By the time we reach Revelation chapter five John is writing in greater detail all of the glory unfolding in the throne room of God. The door to heaven was opened and the revelator was called through it by the trumpeting voice of the Lord. The theories and wildly different views on the book and it’s meaning for the modern Christian seem to become more prominent in this chapter as well. Let’s briefly work our way through some of the challenging sections.
First, in the opening lines we read of a scroll with writing on the front and back. This seems to indicate that there was much to be revealed as scrolls were typically written on one side only.
Some have taken the seven seals to mean seven different scrolls, but the text only indicates one scrolls with seven wax seals holding it together.
Over the years scholars have debated the contents of the scroll, but Jesus could break the seals (5.3-4). While there are several opinions about what was contained on the scroll, it’s best seen as the final will for the affairs of the universe. As vague and frustrating as that may sound, there’s simply no textual evidence to assume otherwise. In ancient Rome it was common to have government wills and classified documents protected by seven seals. To open such an important scroll required a high ranking individual.
A Mighty Angel
Calling out in a loud voice the angel asks, “who can open the scroll?” John begins to weep. If this mighty angel is searching for someone worthy, surely there’s not another who could possibly open it.
The Lamb With Seven Eyes & Seven Horns
The lamb which is representing Christ here is depicted as having features not normally seen on these animals. Seven eyes, which symbolize God’s all seeing eye. Then there are the seven horns, representing God’s ultimate power. The number seven was God’s number and it represents perfection and completion. The seven spirits, then, indicating the fullness and completeness of God.
Who can open the seals? Only Jesus with His perfect power and foresight is able to open this one. Revelation is the great revealing of Christ, and Christ is the only One able to reveal it’s secrets.
The book in it’s entirety has a message from God for us, but we must be sure to understand His revelation— not man’s.
Your heart is only a little bigger than your fist and it weighs a mere 7-15 ounces. Despite it’s small size, on the inside you’ll find a massive stadium. There are battles that take place in this stadium on a daily basis. In the movies the good guy will always win, but in this arena? It will depend on who or what is the strongest.
The Bible gives us several vivid descriptions of what goes on inside the heart, so let’s explore that.
How can we know what’s going inside your heart today?
A cheerful disposition can be the sign of a healthy heart according to Proverbs 15:13. This tells us that our outward appearance can give away our interior.
Check out this section of scripture to see that in action.
“On Abel God looked with favor, but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor. God said to Cain why are you angry why has your countenance fallen? If you do right will you not be accepted? But if you do that which is not right, sin is crouching at the door”
God already knew what was in Cain’s heart but notice how He explains to Cain that his body language had given away his inward struggles.
Cain is livid and his countenance had fallen. In the following verses Cain ends up killing his own brother because that darkness had taken over.
While we can assume what somebody might be dealing with by observing their countenance, we can’t be absolutely sure. Some people are great at masking their inward selves but God isn’t fooled by our camouflage.
Here are two prime examples of that truth.
In 1 Kings 12, Jeroboam takes the throne and is now leader over the Northern tribes of Israel. In the Southern kingdom, they had the capital of Jerusalem where all the Israelites in that region would gather to sacrifice to the Lord.
The Bible indicates to us the very plans that Jeroboam said in the “privacy” of his heart. He built his own place of worship and foolishly placed those golden calves up for his new kingdom to worship.
In Luke 16.15, Jesus will prove once again that He’s the son of God by listening in on the secret conversations of that take place in the heart.
May we never forget that we serve a God who has a perfect and intimate knowledge of us. There might be things hidden within us that nobody on earth knows about, but it’s not hidden in heaven. To deny the fact that God can see through you is to deny the fact that we are all humans created in His image. Who is the champion of your heart today?
It’s been said that the there are more stars in the known universe than all of the sand on earth combined. That being said, in just one grain of sand there are more atoms than all of the stars. That’s pretty amazing. Our planet is but a speck in the grandeur of space. Countless stars, planets, galaxies, lightyears and somehow God is well aware of the happenings of people. Have you stood on the mountain tops? Have you observed the power of the oceans as the waves crash on the shore? Has your heart almost stopped after the vibrating sensation of a thunder clap resonates in your chest? The might of the Creator is everywhere in the world around us and at times it just demands to be noticed. A section of scripture that is mysterious and fascinating is found in 1 Kings 19:11-13. The Lord of hosts is about to show Himself to a depressed and exhausted Elijah, but in a way that he would never forget. “The Lord said, ‘go out on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out to stand at the mouth of the cave. Then the voice said, ‘what are you doing here Elijah?’” In the solitude of Horeb, Elijah seeks to avoid the troubles of his world. The acoustics of the mountainous area along with the time spent in silence must have made the shattering rocks, raging fire, splitting hills, and rumbling earth all but deafening and definitely a terrifying display of divine power. Then in sharp contrast, a still whisper comes. This gentleness, no doubt, is the reason Elijah decides to cautiously emerge from his hiding place. God is teaching His worn-out servant a lesson that holds true for us today. The fact is, there is no more God, His wisdom, power, and presence in an earthquake than there is in the sweet breath of a blooming flower. The quiet ticking of a wrist watch reveals just as much intelligence and purpose as does the striking of a clock tower’s bell. One may walk out into an open field at night and stare up into the vast sky, lit up with numerous twinkling stars and declare, “I’ve found God!” But God is no more in the sky than He is in the blades of grass flattened beneath your feet. The question came to Elijah from that still voice, “What are you doing here?” To the prophet, his problems were too great and too large and his solution was to run and hide. God, in a magnificent way, is trying to remind Elijah of his place. Our place in life is not to take matters into our own hands or solve life’s many difficulties on our own. The answer is not to run away, but to walk humbly with our awesome God. He is strong enough to lift our burdens, wise enough to counsel us, patient enough to allow us to learn, and loving enough to constantly forgive.
For those not on social media and connected either with Kathy or any of our three sons, Carl, our youngest (and Thursday’s blog writer), was in a serious motorcycle accident a little over a week ago. A large pickup truck tried to turn left onto the highway and Carl hit it going highway speed. Our concern was for both his immediate safety and longterm health. Add this to two sons unofficially assisting police in breaking up a local theft ring, a son tackling a shoplifter attempting to flee a store and interrupting a gang initiation beating, broken bones, ER trips, ICU stints for health issues, and that’s not to mention innumerable “close calls,” “near misses,” “close shaves,” and “narrow escapes.” Of course, it’s not just health. What about their relationships? What about their jobs, careers, and financial futures? What about the country they are inheriting or the children God may bless them with? Most of all, what about their spiritual condition, their faith, and their relationship with Christ? With each new phase of life, we are left to numerous consider “what ifs.” For future empty-nesters, that does not decline or disappear when they leave home. If anything, it mounts. So, how does a Christian not worry about their children?
Philippians 4:6. Paul urges us to “be anxious for nothing.” That word for anxious depicts apprehension, being unduly concerned about possible danger or misfortune. We can drive ourselves crazy thinking of all the scary scenarios. Paul says instead to pray (speak to God and petition His help), supplicate (urgently request God to meet the need, suggesting begging and pleading), and express gratitude. Specifically articulate the help you seek from God. Won’t this just make things worse? Not at all. Instead, “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (7).
Luke 12:25-26. Luke records Jesus’ voluminous teaching on various material concerns. In the middle of it, Jesus shares a principle that applies to any number of matters. He teaches, “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?” What a practical, sensible truth. What do we change by endless fretting and worrying? Does it change outcomes? Does the exercise of worry keep the bad and scary things from occurring? Does it override the freewill choices of our children or others? We are at one place at a time. God knows everything (30). “He who keeps you will not slumber…nor sleep” (Psa. 121:3-4). Trust that!
Matthew 6:33. What Matthew records is close to parallel to the material in Luke 12, though the wording and setting are different. The counsel here is about prioritization. It’s hard to “let go and let God,” but that’s Jesus’ bottom-line guidance. Again, in context, He’s dealing with material things rather than our kids. But substituting the one concern for the other does not change the principle. We are well-served to practice “God-firstness” from as early as possible, before our children are born. We should strive to live by that principle throughout the years they are in our homes, trying to show it to them. Then, we must continue to live it out personally and exemplify it before them after they leave the home. God’s kingdom, His will, His righteousness, His goals, His Word comes first and foremost. Keeping focus on that, trust Him to take care of not only us but those whose lives we care about. Jesus sweetly consoles us, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (34).
1 Peter 5:7. I love how Peter acknowledges that we all have anxiety. We’re all tempted (and all of us at least occasionally succumb to the temptation) to worry. Peter’s words are practical. Humbling yourself under God’s all-powerful hand, throw all your anxieties on Him. He is strong enough to carry it. Do you know what’s the best part? Not only can He do it, He wants to. Why? He cares for you! He’s your Father. “Care” here means concern and anxiousness. Our lives matter to Him. His heart is involved. We may not stop to think that all of us are His children. The difference is that this Father can see the future, is fully in control, will never be startled or surprised, and never lacks for what to say, how to react, and what to do. How foolish not to give Him the things we would obsess over, be consumed with, and eaten up by.
I wish I could tell you I will never worry about Gary, Dale, and Carl again. Those who know them know what a tall task that is. I wish I could tell you that you will never worry about your precious children again. But, none of us should. We can make progress and get better if we’ll feed on the rich truths of passages like the ones we’ve visited briefly together today. Go back and read them again. Drink deeply of their comforting, helpful truths. They will help you trust Him more with whatever frightening prospects you face regarding your children’s lives. I don’t promise. He does!
God speaks of Himself as simply “I Am.” This one powerful statement depicts His infinite presence and His existence through every age. What does it mean to know Him? How do you know if you do? To know of Jesus is very different than knowing Him.
John is one of those books in the New Testament that will help us to become better aquatinted with the Christ. It’s the last of the gospels that paints us a vivid picture of who He was and is on a deeper level than even the three previous gospels. He’s the Bread of life, Light of the world, the Gate, Good Shepherd, Resurrection and Life, the Truth, and the Vine. All of these titles found within the book teach us a little more about the Savior of the world.
There are seven “I Am” statements in John referring to Jesus and three hundred throughout the entire Bible. They begin in Genesis and end in Revelation, and in many books in-between. You just can’t read very far without discovering something very profound about its Writer. He’s eternal. God’s desired response to this is simply for us to believe, respond, and live with our minds and hearts prepared to live with Him.
When Jesus describes Himself as the “I Am” it makes the religious leaders want to kill Him in John 8. To know Jesus, to really know Him, is something that many people have not fully understood. Even as Jesus walked among us mortals and we witnessed His miraculous power, there were still several that didn’t realize what it meant to follow Him (Luke 9:57-62).
While it’s true that everyone is made in the image of God, few reflect the Father’s image. Those that know Jesus introduce others to Him. With the knowledge that we are imperfect, let’s not forget that we also have the ability to have a relationship with Him. I am flawed and I am weak, but the Great I Am is interested in who I am. By the grace of God, I am His child. He is the bread of life that sustains us, the light that guides us, the gate we’ll walk through, and the truth that will save us. It’s not how great I am, but how great the Great I Am is. Do you know Jesus?
No pandemic or problem can suppress or destroy the church’s opportunities. If it could withstand the withering attacks of persecution in its first few centuries, the body of our Lord can come through this current storm stronger than it was before. The church’s opportunities are limitless because…
The gospel is still powerful (Rom. 1:16).
Christ is still the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14).
The church is still the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:9-11).
The mission is still in force (Mat. 28:19).
We still have the only answer to the world’s biggest problem (Rom. 5:6-10).
We can demonstrate the most powerful attraction of discipleship (John 13:34).
His kingdom will never be utterly shaken or destroyed (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28).
The recent crisis has awakened a sense of purpose in so many Christians.
Heaven is as desirable as ever and hell as unwelcome (cf. Mat. 25:31-46).
We know we are bigger than pettiness, division, and senseless strife (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
Man still senses that life is bigger than a few years on this earth (Ecc. 12:13-14).
Hope still serves as an anchor for the soul (Heb. 6:19).
The world has no viable competition to what only Jesus can give (1 John 4:4; 5:4).
We are not ignorant of the devil’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11).
There is no substitute for fellowship, the assembly, and corporate worship and study (Heb. 10:24).
We may appreciate the importance of relationships like never before (Rom. 12:3-21).
Truly, this list is much longer, but suffice it to serve as a reminder that these need not be “the worst of times.” God can make them the best of times as we move forward, eyes fixed on eternity and the wonderful work between here and there. Let’s seize those opportunities (Gal. 6:10)!
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Peter has just told younger men to be subject to elders (1-5), and for each group to conduct themselves with humility toward each other. The motivation for this is to avoid God’s rejection. Peter quotes Proverbs 3:34 to reinforce the point.
Peter then urges everyone to humble themselves in their relationship with God. That’s the same word that describes what Jesus did by being obedient to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:8). It means to go lower, to surrender prestige or status (BDAG 990). This humbling concerns a specific aspect of all of our lives. Each of us has “anxiety” to cope with. By definition, an anxiety is “a feeling of apprehension or distress in view of possible danger or misfortune” (Louw-Nida 312).
Right now, there are no doubt things which make you apprehensive and distressed. You may be facing danger or misfortune. On some level and to some degree, that describes the pressure and reality for nearly all of us these days. As beings created with the freedom of choice, we can try to cope with that ourselves with our own coping tools. Maybe, in our pride, we boast in our own ability to handle it all. Not only is that a delusion and a self-deception, it is flirting with disaster. Why not choose a better way? Peter lays that out for us.
Let’s survey the facts here.
GOD IS ABLE–You are entrusting yourself in His mighty hand. He is in control and has the power to rule in every situation. This is the same hand He holds you in the hollow of (Isa. 40:12).
GOD IS AWARE–He has the exclusive benefit of perfect foreknowledge. He knows what is going on now and He can see what will happen. As He works through time and events, He is choosing the proper time to lift you as you have surrendered yourself to His power and His wisdom. He knows everything that is going on in your situation. In fact, He knows about it at a much more intimate level than even you do.
GOD IS AFFECTIONATE–What motivates Him to act? He cares for you! Peter is telling us to throw all our anxiousness on God, like the disciples threw their coats on the colt so that Jesus could sit on it (Luke 19:35). Take each burden, fear, and worry you are carrying right now, that is weighing you down, and toss it into His mighty hand (a hand you will examine and find very capable–read Isaiah 40:12 again). Peter says He feels anxious concern for us. Sure, He can handle it. But it’s more than that. He wants to handle it. Why? Because you mean that much to Him!
I read this promise and I admonish myself. Why am I trying to carry this all by myself when God is offering to do this for me? He tells me to get myself out of the way and let Him handle this. Faced with my limitations and His limitless resources, it is futile and foolish to face these distressing matters in any other way!
I know I’m not old enough to say this, but when I was younger I used to lay in bed at night and try to imagine what God looked like. I would try to put a face to Him, I’d wonder what He was doing, and I would ask myself if God knew that I was thinking about Him. I still ask those same questions to this day. I’m sure that most if not all of you who are reading this believe that there is a God, and that He does see and hear all that we say. So the question I’d like to ask is, “since there is a God that has all power, why do we sometimes have difficulty following the commands that we find in the Bible?” I’d like to look at a verse that may help us realize the importance of following what God has told us to do as Christians.
Jeremiah 10:12 says, “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens.”
God has ALL power. There isn’t an area that He is lacking power in. He controls the weather, He created us, and, as Jeremiah 10:12 said, He made this earth that we live on. I believe that we sometimes forget just how powerful God truly is. Since God has all power, shouldn’t we be following what the Creator of everything has told us to do? In seven days He thought of everything we see around us. Think of it this way. We’ve never had an original thought. For example, I could say that I’m the only person to have ever thought about a pink Aardvark. But before I thought of pink Aardvarks, there was such thing as the color pink, and there were Aardvarks before I thought of them. So what I’m actually doing is taking two things that God created and putting them together. God has given us specific commands to do as Christians. Since God has given us rules on how to live, we shouldn’t have a problem following them. They may be difficult, but God knows how to take care of His creation. The thought of the God of the universe watching out and guiding me through life is a great comfort to me!
But what if we aren’t following what God has told us to do? There’s a saying that we all have heard that says, “Actions speak louder than words.” Our actions are a direct window to how we truly feel. If I don’t do what God has commanded, then that’s like us saying to God, “I don’t truly believe that there are consequences to my actions.” But that is a deadly place for us to be, because God IS real and there ARE consequences to our actions. God is real and the consequences of our actions are very real! In the end, it comes down to this: Not obeying what God has said is a reflection of how real we make God out to be. If we truly believe He is real, then we shouldn’t have a problem doing what He tells us to do. As Christians, we serve the one true God, and He is very real. I pray that this fact will push us to obey the commands He has given us because our God is alive and we all have an eternity with Him if we do what He tells us to do.
Looking back at when I was younger, I’ve realized that I asked the right question, but the most important part of those questions is how I answer them. Will I show through my actions that I truly believe He is alive? Or do I doubt the reality of God by not taking His commands seriously? Let’s try to always prove God is alive by following what He has told us to do!
It is a true paradox. Today, I’ve been married longer than I have ever been. I’ve been a father longer than I have ever been. The same is true for me as a Christian, a preacher, and every other relationship I am in. My experience in all of these has never been greater than it is right now. Yet, as I examine things, I realize just how much I do not know. I am not saying that truth is unknowable, for such a statement would be false and contradictory to what God affirms in Scripture (John 8:32; Eph. 1:18; 1 Tim. 3:15; etc.). It is just that I realize how little I understand compared to what needs to be understood, that I find the challenge of putting truth into practice in every situation requiring wisdom and understanding as daunting as I ever have. Yet, despite such a realization, my optimism has never been greater. Why? Because I have never believed more strongly in the power and wisdom of God, nor have I ever depended more on Him for strength and provision where I am lacking than I do today. I feel smaller, but He seems bigger. While the walk on the narrow way seems a steeper, more strenuous, incline each day and the challenges to faith more daunting, more than proportionate to this is my realization that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20). My conviction about what the Bible says has never been stronger. My belief in God’s existence, involvement, concern, and righteousness has never been more than this moment. Yet, my awareness of my finiteness and limitations, the transiency of this life, and the ferocity of the adversary is acute. Incredibly, this doesn’t cause me to despair. It causes me to hope. It takes the focus off me and puts it where it belongs—on Him! He is able to establish me through His Word (Rom. 16:25). He is “able to make all grace abound to” me, that I, “having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8). The most important thing for me to know, every day in every challenge and responsibility, is that God is able (Rom. 14:4; Phil. 3:21; 2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 2:18).
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not despairing. I am not even frustrated. I am hopeful and excited. One of the greatest promises of Scripture is, “But He gives more grace” (Jas. 4:6). He will walk with me through the darkest valleys (Psa. 23:4). As He holds my hand and guides me through His word and His providence, He also points me toward His house. He tells me He will help me get home and when the narrow way becomes too steep or arduous for me to walk alone, He will carry me in His everlasting arms (cf. Deu. 32:7). I will keep studying His inspired guidebook and striving to apply it to my life. And as I do, I will increase my dependence and reliance upon Him, confident that “He who has begun a good work in [me] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). That’s really all I need to know!
The inimitable historian, David McCullough, has churned out another masterpiece in his new book, The Wright Brothers. Chronicling their lives before, on, and after that famous December day in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, McCullough, in his unique way, peels back the layers of the people who made the history. One particular example of this is seen in the author’s conveyance of Wilbur Wright’s misgivings about what he was going to make of his life. Writing to his older brother Lorin, Wilbur said, “The boys of the Wright family are all lacking in determination and push. That is the very reason that none of us have been or will be more than ordinary businessmen” (24). It is amusing to think that Wilbur made this statement in 1894, less than a decade before that historic first flight. Every airplane trip you make is a testimony to the Wrights’ determination, push, and extraordinary industry of the bicycle shop brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright.
What do you see when you look at your life? Are you dismissive of your talents and opportunities? Do you think yourself in terms of your “can’ts” or your “cans”? Perhaps you are prone to discount your potential.
If that is you, you should consider the case of a few other people. Moses resisted leadership, claiming to be a nobody (Exo. 3-4). Saul hid himself in the baggage (1 Sam. 10:22). Jeremiah apparently tried to hide behind his age (Jer. 1:6-7). Timothy seems to have been fearful (2 Tim. 1:7). Yet, each rose to a position of greatness and played an important part in God’s plan. What was the “X” factor in every case? As God told Judah through Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). Solomon would say, “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established” (Pro. 16:3). Then, a millennia later, Paul tells the church at Philippi, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phi. 2:13).
Relax! Take the pressure off of yourself because, frankly, it is not about you. It is about the God who is at work in you. Chart a course that puts Him first in your life and dedicate yourself to trying, as hard as you can, to please Him. Isn’t He strong and smart enough to open the right doors? Is He able to do great things? Yes! The incredible thing about that is that He has chosen to do great things through lowly people like you and me! Stop and consider this. What does God see in you? What will He do through you to His glory? Never stop asking that question!