Enduring in a Hazardous World (3) – or – Come Alive and Open the Door!

Anyone watch the show The Walking Dead? If not, don’t watch it for my sake. It’s not for everyone, and it is certainly in the horror genre of shows – but as a die-hard comic book fan I feel it’s my duty to watch it. Zombies have certainly made a cultural impact lately. I’m not sure what the appeal is or why it seems like the rage, but a rage it is nonetheless. The premise of the show is that a mysterious virus has infected the earth and re-animated corpses – so that dead people walk around and seek to devour living humans. Oddly…Jesus sort of makes that kind of picture for us in the text we’ll be reading this Sunday, albeit, he’s speaking spiritually.

We’ll be continuing our study of Revelation, reading all of chapter 3 and finishing up the letters to the seven churches.

Jesus’ complaint against the church in Sardis was that they had the reputation for being alive…but they were the walking dead.

What sorts of things can you think of that would give a church a name for being alive and vibrant yet spiritually disconnected? How can we as the church and as the people who make up the church avoid such snares in our own communities and spiritual pursuits? As we read this letter, what do we discern that Jesus is expecting from the church in the last days?

The church of Philadelphia receives no correction – just encouragement to hold on even though they little influence (strength). Jesus promises vindication for them – but how does he envision that vindication coming about?

The church of Laodicea receives what is probably the most recognized rebuke. Being neither hot or cold, their lukewarm condition elicits the threat of being spit out. It’s harsh, right? They claim to be rich and needing nothing, but Christ sees them as poor, naked and blind. In what ways can we start drifting into a sense of self-sufficiency? How would we correlate Jesus’ offer of pure gold, white clothes and eye medicine with what he offers us in a redeemed life?

We’ll cover the promises made to the faithful on Sunday – but they are very encouraging to me. Hope to see you then!

Jesus in the Middle of His Church

Image result for stereogramDo you remember those old “magic eye” posters that were all the rage in the 90’s? They were 3D images that were masked by a two dimensional pattern that could only be seen by slightly crossing your eyes, like you would to view a 3D stereogram (this is what a stereogram is, if you don’t know and actually care).

The key to seeing those visual puzzles had to do with refocusing your eyes. The picture didn’t emerge until you saw it from the proper focal direction.

That is a lot like the book of Revelation. It has a message that seems confusing and difficult on the surface reading – but when we focus our eyes properly, we begin to see that not everything is as it seems on the surface. The symbolic imagery begins to take on a different meaning which encourages us to hold fast to our faith in Christ.

We began an expository study of Revelation last week, and this week we’ll continue, still in chapter one, reading v9-20.

The first eight verses were the introduction, the last 11 are the opening of the prologue.

A dramatic and powerful voice commands John to write this down in a letter to 7 churches in the province of Asia Minor. When John turns to see who’s talking, he gets an eyeful. Jesus stands in the middle of 7 lamps, which v 20 says stand for the 7 churches. The number seven will be significant in this book. It’s actually a significant number in the whole of the Biblical Narrative. Easton’s Bible Dictionary says: “Seven is used for any round number, or for completeness, as we say a dozen, or as a speaker says he will say two or three words.”  Given this usage of that number – what significance do you think “seven churches” has?

The One speaking isn’t named as Jesus, but his self-description of being dead but now alive is a clear indicator of who this Risen One is. Where is he standing? Given that the lamps are the church, what is significant about his placement?

Look at the descriptions of Jesus. A long robe, a golden sash, white hair, flaming eyes, shining skin, burnished bronze feet and a literally sharp tongue (sorry, couldn’t help myself). All of these symbolic descriptors are meant to indicate Jesus’ power and ability to preserve and empower his church. What do you think these descriptions imply about Him in relation to the church?

We’ll go into more detail on Sunday – but take some time to read this passage before-hand. Get the feel of how John uses imagery. Let your imagination take flight and do your best to picture what John is describing. This is how we’ll enter into this as an experience and not just another lesson with more information to store. Let’s get stoked about “The First and the Last, the LIVING ONE!”

Hope to see you Sunday!

Famous Last Words

(note: based on the current tracking models for Nate, we will plan to have our meetings as usual since we’re just under a TS watch. However, should the storm start tracking East, or if we find ourselves facing full-on tropical storm conditions or worse, we will cancel our meetings. If that is the case, stay home and stay safe. We will post on Facebook and through email if we cancel our services.)

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Well – it had to happen at some point, right? This Sunday (Lord willing), we will begin a new Bible study on the last book of the Bible – The Revelation! I know for some this has been something they’ve been hoping for for quite some time. It is literally the last book of the New Testament for me to teach through.

Now I know that the world was supposed to end a few weeks ago and some people got really caught up in the hype of that. We have had a lot of cosmic-like events happening lately, a solar eclipse cut across North America, multiple devastating hurricanes and earthquakes have done catastrophic damage around the world and a violent madman unleashed automatic gunfire into a crowd of innocent concert-goers. So many terrible things happening that we could start wondering if these are signs that the end is near.

The Revelation that John wrote will address that, as Jesus did in Matthew 24. I can tell you now, that yes, these are signs of the end. From the time that Jesus was raised and ascended into heaven until he returns again the world is in it’s last stage. It’s lasted a lot longer than anyone anticipated, but these last 2,000-plus years have been the last days. Jesus told us plainly that what will characterize the world in the interim of his two advents will be wind and waves, diseases, earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars. The world will continue in violent upheaval that are like birth-pangs, waiting for a new world to be born. So, yes, the horrible things we are seeing daily on the news are indications that we are in that time Jesus spoke of, but it’s just another day in a broken world as well.

So the natural question Christians and the church have asked throughout the ages has been, “If we claim that Jesus is Lord and ruling all things, why is all this terrible stuff still happening? Why do Caesars and Hitlers and Kim Jong-Uns still exercise their tyranny and hurt so many people? Why does the world seem like its full of monsters?”

The Revelation was written to answer that question. It was intended to pull back the cosmic curtain and remind us that there is more going on than meets the eye. God has a plan and purpose that he continues to fulfill, no matter what it may look like on the surface.

Let me warn you that I will not be offering charts of sequential events or providing formulas for how to calculate when the end will occur. We won’t be describing ways in which we can spot the Antichrist or set a date for the rapture. What we will be doing is reading The Revelation to discover what it tells us about today, and how we can find hope in Jesus in our present lives. I believe this book has a lot to offer in our ongoing discovery of Jesus! In fact…I’m SUPER stoked about this book as I’ve been re-studying it over the last several months!

As we begin our study, we’ll be reading v 1-8 as an introduction.

It may help if you have an acquaintance with the genre of Apocalyptic Literature.

I also can’t say enough good about The Bible Project’s videos – and it would really be helpful to your understanding of The Revelation if you had an overview of the book of Daniel in your mind – so watch this short video to get that:

I hope we have our services on Sunday – I hope we all stay safe – pray for the people of Louisiana and Mississippi – as well as all the regions that have been in harms way lately. Pray for a return to stability and for life to be preserved – and always be on the lookout for ways we can be the Good News in this world!