the disappearing dimension

I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth disappeared, and the sea vanished. ... I heard a loud voice speaking from the throne: “Now God's home is with people! He will live with them, and they shall be his people. God himself will be with them. [Revelation 21:1,3 GNT]

Revelation is filled with imagery that indicates a desire to make God in our own image. I think that this is normal. Really. Who can understand, back then or now, what it means for God to live among us. When John writes that God's home is with us, he is really saying that our home is with God.

It is a subtle shift of language but an important one. When we each pass from this earthly dimension we will begin to experience one that is so different. Time will not exist. Neither will darkness. We will have no need to sleep. And God will be with each of us in a very different way.

For the believer, this truth is a revelation of hope fulfilled. A dimension of pain and poverty will disappear. It will give way to a dimension of majestic beauty and outrageous love. Words and language do not exist to describe such a place. Yet such a dimension exists in each of our hearts.

Dear Lord. In hard times help me to remember the place that you are preparing for me.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the book of life

All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. [Revelation 13:8 NIV]

I once heard the phrase: 'you are what you worship'. I think that is true. In a sense worship is all about life priorities. You spend your time, money and energies doing the things that are most important to you. Jesus put it this way: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth ... store up for yourselves treasures in heaven ... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

When one is born from above they receive a new heart filled with new priorities. Pleasing God becomes central in their lives. Love becomes their modus operandi. The focus of their lives becomes storing up heavenly treasure instead of the earthly variety. They have a new life reflective of being in the Lamb’s book of life. A new life filled with worshiping God and making his work their priority.

Awaken our hearts Lord that we might become more like you today.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the silence of the damned

Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Anointed One have come. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who relentlessly accuses them day and night before our God, has been cast down and silenced. [Revelation 12:10 VOICE]

We live in a culture of guilt and shame. So many accusers believing the worst about us. Spewing hatred and lies they tempt us to join them in accusing. These who elevate themselves by accusing others seem to be children of the one who is damned. These keep others down when they fall.

This verse tells us that such ones will be silenced when salvation comes. Transformed brothers and sisters no longer shame and accuse. Those who have been born from above will silence accusations with encouraging and affirming words. Such is the way of the kingdom of our God.

Fill us with love Lord. That we might silence those who accuse our brothers and sisters.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

revelation as a satirical poem

The dragon became angry ... and went away to do battle against ... the ones who keep God’s commandments and hold on to the testimony about Jesus. [Revelation 12:17 ISV]

I recently read about a different way to read the book of Revelation. The view sees it as a satirical poem targeted at those who worshipped Domitian, the Roman emperor from 81 to 96. John's apocalyptic story seems to track with some of the events of Domitian's reign. The emperor regularly began his speeches commending his followers for what they were doing right and rebuking for what they did wrong. He demanded his subjects to worshipfully chant 'you are lord' in his presence. John's writing seem to be a direct mockery, rebuttal and condemnation of Domitian's reign and claim of being a god.

Yet Revelation is much more than satire. In it Jesus is revealed as King of kings and Lord of lords. Rulers like Domitian, and their claims of divinity, are put in perspective. John writes to us of a King that subverts the plans of despots and tyrants. A Lord who considers the cries and prayers of people who suffer at the hands of malevolent dictators. John tells us of a time when all will be made right and divine justice will prevail. The book of Revelation speaks to the worst and best of humanity. Of people who bow down to oppressors. And ones who do not bow when faced with death.

I find John's story to be a fitting and beautiful end to, and summation of, the bible.

Help us Lord to keep your commandments and hold fast to our testimony about Jesus.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

they did not love their lives

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives even in the face of death. [Revelation 12:11 TLV]

I love how this verse likens the way that the saints overcame to the way that Jesus overcame. It reminds me of the time when Jesus taught his disciples that to be his followers they must deny what they want and do what God wants. To find your life you must first lose it. It is a kingdom principle.

The word testimony speaks to me about the power of our words when they are validated by our actions. In reality people testify to what they actually know by experience. If they know a loving God they will, most likely, be a loving person. If their image of God is not loving then they may not love.

Yet sometimes our new hearts are simply not strong enough to testify to the love of God. Those times help us to realize the importance of nourishing, exercising and strengthening our hearts. That we might overcome our earthly desires and our love of earthly things. To lose that we might gain.

Thank you Lord for the example that you have given us. May our lives testify to that example.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the kingdom of the heart

The seventh Angel trumpeted. A crescendo of voices in Heaven sang out, The kingdom of the world is now the Kingdom of our God and his Messiah! He will rule forever and ever! [Revelation 11:15 MSG]

This verse speaks to me of two kingdoms at odds with each other. One is ruled by earthly flesh and one by heavenly spirit. My heart groans for the day when this worldly kingdom is engulfed by the divine kingdom. I join my voice with those in heaven as I patiently wait for that day.

Until that day I believe that we can, day by day, usher in the reign of God. One heart at a time. One action at a time. One prayer at a time. In reality, for those who have been born from above, the divine kingdom has already come. These have hearts that are a part of the heavenly kingdom.

Help us Lord to, with our hearts, live out your kingdom.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the prophetic heart

The seven thunders told me, “Again you must speak what God has revealed in front of many people, nations, languages, and kings.” [Revelation 10:11 NOG]

Spiritually speaking, I grew up in an atmosphere of charismatic prophetic revelation. Many people, including myself, spoke prophetic words at church. In retrospect it was a surreal experience. I have mixed feelings about those days. The words that I spoke were sometimes divinely inspired.

These days I think that prophecy is probably best expressed in the context everyday life. The verse indicates that we should "speak what God has revealed" to us. I love that! God has revealed many things to us. In our conversations with friends we can share those revelations with them.

In reality, prophecy is not something that is revealed to our brain but to our new heart. Our new, born again, heart is prophetic. When we speak from the new heart we are communicating prophetically. So the issue for us becomes disciplining ourselves to speak from our prophetic heart.

Help me Lord to nourish and exercise my heart that it will become strong.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

my new heart gave me a new perspective

The people who survived these plagues still did not turn to me ... [Revelation 9:20 GW]

Trials, troubles and suffering are an odd phenomenon. For some they cause a turning to God. For others they have the opposite effect. I can relate to both. Here is a bit of my story.

I was 22 and newly married when my young wife went blind. She was blind for over three years. Though I was raised in the church, I really do not ever remember turning to God in prayer. Instead I turned to booze. It helped to numb the pain and the disappointment of Ellen's blindness.

Three years later God came into Ellen's life and healed one of her eyes. Our lives began to dramatically change with the return of her eyesight. My life changed the following year as I submitted my life to Jesus. As I turned to God I began to get a new perspective on past pains.

Fast forward fourteen years. Ellen had heart and kidney failure that took her life four years later. During that time, and in the years since, I have found it so helpful to turn to God. To release my pain to him. To cast my cares towards him in prayer. My new heart gave me a new perspective.

Open the eyes of our hearts Lord that we might turn to you when things go wrong.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the importance of prayer

The smoke from the incense went up from the angel’s hand to God along with the prayers of God’s people. The angel took the incense burner, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it on the earth. Then there was thunder, noise, lightning, and an earthquake. [Revelation 8:4-5 GW]

Isn't it interesting to see how activities in heaven affect things on earth. It reminds me that God is always working. I think that the noisy thunder and earthquakes indicates that sometimes God's workings are more obvious than other times. Sometimes visible and other times invisible.

Also noteworthy is the effect that our prayers have on these things. As I said in my previous post, our prayers are factored into God's decisions. It is why prayer is it is important to involve God and invite him to act. In some sense, generally speaking, God only acts if he is asked to intervene.

Help us Lord to believe that our prayers matter.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

more than incense

Another angel came and stood before the altar. He was holding a golden censer, and he was given a large quantity of incense so that he could offer it, along with the prayers of all God’s holy people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. [Revelation 8:3 NTE]

The symbolism is rich in this verse. In ancient times the Jews offered fragrant incense twice daily in the tabernacle. In the psalms David likened his prayers to incense rising to God. There is something about prayer that is like incense rising and filling a room with a sweet fragrance.

In Exodus incense is likened to perfume. I love that imagery. In prayer we create a beautiful scent that sweetens a noxious situation. As our prayers arise they create a divine atmosphere of hope. Despair is turned inside out and vision is imparted. Prayer can change the bouquet of life's trials.

Yet this verse indicates that prayer is much more than incense. More than just a sweet heavenly aroma. Prayers appear before the throne - the place of divine rule. It encourages me that our prayers are factored into God's decisions. It motivates me offer prayers of intercession.

Let our prayers be a fragrant incense to you Lord. Help us to know how to intercede.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the praise filled heart

Responding out of a heart filled with praise, they congregate before the throne of God and constantly worship Him day and night in His temple. The One seated on the throne will always live among them. ... He will lead them to the water of life. [Revelation 7:15,17 VOICE]

I love this beautiful image of heaven. It speaks to me of eternal life and a heart that knows God. Such a heart senses the presence of God. The praise filled heart is watered by life giving springs.

Jesus said that believers will have this experience. Springs of life will flow from the deepest parts of their heart. In reality, the giving of praise opens our heart to God's refreshing springs.

I can so relate. I know that praise can break the chains that bind me. When life is heavy I want to respond with praise. Join with me. With heaven. And sing a song of praise to our God.

You are worthy Lord. You are worthy. I praise You. I praise You. Be glorified in me.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

welcome to heaven

These are coming from the time of great suffering and affliction. ... They will never be hungry or thirsty again. ... God will dry every tear from their eyes. [Revelation 7:14,16,17 VOICE]

Multitudes surround the throne of God. Those who have been suffering are now worshipping. Their tears are being dried. This is the destiny of all who persevere in faith. Welcome to heaven.

I persevere because of heaven. I continue to hope for that day when times of suffering and affliction are no more. Heaven is one of the most real things in my life. I live for that beautiful day.

Yet while I wait, I get glimpses of what that day will be like. I see people comforting people in pain. Tears being dried. Hunger and thirst being subdued. Heaven comes to earth as we love.

Help each of Lord to bring a bit of heaven to earth today.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

heavenly diversity

Then in my vision I heard the voices of many angels encircling the throne, the living creatures and the elders. There were myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, crying in a great voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!” [Revelation 5:11-12 PHILLIPS]

I think heaven will surprise us in many ways. People will be there who we assumed would not be. Humans who were spiritually transformed but rejected because they did not fit into our religious boxes. Throughout history these people have surprised us by the way that they have loved.

Peter came to understand this. In Acts God revealed to him how his vision of the Body of Christ had to be expanded. He was led to a Roman named Cornelius. Here he first witness the Holy Spirit being poured out on people who were not Jewish. It changed his perspective on the elect.

I too have know people like Cornelius. Folks who greatly loved but believed differently than me. Their presence confronted me with the idea that my understanding of heaven was much too narrow. In reality the issue is not one of doctrine but of spiritual birth and transformation. As it should be.

Open my eyes Lord, that I may see those who have been born from above and headed for heaven.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the heavenly heart

You have made them a kingdom; You have appointed them priests to serve our God, and they will rule upon the earth. [Revelation 5:10 VOICE]

Do you regularly pray that part of the Lord's prayer that asks for God's kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven? I try to pray it every day asking for a heavenly reality where war, hate, pain and sickness are no more. I think that the verse above clues us in a bit to how this kingdom works.

As I pray, I am often focused on the miraculous and ignore the normal way that the heavenly kingdom works. I forget that the kingdom works through priests like you and me. That love rules on earth when our hearts drive our actions. In reality the heavenly kingdom comes at a heart level.

I want to live from a heavenly heart. One that, as Jesus put it, is born from above. One that is fed with heavenly thoughts. Strengthened by heavenly exercise and discipline. I desire to have a heart that causes heaven to come to earth. One that causes me to love like Jesus.

Lord, please teach me new ways to feed and exercise my heart that it may grow strong.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the prism of the cross

You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it; for you were slain, and your blood has bought people from every nation as gifts for God. [Revelation 5:9 TLB]

There are several theories about the cross. Some espouse the idea that the Father required the blood of his son to forgive human sin. These believe, as people in ancient civilizations did, that blood had to be shed for God to forgive. Understandable for people in those cultures.

Another theory sees the cross as a ransom paid to free those held captive by sin. Yet another view opines that the cross shows us the depravity of man. I see a bit of each. In a way, the cross is a prism refracting its image as both human depravity and divine glory.

The cross stands in evidence that humans can be cruel and sadistic. And unable to save themselves. It also rises as a symbol of a patient, kind, forgiving and loving God. From the cross Jesus showed us how to live, forgive and suffer. The cross is a beautiful prism of God's mercy.

Help me to hug the cross today Lord. Lead me in ways of patience, kindness, forgiveness and love.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

slaughtered but standing tall

There was no one—no one in Heaven, no one on earth, no one from the underworld—able to break open the scroll and read it. ... So I looked, and there, surrounded by Throne, Animals, and Elders, was a Lamb, slaughtered but standing tall. ... He came to the One Seated on the Throne and took the scroll from his right hand. [Revelation 5:3,5,7 MSG]

The sense of awe, amazement and wonder in this chapter is exhilarating. John weeps deeply when there is no one found worthy to receive the scroll, the title and deed to the universe, from God. In majestic fashion the risen Christ emerges. He walks to the throne and receives the scroll.

The image painted in this chapter is the ultimate underdog story. One who was slaughtered now stands tall. One who died now owns and rules the universes. He is worshipped by myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands. The story is like none ever painted or imagined by humankind.

Yet. In between the lines. There is another message in the text. The story is our story. The Lamb standing tall is in us. We who overcome bear the image of the slaughtered Lamb. The angels rejoice when we overcome. There is a homecoming. Heaven awaits our arrival. Alleluia!

Lord, I long for that day when I will meet you face to face. Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

worthy of more than our awe

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” [Revelation 4:24 VOICE]

In heaven there is a palpable sense of awe. When I consider the universe I am speechless. I echo our elders in heaven in their praise of God. He is worthy to receive any glory that I have amassed for myself. Worthy to be honored for all he has done. And worthy of our submission to him.

I touched on that last theme in my last post. In reality, the extent of our worship is dependent on whether we think the divine will to be greater than ours. Worship is all about the choices we make and the actions we take. One simply cannot put God on the throne on Sunday and replace him on Monday.

It is normal to look around and be in awe. Also normal to ascribe our origins to some sort of mystical prime mover or force. Many, like the Deists, call such an entity "god". Yet there are some, like me, who see God as one worthy of more than my awe. He is worthy of my submission to his will.

I bow again Lord. You are worthy to be obeyed. Help me to bow.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the heart of worship

There in heaven was a throne ... In a circle around the throne were twenty-four other thrones, on which were seated twenty-four elders dressed in white and wearing crowns of gold. ... the twenty-four elders fall down before the one who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever. They throw their crowns down in front of the throne [Revelation 4:2,4,10 GNT]

John's vision comes in stages. Perhaps there were several visions? The stage has moved from earth to heaven. He has left Laodicea and now finds himself in the throneroom of God. Yet the linkage to Laodicea is clear as the Lord promised thrones to overcomers in that city.

Still. The concept of thrones is a bit confusing though. I understand that God sits on a throne. But what about the other 24 thrones? Why are they significant? I think that they may indicate that heaven is not limited to either the 12 tribes of Israel and/or followers of the 12 disciples.

Interesting how the 24 elders pay homage to God. They worship with singing. They submit themselves by bowing and giving up their crowns. Perhaps the imagery is meant to teach us about worship. How, at the heart, worship is about offering up both our voices and our power to the Lord.

Perhaps the giving up of power, the proverbial casting of crowns, is at the very heart of worship? Maybe the prayer of submission, not my will but thine be done, is the truest form of worship? A good thing to remember when we ask for God's kingdom to come and his will to done.

Teach me to bow Lord Jesus. You are worthy.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

thin places

I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before ... said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.” And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it. [Revelation 4:1,2 NLT]

What do make of the phrase "I was in the Spirit"? The words speak to me of a spiritual experience. John's feet were on earth during the experience. Yet a part of him embraced a different dimension. I feel that I have traveled to that dimension. Some call the phenomenon "thin spaces".

There is a Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller. I have been in such thin places. Sometimes in song. Or in prayer. Or even in the shower. The presence of God almost seems tangible to my human senses.

The book of Revelation seems to be an extended experience of such thin places. John hears inaudible voices. Sees invisible doors. Receives messages that can only be discerned with spiritual understanding. Perhaps the idea of thin places is one that this book helps us to embrace?

Help us Lord to be open to the thin places where heaven meets earth.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

spiritual deafness

I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. [Revelation 3:20 NLT]

It is an odd thing to think that it is possible for a person to be deaf when God knocks or speaks. It reminds me of how Jesus often said "If anyone have ears to hear, let him hear!" In reality there are things that cause us to be spiritually deaf. Things that cause our hearts to be hard.

In the parable of the sower and the seed Jesus speaks of the things that cause spiritual deafness. Shallowness. Hardness. Cares. Worries. Money. These all have the ability to make us spiritually deaf. Even so, Jesus persists in knocking and speaking. Calling us to open the door of our heart.

I think that this verse calls us to spiritual intimacy. In reality God does not want to just speak to us. He wants us to speak to him. He wants to share his life with us and our lives with him. He wants to walk with us. Eat with us. Be close friends. God wants to have a relationship with us.

Open our ears Lord. That we might hear your voice and invite you into our lives.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the wealthy heart

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]

Lately a song has been going through my mind. The refrain goes like this: "The best things in life are free". The sentiment is true but it is a difficult concept for some to grasp. Many work hard to achieve the 'American Dream' and they do not really understand what they are striving for.

In a very real sense, wealth cannot make one happy. It makes us poor if it gives us a sense of not needing others. Wretched wealth is pitiful when it causes us to sacrifice our values. Or when it blinds us to the suffering of others and clothes us with pride while leaving us spiritually naked.

In contrast there is a wealth that is not wretched, pitiful, poor, blind or naked. The wealthy heart causes one to live generously. To see those in need and respond. To be fully clothed in compassion. Such is the good heart that God gives to those who admit that they are poor without Him.

I am poor Lord. Fill my heart with the wealth of kindness, mercy and compassion.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

lukewarm waters

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold (invigorating, refreshing) nor hot (healing, therapeutic); I wish that you were cold or hot. [Revelation 3:15 AMP]

I have wondered about this verse and why it is bad to be lukewarm. I like to drink lukewarm water. I think Dr J Vernon McGee offers an interesting take on the setting for this verse:
"This had a background and a local meaning for the people in that day. Being down in the valley, they had difficulty getting water in Laodicea. The Laodiceans built an aqueduct to bring cold water down from the mountains. When it left the mountains, it was ice cold, but by the time it made that trip all the way down the mountains to Laodicea, it was lukewarm. And lukewarm water is not very good. Down in the valley where the Lycus River joins the Maeander River, there are hot springs. However, when they would take this hot water up to Laodicea, by the time it got there, it was no longer hot — it had become lukewarm water."
This makes sense to me. It is not so much that the water is lukewarm but that it is not what it was. It is no longer refreshing. Not therapeutic. It's intended purpose has been lost in the journey from the mountains or the springs. Seems to be a metaphor for our spiritual journey.

John reports to us in his gospel how Jesus spoke of rivers of living waters springing up from within the believer. Such spiritual waters heal and refresh. This to me the crux of keeping our lives from being lukewarm. Allowing the Spirit to flow in and out of us keeps us from lukewarmness.

Come Holy Spirit. Flow into us. Flow out of us. That you might heal and refresh.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

a heavenly wreath

Because you have obeyed My instructions to endure and be patient, I will protect you from the time of trial which will come upon the whole earth and put everyone in it to the test. I will soon return. Hold tight to what you have so that no one can take away your victor’s wreath. [Revelation 3:10-11 VOICE]

It is hard to read this and not think about a marathon runner crossing the finish line and receiving a laurel wreath. In truth, life is like a marathon. Endurance is required. Training is mandatory. Discipline becomes a way of life. The runner lives differently because they want to finish the race.

Trials come at us from every direction. Our endurance is tested in them. Patience is stretched. The mettle of our spirituality is either dulled or sharpened. And each time we persist in faith we get closer to that heavenly laurel wreath. In that sense, to simply finish the race is to win it.

Hard to read about the return of Christ and not envision a heavenly appearance in the skies. In doing that I think that we miss an important aspect of the message. The return of Christ is spiritual. It is an ongoing metaphor for our passing from this life to our meeting Jesus when we die.

Strengthen our hearts Lord that we might joyfully endure until we see you face to face.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the divine door

What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. ... I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. [Revelation 3:7,8 NIV]

This verse reminds me of that passage in John where Jesus says that he is the gate for the sheep. What do you think it means for Jesus to be a door or a gate? My thinking is that a door or gate has two functions: to keep one safe and to set one free. Such is the purpose of spiritual doors.

Jesus, the divine door, provides protection from the things that wage war against us while freeing us from those very same things. When we, by faith, walk through this divine door we experience a spiritual release from the things that control and frighten us. Nothing can close this door.

Interesting that this verse speaks of Jesus placing an open door before his followers. I love this idea because it speaks to me of possibilities and opportunities. It reminds me that today is an open door. A day to experience new things. A time to be free to be the person He made me to be.

You have opened the door Lord. You have set us free to be who you have made us to be. Thank you.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

our spiritual birth certificate

All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. [Revelation 3:5 NLT]

This verse is reminiscent of this passage that John wrote in his gospel:
For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.
Everything changes when we first believe. A life and process of transformation begins to take hold of us. Our eyes are opened to a life and kingdom that we previously did not know existed.

Many have wondered if it is possible to "lose your salvation". I would answer yes if it was ours to lose. Yet the salvation that we possess, and the eternal book that includes our name, belongs to God and not to us. In truth our names where written in the Book of Life when we were born from above.

In that sense the recording of our name in that book is analogous to the creation of a spiritual birth certificate. We can no more be unborn spiritually as we can be physically. We who have been spiritually born have a birth certificate recorded in heaven. Praise the Lord.

Teach us to be victorious Lord. Help us to remember that we have a heavenly birth certificate.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the repentant heart

Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief. [Revelation 3:3 NLT]

We do not have tomorrow. We only have today. Life can unexpectedly be snatched from us. It is why our hearts must repent each day to keep our relationship with God new and fresh.

Sometimes it takes a great error in judgment to reveal the hardness in our heart. Our heart must break over our actions before we can repent. The price of humility is brokenness.

Yet following Jesus is not about being perfect. Not about being sinless. It is about being quick to repent when we stray. About returning to the divine path when we wander from it.

We can make a big deal of repentance. Or we can develop a heart that yearns to repent every day. To daily be forgiven. Doing that develops a soft, teachable, moldable and humble heart.

Please forgive me Lord. Help me to forgive others. Renew my heart today.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

religious reputations

I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. [Revelation 3:1 ESV]

I so wish that I did not understand what it means to have a reputation. Brings back so many thoughts. Dark ones. Images of superiority. Thinking I knew more about the bible than others. And falling hard when I began to understand how little I trusted God in my heart.

Our religious egos are so often inflated by our works. The way that God may use us sometimes creates a superficial reputation. In a sense we start believing we are more than divine vessels. Our journey becomes more about trusting our brains than trusting in the Lord.

Fortunately religious egos and reputations are so often no match for life. My trust in my brain began to ebb as I began to deal with suffering. Empathetic compassion began to take hold of me. My concerns about reputation were being replaced with concern for others.

Teach us Lord. Use the things that we suffer to make us like you.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the persistent heart

I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira ... I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. [Revelation 2:24-25 NLT]

There are things in life that we must let go of. Hate. Turmoil. Despair. These are the things that wage war against us and often disable us. These have the power to make us different people.

In contrast there are things that we must never let go of. In times of hate we must hold tightly to God's love. His peace when turmoil rages all around us. Divine joy in days of deep despair.

In reality hate, turmoil and despair are present only in the mind. Heavenly qualities like love, peace and joy are experienced in the heart. Our challenge is to allow our new heart to persist.

Dear Lord. Help us to lean into our hearts that we might persist in love, peace and joy.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

heart blindness

I am the One Who looks deep into the hearts and minds. [Revelation 2:23 NLV]

In a world where models walk runways and hunks are worshiped on football fields, it is hard to imagine a world where people are known for the content of their hearts and minds. It reminds me of Samuel's dialog with God when he was looking to anoint the next Israeli king ...
“Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Like the prophet, most of us have a hard time seeing past appearances. In recent days troubling images of racism, tribalism and bigotry have surfaced in our country evidencing the manner in which some see people who are outwardly different. These suffer from a blindness of the heart.

In contrast God perceives things as they actually are because he sees us as we really are. His vision is not clouded by external skin color or tribal ancestry. Nor is it obscured by religious dogma or ideology. His vision challenges us to look past fleshly externals and see with our heart.

Teach me to see as you see Lord.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the growing heart

I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things. [Revelation 2:19 NLT]

Spiritual growth is recurrent theme in religious circles these days. Often accompanied by sermons on knowing the bible and developing spiritual disciples. There are even folks who specialize in spiritual formation. Yet the focus is so often on matters of the head and not the heart.

I love the way 'constant improvement' is related to love, faith, service, and patient endurance. These are all fruit of the spirit. Or put another way, evidences of a growing heart. In reality the newly born heart is like a newborn baby. It is not meant to stay the same but to grow into maturity.

Like the babe the new heart needs food to grow and exercise to become strong. I imagine spiritual food to be the receiving of love and spiritual exercise to be the giving of love. Each aspect is very necessary for the heart to grow. In that sense there is nothing more important than love.

Help us Lord to be open to the giving and receiving of love.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

stumbling blocks

I have a few matters against you: some who live among you hold to the teaching of Balaam, who instructed Balak to set up a stumbling block before the people of Israel. [Revelation 2:14 VOICE]

What do you think of when you read "stumbling block"? One commentary defines it this way:
"literally, that part of a trap on which the bait was laid, and which, when touched, caused the trap to close on its prey; then any entanglement to the foot"
The sense is that such obstacles are not accidental but something planned to ensnare its victim. Life is full of innocent indulgences that can lead us down a path of addictive behavior.

Apart from the obvious traps, like drugs and sex, stumbling blocks are often subtler. Good things, like discipline and exercise can become traps when they become extreme and obsessive.

Generally speaking, I think that the way to avoid stumbling blocks is to practice moderation in life. And to really know and understand ourselves - moderation is different for each person.

Dear Lord: Please keep us on the bright path and out of the dark ditches.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the loyal heart

Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum ... I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city. [Revelation 2:13 NLT]

Pergamum was a center of emperor worship reminiscent of Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar demanded that his subjects bow to his statue. Back then there were a few young men who refused to bow. These survived a fiery furnace and gave us an example of hearts loyal to God.

Though not as drastic as a fiery furnace, we each face times that challenge our loyalty to the Lord. Scary times. Moments when everything around us compels us to lose faith and to fear. In such times of challenge we are given opportunities to trust in the Lord with all of our heart.

The operative words are heart and trust. The loyal heart is one that trusts God when everything is falling apart. The one that understands that God is near in times of trouble. Our challenge in hard times is to not trust our own understanding but lean into our beautiful and loyal heart.

Teach me Lord to trust you when the heat is turned up.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the second death

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. [Revelation 2:11 NASB]

What do you think "second death" means? The phrase is used four times in Revelation. Some think it means a time in distant eternity when death is thrown into a fiery lake. That could be true but I wonder if the second death is an illusion to the time when each of us die?

Paul and Peter both use the phrase "dead in your sins" when they speak of the time preceding spiritual birth. Could it be that the first death is the state of all humans when they are born? If that is the case then the second death simply refers to the time when a person dies and is no more.

I am glad that the verse goes on to speak of those who are not hurt by the second death. Those who have been born of the Spirit continue to believe until the time of their death. They are not hurt by the second death because they have something that transcends earthly constraints.

Give us ears to hear Lord that we might be witnesses to those who need you.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the tested heart

Don’t be afraid of what you are going to suffer. The devil is going to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested. Your suffering will go on for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. [Revelation 2:10 GW]

Knowing God transcends every part of life. In a very real sense it is impossible to unknow your Heavenly Father. Or for Him to unknow you. This sentiment is evident when Jesus declares that there are people who he simply does not know. How we react in suffering reflects whether we know God.

The ten days mentioned in this verse are symbolic of extended suffering. Interesting that it says that suffering does not always happen to test us. Testing comes in many forms. Yet the message is clear that extended suffering will test our faith, and just about everything else, like nothing else will.

How we face death is the ultimate test of what is in our heart. Those who know, and are known by, God face death very differently. These understand that a crowning life awaits us on the other side of the grave. They know this because they have hearts that have been tested. Hearts that know the Lord.

Grant us courage dear Lord that we might not be afraid of suffering - or anything else.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

the wealthy heart

Write this to Smyrna ... I can see your pain and poverty—constant pain, dire poverty—but I also see your wealth. [Revelation 2:8,9 MSG]

The phenomenon of poverty is an ancient and complex one. Their are all sorts of explanations for it's existence. Some point to wealthy people saying that their greed has caused others to be poor. Others point to laziness as the source. And there can be societal issues at the root of it.

Interesting that this verse speaks to an inner wealth in the midst of external poverty. Most of us focus on the eternal as it is easier to comprehend. Yet their is an inner poverty of the heart often present in both wealthy and poor people. It often surfaces in things like envy and discontentment.

In contrast I have found that there is a wealth of spirit than surfaces in generosity, compassion and kindness. Folks who have a wealthy transformed heart tend to act differently that those who are internally poor. Perhaps these qualities are the kind of wealth that this verse speaks of?

Help us Lord to live from the new and wealthy heart that you have given us.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

agapé lost

However, I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. [Revelation 2:4 ISV]
It seems that love, like many things, rarely stays the same. Love grows or it abates. It is found and sometimes it is lost. In this verse it is hard to discern what sort of love is being referenced. Offhand I might think it to be just fleshly love. Yet the Greek word translated here is agapé.

Perhaps it is significant that the word used is agapé? Many of us think this is the highest form of love. It is often described as: selfless, sacrificial and even godlike. So how is it that such a love can be abandoned? My theory is that it can only happen when agapé never reaches the heart.

It is certainly possible for graces like selflessness to cease when it is superficial. Sacrifices can stop when they are unacknowledged. Even so, I believe that there is an agapé form of love that will not be abandoned. A love for God that is resident in the new spiritual hear of the believer.

Connect us with our hearts Lord that our love will stay strong.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

toughness. patience. endurance.

Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. ... I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. ... You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. [Revelation 2:1-3 NLT]

There are seven epistles contained in Revelation. This is how the first one begins. The pattern is the same for the other seven letters. The congregation is first commended then it is censured.

The Greek word κόπος, translated here as hard work, can be rendered 'laborious toil'. It reminds me that following God requires inner toughness and requires us to hang in there when the work is hard. It also reminds me of this sentence that I heard Robert Schuller say many years ago.
Tough times never last, but tough people do.
I think that sentiment is the heart of what it means to endure. There are things in life that try us like nothing else and lay bare either our weakness or our toughness. People and suffering can surface the best and worst in us. It is why patience and endurance are so needed.

Teach me Lord to patiently act and not impulsively react.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

spiritual keys

I am the one who lives. I was dead, but look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. [Revelation 1:18 ERV]

What do you think about when you hear the word key? Perhaps it is something that can be locked or unlocked? Interesting that 'keys', and not 'key', is used here. Reminds me of the passage where Jesus speaks of the keys to the kingdom. This verse in Revelation is a reference to those keys.

When people read about the keys to the kingdom they often think about spiritual authority over forces of darkness. I think that these kingdom keys are much more practical. I think of the idea that I have the power to speak life or death to a situation. To open or close spiritual doors.

In reality, we all have tremendous power over darkness and even death. By our words we can open doors of light that usher in encouragement. Our actions can lock doors of hate and open ones of love. Yet the power to open such doors is given to the one who has a heart that is divinely open.

Open our heads and our hearts Lord that we might unlock doors that are closed.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation

trustworthy messengers

I turned to see who was talking to me. ... When I saw him, I fell down at his feet like a dead man. He put his right hand on me and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. [Revelation 1:12,17 NCV]

How do you think you would respond if Jesus appeared before your very eyes? Fainting, as John seems to have done, seems like a logical response. Interesting that Jesus appeared to John as someone that he did not recognize - a being that was unlike anything that he had ever seen.

The text says that Jesus showed up in John's vision with a message for the seven churches in Asia. I love that he chose this apostle to be a conduit for a message to these assemblies. A wild vision given to another may have been discounted. In contrast John was trustable.

In my life I have seen a lot of people speak for God. Sadly, unlike John, some of these were not reliable and their message not believable. I guess what I am saying is that the messenger is important. They must be trustworthy. They must be trusted to only speak what God shows them.

Help us to be trustworthy messengers Lord.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation.

the listening heart

I, John, am your brother. ... I was on the island of Patmos ... On the Lord’s day I was in the Spirit, and I heard a loud voice behind me that sounded like a trumpet. [Revelation 1:9-10 NCV]

What do you think John means when he says "I was in the Spirit"? Many commentators interpret it to mean an ecstatic spiritual state of being. Like being in a trance. In my thinking John was caught up in worship and prayer. A place where he was able to hear God's voice in his heart.

Have you ever had God speak to your heart? Ever hear something that absolutely rocked you at the deepest levels. A word or phrase that was undeniably the voice of God. I have. Several times. Such words have brought clarity to me. Often causing me to weep with joy and amazement.

It is hard to be open to such voices because they are not discerned with our heads but with our hearts. People, even religious ones, have been trained to distrust the voices of their hearts. In contrast, the scriptures teach us that God does speak and we can hear him if listen with our heart.

Help me to quiet my mind Lord, that I might have a listening heart.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation.

a kingdom of priests

He made us to be a kingdom of priests who serve God his Father. [Revelation 1:6 NCV]

I so need to be reminded about who I am. So often I forget that I am more than what I see in the mirror. I lose sight of eternity and fall into an earthly malaise. Then I read a verse like this and I remember that I am a part of something that will outlive and outlast this temporal experience.

The kingdom of God has no hierarchy. No pecking order. No priest is greater than the next. Each priest is uniquely equipped to serve in the divine kingdom. Yet our ministry is not fleshly. We are called to connect our hearts to God and to people as we serve in this divine kingdom.

So how do we connect? I suggest that we do so when we listen as a friend confesses their fears and their sins to us. We embody a priestly mantle when we offer forgiveness and encouragement. Above all we serve as priests when we intercede, praying to our Great High Priest.

Open our eyes Lord that we may serve you and the world as loving priests.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation.

seventeen sevens

From John to the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace be yours from God, who is, who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits in front of his throne [Revelation 1:4 GNT]

Seven churches. Seven spirits. These are the first expressions of seven in Revelation. Other sevens will follow. Seven candlesticks, stars, lamps, seals. The list goes on to include, in total, seventeen sevens. It causes me to wonder why so many sevens pop up in the book.

In Genesis the Lord is reported to complete creation in seven days. Perhaps the number is a sign of completeness or fullness. That said, I am not wont to chase numerological rabbit trails. My point is that perhaps, as much of the book is symbolic, we might view sevens in this way.

Given that, I think that John's message is not merely for a small number of congregations in Asia but to the church universal. And when we read of seven spirits we can envision the fullness of God. Complete from beginning to end. Past, present and future. The holy trinity.

Today Lord, help us to receive the grace and the peace that you offer to us.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation.

prophetic words

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. [Revelation 1:3 NASB]

John, the author of Revelation, boldly declares his writings to be prophetic. As such he says that a blessing comes to the one who reads, hears and heeds what he writes. I think that this verse separates this book from every other New Testament writing in it's scope and purpose. The book is not a gospel account nor is it an epistle but an accounting of a spiritual experience.

Since 1975 I have been involved in all sorts of Charismatic and Pentecostal groups. For many years I spoke in a prophetic fashion to thousands of people. Most of what I proclaimed embodied what Paul said about prophecy. That it is meant to encourage and build people up. Perhaps that is how we should read this book? Perhaps we should not see prophecy as prediction but as proclamation?

In reality much time is wasted trying to understand what Revelation is predicting. I have not found eschatological charts and timelines to do anything but scare people about end time wrath. In contrast I have seen prophetic words heal and encourage. My purpose is to find those words as I read Revelation. My desire is to understand the prophetic heart of the book. And allow it to inspire me.

Open my eyes Lord that I might see your prophetic work in the world around me.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation.

the revelation

This is the revelation of Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King: an account of visions and a heavenly journey. God granted this to Him so He would show His followers the realities that are already breaking into the world and soon will be fulfilled. [Revelation 1:1 VOICE]

This last book of the bible is an appropriate ending to it. Genesis, the first biblical book, begins in a garden. Revelation ends in a garden. The book carries in it themes of heaven and of earth. It is a melding of heavenly visions and earthly realities. It is misunderstood by many like me.

It is important to first note that the book is a divine revelation of a person. In each passage a bit of Jesus the Anointed is revealed to us. I think that it is important, as we read the book, to interpret it through the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus that we find in the gospel accounts.

The book is filled with visions that are hard to understand if we take our eyes off of the one who is being revealed. The clear message of it can be obscured if we get caught up in charts and timelines. It is all about hidden realities revealed to encourage us in our walk with the Revealer.

We need you Lord. Reveal yourself afresh to us today.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Revelation.

listen. look. linger.

My brothers and sisters, I beg you to listen patiently to what I have said. I wrote this letter to strengthen you. And it is not very long. [Hebrews 13:22 ERV]

An appropriate ending to this epistle. We benefit most from the scriptures when we:
  • Listen patiently to it's message. Too often we consume the scriptures like fast food. Gulping down thoughts and ideas like a Big Mac. In contrast the writer invites us to slowly chew on the sustenance that is offered to them. Savor the inner meanings of the words and endeavor to taste each idea. Live patiently with ideas. Wait for God to shed light on them.
  • Look for things in it that encourage us. Too often in life people use the scriptures to beat themselves down instead of lift themselves up. As we read we must do so with an understanding that God is good and loves us. As such his words are always good and loving. As we read the bible we should examine what we read in light of God's character.
  • Linger over it regularly. Like a nutritious diet, regular portions of the scriptures are good for our health. We benefit most when we read the scriptures consistently. Spending time thinking about what we read helps us understand both God and ourselves. In my life I have found so much inspiration by simply taking the scriptures in one day at a time.
Lord help us to read the scriptures with discipline that we might embrace its message.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

his will is always to transform

May the God of peace provide you with every good thing you need in order to do his will, and may he, through Jesus Christ, do in us what pleases him. [Hebrews 13:21 GNT]

Ever wonder what God's will is for your life? Or for your children? Over the years I have come to understand that his will is more about, as this verse indicates, what he does in us than what we do for him. In reality no one can do anything for God if he has not done something in them.

I believe that the provision this verse speaks about is spiritual in nature. God gives spiritual gifts that we might do his will. That we might become like Jesus, he distributes to us gifts like compassion and wisdom. As we exercise these gifts we are transformed into the image of his Son.

And becoming like Jesus is the heart of being in, and doing, God's will. In essence, we can be in God's will in any vocation, or any situation, if we are being transformed. This idea is so freeing because it allows us to connect with our heart passions and see them as an extension of divine will.

Thank you Holy Spirit for giving us the gifts we need to be in accord with divine will.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

honor of the heart, head and hands

Continue to pray for us, for we are convinced that we have a clear conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in every way. [Hebrews 13:18 MOUNCE]

When my son was young we used to watch Star Trek TNG. One of the characters on the show was a Klingon named Worf. The driving force in his life was honor. The character once said: "A Klingon's honor means more to him than his life." That sentence is so spiritual nature.

Yet I do think that the word (honor) might be a bit misunderstood. For some the appearance of honor is all that matters. The focus is to be perceived as honorable by other people. Yet, in a spiritual sense honor is mostly about the consistency between our inner and outer lives.

When the writer speaks of having a clear conscience he is connecting honor to the heart. In reality honor is an issue of the heart. When we say our conscience is clear we are indicating that our heart, our head and our hands are in full accord. To be honorable is to live this way.

We pray Lord for our friends, and ourselves, that we all might live honorably in every way.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

spiritual authority

Listen to your leaders and submit to their authority over the community, for they are on constant watch to protect your souls and someday they must give account. [Hebrews 13:17 VOICE]

When I first came to Christ in the 1970s there was a phenomena in religious circles called 'the shepherding movement'. It was a heavy handed thing. People were encouraged to ask their shepherd for advice in all matters carnal and spiritual. It lasted for a few years then died out.

I have often said that the issue in religious circles is not really authority. In truth the church is not the military. One may choose to leave one church and attend another. No one has the power to keep a person under their authority against their will. People even escape from cults.

The heart of the issue is about influence. And there is no greater way to influence anyone than to accept them and love them unconditionally. This to me is the heart of spiritual authority. Love people as God loves us and you will have more influence in their life than you can imagine.

Teach us Lord to surround ourselves with people who love us without conditions.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the sacrifice of doing good

Do not forget to do good to others, and share with them, because such sacrifices please God. [Hebrews 13:16 NCV]

I love the connections made in this verse. It brings pleasure to God when we do good to others. What do you think the writer means when he connects doing good with sacrifices. Can we do good without sacrificing? I guess it depends what we think the phrase 'doing good' means.

Consider giving. Are we doing good if it is not 'sacrificial'? Or what about serving? Is helping another in our spare time 'sacrificial'? I think that there are varying degrees of sacrifice. Yet a case can be made that money or time spent for another, instead of ourselves, is sacrificial in nature. So I think that doing good to others is usually sacrificial. Unless one is compensated, of course. ツ

Help us Lord to remember that we are blessed to be a blessing to others.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the cost of praise

So through Jesus let us always offer to God our sacrifice of praise, coming from lips that speak his name. [Hebrews 13:15 NCV]

For years many have been led to believe that praise is something that we do in Church. A lifting of hands and a joining of voices to exalt God and extol his virtues. I certainly amen that. Yet the singing of songs and the clapping of hands is a very small part of what it means to offer praise.

As the writer says, praise involves sacrifice. It costs us something. King David understood this when he said that he would not give to God that which cost him nothing. Praise often costs us dearly. It demands that we deny ourselves as we follow the way of Jesus. The way of the cross.

Jesus offered the highest form of praise on the cross. He showed us how to offer a sacrifice of praise. Our hearts, like his, offer praise when we are silent when we are accused. Our sacrifice of praise is most real when we deny ourselves, pick up our cross, submit to God and follow Jesus.

Afresh today dear Lord I offer you my heart. Let your way not my way be done.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the city of the heart

Here on earth we do not have a city that lasts forever, but we are looking for the city that we will have in the future. [Hebrews 13:14 NCV]

The contrast between the two cities mentioned in this verse is stark. Eternal vs temporal. Invisible vs visible. Inner vs outer. In reality, we who believe are residents of both cities. We walk the sidewalks of this world while living in a city that is so much different that what we see and hear.

The outer city demands our attention by captivating our senses with sights, sounds and aromas of this world. Yet all the while the inner city beckons us to sense an unseen reality. A dimension that is filled with love in the midst of hate. Peace in a time of war. Joy in times of great despair.

Yet this inner city is a place that we must seek out. It does not come to us. We come to it. Like the saints of old we must, by faith, seek this city out. Give priority to this inner city of the heart. Daily we must sense the activities of this city. Then we must live according to the laws of this city.

Lord, please open our inner eyes and ears that we might see the eternal city.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the strengthened heart

Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you into the wrong way. Your hearts should be strengthened by God’s grace, not by obeying rules about foods, which do not help those who obey them. [Hebrews 13:9 NCV]

I have always been somewhat of a rule follower. Obeying the rules always strengthened my ego but never really did anything for my heart. I found that following the rules produced in me a judgmental attitude towards those who did not follow the rules. And that was a problem.

In contrast, embracing God's grace strengthened my heart and gave me the ability to offer grace to others. People of grace understand that they are divinely loved unconditionally and desire to love in the same way. And as they love unconditionally their hearts are strengthened.

Thank you Lord for the grace you give to me and the grace you offer through me.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the divine self

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. [Hebrews 13:8 NCV]

It is hard to read this and not remember the words that God used to describe himself to Moses. The divine descriptor he uttered was "I Am". I looked up the Greek word translated "the same" here and found that an alternative definition is "self". The idea that Jesus is the "I Am".

This makes sense to me because I believe that Jesus is divine. God in the flesh. Therefore he is "I Am". The divine self. The one who is eternally the same. Love never changing and never ending. Eternal mercy and goodness. Always present with us. These are descriptors of a divine being.

This brings me such comfort Lord. You are always trustable because you are always the same.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

spiritual copycats

Remember your leaders who taught God’s message to you. Remember how they lived and died, and copy their faith. [Hebrews 13:7 NCV]

I have benefited greatly from those who have taught me about spiritual things. Over forty years ago my friend Jerry taught me what following God was all about. My longtime pastor Ernie passed on to me a love for the scriptures. Adam, the pastor of the church we now attend, teaches me how to embrace the gray areas. Since coming to the Lord I have learned so much from spiritual leaders.

Yet I think that each of these men would absolutely not want me to be their clone. They would want me to copy qualities like their faith but not how they lived. The latter is a mistake that I made when I was young. I admired my leaders and copied what they did. I was a spiritual copycat. Thankfully, I found the unique expression of God in my heart and embraced a faith that was truly my own.

Teach us Lord to embrace the uniqueness of our faith and your life in our lives.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

confidence of the heart

I will not be afraid, because the Lord is my helper. People can’t do anything to me. [Hebrews 13:6 NCV]

On the surface this statement sounds a bit absurd. People of faith are often mistreated. Saints of old were tortured and martyred for their faith. So the idea that people cannot hurt us seems to border on delusional positive thinking. Yet, perhaps the author is trying to convey a different truth?

Under threat of papal imprisonment and censure Martin Luther uttered these words:
"I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.
In saying this Luther affirmed that there are things in life more important than external appearances or consequences. When he says it is neither right nor safe to go against conscience he affirms that there are things greater than what we can see. His words are filled with a confidence of the heart.

In truth there are things worse than what can be done to us. What we do to ourselves is far worse. It is worse to betray our conscience. In his epistle James teaches us that sin is knowing the right thing to do and refusing to do it. In doing so we do great damage to our very being.

Help me to not be afraid of what people can do to me Lord. Give me a confidence of the heart.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the divine presence in the heart

God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.” [Hebrews 13:5 NCV]

On the cross Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Perhaps this was the most human thing that he ever said? His emotion was raw. In his heart he knew that God was with him but in the extreme pain of a torturous cross he 'felt' abandoned. In that I take much comfort.

We all know, in our heads anyway, that God is with us in the most awful times of our lives. Yet we often do not sense his presence with us in our pain. Our prayers go unanswered and a feeling of raw abandonment encompasses us. Some do not spiritually survive the experience.

In my own life an inner faith, a knowing in my heart, has helped me to persevere in hard times. Jesus had such a knowing. He experienced a divine presence within his inner being when his outer senses were on fire with pain. Because of this he persevered through feelings of abandonment.

Lord, teach us to look for your presence within when we feel abandoned.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

satisfaction of the heart

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have. [Hebrews 13:5 NCV]

Has there ever been better advice for citizens of 21st Century America? And other nations for that matter. It reminds me of that old Rolling Stones song that refrains "I can't get no satisfaction". The deep unrest about material matters reminds me that satisfaction is a matter of the heart.

The writer accurately observes that the issue is not money but the love of it. And the things that money buys. The matter is one that confronts the rich and the poor. In the most basic sense, satisfaction and contentment are inner issues that cannot met with external things like money.

Our lack of contentment often drives us to make really unwise decisions. We go into debt thinking that a new car or house will bring satisfaction. And they do not. As Paul told the Philippians, contentment is a learning process. A journey of the heart that confronts us at a deep level.

Help us Lord to be free from the love of money. Teach us to find satisfaction in our inner life.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the heart of marriage

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. [Hebrews 13:4 NLT]

I recently had a conversation about marriage with a young man. Here is the question that I asked him: "Who determines whether a couple is married or not? Is it the government? Or a religious group? Or something else?" He was a bit stunned by the question. How would you have answered?

I told the young man that only the couple can determine whether they are married or not. In a sense, no civil or religious entity can legitimize a marriage. These groups only deal with externals. In contrast, marriage is internal. A joining of heart and minds. Such relationships transcend legality.

Faithfulness is the product of the joining of hearts. Our hearts to a spouse. Our hearts to God. There is no entity that can separate this union. Governments cannot. Religion cannot. Each day married people all over the world remain faithful because their hearts have been joined together.

Remind us Lord of what it means have our hearts and minds joined to you and to each other.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

developing empathy

Remember those who are in prison as if you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering as if you were suffering with them. [Hebrews 13:3 NCV]

Jesus taught us that the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets is to "Do to others what you want them to do to you." His words ring especially true for those who are suffering. The main thing that people want is empathetic friendships not passive pity.

I learned a lot about empathy during the three years that I weekly visited prisoners at a state penitentiary. I realized that the inmates did not need a minister but a friend. They did not need my wisdom but desperately wanted my empathy. They benefited most from my vulnerability.

I often say that I received so much more from the inmates than I gave to them. I saw how one mistake could change a life in such a negative way. I also saw how much love they had for me. Life is filled with opportunities to develop empathy if we are willing to live outside of our comfort zones.

Dear Lord, please transform our pity into empathy.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

loving strangers as spiritual siblings

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it [Hebrews 13:1-2 NLT]

The Kingdom of God, in a spiritual sense, is one filled with familial relationships. We are all spiritual children of God and sibings in Christ. It is why the writer urges us to persist in loving. Even when we are offended or rejected. We love without condition in the manner that God loves us.

The word philoxenia, translated hospitality, is defined as a love of strangers. It fits so beautifully with the idea of loving your spiritual siblings. In reality, a stranger in the flesh just may be a spiritual brother or sister sent, in angelic fashion, into your life to be loved by you or to love you.

Open our eyes Lord that we might see those who we meet as our spiritual brothers and sisters.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

a transforming fire

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” [Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV]

When I hear the phrase "consuming fire" my mind wanders back to that moment when Moses first encountered God. He saw a bush that appeared to be on fire but the bush was not consumed. God was in the bush but he did not harm it. So it is with the presence of God in us.

His presence burns up all that can be burned. Shakes everything except what cannot be shaken. God's presence in our lives is anything but passive. He aggressively transforms our lives that we might be like his Son. It is why we are thankful and why worship him with reverence and awe.

Coming Holy Spirit. Burn away all that holds us back. Shake us loose from all that hinders.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the message of two mountains

You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom ... No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. [Hebrews 12:18,22 NLT]

The verses surrounding these speak of ancient Israelis being terrified by the voice of God at Mount Sinai. The contrast between that mountain and Zion could not be more stark. The contrast seems to spill into the image of the Warrior God to the image that Jesus presented us with in the gospels.

I think that many today suffer because they embrace the imagery of the first mountain. The ancient picture of divine wrath and vengeance. They sadly identify more with a God to be feared than a Father to be loved. In doing so they miss the joyful gathering at Mount Zion, the city of the living God.

Lord, please open our eyes that we might see the angels rejoicing.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

spiritual pollution

Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace. Make sure that no root of bitterness grows up that might cause trouble and pollute many people. [Hebrews 12:15 CEB]

God's grace is a communal phenomenon. When grace is given to one it affects us all. A life transformed transforms other lives. Yet some think that grace, amazing as it is, is a purely personal matter. These embrace the idea that salvation is 'personal' and are blind to a greater grace.

Consequentially, some do not understand that a lack of experienced grace can pollute a spiritual community. We need the grace given to others to confront us about things like unforgiveness and selfishness. Such grace can cleanse the atmosphere of spiritual pollution.

Help us Lord to be agents of grace that cleanse our communities of spiritual pollution.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

peace and progressive transformation

Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord. [Hebrews 12:14 NET]

What do you think of when you read the word holiness? Perhaps you see it as form of sacredness or piety? The Greek word carries with it a sense of being progressively transformed by the Lord into His likeness. That makes sense to me. The Christian life is all about spiritual transformation.

This verse indicates that the fruit of such transformation is a pursuit of peace. Furthermore it teaches us that this sort of peace is not merely passive. The peace that God desires is not about a cessation of war. His peace is all about pursuing the welfare of the other and not the self.

This rings true to me. This kind of peace involves transforming pride into humility. Offense into forgiveness. It is not about nations but about individuals becoming like Jesus. The lack of such transformation is an evidence that one does not know or see the Lord in this life or the next.

I need your transformation Lord. Help me to do the things that make for peace.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

love and unintended consequences

Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? [Hebrews 12:7 NLT]

What do think of when you ponder the word 'discipline'? Perhaps visions of spankings or time-outs come to mind. It seems logical to us that a loving parent would do everything in their power to help their kids become disciplined adults. So they draw boundaries around their kids choices. As these boundaries are created consequences are given. If the child crosses the boundary they are disciplined.

I think that boundaries and consequences are what must be examined when we consider divine discipline. The idea of boundaries can be traced back to Genesis when God told Adam that there would be consequences if he ate of a specific tree. Adam ate and was forced to leave Eden. So for some it follows that everyone is disciplined by God in this very personal manner.

My thinking is that the account in Genesis is more allegorical than historical. The story is meant to teach us about ourselves and how bad choices can result in unintended consequences. In my view God generally disciplines us through natural consequences. Because he loves us God uses the consequences of our choices to bring discipline into our lives and make us disciples.

Open our eyes Lord to how you are bringing discipline into our lives.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

experiencing joy when we are unhappy

We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. [Hebrews 12:2 GW]

In some sense faith is a circle. It begins with Jesus when are spiritually born. This is when we first meet him. The circle ends when we meet him in the next life. Between these divine meetings Jesus teaches us how to live a life of faith. In that sense he is the source, the means and the goal.

I love what this verse teaches us about the relationship between suffering and joy. It helps us understand that we can experience joy even when we suffer. Yet such a joy cannot be realized if our focus is inward. We experience joy when we, like Christ on the cross, are focused on others.

In this light we understand the difference between being happy and being joyous. We can have joy even when we are unhappy if our attention turns to how our affliction can benefit others. We can endure unhappy circumstances if our eyes are focused on Jesus and the kind of joy that he saw.

Teach me Lord to turn my focus away from myself and onto others,

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

parasitic sins

Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. [Hebrews 12:1 MSG]

I love the imagery that Eugene Peterson energizes this verse with. It reminds me of how marathoners prepare for the long race. They train. Eat right. They have a regimen that readies them to encounter obstacles and make it to the finish line. This verse likens life to a spiritual marathon.

In that sense it is teaching us to strip ourselves of harmful things like fear, bitterness, worry and anxiety. And reminding us that that sinful acts can latch on to us and, like an invisible leech, suck the spiritual blood out us. These things can cripple us and disable for the marathon of life.

Open our inner eyes Lord that we might see the things that disable us for the race.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the spiritual cloud

We are surrounded by a great cloud of people whose lives tell us what faith means.
So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. [Hebrews 12:1 NCV]

I have heard some say that this verse supports the idea that ghost-like saints surround us in our daily lives. My thinking is that this cloud is simply an illusion to the idea that we are not alone in our faith journey. Faith is not something that we live out by ourselves. We need each other.

In this sense we are all a part of a spiritual cloud. A cosmic community of love and encouragement. This cloud is eternal in nature. It transcends time and space. It is filled with people, past and present, who inspire us and encourage us to never give up as we run the race of faith.

In light of this the writer admonishes us to persevere in hard times. He reminds us that we are a part of a spiritual community, a cloud if you will, filled with people who remained faithful when they suffered. And as we persevere we also demonstrate what it means to live a life of faith.

Thank you Lord for this cloud of witnesses that surround us as we run the race of faith.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

leaning into your heart

      All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith,
      yet none of them received all that God had promised. [Hebrews 11:38 NLT]

The essence of faithfulness revolves around how we live as we wait for what has been promised. How we live when things do not turn out the way that we want. Do we persevere or do we fall away? Do we continue to believe that God is with us or do we allow doubt to morph into unbelief?

My belief is that we can only be faithful to One who we actually know. Paul wrote to Timothy saying that he endured suffering because he knew the one in whom he trusted. Sadly many fall away in hard times because they do not actually know God. And they really do not believe in his promises.

On a personal level I often struggle in this area. Even people who know God have doubts when life is hard. Sometimes it is really difficult to believe that God is working things for my good. In times like these I simply lean into my heart, the place where his promises are alive and well.

Help us Lord to find a way to lean into our heart when life does not make sense to our head.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

so that they might rise

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. [Hebrews 11:35-36 ESV]

History is sadly littered with stories of torture. Sadder still is the justification for such acts. Governments rationalize it by invoking national security. Other examples seem to be more sadistic in nature. And to a lesser extent, mocking seems to be a fruit of this same nasty tree.

These things all point me back to the One who was tortured with flogging and a crown of thorns. The One who showed us how to rise above the sufferings of our lives. The One who quietly trusted the Father when life was reeling out of control. The One who gave us an example of a better life.

Thank you Jesus for showing us how to rise above the mockings and sufferings of our lives.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

transformed weakness

They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. [Hebrews 11:33-34 NLT]

Daniel was a prophetic adviser to kings. His childhood friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were also advisers. These four men were dragged off into captivity when they were just boys. You can read about them, and how they were persecuted for their faith, in the book of Daniel.

I love how these verses speak of these men, tested by lions and a fiery furnace, having weaknesses transformed by faith. It reminds me of how I stuttered as a young boy. I was very afraid of giving oral reports at school. Public speaking scared me until the day I first spoke for God at church.

God is in the business of transforming our weaknesses. Moses had his stuttering transformed as he spoke for God. The first disciples had their fear transformed when they saw the resurrected Jesus. Perhaps seeing Jesus is the key to transforming human weakness into divine strength?

Lord, help me to really believe that I can do all through Christ who strengthens us.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.

the upside down nature of faith

It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. [Hebrews 11:27 NLT]

In a very real sense trusting God is all about seeing things that are visible only to our inner eyes. Thomas Carlyle put it this way: "It is the heart always that sees, before the head can see." This is a difficult concept for some because they have relied on their heads for so long.

King Solomon teaches us in Proverbs that we trust God with our heart. He goes on to say that we should not depend on our own understanding. Yet our senses tell us to trust our heads and not our hearts. In a sense faith is born when we take that first leap and begin to trust God with our heart.

This to me is the upside down nature of faith. Our head tells us to seize control while our hearts want us to let go of it. Our brains refuse to believe what cannot be seen even though our hearts know it to be true. The battle rages on. Will the head subdue the heart? Or will the heart triumph over it?

Lord, teach us to retrain ourselves to follow our trusting new hearts.

... this devotion is part of a series from the book of Hebrews.