1369.) Revelation 4

July 31, 2014
"The Emerald Throne Scene in Heaven," by Pat Marvenko Smith

“The Emerald Throne Scene in Heaven,” by Pat Marvenko Smith  (Click on the picture and you will see it in larger form — it is beautiful!)

Revelation 4  (NRSV)

Throne-Vision and Seven Seals:

At this point, we enter a new phase in the unfolding drama, as John is caught up to heaven and granted privileged access to the heavenly throne-room.  This vision (which continues into chapter 5) inaugurates the opening of the seven seals (6:1-8:1), just as the vision of the exalted Christ in chapter 1 introduced the seven messages.  Thus 4:1-8:1 forms the second great cycle of sevens in Revelation.  But it is no less crucial for understanding the remaining visions of the book, acting as the orienting vision for the whole of chapters 4-22.  In these remaining chapters, a kaleidoscope of images and symbols will flash before the mind’s eye, presenting from different perspectives the character of the battle described in the preceding seven messages.  Revelation 4-5 provides as it were the appropriate perspective from which to view and make sense of what is happening on earth.  Here is a drawing back of the curtain which normally restricts humanity’s view of the heavenly realm.  John, and those privileged to hear his Apocalypse, are enabled to see the world in a radically new light.

–Ian Boxall

The Heavenly Worship

“Surely that which occupies the total time and energies of heaven must be a fitting pattern for earth.”
–Paul E. Billheimer

After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.

“A door stood open.”  Heaven is where God is acknowledged as King, and where true worship occurs.  But far from being separated from this world, it is intimately connected to it, for what is seen in heaven either has been or will be played out on earth.  Doors into heaven can be opened wherever God’s people are, though particularly when they are gathered for the eucharistic liturgy (3:20).  Heaven is never far away, for those with the eyes to see.

–Ian Boxall

Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing,

“Holy, holy, holy,
the Lord God the Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come.”

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing,

11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”

Rev4 worship

Thoughts about WORSHIP

“Worship is our response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father.”
–Richard J. Foster

“When I worship, I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without heart.”
–Lamar Boschman

“Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One worshiped”
–Jack Hayford

“When we worship together as a community of living Christians, we do not worship alone, we worship ‘with all the company of heaven.'”
–Marianne H. Micks



HERE  is “Revelation Song” performed by Phillips, Craig and Dean.  Let’s worship “with all the company of heaven” as we listen.


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
Smith.    http://www.davidisom.org/uploads/5/1/5/0/5150093/7755456_orig.jpg

1368.) Revelation 3

July 30, 2014
This painting of Christ knocking on the door, by Walter Sallman, hung on the living room wall of my house as I was growing up.  My Mother made sure we saw that there was no knob -- the door had to be opened to Christ from the inside.

This painting of Christ knocking on the door (Rev. 3:20), by Walter Sallman, hung in the living room of my house as I was growing up. My Mother made sure we children saw that there was no knob — the door had to be opened to Christ from the inside.

Revelation 3  (NRSV)

The Message to Sardis


Sardis was formerly the capital of the ancient Lydian Kingdom.  The wealth of Lydia and Sardis is legendary.  The Pactolus River there was said to have become rich in gold when the fabled King Midas of Phrygia bathed in its headwaters to rid himself of the “golden touch.”  The legend of the “Golden Fleece” supposedly originated from the method of laying sheep skins in the shallows of the Pactolus to collect gold particles.  The expression “rich as Croesus,” the last Lydian king, is used to indicate an extremely wealthy person.  Unsurprisingly, it was here in Sardis that coined money was invented. 

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:

“I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead.”

G. B. Caird wrote that Sardis is “A perfect model of inoffensive Christianity.”

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.  Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent.

What to do with a dying church? Jesus did not instruct Smyrna to go to a church growth conference in Philippi. He did tell them to remember what they had seen and heard. What they had heard was the basic message of the apostles. Jesus calls them back to the basics.

When Vince Lombardi tried to wake up his sleeping Green Bay Packers football team he called them back to the basics. He knew they needed to focus on the football basics of blocking and tackling. He took it to an extreme, held up a football and said: Gentlemen this is a football.

George Barna in his book Turnaround Churches profiles thirty churches that were about to die and made a turnaround. What he found in his study was that those churches that did turn about got back to the basics. The return to basic theology and simple ministry was refreshing for most people, even those who had been Christian for decades. The people could agree on the crux of their faith. They were returning to what is eternally significant, practical and encouraging.

–Brad Beaman

If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.Yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

The Message to Philadelphia

Rev3 Philadelphiachurch

Philadelphia had been built with the deliberate intention that it might become a missionary city. Beyond Philadelphia lay the wilds of Phrygia and the barbarous tribes; and it was intended that the function of Philadelphia should be to spread the Greek language, the Greek way of life, the Greek civilization, throughout the regions beyond.

–William Barclay

The only ancient remains in Philadelphia is the Church of St. John, which dates from about A.D. 600.  It was a huge domed basilica, but today all you see are the massive columns that held up the structure (pictured above.).

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of the holy one, the true one,
    who has the key of David,
    who opens and no one will shut,
        who shuts and no one opens:

“I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.

Now Jesus opened the door for the Christians of Philadelphia to spread the culture of His kingdom through the whole region.

I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

Look at the features of the church in Philadelphia:

  • Evangelistic opportunity (I have set before you an open door)
  • Reliance on God (You have a little strength)
  • Faithfulness to Jesus (have kept My word, and have not denied My name)

In some ways, these features seem unspectacular. They should be commonplace among churches. Yet Jesus was completely pleased with this church. He had nothing negative to say to the church at Philadelphia.

Bible commentator Donald Barnhouse wrote: “The church of Philadelphia is commended for keeping the Word of the Lord and not denying His Name. Success in Christian work is not to be measured by any other standard of achievement. It is not rise in ecclesiastical position. It is not the number of new buildings which have been built through a man’s ministry. It is not the crowds that flock to listen to any human voice. All of these things are frequently used as yardsticks of success, but they are earthly and not heavenly measures.”

–David Guzik

11 I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

The Message to Laodicea

Rev3 Pamukkale-Turkey

When I lived in Turkey I visited all the sites of the Seven Churches of the Revelation, and Laodicea is the one I remember most clearly!  Pictured above is the nearby town of Pamukkale (meaning “cotton castles” in Turkish), with its white terraces of white calcite travertine, a sedimentary rock left behind from the flowing thermal water.  These are hot springs, ranging in temperature from 95 to 212 degrees F.  It is stunning.  This place has been a resort for the rich and famous since Roman times.  So, for the Laodiceans to be told that you are only lukewarm, when you live next door to hot springs . . ouch!

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation:

. . . meaning, the One whose word can be trusted.

15 “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

The angel is neither cold nor hot, but merely tepid.  First-century Laodicean Christians would almost certainly pick up on the local allusion, for Laodicea was almost equidistant between Hierapolis (modern Pamukkale), with its hot thermal springs, and the cold-water springs of Colossae.  It was probably not the case that Laodicea’s aqueduct transported the hot water from Hierapolis to the north, as it comes into the city from the south.  But certainly one can see clearly from Laodicea the sulphurous waters cascading over Hierapolis’ terraces, forming those white “cotton castles” which give the city its modern name.  This local echo counts against the angel being criticized for spiritual lukewarmness, for loss of fervour (after all, surely it is better to be tepid in one’s commitment than completely cold).  Rather, the tepid water of Laodicea does not produce any obvious benefit, unlike the healing properties of the hot baths at Hierapolis Spa or the refreshingly cool drinking water available to the Colossians (both of which are equally beneficial).  The Laodicean angel has lost his effectiveness.

–Ian Boxall

17 For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. 20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. 21 To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”



Verse 20 — Behold I stand at the door and knock.

HERE  is “Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door,” sung by Franklin Willis and arranged by Robert Nathaniel Dett.


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
Sallman.    http://www.warnersallman.com/wp-content/themes/WarnerSallman/images/heartsdoorsmall.jpg
Sardis, Temple of Artemis.    http://bleon1.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/sardis_artemisdsc03359.jpg
church ruins in Philadelphia.    http://www.travellinkturkey.com/aegean/images/philadelphia01.jpg
Pamukkale, Turkey.    http://theworldwider.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Pamukkale-Turkey.jpg

1367.) Revelation 2

July 29, 2014
Asia Minor is a geographic region in the south-western part of Asia comprising most of what is present-day Turkey.

Asia Minor is a geographic region in the south-western part of Asia comprising most of what is present-day Turkey.

Revelation 2  (NRSV)

The letters to the seven churches share a similar structure. They each feature:

  • An address to a particular congregation
  • An introduction of Jesus
  • A statement regarding the condition of the church
  • A verdict from Jesus regarding the condition of the church
  • A command from Jesus to the church
  • A general exhortation to all Christians
  • A promise of reward

 We can see the state of each of these seven churches — and the state of our own walk with Jesus — by looking at what Jesus has to say to each church in each section.

–David Guzik

The Message to Ephesus

Rev2 Ephesus

Ephesus was a prominent city in ancient Rome, with a famous church.  Paul, Aquilla and Priscilla, and Timothy all ministered there.  The city was also a religious center as home to one of the seven wonders of the world, the Temple of Diana, with its hedonistic worship.  In addition, the temple served as a bank and treasury for individual merchants and even cities.  The library, pictured above, was built to store 12,000 scrolls.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands:

“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

What does it mean, to abandon your first love?  Here are some examples:

–  I value praise from people more than praise from God.
–  I am callous in the way I treat a Christian brother/sister.
–  I choose not to witness because I fear rejection.
–  My leisure-time thoughts do not turn to God.
–  I do not cheerfully give to God’s work.
–  I become complacent to sin.
–  I hold grudges and am slow to forgive.

Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes that the Nicolaitans taught that Christians were free to practice immorality in the name of religion.

The Message to Smyrna

Rev2 agora_izmir

Smyrna was a city of beauty and wealth.  It was the center for the worship of the Roman Emperor.  Ancient Smyrna was located north of Ephesus in a powerful trading position on the Aegean Sea and was known for its harbors, commerce, and marketplaces. The primary ruins of Smyrna, including its massive city market (agora, pictured above) and underground sanitation system, are located in the middle of the modern Turkish city of Izmir.  (I lived in Izmir from 1976-1978; I was a teacher at a private Turkish jr. high and high school where most classes were taught in English.  It was a wonderful experience for me!)

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life:

“I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Death is a prelude to real life.  Hebrews says that Jesus “endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, because he knew that later on he would be glad he did.  Now he is seated at the right side of God’s throne!”

Jesus assures us, Let not your hearts be troubled.  I go to prepare a place for you.  I will give you a crown of life.

11 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.

The Message to Pergamum

Rev2 altar of Pergamum

The huge Great Altar of Pergamon, with its monumental friezes, is in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin. The base of this altar remains on the upper part of the Acropolis of the ancient site. It is perhaps this altar, believed to be dedicated to Zeus, that John referred to as “Satan’s throne” in verse 13.

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword:

13 “I know where you are living, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the people of Israel, so that they would eat food sacrificed to idols and practice fornication.

Balaam was an ambiguous figure in the Jewish tradition, who blessed Israel with a messianic prophecy (Numbers 24:15-19,  HERE), but was also held responsible for the apostasy of the Israelites at Peor (Numbers 31:15  HERE).  Here is evoked that more negative tradition.

–Ian Boxall

15 So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and make war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.

The Message to Thyatira


Thyatira was a center of business and trade. It had many active trade guilds, each having their own patron deity from the Greek and Roman pantheon of gods. Acts 16:14-15 mentions Lydia of Thyatira, who was a seller of purple cloth from the city of Thyatira.  Numerous references are found in secular literature of the period to the trade guilds which manufactured cloth.

–David Guzik

18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze:

19 “I know your works—your love, faith, service, and patient endurance. I know that your last works are greater than the first.

Jesus commends them for wonderful qualities . . .

20 But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her fornication. 22 Beware, I am throwing her on a bed, and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great distress, unless they repent of her doings; 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.

. . . but then calls them out for tolerating immorality in their midst.  Jesus could not be more clear here!

(Which makes me think — What immorality in my own life am I tolerating, have I become so used to that I hardly see it as sin?  Where am I putting my own preferences above the Word of God?  What disobedience do I dismiss as not a big deal?  Lord, search my mind and heart, and lead me in Your way.)

24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call ‘the deep things of Satan,’ to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden; 25 only hold fast to what you have until I come. 26 To everyone who conquers and continues to do my works to the end,

I will give authority over the nations;
27 to rule them with an iron rod,
    as when clay pots are shattered—

28 even as I also received authority from my Father. To the one who conquers I will also give the morning star. 29 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

At Thyatira they were, with all their great qualities, turning a blind eye to immorality. But Jesus with his eyes of burning fire (v. 18) could not ignore immorality in the church. When it comes to immorality there comes a time when the church needs to be intolerant. Jesus commands it.

–Brad Beaman

“DEEDS show what you BELIEVE and whether one has truly received the truth so as to be saved.”

–Kay Arthur



Verse 4:  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

from Wikipedia:

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” is a 1964 song by The Righteous Brothers which became a number-one hit single in the United States and the United Kingdom the following year. In 1999, the performing-rights organization Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) ranked the song as having had more radio and television play in the United States than any other song during the 20th century. Additionally, the song was chosen as one of the Songs of the Century by RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)  and ranked #34 on the list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone.

Bring back that lovin’ feelin’  HERE.


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
map of the seven churches.    http://www.thebackyardbard.com/revelation/downloads/SevenChurchesOfAsiaMinor.jpg
Ephesus.    http://www.ephesustoursturkey.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/url.jpg
Smyrna.    http://tours.biblicalstudies.info/agora_izmir.jpg
Pergamum.    http://i1.trekearth.com/photos/45913/altare_di_pergamo.jpg
Thyatira, picture by Leon Mauldin.    https://bleon1.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/thyatira_dsc03433.jpg

1366.) Revelation 1

July 28, 2014

Rev1 v8

Revelation 1  (NRSV)

Revelation!  The book is full of visions, symbols, angels, monsters, and numerology.  It has been described as an inspired picture-book, which, on account of its magnificent poetic imagery, makes a powerful appeal to the reader’s imagination.  It presents the consummation of time and history toward which the entire Biblical narrative is focused.  I do not begin to think that we can exhaust its riches in this study.  But for the next 22 days, we will look at each chapter and listen to the Holy Spirit to point us to Christ, the One who is, and who was, and who is to come.

Introduction and Salutation

The revelation of Jesus Christ,

The ancient Greek word translated Revelation is apokalupsis (apocalypse). The word simply means “a revealing, an unveiling.” The Book of Revelation is the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the sense that it belongs to Him, He is the one doing the revealing. It is also Jesus’ Revelation in the sense that He is the object revealed; Jesus is the person revealed by the book.

–David Guzik

which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.

Rev blessed

This is the first of seven beatitudes of Revelation.  The Book of Revelation offers a particular and unique blessing to those who read and hear and keep the message of this book.  The solemn words, the time is near, provide a motive for obedience.

James 1:22-25   (NIV)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come,

John’s readers, many of whom were, like him, Jewish Christians, would recognize this immediately as a reference to Exodus 3:14, where God is revealed to Moses as I AM WHO I AM, or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.

and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us

He loves us continually . . .

and freed us from our sins by his blood,

. . . and he has freed us once for all.

and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Look! He is coming with the clouds;
    every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
    and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.

So it is to be. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Rev1 AlphaOmega

1) Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (like our “A to Z”); hence, the beginning and end of all things.

Isaiah 44:6 (NRSV)

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel,
    and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
I am the first and I am the last;
    besides me there is no god.

2) This great word Almighty is used ten times in the New Testament, and nine of the ten times are in the Book of Revelation.

A Vision of Christ

Inaugural Vision and Seven Messages:

I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Rev1 Patmos

The island of Patmos, in the Aegean, was like an Alcatraz Island in the Roman Empire. It was used as a prison island and functioned as a jail without bars. The island was rich in marble, and most of the prisoners were forced laborers in marble quarries. Patmos was a rocky, desolate island about 10 miles long and 6 miles wide. 

The ancient Christian historian Eusebius says John was imprisoned at Patmos under the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96).

10 I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

Rev1 lampstands12 Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters.

from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby


At times it is tempting to conclude, “If only I could have walked with Jesus, as the twelve disciples did, it would be so much easier to live the Christian life!”  This thought reveals that we do not comprehend the greatness of the risen Christ we serve today.  The Jesus of the Gospels is often portrayed as One who walked along the seashore, loving children and gently forgiving sinner.  Yet the image of Jesus that we see at the close of the New Testament is far more dramatic!  He stands in awesome power as He rules all creation.  His appearance is so magnificent that when John, His beloved disciple, sees Him, he falls to the ground as though he were dead (Rev. 1:17).

We grossly underestimate the God we serve!  To ignore God’s word or to disobey a direct command from Him is to ignore the magnificent nature of Christ.  Our fear of other people proves that we do not understand the awesome Lord who walks with us.  He is vastly more awesome and powerful than the gentle rabbi we often imagine.

If you struggle with your obedience to Christ, take a closer look at how He is portrayed in the Book of Revelation.  If you are succumbing to temptation, call upon the powerful One who dwells in you.  If you have forgotten how great and mighty the Lord is, meet Him through the vision of the beloved disciple.  The encounter will dramatically affect the way you live!

16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.

Hebrews 4:12 (NRSV)

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades. 19 Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this.

The Book of Revelation is arranged in this three-part structure.

  • The things which you have seen: Revelation chapter 1
  • The things which are: Revelation chapters 2 and 3
  • The things which will take place after this: Revelation 4 through 22

–David Guzik

20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.



HERE  is a song based in part on verse 7 — “Lo, He Comes with Cloud Descending.”

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
    and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
    and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.

The words are by Charles Wesley; the piece is arranged by John Rutter and performed by Kings College Choir.  Lots of pomp and trumpets for the last coming!  Complete lyrics follow:

Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

Every island, sea, and mountain,
Heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
All who hate Him must, confounded,
Hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
Come to judgment! Come away!

Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear;
All His saints, by man rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the air:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
See the day of God appear!

Answer Thine own bride and Spirit,
Hasten, Lord, the general doom!
The new Heav’n and earth t’inherit,
Take Thy pining exiles home:
All creation, all creation,
Travails! groans! and bids Thee come!

The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
I am the Alpha and the Omega.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/473ae-revelation1v8.jpg
Alpha and Omega.    http://www.goddiscussion.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/AlphaOmega.jpg
Patmos.    http://www.soulofpatmos.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/viewpatmos.jpg
Christ amid the lampstands.    http://restlesspilgrim.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Revelation-1.jpg

1365.) Psalm 51

July 25, 2014

Psalm 51 (New International Version)

This week is a collection of some of my favorite Bible passages.

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Detail of “David’s Punishment” by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld (German artist, 1794-1872), woodcut illustration



“Miserere,” by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), is a setting of Psalm 51 composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for use in the Sistine Chapel as part of the Tenebrae service on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week.  HERE  it is, sung by The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.  This piece always brings tears to my eyes.


How to confess our sins? 
David shows us in this prayer.  He prays a prayer of–

1) confession.  No downplaying; David freely admits his sin.  God is not interested in our excuses, but He is always willing to hear us say we are sorry for our sins.

2) contrition.  David can’t stop thinking about his sin, or get away from it.  Sin should bother us.

3) cleansing.  Sin is a stain, an unseen poison.  He needs the burden lifted.  The only cure is the blood of Jesus.

4) consecration.  David wants the joy of salvation again.  To be consecrated is to be set apart for God’s work, and David is eager to tell others what God has done for him.

–from Steve Patton

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

whiter than snow

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

Wait — but God had instructed the Israelites to bring him sacrifices and burnt offerings!  So if that type of offering no longer works, then what?  What can we bring to God as a sacrifice, which the Lord will deem acceptable and excellent?  What does God want from us?

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

God asks that I bring him a broken heart, broken by my sorrowful awareness of my own sins and the sins of the world.

18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.



“Have mercy on me, O God . . .”  David begins his confession.  In doing so, he teaches us how to confess our own sins to the Lord.  And the Lord has promised that our repentance will be met by his mercy.  HERE  is “Thy Mercy”  sung by Sandra McCracken.


New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Have mercy tulips.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/havemercyonmeogodaccordingtoyoursteadfastlove.jpg
Carolsfeld.    http://www.jesuswalk.com/greatprayers/images/carolsfeld_davids_punishment420x376.gif
whiter than snow.    http://crystallewis.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/img_0446.jpg
Create in me a clean heart.    http://bibledaily.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/psalm51c.jpg
Restore to me the joy and rainbow.    http://oneyearbibleimages.com/psalm51_12ljm.jpg
Man with a broken heart.    http://restoringwholeness.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/young-man-kneeling.jpg

1364.) Acts 3

July 24, 2014

Acts3 Crippled-Man

Acts 3 (New Living Translation)

This week is a collection of some of my favorite Bible passages.

Peter Heals a Crippled Beggar

Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. 2 As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.4 Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money.

3. Peter heals

6 But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”

7 Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. 8 He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (English Standard Version)

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

9 All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. 10 When they realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded! 11 They all rushed out in amazement to Solomon’s Colonnade, where the man was holding tightly to Peter and John.

“Far more abundantly” God has in mind,  for the beggar and for us (and yes, that includes you!) —

“Imagine yourself as a living house.  God comes in to rebuild that house.  At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.  He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.  But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense.  What on earth is He up to?  The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.  You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.  He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

—C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Peter Preaches in the Temple

12 Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd. “People of Israel,” he said, “what is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? 13 For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of all our ancestors—who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this.

Peter knows that simply seeing the miracle is not enough to bring the people to faith.  As Paul says in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” So Peter tells the story, the only story that can save lives.

This is the same Jesus whom you handed over and rejected before Pilate, despite Pilate’s decision to release him. 14 You rejected this holy, righteous one and instead demanded the release of a murderer. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact!

16 “Through faith in the name of Jesus, this man was healed—and you know how crippled he was before. Faith in Jesus’ name has healed him before your very eyes.

Psalm 103:1-5 (The Message)

O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
don’t forget a single blessing!

He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.

17 “Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance. 18 But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that he must suffer these things. 19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. 21 For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 Moses said,

‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything he tells you.’

23 Then Moses said,

‘Anyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely cut off from God’s people.’

24 “Starting with Samuel, every prophet spoke about what is happening today. 25 You are the children of those prophets, and you are included in the covenant God promised to your ancestors. For God said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants all the families on earth will be blessed.’ 26 When God raised up his servant, Jesus, he sent him first to you people of Israel, to bless you by turning each of you back from your sinful ways.”



The book of Acts has been called “The Gospel of the Resurrection.”   Peter reminds the crowd again and again that he is a witness to the fact that God raised Christ from the dead.  This song captures some of that confidence!   “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow”


Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
a lame beggar.  http://ap.lanexdev.com/user_images/Discovery/image/magazine/2013/07/Crippled-Man-iStock_000003227021Large.png
Peter heals the crippled beggar.   http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/Standard%20Bible%20Story%20Readers,%20Book%20Four/images/scan0051.jpg
Belvedere Palace, Vienna, Austria.     http://mipper.com/images/ill_aff/Belvedere-Palace.jpg
Bless the Lord, o my soul.    http://www.proclaiminghim.com/ph/images/stories/BlessTheLord.jpg

1363.) Luke 15

July 23, 2014

“The Prodigal Son” by Liz Lemon Swindle

Luke 15 (New International Version)

This week is a collection of some of my favorite Bible passages.

For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.    Luke 19:10

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

1Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

“The Lost Sheep” by Alford Usher Soord.

3Then Jesus told them this parable: 4“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

Isaiah 53:6 (English Standard Version)

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

a stained glass window in St. Jacob’s Lutheran Church, Anna, Ohio

8“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The Parable of the Lost Son

“The Prodigal Son Taking Leave of his Father,” by Mary Ann Willson, 1815 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“The Prodigal Son” by John Macallen Swan, 1888 (Tate Collection, London)

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Malachi 3:17 (Amplified Bible)

And they shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I publicly recognize and openly declare them to be My jewels (My special possession, My peculiar treasure). And I will spare them, as a man spares his own son who serves him.

“The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt, 1669 (The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia)

“Often I have asked friends to give me their first impression of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son. Inevitably, they point to the wise old man who forgives his son: the benevolent patriarch.

“The longer I look at ‘the patriarch’, the clearer it becomes to me that Rembrandt has done something quite different from letting God pose as the wise old head of a family. It all began with the hands. The two are quite different. The father’s left hand touching the son’s shoulder is strong and muscular. The fingers are spread out and cover a large part of the prodigal son’s shoulder and back. I can see a certain pressure, especially in the thumb. That hand seems not only to touch, but, with its strength, also to hold. Even though there is a gentleness in the way the father’s left hand touches his son, it is not without a firm grip.

“How different is the father’s right hand! This hand does not hold or grasp. It is refined, soft, and very tender. The fingers are close to each other and they have an elegant quality. It lies gently upon the son’s shoulder. It wants to caress, to stroke, and to offer consolation and comfort. It is a mother’s hand….

“As soon as I recognized the difference between the two hands of the father, a new world of meaning opened up for me. The Father is not simply a great patriarch. He is mother as well as father. He touches the son with a masculine hand and a feminine hand. He holds, and she caresses. He confirms and she consoles. He is , indeed, God, in whom both manhood and womanhood, fatherhood and motherhood, are fully present. That gentle and caressing right hand echoes for me the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Can a woman forget her baby at the breast, feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you. Look, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

–from Henri J. M. Nouwen’s book The Return of the Prodigal Son:  A Story of Homecoming, based on his contemplation of the painting by Rembrandt, above.

21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Proverbs 28:13    (NRSV)

No one who conceals transgressions will prosper,
but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

“The Prodigal Daughter” by Charlie Mackesy

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw

Jesus came into our broken world to provide a way to get the prodigals back home.  He wanted to purge the rebellion from our hearts so we would not only come home, but also enjoy being home, so we would rejoice in the privilege of being a part of the family we had abandoned.  Jesus paid the price for our return and healing.

As the years have passed, a conviction has deepened in my soul that Jesus wants to do far more for us than most of us imagine.  So often we think in quite selfish terms about what Christ came to do.  Yet in fact Christ died to do more for human beings than we have ever dreamed.  If we do not dream a little bigger, we are never going to experience the deeper reality of his presence.

The reality is that Christ came to do more than just keep us out of hell.  He wants to develop a personal relationship with each human being for whom he died.  He died to save me not just from my sins, but also from my own self.  “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).

Self-interest is the ultimate definition of sin, and the Cross holds the power to set each person free from self-interest.  A French Catholic priest in the court of King Louis the XIV one day said, “Oh, God, isn’t there anybody left anywhere who loves you just for who you are?  Can’t you find one such person?  And if you can’t find one, couldn’t you make one?”  That is why Jesus went to the Cross:  to bring me to the place where I love him simply because of who he is and not because of what he can do for me.

The ending of the story of the Prodigal Son would have been terribly disappointing if the son had merely returned for more of his inheritance without an apology to and an interest in his father.  Once the father saw his son coming home, the relationship between father and son became the thing of paramount importance, and the reader forgets that the son ever needed anything except his father.

25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31” ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

The opening sentence from the short story “The Capital of the World” by Ernest Hemingway:

Madrid is full of boys named Paco, which is the diminutive of the name Francisco, and there is a Madrid joke about a father who came to Madrid and inserted an advertisement in the personal columns of El Liberal which said: PACO MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTANA NOON TUESDAY ALL IS FORGIVEN PAPA” and how a squadron of Guardia Civil had to be called out to disperse the eight hundred young men who answered the advertisement.

. . . all seeking reconciliation with their fathers.



Chris Rice and his moving “Untitled Hymn.”

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we fall…so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!


New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Swindle.    http://www.markmallett.com/blog/wp-images/Prodigal3.jpg
Soord.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/d2dd5-the2blost2bsheep2ba2bu2bsoord.jpg
woman sweeping for coin.    http://crosstippedchurches.blogspot.com/2009/04/parable-of-lost-coin.html
Willson.    http://americanartgallery.org/uploads/pictures/005914/x_mawillson10.jpg
Swan.    http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?cgroupid=999999961&workid=14076&searchid=7991&tabview=image
Rembrandt.    http://www.abcgallery.com/R/rembrandt/rembrandt139.html
Mackesy.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/00c17-prodigaldaughter.jpg
“The Prodigal Son” by Nigel Cox.    http://www.traceymcnee.com/artists/images/cox/web/the_prodigal_son_large.jpg

1362.) 1 John 1

July 22, 2014

Another John!  Portrait by Thomas Sadler, 1684.  John Bunyan (1628-1688) was an English preacher and writer, most famous for writing “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” a book which has been translated into over 200 languages.  In the story, the protagonist, Christian, journeys from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, while facing many trials and difficulties.

1 John 1 (New Living Translation)

This week is a collection of some of my favorite Bible passages.


1 We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.

John was one of the original twelve disciples; at the time of this letter, he is an older man and perhaps the last remaining apostle.  He writes with authority to his “dear children” to assure them of the truth of their faith in Jesus Christ.  Can you hear the resonance between this opening and the Gospel of John chapter 1?  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.”

2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw

How is it possible for one to identify with God in such a way that one can share in the fellowship of the Trinity without actually becoming God?  How is this closeness compatible with the incredible otherness between human beings and God?  In Islam there is no possibility of such friendship; God is completely other and cannot have close interaction with human beings.  On the other hand, in Eastern religions such as Hinduism and in New Age philosophies, human beings can so completely identify with God that they become part of the “divine soul.”  The distinction between humans and God blurs until humanity is lost in divinity.  Neither of these approaches is consistent with biblical thought about humanity’s relationship to God, which allows for both fellowship and distinction.

In Christianity a person can be in God but can never be God.  Otherness of being is never lost.  God can become human, and at one moment of history he did become human, but the process can never take place in the other direction.  The basis of this is the Trinity, in which three persons maintain their total distinctiveness and yet have complete unity.  It is a unity with otherness.  It is a mingling without the formation of a compound.  The fellowship and unity between members of the Godhead is ontological—it is part of their essence.  The fellowship between human persons is psychological and ethical.  The fellowship between human persons and the Trinity is conditional.    We can have fellowship with God while he retains his otherness and we retain our personal identity.  Our fellowship with God makes us more truly human than we have ever been before.  It heals our humanity and completes our personhood.

4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.

Living in the Light

5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.



Written in 1987 by Graham Kendrick — “Shine, Jesus, Shine.”


6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

“Let us gaze at the blood of Christ and recognize how precious it is to His Father, because, poured out for our salvation, it brought the grace of repentance to all the world.”

–Clement, early Church Father

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

“If you have sinned, do not lie down without repentance; for the want of repentance after one has sinned makes the heart yet harder and harder.”

–John Bunyan


New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
John Bunyan.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/John_Bunyan_by_Thomas_Sadler_1684.jpg
symbol of the Trinity.    http://threes.com/cms/images/stories/food/pretzel/trinitysymbol.jpg
the blood of Jesus.   https://afruitinseason.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/the-blood-of-jesus-takes-my-sins-away.jpg

1361.) Mark 5

July 21, 2014

“Raising of Jairus’ Daughter” by Vasily Dmitrievich Polenov, 1871 (The Museum of the Academy of the Arts, St. Petersburg, Russia)

Mark 5 (New Living Translation)

This week is a collection of some of my favorite Bible passages.

Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Man

1 So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from a cemetery to meet him. 3 This man lived among the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. 4 Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones.

6 When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him, ran to meet him, and bowed low before him. 7 With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.”

9 Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?”

And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” 10 Then the evil spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place.

11 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby.

12 “Send us into those pigs,” the spirits begged. “Let us enter them.”

13 So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.

14 The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. 15 A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 16 Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. 17 And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone.

They cared more for their swine than for their souls, more for bacon than for true belief.

18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him.

“That is a striking name for a man, ‘he that had been possessed with the devil.’ It would stick to him as long as he lived, and it would be a standing sermon wherever he went. He would be asked to tell the story of what he used to be, and how the change came about. What a story for any man to tell!”

–C. H. Spurgeon

19 But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” 20 So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.

John Oxenham wrote a short and poignant poem about this occasion — read it  HERE.

Jesus Heals in Response to Faith

21 Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. 22 Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, 23 pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”

24 Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him. 25 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. 26 She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. 28 For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”

Matthew 9:20 says she touched the hem of His garment, and that actually means one of the borders of the outer garment that all Jews wore.  Barclay says, “Every devout Jew wore an outer robe with four tassels on it, one at each corner. These tassels were worn in obedience to the command in Numbers 15:38-40, and they were to signify to others, and to remind the man himself, that the wearer was a member of the chosen people of God.”

29 Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.

“Faith that Heals” by Darlene Slavujac

30 Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

31 His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

St. Augustine said of this story, “Flesh presses, faith touches” — and Jesus can tell the difference.

32 But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

This is the only time recorded in the Scriptures that Jesus ever used this term “daughter.”

35 While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”

36 But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

37 Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James). 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing. 39 He went inside and asked, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”

40 The crowd laughed at him. But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying.

“The raising of Jairus’ daughter” by Edwin Long

41 Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” 42 And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. 43 Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then he told them to give her something to eat.



The account of Jesus raising the little girl is a story with great personal meaning to me.  Twice I have sat at my daughter’s bedside in a hospital, fearing that she would die, thinking of this story, praying to the Lord to “heal her, so she may live.”  The first time Maureen was 11 months old and required open-heart surgery.  The second time she was in first grade and had contracted Toxic Shock Syndrome.  Both times the Lord heard my cry and answered with kindness.  How grateful I am that now she is alive and well, married to a man who loves her and mothering the sweetest children ever!  Here’s a picture of Maureen, my miracle child, with husband Will and kids Liam and Calli.



God, there is none like You!  Because of You and Your grace, we are alive!  “You Alone”  by David Crowder.


New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Polenov.     http://allart.biz/up/photos/album/P/Polenov_Vasily/raising_jairus_daughter_1871.jpg
pigs.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/piggy.jpg
bacon.    http://www.impactwatch.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/bacon_slices.jpg
Slavujac.    http://www.biblicalartist.net/mywebsite/faith700.jpg
Long.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/jairus-daughter-edwin-long.jpg

1360.) Psalm 149

July 18, 2014

Ps149 dance

Psalm 149 (ESV)

Sing to the Lord a New Song

Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
    his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
    let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Let them praise his name with dancing,
    making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!

Ps149 water dance

For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
    he adorns the humble with salvation.

For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people – Let them rejoice on this account. He loves them; he approves their conduct; he bestows his favors upon them. All this should add to their joy, and fill their hearts with gladness. The Hebrew word here rendered “taketh pleasure” conveys the idea of complacency, satisfaction, delight. It is the opposite of being pained or offended. God has complacency in his people. He delights in their welfare; he delights in doing them good.

–Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834]

Let the godly exult in glory;
    let them sing for joy on their beds.


Let the high praises of God be in their throats
    and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations
    and punishments on the peoples,
to bind their kings with chains
    and their nobles with fetters of iron,
to execute on them the judgment written!
    This is honor for all his godly ones.
Praise the Lord!

Ps149 God be praised_________________________


HERE  is some sacred dance on a beach.  Only in heaven will I have any chance of being so graceful in movement!


English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
Let them praise His name in a dance.    http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/e4/f6/c5/e4f6c55fa49c89a39252480afb9abde9.jpg
Children dancing in the water.    http://ih1.redbubble.net/image.12398342.5366/flat,550×550,075,f.jpg
smiling woman in hospital bed.    http://cache2.asset-cache.net/gc/200066555-001-elderly-woman-smiling-lying-in-hospital-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=TaG4inCydQFz%2BqpQhUywYVDg5CKDVWRJebSmp1qyJVKpXZ3pTot8B4vpANOMD5ZO
God be praised.    http://media-cache-cd0.pinimg.com/236x/21/5c/61/215c610736f74198a3ff0c52c5c43380.jpg