praying for a change (42)

 

… you have some who follow the Nicolaitans’ teaching. So change your hearts and lives. If you don’t, I am coming to you soon, and I will make war on them with the sword that comes from my mouth. If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. (Revelation 2.15-17a CEB)

 

God,

Why do I believe what I believe about you and about life?

Is it simply because this is what I’ve always believed?

Is it just because someone I liked or trusted taught me such?

Is it so, whether consciously or unconsciously, I’ll fit in with those I hang with?

Is it merely because believing this way fits with the way I want things for myself?

I want to know!

I want to believe what you would have me to believe.

Whether it makes me comfortable, fits my past, gains me friends, or not.

For I want to truly know you.

So give me courage, I pray.

Courage to honestly compare what’s in my head and part of my habits with what comes out of your mouth.

That I may praise you well with who and what I am.

Amen.

praying for a change (41)

 

But I have this against you: you have let go of the love you had at first. So remember the high point from which you have fallen. Change your hearts and lives and do the things you did at first. If you don’t, I’m coming to you. I will move your lampstand from its place if you don’t change your hearts and lives. … If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. I will allow those who emerge victorious to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise. (Revelation 2.4-5,7 CEB)

God,

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!

The fall from the height has left me stunned and hurting.

I knew better than to reach for what I knew could not possibly bear my weight.

But I let go of you and went for it anyway and so, here I am.

Even in my daze, I hear you asking me, “Did you learn anything from this?”

Clear my mind that I may recall clearly and resolve anew how you are to ever be my trust.

Help me up and renew my strength that I may climb with you again.

For I long to sit in the shade of the tree at the top of the mountain with you forever.

Amen.

when the sea will be no more

Where is God when dark things happen? Does he know what’s going on or care? Will there ever be an end to evil?

These are the sort of questions the book of Revelation was made to answer and it’s answer, for the most part, is summed up in this statement:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” (Revelation 21:1 CEB)

Appreciate the meaning of this and the place of “the sea” in Revelation. In an earlier post, I had noted the following text:

“Something like a glass sea, like crystal, was in front of the throne.” (Revelation 4:6a CEB)

Whatever is right in front of God’s throne is plainly obvious to him and is clearly affected by him. And what is the significance of “the sea?” It is not beauty, like heaven’s reflecting pool, but rather as an image of the source of evil. Take for example what stands at the sea’s shore:

“Then the dragon stood on the seashore …” (Revelation 12:18 CEB)

Or consider what emerges from the sea:

“… and I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads … and on its heads were blasphemous names.” (Revelation 13:1 CEB)

Both the dragon and the beast oppose God, but they are not able to overcome him. In fact, in the end, even their place of origin, the source of their strength, is no more.

“… the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” (Revelation 21:1 CEB)

Even God’s people were at first were separated from God’s immediate presence by the sea, and they had to worshiped him from a distance:

“Then I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire. Those who gained victory over the beast, its image, and the number of its name were standing by the glass sea, holding harps from God. They sing the song of Moses, God’s servant, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and awe-inspiring are your works, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, king of the nations. Who won’t fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and fall down in worship before you, for your acts of justice have been revealed.’” (Revelation 15:1-4 CEB)

Now, however, that which separated God and his people, that which harmed his people and all others, is gone. There simply is no place for “the sea” in the new order of things. God has swept it away.

Darkness will not have the last say. Evil will not always be. God can clearly see all that is going on and he can, and will, set things right once and for all.

And for that, we can only worship God all the more.

Heavenly Father, thank you for telling us of your presence and perception of things. Thank you for answering our yearning for all that is wrong to be finally and fully answered. Thank you for bringing us close to you and delivering us to where we long to be, with you forever. Amen.

* This devotional marks the conclusion of the Fresh Bread series of devotionals, a series based on a ninety day reading of the New Testament, the Fresh Eyes project. After a two day pause, daily devotional posts will resume this Mon., April 4, as I dive into the Lenten Blog Tour.

what follows you?

And I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Favored are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they can rest from their labors, because their deeds follow them.” (Revelation 14:13 CEB)

What fills your mind when you stop to consider God’s awareness of all that you do? Is it the questions you have? How you rarely think of such? That you try not to think about it?

What grips your heart when you pause and reflect on the fact that someday your life will be assessed by God in light of all that you do? Is it uneasiness? Shame? Fear? Terror?

What wells up in your spirit when you pause over these words of God’s Spirit for yourself: “their deeds follow them?” A sense of regret over things you’ve done? Have left undone? How you wish you could do more?

Now read this passage again slowly and ask yourself exactly what it is the writer, John, intended to convey to us by hearing these words.

“Favored are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they can rest from their labors, because their deeds follow them.” (Revelation 14:13 CEB)

Who is being spoken of? Those who “die in the Lord.” How are we to view their condition? As “favored,” that is, “well off in the eyes of God.” What do they experience? “… rest from their labors …”

Now thus far, to say this is “good” is an understatement, no? Without a doubt! Now ask this passage, and yourself, one more question.
On what basis is it that this text says those who die in the Lord are well off in God’s eyes and experience rest?

Answer: “… because their deeds follow them.”

Clearly John is not holding out to us uneasiness or fear, regret or shame, uncertainties or questions. He is deliberately extending to those who labor in the Lord the great assurance, comfort, confidence, peace, security, and serenity that can, and does, come directly from the Spirit of God.

In other words, what you do matters. It matters for good. It matters here and now. It matters forever. It matters for others. And it matters for you.

Your good, no matter how large or small, is remembered by God. The power of your good work in the name of Christ is not dependent on its remembrance by others or even on your own memory. The good you do simply because you are in the Lord and you let him come out through you, as it were, go with you beyond the grave into God’s presence with you. And our awareness of that reality, made known to us by revelation, is a gift to God to us to encourage and spur us on to never cease doing good.

We will do good and not even realize it. We will do good and forget we even did it. We will do good and others will not even know it, remember it, or care. But God cares and remembers perfectly. God does not forget and will do good to those who live their lives expressive of his goodness, being “in him” and “for him” in life.

In this, let your mind find peace, your heart have rest, your spirit take comfort, and your hands, busyness to do good until the day you die. For what you do always matters.

Father God in heaven, remember me for good and help me to remember you in all things, that I might live well by you in Christ’s name. Amen.