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Friday, April 10, 2015

The Book of Revelation


            I need to make a confession.  The book of Revelation in the Bible isn’t one of my favorites.  In fact, over the years I’ve pretty much skimmed over it, except for the beginning and the ending.  Part of it is my experiences early in my walk with Jesus and part of it is my personality.
            I was born in 1962.  A lot was happening in the USA and the world around that time.  We were facing huge culture shifts, the world was becoming smaller with TV screens bringing into our front rooms images from wars, revolutions, politics and religion.  With so much change happening, some people thought it would be good to write books about the end of the world and the book of Revelation was the source of some really crazy stuff that was written and said.  G.K. Chesterton is to have said, “Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creatures so wild as one of his own commentators.”  I would have to agree.  What people wrote about did – and still does – seem really off the mark of what the Bible was about.  So I left it alone.
            The other thing about the book of Revelation is it reads like science-fiction.  I’m more of realist who thinks about the now and the immediate future.  I never got into the sci-fi genre of books and movies.  All you sci-fi fans out there, relax.  It’s nothing personal – I just wasn’t into it.
            But Revelation is part of the Bible.  And I think it has an important message.  So, for the last few years I’ve entertained the idea of preaching through the book….and then chickened out.  But now I’ve screwed up my courage and I’m jumping into it.
            Revelation was written during a time when things were going to hell in a hand basket.  To be a follower of Jesus was a costly thing.  The Christians of the time were an increasingly persecuted minority, often just seen as a sect of Judaism.  The Roman ruler of the time, Domitian, thought it a good idea to make himself a god, ordering people to refer to him as “Lord of the earth,” “Invincible,” “Thou Alone.”  And if you didn’t, you got punished.  Or killed.
            It’s easy to live in the here and now if the here and now is relatively peaceful.  But when life starts going sideways, we want to know what the future holds.  We want to have some hope.  And that is where the book of Revelation comes in.  It is ultimately a drama that creatively has reminded followers of Jesus for centuries that, no matter how bad it gets, Jesus wins.  Because Jesus wins and God is going to bring justice to all things, there is hope.
            Do you know anyone who could use some hope?  Invite them along for the ride as we get a glimpse of God’s Kingdom and his promises.  It’s going to be interesting.  And oh - pray for me.  I’m going to need it!
Peace and grace,
David

            

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Live Like Nobody Else - Take Time To Play

 A number of years ago I asked my wife Pam to do an exercise with me in intentional living.  The question we were answering was “What do you want your kids to remember about you?”  One of the answers I gave was they would remember I loved them sacrificially so they grew up to be spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically healthy people.  But I have mostly remembered one of the things Pam wrote down:  “I want them to remember that I played with them.”
Pam's contribution to Crazy Hat Day at
Markham School where she teaches
7th Grade science.  Aggie the dog says,
"Mom Rocks!!"
            Let me be honest here.  I’m not real great at playing with others.  Well – that’s not true.  I’m good at playing with others if I have a chance of winning against them!  And there is a bit of the problem.  I’m just slightly a touch on the Type A personality side of the spectrum (that was sarcasm, in case you didn’t get it).  You know those Type A people – driven, results-oriented overachievers who are never satisfied with the status quo.  Type A people have brought a lot of good to the world, don’t get me wrong.  But they have also left a trail of damaged goods in themselves and others along the path.  A Type A person isn’t likely to become a Type B person who is carefree, happy-go-lucky and go-with-the-flow.  But they can hav
e health and balance in their life and it has a lot to do with the ability to play.
            As I’m reading through the Bible in a year, I was reading Exodus 31:12-17 where Moses gets instructions from God on the Sabbath at the end of a whole bunch of very detailed instructions on how to go about worshipping him.  And God starts it this way:  Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths…”  Above all?  More important than anything else you said?  Why is this so important?
            The Sabbath has its roots in the creation order.  (See Genesis 2:2-3 for the context.)  Genesis tells us God did the work of creation for six days and then on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed. (see Exodus 31:17)  This seventh day was holy, which means set apart and consecrated for God.  When we are practicing holiness in our life, there will be rest and renewal.  It is part of God’s unchanging order of life.
            Here’s the problem in our lives today – we live in a margin-less and boundary-less world.  This means we are constantly driven, constantly connected to the electronic leash of our smartphones, constantly under stress, constantly on the move.  We live a life without Sabbath.  We live a life without the space to play.  We don’t rest and we aren’t getting renewed. 
            Let me be honest again.  I don’t like talking about this subject because I really have a long way to go in my obedience in this area.  I’m learning that taking time to rest is an act of faith, it is saying I’m not bigger than God.  Taking rest is trusting God can get done what needs to be done without me being overworked and overstressed.  Just like giving 10% of my income is trusting God that I can accomplish more with 90% of my income, taking a Sabbath day of rest is trusting God that I can do enough in 6 days.
            Feel free to ask me how I’m doing with my play-life.  And when you do, be prepared for me to ask you the same!  Let’s take time to play.  We’ll be better lovers of God and much more fondly remembered if we do.
Peace and grace,

David