Category Archives: Chapter-a-Day

“Gonna Change My Way of Thinking”

The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands…
Revelation 9:20a (NIV)

I find it fascinating that our world continues to use Hitler and the Nazis as the ultimate metaphor for evil. Given their lust for power, their unbridled ambition, and the atrocities they unleashed on this earth, it’s an apt metaphor in many ways. I have heard it argued that true evil will not respond to anything but overpowering force. It could be argued that World War II is an example of that principle. We continue to hold Hitler and his Nazis as our favorite metaphor for evil. Of course, metaphor loses its power when it is applied loosely and flippantly in unwarranted situations, but that’s a different post for another day.

Today’s chapter describes the fifth and sixth “trumpet judgments” on the earth that John saw in his vision. The fifth is a plague of locusts another plague that parallels the plagues on Egypt in the time of Moses. The locusts are described with monstrous imagery and led by “the angel of the Abyss.” The locusts torture earth’s inhabitants until they beg to die.

When the sixth angel sounds its trumpet, four angels at the Euphrates River are loosed along with a countless multitude of mounted troops with horses that spew fire, smoke, and sulfur. One-third of the earth’s inhabitants are killed. While this plague does not have a parallel to the ten plagues of Egypt, its imagery had a clear parallel to Roman citizens in the first century. The Parthian Empire was right across the Euphrates River to the east of the Roman Empire, and the Parthians were the only enemy that the Roman Legions could not defeat. Parthia’s mounted archers could ride forward and shoot backward, and their unpredictable battle tactics made them one foe that Rome did not want to face. Romans feared the day that Parthia’s mounted army attacked and John’s vision would have directly stirred these fears.

Along my spiritual journey, I’ve observed that it’s easy to get lost in the minute details of apocalyptic literature. I recall one arrogant professor I once had who famously lectured on the end times and sold volumes of his recordings on the subject. I remember some of his interpretations being so rooted in the geopolitical world of the cold war that I highly doubt they would make sense today.

Instead of getting buried in the minutia, I tend to pull back to try and see the big picture. I believe the rather obvious parallels between the judgments of Revelation and the plagues of Egypt are more than a coincidence. In the Exodus, God unleashed 10 plagues on Egypt in an effort to get a hard-hearted Pharaoh to repent and free the Hebrews from slavery. In Revelation God unleashes plagues on the earth in an effort to get hard-hearted humanity to repent and be free from the shackles of sin.

The hard-hearted Pharaoh refused to repent. So does humanity in John’s vision.

And so, I find my thoughts wandering back to the nature of evil and to history. The Nuremberg Trials and the flight of top Nazi officials to places like Argentina revealed how unrepentant and hard-hearted were the individuals who unleashed unspeakable atrocities on humanity for their own power and pride. To this day, the stories of powerful families and corporations who fueled the Nazi regime and remain unrepentant for their past continue to come out.

So in the quiet, I find myself thinking about the simple act of repentance. It means a change of heart that leads to a change in direction. It means to spiritually stop, turn, and go the other way. As Bob Dylan sings it: “Gonna change my way of thinkin’, make myself a different set of rules. Gonna put my good foot forward and stop being influenced by fools.” It’s what Pharaoh refused to do. It’s what Hitler’s henchmen refused to do. It’s what humanity refuses to do in the end times according to today’s chapter.

And, on this Monday morning, I once again find myself humbly admitting that I don’t know what every one of John’s visions means. I’m sorry that I can’t reveal it to you with smug certainty like my old professor and the multi-cassette volumes he was happy to sell to anyone. Here’s what I do know for certain. My heart, my thoughts, and my subsequent words and actions can easily become rooted in pride rather than humility, in selfishness rather than generosity, in anger rather than kindness, in vengeance rather than forgiveness, and in hatred rather than in love. Every day of this earthly journey is an opportunity for me to have the self-awareness to catch myself, stop, and choose to go in the opposite direction; To choose good rather than evil.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Judges (May-Jun 2022)

Each photo below corresponds to the chapter-a-day post for the book of Judges published by Tom Vander Well in May and June of 2022. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

Judges 1: Git ‘er Done! (or not)

Judges 2: This Chain That I Must Break

Judges 3: The “I” in Idolatry

Judges 4: Women and Prophets

Judges 5: Deborah the Leader

Judges 6: Willingness

Judges 7: Different Ways

Judges 8: King, or Not?

Judges 9: Two Paths

Judges 10: Leaders are Not One-Size-Fits-All

Judges 11: Childish Notions

Judges 12: And So, It Begins

Judges 13: Living a Great Story

Judges 14: Achilles’ Heel

Judges 15: Who I Don’t Want to Be

Judges 16: A Confession

Judges 17: Order, Disorder, Reorder

Judges 18: Willful Independence

Judges 19: Violent Times

Judges 20: Tribal Instinct and Higher Law

Judges 21: Series of Unfortunate Events

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Ignorant, Mindful, and Ready

Ignorant, Mindful, and Ready (CaD Rev 8) Wayfarer

The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.
Revelation 8:4 (NIV)

As a student of history and as a mindful observer of life, I have noted that followers of Jesus in every generation seem to be convinced that we are in the end times. This is not the first time I’ve mentioned it on this chapter-a-day journey. It seems to me that as human beings age and we feel our own sense of dread with the inevitable approach of “the end” of our own earthly journey, it is easy to project this sense of “the end” on the world around us.

As a young man, I read books that predicted the world wouldn’t last beyond my high school years. Since I graduated high school in 1984, many would-be prophets mingled Orwell and Revelation in predicting doomsday. I seem to remember televangelists predicting the date of the rapture and the beginning of the end on more than one occasion. Then came the doomsday scenarios of the end of the 20th century that mingled the apocalypse with the Y2K global computer meltdown (history shows that apocalyptic predictions spring up at the end of centuries like flowers in spring). More recently, we had the end of the Mayan calendar that people associated with the end of all things.

With this in mind, I want to be careful with my thoughts on today’s chapter. I don’t want you to read what I’m not writing.

In today’s chapter, John’s vision from God’s throne room in heaven continues. When the seventh seal on the scroll is broken there is a dramatic pause, thirty minutes of silence before the next round of judgments on the earth begin. The prayers of God’s people rise as incense before God’s throne. Recall the cries of those who’d been martyred in chapter six: “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

I always have to remember as I read the Great Story that God layers life with certain themes. Just a few weeks ago in a Message among my local gathering of Jesus followers, I gave the example of how the diagram of an atom looks like a little solar system. The moon revolving around the earth, the planets revolving around the sun, and our solar system in the galaxy continue to expand this layered motif outward into the expanding universe. God is an artist, and he layers themes and motifs in both creation and in the Great Story.

The prayers and cries of the martyrs (those believers through history who were tortured and killed because of their faith) echo God hearing the prayers of God’s people enslaved in Egypt (Ex 3:7). The judgments and plagues in today’s chapter and subsequent chapters echo the plagues on Egypt. God’s deliverance of humanity from the shackles of a fallen world ruled by evil as we read it in the book of Revelation is a macrocosm of the story of God delivering His people from Egypt.

As the angels blow their trumpets of judgment in today’s chapter, plagues fall on the earth. The hail mixed with blood echoes the ninth plague on Egypt. The sea turned to blood echoes the first Egyptian plague. The waters turning bitter in the third trumpet are the reverse of God turning the bitter waters sweet at Marah for the Hebrews. The fourth trumpet echoes the ninth plague on Egypt.

I couldn’t help but notice that the consequences of the trumpet plagues are largely disruptions of nature which will disrupt commerce which in turn will wreak havoc on the global supply chain, which will only fuel economic and international strife, which will only fuel the works of the four riders of the apocalypse that have already been loosed: conquest, war, violence, famine, and death.

Disruption of supply chains, disruptions caused by war, supply shortages, famine, inflation, economic disruption, anger, violence: sound familiar? Yes, I can’t help but see the current events around me and think to myself how quickly things can spiral and descend in an out-of-control chain of events around the globe.

And this is where I don’t want you to read what I’m not writing. I’m not saying we are in the end times. I continue to maintain, as Jesus taught, that no one knows the day and the hour. I’m determined to cling to this ignorance. I can, however, read today’s chapter, look at current events, and appreciate how cataclysmic events like a global pandemic, natural disasters, wars, and famines can quickly destabilize the entire world as is described in the “Trumpet Judgments” in today’s chapter. And while Jesus said that I don’t know the hour and the day, He told multiple parables in which He encouraged His followers to be alert and to always be ready for the end to arrive.

And so, I enter today mindful and endeavoring to be ready, come what may in my own lifetime.

Note: Four recent messages were added to the Messages page today, an archive of YouTube and MP3 fiiles of messages.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

“Every Nation, Tribe, People, & Language”

"Every Nation, Tribe, People, & Language" (CaD Rev 7) Wayfarer

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
Revelation 7:9 (NIV)

In yesterday’s chapter, the first six seals of a scroll were opened by Jesus. Today’s chapter is an intermission before the seventh seal is opened. John describes two different things revealed to him. In the first, the four winds are held back from the earth by four angels, while a fifth angel places a “seal” on the foreheads of 144,000 “servants of God,” 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel.

The four winds was a metaphor of God’s wrath and judgment on the earth. The prophet Jeremiah used the same metaphor (Jer 49:36). A “seal” was used in ancient times to both protect documents from being opened and to mark who sent them. Metaphorically, this seems to indicate that these 144,000 “sealed” servants of God will be protected during the impending tribulation being held back by the four angels.

In the second part of the vision, John sees a multitude of individuals from every “nation, tribe, people, and language” who were wearing white robes. John is told that they had come “out of the tribulation.” This connects with the martyrs in yesterday’s chapter (Rev 6:9-11) who were given white robes and told to wait for the others who would join them. John is then told that they will serve the Lamb in his temple and be protected, provided for, cared for, and comforted.

There are a couple of things that stand out to me as I ponder these visions in the quiet this morning. The first is the reality that Jesus was very clear with His followers that following Him may very well be an earthly death sentence. The resurrected Christ told Peter that it would be true for him. Tradition says that this was true for 11 of The Twelve disciples (John is believed to be the only one who may have died of old age). It has been true for multitudes of followers throughout history. It’s still true for followers of Jesus today in places like Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan, and China. This is both a sobering thought, and it stands in direct opposition to the “name it and claim it” televangelists or those who believe that following Jesus is the way to safety and prosperity on this earth.

The other things that stands out to me is that this is the second time in John’s vision that he describes people of “every nation, tribe, people, and language.” The greek word used for “temple” in today’s chapter specifically denotes the temple structure where God’s presence dwelt. Throughout the history of the Temple in Jerusalem, only Hebrew men could enter. People of other “nations, tribes, peoples, and languages” (along with females) were not allowed. Also, Paul was very clear that after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection a “Jew” was not someone with Hebrew DNA, but whose heart was surrendered to Christ (Rom 2:28-29). This raises the question as to whether the 144,000 “sealed servants” mentioned in today’s chapter are DNA Jews or Spirit Jews.

One again, I’m left admitting that I know that I don’t know the answers to some of these questions. There are couple of things, however, that I do know. I know that being a follower of Jesus is a path of surrender on this earth, and that very well means that it sometimes leads to suffering. I also know that heaven is a place for people of every nation, tribe, people, and language. Therefore, any thing on this earth that stirs up division, separation, and discrimination against a person or group based on nation, tribe, people, and language is incongruent with Jesus’ teaching.

Therefore, as a follower of Jesus, I enter this day endeavoring to surrender, to serve, and to love indiscriminately.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

“What Do You Expect?!”

"What Do You Expect?!" (CaD Rev 6) Wayfarer

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
Revelation 6:15-17 (NIV)

Wendy and I find ourselves on that section of life’s road in which we get to watch and walk with my parents and her grandma as they traverse the home stretch of this earthly journey, and experience all that happens to the human body as it ages and begins to wear out. There is nothing novel or new about this progression. Ever since the third chapter of Genesis in which God tells Adam and Eve “from dust you came and to dust you will return,” human beings who live long enough have experienced the natural breakdown of the human body and mind until death finally catches up with us.

On our visits to Wendy’s 95-year-old grandmother, I’ve listened and observed as Wendy listens to grandma, who sometimes laments over her aches, pains, and nagging ailments that limit her quality of life. Wendy, ever the Enneagram Eight “challenger” that God made her, responds: “Your body is ninety-five years old, grandma! What do you expect?!”

In today’s chapter, we find John still in heaven’s throne room and Jesus (a.k.a. the Lamb) begins to open the scroll that was sealed with seven seals. As each seal on the scroll is broken, something awful is revealed to John. Conquest, war, famine, death, injustice, and cataclysmic natural disasters. Come to think of it, it’s a lot like what’s revealed to me when I open my news app each morning. Hold that thought.

A couple of observations. First, the prophetic images John sees here are not new or novel in the Great Story. Centuries before John’s vision, the prophets introduced these visionary images. Zechariah also saw the four horsemen (Zech 1 & 8). The souls under the altar connect directly with the Hebrew altar of sacrifice (Ex 29:12; Lev 4:7). The natural catastrophes mentioned were also referred to by Isaiah, Joel, Haggai, and even mentioned by Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2. So I think it’s important for me to understand that everything in this vision of “end times” has been foreseen all along. It’s all connected and it’s all been foreseen for a long time. Even Jesus described it:

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Matthew 24:6-14 (NIV)

Next, I have often stated that human history in the Great Story is very much like one long life cycle. Creation and time are layered with meaning. God’s people have long understood that one day is like a lifetime from birth (sunrise) to death (night). Followers of Jesus have seen that a week is like a metaphorical lifetime of Christ in which every Friday is a memorial of Jesus’ death and every Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection that launches us into a “new” week. In the same way, each year has the same pattern. In my chapter-a-day treks through ancient books like Exodus and Joshua, I often made the case that humanity was in the toddler stage of history. Civilization acted like immature, ignorant, and petulant children who are driven by their appetites, emotions, and base instincts. If I follow that metaphor to its logical conclusion, then Revelation is a vision of humanity in the throes of death, the ultimate conclusion of sin’s curse on humanity that was declared in Genesis chapter three.

And this brings me back to Wendy addressing her grandmother’s shock and lamentation over her body’s slow, uncomfortable decline. “What do you expect?!”

In the quiet this morning, I find that an apt question with regard to the bleak description that Jesus, John, and the prophets foreshadow regarding humanity’s final chapters. Broken and sinful humanity living in our civilization and the kingdoms of this world ruled by the “prince of this world” (as Jesus named the evil one) decline into the throes of death.

Pessimistic, I know, and a bit depressing for the one who has no hope.

But, there is hope! And we’ll eventually get there at the end of this chapter-a-day trek through Revelation. Until then, the journey may seem like a long, slow slog of decline towards death. Hang in there. As Bob Dylan sings, “Just remember, that death is not the end.”

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Alpha Point and the Omega Point

The Alpha Point and the Omega Point (CaD Rev 5) Wayfarer

In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”
Revelation 5:12 (NIV)

A year or two ago, my friend shared with me a story about the 20th-century Jesuit priest, anthropologist, philosopher, and mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The story inspired me, and I ended up using it in a message a few weeks later. It also inspired me to learn a little more about de Chardin and his teachings. Later in his life, the philosopher-priest was silenced by the institutional church and ordered not to teach or publish anything. As an amateur historian, this always tells me that he must have been on to something true.

One of de Chardin’s most popular theories was that of the “Omega Point.” Just as He believed that the universe began as a tiny “Alpha Point” of matter that exploded into being with a big bang, he saw everything in the universe as connected, transforming, and flowing towards an “Omega Point” in which everything recedes back to that tiny point. His ideas not only inspired scientists and physicists but also artists and writers. Flannery O’Connor’s Everything that Rises Must Converge is a riff on Chardin.

For me, the inspiration led me to look with new eyes at the Great Story that God authors from Genesis to Revelation (the “alpha point” and “omega point”). The Great Story is clear that Jesus was the “alpha point” through which all things were created (Jhn 1:3) and it is He who “holds all things together” (Col 1:17).

In today’s chapter, John’s visit to the throne room of heaven continues. He sees a scroll that is sealed with seven seals. A call goes out in heaven asking who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll. No one is found worthy, which has John weeping with grief. Then “the lamb who was slain” (e.g. Jesus) is revealed who, because of His surrender and sacrifice, is worthy to open the scroll. A choir of innumerable angels then sings:

In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

There are seven attributes that Jesus is worthy to “receive” according to the angel’s song. Seven is the number of “completeness” or “completion.” The number is used 55 times in Revelation. As I have read, pondered, and studied Revelation over the years, I was always a bit confused by the fact that “power” and “wealth” were included in this complete list of what Jesus is worthy to receive in the end.

Then I started considering what Chardin’s “omega point” was getting at in connection to who Jesus was, what Jesus taught, and who Jesus is revealed to be in today’s chapter.

Jesus is the beginning, the alpha point of Creation from Whom all things flow.

Jesus taught His followers not to treasure the power and wealth of this transient, created world because it doesn’t last, it isn’t eternal, and eventually…

Everything, including all the power and wealth in creation, along with everything in this universe will flow back to Jesus, the Creator, the Omega point, in the end.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself pondering the effect and consequence of my embracing this notion. It means that everything I have in this physical world is not really mine. It flows from the Alpha point and it will flow back to the Omega point. If this is true, then it transforms me from an owner of everything I have to a steward of everything I have. Suddenly I am a character in a very real version of Jesus’ parable of the talents, caring for and investing all that the Alpha and Omega has entrusted to me on this earthly journey. In this Light, I see my earthly journey in the context of an eternal reality that begins before the Great Story and will flow beyond its final chapters. I suddenly find that other things begin to make more sense.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

And so, I enter another day in the journey, echoing a heavenly chorus:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Crowns and Surrender

Crowns and Surrender (CaD Rev 4) Wayfarer

They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”

Revelation 4:10-11 (NIV)

I was speaking at a business conference and struck up a conversation with a gentleman from a company for whom we’d written a proposal a year or two prior. In charge of that company’s Customer Experience operations, he told me how much he loved our proposal and how convinced he was that we could actually help them move the needle in “improving their serve.” When I asked why we lost out on the opportunity, his answer was telling: “My boss wasn’t really interested in actually improving anything. He just wanted a program that would make it look like he had accomplished something and that would provide plaques to hang on his office wall saying how good we were.”

There’s something innately human about wanting to win awards. Children participate in programs, like scouting, in which they earn merit badges and are recognized for their efforts. Children’s sports programs dole out trophies, ribbons, medals, and even championship rings. In adulthood, we often continue to chase some kind of tangible proof of our achievements by way of titles and awards. As children, we like to wear crowns and tiaras and pretend we’re kings and queens. As adults, we do the same thing it’s just that it’s usually less visible and obvious.

This human penchant came to mind as I read today’s chapter. Having completed dictating letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus calls John “up” to the throne room of heaven in today’s chapter. It is from here that John will be given the visions of what is to come.

This “throne room” vision is not without precedent. Both the prophets Isaiah (Is 6) and Ezekiel (Ez 1) had similar visions of heaven’s throne complete with strangely described angels (also known as “cherubim” and “seraphim”) surrounding the throne with endless praise.

The praise in today’s chapter is motivated by God’s eternal nature (“was, and is, and is to come”) and in God being the “alpha point” of creation, from whom all things flow and have life and being. The visions provided in the rest of the book describe the “omega point” to which all things flow to the end (before a new beginning).

In this throne room, John describes 24 “elders.” There are numerous interpretations of who they are or represent. Jesus told his disciples at their last supper that they would “sit on thrones and judge the tribes of Israel” (Lk 22:30) so many believe the 24 thrones to represent the 12 tribal patriarchs and the 12 disciples. The bottom line is that John doesn’t identify them.

As I pondered this, I realized that the important thing is not who they are, but whose they are and what they do. They lay their crowns before the throne and offer praise to the One who sits on the throne.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about my own ego and penchant for awards and achievements because I have it too. I want to look good. I want to be a success. I want to be recognized for my hard work and accomplishments. And yet, one of the most simple and profound things about being a follower of Jesus is the fact that He calls me to consciously choose against my ego-centered human nature.

To carry out my faith quietly and personally – not for show.
To worry more about treasure in heaven than awards on earth.
To serve others more than I serve myself.
To humble myself before God and others rather than play endless psychological and spiritual versions of “King of the Mountain.”

In other words: To surrender my crown and lay it before the only One worthy.

And so, I enter another work week this morning. I don’t know who the 24 elders are whom John saw in heaven’s throne room, but I know whose they are, and I know what they did. My goal this week is to do the same.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Spiritual Self-Exam

Spiritual Self-Exam (CaD Rev 3) Wayfarer

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
Revelation 3:17 (NIV)

Every year I have a physical examination with my doctor. While I am starting to show some of the natural physical signs of age, I’m happy to say that the appointment usually ends with Doc telling me to let Wendy know she shouldn’t be collecting on my life insurance policy any time soon.

Today’s chapter contains the final three of seven letters John is told to write to followers of Jesus in nearby Asia Minor. One of the common themes in all of the letters is Jesus’ desire for believers to see past their earthly circumstances to their spiritual realities.

The final letter was written to believers in the city of Laodicea, which was known for its wealth and commerce. The Laodiceans took pride in their wealth and self-sufficiency. When the Roman Emporer offered them funds to help them rebuild after an earthquake, the city refused the funds. The medical school at Laodicea was known for an eye salve that was produced there. Jesus makes a point that the wealthy Laodicean believers need a spiritual eye-salve so that they can see how spiritually poor they are.

In the quiet this morning I find myself taking Jesus up on His encouragement to the Laodiceans. I have an annual physical examination, what about a regular spiritual examination?

Along my spiritual journey, I’ve found that my spiritual health hinges on a few different things.

First is my spiritual diet. What I spiritually take in, and what I spiritually excrete.

What am I feeding my soul? What am I taking in? Am I getting regular spirit nourishment? That’s really what this chapter-a-day journey is all about, but what about the rest of the day after I publish my post and podcast. Am I continually feeding my eyes, ears, and mind that which is good for my soul, or do I snack on the spiritual equivalent of junk food?

Jesus told His followers to also pay attention to what my spirit excretes:

“It’s what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness—all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution.”
Mark 7:20-23 (MSG)

So what do my thoughts, words, and actions say about the health of my heart and spirit?

I think the other important factor in my spiritual examination is the health of my relationships. First is my relationship with God, and it is a relationship. Then it’s the health of my marriage, my inner circle, my family, and my friends. It’s also with others in my community and circles of influence. Healthy relationships are about time and attention. Are things good? Healthy? Broken? Starving? Ignored? Strained?

My annual physical typically ends with a generally clean bill of health, but there are always a few things that Doc reminds me about that need attention. I feel a parallel in this morning’s spiritual self-exam. I don’t want to be like the Laodicean believers who were spiritually blind to the spiritual issues that threatened them. As with my physical health, I think my spiritual health is in generally good condition, but there are definitely some areas that need attention.

Here’s to health, both physical and spiritual.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Hearing the Simple Message

Hearing the Simple Truth (CaD Rev 2) Wayfarer

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 2:29 (NIV)

One of the things that I’ve observed about human nature is our penchant for mysteries and secrets. We love a good yarn like National Treasure and The Davinci Code. I can find all sorts of documentaries streaming about secrets and conspiracies. Nostradamus remains a popular figure. A couple of decades ago a book came out about The Bible Code that claimed to unlock secret numerical codes within the text of the Great Story.

When it comes to the book of Revelation it is tempting to lean into that desire to unlock the secrets of what it has to reveal to us hidden beneath the text. Yet along my spiritual journey, I have observed that it’s easy to seek out the secret mysteries beneath the text to the point that I ignore the simple truth that’s staring me right in the face.

Today’s chapter kicks off a series of seven letters which the glorified Christ asks John to pen to Jesus’ followers in seven towns of Asia Minor, not far from where John was exiled on the island of Patmos. The chapter has four of the seven letters which generally contain a pattern of Jesus:

  • Commending the believers (“You’re doing this well…”)
  • Cautioning the believers (“I have this against you…”)
  • Encouraging the believers (“Now do this…”)
  • Offering a word of eternal hope (“To those who…I will…”).

These places were real cities in which the issues addressed were very real. The Roman world was an immoral culture. Pagan gods and their worship were steeped in prostitution and sexual immorality. The Roman Emporer Domitian led a revival in the Emporer Cult in which he (and some of his family members) were considered gods. Followers of Jesus had faced long periods of persecution (from both Romans and Jews) for their worship of Jesus as the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” and their rejection of Roman debauchery and polytheistic paganism.

Much like Paul’s letters to the believers in Corinth, the letters to Jesus’ followers in Asia Minor make it clear that there were those who were teaching that one could be a follower of Jesus and still participate in pagan religion and Roman revelry. Jesus’ message through John dispels this notion and encourages His followers to shun these ideas.

Because of their inclusion in John’s Revelation, there are those who inflate the meaning and importance of these letters. It’s often argued that they are representative, allegorical, or parallel to the larger history of the church.

Fine. Buy me a pint and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

I find it fascinating that the glorified Christ uses the same phrase in His dictation to John as He did with His parables during His ministry: “Those who have ears, let them hear.” During His earthly ministry, Jesus was typically making a very simple spiritual truth cloaked in a metaphor. I believe the same is true in today’s chapter.

In the quiet this morning, I’m reticent to expand the meaning of rather straightforward messages. Instead, what I’m “hearing” is to reduce the message to very simple truths: Be in the world, but not of it. Keep the faith. Press on.

And so, I enter another day and will endeavor to do so.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Rabbit Hole & the Three Questions

The Rabbit Hole and the Three Questions (CaD Rev 1) Wayfarer

“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”
Revelation 1:19 (NIV)

There are three great questions I always ask myself during times of confusion or decision:

Where am I at?
Where have I been?
Where am I going?

Those are the three questions I ask myself every time I finish a book on this chapter-a-day journey and need to decide where the trek should take me next. So, after finishing the book of Jude yesterday I went to the index of posts by book and realized that there’s only one book of the Great Story, written after Jesus’ death and resurrection that, isn’t currently in the index by book: Revelation. The last time I trekked through was in April of 2014. So, that’s where I’m going.

Known more formally as The Revelation of John, this is the last book in the Great Story. Both tradition and the text state that the visions described in the book were seen and experienced by John on the Isle of Patmos while he was exiled there (90-95 A.D). Revelation is well-known for its description of the end times, the climactic final battle between God and Satan, and its description of the eternal city of God.

To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with Revelation. I love the mystery and the metaphor. It’s fascinating and I find important spiritual truths within. My hate is rooted in the rabbit hole that it becomes for people who fall in and become endlessly obsessed. Along my spiritual journey, my approach to Revelation eventually paralleled C.S. Lewis’ famous caution regarding the demonic. It’s a mistake to avoid or ignore it, but it’s also a mistake to take it too seriously. So, here we go.

In the opening chapter, John writes that he was worshiping on a Sunday and saw the glorified Christ. Jesus tells John to write “what you’ve seen, what is now, and what will take place later.” It’s Jesus’ riff on the three questions I always ask myself.

There are numerous schools of thought when it comes to interpreting Revelation. Some believe that Revelation points to historic events that have already taken place. Others believe that it’s primarily about what will take place in the future end times. A more modern movement of thought interprets the whole thing as political satire.

“Where have I been?”

Looking back at the life of Jesus and the ancient prophecies about Him, one thing becomes clear to me: Very smart people over a long period of time were completely wrong about how they interpreted the prophecies. So, from where I’m at, I tend to approach the prophetic with a huge dose of humility regarding what it might mean for “Where are we going?” in the future, and a heart that’s simply open to what in means for me “Where am I at?‘ in the context of today.

So, in the quiet this morning, I embark on this chapter-a-day trek through Revelation with humility and an open heart. I think I’ll take Jesus up on reading and meditating on John’s visions with the three questions in mind. I’m also determined not to fall down the rabbit hole.

Here we go!

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.