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