Sweet & Sour

Revelation Ch. 10

Revelation 10 11 NIIV.png

Every time that I go back and read through Revelation, I think about how awesome it would be to see it in a movie or comic book, since it is full of amazing imagery, suspense, and some humor. I see a little bit of dramatic humor coming out in chapter ten, as we are about to get the information that we have been desiring since chapter five… and then we don’t. I feel as if John wants to keep us on the suspense train as long as possible in order to make his point.

 

After the sixth trumpet sounds, we are introduced to an angel that is holding a “small” scroll in his hand. Now, this scroll is likely the same Scroll that we saw in God’s hand in chapter five, and the same Scroll that had the seven seals broken off through chapters six, seven, and eight. Narratively speaking, we have not learned the contents of that original Scroll yet, so it is unlikely that this is a brand-new scroll that is being introduced into the storyline. The size of the Scroll is not a major point; it is possible that the Scroll had to become smaller for John to later eat it. If the Scroll was the same size as it was in chapter five, being able to fit in God’s hand, John could be eating it for quite a while.

 

Coming back to the dramatics of the story, we are finally going to learn what the Scroll says! This is the moment when we find out what God’s message is to His people!… and then John eats it… and it is sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach… What in the world is going on here?

 

John is acting like one of the Old Testament prophets, Ezekiel, who also was told to eat a scroll from God and then to speak the message of its contents (see Ezekiel 3:1-3). In like manner, whatever John is going to speak next in the story is going to be the contents of this Scroll. Although it is a strange method to communicate to the seven churches, it gets the job done; it is probably better that we don’t question everything God chooses to do, because we could drive ourselves crazy trying to understand it all.

 

What we can learn practically today from this message is that sometimes God’s message can be sweet and bitter at the same time. The gospel is fantastic news that will bring us eternal, perfect life, but is also bitter as we are called to die to ourselves daily as we follow Jesus. Just like everything in life, there are good and difficult consequences to our decisions, and the decision to follow Jesus is no different. I encourage you to look at both sides of the coin before moving forward, because it can become difficult. Is the reward enough for you to go through the bitter consequences?

 

Talon Paul

God’s Presence and the Exile

 

Text: Ezekiel 11

Ezekiel 11 19

This week so far, we’ve talked about creation, the garden, and the tabernacle, exploring how they fit into the theme and story of God’s presence. Today I want to talk about exile, or that feeling you get when you know you aren’t home, and things aren’t right. It’s an ongoing theme for the Israelites. We see it when Adam and Eve are kicked out of the garden, we see it when the Israelites are held captive in Egypt, and now we’re going to see it again as Israel and Judah are given into the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians.

 

Let’s do a quick fly-by to bring us to this point from where we left off in history. Moses and the Israelites wander around in the desert for a while and eventually reach their promised land in Canaan. The Israelites capture the land under the leadership of Joshua. After Joshua, Israel is led by a series of Judges, people who get Israel out of a bind after they have been stupid over and over (and over) again. After that, Israel is brought together under the kingships of Saul, David, and Solomon. David, like Moses, receives plans for a temple from God, and his son, Solomon completes them, the difference being that Solomon’s temple was much more grand and permanent than Moses’s tent. Moving on, after Solomon’s death, the people divide into northern (Israel) and southern (Judah) kingdoms.

 

God’s people at this point have an ongoing problem. They aren’t following their covenant with God. They prostitute themselves to other gods. Even under dire warnings (Dt 29 and Jer 25, among many others), they continue to make their own way. They aren’t even getting along with each other, hence the divided kingdom. They simply do not get the point, and as a result, God, even while being slow to anger (Exo 34:6), has reached a point where he has to serve justice. And by that, I mean allow Assyrians and Babylonians to come clean house on them.

 

And clean house they do. Israel is pummeled and scattered by the Assyrians. Judah is taken by the Babylonians. King Nebuchadnezzar sieges Jerusalem in about 598 BC and 587 BC, taking the people of Judah into captivity. The second time, the temple of Solomon is destroyed, too. You can find a particularly devastating account of this siege in Jeremiah 52. It’s great bedtime reading for all the kids.

 

What. In. The. World. At this point, it would sure seem like God’s people are done for. They had a pretty good run, but this must be the end.

 

But not all is lost. In Ezekiel 11:16-20, God shows Ezekiel a glimmer of hope, and has him relay the message to the others who are in exile. Even though they are scattered and captive, God is still their sanctuary (or their temple, if you will). He is going to give them back their land, and turn their hearts of stone soft. They’re going to be his people, and he’s going to be their God. Yet, in verses 22 and 23, God shows Ezekiel that his presence is leaving the temple, in the form of a strange cherubim-driven chariot. So God’s not even in his temple anymore, but he’s still with a few of his faithful people who are in exile, sustaining them.

 

Through Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, among others, we see God making some pretty big promises about coming out of exile, a new temple, a messianic king, and a renewed rule (kingdom) of God, for starters. But for the time being, exile is the reality for God’s people.

 

The Persians eventually conquer the Babylonians in 539 BC, and Cyrus the Great allows the Israelites in exile to go home if they want. Only a small portion go back. Maybe now things will get better, back to the good old days. We can get a new king, build the temple again, and God will be with us. We’ll have rest from our enemies.

 

And they do rebuild the temple (see Ezra and Nehemiah about all of this), but it isn’t anything near what it used to be (Hag 2:3), and there is no indication that God’s presence ever fills it like the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple. Something is still not right. God’s people are back to their land, but it doesn’t really feel like home. They are struggling to find their identity again. They’re still not following God’s covenant. Where’s God? What is going on? It’s like the exile never really ended. And perhaps it still hasn’t ended. It has, at best, been replaced by new exiles into new Babylons over the centuries, and that’ll likely be what we continue to see until everything is restored.

 

If this whole thing makes you feel a little bummed, that’s just a taste of the exile feeling. The exile was massively painful for God’s people, and so much of scripture is dedicated to wrestling with the questions and emotions brought up by it. According to many, the narrative of scripture is shaped around it. And exile isn’t just the experience of Israel, it is a reality we share in, as well. While we give Caesar his due, really we are citizens of God’s dimension, heaven (Phil 3:20). So we remain faithful to our God, and hold on to a hope that there is something better just around the corner.

 

“But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” -Malachi 4:2

 

I hope that verse made you smile as it made me smile. There’s hope and a new day. There is indeed a new temple for the Israelites, with the presence of God, even. But it’s not the kind they’re expecting. More on this tomorrow.

 

-Jay Laurent

Responding to the Glory of God

 

Ezekiel 43-44

IMG_0009

Sunday, April 2

How should we respond to God’s glory?

To be able to answer this question, we should know what God’s glory is. A simple definition is His character, holiness, and excellence revealed. It is the essence of God on display.

In today’s passage, we read about Ezekiel experiencing God’s glory in a vision. He hears the voice of the LORD (Yahweh), which sounds like “the roar of rushing waters,” sees the land “radiant with his glory,” and witnesses the glory of Yahweh filling the temple (Ezek. 43:1-6).

You and I will likely never get the opportunity to receive a vision from the Almighty in which we can see His glory in such an amazing fashion. But God has revealed aspects of His character, holiness, and excellence to us in several ways. In these we can experience the glory of God and respond to it.

God has revealed Himself through His creation. This idea is called Natural Revelation. Romans 1:20 says “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” When one looks at nature it is difficult, at least for me, to believe that everything seen came about by chance and was not designed by an intelligent being. While Natural Revelation doesn’t tell us much about who God is, it does show a great deal about what He is capable of and how great He is.

God has also revealed Himself through the scriptures. What Natural Revelation leaves out about who God is, the Bible fills in much more. The writers of each book in the Bible were inspired by God through His holy spirit. They rely stories of the wonderful things He has done and inform readers of what He can do, and some even reveal what He will do in the future. The Bible offers a large portrait of the greatness and goodness of God, but doesn’t give a complete picture. Not until we dwell with Him in His kingdom will we experience the full weight of His glory.

God has revealed Himself through His son. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is an expression often used to illustrate how a son is very much like his father, this could be said of Jesus. But more accurately it would be said that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree at all, it is essentially still part of the tree. Jesus is the exact representation of His father. If we want to get a better picture or understanding of God, the best thing we can do is to simply read the Gospels that tell of Jesus. The character of Christ is the character of God. The attributes Jesus exhibits are the same of his father. The glory of God is seen in His son.

The question still remains, how are we to respond to God’s glory?

I think our response should be twofold.

(1) We should be reverent. God is not like us. He is perfect. He is holy. He has great power. He created the world in which we live and, when we messed it us, had a way to make it right again. So, he deserves to be praised. He is entitled (it is his right) to be worshiped. This reverence we have for God should lead to not just passive adoration, but active glorification. We can stand in church and say God is great, but if we think this to be a great truth, it should move us to give our lives to him and serve him everyday of our lives.

(2) We should be repentant. When I say God is holy this means two things: he is set apart and he is pure. We, as human being who engage in sin, are not pure and we tend to act the same as everyone else, making us not set apart. That being said, we are called to be holy as God is holy. The first step towards holiness is repentance. We must forsake our sin and choose Jesus instead. He is the only one who can make us holy.

As you read our passage for today, as you go outdoors and see the beauty that is nature, and when you read about Jesus in the gospels, think about how you should respond. After all, you’re experiencing God’s glory.

-Joel Fletcher

Joel Fletcher is a former student of ABC. He currently lives in Minnesota with his wonderful wife Stephanie. He likes to read boring non-fiction books, watch boring baseball, and hang out with his NON-BORING wife in his free time. He is planning on teaching a class at FUEL this year (its topic will not be boring).

In His Sanctuary

 

 

 
Ezekiel 40-42

IMG_0007

Saturday, April 1

Confession time: It is really easy for me to skim over these chapters filled with rich detail and precise measurements of the ideal temple. However, I am trying my best to pull some application out of this beautifully described temple.

I do not believe that God would give Ezekiel this vision for no reason. Perhaps God gave Ezekiel this vision to make a point about how God wants the people in exile to live. As a child I can remember being told not to run in the sanctuary. So, instead we learned to play tag, fast-walk edition. I can remember my parents telling me that we did not want to run in God’s house.

Whether it be a sanctuary in our modern-day church, or a temple during the times of Ezekiel, The Holy Spirit dwells in these places of worship. Perhaps God shares vivid imagery of this temple to express how badly he wants to dwell with the Israelites again. God awaits the reconstruction of the temple because he wants to live among the people. God yearns to spend time with us! However, like my parents had to tell me to stop running in the sanctuary, sometimes we need to be disciplined to put us in our place. God had to discipline his chosen people in hopes that they would turn away from their sin and follow the desires of God. In order to change their ways of idolatry and sin, drastic changes were necessary.

Phew! Aside from the description of the breathtaking temple, we have some application!

I pray God blesses you as you continue your daily walk with Him!

-Amber McClain

From Dry Bones to Streets of Gold

Ezekiel 37-39

Ezekiel 37 amber 

Friday, March 31

What a powerful passage.  If you would like a visual of the valley of dry bones, I recommend checking out this minute and a half Youtube clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dafYxu8cQQ).

 

While we can pull out hundreds of things to say about this passage, I am going to stick to two simple ideas.  Ezekiel 37 acts as a double prophecy.  In other words, we can expect two different things to happen:

  1. God will restore Israel and make a nation again from the scattered people. He will bring his chosen people back to the promised land.
  2. God will establish His kingdom on Earth. We know that Jesus is coming back to Earth again to reign until God Himself reigns above all men.

 

We see in Ezra and Nehemiah that prophecy number one is fulfilled as the temple is rebuilt.  In the New Testament we also get a glimpse at prophecy number two.  When Jesus died on the cross we know that the curtain was torn and we have hope in the future Kingdom! After all, Jesus did preach most about the kingdom of God during his time on earth.

 

As my dad says, he has two major goals in life: 1. To be sure he maintains a strong relationship with God, and 2. To get as many people into the Kingdom as possible.  I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to live forever on the streets of gold glorifying God and Jesus all day long! How are you furthering the Kingdom cause through your everyday actions?

 

Revelation 21:1-4: Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look!” God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or morning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

-Amber McClain 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quit Something

Ezekiel 34-36

Ezekiel 34-36

Thursday, March 30

 

“It’s Thursday.  Quit being who you were.” – Bob Goff

 

Bob Goff, the author of “Love Does”, has a weekly ritual.  It’s called “Quit Something Thursday”.  Each Thursday, Bob Goff quits something to free up time or shake things up.  He has quit having an office.  He now works on a lobster boat he refers to as the Goffice.  He quit leaving phone messages to minimize the time that is wasted with the back and forth.  He throws away furniture, and has even resigned from the board of a non-profit charity.  Now the idea is not to back out of your prior commitments and become a wild-card liability for the people around you.  Instead, the idea is to give God room to show you something new. Bob Goff suggests quitting habits that keep us from being the best we can be.  On a more moderate scale, he suggests we might quit keeping score, quit sorting through our failures, or quit believing you are who you used to be.

 

So how does this relate to our reading today?  In Ezekiel 34 the sheep were scattered because the shepherd did not care for them; the shepherd only cared for himself.  However, we learn from Ezekiel 34:2-4 that it is the responsibility of the shepherd to care for the flock.  Instead, the shepherd “eat[s] the curds, clothe[s] [him]self with the wool and slaughtered the choice animals, but [he]did not take care of the flock. [He] did not strengthen the weak or heal the sick or bound up the injured.   [He has] not brought back the strays or searched for the lost” (Ezekiel 34:2-4).  The shepherds are too caught up in their own lives, their own ideas, their own health and fortune, that they lost sight of their purpose.  If not a shepherd, where is their identity? Thankfully God takes action and tells of the time when David (David’s line) will be the shepherd and God himself will be their God.  We see parts of the kingdom here on earth now, and we wait excitedly for the return of Jesus and the kingdom on earth.

 

We, too are shepherds tending to a flock.  As Christians who are no longer on milk, we have a flock to tend to.  We have a Church who needs us to show up in more ways than to simply fill a seat on Sunday.  As the shepherd cares for the flock, and strengthens the weak, we are called to do the same.

 

So the question becomes: what are you going to quit so that you can tend to your flock? Is your plate overfilled? How will you re-evaluate your obligations so that they align with your true priorities? It’s Thursday – quit something! I am going to quit washing my clothes because it takes up valuable time I could be investing in others…kidding mom, I really do wash my clothes.  But in all seriousness, I will quit placing so much emphasis on how others perceive me, and instead trust that the identity I have in Christ will carry me where I need to go.  What will you quit?

 

“We can’t change much if we don’t quit much” – Bob Goff

 

-Amber McClain

Return of the Watchman

Ezekiel 32-33

Ezekiel 32-33 amber

Wednesday, March 29

Ezekiel never fails to leave us with descriptive imagery and analogies.  Today is no exception, Ezekiel has left us a list of vivid images that reveal the plans for numerous groups of people.  The people of Assyrica, Elam, Meshek, Tubal, Edom, Princes of the North, Sidonians, Judah, and Egypt all fall to the sword of Babylon.  In the visual above, I have charted what this decline tends to look like.  NOTE: The Bible does not explicitly say that each of these groups fell in the same exact way; we do not know the details. However, we can say that each group of people did not follow God with their hearts and minds, which led to their fall from the sword of Babylon.

 

Ezekiel’s second calling as a watchman is also a significant event.   Thanks to Jeff Fletcher, we have a great recount of his first calling.  Once again, God uses repetition to stress the importance of the event. However, we can fall into an easy misconception that we as people are responsible for changing people and making them believe in the one true God and the hope we have in the eternal kingdom.  We cannot change people.  Only God through the work of the Holy Spirit can change our hearts and minds.  As shown through the example of Ezekiel as a watchman, we are responsible for planting seeds and illuminating the light of God.  We are called to holy lives, set aside from the world.  The Holy Spirit works in wondrous ways, bandaging wounds and changing hearts that we as humans cannot do.  It is our responsibility to share our faith and hope, but not our responsibility to change someone.  It can be frustrating not seeing the immediate results of our witnessing, but rest easy knowing God IS working!

 

I often find solace and motivation to keep on from Matthew 5:16:

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”

May God bless you and your peers today as you share the Good News and hope we have in the return of our Savior!!

-Amber McClain

The Cycle

Ezekiel 29-31

ezekiel 29-31

Tuesday, March 28

Like Tyre and the other nations mentioned in Ezekiel 25, God will place Egypt into the hands of Babylon.

 

Here are a few of the main points/interpretations and moments of personal application that I picked out in our passages today as noted by the visual above:

  • Egypt = monster
    • Egypt will be like a sea monster with hooks in their jaw, and fish leaching onto its scales (29:3-5).
    • God will bring a sword (Babylon) against Egypt and they will become a scattered and desolate land (29:11)
    • After 40 years, God will reunite Egypt and they will be a lowly kingdom (29:15)

 

  • Egypt = Assyria = Garden of Eden
    • Assyria was once a thriving, beautiful nation. Even the “garden of God” (Eden) could not rival it” (31:8)!
    • Assyria was taken captive by the Babylon’s and Egypt has the same fate.

 

  • Life Application: I am a big-picture person. Therefore, it feels like I have basically read the same thing for the past five chapters.  The cycle looks something like this: there is a nation that disobeys God and subsequently God sends Babylon to conquer them, leading them to desolate decline.  So, what can we learn from this cycle? We learn that this matter is important to God because he repeats it over and over again.  God is trying to relay an important message to His children because He continually makes the same point through the prophet Ezekiel.  I pray that the Holy Spirit is working in your heart and mind as you read this text, and that you might open your heart to the change God desires.  What is God trying to show you through this repetition?

 

For me, I come back to the theme that God yearns for our attention.  He longs to hear from us and be in communion with us.  In Ezekiel, we see that God longs for the nations to follow Him and is willing to go to extreme measures to call His children back home.  I Corinthians 6:19 comes to mind, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you whom you have received from God?  You are not your own”.  We are not our own, but belong to God.  How can you break-up with your old self and give a new part of your plans, emotions, desires, and abilities to God?  God longs to hear from YOU!

-Amber McClain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Shift in Tone

Ezekiel 27-28

ezekiel 27-28 amber

Monday, March 27

Thanks to Rachel Cain’s devotion on Lamentations recently, we know that to lament means to mourn. Here, God tells Ezekiel to mourn Tyre.  To me, this looks like a shift in what we saw yesterday.  In our reading yesterday, God told the rebellious people not to mourn.  Here, God is calling for a season of mourning.

 

At the beginning, we see that Tyre was a great nation.  Some of the vivid imagery is displayed in the visual above.  Tyre is compared to great ship.  The ship is made of the finest wood and cloth; Tyre was a wealthy city who traded with many.

 

However, in 27:26, we see another tonal shift.  The east winds will come and break this beautiful, seemingly perfect ship into pieces.  Although I am by no means a Bible scholar, it seems like a fair assumption to say the east winds represent Babylon.  Tyre will be destroyed by Babylon, just like the nations foretold in Chapter 25.

 

We see this theme continuing in Chapter 28.  God tells Ezekiel in reference to Tyre, “Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations” (28:6).  Here, it is evident that pride is once again an obstacle for Tyre.  Their pride blocks their vision of the True God; whether explicitly stated or not, through the actions of Tyre.

 

Application to our lives: Although we may not explicitly state we are a god, do we sometimes un-purposefully act as though we are? Do we act as if we are entitled to a life of abundance?  Do we let our pride obstruct the divine glory of God?  I know that I can act this way sometimes.  When I feel these emotions creeping up on me, I remind myself of my identify I have in Christ, not my identity I have built up in treasures on earth such as pride and wealth.  I think of the disciples and how they left everything to follow Jesus.  This seems to be a theme I keep coming back to in Ezekiel.

-Amber McClain

 

 

 

 

 

Bearer of Bad News

Ezekiel 24-26

ezekiel 24-26 amber

Sunday, March 26

When I think of Ezekiel, the phrase “bearer of bad news” comes to mind.  After completing numerous acts of valor such as eating a scroll, becoming mute, laying on his side for over a year, shaving his head, and scattering his hair among the Earth, Ezekiel continues to be one of the few servants of God in his time.  As a major prophet, he does not have news of prosperity and victory to recount to the people.  Instead, he continues to call the rebellious people in exile (and in the surrounding nations) to repentance, ultimately forewarning of their destruction and the destruction of Jerusalem.

 

To me, Ezekiel is no “easy read”.  At times, these scriptures seem abstract and I have a hard time finding application to my daily life. Therefore, I have created a visual to help me, and hopefully some of you understand some of the main concepts in these passages.  I hope these illustrations help some of the content “stick” and become real for you.  If my amateur doodles aren’t your thing, I completely understand that too J

 

Here are a few of the main points/interpretations and moments of personal application that I picked out in our passages today as noted by the visual above:

  • Parable: Jerusalem as a Cooking pot
    • Pot = Jerusalem
    • Scum = corruption of the people *notice this corruption is visible; it cannot be hidden from God.
    • Choice meat = God’s chosen people
    • The meat (God’s people) is thrown out because it is ruined from the scum (corruption/sin)
    • The pot must be set on coals until it’s impurities are burned away (Jerusalem must be destroyed).
    • Application to our lives: Don’t let the scum of your life keep you from bearing good fruits. Find your peace and fulfilment in God, not in the approval of others, your work, sin, the media, and other worldly influences. These things will fail you, God will never fail you.

 

  • Death of Ezekiel’s Wife
    • Ezekiel is told not to mourn, but “groan quietly” (24:17)
    • Interpretation: God instructs Ezekiel and the community not to mourn as he tries to give them perspective into their behaviors. The rebellious people do not mourn when the temple, which should be “the object of their affection” (25:21), is destroyed.  Therefore, they ought not mourn when something of lesser tragedy takes place.  God should be the top priority of all men.
    • Application to our lives: Where are your priorities? Do you value the gifts of this earth more than you value the glory of God? Do you worship the approval of others, celebrities, idols, your children or spouse on accident?

 

  • Prophesies against nations near Judah
    • Because the nations of Ammon, Moab, Tyre, Philistia, and Edom did not care when the temple was destroyed or when the people of Judah went into exile, they will also be punished. The entire nation will know that HE IS GOD.
    • Application to our lives: Earlier in Ezekiel we read that Ezekiel will be held accountable for the sins of others if he fails to spread God’s word. Here we see that other nations are held accountable to a similar degree. We too must spread the good news to ALL nations! What a blessing and a privilege!

 

Do you allow yourself to accept the peace that only God brings?

-Amber McClain

 

Amber McClain cannot wait for the Kingdom.  If she won the lottery she would 1.) Buy a helicopter so that she could spend weekdays learning and teaching in the USA and weekends with our brothers and sisters abroad.  2.) Pay for her fiancé, Josiah to get his helicopter-flying license, and 3.) Throw a world-wide pizza & prayer party; everyone in the world is invited!