Getting to Know Jesus: Revelation 1

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Revelation is one of my favorite books of the Bible to read. Granted it’s a little confusing at times. And a lot to take in. But it’s an intriguing read. It talks of prophecies and the return of Christ, the tribulation and the 1000 year reign, heaven and the obliteration of evil, with detailed descriptions of how the end of the world will unfurl. It’s captivating. Raw. Intense. Vivid. It’s full of imagery that points to events yet to come. We have access to this book because of John. A disciple of Jesus and the same guy who wrote the gospel of John, he experienced this revelation while exiled on the island of Patmos. Much like the other disciples, John faced lot of persecution from the Romans for preaching the gospel. But he never relented. Because of his perseverance, we have a record of his experience of what the Lord revealed to him about the last days. And as we read this Holy-Spirit inspired book of Revelation, we get the privilege of glimpsing into eternity. Learning about what the resurrected Christ looks like. Reading about the second coming. Reading about heaven. In studying the book of Revelation, we get to know Jesus for who He is eternally. Holy. Perfect. Glorious. The Alpha and the Omega.

 

Summary: Revelation 1

In Revelation 1, John gives an introduction to the book, saying that God revealed it to him so that others might know what will soon take place; John talks about being on the island of Patmos; John says that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day when he experienced the revelation; John lists the 7 churches that will be addressed later in the book; John describes seeing Jesus and his own response to what he saw; Jesus speaks to John; and Jesus explains the significance of the 7 stars and 7 gold lampstands.

 

You can also read Revelation chapter 1 here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+1&version=ESV

 

Jesus in Revelation 1

Jesus is the faithful witness (v. 5)

Jesus is the firstborn of all who will be raised from the dead (v. 5)

Jesus is the ruler of the kings on the earth (v. 5)

Jesus loves (v. 5)

Jesus sets us free from our sin (v. 5)

Jesus makes us into a kingdom (v. 6)

Jesus is worthy of glory (v. 6)

Jesus has dominion forever (v. 6)

Jesus is coming soon (v. 7)

Jesus will be seen by all people (v. 7)

Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega (v. 8)

Jesus was, is, and is to come (v. 8)

Jesus’ hair is shining white as snow (v. 14)

Jesus’ eyes burn like a fiery flame (v. 14)

Jesus’ feet are like burning bronze (v. 15)

Jesus’ voice sounds like rushing waters (v. 15)

Jesus mouth protrudes a two-edged sword (v. 16)

Jesus’ face shines like the sun (v. 16)

Jesus causes us to fall at His feet in awe (v. 17)

Jesus calms us (v. 17)

Jesus doesn’t want us to be afraid (v. 17)

Jesus is the First and the Last (v. 17)

Jesus is the Living One (v. 18)

Jesus is eternal (v. 18)

Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades (v. 18)

 

 “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. He laid His right hand on me, and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look – I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades.” 

-Revelation 1:17-18-

 

Questions for Today:

  • How is Jesus different in Revelation than He is in other books, like the gospels?
  • How does Revelation help me to see Jesus more clearly?
  • What can I do to give Jesus more reverence in my life?
  • What next step can I take in my relationship with Jesus Christ?

 

Mark Cuban, Church Music and the Body of Christ

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Recently, I was intrigued by Mark Cuban’s comments regarding stereotyping and prejudice. To sum it up, he described how everybody has certain biases, prejudices and stereotypes about people. Surfacing in the wake of Donald Sterling’s incident, it stirred up a lot of buzz and media attention, especially on ESPN which revolved around Cuban’s comments almost non-stop for an entire week. It’s a pressing issue that isn’t going away anytime soon. Living in a fallen world plagued by sin, prejudice has always marked the human condition in some form or fashion. Light skin prejudiced against dark skin. Men prejudiced against women. Rich prejudiced against poor. Lifestyle prejudices. Religious prejudices. Food-eating prejudices. Unfortunately, humanity tends to drift towards fear of others. Fear of what we don’t understand. Fear of what we fail to empathize with.

The problem is that most people don’t think they are prejudice. Most people don’t articulate a major prejudice. Most don’t get into trouble like Donald Sterling with public comments. But honestly, we all have certain prejudices that – when acted upon – cause others to feel inferior. It happens when a vegetarian looks down on his friend ordering a burger. It happens when we glance at somebody dressed in unusual clothes. It happens when we label certain parts of town. It happens when we stir up debate with those we know have different political and/or social views than us. It happens when we let our personal views become the standard by which everyone should live by.

I encountered one of these moments about a month ago – in a place I least expected to observe prejudice. I happened to be visiting a divinity school with the possibility of attending there. One of the professors was giving a lecture on the history and evolution of contemporary worship music. I was intrigued. As the lecture went on I became more and more aware that this was not really a lecture for the purpose of educational knowledge, but for argumentative defense of a very clear bias: that contemporary worship music is a distortion of formal worship.

I was not bothered by the fact that he had a different opinion than me. Coming from a liberal arts school, I’m used to that. I was not even bothered that he didn’t really care for contemporary worship music or “mega-churches.” What bothered me was that this professor attempted to ridicule others who go to big churches and/or worship in a contemporary style, saying that they can’t see God as clearly.

This is a reflection of a major problem existing in religious circles. Prejudice towards a certain way of experiencing “religion” is eating away at the very lifeline of the body of Christ. Causing division. Causing resentment. Killing diversity. Killing community. All that’s left are people fighting. People fighting over budgets. Fighting over carpet colors. Fighting over methods. Fighting over church music. Surely, there are more important issues than this.

But after that lecture, my thoughts started to change. I started to be reminded of all the times I have been prejudiced towards other people. The Lord really convicted me of a lot of viewpoints I had. I kept thinking of all the times that I secretly judge other people who don’t go to the kind of church that I go to, or have different stances on social issues, or have certain lifestyle habits. I realized that I can be just as prejudice as that professor was. I am just as guilty. That experience has really softened my heart to come to the realization that difference and opposition is inevitable. And it’s okay. All that matters is that I show all people Christ’s love. And when it comes to disagreeing with Christians about the way we experience God, I have to step back and acknowledge that my way of experiencing God is not everybody’s way. Jesus relates to all people differently. And each church is unique and can be uniquely celebrated and worshipful. That doesn’t mean that we should compromise what we believe when it comes to biblical doctrine and theology. But it does mean that we should accept others for how they do church and pray that we all can learn collectively about Jesus from how He works uniquely in each of our lives.

The only antidote to prejudice within the church is a deeper understanding of how and who God created us to be. Then, division because of differences might be converted into multiplication because of differences. In Romans 12:4-6, Paul writes, “Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given us, we have different gifts.” Psalm 139 also talks about individuality and diversity in the way that God created each one of us. We were created to embrace diversity for the sake of strengthening one another with the various gifts we have to offer. We were created to work together.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” A masterpiece illustrates multiplicity at its best. It illustrates the beauty of many layers, colors, and hues all working together as a brilliant piece of art. So together as the body of Christ, we are His masterpiece. Not one person. Not one church. But as all of the people and all of the churches unite together in Christ, we are His masterpiece. Once a church understands that diversity is a good thing, they will grow exponentially as more people feel welcome and they develop more ministries to reach out to a variety of different people.

As we work together to accomplish His will on the earth, we are able to achieve far more than we ever could on our own. But in order to be productive contributors towards that cause, we must prepare ourselves to be individuals who are accepting, compassionate, and empathetic towards different kinds of people. We must relish the opportunity to learn from others. This only happens when we surrender to Christ and let Him transform our minds as it says in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.”

Then, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that “we have the mind of Christ.” (emphasis mine). It is ours. And His mind enables us to think the way He thinks and see the way He sees. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” Without the mind of Christ, we are susceptible to our natural, human way of seeing and thinking. We are without hope to see others beyond the surface. But since we – who have chosen to surrender to His lordship – have the mind of Christ, we too can see the heart just as the Lord sees it. We are able to see others for who they are on the inside, instead of what they appear to be on the outside. Our mind is not at the mercy of prejudice. And we are profitable to the body of Christ.

But if we are not persistent in training our minds to be transformed and renewed to be like Christ, we will struggle to win the war of prejudice. Really, we will struggle to win any kind of assault on our mind. It’s not humanly possible for us to do so. We need God’s help. And with his help, we find strength in our time of need. As we let Jesus help us in this battlefield of the mind, we are more apt to overcome any inclinations towards prejudice. And we are more gracious whenever we encounter those who have yet to let go of the prejudices they still possess. We can take the chance to analyze our own hearts and lives to see if there is any wayward way within us so that we can change and be a light to others. Then we will come to experience God’s beauty and His Spirit as He shows Himself to be the author and creator of a world full of rich diversity.

 “The earth  and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord; for He laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the rivers.” -Psalm 24:1-2-

Questions for Today:

  • What unique gifts do I have to offer my church and my community?
  • What prejudice is keeping me back from contributing to the body of Christ?
  • How can I let God renew and transform my mind?
  • What next step is God challenging me to take in my walk with Him?

 

Getting to Know Jesus: John 4

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I love reading the gospel of John because his gospel is a little different than the other three, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John’s gospel paints a portrait of the Savior Jesus as both the lion and the lamb. He is God incarnate. Human but divine. Powerful but humble. While the other three gospels also portray Jesus’ divinity and humanity, John’s gospel is laden with a theological overtone emphasizing the supremacy, authority, and purpose of Jesus’ time on earth. It reveals Jesus’ holiness. John’s gospel also includes many stories and passages that are not found in the other three gospels. John’s perspective is unique, fresh and compelling as a work of the Holy Spirit’s anointing. In particular, the story of the woman at the well found in John 4 is one of the stories unique to John’s gospel. It is the story of a Samaritan woman who meets Jesus and is forever changed. By looking closer at this story – and chapter 4 of John’s gospel altogether – we get a glimpse of Jesus in action during his 3 year ministry. Reaching out to the unassuming. Bringing hope to the one marked hopeless. Offering love. Offering life. This is Jesus.

 

Summary: John 4

In John 4, Jesus heads for Galilee with His disciples and travels through Samaria to get there; Jesus’ disciples go into town for food; Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well who is drawing water; He asks her for water and begins to have a conversation with her about God’s “living water,” that never runs dry; the woman believes that He could be the Messiah and runs to town to tell the others about Him; the disciples return just as the woman leaves and they are confused as to why he is talking to a woman; Jesus talks to the disciples about the harvest being ripe; many in the woman’s town begin to believe that Jesus is the Messiah; Jesus and his disciples arrive in Galilee and everybody believes Him, but only because they have seen his miracles; Jesus heals the son of a royal official.

 You can also read John chapter 4 here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+4&version=HCSB

Jesus in John 4:1-54

Jesus travels with a purpose (v. 4)

Jesus was human. He got tired too (v. 6)

Jesus is waiting for us at “the well” (v. 6-8)

Jesus is unafraid to talk to those who society labels as “other” (v. 7-9)

Jesus wants to give us life (v. 10)

Jesus wants us to realize how much we need Him (v. 10)

Jesus is honest with us (v. 13)

Jesus helps us to see the reality of our situation (v. 13)

Jesus cares about our condition (v. 13-14)

Jesus is the eternal well of life (v. 14)

Jesus gives continually (v. 14)

Jesus changes our heart (v. 15)

Jesus knows everything (v. 16-18)

Jesus tells us that He already knows our situation, but doesn’t condemn us (v. 18)

Jesus teaches us about worship (v. 21-24)

Jesus is already here (v. 25-26)

Jesus is the Messiah (v. 26)

Jesus amazes us (v. 28-29)

Jesus is funny (v. 32)

Jesus doesn’t worry about earthly needs (v. 32)

Jesus desires to do the will of God above all else (v. 34)

Jesus is faithful (v. 34)

Jesus sees potential (v. 35)

Jesus is confident (v. 35)

Jesus turns optimism into a reality (v. 35-36)

Jesus is always looking to harvest and save people (v. 35-36)

Jesus spends time with people (v. 40)

Jesus’ words prompt our belief in Him (v. 41-42)

Jesus is the One we look to (v. 47)

Jesus wants us to believe even when we don’t see signs and miracles (v. 48)

Jesus still heals even when he knows our faith is weak (v. 50)

Jesus’ words are powerful (v. 53)

 

“Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.” –John 4:10- (The Message)

 

 

Questions for today:

  • What “water” in my life am I holding onto in place of Jesus’ living water?
  • Where is my faith weak?
  • How can I put more trust in Jesus?
  • What about Jesus stood out to me?
  • How can I let these attributes of Jesus shape the way I view Him from now on?
  • What practical step can I take to become more like Jesus today?

The Problem with Shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette

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In my teens, I admit I watched The Bachelor and The Bachelorette religiously. It was normal and popular and attention-grabbing. All my friends watched the show. All the magazines were talking about it. What could it hurt?

I used to be confused when my dad would get mad at me for watching it, asking that I turn off the television. Saying it was filth. Saying it was trash. I never really understood that he was right… until I started to learn about what the Bible says about love and how Jesus himself demonstrated it. The Bible says in John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” Now, that is a strong picture of love. One that I doubt we see regularly on television screens. When’s the last time these shows ever depicted someone laying his or her life down? Sacrificing his or her wants? Sacrificing his or her comforts? It seems like these shows do just the opposite.

Rather than teaching people what it means to love someone sacrificially, it primes people to love selfishly, sometimes without even knowing it. It becomes a game of tricking someone into doing whatever it takes to be the most desirable. Doing whatever it takes to steal attention. Doing whatever it takes to win. And it tricks us into playing along with them. We fall for it every time we refuse to turn the channel.

Finally, I realized that I was being duped by the deception these shows feed their audience. The real problem with shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette is that they illustrate a false definition of love. We watch these shows without first preparing our hearts and minds with what real love is. Then we let the show define it for us. We can watch these shows and be tempted to think love is by chance. Love is by fate. Love is fluctuating. Love is seductive. Love is manipulating. Love does what it does to get what it wants. Love is all about how you feel. Love is something you find. Love is something you try out with a bunch of different people. Love is a fairy tale.

But this is not love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us a clear picture of what pure love is. It says…

“Love is patient;

Love is kind.

Love does not envy;

Is not boastful;

Is not conceited;

Does not act improperly;

Is not selfish;

Is not provoked;

Does not keep a record of wrongs;

Finds no joy in unrighteousness,

But rejoices in the truth;

Bears all things,

Believes all things,

Hopes all things,

Endures all things.

Love never ends.”

This passage in 1 Corinthians is counter-cultural. It is totally opposite from anything we see on television, read in magazines or hear at school. That’s probably because 1 Corinthians 13 love isn’t easy. It’s hard to love like this 100% of the time. It’s even hard to love like this 50% of the time! But the Bible demands it. And so does God. Really, it’s more than just a demand. Nobody ever has an epiphany or a life-changing experience from a demand placed on them. But a calling…that changes people. That’s why loving in this way is more of a calling than it is a demand. God calls us to love. This calling is based upon His own love for us, that we might be a lighthouse in a darkened generation as it describes in Philippians 2:15. Loving in this way is the only way to shine that light. It takes commitment. Dedication. Persistence. Intentionality. But it’s worth it. As we love others the way that 1 Corinthians tells us to love, we become transformed as our minds are renewed in Christ’s likeness. We become different. We talk different. We act different. Our love compels us to put others above ourselves because we know that it is our honor to do so. And we discover joy in manifesting this kind of love. A calling to love changes everything.

Jesus demonstrated real love to us by laying down his very life! He sacrificed everything He had. He is love in the flesh. Who are we to not do the same. We complain when we don’t feel loved. We complain when we don’t yet have a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, etc. We complain when nobody shows up for us. But this is because we fail to love first. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” So the only reason we even have the capacity to love is because Jesus gave us that capacity through first showing love to us! If we want others to love us, we must love them first. If we want to have healthy relationships, we must be a person who loves without expecting anything in return. If we want others to be there for us, we must first love others by being there for them. We must go out of our way, sacrifice our comforts, and abandon our desires by being the one who first imparts love to others. Even when we feel like it’s not working. Even when we feel like we get nothing in return. We keep loving. Why? Because Jesus kept loving us even when we didn’t.

As we embrace the very love-nature of Jesus, we embody the love of Christ in everything that we do, so that we can be the “fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,” as it says in 1 Corinthians 2:15. It is up to us to show love to the world. It is up to us to show them Jesus. Then maybe, the world might be so full of His love that we no longer need to fuel love shows like The Bachelor and Bachelorette.

Questions for Today:

  • How can I embrace God’s calling for me to love like 1 Corinthians 13 says?
  • Have certain TV shows and movies been keeping me from clearly seeing God’s definition of love?
  • What can I do to change that?
  • How can I help others to know of God’s love for them?

“Give thanks to the God of heaven! His love is eternal.” –Psalm 136:26-

Getting to Know Jesus: Luke 9

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As a Christian, getting to know Jesus personally is the goal of our faith. It changes everything. And as we get to know Him more and more, we are transformed into His likeness through the Holy Spirit working within us. What a beautiful thing! Reading the Bible especially helps us to learn more about Christ and the ways in which He lived as a human here on the earth. And as we read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), we get a glimpse of Jesus’ heart and a deeper understanding of who He is. By looking closer at one chapter of a particular gospel, my hope is that we will become more aware of His person, fall in love with His goodness, and strive to emulate who He is in every area of our lives.

Luke 9: Summary

Jesus summons the disciples to cast out demons, feeds 5000+ people, predicts His death and resurrection, is transfigured on a mountain in front of Peter, James and John, casts out demons, journeys towards Jerusalem, and talks with His disciples about what it means to follow Him.

You can also read Luke chapter 9 here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+9&version=HCSB

Jesus in Luke 9:1-62

  • Jesus wants to empower us (verse 1-2)
  • Jesus isn’t worried about his present needs (v. 3-4)
  • Jesus is intriguing (v. 9)
  • Jesus makes time for people (v. 11)
  • Jesus welcomes us (v. 11)
  • Jesus wants us to know about God (v. 11)
  • Jesus heals (v. 11)
  • Jesus recognizes others’ needs (v. 13-17)
  • Jesus challenges us to take action (v. 13)
  • Jesus partners with us and tells us our next step in taking action (v. 14)
  • Jesus acknowledges the Father in everything He does (v. 16)
  • Jesus wants to hear our response (v. 20)
  • Jesus teaches us what is necessary to follow Him (v. 23)
  • Jesus is radiant with glory (v. 29)
  • Jesus is God’s Son (v. 35)
  • Jesus has power and authority to rebuke demons (v. 42)
  • Jesus reflects the greatness of God (v. 41-43)
  • Jesus knows the thoughts of our hearts (v. 47)
  • Jesus does not force Himself into places where He is unwelcome (v. 55)
  • Jesus filters through our optimism and challenges us to recognize what we must give up in order to follow Him wholeheartedly (v. 57-62)


Questions for today:

  • After reading Luke 9, how has my perception of Jesus changed?
  • What surprised me?
  • What do I most admire about Jesus in Luke 9?
  • What practical step can I take today to become more like Him?
  • What is it Jesus is asking me to give up to follow Him?

“Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” –Luke 9:23-

Small Steps of Victory

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Daily life as a Christian can be an overwhelming undertaking at times. There are decisions that require us to sacrifice and trust, there are moments when we must turn the other cheek, moments when we must forgive and let go, there are relationships that we must foster and give preference to over ourselves, and there are seductive temptations that we must run and flee from. It is easy to be confused by the daily struggles I face while striving to live life as a Christian. Sometimes I wonder if I am doing something wrong, or if bad decisions will haunt me the rest of my life. If John 10:10 says that Jesus came to give life and give it abundantly, why is it that we experience so many challenges and temptations in our lives as Christians?

I have found that as I try to grow closer to God, the spiritual battles become more intense. And the realization more apparent that I am in way over my head. But with the increase in struggles, comes the increase in grace. And with the increase in grace, comes the increase in the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome. There is nothing that a follower of Christ cannot overcome. Nothing! And as we experience the tumultuous cycle of struggling and overcoming, we make small steps of victory that add up. Slowly, we gain acceleration on the uphill climb that will all culminate on the day we see Jesus. And, oh, will it be so worth it!

1 John 3:2-3 says this,
“Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed.
We know that when he appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is.
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself.” (emphasis mine)

So we strive to take small steps of victory now because we – who have surrendered to His Lordship – already belong to Him. We are His. And we purify ourselves because we have this hope. One day we will see Him. It compels us to live for Jesus in every aspect of our lives. Will we fail?…yes. Will be struggle?…yes. Will we doubt?…yes. But we have this hope, and this hope does not disappoint! We may struggle now, but one day we will see Him as He is and He will illuminate who we really are… a perfect, blameless child of the living God.

In the meantime, though, it can seem like the weight of failures, big and small, eclipse our ability to believe that God fully loves us right now. We think, God will love me in heaven when I’m perfect, but He’s just tolerating me right now. But that’s not what the bible says! The Bible says in John 3:16 that God so loved the world that he sent his son only son to die for the world. And it doesn’t stop there. There’s a sweetness in verse 17 that says, “For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (emphasis mine) If God did not condemn you then, He is not condemning you now. He just wants the chance to cover you in His righteousness, that you might be saved and eternally loved forever.

The good news is…we have a God who understands. We have a God who came down to meet us. He came to be human. He came to feel what we feel. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus cares about your struggle. Jesus knows what it feels like. Jesus wants to make you whole. He’s the only one who can. Because He, being God, is the only one who came down to live the perfect human life as an exchange for your life and mine.

So in the midst of our struggles, challenges, temptations and failures, I am reminded of 2 Timothy 2:13, which says, “if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself!” What a comfort! To know that –if we are in Christ –we are seen by God in the same way that He sees Jesus! Worthy, spotless, pure, righteous and so loved. This identity compels us to overcome. It enables us to walk as He walked. For we are not trying to earn our salvation by the way we overcome obstacles. We already have our salvation if we surrender to Him, and thus, are compelled to overcome by taking small steps of victory.

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Questions for today:
• What challenges or temptations am I facing right now?
• What is holding me back from receiving God’s grace and power to overcome that?
• What failure is holding me back from receiving God’s love for me?
• What small step of victory is God asking me to take in my relationship with Him?