Monday, April 25, 2016

Holy Wrath

Did you ever wonder what makes God angry?  We think of Jesus as friend, Prince of Peace, light, healing, and (thankfully) redeemer.  All of these are true.  We do remember that time He got mad and trashed the temple because of the money-changers and swindlers.  But it is not easy to think of Jesus in the context of anger or wrath.  There are, however, things that make God (Jesus) mad.

The first is when someone makes life difficult for God's people.  God's people can be the sheep that know His voice, the "little ones" who God protects, the saints, those who (in Revelation) are marked by God and 'do not belong to the earth,' the "least of these" from Matthew 25, the "brokenhearted" and the redeemed (the list is probably not all inclusive).  God loves His people and He is both possessive and passionate about protecting them.  So, those that spill the blood of the saints, those that ignore His people, those that harm His sheep and those that cause others to fall are on God's bad list.  In Revelation 15 these people receive God's wrath.

The second thing that universally (in Scripture) stirs up the ire of God is when people worship something other than the one-true-God.  Whether it is our possessions, rivers, oceans, graven images, demons, celestial bodies, nature, other people or self, God is upset.  God meant it when He said, "Thou shall have no other God before me."

Finally, I think God doesn't like our haughtiness when we believe God owes us an explanation for why the events of the world happen like they do.  I think it is ok to wonder about this but when we resort to shaking our fist at God and cursing Him for what is happening around us, I think God wonders why we think we can see the whole picture of eternity and bring all things to their right and proper end. 

These are the exact things that happen in Revelation 15.  Saints are persecuted and killed.  God's sheep have been harmed by those given charge to protect them.  People God is giving a break and a last chance choose to shake their fists and curse Him.

I wonder ... do we see any of those things happening in our world today? Randy

Monday, April 18, 2016


That is a word that is difficult to grasp.  As the prophet Isaiah observed of the people of his day "I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips."  That about  sums up the (at least) 2 problems.  The first problem is, I am unclean.  I have sinned.  I am connected to the fallenness of the world.  I mess up every day.  I have unclean lips.  The second problem is, I live among a people who are also unclean.  Most of the people I deal with daily have some connection to the church and to our shared faith.  Yet, they, like me, are unclean, sinful, connected to this world of fallenness and messed up.  What do we do.

John's words from Revelation 14 give us some ideas.  While Chapter 13 describes fallen Babylon (the realm of rebellion against God) Chapter 14 describes the nature of the redeemed realm.  John's first words are "I looked up."  That is good advice.  Look up toward God and seek Him.  Then John says, "and I saw the Lamb, standing on Mt. Zion."  John sees Jesus above the fray of this world.  There were a large number of worshipers there in John's vision.  These had the Father's name written on their foreheads (unlike those in Chapter 13 who had the 'mark of the beast.'" These worshipers "follow the lamb wherever He goes."  There is proclamation of 1) the message of redemption calling on all to "fear God and give Him glory," 2) Babylon's fallenness and demise, 3) a call for the saints to endure the persecution still to come, 4) an exhortation favoring those that are yet to die in the Lord, 5) an announcement of the harvest of the earth and 6) the announcement of the judgment for those who are "reaped" from the earth.

Here are a few points.  God has redeemed those who bear His name.  In this passage they are "blameless" for they have followed the Lamb.  He has made them holy.

God has already judged those who belong to this world.  God is holy and will not exist with this group.  Jesus said they will be set apart from God and cast into utter darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (very scary since God said it).

The place where God is taking those who belong to new Jerusalem (the redeemed) is and will be holy.  There will be no need for ego, no need for the stuff we claim to own, no need for anxiety, no need for tears, no need for hospitals, no need for counselors (except the Holy Spirit) and no place for death.

At the end of all things, God keeps His promise made in Exodus 19 and John 14 ... to bring those that belong to Him to His place.  What a day that will be!  Randy 

Monday, April 11, 2016


I sometimes watch a show called River Monsters.  It is a somewhat hyped-up version of what is supposed to be investigations into human maiming or loss at the hand (or tooth) of something in the water.  It is one of those shows that causes you to look down into the lake or ocean and ask, "What is really down there?"

In Chapter 13 of the Revelation we get a partial answer to that question.  In Hebrew thought the sea is filled with nasty, evil and terrible things like the spirits of the dead.  It is one reason the disciples were afraid when they saw Jesus walking on the water and thought He was a ghost.  But in the Revelation things that rise up out of the sea are particularly nasty and evil.  So it is for the beast from the Sea in Revelation 13.

In Fact, there is a beast from the Sea and a beast from the Earth, both evil, both carrying the traits of fallen Babylon and both angry and seeking to do harm to God, God's people and truly all people.  So, what are the traits of these beasts?

The beast from the sea manifests power and speaks openly with blasphemy against God.  Where the Elders in John's vision bow before God, worship God and cast their crowns before God the beast blasphemes, God, blasphemes God's name and blasphemes God's dwelling.  The beast from the earth comes with more of a disguise.  This beast does miracles and is compelling, charismatic and represents the subtle work of Satan that tells us our lifestyles, cultures, laws, governmental structures, etc. either have no place for God or should encompass a false god that is not God at all.

While Sunday we will define the traits of the beasts more thoroughly and ask the age-old question, "what is meant by 666?" we will also try to see the actions of these two entities in the world of John's time and the world today.  For now just an observational point.  The beasts and events of Revelation are both past, present (to Johns's time) and future (to our time and beyond).  They portray  a panorama of history that cannot be affixed to one specific thing.  The first beast of most often thought of as John's bringing forward the evil represented by the empires of Persia/Babylon/Alexander the Great and the Seleucids from Daniel's vision.  In John's time this evil is caught up, not in the four empires of Daniel but the one evil empire of Rome.  One might make a point that this evil is now manifest in the religious extremism of the current day Islamic terrorists.  I think we could place that mantle on a number of entities in history, but remember ... while evil tries to defeat us in all ways possible in this world, the message of John is, Jesus has overcome the world.  Praise Him ... worship Him ... cast your crowns before Him and realize we worship a victorious God!  Randy 

Monday, April 4, 2016

If I'm Right

I will say it is very confusing when we read all of the predictions, commentaries and speculations about the Revelation as they are fictionalized, analyzed and magnified.  Many of the movies, writings and speeches about the Revelation attempt to place us in the state of fear and trembling, a place I will not be going.  However, I do want to make a little foray into a educated guess about what is happening now and what is written in the Revelation.  Here goes ...

Last weeks message talked about Revelation 12 in which the woman and the dragon are at odds.  The dragon is clearly Satan but the woman is a subject of much speculation.  I believe the woman in this passage is the reflection of the life and journey of God's people from covenant times till she ultimately reaches her destination.  In Revelation 12 we find the woman in the wilderness pursued and hated by the dragon.  If I am right (and Bob Mulholland, the writer of my commentary agrees) the images of evil in Revelation are manifested in the reality of pervasive evil in the world that opposes, seeks to destroy, pursues to kill and impedes God's work and God's people.  Joel Rosenburg speculates that this great evil is manifested in many of the events of the middle east, especially those related to the destruction of Israel.  I agree this is part of the story, but Satan has many more tools in his bag of tricks.  In his attempt to destroy the woman (God's covenant people who include the Jews, the Church and all who call Jesus Lord [literally the New Jerusalem on earth]), Satan employs terrorists like Islamic militant factions, evil rulers like many kings/princes/presidents in the middle east, weak leaders in America, corporate greed, individuals who are so depressed/misguided that they take up guns and bombs against innocent people, suppression of freedoms here and abroad, sinful desires in the hearts of individuals, addiction and addictive substances (that Satan tries to 'sell' as being harmless), societal distancing from Godly values and (here is one I can't stress enough) people who profess to follow Christ but will not appropriate Christ into their lives.  That list is not inclusive but you get the idea.  Satan desires to wage war on a grand scale and on an individual scale ... he pursues persistently, one person, one idea and one day at a time.

In Revelation 12 the woman, to allow escape from the dragon, is given wings so she can fly to the wilderness place.  She goes there to do life under the protection of God while she awaits God's next move.  As John writes these words from exile in Patmos,  I'll bet they struck home to his heart.  He is in the wilderness.  He can't do much except follow God daily and belong to God while he obediently follows his calling of writing this magnificent book.  He knows that evil rages and pursues the agents of good all over the world he knows.  His brothers and sisters are being martyred for their faith, and he probably receives these bad reports while asking, "How long, Lord, will you tarry?"
This is where our faith comes in.  "How long?"  My answer, if I'm right, is, the exact, perfect right amount of time in the fullness of God's plan.  Remember ... BIG EVIL ... BIGGER GOD.  Bob Mulholland, before his death, said ... "Our task is not to be in the world serving God [many of us would place ourselves there] ... Our task/calling is to be in God, serving the world."  I love that ... I hope you do too!  Randy