I believe one of the shortcomings of the church in America over the past 100 years has been our tendency to focus, to fixate on heaven. That may sound a little strange, being that we do hope for a future day when things will be set right, when God's Kingdom will fully come. But as the church, we have often spoken of the Gospel, and what Jesus accomplished as only having a bearing on what happens when we die. It's as if we are to simply sit back, pray and hope for that day, while trying to get as many others to do the same. Don't you have a deep seeded sense that there is more to the story? Don't you long for something different today, here, in our world? I think chapter five gives us just a glimpse of something more.

God is holding a scroll, which could represent His-story, the story of the world. Imagine that this scroll contains exactly what God had planned when He spoke our world into existence and breathed life into Adam and Eve. Think back to the Garden of Eden. Whose role was it to carry out what God had intended? It was humanity's role, right? But because of humanity's choice to walk away from God's intent, everything changed. Now, when John, in Revelation 5, looks around and sees that no one can open the scroll, could it be that all of humanity has walked away from God's plan (some would say that all of humanity has sinned)? God could open the scroll Himself, but that would be undoing everything He had originally done. A human must open the scroll. Enter the Lion (I know, a lion is not a human...but the lion represents Jesus). Jesus is worthy to open the scroll. Look closely at what was sung when the Lion, Jesus, opens the scroll:
"For You were slaughtered, and Your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." (go back and read Isaiah 53 next to this passage)
Jesus ransomed humanity. 2 Corinthians says this: "For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ." You and I have been made right with God through what Christ accomplished on the cross. Most of us have heard this message, and to some extent, we get it. But has Jesus done this only so that we can go to Heaven when we die? I think there is more. Keep reading in Revelation...the song continues:
"And You have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth."
Here is the beauty of this passage and this vision from John. Because of what Jesus did, because we have been made right with God, the scroll (God's story, the story of the world we live in) is being opened. And if God's purpose was for His ways to be known in our world today, here and now, and if God's purpose was for humanity to live out and spread His Kingdom in the world, who is it that can do this? You guessed it...the church. We are the ones who are to write God's story, to write His-story, in this world. Heaven isn't just about the future - you and I are to bring Heaven into our world today. The scroll has been opened by Jesus, the Lion. And because of the righteousness we have through Christ, we are to be "a Kingdom of priests for our God. And [we] will reign on the earth."
This chapter is a beautiful picture, and a challenging call to live the reality of the Kingdom today, wherever we are, whatever we may do, for the time we have life. Yes, there is a day coming when our present lives will slip away, and we have a hope for resurrection because of Jesus' resurrection - but there is too much to be lived here and now than to just sit back, hope and wait.

So...what do you think?


Wake up!

Rev. 3
Sardis is located in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). It was also built into a cliff forming an impenetrable citadel for protection. In the ancient world, the people of Sardis bragged that they could never be conquered. No army could scale its cliffs and walls. The people of Sardis were completely “safe”.

Around the 6th Century BC, the powerful Persian Empire went to war with Sardis. The Persians attempted to destroy the city, but could not even make a dent in its defenses. Tradition has it, one day a Persian scout saw a Sardis guard drop his helmet from the high walls. A short time later the scout saw the guard emerge from a crevice in the bottom of the cliff and retrieve the helmet. The scout realized that there was a hole in the wall, and a secret passageway into the city.

That night, the scout led a group of soldiers into the crevice and up the wall. They found the battlements abandoned, for the Sardis guards were all sleeping, trusting that their walls would keep them completely safe. The Persian force swept through the city and opened the gates to allow their main force in. Sardis was destroyed. The guards were caught sleeping, and the enemy brought destruction.

This sounds like a silly mistake for the people of Sardis to make, but they had become complacent, and dependent on their walls for protection. The crazy thing is, about two hundred years later, the Greeks led by Alex the Great; conquer Sardis in the same way. The climbed up the crevice and found the guards sleeping. History repeated itself.

So John is writing a letter to the church in Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6), and he has this message for them, “Wake up!” It would have been a loaded statement. He said, “I know your deeds, you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die.”

For the people of Sardis, they would have taken this message quite personally; they knew the history of their city. When you fall asleep, the enemy comes in and destroys. John warns them that spiritually, they have fallen asleep.

When we understand this passage, we take to heart the warning of John. Wake up!
For when we fall asleep, then enemy comes in to destroy us.

In what ways have you fallen asleep? In what ways have you become complacent?


the churches

I remember the day my dad told me that he grew up in a home that shared a telephone with 10-15 other houses. I just scratched my head, unable to grasp what that must have been like. My life, my experience gave me no frame of reference to understand what he was saying. To some extent, I get a similar feeling when reading Revelation. Anyone else get a similar feeling? Anyone else want to admit that they shared phone lines too?

In the next couple of chapters, Jesus addresses seven different churches. What jumps out at you? Do you notice a pattern? As you read through them, it isn't too hard to pull out something applicable to us. I'd be interested to know what you sense as applicable to us as a church body.

We live in a culture that offers us everything. And if we are honest, we tend to pursue much of what the world offers. I don't pretend to know what the city of Ephesus was like in the ancient world, but from what I can gather through historical and Biblical data, it seems like it was a pretty happening place - a place that offered people just about anything they could want. It almost sounds like where we live. Notice what Jesus says to the church there: "You don't love me or each other as you first did." I wonder if that early church found themselves falling into the traps of the culture...the things, the stuff, the activities that promised so much. I wonder if we fall into that trap too.

I don't think I've ever said this... but I want Jesus to be the central love of my life. I don't want to love my stuff or my hobbies or my money more than I love Jesus. And next to Jesus, I want to learn to love you - this community - more and more. This world, the world that you and I live in has a lot to offer....but none of it compares with the life we find when we love Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

Diving in

My delay is posting today is not just due to our internet being down most of the day.  I have to admit there has been some procrastination on my part to dive into Revelation with you.  I have studied this book several times in my life.  In high school, my Sunday school teacher was infatuated with the events in Revelation and we spent an entire year working our way through it. The culmination was a movie depicting end time events primarily from the perspective of a pastor who was left behind because he never really believed what he'd been preaching for years. So, unfortunately, my first exposure and reaction to Revelation was fear and doubt:  How will I know my belief is real? Am I saved enough to make it through the rapture?  While God works good through everything and used those questions to began my journey in making sure my relationship with Christ was mine to own, my first real dance with Revelations left me a little wobbly.

Since Darin and I have been married we have studied this book of the Bible with our jr. high Sunday school class, in an adult Bible fellowship class, and on our own in personal study.  We've studied, debated, questioned, but foremost in all of the studies, we sought God.  Sometimes I walked a way with a clearer understanding and sometimes more questions about the symbolisms of a particular chapter, but always searching for a deeper understanding of God and what this book means to my Walk.

As I began to read and get a little nervous as to what I would write about the first chapter from John, I prayed that prayer again.  The dictionary definition of "revelation" is:
"a.The act of revealing or disclosing. b. Something revealed, especially a 
dramatic disclosure of something not previously known or realized"

As we embark on this message revealed to John through the Spirit, let us keep our focus on Christ and what is revealed to us in these words.  God is allowing us to get a glimpse of His power, majesty & might.  I love the descriptions John gives us of Christ coming in on the clouds and the how descriptive he is of the the "one" sent to give him this vision.   I don't know that I will ever be of great help in figuring out the meanings of every picture, every verse, but I walk away today with a reminder of how Glorious our God is.  To grow deeper in our faith, we must always be searching out who God "was", recognizing who He "is" to us today, and looking forward with urgency and anticipation for the God "who is to come."