Resolution 5: Make Healthy Choices

Malachi 1-2 and Revelation 21

I think we all have flirted with the “best by” dates on food products.  Some of us have done it out of necessity, others maybe more out of laziness, but there is no doubt that some are more sensitive to these subjective guidelines .  I personally give it a sniff and stir test.  Looking for foul odors or curious textures before giving it a taste.   The level of craving or hunger often determines how much flexibility I will give.  At work, I still haven’t lived down a tub full of moldy hummus I ate because I didn’t want to waste it.  I should have just kept my mouth shut (well open really, I was eating), but alas, here I am telling another audience. Surely, the carrots, celery, and apple I was enjoying with the hummus offset any of the negative consequences.  I am willing to eat leftovers, perform sniff tests, down some soft grapes, because when I do this, I give my family an opportunity to buy healthy fresh foods, and treat them to a pleasing sit-down meal from time to time.  This Outback Dinner was brought to you by the goat cheese that sat on the bottom of the meat drawer for weeks and the awful cauliflower-something dish that no one else would eat. Nevertheless, it would seem a bit more detestable if I only treated myself alone and made my family eat the stuff growing hair in the back of the fridge.

 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. – Malachi 1:8

Now to frame these choices into a different context.  Is this the way we are treating our relationship with God?  Are we giving him the leftovers, the surplus of our pantry, or the rejects of our storehouse?  Is there an allotted time that you are giving God each day for prayer?  Or do you pray when you have time.  Or if you get up early.  Or when you’re in the car alone.  Are you only tithing what you have left after you pay your bills?  And that is only if there is anything left.  Or maybe not this month because things are tight.  Are you filling the church with single-ply toilet paper when you have triple-ply at your house?  Or bringing your recipe-gone-wrong to the potluck?  Or going to church only when it’s convenient to your and your kids schedule?  Or donating things because you didn’t like the style anyways? If you answered yes to any of these, what you are giving God is going to require a sniff and stir test; your offering may be lame. Your discipleship is growing mold and diseased.  When we are talking about God, we give him the firstfruits.  The unblemished.  Simply the best we have (which still is the equivalent to nothing) but it is fragrant to God and His desires.  He acknowledges the sacrifice when we bring it with a merciful heart. He sees the effort we are making to have a relationship with Him. Our offering is not animals or crops, it is our time, our effort, or energy, our money, and our stuff.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:32

God didn’t skimp on salvation.  He didn’t provide someone who was expendable.  He didn’t choose someone who was already terminally ill. He didn’t choose a criminal.  He picked the firstfruits, or as Colossians 1 says the firstborn of all creation, meaning before it all, God had already set aside the sacrifice of His son for our sins.  He picked the best.  The only man unblemished by the disease of sin.  This is our example of what sacrifice should look like.  Even though we don’t live in the age of sacrifice, giving first, going without, but most importantly showcasing with our very best effort our desire for God is still a beautiful way to show our love for Him and our request to receive the magnificence of his mercies.  He doesn’t require our sacrifice, but he desires our worship.

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.  Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

On a final note, the best of God’s plan is yet to come.  The richness in store for us is beyond anything we would do without now.  Again and again, as you read the blueprints of the Kingdom in Revelation 21, you will be blown away by the preparations God has made.  The God outside of time has taken all of His time to make something beyond all fathom, wealth, and existence.  Wow!  Consequently, when your sacrifice is from the healthiest choice, you are going to miss some fun.  You will have to wake up early or stay up late.  You will have to do without some luxuries, or even believed necessities.  There is still a greater inherent blessing from knowing, serving, and honoring God in the reheated stuff that this life is made of in a corrupt, sinful world.  But God…Oh, how God! He is pouring His very best into what is to come.

-Aaron Winner

Read or listen to the Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Malachi 1-2 and Revelation 21

Resolution 3: Save Less

As someone in their mid 30’s who still lives the vast majority of their life like their 13, it’s kind of weird to think my wife and I have assets and savings. Banking. Bonds. Portfolios. Pensions. That’s all stuff for adults. I can’t even match my socks. Yet, here I am, meeting with a retirement counselor and occasionally checking in on the stock market.  As much as both my wife and I love our work, we realize that we don’t want to do it forever.  Each month, a chunk of pay goes into a couple different accounts meant for use a quarter century from now. Lord willing, if we both make it.  Check with us in 25 years.

We are reminded in Proverbs that it is a fool who doesn’t think about the future (Prov: 6:6-8).  Yay. Point for me. But should I, as a Christian, have money in my savings account when I could be giving it charitably?  Do I really need to put aside money for the future if God is going to take care of me? Hmm. God gives all, and tells you to save for rainy days, so He will give you something to save for a rainy day. Honestly, I’m not sure. What I do know is saving is an important discipline, especially with the consideration of tithing, but we are reminded by Jesus that we can get carried away with accumulating things, hoarding our wealth, our assets, and collections (Matt 6:19-24; Mark 10:17-27) and be led down not only a distracting path, but a divisive contrast to the life that pursues God that leads to destruction. If you must err on a side as you pursue God’s answer for this, it would be to give more, and save less.  See the sparrows and the rich young ruler.

Unfortunately, or honestly, more fortunately, you will not receive any long term financial advice from me because I can’t even be counted on to keep cash in my pocket without losing it.  The virtuous woman in my house is responsible for all of our rainy day savings. Although still not fully qualified, I would like to take a moment to focus on the savings that occur in today’s reading.  As we all know, weddings can be very expensive affairs and often are the culmination of many years worth of saving.  Keep this in mind when you begin to read about the marriage supper of the Lamb.  God has been “saving” for the wedding of Jesus and the Church since the foundations of the world.  Imagine how elaborate this celebration will be, when God begins to tap into his reserves for sons and daughters. This is a nest egg far beyond our imagination.

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:  Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns! Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. – Revelation 19:6b-7

Investing in a single company, bond, or stock is a foolish idea, that’s Finance 101 and some wisdom for earthly investments. However, for treasures that await in heaven to become sight on earth, you can’t diversify.  You must be sold out in your devotion to the Savior (Matt 16:24-26).  That means you must begin reducing and selling off your other investments of your time, your mind, your energy, and your heart.  If you must bank, first, bank of the hope of Jesus Christ. If you must save, first, let it be for others in the telling of the Gospel message.  If you retire, first, let it be in the peace that comes from this saving knowledge.  The pension that comes from a lifetime of devotion to God is far greater than we could ever imagine and earned through our faith in a single truth: Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God and Father, given as propitiation for our sin, and He is coming again to establish God’s kingdom.  Wholly invest in this.

The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock.  They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. – Zechariah 9:16

-Aaron Winner

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 9-11 and Revelation 19

Resolution 1: Drink More Water and Less Kool-Aid

Revelation 17

The eternal feasting from Thanksgiving to Christmas has begun to catch up with me (it’s not just you, promise).  This pre-New Year’s week (and it’s bloating) is often cited by many as their week of revelation and insight into the preparations of what they might change in the upcoming year. While any time – month, day, or hour – is welcome to change, this week I will be focusing on some resolutions presented to us in the continued reading in the prophecy of Zecheriah, the Revelation of John, and the beginnings of Matthew.  While many of the passages are filled with prophetic, symbolic, end-time images, I will try to remain focused on the big picture: the message or warning presented in the passages.  Our eyes should be open, our ears listening, and our spirit attune to the world around us, not only because we become reflective as our year draws to an end, but because the drum roll quickens towards the end of this present evil age.  We should hasten our efforts, not to simply shed a few holiday pounds, start a new hobby, or get organized, but to make changes and to carry on efforts that will make lasting impacts in the Kingdom of God.

Speaking of eternal things, did you know, Kool-Aid, when stored properly, really doesn’t expire?  It is a seemingly innocent drink, yet there is a crushing idiom out there beckoning people not to partake in the consumption of this perpetual potion: You might hear an older generation say, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid ”.  This expression actually means don’t believe everything you hear, especially because it presents a very real threat.  It might seem that the origins of this phrase refer to the high sugar content, the unnatural color, or the artificial flavor of the name brand fruit drink of childhood and beyond.  It is true, there isn’t much wholesome about this drink (sorry, grape. I still love you tho❤️); however, this isn’t where our figurative turn of phrase is born.  Instead, the origin is far more tragic than the attack on our blood-sugar.  The notorious event is referred to as the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, where hundreds of innocent men, women, and children died by drinking, or being forcibly injected, with a combination of Flavor-Aid and poison.  This presents a more tragic history behind the coinage, but draws a parallel to today’s reading in both Zechariah and Revelation.  The words below remind me that there is a great coming (or even present) evil, or a more perilous and poisoned Kool-aid that is brewing and being passed as legitimate name-brand Gospel.

“I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.” – Revelation 17:6

The prostitute on the beast paints an ironically sobering picture, becoming intoxicated on the blood of saints and lying with the kings of the earth.  Those who take part in this great debauchery against God, may do so willingly, but it seems many do so unwittingly, astonished and deceived by the spectacles of ungodly power (v.8) . There will be those who are not in the Lamb’s Book of Life who attend churches, have ministries, and even blog about Christ, but give-in to tinted truths, sweet lies, and god-like power, because it is a more “palatable” gospel, requiring less real change and more gratification.  The love, justice, mercy that take root in another source other than our Heavenly Father, may look pretty, taste sweet, and have some of the same notes, but it is filled with poison.  It will never quench your thirst.  It is just empty calories leading you closer to death.  Stop the endless following, swiping, and double-tapping – look up.  Turn off the continuous bombardment of the news cycle – look up.  Quit chasing after causes that don’t lead to the saving Gospel message of Christ – look up. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Now, this begs the question, what then should we drink?  Coffee!  Wrong. Tea? Still wrong.  Soda?  Getting colder.  Simply, water.  No beans, no leaves, no syrup, no colors, no nonsense straight-from-the-tap water.  It is what your body is craving, essential to every major function in your body, beginning at the cellular level.  Among many other things, water aids in digestion, stabilizes the heart, regulates blood pressure, flushes away the toxins, and provides protection to the day-to-day function of our organs and joints.  Such is true for our Living Water, the Gospel message and the Spirit of God present in our daily walk.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14

“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” – John 7:37-39

While there is a metaphor to be drawn for each of these literal benefits, there is an inherent advantage, understood or not, from consuming water.  Yes, we are trying to flush away perpetuated falsehoods, but drinking living water in and of itself is simply refreshing.  Make time for God’s Word.  Worship Him in your car.  Honor Him with your time. Live out the Gospel through actions and bear the testimony of Jesus Christ. Resolve to fill your tumbler and carry it wherever you go because there are so many ready to make the switch from the Kool-Aid to the quenching Living Water.

-Aaron Winner

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at Bible Gateway here – Zechariah 5-6 and Revelation 17

Wrath and Reward

Revelation 16

If you’ve ever needed an incentive to remain obedient to God, read about the 7 bowls of God’s wrath as recorded in Revelation 16 – if a stick motivates you.

Bowl 1.  Revelation 16:2, “The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.

This is a good reason not to worship the beast, better known as the antichrist.  But it gets better…

Bowl 2. The sea turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.

Bowl 3. The rivers and springs of water turned to blood.

Bowl 4. People were seared by the intense heat of the sun, which grew very hot.

Bowl 5. Darkness, and men gnawed their tongues in agony.

Bowl 6. Demons gathered the kings of the earth for the war of Armageddon.

Bowl 7.  An earthquake more devastating than any since man has been on the earth.  Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found.  From the sky, huge hailstones of about 100 pounds each fell upon men.

This should give us the incentive to remain faithful to God in the midst of persecution from the antichrist.  But we can’t endure alone, we will need God’s help.  This brings us to a promise in Zechariah 4:6, also in today’s reading, which says, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”

We need to be completely dedicated to living wholeheartedly for God.  And when tough times come, He will give us the strength to endure, with the power of His Holy Spirit.

Personally, I’m more of a carrot kind of guy.  So I look more at the promises of Revelation 21:4, which says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

So whether you’re motivated by a carrot or by a stick, the important thing is to be completely dedicated to living wholeheartedly for God today.  Once the tough times come, it will be really hard to start serving Him then.

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 3-4 and Revelation 16

Which Fate will You Choose?

Revelation 14 – 15

Even though Revelation 14 was part of yesterday’s reading, I waited to comment on it until today so we could contrast the fate of those who submit to the antichrist from Revelation 14 with the fate of those who resist the antichrist in Revelation 15.

Rev 14: 9-12 tells us, “…If anyone worships the beast [the antichrist] and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.  He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever.  There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.  This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”

In a nutshell, no matter how bad it will get for Christians, including being martyred for their faithfulness to Jesus, the punishment for the wicked will be infinitely worse.  This will call for patience and endurance on the part of Christians – when given the choice between “the good life” of following the antichrist, or torture and death for remaining faithful to Jesus.

By contrast, we read in Revelation 15:2-3, “And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name.  They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the lamb:  “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.  Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.””

Every one of us has a choice to make.  Usually these choices are in little things – would God approve of this or that that I’m doing?  As we consistently choose to live for God, it gets easier to make the right choices.  Eventually, making the right choices will be really tough.  If we don’t develop the discipline now, we’ll never be able to endure when times get tough.

This reminds me of Moses’ challenge to the Israelites just before his death, as recorded in Deuteronomy 30:15, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”

Which will you choose?

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 1-2 and Revelation 15

Life and Death – and Life Again

Zephaniah 1 – 3 and Revelation 13

Today’s reading contains some disturbing imagery, so readers be warned.

In Revelation 13, we find details of the person we call the antichrist. In Revelation 13:7, we’re told “He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them…”  In Revelation 13:9-10 we read, “He who has an ear, let him hear.  If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go.  If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.  This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

In a nutshell, we know that at some point in the future (I believe in the relatively near future), a person we call the antichrist will arise.  He will deceive the nations and will control the economy such that only those who receive the “mark of the beast” will be able to buy or sell.  (We will find out in Revelation 14:10 that those who do receive the mark of the beast will be tormented in the lake of fire.) And he will successfully conquer Christians.

As a Christian, this doesn’t sound very appealing.  If all we’re focusing on is this life, it won’t seem worth maintaining our faithfulness to God.  When that time comes, we’ll need to remember what God has promised for the wicked, as recorded in Zephaniah – also part of today’s reading.

In Zephaniah 1:2-3, we read, “I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth, declares the Lord.  I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea.  The wicked will only have heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth, declares the Lord.”

In Zephaniah 1:18, we read, “…In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for He will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.”

Zephaniah 3:8 tells us, “…I have decided to assemble the nations to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them – all my fierce anger.  The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.

But then we find hope in Zephaniah 3:12-13, where we read, “But I will leave within you the meek and the humble, who trust in the name of the Lord.  The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down, and no one will make them afraid.”

In short, terrible times are coming for Christians, when the antichrist will try to annihilate us from the earth.  It will be critical to remain faithful to God during those difficult times, even if we lose our lives.  Because ultimately, God will judge the world, and completely destroy the wicked.  Even if we die, we will be resurrected to live in peace forever.  While the wicked will be completely destroyed forever.

I’m reminded of Deuteronomy 30:19 where we read, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Choose to remain faithful to God.  Choose life.  Even if you have to succumb to death.

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zephaniah 1-3 and Revelation 13

“Why, God?”

Habakkuk 1 – 3

One widely assumed fallacy about Christianity is that once you choose to follow God, all of your problems will just go away.  Habakkuk wasn’t that kind of believer, and we shouldn’t be either.

Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah – living at a time when things were really bad for Judah.  He loved the Lord with all his heart, and longed for justice.  But he saw only violence and injustice wherever he turned.  He had some complaints, and took them to the right place – to God.

In Habakkuk 1:2, Habakkuk complained, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “violence!” but you do not save?”

In Habakkuk 1:3, he complained, “Why do you tolerate wrong…?”

Then in Habakkuk 1:13, he complained, “…Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”

His basic complaint was, “God, I’m pouring my heart out to you in prayer, why don’t you do something?”  And “Why do you let the wicked persecute those more righteous than themselves?”  As we pointed out yesterday from 2 Peter 3:9, the answer may be that God is just being patient, wanting to give people as much time as possible to repent, before he steps in and judges.  And from Romans 3:10-12, we recognize there is no one that is righteous, no one who does good, not even one.

In God’s response to Habakkuk in 2:2-3, God said, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.  For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end.”  Then God gave a series of 5 “woe”s.  God was reminding Habakkuk that eventually, God will punish the wicked, but until then, Habakkuk needed to be patient and trust God.

I love Habakkuk’s response in Habakkuk 3:17, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”  

This ties into our Revelation 12 reading for today, where we read in Revelation 12:17, “Then the dragon went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”  For the last 3.5 years of this evil age, Satan will try to annihilate the Jews, but God will miraculously protect them.  So Satan will vent his wrath against Christians.

As Christians, there may come a time when we cry out to God, “Why don’t you answer my prayers?  Why do you let the wicked persecute those more righteous than themselves?”  But no matter how bad it gets, we need to have the same response as Habakkuk.  “Even though it appears that there is no hope, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Habakkuk 1-3 and Revelation 12

When God says, “Enough”

Patient God – Jealous God

Nahum 1-3 and Revelation 11

In Nahum, we read of God’s declaration of destruction against Nineveh.  You may recall that over 100 years prior to Nahum, Jonah had preached against Nineveh.  At that time, the people repented of their sins, so God didn’t send destruction at that time.

But that repentance didn’t last, and the people of Nineveh became more idolatrous and more sinful than ever.  So in Nahum 1:2 we read,  “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.”

Normally, we think of jealousy as a bad thing, like “You have something I want, and I’m jealous.”  Many times in the Bible, God talks of his jealousy as a relationship He wants to protect – sort of like a husband and a wife who are united.  If one strays, the other would be very jealous, not wanting to share their spouse with another.  In this case, God doesn’t want anyone worshiping anyone but Him, but Nineveh is worshiping idols – making God jealous.

And similarly, we typically also think of vengeance as a bad thing – and for us to take vengeance is indeed wrong.  But God is a holy God, and can’t tolerate people flouting His law and do nothing about it.  We’re told in Deuteronomy 32:35, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.”

So in Nahum, God is declaring war against Nineveh and its people because of their sins.  It seems kind of odd, then, that verse 3 continues by talking about how patient God is:  “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.”

God had indeed been slow to anger.  He had given the people at least another 100 years to get right with Him.  He had been very patient.  But at some point, even God has had enough and will act, not leaving the guilty unpunished.

This was true for Nineveh, when it was destroyed in 612 B.C.  And this fact is still true today.

We’re told in 2 Peter 3: 9-10, “9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” 

Again, God is patient, wanting everyone to repent.  But the time will come when He will destroy not Nineveh, but the earth, because of her sins.

In today’s reading in Revelation 11, we read about 2 witnesses that will prophesy for 1260 days at the end of this evil age.  They will be killed, and then after 3.5 days, they will be resurrected and caught up to heaven.  Then, in Revelation 11:15, the seventh trumpet will sound, and it will be declared, “The kingdom of  the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”  Then in Revelation 11:18, we read, “The nations were angry and your wrath has come.  The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great – and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

Notice in this passage there is a good news / bad news situation, declaring that God’s wrath has come (a bad thing), but also the time for rewarding His servants (a good thing)

In Nahum’s time, even with the bad things he was prophesying against Nineveh, Nahum was able to comfort God’s people with Nahum 1:15, “Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!”  At the same time the guilty were being punished, the righteous were celebrating because of the peace they were about to enjoy.

We don’t know when, but we do know that one day, God will get so angry with the sinfulness rampant on earth that he will say, “enough”.  He will send horrible plagues and destruction, and then send Jesus – who will judge the living and the dead, destroying the wicked in the lake of fire, and granting eternal life to the righteous.

Since we know these things are coming, what kind of lives should we be living – as we await the return of Jesus?  The choice is yours.  But there will be consequences.

-Steve Mattison

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Nahum 1-3 and Revelation 11

1 Short Chapter – 49 Cross References

Revelation 5

Imagine, for a moment, your favorite movie or tv show. How much of it can you quote? How many references have you made to your friends who have seen it with you a thousand times? How many times have you watched, acted it out, or recited memorable lines?

Revelation 5 is one of the most theologically packed chapters of the Bible. Why is that? Because the Bible is a complete, unified story that spans thousands of years and dozens of authors, and they all point to a single narrative. The author of Revelation, John, knows his Bible like a movie that he’s watched hundreds of times. In Revelation 5, my Bible shows 49 cross references to other verses. John really knows his Bible!

What’s the purpose, then? When we read Revelation 5, we’re reading the fulfillment of lots of God’s promises. In just 5:1, for example, we’re reminded of the throne room of God in Ezekiel 1, and the sealed scrolls in Daniel 12:4 and Isaiah 29:11. (Tip: when a biblical author makes a clear reference to a different spot in the Bible, they usually want you to go back and read it to see what they mean!!)

What is this scroll, anyway? And why is it that no one in heaven or on earth is worthy to open it? We have to keep reading to find out. And here lies the secret behind all of Revelation 5: God’s written plan, which he held in his own hand, could only be carried out by one very, very, very worthy individual. And his name is Jesus. 

The rest of Revelation 5 lists off the many qualifications that Jesus holds. He is the lion of Judah. (See Genesis 49:8-12, when God says that the ruler of Israel is like a lion, and he will be of the tribe of Judah). Jesus is the Root of David (see 2 Samuel 7:14, when God promises that one of David’s descendants would rule forever). Jesus is the lamb that was slain (read about the passover lamb in Exodus 12, and how Paul calls Jesus our Passover lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7). We see how these immensely powerful creatures, who dwell constantly in the presence of God, sing about this important role of Jesus– that he can open the scrolls because he was slain, ransomed us for God, and made us a kingdom of priests to God, so we can reign on the earth. 

I hope you’re starting to see the story of redemption that God had been planning since Genesis. Jesus is the fulfillment of that story. And the four living creatures, the myriads and myriads and thousands of thousands of angels of heaven, are all “in on” this great story and its many references and quotes from history. They know that Jesus is the climax of God’s great story. 

So when we read Revelation 5, let us sing along with all of God’s angelic host in proclaiming that to God and the Lamb “be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Obadiah and Revelation 5

Pay Attention!

Revelation 2

When John begins to explain the revelation that he has received, he writes 7 letters to churches in Asia minor (modern day Turkey). As we read 4 of the 7 letters, we can notice that each letter contains the same important exhortation: “Anyone who has an ear had better listen to what the Spirit says to the congregations!” (vv. 7, 11, 17, 29). This is John’s way of saying “Pay attention!” While each one of his letters is not lengthy or full of details, they are nonetheless very specific about what they address.

In 3 of the 4 letters, John brings a harsh criticism against the congregation to whom he is writing. These criticisms are prefaced with a phrase such as “But I have this against you” (vv. 4, 14, 20). Only Smyrna is spared this criticism. It seems that there is something about the church in Smyrna that didn’t deserve the type of correction that the other churches received.

The message that John gives to the church in Smyrna is one of encouragement to endure through the persecution and suffering they were experiencing. One of the reasons that they were suffering was because other people were speaking evil of them. And apparently, it was going to get worse, so much so that some of them were going to be thrown in prison. But they were promised that if they would endure and be “faithful to death,” that they would receive the “crown of life” (v. 10).

What we can apply to our own lives from John’s encouragement to the church in Smyrna is the importance of remaining faithful to the Lord. While we may never face persecution and death in the way that they did, we each have been or will be at some point in our lives the object of another person’s evil words concerning our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though the ways in which we will suffer for our faith will differ, the reward that we all will receive is the same—the crown of life!

No trial is too small and no task too trivial to consider it worthy to endure for the sake of our Lord. We must always desire to honor him through every day and season of life no matter what may come, knowing that it is before him that we will stand one day judged for everything we have said and done.

-Jerry Wierwille

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Amos 3-4 and Revelation 2

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