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Jun 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapter 19 – 06/16/2024

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion.                       Grace and Peace to you!

Happy Father’s Day to those who are celebrating.  A blessing of Peace to those who aren’t.  I know many men who were not raised by good fathers who have somehow become wonderful fathers themselves.  Congratulations!  You are overcomers.  Isn’t it remarkable that we know what a good father should look like even if we didn’t have one?  It must be because our Heavenly Father put his image in us all.

How are you feeling about the last few chapters of Revelation?  Is there an image or a sense that is staying with you?  For me, I’m just getting an image of Yellow Flashing Lights…like Warning, Slow Down, Proceed with Caution!  It’s like when you’re traveling at a safe speed, keeping up with traffic on a straight road, but then you see these lights indicating that there’s a turn ahead, or construction, or a detour.  That’s what I’m sensing.

In reading Revelation, it seems like, in Chuck’s words, there’s “a threatening closeness;”  and we hear the constant admonition to endure, to wait, to be patient, and to be faithful to Jesus. 

Jim, thank you for your talk last week.  We especially appreciated your filling in the context of the passage in John 18.  The question Pilate asked, “What is Truth” may very well be the question for our time.  It requires us all to deeply ask and discern our answers.  The Truth about the two kingdoms, the Truth about who we are, the Truth about the Church, the Truth about what love looks like, the Truth about what we are putting our faith and trust in.  The Truth about life and death. 

When the disciples asked how to pray, Jesus told them to “pray like this” and then gave them what is called “The Lord’s Prayer.”  I’m praying this morning the prayer as it is in the King James Version, which is what I grew up with.  Join me if you will.

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name. 
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
     for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
    who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,
“Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God,
    all you his servants,
you who fear him,
    small and great.”

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
Revelation 19:1-8

Intro: This is a fascinating chapter

It is complex, and it is put together well
– the chapter divides into two parts:
• in the first half, heaven reverberates with praise
• in the second half, Jesus leads heaven’s army in a final battle

The praise in the first half progresses like stair steps
We want to watch where these stairs lead
First: a great multitude, crying out
– they begin with a Hebrew word not translated into Greek, “Hallelujah”
• this word will be sung three more times
– their song is praise to God for his judgment against Babylon
– a second verse, praise for the smoke rising from her ruins
• forever and ever – literally to the eons and eons
• in other words, Babylon will never again be a problem
◦ this is the end of humans ruling over humans
Second: the familiar faces around God’s throne
(twenty-four elders and four living creatures)
– they do not add a new verse, but simply affirm what’s been sung already
– they add another untranslated Hebrew word: Amen
Third: the mysterious voice from the throne (that we’ve heard before)
– a call or invitation for God’s servants to worship
Fourth: the great multitude again, – the crescendo
– Babylon is in the rearview mirror
• there’s something new on the horizon
– now we can see where the stairway leads:
• from the great prostitute, to the Lamb and his Bride
• from one woman to another

The marriage about to take place is a surprise

There has been no mention of this until now
– we find hints of it in the gospels and Ephesians 6
• the Bride is given something
◦ the opportunity to prepare herself for the wedding
fine linen, bright and pure
• at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, the worship leaders,
◦ (musicians and singers) were dressed in fine linen (2 Chr. 5:12)
◦ this reiterates what we learned in first chapter about Jesus making us priests to his God (Rev. 1:6)
– fine linen are the saints’ righteous deedsreminder: righteousness is relational

The excitement doesn’t end here
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy
Revelation 19:9-10

Worship is for God exclusively
– worshipers are servants of God – witnesses of Jesus (Acts 1:8)
– the spirit behind all prophecy gives witness to Jesus
• and Jesus gives witness to God – Whoever has seen me has seen the Father

Before we move on . . .

At times, this praise to God’s for judgments has bothered me
– judgment seems like something that should be mourned
• it is a cause for deep sorrow and not enthusiastic joy
• what was I not seeing?
– we have to imagine ourselves in their situation
• these are the voices of people who have been oppressed (like Israel in Egypt)
◦ nations became great by riding on the backs of the poor
◦ they were exploited, abused, held down, and mistreated
• other nations had shed the blood of many of God’s people
◦ so, when they see their oppressors taken down, they rejoice

Perhaps you’ve heard of the troubles of the Southern Baptist Convention over the past three years
– widespread instances of pastors sexually abusing women and children
• two women in particular, spoke out courageously
◦ they were accused of lying, told it was their fault
◦ warned not to harm the ministry of “God’s anointed”
◦ they were ridiculed and threatened
• but eventually the truth came to light
– Tim Alberta interviewed of these women and one of them, “told me that her trauma had brought her into a closer relationship with God–and fundamentally changed the way she reads scripture. Whereas she once primarily studied the teachings of Jesus, she had, in recent years, developed a fondness for the front of the book.”
“I used to have a hard time reconciling the God of the Old Testament–all that doom and gloom and anger–with the idea of a loving God. But now, having lived this hell with the SBC, I like God’s anger and judgment. I understand it. I relate to it. I can see how betrayed God must have felt watching people mock His name with the way they treated each other.”
• that helps me to understand and appreciate the joyful side of justice

God’s judgment is not as personal as we tend to imagine

Though it looks to us like he’s sending fire and hail,
– most of the pain that comes from doing wrong is a natural consequence
• God did not have to launch an assault on Babylon
• the great city fell under the weight of its own sins
– the great prostitute was the epitome of world systems
• she served the gods of materialism, warfare, and sensuality
◦ she had persecuted and martyred God’s prophets and witnesses
◦ she collapsed because she was spiritually and morally bankrupt

The second half of the chapter records the last rebellion of humankind
(and it’s short-lived)
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in[b] blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19:11-16

The vision uses the analogy of warfare, but I don’t think we should take that too literally
– we just need to realize that Christian development is over against forces of resistance

Notice that in this section Jesus is not referred to here as “the Lamb” !!!
– he enters the scene prepared for battle
• in fact, what to call him is something of an enigma in this section
– in verse 11 he is “called” Faithful and True – titles that speak of his character
• in verse 13 he’s called The Word of God, which tells us something about his person
Long ago, at man times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son . . . (Heb. 1:1-2)
◦ and, of course, John’s gospel
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14)
– John says that this is the name by which he is “called”
• it isn’t his true name, but a name that defines his ministry
• in verse 16, he has another name written, King of kings and Lord of lords
◦ these are titles that identify his new relationship to world
– the mystery is in verse 12,
he has a name written that no one knows but himself
• it seems that he has just been named several times!
◦ but as I pointed out, most of these are titles, not names
• what is John getting at?
– Jesus became human, but he was always more than human
• he is something that we are not – that we’ll never be
◦ if we heard his name, we wouldn’t know that we heard it
◦ it belongs to another dimension – that larger reality
• for us, the divine nature of Jesus is unknowable
◦ there is no science that can discover it
◦ there is no rational argument that can define or prove it
• when we embrace Jesus, we surrender to a mystery

The battle itself is over before it begins

Robin Robertson, “This is a battle which is really no battle at all, because the reactionary forces have long since lost. They have merely been allowed their short period of rule.”
The sword in the Lord’s mouth is, of course, symbolic
– he speaks the word, and its creative force makes it a reality
– here is a second invitation to a “supper” in this chapter (see vv. 9 & 17)

We witnessed the fall of Babylon in chapters 17-18
– here we witness the demise of the diabolical powers behind world empires
• first the political beast empowered by the dragon (Satan)
◦ and his spokesperson, the false prophet who published the beast’s propaganda
• I read this and feel a great sense of relief
◦ the world will not always be what it is now

Conclusion: This chapter illustrates God’s victory in our lives

We come to him, and he frees us from the invisible powers
One day we rebel–maybe not big, but just a little–
and then God wins another victory in our lives
Along the way, we become what he has called us to be:
Servants: What does this mean for me? To whom am I a servant?
Worshipers: Praising God for who he is and what he does
There is a spiritual sensitivity that notices every trace of God in one’s surroundings
and responds with thankfulness and praise
It can become like a reflex
and though a reflex, no less heart-felt and true
I want to be that worshiper
I’m thinking that it is practice that makes it a reflex

Jun 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jesus Before Pilate – 06/09/2024

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion Community!    Grace and Peace to you!

There was a meme going around this week.  It read, “What I thought was age-related memory loss was really just a failure to turn off auto pilot.” In our study of The Book of Revelation (the unveiling), we are learning how to learning to say “no” to the world’s systems and practices (political, financial, social).  Another thing I’m saying “no” to is auto pilot.  Well, I need auto pilot for brushing my teeth and washing my face, but there are so many other experiences where I don’t take the opportunity to be fully present.

Desire, Intention, Invitation–these concepts have been bubbling up for me this week as I’ve been re-reading Gerald May’s The Awakened Heart  Dr. May says “Seek your own experience; try to trust in your authenticity and in what love seems to be calling forth from your heart.”  My heart?  Is it awake?  Do I really know what I deeply desire or am I on auto pilot, and have I expressed my intentions to God, and well, to my own self?  What am I invited to do by heart?

I’m also listening to a podcast covering The Way of the Pilgrim, a little book by an anonymous Russian peasant in the 19th century.  In the pilgrim’s case, though a was a faithful Christian, a little phrase from scripture awakened a longing in his heart, and he began his ”journey to love.” 

We have always had desires (or we may call them longings), and intentions, and most certainly fulfilled them in a way that seemed right to us at the time.  We made our way, or as they would say, “You make the road by walking.”  I followed a lot of invitations for the wrong reasons, fulfilling shallow desires.  And through all those dead-end roads, mysterious, amazing grace has seen me and led me. So, now, do I consider myself a pilgrim on the journey to love?  Well, I am making space now to become more aware of my deeper longings and to make my intention the way of love and then to follow invitations that align.  Can I discern God’s invitations to me at this stage of my life?  A road that recognizes and trusts the abiding, empowering presence of God…that is what I deeply desire.  Or will I keep myself too busy, too noisy, on auto pilot?  If love is as Dr. May describes it, “the fundamental energy of the human spirit, the fuel on which we run, the wellspring of our vitality,” then love is the beginning of and the reason for everything.”

We keep refining.  What do we really want?  What are our intentions?  The invitations come.  Do they align with my core longings?  If we let the Spirit awaken our hearts to his way for us, we might just find that our longings are but an echo of God’s own longings for us.  Love has found us and is drawing us toward itself.  We make our road by walking a journey to love.

Join me to pray:  Father, you are generous and patient with us.  Let us see what our hearts are truly longing for, what your heart is longing for.  We look into our hearts not only as the center of our emotions, but as the very place where your ongoing, self-donating, empowering presence dwells.  Let us settle ourselves now in the Presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus as we are together this morning. Open our ears.  Open our hearts.  Amen

Morning Talk: Jim Calhoun

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
John 18:33-70

I want to start by filling in the context of this story in hopes I can show why it is so compelling to me at this moment. Why what Jesus has said is so needed just now.
The Pharisees were the backbone of Jewish society. They were, at least to their own minds, the protectors of the Jews.

After the Exile
The people of the land and the Samaritans
Oral Torah
Theocratic nationalists

For many years the Jews and the Romans got along well. There was trade of course. Mostly the Romans had a hands off policy until there was a civil war that needed to be settled.
Removed the royal family from power
Became increasingly involved in religious affairs taxing a vassal state.

The Sadducees were a class of priests that believed that sacrifice at the temple was the primary religious duty of the Jews. They were supportive of adapting and adopting Roman customs and perspectives largely okay with the Romans. They were more connected to the power and wealth brought by Rome. They rejected the oral Torah
They helped reduce resistance to Rome
But there was resistance to Rome.
Judas of Galilee and the census
The zealots were just like the Pharisees with the added belief that decisive action was needed
Theocratic nationalists
Believed in the violent defense of the law of God

So the Sanhedrin drag Jesus to Pilate
Both Pharisees and Sadducees
A governmental body Rome allowed to settle inter-Jewish disputes.
But they can’t condemn Jesus to death.
They can’t enter the Praetorium because it will make them unclean.
Can you feel the cultural, political tension here?

The Sadducees see Jesus as a threat to their power and status and gladly hand him over to the Romans.
The Pharisees see him as a threat to their system of keeping the Jews safe.
So they collude together to have Jesus killed by telling Pilate that he is a zealot, an insurrectionist, a king.
Pilate interviews Jesus and Jesus interviews Pilate.
Pilate firsts asks Jesus “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus asks a clarifying question “Is this your opinion?”
Pilate explained he holds no opinion but that his own people have handed him over.
Jesus answers with “my kingdom”
Pilate responds, so you are a king?

Pilate’s job is to administer the state.
To see if there is a threat to the state
To see if Jesus is an insurrectionist, a zealot or a revolutionary.
He sees that Jesus is no threat in the ordinary sense. He is concerned about truth and other worlds and that is no threat to the Roman Empire. Pilate sees no threat and intends to set him free. But these things, truth and kingdom of God are an existential threat to the Jews. Jesus challenges every aspect of their lives and they want him and his teachings and his point of view silenced.

Pilate offers to set him free and the Jews won’t have it.
In the end they prefer to release a real zealot, Barabbas.
Falsely accused of being an insurrectionist Jesus is swapped out for a real insurrectionist.
What is truth?

Political expediency dismisses the discipline of holding fast to the truth. Political operatives play fast and loose with the truth. They will resent you for elucidating the truth. They will apply pressure on you to change your stance on the truth. The truth often stands between them and what they want, most often more power or more money, and it is quickly swept aside.

This is the way of politics. And it is the way of power. It is a trap. Even when you win this way you build distrust and resentment.

When someone, anyone is dismissive of verifiable evidence that goes against their claims, if they are unwilling to make the adjustment to best evidence, when they endlessly muddy the waters, then you can be sure there is a quest for power or money or both and you should be very cautious about them, their plans, their claims and their efforts to persuade you to join them.

Jesus came to bear witness to the truth
He was and is the living truth.
So it is our calling as followers of Jesus to also bear witness to the truth.
We cannot just say things because we like them, or wish they were true, or because we don’t or won’t get our way.
We will bear witness to the truth even when it is to our disadvantage. Even if we lose an argument. Even if our pet project dies. Even if we lose face or status or power.
If we are followers of Jesus

Jesus said:
My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.

Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. We know this right? But it is a challenge. It is at this point I feel like this talk is a footnote to Chuck’s talks on Revelation. Especially last week’s reading of chapter 18

I’ll try to explain
Babylon is the image (the symbol) of the state, the forces of this world, the power, the wealth, the trade and merchants, the distraction and opulence and entertainment. Of every time. Of every place. The kingdom of this world. In this way, even Christendom, in all of its iterations are just outposts of Babylon.

We should make note here about those who call themselves Christians. Many use the term as a cultural identity in one of its many iterations. Or that they prefer and support Christendom one of the outposts of Babylon.

Some mean that they are followers of Jesus which is a whole different level and an important distinction. By the way, my job isn’t to line people up and decide who is in or who is out. I’m not even to do that for myself. I am not in the place to judge another’s servant. Nor can I judge myself.

My job is to set the intention of my heart and to make every correction I can along the way to the call of the one who loves me. As God calls me, and prints me and heals me and instructs me and grows me and corrects me I become better able to serve well. And for you too.

This, Babylon, is where we live, it makes endless demands upon us, it controls many of our thoughts and actions. It limits our possibilities. It binds up our hearts and minds and holds us captive. It is all consuming.

From Revelation 18:4-5, Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.

Jesus is calling us to His kingdom
That is the whole point of the sermon on the Mount.
That is the whole point of the signs and wonders.
That is the whole point of the parables and hard teaching.
Jesus’ kingdom awaits us.

We bring about the destruction of Babylon in our hearts by turning toward Jesus’ kingdom. Each step we take toward Jesus kingdom tears down Babylon and our allegiance, our dependence, our bond to it.

Jesus said “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting”
Isn’t this fascinating?
Isn’t it thrilling?
Jesus’ kingdom is something completely different.
But this kingdom cannot be founded with violence. It cannot be won by fighting.

Before the guards came to get Jesus as he his preparing to go to the the garden to pray, Jesus tells the disciple to buy a sword if they have money enough. They produce two swords they already possess Peter has one and likely Simon the zealot one of the twelve had one as well. Jesus says, “Oh, well that’s enough.”

Enough for what exactly? To fight a group of guards? No. In terms of self-defense or fighting it is good for exactly nothing. Even when Peter uses one Jesus is quick to heal the guard and tells his disciples to stop.

Violence is the “normal” human way to establish a kingdom on earth. But it is not possible to bring God’s kingdom by violence.

It has been tried
Lord knows it has been tried, and the results have been destructive, leaving a stain on the name of Christ.
The Crusades
The world slave trade
The treatment of indigenous people
Sadly these are the fruits of Babylon and its outposts.

But violence cannot establish the kingdom of God in part or in whole.
Christians cannot rely on it to witness to God’s great love.
How could they possibly.

Now you may be thinking he is talking about MAGA. You are right.
You may be thinking he is talking about Antifa. You are right
Or the boogaloo boys in their chinos and torches
Or animal liberationists
Or slow growth
Or Christian militia.
Or any other faction or group that encourages or practices violence
But not if you are a follower of Jesus.
Violence will only make a mess of things.

And this isn’t just daggers or guns or bombs.
It includes all forms of violence. Take time to review the works of the flesh in Galatians chapter 5. It is all the ways we tear others down.

There is a great sadness for me in this. To my mind there has been a turning away from Jesus over the past decades and what was once unthinkable behavior is happening right before our eyes. I suspect that there may be growing threats of violence in our society from every direction and people who think of themselves as Christian will be tempted to join in since it feels powerful and seems expedient. This is unbearably sad to me.

I have been reading the stories of Dostoevsky lately and one of the recurring themes in his work is the love triangle. I was confused by this especially after learning that he personally experienced this ten years after he began using it. But he was a spiritual writer in a fashion illuminating spiritual truths through everyday realities and then it dawned on me.

In the love triangle I love you, but you love another. It is heart wrenching and if you have ever been involved you know. It illustrates a situation all too common. God loves me, offers me wholeness, freedom and entry into the kingdom, but I turn to the side to love another hoping to meet my needs, my desires, satisfy my resentments maybe, to fulfill my life. I am turning away from who loves me fully and completely. This is the very essence of tragedy.

Let me clear,
the world does not need the followers of Jesus to join in whatever movement and just repeat what others are doing.
What the world needs is for the followers of Jesus to bring their unique perspectives and gifts into our concrete situation

Hear the voice of the Holy Spirit
Turn and turn and turn again toward the God who loves us
The fruit of the spirit and sacrifice
Compassion and neighborliness
Forgiveness and reconciliation
Attending to the least of these
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

The world doesn’t need us to come up with some big program, to win office, to be endorsed by celebrities. Or have a catchy tune.
It doesn’t need us to have deep pockets or find venture capitalists, or a run capital campaign or secure grants or loans. It doesn’t need us to work a PR program, a Super Bowl ad, a bumper sticker, a frame for our license plate or doodads and geegaws
It doesn’t need more evidence that demands a verdict or a master plan of evangelism or some other pyramid scheme

The world needs us to be followers of Jesus, who each day follow Jesus step-by step-out of Babylon and into the kingdom of God.

And the world, our neighbors, our individual neighbor with whom we have contact in our actual unique concrete situation, these people need the followers of Jesus to love with love that looks like and feels like God’s love in order to help them join in the migration out of Babylon.

Jun 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapters 17-18 06/02/2024

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Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion!  How beautiful it is to be together in this new space!  Grace and Peace to you!

Chuck left us with questions last week.  Have you been pondering them? First, he asked, “What are you going to do about the beast?” For me, what I’m going to do is to first recognize the beast!  Chuck also said, “The beast never shows up in his true form.  He floats in like an angel of light and speaks in soft tones.  Only when he’s enslaved a person, does he remove the disguise.” 

I have heard it said that bank tellers are trained to recognize counterfeit money just by repeatedly handling the real.  Then if the counterfeit is offered, they recognize the imposter.  I think it’s the same way with the dragon and the beasts. Paul said he let go of everything to know Christ Jesus, his Lord.  Jesus said that if we abide in his word, we will be his disciples and the Truth will set us free.  To know Christ as Lord is to know the Truth of Christ and to recognize the ways of those anti-Christs (the dragon and the beasts in Revelation’s terms).  So, what am I going to do about them?  First of all, recognize them! 

And then boycott them.  We are familiar with the term boycott to mean to refuse to support, to refuse to buy their products.  Wikipedia’s definition: “A boycott is an act of nonviolent, voluntary abstention from a product, person, organization, or country as an expression of protest. It is usually for moral, social, political, or environmental reasons.  The purpose of a boycott is to inflict some economic loss on the target, or to indicate a moral outrage, usually to try to compel the target to alter an objectionable behavior.” 

I remember that the fifth bowl of Revelation was poured on the throne of the beast, not the beast per se, but on his throne.  The throne represents the seat of political power. This plague plunged his kingdom into darkness, and it wasn’t the beast who suffered, but the people under his rule.  It’s an ongoing struggle that is both within our own inner life, within our spiritual community, and within our nation.  We face the conflict with purpose, with intention, and with the Spirit of Christ.

We remember that Babylon invaded Judah in several stages before it was taken.  Can we see through the propaganda, promises and pressure to the ways of manipulation, injustice, hatred, and division?  Can we stay true to what we believe and remember who we are: disciples of Jesus?  That is how we will resist and conquer the beasts.    Yes? 

Join me to pray:  Eternal Father may your will be done.  As we move from immaturity to maturity, may we have ears to hear your voice and let us be careful to discern the spirits.  We pray for your intervention in our lives, the lives of those you love, and for our nation.  Keep us from idols.  May your Kingdom come.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk Revelation 17:1-2

Intro: I’m going to begin with a quote by St. Augustine

In The City of God he traces two cities through world history
Augustine, “Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly [city] by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly [city] by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord.”
– John, the visionary, identifies the heavenly city as Jerusalem and the earthly city Babylon
• Babylon is featured in chapters 17 and 18, then in chapters 21-22 we visit the new Jerusalem
– Growing up, I was taught that in these chapters of Revelation, Babylon was the Roman Catholic Church
• this was reinforced in commentaries and books I read later on
◦ but one morning, reading these chapters, I said to myself, |
“This is not the Roman Catholic Church! If anything, it’s the USA.”
• now I realize that the city revealed exercises a worldwide and inescapable influence

One last time, we’ll review roots of spiritual Babylon

In the genealogy of Noah in Genesis, one person stands out:
Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD (Ge. 10:8-9)
– he caught God’s attention, but there’s no indication that he walked with God
The beginning of his kingdom was Babel . . . in the land of Shinar (Ge. 10:10)
• the region where the city of Babylon would be built many years later
◦ in the next chapter of Genesis we find the Tower of Babel
◦ the ambition of the builders was threefold:
1. that the top would reach into the heavens
2. that they would thereby make a name for themselves
3. to prevent them from being scattered from each other across the world
• to thwart their project, God cut off their communication with each other
◦ their confusion (Babel) prevented them from completing their project
◦ but the impulse that drove them was the same that drove Nimrod
Nimrod is a prototype
• he distinguished himself as a independent, legendary hero
• he made his own way through the world – relied fully on himself
But,
Nimrod is also an antitype
• his is the mirror image of Abraham who is distinguished by his faith
Babylon is a prototype
• it is the epitome of all cities, civilization, and human enterprise
• Babylon is the embodiment of power, self-rule, and self-determination
But,
Babylon is also an antitype
• it is the mirror image of Jerusalem, the holy city of God
Babylon is an antitype in another way
• In chapter 12, we saw that Israel was a mother who gave birth to the Messiah
• Babylon, on the other hand, is “the great prostitute”

John gets his first sight of Babylon
And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman siting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus
Revelation 17:3-6a

The actual city of Babylon was destroyed 600 years before John’s vision
– but it was still very much alive in Israel’s memory
• it was the monster that devoured Jerusalem
◦ that oppressed the Jews and dragged them into exile
• Babylon is depicted as a woman, is on the back of a beast
– the beast is the true face of the invisible political powers
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ep. 6:12)
• in verse 18, the Greek word that is translated “city” is polis – like a metropolis or, by extension, politics
• here is we see the underworld of political influence without its mask
◦ it is a beast – animalistic, predatory that uses its power to dominate, oppress, and acquire wealth
– in verse 2, earthlings are drunk on Babylon’s wine
• in verse 6, she is also drunk, with the blood of the saints, the blood of the witnesses of Jesus
• the earthly city rejects and excludes anyone and anything it cannot own or can’t seduce

The angel gives Babylon a title (like sometimes LA has the title, “The City of Angels”)
– her title: “the great prostitute” – this is a metaphor we find frequently in the Hebrew prophets
playing the whore with other gods was an extreme form of spiritual adultery (Jer. 3:6; Eze. 16:34)
• the in the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek,
◦ the same word for sexual immorality is used both there and here in Revelation
◦ that is why we interpret sexual immorality as infidelity to God
(Israel’s true husband and lover–i.e., Jer. 2:1-5 & 3:1)
Jacques Ellul, “Prostitution is the diabolical parody of love”
◦ like Samson, unlucky in love, settled for sex with a prostitute (Jdg. 16:1-3)
– prostitution turns sex into a commodity
• it is business – without commitment, without intimacy, without caring for the other person
• Babylon turns everything into a commodity – chapter 18
◦ the list of her merchandise includes the bodies and souls of humans
◦ when the world has your soul, you are owned
In the context of profit and loss, Jesus asks, For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Mt. 16:26)
◦ to lose your soul is to lose everything–and Babylon always strikes deals at the cost of a soul
• again, Babylon’s influence is like “wine” – a stimulant
◦ it intensifies passions, lowers inhibitions, affects thinking, and is addictive
• her forehead is tattooed with a name – as the Father’s name was imprinted on the 144,000, (Rev. 14:1)
◦ Babylon imitates God, because she intends to replace God
◦ therefore, she has
the forehead of a whore;
you refuse to be ashamed (Jer. 3:3)
◦ Babylon wears her name like an emblem of defiance

John’s first impression of Babylon
When I saw her, I marveled greatly. But the angel said to me, “Why do your marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her Revelation 17:6b-7

If you’ve ever visited a beautiful city for first time, you understand why John can’t help but be enamored
• whether it was Babylon’s wealth and splendor, its gross consumerism, or its brutality–he marveled
– I am not able to imagine the angel’s tone when he asked John, “Why do you marvel?”
• at first it sounds like a rebuke, but may be a simple question leading into an explanation
◦ he informs John about the beast behind world powers:
◦ what he is and what he does
• his seven heads are seven mountains – okay
◦ but then the seven heads are also seven kings
Jacques Ellul, “we find here again the plurality of meaning in symbols . . . . but at times the author gratuitously complicates the situation when he writes that the beast belongs to the seven but that it is nevertheless an eighth king”
• “kings” symbolize the political power of governments
◦ seven is the fullness of that power – complete control

The world rulers receive their kingdoms and authority from the beast
– but then, when they have firm control of their empires,
• they turn around and hand their power and authority over to beast
– when the beast receives the power of the nations, he goes to war against the Lamb
• it seems odd that in this role Jesus doesn’t appear as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”
◦ from the warfare perspective, not a lamb is not very impressive or frightening
• but Jesus has never been concerned with his “image”
◦ real power doesn’t need to sell itself to the crowds
the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings (v. 14)
◦ this part of the vision ends with a full statement regarding Babylon
And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth Revelation 17:18

I am currently reading through the Psalms
– when I read Psalm 2 this week, I realized it how it is like an illustration of this chapter in Revelation
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed [Messiah], saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
. . . .
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all those who take refute in him (Ps. 2:1-3 & 10-12)
In my meditation I wrote: “The nations are world governments. The kings and rulers are the political powers that run the governments. What is this uproar about, this casting their cords from us? It’s the ancient demand for autonomy that runs through human history. It is civilizations’ ‘will to power.’ From the Tower of Babel to the present day, we have defiantly proclaimed, ‘Our will be done!’
I’m thinking we need to be cautious of every human institution. Power doesn’t corrupt; power is neutral. People corrupt the potential uses of power–even people who start out with the best and most benevolent
intentions. In this context, every church is also a human institution. The problem that haunts us is that no institution can be any more perfect that the people who run it–and every institution is run by people.”

I am going to share three thoughts from chapter 18, then read through it aloud
(It doesn’t require much explanation, and if you’re reading these notes online, you can read the chapter aloud for yourself–you will get the same feeling from it as hearing it read)

First, we are shown the wealth, glory and cultural riches of Babylon
– luxury goods, fine foods, musical entertainment
• but it appears in the context of its destruction, ruin, and loss
• both Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied of literal Babylon, that it would become a ghost town:
a heap of ruins, the haunt of jackals,
a horror and a hissing, without inhabitant (Jer.51:37)

Second, notice the professions of those who mourn the destruction of Babylon:
Kings — merchants — and “suppliers” (that is, those who store and ship commodities and goods around the world)
– so this is the institutions of government, commerce, and by implication, economies

Third, some voices are telling us it’s our duty is to be more involved in Babylonian politics
– but a voice from heaven is telling us,
“Come out of her, my people
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues” (v. 4)
• there are some things you cannot touch without getting dirty
God’s promise to his homeless pioneers of faith: He “has prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16)
• we’re also told, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14)

(Now read all of chapter 18)

Conclusion: I have been trying to live with greater awareness

I take walks with the goal of looking, listening, feeling, paying attention to my senses
Then I try to stretch my awareness beyond my senses
As I walk, I talk with Jesus – and I will keep silent too, trying to listen
I want to be sensitive to the quiet whisper of the Spirit
But I also want to discern the black holes of the earthly city
If I don’t see them, the chances are greater that I’ll get sucked into one of them
and black holes never return what they take

My counsel for all of us is beware, because
your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8)

May 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapters 15-16 05/26/2024

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Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion Community!       Grace and Peace to you!

I’ve been thinking about the gift of the Holy Spirit this week, the week following the celebration of Pentecost, and wondering how to “Welcome the Spirit.”  When you pray or ponder on something, do you  sometimes have a memory come to you?  At first, it often puzzles me, but then I ask, “Why did this come back to me now?” 

Many years ago, my son asked if he could bring a woman to meet us.  He had met her online and he had even yet to meet her in person.  I said, “Yes, of course, she would be welcome,” but then I began to wonder how to prepare for the visit.  This is what I came up with at that time:  1) Clean the House, 2) Fill the Pantry, and 3) Find out all you can about her.

I had a feeling that this came back to me as part of an answer to how to welcome the Spirit. Welcome Holy Spirit!  First, clean my house. You know that when you are going to have company, you do a sweep and maybe a deep clean.  Get rid of what doesn’t belong.

Second, fill the pantry.  I think this means to make sure I am filling myself with what is healthy and helpful.  I mean, who knows what I’m going to need; make it available for whatever the Spirit wants me to provide.

Third, find out about the Spirit – what is he (or is it she?) like?  What are the ways I will recognize him?  What does she enjoy?

But this was years ago, and I kind of felt like this was all good, and a part of me was saying to Jesus, “But I have kept all these things since my youth.”  You know the story in Luke 18 about the rich, young ruler wanting to know about eternal life.  Jesus was inviting him to much more than following the law. I sense that he’s asking, “Do you want to go on with me?”   In following Jesus, there would be treasure in heaven, and daily living in the Kingdom of God, receiving much more in this time and in the age to come.  I felt this invitation was for me, too.  Do you feel an invitation for the much more?  There’s always more if we’re willing to continue to follow Jesus.

Perhaps this was just for me, but I think that we will all want to make space available for the Spirit’s work in our lives.  I want to make sure there’s plenty of fresh, free space, because who knows what ways he still has for each of us.

Shall we pray?  Lord,  thank you for bringing us to this Community House for this long season.  Thank you for preparing us for a new venue and readying it for us.  Thank you for what you’ve done in our lives; we offer the next chapter to you, because we are sure that you who began a good work in us will continue until it is finally finished on the day of Jesus Christ.  Nothing is impossible with you.  May we be attentive to what this day invites us to.  In Jesus Name.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Then I saw another sign in heaven, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished Revelation 15:1

Intro: A few years ago, Barry Liesch, a professor at Biola-Talbot University,
– wrote an article on worship in the book of Revelation
• he suggested that by using its examples of form, content, and splendor,
◦ we might enjoy a more meaningful, intense, and richer worship experience
• worship here on earth is already a participation in heaven’s worship
◦ our prayers are mixed with the incense that burns in heaven (Rev. 8:3)
– it will not always be a feel-good worship (that’s for sure!)
• but it would be authentic and appropriate to the moment
• that’s how I view the song of worship we’ll soon read

In chapter 15 we have the grand finale of the series of seven judgments

The last of the plagues to be unleashed on the world
– but just before it begins, there is worship
• God is praised for his justice (not only for the judgment)
• the worshipers are people who had conquered the beast
◦ their “victory” was won by not giving into the beast–taking his mark or worshiping him
◦ they sing and they provide their own musical accompaniment
– the song’s composition combines themes from Moses and the Lamb
• both of whom won victories over oppressors – both of whom were liberators
• there’s something I want to point out in first line of song
Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations! Revelation 15:3
◦ “deeds” are the actions performed by a person
◦ “ways” are interior commitments that motivate the deeds
◦ Moses asked God for a special favor
show me now your ways, that I may know you (Ex. 33:13)
◦ knowing God’s ways would be a move toward knowing God himself
◦ God’s ways are his modus operandi, and this is a privileged information
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel
(Psa. 103:7)
◦ God’s deeds are not exclusively judgment and wrath
What Moses learned as that Yahweh is a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty . . . (Ex. 34:6-7)
• however, there are times when God’s deeds are “just”
According to their deeds, so will he repay,
wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies
(Isa. 59:18)

What catches John’s eye next, is the doors of heaven’s temple are opened
– the key word here is “sanctuary” (it occurs four times in vv. 5-8)
• in the first instance, he refers to it as the “tent of witness”
◦ that is because the stone tablets with ten commandments were stored in the ark
◦ it was the document of God’s covenant with Israel, kept safe in the heart of the temple
• next seven angels emerge from the sanctuary with the seven last plagues
◦ I imagine them silhouetted by the brilliance of the light behind them
◦ God’s wrath is served up on golden bowls (an elixir? ashes from the altar?)
– after the angels exit, the sanctuary is filled with smoke from God’s glory
• we see this more than once in the Old Testament – it thrills me each time
• God’s glory, filling every space – God himself, that present to his people!

The drama continues in chapter 16
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God Revelation 16:1

The plagues repeat the previous series of sevens
(the seven seals, but especially the seven trumpets)
– the difference now, the destruction is not partial like before, but it is total
• the sequence of the seven bowls moves more quickly than the others
The first bowl was poured out on the earth, causing harmful and painful sores
The second bowl was poured into the sea, making its waters “like the blood of a corpse”
The third bowl was poured on rivers and streams – “and they became blood”
– from the beginning in Genesis, rivers spread the gift of life
• a river flowed from Eden and became the headwaters of four other rivers flowing east
• the river is a symbol of peace (Isa. 66:12), joy (Ps. 46:4), life (Jn. 7:38)
◦ but here the rivers stand for death or that which kills
◦ this is almost a parody of Jesus’ first miracle in Cana!
– at this point there is a break in the action
• a new character is introduced: the angel of the waters
• the angel sees poetic justice in this transmutation and blurts out
Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
for you brought these judgments.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink Revelation 16:5-6
◦ and a voice from the altar agrees:
Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
true and just are your judgments! Revelation 16:7
◦ the judgment is “deserved” because:
they received the mark of the beast, and now their bodies are marked by sores and burns
they shed the blood of martyrs, now they have blood to drink

The fourth bowl was poured on the sun, and people were scorched by its heat
• we note in passing, they blasphemed God and did not repent
– to this point, humans have been the target of these plagues, but there’s a shift in verse 10
The fifth bowl was poured on the throne of the beast
• not the beast per se, but on his throne
◦ the throne represents the seat of political power
◦ this plague plunged his kingdom into darkness
• it wasn’t the beast who suffered, but the people under his rule
◦ but they are still holding out, refusing to repent
◦ the implication of this refusal is there’s still time for them to repent
they still have the opportunity to turn to God
The sixth bowl was poured out on the Euphrates River
• the result here was not to pollute it, but dry it up
◦ make way for an army that would advance from the east
• what we learned earlier: the dragon is Satan,
the beast that emerged from the sea was empowered by the dragon
the false prophet emerged from land and promoted the beast with his propaganda
• now, out of each of their mouths come three unclean spirits
◦ in the gospels, an unclean spirit is synonymous with a demon, here demonic spirits
◦ they mobilize the rules of nations for a great battle
– at this decisive moment in the narrative there is another break
Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed Revelation 16:15
• the moment at which Jesus intervenes is not predictable
◦ but the building tension tells us it won’t be much longer
◦ in the meantime, he tells us to stay awake, dressed, prepared (cf. Lk. 12:35-48)
• returning to the narrative, we find ourselves at Armageddon

The seventh bowl is poured on the air
– we’re not told what that does, but I think it’s significant
• Paul referred to people who were
following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2)
• this is that window into the spirit-world, from where force of evil exercises its influence in the world

Here the chapter reaches its climax

A voice from the temple announces, “It is done!”
– again there are explosive sounds of thunder and rumbling
• and an earthquake greater than any other ever before
The great city was split into three parts . . . and God remembered Babylon (v. 19)
– the next two chapters feature Babylon–and it’s a big production!
• last week we saw that Babylon represented: all human civilizations from all time
◦ Babylon is split into three parts–maybe this refers the three pillars on which it was built
◦ in chapter 18, three are three sectors of society mourn Babylon’s fall
Kings: the political sector – rulers, heads of state, governments
Merchants: the sector of commerce – the economy and how it flows and who it favors
Ship builders and Mariners: the trade sector – the suppliers of goods
– finally, the curtain falls
And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe Revelation 16:20-21
– this continued rejection of God is as much a mystery as everything else in this mind-boggling book
Question: Who would continue doing something that caused them pain and no worthwhile reward?
Answer: Almost everyone:
◦ because we don’t see the connections between our actions and the consequences
◦ or we don’t believe we’re the cause of our own misery
◦ or we clutch what we have because we can’t bring ourselves to trust God
Jacques Ellul, They blaspheme because they have “heard absolutely nothing, received nothing, experienced nothing of the work of God, the love of God.”

Conclusion: As I close my Bible and muse over what I’ve read,

Two questions surface–and I’m asking you as well as myself:
First, What are you going to do about the beast?
The beast never shows up in his true form
He floats in like an angel of light and speaks in soft tones
Only when he’s enslaved a person, does he remove the disguise
How will I resist his promises, propaganda, and pressure?
I have to fully take the mark of Jesus – be branded with his name
Paul said he let go of everything to know Christ Jesus my Lord (Php. 3:8-10)
Hosea encouraged his readers: Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD (6:3)
That is how we will resist and conquer the beast

Second, What plagues you?
Solomon spoke of everyone who knows the plague of their own heart (1 Ki. 8:38)
The inner voices that bring up our past, that tear us down, that tell us God doesn’t care
I’ve found that sitting in prayerful awareness creates space
Then rather than being immersed in thoughts, I am able to review them
I see how they come automatically, unconsciously, and obsessively
Observing them gives me space to so that I don’t identify with them
Awareness gives me greater freedom to embrace or dismiss my thoughts and feelings
They do not define me

I close with my meditation yesterday:
Paul says in Romans 8, that God’s Spirit is in us
If we make the right choices, the Spirit will assist us to live true to them
How wonderful it would be if the Spirit would just take over,
and I could just go along for the ride
If I could be a spectator in the stands
and watch God win all my battles
But that’s not how it works
I have to be the one to make the choice, and then stand by it, to act on it
At this moment, I feel like everything is up to me
That God’s Spirit won’t move with me, unless I move first
And maybe at this particular moment, that is how it is,
even as that’s how it was for Adam and Eve just before they took the bite

May 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Reflexion chapter 14 – 05/19/2024

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Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to RefleXion!              Grace and Peace to you!

We’ve had special days to celebrate the last couple of Sundays.  Well, now, I get to say, “Happy Birthday!”  because today we celebrate Pentecost, otherwise known as the birthday of the Church.

When Jesus ascended to heaven forty days after resurrection, he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem,  From the Book of Acts,  “And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me;  for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'” And, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”   

And it was indeed ten days later, so on the fiftieth day after resurrection (and that’s why it’s called Pentecost), they received that baptism and that power.  The Greek term dynamis is the term translated as power.  Chuck mentioned that last week.  Remember when Jesus was about to arrested and he responded that his enemies had the power of darkness, and Chuck talked about power and authority as it related to Revelation, chapter 13.  The enemy had been given the power of darkness and its authority for a time, and we (the Church) have been clothed with the power and authority of the Holy Spirit for our time.

You can read Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 for the details of the power they (we) were given.  It’s our time to consider this and what it means for us, “for such a time as this.”  What power and what authority do we have?  What does it look like for you?  I’ll be thinking about that for myself.

Meanwhile, our friend Bill Dogterom wrote a magnificent piece that I would like to use for today’s opening prayer.  Shared with permission, he entitles it  “Towards Pentecost.” 

Lord,
palpable longing
textured desperation
framing desire
hunger irreducible to word
groaning unutterable
ache born of the tearing
gaping chasm between was and is
crying out for the joining
for the will be
not for the first time
we are told
Wait
dying to any other hope
not delay
not denial
preparing the vessel
pressurizing the crucible
purifying the longing
Wait
how long?
known only to One
So…
we wait
we pray
Come, Holy Spirit, Come
Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Intro: I’ve been feeling that talking about the book of Revelation

Is like trying to practice dream interpretation
– how do I make sense out of all these foreign signs and symbols?
– of course, the bigger question is: what is God’s Spirit trying to communicate to us?

Here is what I find vital in chapter 14 – two key locations

By “key,” I’m referring to their importance in the entire range of scripture
– the first key location is in verse 1, (and this is the only place in Revelation where it occurs)
Mount Zion, and the second key location is Babylon (v. 8)
◦ Zion is a spiritual realm – God’s kingdom on earth
◦ it interacts with the city of David, but is separate from it–Zion transcends physical space
◦ Jerusalem is always a literal city; Zion is God’s dwelling among his people
Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
Within her citadels God
has made himself known as a fortress (Ps. 48:1-3)
And in Isaiah, “. . . the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy”(Isa. 4:2-6)
• Babylon is the opposite of Zion — humans built Babylon up from the earth – Zion comes from heaven
– a brief background on Babylon, which begins with the genealogy of Noah:
Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a might hunter before the LORD. The beginning of his kingdom was Babel . . .” (Gen. 10:8-10)
• Babel was the original site of the city that became Babylon
◦ he became a legendary hero – made his own way; the prototype of a successful “man of the world”
◦ after him, all of humankind aspired to greatness in the same spirit as Nimrod
Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth – that place became Babel (Gen. 11:1-4)
• these are the roots of a mighty empire, that in time conquered and exiled Judah from the land
◦ Israel’s prophets considered Babylon as the epitome of Gentile civilization
▫ it was a well-planned metropolis
▫ its hanging gardens were one of the seven wonders of the world
▫ it conquered and ruled all of the surrounding nations
▫ it was the human race “come of age” – the secular city
◦ Babylon owned the world and boasted its greatness
Nebuchadnezzar: Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty? (Dan. 4:30)
Isaiah:
Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,
the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans,
will be like Sodom and Gomorrah
when God overthrew them (Isa. 13:19)
. . . she has proudly defied the LORD, the Holy one of Israel (Jer. 50:29)
– Babylon is all the worldly social systems throughout history
• government, commerce, military, and culture
◦ behind it and influencing it were “the cosmic powers . . . spiritual forces of evil” (Ep. 6:12)
• Zion and Babylon are the two archenemies competing for humankind
◦ if Zion is the city of God, Babylon is the city of Satan

John introduces this vision, with “I looked, and behold”
Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless Revelation 14:1-5

Then opening words speak to us as if John were saying,
“I looked, now you look and I’ll show you what I saw”
– “the Lamb” –this image made a strong impression on John
• in his gospel, Jesus is first introduced into the narrative as
the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29)
• when Jesus died on the cross, John realized
these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken” (Jn. 19:36)
◦ this was in reference to the Passover lamb, “you shall not break any of its bones” (Ex. 12:46)

Is there an image of Jesus in the gospels that has made a strong impression on you?
– the good shepherd? the true vine? something more contemporary, like a Life Guard?
• we cannot become intimate with a mere concept of Jesus
• Jesus is “the image of God”
(see 2 Corinthians 4:4, where “image” translates the Greek word is eikon or icon)

With Jesus, the Lamb, we see 144,000 we met in chapter 7
– notice that the volume is turned way up in this vision
• what at first blasts like a roar, turns out to be music
◦ imagine this! 144,000 voices singing
(like one of the U2 concerts where at the end the thousands of people in the crowd were still singing acapella Psalm 40, How Long to Sing This Song?
• every major revival has had its own musical soundtrack
◦ a “new song,” because God is doing a new thing–here, the ultimate new thing
– remember, a “vision” is not a documentary, but speaks in symbols
not defiled with women. . . doesn’t mean the choir is all males
• virginity a symbol of purity, which speaks to the Old Testament theme in which disloyalty to Yahweh is treated as adultery
◦ Babylon will be introduced as the great prostitute who with kings of the earth had committed sexual immorality (17:1-2)
◦ there is a positive meaning for virginity; namely, total devotion to God
– my favorite line in this passage is follow the Lamb wherever he goes
If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also (Jn. 12:26)
• our Lord Jesus wants us to be with him!
◦ they belong to Jesus and not the world – they were redeemed from the earth
• in their mouth no lie was found – signifies their integrity
◦ there are some people from whom you cannot get a straight answer
◦ their intention to manipulate and control is the source of their deceit

Three angels arrive with three warnings

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name” Revelation 14:6-11

The first angel broadcasts a message of hope
– the eternal gospel – whatever the else that means, there is always hope
• and universal! “all those who dwell on the earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people”
• the angel includes instructions as to how people need to respond:
◦ reverence God and give him glory (rather than worshiping the beast)
◦ worship him – specifically, as Creator

The second angel announces the fall of Babylon
– remember, Babylon represents all worldly institutions
• Babylon has reached the end of its influence in the world
◦ it has proven to be a failed system
◦ this is because it operated outside of the will of God
• Babylon has served the world a cup of wine
◦ addiction to sensuality, materialism, and greed

The third angel brings a final warning
– a choice has to be made, which is why angel’s begins message with “If”
• everyone is going to be marked by one loyalty or the other
◦ the forehead is like a billboard that displays the owner’s mark
Jacques Ellul, “We comprehend that bringing this choice to light is the prelude to the judgment. And this is going to be expressed in the summons not to worship the beast and its image (the State, the political power), nor to participate in the activities of the world.”
– torment can result from:
• making wrong choices
• addiction, that is, the torture of restless desire, too strong to give up
David B. Hart, “We are not free because we can choose, but only when we have chosen well.”
Bruno Bettelheim, “The gingerbread house is an image nobody forgets: how incredibly appealing it is, and how terrible the risk one runs if one gives into the temptation.”
– these who are judged have no rest day or night – exactly was said of worshipers in Revelation 4:8
◦ one never takes a break, the other is never given a break

A breather from the intensity of the angelic messages
Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” Revelation 14:12-13

The “call” is not like the previous announcements
– this is for the saints
• this call comes to us every day
• we have to endure, but to endure we have to trust Jesus
Yesterday morning my reading was in Job, where he asked God
Why did you bring me out from the womb?
Would that I had died before any eye had seen me . . . .’ (Job 10:19
Here are a few pieces from my meditation on this verse
“Early morning on this date last year, Audrey Sill ended her life. . . . I have felt the despair of both Job and Audrey. . . . Right now I cannot think of anything sadder than giving up, while there is still hope–even if we cannot see or feel that hope.”
– verse 13 tells us there is such a thing as a “good death” – a “blessing”
that they may rest from their labors sharply contrasts with those in torment who have no rest (v. 11)

Three more angels appear for the final harvest
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia Revelation 14:14-20

Again John says, “I looked, and behold”
That there will be a final clash between Zion and Babylon is inevitable
Jacques Ellul, “The conception of judgment that we find as much in the prophets as in the psalms, as much in the Gospels and in the Epistles is not a cultural phenomenon: it rests upon that evident conviction that if God is God, both perfect and just, how can the encounter between this God and the world as we know it take place without some sparks being produced . . .?”
– the symbols in these angelical actions are ultimate:
• they everyone, the choice is final, and the consequences are forever
– I cannot accept that John is describing literal events that have either occurred in the past or will occur in the future
• the Revelation is not a crystal ball that allows us to predict and locate
• John is describing an ongoing struggle that is both within our own inner life,
◦ and also within our spiritual community
it is a conflict we must face and work our way through

Conclusion: Let’s back out of the vision – wake up from our dream

There is no better, purer experience of the Christian faith
than the moment when the Jesus of scripture
makes himself present to us as the Jesus we meet in the here and now
I know that the powers of darkness must be judged and eliminated
But that isn’t my job – though I do have to resist them
The best way, and most rewarding way, to resist is to close in on Jesus
And he is already reaching to take your hand

May 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapter 13 – 05/12/2024

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Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome ReeXion Family. Grace and Peace to you!

We call today “Mothers Day.” Some of us will celebrate it; some of us will not. Some will experience a very happy day; some will not. We’re celebrating with all the moms who will, and we’re thinking about all the mothers who will not be able to fully celebrate their motherhood today. We remember the mothers in Ukraine and Gaza, just trying to keep their children safe, fed, well and encouraged. There are mothers who are estranged from their children or are in some way distanced from them. Addicted mothers, hospitalized mothers, incapacitated mothers—they may need help, not just a “Happy Mothers Day” salutation. Some mothers look back on their mothering experience with regret or sadness, as well as some with pride and happy memories.

Other women have broken hearts because their children are not doing well, or they’ve experienced a miscarriage; maybe they have lost many babies. Single moms wish they could do more but are stretched beyond normal limits just to make sure that their children are fed and sheltered. Some mothers are homeless, living in cars or on the streets with their children, or in “displaced persons” camps. Some must watch their children suffer or even die. Some women only long to be a mother. And don’t even get me started on our own mothers! “Happy Mothers Day” only goes so far.

There are many seasons of motherhood and many ways to mother. We thank God for His very good idea of mothers who give of their bodies, their energy, their time, and their love so that other humans can live and flourish. Whatever your experience of motherhood, it is valid and welcomed.

Will you join me to pray?
Father, You gave us many examples in scripture. Moses’ mother gave him up. Hannah was barren, year after year, until she became the mother of Samuel. Hagar and her child Ishmael were rejected and sent away. The Syrophoenician woman was sincerely committed to her daughter’s healing. Mary gave birth to Jesus. What a privilege to care for another human being, whether we are male or female.
Bless us with deep hope in You alone; we give thanks for every renewed opportunity to care wisely and well. Bless the work of our hands, anoint us that we would bear the fruit of Your Spirit. We pray for Your blessing of peace that passes all understanding, and we thank You for the celebration that many mothers will have today; may their children rise up and call them blessed. Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Intro: I think most anyone reading Revelation sees that it takes a turn in chapter 13

What stays the same: the dragon (Satan) is still here
– at least at the start – and he’s continuing his fight against God
What changes: the dragon, after being defeated three times in the previous chapter
– now scores a significant victory
– also, prior to this, his battle has been in the religion arena
• he tried to sabotage the life and ministry of Jesus
• but now he changes the battlefield and his strategy

This is not a bright chapter – it is like the night of Jesus’ arrest
He told those who came to arrest him, “. . . this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Lk. 22:53)
– he did not fight those men, because he knew God’s will
• this chapter is shadowed by the power of darkness
– I’m not sure how fully we will comprehend these visions,
• but if we listen closely for their inner-meaning,
• you will probably see what is unfolding before I try to point it out

The chapter features two “beasts”
And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns, and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority Revelation 13:1-2

The first beast arrives with an animal-like nature (remember this is all in dream images)
– in scripture, horns typically symbolize power – rulership or brute strength
• here the beast’s power is ten-fold
• it seems that the seven heads are meant to overwhelm us
◦ like there are too many to deal with if you have to fight it
◦ anyway, the heads are seven aspects of the creature – seven being a symbolic number, not literal
• the diadems, in particular, represent royalty
◦ this is the real deal, not like our American celebrities, but like people who are born into it
◦ the beast has this natural and regal superiority above common people
• each of the heads are also tattooed with blasphemes (blasphemy is a trademark of the two beasts)
– if we’re trying to picture this in our imagination, we’ll blow a fuse at what comes next
• the beast is leopard like! with a bear’s claws and a lion’s mouth
◦ with all the heads, I imagine him as more reptilian than mammal
◦ my over all impression of his description: he is extremely dangerous and ferocious

Whatever this monster represents, it is empowered by the dragon
– “power” (dunamis) is brute force; “authority” (exousia) is the influence one has in a social structure
• authority is one of the key concepts in this chapter (it occurs five times)

The scene suddenly expands and the beast goes viral
One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against him? Revelation 13:3-4

One of the seven aspects (heads) of the beast receives a death-blow
– but instead of dying, it was healed
• that got the whole world’s attention and they became followers of the beast
◦ and worshipers! The beasts, after all, are trying to compete with God
In Psalm 113:5 the poet says,
Who is like the LORD our God,
who is seated on high?
◦ the worshipers here, ask, “Who is like the beast?”
• before any sort of resistance or war begins,
◦ they are already defeated and surrender to the beast
“who can fight against it?”

The beast makes his move – what he’s come to do
And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain
Revelation 13:5-8

I think the statement, the beast was given a mouth speaks volumes!
– he uses that mouth to blaspheme God
• this is the verbal thrust of its war on God’s people
◦ those blasphemes disturb us, but God is not affected by them
◦ blasphemy is an expression of defiance, rebellion, and rejection
• this attack on God and his saints involves two-pronged offensive:
◦ one part is verbal – he launches a war of words
◦ the other part is physical combat
it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them (v. 7)
– the goal is to establish a totalitarian regime
• no vote, no two-party representation, no parliament, no checks and balances
• ◦ everyone will be sucked into this system – that is,
everyone whose name has not been written in . . . book of life of the Lamb
◦ this is the first way “saints” are set apart; their names are recorded in heaven
– three statements are worth highlighting:
1. The beast is allowed authority for forty-two months
– the time he wreaks havoc on earth is limited
2. He’s allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them
– the the time he has to do this, and the amount of damage he can do is limited
– he doesn’t have absolute power, he is constrained by the One who does
3. From chapter 5 until now, Jesus is referred to as the Lamb about eight times (take note of that)

Advice for believers who receive these visions
If anyone has an ear, let him hear:

If anyone is to be taken captive,
    to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
    with the sword must he be slain.

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints Revelation 13:9-10

If anyone has an ear, let him hear – sound familiar?
– first, we heard Jesus say this when teaching his parables–e.g., Mark 4:9
• then, at the beginning of Revelation we heard Jesus say it to five of the seven churches
◦ two churches did not need to hear it, because they were already listening
• but here the word spoken is an interruption to the story
◦ Jesus, not John, is talking directly to us, the readers or hearers
– to listen attentively is the first word of advice
• if we place all of these events in the past or in the future,
◦ we will be looking in the wrong places to find their meaning
◦ we’ll miss the point that this is the world situation today
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God . . . . every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already (1 Jn. 4:1-3)

Verse 10 seems to be saying,
– whatever a person chooses, that will determine their destiny
• if this sounds bleak for both believer an follower of beast, believers are shown how to deal with it
• the second word of advice has to do with endurance and faith (I always want to substitute trust for faith)
– it makes sense we will need to hear this advice more than once (cf. Rev. 14:12)

A second beast is brought on stage – this one out of the earth
Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain Revelation 13:11-15

This second beast looks more docile than the first
– in fact, it seems it is intentional that he would look like Jesus
• but his horns give him away
◦ and when he speaks, his voice is that of a dragon, not a lamb
◦ this beast rises from the earth, he does not descend from heaven
• he uses words to create a false reality and to lend credibility to the first beast
◦ later this second beast is identified as the false prophet (Rev. 19:20)
Jacques Ellul asks, “But prophet of what? It is not said, except to speak of propaganda for the imperial cult.”
• his propaganda is used to deceive those who dwell on earth

In our time, there is a new mechanism for dispersing false realities
– the documentary, “The Antisocial Network,” is terrifying in what it reveals
• pranks became conspiracy theories, and conspiracy theories have become facts for millions of people
◦ now those “facts” built on falsehood have altered and divided our nation
◦ and those responsible cannot fix it now that the genie is out of the bottle
• the beast’s speech is sensationalized when he tells his followers to make an idol
◦ the Old Testament is filled with statements regarding idols, but one fact the prophets stress:
They have mouths, but do not speak . . .
nor is there any breath in their mouths (Ps. 135:15-17)
every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
for his images are false
and there is no breath in them (Jer. 10:14)
◦ but in this instance the beast gives the idol the ability to speak and cause things to happen

The climax of these visions comes at the end
Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666 Revelation 13:16-18

The beast takes over total control of the economy and commerce
– this is how a nation can be conquered and ruled — people have to eat
• the mark is an imitation of God’s mark placed on his people–cf. Rev. 7:3
◦ we can trace God’s mark back to Moses
Regarding God’s words to Israel: You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes (De. 6:8)
◦ the most visible parts of the bodies of people living in the first century Mediterranean world
• but this is not only about controlling economy: the mark is about ownership
◦ he is marking his property – like branding cattle

Conclusion: That the beasts rise from sea and earth, tells us that they have been here all along

They have just been working from a hidden realm
Throughout the history of nations and civilizations, and from behind a curtain,
these beasts have injected the worst influences into world
Their sinister work effects all things human:
economy, commerce, culture, government, media, and even religion

This chapter is an eye-opener and a warning
To avoid being conformed to the world and its ways, we must
hold faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith (1 Tim. 1:18-19)

This chapter enhances what may be most important in our spiritual development: Discernment
And discernment is a life-saver

May 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapter 12 – 05/05/2025

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Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion!                    Grace and Peace to you!

And Happy Cinco de Mayo!  In addition to this celebration, you might want to note that today is World Portuguese Language Day, International Midwives Day,  International Dawn Chorus Day and International Family Equality Day.  Oh, and it’s the International Day for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Awareness.

Also, today, Africa celebrates:  World Heritage Day
 Canada: Dutch Heritage Day
 Denmark: Liberation day
 Hungary: Mother’s Day
Israel:  Holocaust Remembrance Day
United Kingdom: Lemonade Day

In the USA, it’s National Cartoonists Day, National Hoagie Day, National Astronaut Day, and National Totally Chipotle Day.

It’s also Orthodox Pascha (Easter) and World Laughter Day.

Whew!   We are a people who love to celebrate, aren’t we? So we mark days to help us remember.
What day shall we use to celebrate the gifts of God?  Today, that’s the day.  Winnie the Pooh said that “Today” was his favorite day.  And every day called Today we can realize and thank God for the gifts he gives more and more. 

Join me as we pray along with the twenty-four elders from last week’s text in Revelation chapter 11: 

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
    who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
    and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
    but your wrath came,
    and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,

    and those who fear your name,
    both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

Amen.  May it be so.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Intro: Yesterday Barb asked me, “Are you still in Revelation?”

In answered with a weary, “Yes”
She said, “Oh.” then added, “You’ll probably be in Revelation till the end of the world”

One of the challenges of this mystical book is distraction
– the shifting scenes, outrageous creatures, and sudden surprises pull my thoughts in different directions
• if I blink, my mind turns a corner and I’m on the wrong street
– John has left us with more than a book of visions
• Revelation is a rich resource for our spiritual journey
◦ it helps us to identify who we are in Jesus,
◦ to discover where we are, and where we go from here
• but to understand it, we need to read in two dimensions
◦ events going on in heaven are revealed in symbols
◦ these run parallel to events taking place on heart
What unfolds on earth, mirrors what is going on in heaven

Today’s story begins with “a great sign”
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars Revelation 11:19-12:1

After the drum roll at the end of chapter 11, a woman appears who I’ll describe as resplendent
– turning to the first book of the Bible, we come to Joseph’s dreams
• the images in his second dream match details found in John’s vision:
(Joseph narrates) “Behold, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
But when he told it to his father . . . his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” . . . but his father kept the saying in mind (Gen. 37:9-11)
◦ the two passages are not exact in every detail, but there are enough clues to make a connection
She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.  And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.  His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.  She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days Revelation 12:2-6
• the woman is on a battlefield and she is giving birth to a child
◦ we recognize the male child – he is Jesus
◦ the woman is an archetype (a universal image of motherhood)
the archetype includes here being a nurturer, caregiver, provider, and protector who will risk her life for her child’s protection
– she is a recurring image in scripture – here she corresponds to the following:
Eve: God said she would have ongoing conflict with the serpent
God said to the serpent:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise you head,
and you shall bruise his heel (Gen. 3:15)
To the woman:
I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children (Gen. 3:16)
• this is a prediction of a perpetual struggle for redemption
Israel: the mother in Joseph’s dream – in Genesis she was represented by the moon, here in Revelation the moon is under her feet
◦ Jacob, the father of Joseph is Israel (the name given to him by God), his twelve sons are “the twelve tribes of Israel”
◦ the Messiah is theirs – he is Israel’s “anointed one”
◦ in the symbolism of Revelation 12, Israel is the mother of the baby
Mary: the mother of Jesus, who would suffer the pain of a sword piercing her soul
◦ the angel Gabriel told her, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. . . . The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God” (Lk. 1:31-35)
Mother Earth: we’re made from the dust of the ground – our planet shares our predicament (cf. Ro. 8:19-23)

Why haven’t I included the church in this list?
– these women belonged to Israel and the first covenant
• the Church belongs to the new covenant
• the Church did not give birth to Jesus, Jesus gave birth to the church

“Birthing” is also a key symbol: it speaks of a new addition coming into the world
– Jesus’ birth is the hinge of history – from this point on, there’s hope
• but we cannot assume this comes easily
• the birth pains are especially intense and agonizing
– meanwhile, the power of evil perceived the child as an immediate threat
• Herod the Great was first world leader to recognize the threat that Jesus posed to his reign
◦ Jesus is, in fact, a threat to all world leaders
here in verse 5 we’re told the child will rule all the nations with rod of iron, which picks up a line from Psalm 2
Why do the nations rage
and the people’s plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed . . . .
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth you possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psa. 2)
• although they are under the threat of assault, both the child and the woman are protected

With the child in heaven, there’s no more room for Satan
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,  but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.  And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.  Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” Revelation 12:7-12

Here we see a war in heaven, but it is very brief
– it’s more like an eviction – dragon fought back, but there was no contest
• this victory is the result of Jesus entering heaven
◦ this follows chapter 11, with his crucifixion and resurrection
(we’ll see that there’s a reason why Jesus entering heaven means there was no longer any place for the dragon in heaven)
• the dragon is thrown down to the earth, which reminds me of the curse put on the serpent, who was also “grounded”:
Because you have done this,
cursed shall you be above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat / all the days of your life (Gen. 3:14)

BUT WHAT WAS THE DRAGON DOING IN HEAVEN IN THE FIRST PLACE?
– we find out as his various identities are revealed:
• two describe his animal nature and the three names that define him
dragon: a mythical creature the OT uses for unbeatable and destructive
serpent: in the garden he was “more crafty than any other beast”
• after the first two chapters that report God’s creation
Jacques Ellul, says the serpent was “creator of a single reality: doubt . . .”
• and not surprisingly, we hear him asking Eve, “Did God actually say . . . ?” (Ge. 3:2)
devil: a slanderer who bad-mouths others, with the result that they cause division
“There are six things that the LORD hates . . .
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers” (Pr. 6:16-19)
. . . watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the [teaching] that you have been taught; avoid them (Ro. 16:17)
Satan: adversary – is how he is identified in Job
deceiver: Jesus said of the devil, “He . . . does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44)
the accuser: the claim he made against Job to God “Does Job serve God for no reason?” (Job 1:9)
• he was suggesting that Job’s motives were mercenary, that he served God only for the favors he received (a false accusation, as it turns out)
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Ro. 8:33-34)

Being tossed out of heaven, the dragon takes his evil to earth
– however, he can be defeated (v. 11, And they have conquered him . . .)
• their secret of holding out against the enemy:
the blood of Lamb, word of their testimony, and their determined loyalty
• heaven rejoices to be rid of the dragon, but “woe to you, O earth and sea”
– the devil brings the full force of his trouble-making to earth
• the fight comes to us — and, he is furious

The dragon goes after the woman again
And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. Revelation 12:13-17

Although the dragon chases her, he cannot catch her – she was given wings to escape into the wilderness
– this recalls Israel’s escape from Egypt
You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself (Ex. 19:4)
– the wilderness is never a destination, but always place of testing
you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart (De. 8:2)
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Mt. 4:1)
• years ago there was a woman in our church who for several months moaned about, what she called, “My wilderness experience”
◦ it was for her a time of darkness, emptiness, and a feeling of being cut off from God
◦ the question we face in the wilderness is, “Will I continue to follow God faithfully?”
• wilderness is a place to experience and overcome temptation
◦ it is what the desert monks sought when they retreated into the wilderness
– v. 17, “the rest of her offspring” refers to the Christian church, which was grafted into Israel – Ro. 11

Conclusion: John is sometimes referred to as a “contemplative”

Other times, as a mystic
– he does the most of any New Testament writer to stretch us toward a spiritual consciousness
• we cannot remain stuck in our material, rational minds and understand Jesus and his teaching in the Gospel of John
◦ otherwise, like Nicodemus, we will get stuck asking repeatedly, “How can these things be?”

When I sense God’s Spirit is working on me,
that he is training me to be more sensitive to his presence,
I condition myself to become more receptive
First, I relax my body by a “letting go,” releasing the tension I feel
I might slowly, gently stretch my neck
(sideways, left and right; then turning it, left to right)
I might gently lift my shoulders, perhaps rotate them, then release them slowly
Second, I notice my breathing and then take over control of it
With slow, deep, cleansing breaths I open myself to the Holy Spirit,
who is the breath of God that brings life to my body
Third, I focus attention on my body in space, where I am,
then in time–that is, the present moment
I allow myself to be “here,” rather than worried I’m not somewhere else,
and “now,” rather than in the past, or the next hour, or the next day
Fourth, I pray. Simple, short, basic prayers
You will find your own way of opening your heart to God
Use those prayers
Sometimes all I say is, “Here I am”

I hope we can benefit from what John relates to us here in Revelation 12
In the past, the devil brought accusations against believers day and night in heaven
Today, he continues to make accusations, but now it is not before God
Now he makes his charge of our unworthiness, failure, and compromise in our own minds
And frequently he enlists our mind’s resources; especially our memories and our imaginations

While John gives us symbols and pictures of spiritual realities,
Paul says rather bluntly, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1)
We need to integrate that realization into our moment to moment awareness
This involves developing our openness to, and our trust in the Spirit and word of God
When we mature to this awareness, full convinced there is no condemnation,
life becomes so much freer and lighter
Guilt has the weight of gravity
Grace has the energy of antigravity

Satan has no place in heaven
and for us now, our heaven is our inner life
The kingdom of God is within you (Lk. 17:21, KJV)
Satan is kicked out of there too
God is making something of and from himself a reality in us
His new creation

Apr 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapter 11 – 04/28/2024

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Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion! Grace and Peace to you!
There’s an adage that says, “It’s not what you know but who you know that counts.” This week during Lectio Divina, an image and an insight were given to me. I apologize to our group for repeating myself here. The passage we were reading was Matthew 7:21-23. It begins, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” It goes on to talk about those who say ‘Lord, Lord,” because they have done things in his name: prophesied, cast out demons…mighty works. But Jesus says to them, I never knew you; depart from me.

I had a picture of “being present for a reading of a will.” In this passage—and in the kingdom of this world–the people were doing what they thought a person would want and then hoping to be in the will, being good for the sake of a reward. Generally, unless it is a condition of the will, the beneficiaries don’t have to be present for the reading. The way of the Lord seems to be in the opposite order. First, he wants relationship, he wants us to know him, he wants our presence. The benefit of being present to the reading of the will, of course, is hearing the reading first hand and being clear about what the will contains, especially for us: What is our inheritance? And then the use of what we inherit will follow.

Now, we know that someone must die before a will is executed. Well, Jesus did die. And now his will can be “read,” and must be read to establish the relationship – the knowing of the Voice of the Lord and his will for us. Listen, this world is getting noisier and noisier; there are a lot of voices. And do we know HIS Voice? What is His word to the Church today? What role do we play? How then shall we live? This is our time.

We are invited to the reading of the will of God. We might think of a tradition of reading scripture, prayer, and meditation. Yes, and how else do you rendezvous with God. Without being present to his will, we will be off track, and ultimately could he then say that He never knew us? Can we think of anything worse? We are invited to find ourselves in his will. Knowing his voice and his will for us, then we will know our own inheritance and go and spend it on the world for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. What do you think about that? Maybe it’s all about who you know after all.

Will you pray with me? Lord, Lord may we be ones you know because we make our way by knowing you. Forgive us and lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil. Enliven us with Spirit and embrace us with Grace. Let us find ourselves in your will; for such a day as this, for such a time as this. In Jesus’ Name and for the Kingdom’s sake. Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophecy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth” Revelation 11:1-3

Intro: We have arrived at the heart of Revelation

Not only the middle of the book, but its central message
– I’m going to take you backstage and show you my work room
• the Bible is many books and among them, different writing styles
◦ there are books of history (written more or less like storytelling), poetry, legal codes, prophetic writings, wise sayings, and letters
◦ each literary style has its own form, rules, and devices, and that style determines how it is to be read and interpreted
• for instance, poetry, wherever it appears in the Hebrew Scriptures, uses lots of parallelism
◦ one line is followed by another (or more than one other) line that mimic or react to it
◦ sometimes the second line repeats the first line backwards, or uses different words to say the same thing, or intensifies the message of the first line, and so on
◦ here’s a sample of poetry that repeats the first line backwards:
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me? (Ps. 56:3)
– in other ancient writings, some stories and epic poems were written in an unusual style
• when laid out in a diagram, they form a ring
Mary Douglas, “the first indication of a ring composition is that the end corresponds to the beginning. . . .
The correspondences are indicated by key words . . . .”
◦ the beginning and end connect as if with a clasp to form a circle like a bracelet or necklace
• the ring involves more than the beginning and end
◦ the development of the message in the first half is written as if going up a staircase,
the development of the second half is like walking down the same staircase
◦ the themes of the first half match themes of second half
– the midpoint of the ring is the key theme or message
Douglas, Thinking In Circles, “The elaboration is not just for fun; it is the way to say that something is important, something serious needs to be said, there is a message that must be heard.”

Jacques Ellul identified a ring structure in Revelation (see handout below)
– the first chapter is a prologue (introduction) and last part of chapter 22 is an epilogue (conclusion)
• the theme of part 1 is church (now), part 5 is the church in future the New Jerusalem
part 1 is promise part 5 is fulfillment
• both part 1 and part 5 play on the words “Then I saw” and the command for John to “write”
– all of part 3 through part 4 have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion
in the introduction an impressive person appears (Son of Man, a mighty angel, the Lamb, another angel)
in the body there is a series of sevens (e.g., seals, trumpets, bowls)
in each conclusion worship is offered to God in doxology, praise or thanksgiving
– I think it’s also important to see how each section overlaps — one part flows into the next
• the seventh seal leads into first trumpet; the seventh trumpet leads into the first bowl, etc.
• that is why we can feel the forward motion as we read Revelation

I’ve dragged you through this to emphasize where we are
– we are still in between sixth and seventh trumpet and the second and third woe
– the visions in this part tell the story of Jesus’ earthly life (chapters 12-14:5)
• but we are shown his life from a heavenly perspective
• and what we find here does not look anything like the four gospels

John is again given a role to play in the visions

Here he is told to take measurements
– there are similar visions found in the Old Testament prophets, who are given a measuring rod
• usually the message is that God’s people fail to measure up to his requirement
• but it’s obvious here that the purpose of John’s taking measurements is not to determine the size of spaces
◦ first, no units of measurement are given (as compared to the city in Rev. 21:15-17)
◦ secondly, there is no temple in New Jerusalem to measure (Rev. 21:22)
(Jesus is the temple – cf. Jn. 2:19, “Destroy this temple . . .” )
◦ third, John was to include “worshipers” in his measurements!
– the point here is to define boundaries and doing so to establish identities
• those inside the lines are worshipers – outside the lines are the nations
• one group worships God, the other tramples his holy city
(trample suggests domination, oppression, and in this context, defilement)

At same time, God authorizes and empowers his two witnesses
– the time-frame is given in two different numbers
forty-two months and 1,260 days — both equal three and a half years
(the Hebrew calendar has thirty days in each month)
◦ This is significant!
• they wear “sackcloth” garments – clothing is important in the visions of Revelation
◦ white robes, fine linen, golden sashes, helmets and crowns
◦ sackcloth typically represents grief, even devastation
– the witnesses wear the seriousness of their mission

The identity and ministry of God’s two witnesses
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit[a] will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically[b] is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven Revelation 11:4-13

First, they appeared in the prophecies of Zechariah (ch. 4)
– I find the attention given to their identity there intriguing
• the vision is first a lampstand set between two olive trees
◦ the trees are feeding oil into the lampstand
◦ Zechariah immediately asks “What” the olive trees were — he senses that they are important
“Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord” (Zec. 4:4-5)
then again later in the chapter, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand? And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees . . .?” “Do you not know what thee are?” I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zec. 4:11-14)
• now, after all these years, the olive trees show up again in John’s vision
– during the period of the witnesses’ ministry, no one can touch them
• at the same time, signs and wonders go with their testimony
◦ when their work is complete, the beast from Abyss kills them
(we haven’t been introduced to this creature yet)
• their corpses will be left exposed
“in the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt”
Jacques Ellul, describes these cities as “places of the absolute revolt of [humankind], places of the total refusal of the will of God, places of hatred against God.”
◦ Jerusalem had been conformed to the standard of world nations
◦ with this turn, the witnesses are connected to Jesus, and, specifically, to his crucifixion
where their Lord was crucified

For three and a half days,
those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them
– this is reminiscent of what Jesus told his disciples before his crucifixion and resurrection
A little while and you will not see me . . . Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice (Jn. 16:19-20)
• like Jesus, they were raised from the dead and ascended into heaven
• is it possible these similarities between the witnesses and Jesus are too much of a coincidence?

Let me remind you that these visions unfold like dreams

Everything is symbolic and not everything makes sense
– Jacques Ellul argues that the two witnesses represent Jesus
Ellul, The description of the ministry of the two witnesses suggests that it “would be difficult to be more explicit in describing the time of Jesus upon the earth (as we have emphasized, the vision must be understood on the basis of this which has been told us; and we must not, for example, become confused by the number ‘two’). Truly then there is here an exact synthesis of the work of Jesus. The two witnesses undoubtedly represent the two dimensions that relate to Jesus Christ.”
– from the first chapters of Revelation, Jesus is described as the faithful witness
• and the faithful and true witness (1:5; 3:14)
◦ this defines his life and ministry–especially in John’s gospel
• of course, we wonder why John would see two witnesses to represent Jesus and not one
◦ for one thing, neither witness is named – they’re identical, and we can’t tell one from the other
◦ secondly, where we read “dead bodies” in vv. 8-9 the Greek text is singular, “their dead body”
– Ellul suggests that the two of them represent the twofold nature of Jesus
Son of Man and Son of God – divine word and flesh–Jn. 1:14
• also, combined in Jesus is the witness of the Word and the witness of the Spirit
◦ I’m not dogmatic about this, but it makes sense that at the heart of Revelation is Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection

An announcement regarding the three woes
The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come

The seventh trumpet sounds and heaven erupts in praise again

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
    who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
    and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
    but your wrath came,
    and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
    and those who fear your name,
    both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings,[c] peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail Revelation 11:15-19

With Jesus’ resurrection, the kingdom of God entered our world
– it’s not the fullness of what is yet to come,
• but it is a real presence and the promise of completion

Conclusion: Jesus defined the identity of his disciples when told them “you will be my witnesses”

He did not say, “You will go witnessing” but “you will be my witnesses”
– we represent Jesus to the world as he represented the Father

Driving my granddaughter Addison home on Friday I was feeling frustrated with the heavy traffic on the road and negligent drivers. Addy sensed my frustration (well, actually, she witnessed it), so I announced, “I am going to start ‘Christian driving.’ I then held up my hand and motioning to the cars around us, I said, “I forgive you. I forgive you, I forgive you.” Addy giggled, and that made my day.

You may know already, the Greek word for witness is martus, from which we get the English word martyr
There is a kind of death we experience when we represent Jesus
A death of our personal concerns so we can tend to the needs of others
In this dying, we lose some things and we gain some things
St. Paul tells us that the losses are worth it

How did the witness of Jesus first come to you? Who brought it?
How did Jesus reveal himself to you through that person?
You are becoming that for someone else

The transformation that occurs with our spiritual development,
is also the process by which we become living witness to God’s love

Handout

Apr 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Guest Speaker – 04/21/2024

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Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion!  I’m so glad that we belong to each other… Grace and Peace to you!

Last Sunday I was talking about our maturing spiritual immunity against what doesn’t belong to us.  During the week someone from RefleXion reminded me that our immunity must be practiced.  We don’t just get booster shots, but we must have healthy practices every day to keep our immunity strong.  I think that spiritual practices, in general, are a resistance to the lie that we are separate, unknown, unloved.  One way to practice is what we might call the gift of “Hospitality,” or “Welcoming.” This week, a friend and I talked about how she was suffering with memory loss.  Another friend encouraged me in prayer.  I sat with someone in silence as they waited on the Spirit’s leading.  A friend from another faith tradition gave me courage.

All of this reminded me of the Ram Dass quote, “We’re all just walking each other home.”  Years ago, at CBC, we had a weekend dedicated to how people had experienced love from other people.  We had about 15 different people over four services share their experiences.  There were all kinds of stories:  an artist felt known and appreciated just because we were a church that hung art on the walls, someone experienced forgiveness for running into the other’s mailbox, another was invited to pour syrup into little cups every Sunday as a way of steady sobriety, and many stories of, well, just people listening to each other.  Conversations, especially those that are spirit to spirit–building up, stirring up, cheering up–are always uplifting.  And, much more, I believe that we are then participating in Christ’s reconciliation of all things, already in operation, but not yet complete.  We belong; we are known.  This is the triumph of love over division and hate. 

Here’s a quote from Parker J. Palmer:  Community is a place where the connections felt in our hearts make themselves known in the bonds between people, and where the tugging and pulling of those bonds keep opening our hearts.

Think you have nothing to offer?  There’s a blessing in each moment we have with each other.  Romans 12 reminds us:  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,  so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.

Here’s an amazing quote:  “We all come into the world looking for someone looking for us.”  So, who’s looking for you?

Let’s pray:  Lord, we welcome you and each other this morning, and let that welcoming practice continue day after day until we meet you face to face.  Be made known to us in this morning’s message.  May the love that you have incarnated in us lead us this week.  Amen

Morning Talk: Sean Kappauf

Story of El Sal Prison
There’s something life giving when we choose to be a loving presence. Especially to those who
have been out-casted.
I’m addicted to it… but I’m not perfect at it.
I have a sneaky suspicion that after I share about this, I’ll be reminded of how great it is to be a
loving presence and then I’ll get into my truck outside and start driving…
Watch as that just sails away off into the pacific ocean when someone cuts me off
You feel me on that?
Wanting to be a loving presence but falling short in the process?
It’s not easy
So, how is it that we can be a living presence in our life so that in the waking moments of the
day to the end of the day… we are pursuing a path that loves no matter what… that loves even
our neighbor, that loves even the one who speaks badly about us, that loves even those who
hurt us? That loves the Trump-loving-“Christian nationalist,” that loves the democratic socialist
liberal universalist,
that looks above the labels, that transcends our judgments, and sees them as Christ does…
How?
Lets look at Jesus

Luke 15:1-2 NRSV (Updated Edition) – SBL Study Bible

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the
Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and
eats with them.”

I love this passage
So much going on in here…
Tax collectors and sinners are the outliers. The ones on the fringes of society, the ones society
has deemed dirty, wrong, bad… in a dualistic worldview they are the “bad” ones and you see
them here coming near to Jesus.
And at the same time you have the “good guys” the “holy ones” the pharisees and scribes, the
ones who know the scripture, the ones who know their Bible and tell people what it says…
And you hear them grumbling… “This guy welcomes sinners… accepts them, eats with them”
(which is an intimate space that essentially says you’re good in my eyes)
The ones who culture has deemed Bad, Jesus pursues, to remind them that they are good.

What I love about the life of Jesus
Is that he shows us what it looks like to be human, to live a life
that is full of love, aliveness, that sees beyond the labels…
Some of the obstacles that Jesus encounters with others is with those who are certain that
how they read the scripture is clearly the right way to read it and therefore justify their poor
behavior.
As you read the scripture you’ll see Jesus in these situations where he finds himself having out
with those sinful people like I just stated.
Jesus, in his masterful communication skills, speaks to those who are certain about the text, to
those who are closed off, by sharing stories…
It is often in sharing stories that get people who are closed off to see their perspective in a new
light. He does this not too make them feel dumb but rather to show them that there is a better
way to live our life than to put people in categories like “sinner” and “righteous”…
Because we do not live an “us vs them world,” rather we live in an “US” world… we are all
connected… its our myths that we create that can cause us to divide and in return we miss
out… but there is a way to overcome that way of seeing
We over come it by starting with Love, by choosing to love…
Jesus paints this beautiful picture of what that looks like…
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them
said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the wealth that will belong to me.’ So he
divided his assets between them.
Luke 15:11-12
Lets stop here…
Jesus starts off the story with the younger son asking his dad for his inheritance while his dad
is still alive.
Now in a patriarchal middle eastern society, lack of respect for the father is just beyond
comprehension.
You would never ever do something like this.
By the son saying this, he is essentially telling his dad that he hates him and wishes he were dead.
So for Jesus to start off a story this way, is so bizarre for his listeners because this is just
something that should never happen, something so bad, so wrong, an incredible injustice.
Kind of like us hearing that Spirit Airlines is the nicest airline in the world… that can’t be right…
what? no way…
Nevertheless the Father grants his younger son the inheritance…

Jesus goes on with the story
A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant region, and
there he squandered his wealth in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a
severe famine took place throughout that region, and he began to be in need. So he
went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that region, who sent him to his fields
to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the pigs
were eating, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to his senses he said,
‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am
dying of hunger!
Luke 15:13-17
So the son goes away, spends all the money, crashes, hits rock bottom…
How many of us know what thats like? Right?
And he realizes man, the life I’m in right now is no good… I’d be better off being one of my
dad’s servants…
And what ends up happening is the son decides… I’m going home, look what happens:
I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against
heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one
of your hired hands.”
Luke 15:18-19
Again, what the younger son did was so atrocious, was so unthinkable in that culture, to go
back home, could be, probably would be, very very problematic for him and the family, but he’s
so desperate that, this is his best option…
So he begins to recite a speech that he is going to have with his dad.
Now, its subtle, but notice how the son views himself, notice the story that the son creates in
his mind about himself
In verse 19 he says,
I am no longer worthy to be called your son
Lets sit with that for a moment.
We each have a story that we are telling ourselves about our own worth.
Right?
We have a tape that plays in our head, we have a story, a narrative that we are telling ourselves
about our story.
We each do.
Sadly, its often negative.
That we are unworthy
That we are not smart
That we are not thin enough
That we are not strong enough
That we are not accomplished enough
That so-in-so is better
That so-in-so can work harder
That so-in-so has more energy
That so-in-so kids are better
That based upon what I’ve done I’m not worthy to be loved by anyone
Sometimes we are beating ourselves up because we have a narrative that speaks to us about
how unworthy we are…
The inner critic is loud within us…
Just like this son who hits rock bottom!

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him
and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20
Oh man… the beauty of the fathers love to his son is so life giving… here his son is thinking oh
man, my dad is gonna kill me… but instead the son receives true love… a love that isn’t based
upon any action, a pure love that always gives no matter what
A love that isn’t based off of obedience or rule following
This kind of love doesn’t make sense in a religious world.
Where in order for you to receive you have to do something good… Rather the father’s love is
freely given… no matter what
And this is what love does, gives life, and life in abundance… to anyone, to everyone
Some of us here today… that is what we need… a loving embrace… someone to tell us that
you are good, its ok, you at your very core, are deeply and dearly loved…
I have stories of how I’ve been personally attacked… my beliefs these days have caused certain
people to react to me in ways that haven’t been too great. As a result is they have caused me to
wonder if I’m bad or whether there is something wrong with me
But if so,
Why is that I feel so much joy, freedom, love, permission to see the world in a wider aperture,
to see love move across cultures, peoples
Yet some of the closest people with whom I’ve grown up are treating me this way

I was sharing this to my therapist and he said…
Sean stop
I want you to imagine, imagine that five year old Sean is sitting in the chair next to you
Five year old Sean is worried about what others are saying about him, sad that the neighborhood
bully has been calling him names
What would you tell your five year old self?
I sat there for a moment… and was shocked by the words that came out of my mouth…
I’d tell my five year old self…
That is going to be okay. That no matter what people say about you–that is not who you are, you
are safe, you are loved, and always will be loved.
Then the therapist looked at me and said… well?
What was this wizardry!
Sometimes what we need is to be reminded that we are good, even when religious bigots
confront us with their certainty trying to confine is their moralistic religious fascism.
Ook I had to get that off my chest
But in all seriousness… to remind ourselves, that we are worthy, worthy of love, worthy
because in God’s eyes he sees us with endless love.

Lets look at verse 21
Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am
no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly,
bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on
his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate, for this
son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to
celebrate.
Luke 15:21-24
Notice the father doesn’t say anything about the most atrocious thing a son could do to a
father… what his youngest son has done, does not even faze him… rather he says…
Get him a robe!
Giving a robe is a sign of sonship, that’s a sign that he belongs in the Father’s eyes
The father is saying, “This is my boy.”
Nothing he can do will change that truth.

So when the son returns home, his father has a different narrative about who he is

Now the son has a decision to make…
Do I trust my version of my story: I’m no longer worthy to be called your son
Or, Do I trust the Father’s version of my story which is: I am dearly loved son. That no matter
what I am deeply and dearly loved.
Does he trust, does he cling to the Father’s version of the story?
Or does he trust, his version of the story?
What would you do? What would you do if you were that father? What would you do if you
were that son?

Lets keep that in the back of our mind…
Now… remember there are two brothers…
The older brother observes all of this … and he is seriously bothered by it
He wants nothing to do with the party for his brother
Look at what happens:
“Now his elder son was in the field, and as he came and approached the house, he
heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going
on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf
because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to
go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father,
‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never
disobeyed your command, yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I
might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has
devoured your assets with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’
Luke15:25-30
You can just feel the rage from the words that Jesus uses to describe the older brother…
The older brother basically makes his case, “I have been over here playing the good
son.
I have been over here doing everything right, doing all these good things for you.
And yet you throw a massive party for “this son of yours”
For those of us who are parents, we’ve done this before… especially when our kid does
something bad and we look to our spouse and are like,
“Well this son of yours decided to take a sharpie and draw all over the walls!”

You’re gonna throw a massive party for this son of yours?
This son who has wronged you and me in so many ways?
What are you doing?!
Why are you doing this?!
In other words he’s asking… Why not me?
Remember the older brother said…
Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never
disobeyed your command

Think about that.
The older brother has a story that he is telling about himself as well!
See the younger brother’s story is: “I am no longer worthy” because of all that I’ve done
The older brother’s story is: “I am worthy because of all that I’ve done.”
We’ve seen this before huh?
I did it all right
I was moral
I didn’t do that and that and that… like everybody else did
I tithed 10% of my gross
I went to church every Sunday
I was generous with people
I serve at the local charity every month
Or
I’ve been the good child
I’ve showed up at all the right times
I’ve checked all the right boxes.
Doesn’t that count, doesn’t that get me something?
See the older brother’s story is, “I am your son, your good son, because of all the
good things I’ve been doing for you.
I am worthy because of all that I’ve done.”
Yet the Father tells a different version of the older brothers story…

Look at what the Father says
Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is
yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead
and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’
Luke 15:31-32
See what the Father does, the Father’s version of the story was, “Yeah ok, all those years that
you stayed home and did all the good work and you were the good son and you were loyal…
that didn’t earn you the reward of being my son
You had that the whole time!
Cuz you are always with me and everything I have is yours.
In other words, “You don’t have to earn my love, my love has always been there and always
will be here for you!”

Isn’t that beautiful?
What an incredible response,
For both sons it is in losing that they discover what they have–who they really are
Look…
You are deeply and dearly loved. Not because of what you have done, rather you are simply
loved by God… even if you have a messy past and even if you’ve been doing great things.
So the question for all of us today is…
The question is for you and me… who’s version of the story will we trust?
Because the reality is,
The story that we’re telling ourselves, deeply shapes how we live in the world. Deeply
shapes how we interact within those around us.
If we believe at the deepest core that we are unworthy, we will tend to act in certain ways that
flow out of that.
If we believe that the world is a cold, dark, empty, nasty place where everyone is for
themselves…and we kick and we shout and we do whatever you can to crush others to get
ahead, that will shape how we act.
But!
If we believe that there is a God, who responds with this endless love that has no favorites with
an undeserved self-giving love… we will begin to see the beauty, wonder, mystery, of life that is
all around us… and we will act in light of that and this love will propel within us and around
others we come in contact with
As we encounter this kind of life giving, others centered love and acceptance it changes us to
do the same to those around us
This reality frees us to be who we are
Thus giving us the capacity then to love those around us… as we love ourselves.

Now here a couple things to consider… a couple action steps so to speak…

The first step is to take no steps
Isn’t that great! Because you’re doing that already. You’re off to a good start.
Just Be
Be still. Stop. Breathe. Reflect on the great mystery of self-sacrificing love. A love that chooses.
A love that freely gives. A love that has no enemies. A love that never fails. A love that is
embracing you right now.

When we are able to just sit in that great love it moves within us, opening the door of
awareness and aliveness… a letting go of control, a letting go of our false self, and embracing
the truth that we are deeply and dearly loved.
In and with God, we are loving everything and everyone—even our enemies.
So in that state… take time to stop. We are always going. Take five minutes each morning to reflect
on the reality that you are loved, not because of something you’ve done, you are are human
being not a human doing…
JUST BE.
Be open, Be Curious, Be present
When we are embraced and aware of the constant love God gives us it frees us to be open, to
be honest, to be present… because
We have nothing to prove, because we are already loved and everything He has is already
ours.
We stem from an abundance of love and acceptance,
show it, publicly and watch as those around you learn what it means to be human too.
Especially with those we have a hard time with, especially with those that we have
“othered” where we have seen them as the “bad guy” or the “sinner”…

I want to challenge us all today that if we have that type of person in our life to take time to sit
and think about that person… but instead of jumping to a conclusion about what we think of
them,
take time to be curious
to be curious about them.
And when the time is right, reach out to them, with the sole purpose of being curious about
their life, what they are passionate about, what they enjoy doing.
Because everyone wants to be seen, known, heard, and understood, especially hurting people
who have detached. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them… people just want to have
someone to care that they are hurting and acknowledged that they understand without
judgment.
No need to correct or try to win, just be curious and love them by listening.
I can’t count the number of times I thought a person who has said bad things about who I am
and then when I got to really know them, that everything in me changed for the better about
how I view them.
Often we jump to conclusions about someone without ever giving them the time of day.
This way of living is not easy, but its so worth it.

May you know today that you are deeply loved and that love isn’t based upon anything other
than that reality,
may you be embraced by this love
and may it propel you to move forward to be a constant loving presence to those around you, especially with those you may find it hard to love.
I’m going to close today with a prayer that I pray often:
Lets pray
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today, because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval, and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within.
Amen

Apr 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapter 10

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Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome friends!               Grace and Peace to you!

This past week I had a little cold.  I say little because I was really only sick for a few days.  There was something going around where we live; my friend said it lasted seven days for her, and she said, “Your immune system is probably better than mine.”  That got me thinking about immunity in a broader sense.  We know that a healthy immune response is developed when we’ve been exposed to something and get through it.  I’m wondering if that correlates with our faith. 

If we have experienced doubt, disappointment, or confusion, for instance, could navigating through that build our faith so we don’t have a such a heightened allergic—”all-hands-on-deck”–reaction next time around?  I don’t think, then, that it’s necessarily a bad thing if we’re exposed to something hard, if it causes our faith in God to grow.  I know that I, for instance, used to be very reactive to disapproval; but I know that someone else can’t tell me who I am. Our bodies recognize an invader, something that doesn’t belong; and I think our souls do too. When we are allergic, we overreact.  When we’re immune, the invader is fought off mostly without our awareness of it.  Our relationship with God may include being broken, disheartened—and, well, sometimes miserable.  How could these help to enlarge our capacity and build our immunity to foreign invaders of our souls?

Remember what James said,  “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

So, here’s your wellness tip from Nurse Nancy today. Drink lots of water, create space for silence, and if you’re exposed to something unpleasant, maybe you’re just building your immunity to critics, naysayers, and fearmongers.

Let’s pray:  Lord, we confess that we are prone to fleeing, fighting, or some other form of over-reaction.  Let it be that we walk through everything with you, so that you can mature us and form us into people of the Way.  When we repent, will you forgive us.  When we train, will you build us up.  What seems bitter–make it as sweet as honey to us.  Grant us to be strengthened in you, that the mystery of our own souls would be fulfilled, and that we would confidently stand before many in your name.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets. Revelation 10:1-7

Intro: I get the feeling that when we read the book of Revelation,

We tend to watch each scene unfold from a safe distance
– I don’t think it was meant to read this way,
• we’re supposed to feel a threatening closeness
• we’re drawn into the dream – it’s our collective nightmare
– John was certainly more than a spectator
• characters approach him, converse with, and engage him
◦ in this chapter he’ll be told to take and eat what he has been shown
• we do not merely read the Revelation, we encounter it
◦ we go on an adventure through this fantastical other-world

Initially, there was the scroll with the seven seals
– after the sixth was opened, there was a long break before the seventh seal was opened
• and what happened with the seventh seal was significantly different from first six
◦ so now, there are seven trumpets that sound, and another break between the sixth and seventh
(this break includes all of chapter ten through to chapter 11:15)
◦ again, there is significant difference in what happens when the seventh trumpet sounds
• each series of sevens seems to overlap – like newsreels of the same event, but from different angles
◦ what is happening is the reverse of the creation story
◦ this is the destruction of heaven and earth – the end of the world
– the seventh day of creation is different from the first six days
• the seventh day is holy and a day of rest
• that is the pattern of this section of Revelation (all way to chapter 16)

What happens during this break before the seventh trumpet?

I think it can best be expressed by a verse from Deuteronomy:
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deut. 29:29)
– here in Revelation 10, by a dramatic display, we will learn that God has secrets
– soon we are told his mystery will be “fulfilled”
• that God’s project through the millennia of human history will at last be seen and known as it comes about

The last scene of chapter 9 was that of a smoldering landscape

As the survivors were burying their dead, they persisted in doing wrong
– in John’s next vision, he sees a mighty angel descending to earth
• the impression John gives us of the angel’s appearance:
◦ is brilliant light – his face shines like the sun, even legs bright as fire
◦ and above his head, light is refracted into a rainbow of color
• John notices the angel has a scroll in his hand,
◦ that it is “little” and it is “open” (not like the previous scroll that was closed and sealed with 7 seals)
– the angel sets down with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the earth
• in chapter 13, a satanic beast will rise out of the sea and another demonic beast will rise out of the land
• before that, here is this might angel whose feet on the sea and earth already indicates his dominance
◦ in the book of Joshua, after Israel’s first major conquest, five Canaanite kings were brought to Joshua
He summoned the leaders of the army and told them, “Come near; put your feet on the necks of these kings.” . . . And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the LORD will do to all your enemies against who you will fight” (Jos. 10:24-25)
◦ that is how I understand the angel’s stance on the sea and earth

What happens next I do not think is easy to understand
– when the angels speaks, his voice is the roar of a lion
• and then, either in response to his voice or as a loud echo, “the seven thunders sounded”
◦ I’m pretty sure that “seven” indicates full volume
• but when John was about to write what he heard the thunders say,
◦ he was told not to write it – which is unlike the little book that was already written on and open
– so why this build-up and all the fanfare, just to shut us out? Why even mention the seven thunders?
• my guess is that God wants to make it clear to us, there is far more to know than what we’ve been given
◦ if it what they said would have been helpful for us, then it would not be kept from us
Jacques Ellul, “For it must not be forgotten that the Word is revealed only to the extent that it is useful to [humans].”
◦ and St. Peter wrote,
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who call us to his own glory and excellence (1 Pet. 1:3)
• some people have an unhealthy interest in the supernatural
◦ various cultures have devised occult means to pry into the unknown
◦ the Scriptures warn us away from all of that
there’s more darkness and deception in those practices than light and truth

John’s attention is drawn back to the angel

In swearing an oath, a person would raise their hand (Ps. 106:26, etc.)
– we still raise right hand today – as do presidents when they are inaugurated
• the angel’s sworn oath is that
there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled
• God has been working out a plan since the beginning
◦ it has been hidden from us – that’s what mystery means; something hidden or secret
◦ mystery in the New Testament does not mean uncanny, or spooky, or a puzzle to solve
– previously, some mysteries had been revealed
• for instance, Paul’s insight regarding Jesus, which was
according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations (Ro. 16:25-26)
. . . the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known . . . in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (Ep. 3:3-4)
• but here the mystery is not “revealed,” but “fulfilled”
◦ we will realize God’s plan as it unfolds in our world

The ongoing drama becomes even more personal for John
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” Revelation 10:8-11

The same voice from heaven that told John not to write what the seven thunders said,
– now instructs him to go and grab the open scroll from angel
• when he does this, the angel tells him to take it and eat it
◦ consuming God’s word is a familiar metaphor
I have not departed from the commandment of his lips
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food (Job 23:12)
Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart (Jer. 15:16)
◦ Ezekiel was given similar instructions to those John received
“Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey (Eze. 3:1-3)
– I dug up an old meditation from 1999, that I wrote on this verse
My med: “God’s word had to enter him, not as information feeding into his brain, but as a life force which his body assimilated so that it became a part of him and energized him. There is a great deal of Bible study going on, but too little meditation, too little ingesting of God’s word. We have lots of information, but not as much transformation.
Read the Bible, but also feed on it. Taste its sweetness. You savor bits of insight, the discovery of connections between texts, and word studies that reveal a variety of meanings. Let what you receive sit with you for awhile. Let it digest until it becomes a part of you, and then you must live it. That is when it turns bitter. That is the hard part of receiving God’s word. Bible study can be fun. Living the truth can be bitter. Giving God what his word requires of us can bring unwanted changes, deprive you of comforts, take you where you do not want to go, show you things you don’t want to see, and upset your entire world.”
• after eating the scroll, John is given a job to do (v. 11)
• and we’ll leave him there for now

Conclusion: A few weeks ago, Jim suggested a title for these talks

“A Document of Spiritual Direction”
– if so, what must we learn to continue our spiritual journey?

  • We must accept the fact that there are doors we cannot open
    I want a far more vivid awareness of God’s presence, something almost tangible
    But God has not chosen that for me, and I can’t manufacture it
    I’ve had to accept this closed door
  • On the other hand, we must make the most of the doors he has opened
  • We must receive the Scriptures as our necessary spiritual diet
    Be with what we read long enough to digest it, break it down, and draw nutrition from it
  • We must live it, do it, speak it when given the opportunity
    Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth (1 Jn. 3:18)
  • What is the message that has been given to you?
    Write it down somewhere
  • How are you going to deliver it?

This is our homework – and it will keep us busy for a lifetime