Tag Archives: Thought

Ignorant, Mindful, and Ready

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.

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.

People of the Lie

People of the Lie (CaD Jude 1) Wayfarer

For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.
Jude 1:4a (NIV)

Wendy and I recently spent the evening with a young couple, enjoying a leisurely dinner followed by casual conversation. Among the many topics of our conversation that evening was the current state of culture and discourse in our world. A repeated phrase I heard that evening was, to paraphrase, “if only people would just be kind to others.”

Wendy and I later discussed this simple sentiment and the fact that no matter how much we desire such an elementary and obvious expectation of others, there have always been those who will not do so. There have always been those whose blind self-centered and self-gratifying nature mark them, as Scott Peck named them, “people of the lie.”

Today’s chapter is an oft-forgotten one-hit-wonder stuck in at the end of the Great Story. Jude is most likely the half-brother of Jesus and brother of James, leader of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem. He pens this quick letter warning to fellow believers about “people of the lie” who had been worshipping among followers of Jesus. In modern terms, the Urban Dictionary’s definition of “poser” might just be an apt moniker.

In those days, there were no church buildings. Followers of Jesus met together regularly in people’s homes. Their potluck meals doubled as opportunities to worship, meet the needs of one another, and would end with the sacrament of communion. Jesus’ followers called them “Love Feasts.” These people of the lie would join the fellowship, eat and drink to excess, take advantage of generosity, and then claim that if Jesus’ grace increases to cover a multitude of sins, then it would only make sense to sin more so that there would be more of Jesus’ grace produced.

The thing that I found fascinating as I read Jude’s warnings about these people of the lie is that he starts by providing historic examples of such characters from the Great Story: Cain, Balaam, and Korah.

He then provides metaphorical descriptions of the posers who had infiltrated the Love Feasts of the believers to whom he was penning the letter:

  • Shepherds who feed only themselves (not their sheep)
  • Clouds without rain
  • Autumn trees with no fruit
  • Untamed, wild waves of the sea
  • Wandering stars getting sucked into a Black Hole

Jude then ends with the “apostles” warning that in “the last times” these people of the lie would be everywhere, scoffing at Truth, following their base appetites, and creating division among believers.

In other words, people of the lie have always been around, they were present among Jude and his contemporaries, and they will still be around in the end times.

I couldn’t help but notice that Jude’s antidote to the “people of the lie” problem was not to create an inquisitorial committee to root out the evil. The answer was not to find these people, hold a trial, and hang those found guilty. The things Jude admonished his fellow believers to do were intensely personal:

  • Keep exercising and building up your own faith
  • Keep praying in the Spirit
  • Keep yourself in God’s love
  • Be patient
  • Wait for Jesus’ mercy
  • Be merciful to others
  • Save others through mercy and respect
  • Keep your own nose clean

So in the quiet this morning, I find myself circling back to our young friends’ sincere desire for “everyone to just be kind to one another” and balancing it with Jude’s observation that people of the lie have always been a part of the mix in this world, they are part of the mix now, and they will likely be an even bigger part of the mix when history reaches the final, climactic chapters of the Great Story. This is a reality that I must always consider as I look around me and try to interpret the signs of the times.

As for me, I’m just going to continue to press on in faith, hope, and love; Just another wayfaring stranger making my way home.

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

Series of Unfortunate Events

Series of Unfortunate Events (CaD Jud 21) Wayfarer

The men of Israel had taken an oath at Mizpah: “Not one of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite.”
Judges 21:1 (NIV)

There was a period of time in our daughter’s childhood when her favorite series of youth fiction was Lemony Snicket which always carried the tag line: A series of unfortunate events.

That tagline “a series of unfortunate events” popped into my mind as I sat in the quiet this morning pondering not only the tumultuous events that are unpacked by the author of Judges in his three-chapter epilogue but also the tumultuous events that we’ve been living through in the past two years. Looking at the headlines and the horizon, I would say that we’re not out of the woods

Today’s chapter is the final chapter of the book of Judges and the third and final chapter in a saga that began with a single Levite traveler traveling home with his wife and servant. One rather isolated local incident blows up into a national tragedy. Emotions boil over and reason gives way. The people become a mob and violence ensues. Tribal instincts perpetuate the violence. The human desire for justice turns into a cycle of vengeance.

As the teacher of Ecclesiastes famously observed, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

For the ancient Hebrews, the series of unfortunate events are intertwined with a hodge-podge of cultural decisions that only fueled the perpetuation of the unfortunate events. The Hebrew tribes had mingled their worship of Yahweh as prescribed in the Law of Moses with the religious customs of local gods and cultural mores of the region. High on the bloodlust of vengeance, eleven tribes swear an oath not to give any of their daughters into marriage with the tribe of Benjamin.

As often happens with mob violence, it is in the tragic aftermath that “cooler heads prevail” and corporate regret rises. The eleven tribes, however, have placed themselves square in the middle of a cultural dilemma. They can’t give their daughters in marriage to the men of Benjamin without breaking their oath which was an unforgivable act in the culture of that day. Yet, if they don’t find a way for the leftover men of Benjamin to find wives and procreate, the tribe will be wiped out. So, they devise a scheme to help the remnant of men from Benjamin to kidnap Canaanite virgins who were taking part in an annual religious festival. This exemplifies an ancient Near East tradition that holds sway in international relationships to this day:

Me against my brother.
My brother and I against our neighbor.
My neighbor and I against a stranger.

It is quite common for modern readers to balk at the violence and vengeance in this ancient story, but that’s exactly what the author of the book of Judges wanted his readers to feel. In his context, he wanted his contemporary readers to say: “This is awful. Isn’t it so much better to have a king who will provide justice and stability?”

This brings me back to our modern-day series of unfortunate events and a parallel desire for justice and stability. As a follower of Jesus, I am led to a very important and salient contradiction.

Human instinct is for strong human leadership to ensure justice, stability, and safety with top-down authoritarian power.

Jesus taught His followers to change the world with a grass-roots movement in which individual believers transform other individuals with interpersonal Love that changes lives from the bottom up.

Every example from history in which these two paradigms have been confused has ended in its own form of tragic failure.

And so, I enter another day, and another work week, resolved to stick to the plan Jesus gave His followers.

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

Tribal Instinct and Higher Law

Tribal Instincts and Higher Law (CaD Jud 20) Wayfarer

But the Benjamites would not listen to their fellow Israelites.
Judges 20:13b (NIV)

My tribe.

I’m a member of a number of “tribes.” The tribe of my family. The tribe of my community. The tribe of my high school classmates with whom I grew up. The tribes of my favorite college and professional sports teams. There’s the tribe of those who hold similar worldviews. And, there’s my national tribe. There’s even my tribe of fellow Jesus followers.

I couldn’t help but ponder all of my tribal instincts as I read today’s chapter. Which is the continuation of the saga that began in yesterday’s chapter. Shocked by the story of the Levite whose concubine had been gang-raped until she died by some men of Gibeah in the tribe of Benjamin, the other eleven tribes muster their armies and march on Gibeah to demand justice (this is a tribal instinct). The tribe of Benjamin closes ranks and refuses to give them up (which are also classic tribal instincts) and civil war erupts (tribal instincts often lead to violence). Benjamin is ultimately defeated and their towns burned.

The author of Judges is wrapping up his book with this story, which will conclude in the following chapter. His stated purpose is to show how the lack of a king to provide strong authority and leadership leads to disastrous consequences. Yesterday’s horrific crime was an act of depraved lawlessness. Today’s chapter reveals the lack of national justice as tribal instincts rule over inter-tribal relationships. Benjamin refuses to allow the perpetrators from their tribe to be held accountable for their crime. The lawlessness and lack of justice lead to a breakdown in unity among the tribes and a bloody eleven-against-one tribal battle leaves the towns of Benjamin decimated. Everyone loses.

As I pondered these events in the quiet this morning, I once again thought about them on both the societal level and the personal level. Like yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about how the ancient Hebrew tribes were behaving like gangs behave, like feuding crime families behave, and like rival sports fan(-atics) behave. Despite all of the advancements we enjoy in our civilized society with the rule of law, our human “tribal instincts” remain very strong. When inflamed, reason quickly shuts down and our base instincts can quickly spin out of control to tragic ends that only perpetuate societal problems. I could think of many examples in current events when “tribal instincts” could not be controlled by the rule of law and the justice system.

At a personal level, I once again can’t walk away from today’s chapter without gratitude for the moral, relational, and behavioral guardrails that I have as a follower of Jesus, who not only expects me to abide by and submit to governing authorities but also asks me, and expects me, to go beyond mere rule-keeping and submit to the higher Law of Love, which leads to forgiving those who’ve wronged me, praying for and blessing those who persecute me, loving my enemies, going the extra mile, and being sacrificially generous.

I am called to suppress my tribal instincts, and submit to the higher Law of Love.

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