Tag Archives: Revelation

A Time and Place for Particular Discussions

source: Phil Renaud via Flickr
source: Phil Renaud via Flickr

He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Daniel 12:9 (NIV)

When our daughters were small, they had all sorts of questions. They had questions about life and death, about bodies and babies. As a parent, there was wisdom required in answering appropriately for that particular time and place in their own cognitive and emotional development. Some questions received answers in simple word pictures. Other questions were deferred for a more appropriate time and place in their maturing life journeys. It is with great joy that we now get to have adult conversation with them over a great meal and a bottle of wine. And still, some questions have yet to be fully asked or answered.

There is, I believe, a parallel with how God reveals things prophetically throughout the Great Story. In today’s chapter, the phrase “everlasting life” is revealed for the first time:

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

It is the only time this particular phrase, “everlasting life,” is used in the stories and writings of God’s Message before Jesus appears on the scene. God has waited to reveal it at this moment in the story. How fascinating that it makes its appearance at the end of Daniel. The time of the prophets is coming to an end. There will be a 400 year silence before the miraculous events surrounding Jesus’ birth.

When Daniel, like a curious child, asks for more information he is put off. “Go your way,” he is told. “Go play,” I told my daughters when I had revealed all I had for them in the moment and it was time for them not to worry about the subject anymore. Daniel is told that the words are “rolled up (like a scroll) and sealed.” In other words, “this isn’t the time or place for the answer to be revealed.”

When Jesus’ follower, John, is given his vision on the Isle of Patmos some 500 years and several chapters of the Great Story later, the subject comes up again:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David,has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”  Revelation 5:1-5 (NIV)

There are appointed times for certain things to be revealed. This is true in life as we discuss things with our children. This is true in any good story, play, or movie. This is true in the Great Story as well. Faith is believing that things will be revealed to us at the right time. Until then, it’s okay if we go play.

The Benefits of Insomnia

source: stefanoricci via Flickr
source: stefanoricci via Flickr

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.

During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision.
Daniel 2:1,19 (NIV)

I’ve never been a great sleeper. I’ve blogged about this in other posts over the years. I have an active brain that spins and mulls on all sorts of things in life at all times. So, after a couple of hours of REM sleep I will regularly wake and begin thinking about all sorts of things. At that point, getting back to sleep is out of the question. It is frustrating, and it has its ill-favored consequences.

I will admit, however, that along the journey I’ve come to recognize that my insomnia is not without it’s benefits. It will often happen in the nights before I’m scheduled to teach a class or give a Sunday morning message. In those watches of the night when every thing is quiet and my brain spins in the no man’s land between deep sleep and clear consciousness, I often find the words, themes and illustrations coming to me. Solutions to perplexing questions strike me. New creative ways of looking at things are revealed.

Throughout time great inventors, thinkers, and creatives have kept paper and pencil near their bed to capture thoughts, dreams, and revelations that come to them in the night. It is a fascinating and mysterious thing which I believe God can and does use if we learn to tap into it. In fact, my most fruitful period of spiritual growth came when I applied a disciplined approach to writing my early morning thoughts. My local gathering of Jesus followers is exploring the idea of hearing the voice of God, and this Sunday morning (1/25/2015) I’m going to be sharing the morning message about my lessons and experiences with early morning journaling.

Which likely means I’ll have a sleepless night or two later this week.

I need a nap.

The Life-Cycle of History

(Photo credit: juanktru)

Then the Lord’s heavy hand struck the people of Ashdod and the nearby villages with a plague of tumors. 1 Samuel 5:6 (NLT)

Reading stories like these in the early chapters of Samuel, it is difficult to wrap our 21st century hearts and brains around a story that comes from a culture that predates us by 3,000 years. God seems to be a very different God than the one we hear about from Jesus’ lips or read about in the letters of Jesus’ first followers. On the surface of things, it seems to be a different God.

In my thirty-some year sojourn through God’s Message, I have wrestled with many of these questions. I don’t claim to be a theologian, nor do I claim to have all the answers. I have, however, had personal “Aha!” moments along the way. For example, I don’t believe God has changed, but I believe that civilization has changed. The way God communicates with His creation, our relationship with God and our perceptions of God have changed with the passing of time.

When our daughters were very young, I communicated with them in very terse black and white terms. I told them I loved them and we had many cherished moments of story times, and play times and cuddling together. Nevertheless, young children are unable to communicate at an adult level. Their brains are just forming. They are constantly testing the boundaries of rules and relationships while not being able to communicate at an advanced level. So, I dictated rules. I spoke stern warnings. My daughters experienced my love, but they also experienced my wrath. In their eyes, daddy was a loving father who cuddled on the couch, but also could be a scary dictator who punished them severely.

As young children grow and mature, our relationships with them change as a parent. We have more in depth and age appropriate conversations. They begin to see us and relate to us differently. Punishment for breaking our rules changes. This process continues into adolescence where children individuate and begin to press against the boundaries in an effort to become their own persons. In adulthood, children often look back and appreciate their parents in ways that would be impossible for them to have done as young children. If you ask our daughters to describe their father today it would sound like a very different parent than their two year old selves’ description of daddy after he punished them for trying to touch a red hot stove top (again).

I believe that there is a life-cycle to history (or, His-story) and the relationship between God and his children. From the birth of humanity in Genesis one, until the death and resurrection at the end of Revelation we live out a cosmic life span. In the toddler stages of ancient civilization God related to man in terse black and white terms of rules and corporal punishment. The relationship, the communication style, and our understanding was framed by humanity’s age and maturity. As human civilization grew and matured, God’s communication and how we relate to Him changed. It will continue to change. We know more, we communicate differently, and we relate as civilization in ways that are unprecedented in history.

Perhaps more learned men and women disagree with me. It’s okay if they do. I’ve gotten to an age when I accept and embrace my issues and limitations. People often disagree with me, and it’s perfectly okay because I often learn new things in the disagreement. Still, my thoughts on the life-cycle of our relationship with God helps me frame stories and chapters like todays. I don’t claim to fully understand, but it makes more sense in the context.

Today I’m appreciative of God as a loving parent who was present and taught humanity from the black and white rules of civilization’s infancy until the more mature age in which my part of the story is being played out.

Chapter-a-Day 2 Thessalonians 2

The Revelation of St John: 4. The Four Riders ...
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Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. 2 Thessalonians 2:2 (NLT)

Throughout the journey I’ve had some very interesting experiences in which I know God has impressed something upon me. There are times when God has clearly spoken to my spirit regarding something I should know or do. When I was younger I admit that I was quick to hear my own will and slap a “God told me” sticker on it. Over time I learned to be much more careful with what I say. When I believe God has spoken something clearly to me I treat it like a priceless treasure. I keep it, I test it, I guard it, and I share it with relatively few people whom I trust with something so valuable.

Along the way I’ve met several people who play fast and loose with the phrase “God told me….” I generally don’t have a problem when a person says that God told them this or that if it only affects the person speaking. Fine. Who am I to judge? If what they say is true and I see the eventual evidence of it then I think that’s pretty cool. I always wonder about times when people tell me that God told them that this or that was His will for them, and then it clearly does not come to pass. I can remember only one occasion in my entire life in which someone told me, “I thought for sure God was telling me that, but man was I ever wrong. I was completely mistaken!” More often than not, when someone was clearly wrong they will not say a word. I’m generally left wondering if the person thinks God changed His mind or if they realize how foolish they look to have so boldly spoken something that was false.

For me, the larger problem occurs when people claim that God has given them a special word, a vision, or a discernment concerning me. It’s not that I don’t believe it can happen, but once again – what happens if they are wrong? When we journeyed through the books of the Old Testament law I remember the law prescribing death by stoning for those who claimed to have received a word of prophecy that proved false. I’m not advocating the resurrection of such a draconian rule. Nevertheless, I observe no real accountability for those who regularly use “God told me” or “I have a word of discernment from the Lord” to justify their own will and/or get what they want from others.

Of course, the more things change the more they stay the same. It is clear from today’s chapter that Paul was dealing with similar frustrations in the early church. People were playing fast and loose, telling those in the church that Jesus had already come back and they’d missed it. Some were even telling outright lies, writing letters about it and claiming it was from Paul.

I have learned along the way to heed the advice of the verse above. I don’t allow myself to be easily shaken when someone tells me “God told me…” or “God gave me a vision.” I quietly pray for God to reveal Truth in my heart and in the matter at hand. I wait. I watch. I let time and events test the truth of what they say. I press on, trying to obediently live out what I know God’s will to be. There’s not a lot of sense in getting bent out of shape about it. If that person is right, then what they say will come to pass. If they are wrong, then it will simple pass away.

I confess that I’d still like to stone a few people, though.

God, have mercy on me.

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 14

There is a blueprint. God-of-the-Angel-Armies speaks: "Exactly as I planned, it will happen. Following my blueprints, it will take shape." Isaiah 14:24 (MSG)

In the months leading up to the dawn of the 21st century, the world was whipped into a frenzy with fear of worldwide disaster of doomsday proportions. Everyday the news media ran stories about the impending crash of the world's computer systems. All of the world's computers had been programmed to assume the year always began with "19," and it was believed that when the year turned to "20" the computers would crash. People started hoarding food and water and made plans for their survival in the apocalyptic world of "Y2K." There were predictions of planes falling out of the sky and entire governments collapsing.

And then…nothing happened. It was all a bunch of hype. Much ado about nothing.

Now, when I hear predictions of doomsday I remember Y2K. It's not that I don't think disaster of world-wide proportion can happen. From what God's message says, I think we can safely say that it will. Nevertheless, I take heart in knowing that there is a plan. God has a blueprint. My attention is to be given to faithfully walking the path set before me, persevering on the narrow way ordained for me. Where it leads in this life, and how it fits into God's grand design is something I can entrust to Him.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and brianbutko

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 12

From chaos to creation. Rehoboam turned a deaf ear to the people. God was behind all this, confirming the message that he had given to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah of Shiloh. 1 Kings 12:15 (MSG)

There are many waypoints along the journey where I stand and wonder, "Why?"

Why did that have to happen?
Why do my prayers seem to fall on deaf ears?
Why would God allow that?
Why does it seem so easy for others and so difficult for me?
Why not me?
Why does this have to be so hard?

I stand and wonder. Then, I glance back on the broken threads of my life. My foolish decisions, my blatant disobedience, my ignorance, my stubborn pride not to mention the tragic events, painful actions of others, and random circumstances that resided outside of my control. I look back at the chaos surrounding them and, what seemed at the time, the seeming senselessness of it all. But I also see how God wove those broken threads together with His grace, mercy, purpose, and goodness so that a beautiful tapestry began to emerge. We begin to see, like in today's chapter, God is behind all this.

Chaos to creation. The paradigm of Genesis is revealed in each of us as God takes that which is formless and void and fashions a new creation, that in the end His ultimate purpose is revealed.

"He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'" Revelation 21:5

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and loswl