Biblical misunderstanding arises when people view the Bible as a collection of random short stories. While we can learn from each story as a stand alone account, many stories, especially those in the Old Testament (the time before Christ) don’t make a great deal of sense unless we take time to understand what came before, what came after and what the story meant to its original audience in their cultural context.

To take note of, when looking at any passage is God’s eternal character. Revelation 1:8 states “He is the Alpha, the Omega, the beginning and the end.” This is one of many clues to the thread that ties the whole Bible together as a unit.

The Bible is One Story, an incredible narrative written by God’s breath, through his servants. The thread (spoiler alert) is God’s redemption plan for His people. The first clues are found in the very first book. In Genesis 3:15, after Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s directive regarding the tree, he stated His plan of redemption, involving the offspring of the woman (Jesus) and a final triumph over the serpent (Satan).

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, focuses on the plan coming to its holy consummation. It is the grand finale, the finale explosive act of the play, if you will. Is it easy to understand? Not so much. I doubt that I will understand even half of it. Even renowned Bible scholars share the mystification. Perhaps we would do best to think of Revelation as a play filled with metaphors, symbolism and other mysteries.

But since we are looking at One Story here, at least some of these things can be detected by figuring out where else in the Bible the ideas occur.

Going back to Genesis again, here is another thing which indicates the One Story idea. When God created Adam and Eve, He was with His first two children, presumably1 in a tangible way, when he placed them in the garden. They had no shame in their nakedness (Genesis 2:5) before the God of the universe who came and walked in the garden with them. It was all great until Adam and Eve chose to disregard God’s direction for them.

Their special and intimate relationship with God was broken, not only for them but for every human being who has lived since. It is only through Jesus, the Promised one that we can have fellowship with God at all. Because of Him, we can stand as if we had never sinned and the Holy Spirit dwells within us, comforts us in our weakness and empowers our life as new creations as we give testament to His grace. Salvation from our sins was completed at the cross and spiritual death conquered by Jesus’ resurrection.

But is everything complete?

Let’s face it, life here on earth is not always that great. Even if, as believers we have God’s Spirit living within us, the heartbreak, suffering and trials of our human existence can be difficult.

So here is the really exciting part that God has promised. The completion of our relationship with Him is yet to come- Revelation 21:3 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live 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…’ “

Yes, God will dwell with His people once again. He will live and commune with us as He once did in the garden of Eden. Things will be restored to the way it was in the beginning. It reminds me of a do-over that a gracious parent gives an errant child, but this restoration can never be destroyed by our foolish choices. Jesus has made it right.

Though I usually hate to come to the end of a good book, I can’t wait for the wrap up of this one. God’s story is coming full circle, I can hardly wait!

  1. Scholars differ on exactly what form God used to make his presence known.
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Special blog project: Thoughts on Revelation

I am doing a series of blogs on what I am studying at Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). If you want to know more about these interdenominational Bible study classes here is the link:  https://www.bsfinternational.org/

Please note: This blog is not affiliated or endorsed by BSF. Nor are the following posts  any sort of definitive theological commentary. The opinions expressed here are simply my own thoughts and reflections on the book and what I am learning from the study.

Revelation 1:3 “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

I look forward to this blessing and pray you will reach into God’s Word along with me and be encouraged by what you discover.

Unless otherwise noted, all references are quoted from the New International Version or New International Version 1984.

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New Blog site!

Hello Blog Friends,

Please join me at my new site http://www.roseseilerscott.com

I am doing a series of posts on WW2 and snippets from my new novel. Come check it out and follow me there. Thanks!

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