He Says Yes

He says yes.  We say amen.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:20-22 ESV)

ALL the promise of God are YES in Jesus the Messiah!  That is impressive!

Our response to the great thing God has done in Christ is a hearty ‘amen’ to his glory.  Amen is the word of verity and agreement.  It is truly the people’s word and it should be uttered often and always to God’s glory.  Consider what God’s ‘yes’ means in these three verses alone.

Can we be established?  God says yes.  We say amen.  To be established is to be founded on something solid and supported by something strong.  In vain people try to establish themselves before God.  Even the best of our efforts can not come up to the glory of God.  See Isaiah 64:6 and Romans 3:23.  But God is graciously willing to establish us and he does it through Jesus Christ.  For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11)  Jesus, who is God’s choice foundation stone (Isaiah 28:16) laid by God himself, said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)  Can we?  Yes.  Amen!

Can we be anointed?  God says yes.  We say amen.  Established in Christ, we still need help from day to day to faithfully follow him.  The way is difficult and sometimes perilous.  It is no good watering down what Jesus said.  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”  “A servant is not greater than his master.”  “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”  Each quote is from a troublesome paragraph in John 15:18-25.  But the very next paragraph begins “But when the Helper comes.”  That helper is the Holy Spirit.  He is the anointing that Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians.  God does not establish us then leave us alone.  He is with us.  We need help.  We need anointing.  Can we be?  Yes.  Amen.

Can we be authenticated?  God says yes.  He has sealed us.  We say amen.  The seal confirmed the integrity and authenticity of whatever it sealed.  The medicine from the drug store is sealed.  That is verification that what the label says on the outside matches the contents on the inside.  Christians have a spiritual enemy and one of his most effective weapons is accusation.  He finds some weakness in us, exploits it to the fullest, and then accuses us, not only before God, but to our own conscience.  This seal of God is a spiritual seal.  So it must be spiritually discerned.  It is there first to confound our enemy.  If God puts his seal on us what can the enemy say?  But it is also there for us to discern.  We discern spiritual realities by listening to the Holy Spirit.  He is the author of Scripture.  Scripture is what he speaks.  So we read these verses and know that as we have faith in Christ we are sealed.  Authenticated?  Yes.  Amen.

Can we be assured?  God says yes.  We say amen.  The presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life is called a guarantee or down payment.  Do you have unfinished projects?  I do and I am convinced that some of them may never be finished.  But God is the great finisher.  Philippians 1:6 says “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  God finishes what he starts.  His presence now is assurance of His presence always and forever.  I stumble.  God doesn’t.  I grow weary.  God never does.  I sometimes break a promise.  He keeps all of his.  Can I be assured?  Guaranteed!  Amen!

What a wonderful Savior he is!

Living Large

Living large.

The meals I like most are not the best for me.  Even when I cannot have the meal I want, I still a love a good description of it.  At least I can dream.  Not everyone can write a good description of a meal.  There are several in the Bible. Here is one that begins with a run toward God and turns into a festival of largess.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.  (Psalm 36:7-9 ESV)

Shelter, feasting, drinking, rivers and fountains.  Sounds like a party.  The Bible everywhere indicates that the joy which begins when Jesus finds us and turns us toward home is but a foreshadow of a grand festival that is gathering in heaven even now.

But the great festival of heaven, whose overflow delights the children of God on earth even now, is never just about physical pleasures.  God made the physical pleasures for the blessing of his children but we know that indulgence of those pleasures lead to tragic ends.  True and honest enjoyment of the things God has made for us begins when our hearts are set right before Him.

The description above from Psalm 36 uses party language to describe spiritual delight.  Notice that the party begins in the unfailing love of God.  Here then is one you would not be afraid to run to, like running into the arms of a loving mother or father.

The run begins by looking for shelter or refuge, but upon arrival it seems to have stumbled into a great festival.  First we fly to God for safety and then we discover that God is more than we ever dreamed.  Just weigh the words in these few verses: abundance, river of delights, fountain of life, light.  C. S. Lewis opined that our desires are not too strong but too weak.  “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.” (from The Weight of Glory)

These verses remind me of the prodigal child in Luke 15 who went flying back home only to find that his Father was more prodigious than he.  Such wonder of welcome, such grandeur of grace, such bounty of provision, he could not have imagined.  We can’t either.

Psalm 34:8  says, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”  No one has fathomed the greatness of God.  Such a person would be god if he could do that.  There is one who has shown us this greatness.  He is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” (Hebrews 1:3)  His name is Jesus and he came to call us home.  There’s a party going on!

What a wonderful Savior he is!

Too Simple to Be Easy

Too Simple to Be Easy

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-4, ESV)

This is how he did it, Paul, the one man who did more to turn the Roman world on its head than any other except Jesus himself.  The pattern is personal.  It’s how Paul lived.  It is also tested.  The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.  We are still reading it.  Enough said.

Here are four simple principles with one grand result.

Plainness of speech.  He used no “lofty speech or wisdom.”  He would later say in this same letter that he would rather employ five clear words than ten thousand that no one could comprehend. (14:19)  You would think plainness of speech would be easy while lofty eloquence would be hard.  Actually, plainness of speech is hard work.  R.G. Lee is reported to have said regarding so-called trial sermons that “any fool can fire a big gun once.”  It requires effort to be clear and more to be consistent, but the fruit of that labor is understanding in the hearer.

Simplicity of message.  Paul was focused on “Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  This is not about how you talk but about what you talk.  No good being plain if you have nothing to say!  Paul went straight to the heart of the message for it was the only message that could change the heart.  Having gone there, he stayed there.  Crux means cross. It is the real matter and the real center.  Don’t lose it.

Unadorned life.  Paul was among these people “in weakness and in fear and much trembling.”  There was no personal put on.  I am not sure if this weakness, fear and trembling refers to Paul’s personal state because of all that he recently been through (beaten, jailed, harassed) or his personal state before God because of the greatness of the task laid on him.  Either way, Paul didn’t dress it up for the Corinthians.  You can’t fool them for long anyway.  If you pretend you are something you are not, some wise head will penetrate your disguise and you’ll have to move on to keep up the charade.  If you do that, there is only one who is being fooled and it won’t be the Corinthians around you.  But if you know that God loved you enough to let his Son die for you and that he did that while you were in the worst condition possible, what have you to fear what people think?

Reliance on the Holy Spirit.  Paul depended on the work “of the Spirit and of power.”  He could rest using plainness of speech, simplicity of message, and unadorned life because he was convinced of this.  There is only one who can do the work of conversion and of making disciples of Jesus, the Holy Spirit.  If that is true then it is better to trust him.  That’s what he has always wanted us to do anyway.

These four principles had a single goal, the making of faithful disciples of Jesus the Messiah.  Paul wanted to know that when he walked away from this city, the faith of these Christians would stand because it did not rest in Paul or in any personal charisma or cosmic wisdom he had.  Their faith rested in the power of a living God.  If you walk away and everything falls, what did you do?  But if you walk away and look back and something is still standing, then you know you had a part in building for eternity.

A simple formula that will take everything you’ve got.  But when you are ready to give it everything you’ve got, you will awaken to the presence of one who gave everything he had for you.  You won’t be alone!

What a wonderful Savior he is!

Why Faith

Why faith?  Why not love?  Paul said “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)  So if love is the greatest virtue of all, why does a right relationship with God come by faith?

Why not good works?  Jesus himself said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16)  Let it be said that many believe that their good works will take them straight to heaven.  Are they right?

No.  They are not right.  Salvation comes by God’s grace alone through our faith alone. (Ephesians 2:8)

Regarding so called good works, what appears to be good in the eyes of men may not be good at all.  Have you never done a ‘good’ thing for someone because you really wanted something from them?  What appears good before the world may have a secret motivation that is actually very self centered.  Not all ‘good’ works are good!

But love!  That’s another story, isn’t it?  Aren’t we commanded to love God with everything we’ve got?  Yes we are.  But think about love.  Perhaps you have loved someone who wasn’t very lovely.  Maybe you love someone right now who, if truth be known, doesn’t deserve your love.  If you have never done this, I bet you know someone who has.  So here’s the picture.  One very loving person loving a very unloving person in spite of it all.  Who looks good here?  Love does not necessarily say anything about the object of our love.  It says tons about the one loving.  So when I say that I love God, I’m really bragging on myself.  Love is about who you are not about who HE is.

Now watch this.  Paul wrote about Abraham who was far from a perfect man, really a rascal at times.  Yet among Old Testament  characters, Abraham stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to faith.  Observe what Paul says about Abraham’s faith.

Romans 4:20-21 – No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Love is about the one loving.  Faith is about the one you trust.  Love can be all about you.  Good works too.  But faith can never be about you. Faith always looks outside of self to another.  Try it.  Love an unlovely person.  It is a good thing to do and you may be able to do it.  Then trust someone who is untrustworthy.  I would wager that you can’t, and if perhaps you could, then I wager you will soon be disappointed.  Faith more than anything else tells the world what you think of God.

So, how good is God?  How powerful?  How holy?  How faithful?  Can he keep his promises?  Can he make good on that resurrection thing?  Can he birth you from above?  Can he bring this planet earth mess at last to his feet?  Can he fix it?  Can he mend, fashion, guide, bless?

Abraham was no perfect man.  Neither am I.  Perhaps you aren’t either?  What a happy day when a person realizes that the gates of heaven don’t open for our own goodness!  They open for the Son of God who said that if we believe in him, trust him, we can go in on his goodness.

John 5:24 – Truly, Truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

What a wonderful Savior he is!

The God a Man Would Make

The God a Man Would Make

One of the protests against the claims of Christ is that Christians have made the whole story up, that God is nothing more than the projection of man’s own wishes, a magnified man if you will.  There are many answers to that charge.  Here is one.

You need to think only for a moment what a god made in the image of man would truly look like to dismiss such a thought.  This god might indeed have some excellent qualities but he would also be as violent as a terrorist and as fickle as the stock market.  He might in his better moments care for the poor or the down and out or the stranger.  But he would just as likely abuse them.  And who would know when he would do one and not the other?  That would be a scary god at best but a dangerous one at worst with all the attributes of humanity and infinite power to exercise them.

On the other hand, consider the God the psalmist worshiped.  Psalm 86:8 – There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.

Here is a God who stands apart.  Consider only what Psalm 86 reveals about him.  He hears and answers the prayers of the humble.  He is gracious.  He makes the soul glad.  He is good and forgiving.  His love is steadfast and boundless.  All of creation is headed to his feet to worship him.  His works are filled with wonder.  By walking in his truth, a broken and divided heart is mended.  He delivers from death, pride, oppression and ruthlessness.  He is merciful and willingly shows signs of his favor to his servants.  What a God!  Indeed, there is only one and therefore none like him!

Looking beyond this psalm we learn that unlike man, he is not fickle.  Numbers 23:19 –  God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?  He does not think like a man.  Isaiah 55:8 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.

On and on the story goes.  It is why Christians love the Scriptures.  Studying its stories and pondering its words, they see him, not as men dream he is but as he himself has revealed.  His story always goes on and those who connect with him will go on with him.  That connection comes through the One who speaks most clearly to us about God’s nature, his only begotten Son.  The Son is said to be “the radiance of his glory.” (Hebrews 1:3)  Look at Jesus and you will see the heart of God.  Come to the cross of Jesus and you will begin to know it.  This is no god thought up by men.  Men cannot think so high nor act so great as this, at least not without the help of this awesome God of the Bible.  There is none like him!

What a wonderful Savior he is!

What Would God Give You Today?

What would God give you today?

Ephesians 1:17 – that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him…

Paul prayed for believers to receive a gift from God.  The gift he had in mind he called the Spirit of revelation in the knowledge of him.  That prayer reveals something critical about how people come to know God.

There are three important words every Christian should be familiar with.  Revelation is God revealing himself in human history.  Inspiration is God moving people like Paul to make a record of the revelation, in other words, the Scriptures.  Illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit as he takes the inspired record, the Word of God, and opens the understanding of individual believers to grasp what God has revealed.

People do not come to know God without God’s aid.  Knowing him is more than an intellectual grasp even though our intellect is involved in the process.  Otherwise brilliant people have searched for a lifetime and concluded that God isn’t there.  God does not reveal himself to arrogance or pride of any kind and that includes intellectual arrogance.  But here is what he has shown us.

But this is the one to whom I will look; he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:2)  God looks to the humble and to the humble he makes himself known.

God thinks knowing him is a treasure above all treasures.  Jeremiah 9:23-24 says “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me.”

That knowledge of God is the gift Paul wants for the church because it is the greatest gift of all.  Did you ever get a gift that turned out to be more than it appeared, like a gift within a gift?  If you read beyond Ephesians 1:17 you will see that the gift of knowing God unfolds just that way.  As you unpack the gift of knowing him, you will find enlightenment, hope, inheritance, power, and the assurance that comes from a true understanding of who Jesus is and what he has done.  You will also see that within this gift of knowing God there is also the gift of knowing where things are headed, straight to the feet of Jesus.

There is no greater gift to have and no greater gift to offer a broken world than a path straight to the feet of Jesus.  May each of us find that path today!

What a wonderful Savior he is!

God Has His Critics

God has his critics.  Where is God when things go wrong?  How can a good God allow such bad things to happen?  These are but two of the many questions that get thrown at God every day.  So, when seventeen people are killed in two suicide attacks in Baghdad (happened today), where is God?  Tragedies unfold with blinding speed in our world.  Some people look at these happenings and want God to give an account of himself.  “Where were you, God?”

The short answer is that God never moved.  But if people won’t look for him before tragedy happens they may not be able to see him when it does happen.  So where is he right now?

First, there is no place where he is not!  Consider this.

Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘in him we live and move and have our being.'”  That was the apostle Paul preaching in Athens to people who debated how many gods there were and whether there even was a god.  Paul said that he is not far from each of us.  How close is that?  I breathe in his presence moment by moment.  So do you.  Did you know it?  Did it slip your mind?

Or consider this.  Psalm 139:7-12 asks the question “where shall I go from your Spirit?”  The psalmist then gives a litany of places where you would think to get away from this ever present God.  Not the heavens, not the grave, not the wings of the morning nor the uttermost parts of the sea will take us to a place where God is not.  There is no darkness he cannot make light and no night he cannot turn to day.  Pretty awesome, I think.

So here’s the riddle.  If God is as close as your hand or your next breath, why don’t people know it?  How can he be that close and yet people are not aware of it?  The answer is that either we have not been seeking him and so we don’t know what we are looking for, or seeking him we found the way he offered into his presence disagreeable.

If a person finds God and his ways disagreeable, there really isn’t anything else to say except that there are situations and places that are far more disagreeable than God.  When we get to some of those places perhaps there will be a change of heart if it is not too late for a heart transplant.  But for those who would seek him there is the greatest news ever.  He isn’t hiding and He wants you to find him and he wants you to know him.

1 Corinthians 3:16 – Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

Those words were written to Christians, Christ followers.  These were the people who acknowledged that God was right and they had been wrong.  They were the forgiven, restored to God’s family and fellowship.  Concerning those people, Paul said that God was not only nearby but actually within.  By their faith in Jesus Christ, they were part of the temple which the Holy Spirit was building.  This temple is not wood and stone but people.  The mighty God who made the worlds comes to abide with them, to make his home, to create a place of worship.  In the very next verse Paul said “You are that temple!”  Amazing!

You may walk in fresh air all day but if you wear a gas mask or otherwise refuse to breathe that air, it will do you no good.  God may be as near as near can be and people will not know it.  But some exercise faith in Jesus Christ and when they do, they become increasingly aware of a mighty, holy, wonderful presence.  And to their everlasting astonishment, he is not just out there, he is in here.  Do you know that you are God’s temple?  I pray you do.

How Do You Know the Church Still Matters

How do you know the church still matters?  Is the church still a viable institution in the modern world?

I will be the first in line to say that the church has lost a ton of influence in our American culture.  And why shouldn’t she have lost influence?  In some places the church cannot be distinguished from the general culture except for the shape of her buildings and her tax exempt status!

Still, wherever the church behaves like the church she is making a massive difference.  Some of the difference she makes is obvious as when she labors to help and reclaim the down and out or she stands firm against a tide of opinion on moral issues.  Some of the difference she makes, perhaps the most important, no one notices.  On her knees, seeking the mercy of God for neighbor and nation alike, the church has been a source of blessing and an unknown protection for many.

1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Now that is a great description of the church acting like the church!  Every word here is loaded and ready for action.  In one mighty sentence Peter gives the how, the who and the what of the church making a difference.

How?  You are a chosen race.  The English word that is a direct descendant of ‘chosen’ is the word ‘eclectic.”  The Free Dictionary defines eclectic as “employing individual elements from a variety of sources.”  The church is an eclectic generation.  The church begins to look like the church when she no longer looks like the world.  The world gathers itself into like groups; families, clubs, nationalities, parties.  God, on the other hand, picks unlikely people from unlikely places and brings them together to do unlikely things.  Peter says the church is different by its very nature because of the One who does the choosing, God.

Who?  You are a royal priesthood.  Now the priesthood we know.  The prophet speaks to the people for God.  The priest speaks to God for the people.  Peter is saying that the church in its entirety calls upon God for the sake of others, fellow believers and unbelievers.  But don’t miss this.  This is not just any priesthood but a royal priesthood.  Royal means there is a King!  Kings are such meddlesome people!  They expect that their subjects will obey them!  So the New Testament King, Jesus, expects that this eclectic bunch called the church will do as He commands, intercede for neighbor and nation.  When the church is the church, this is what she does and she does it because the King has commanded it.

What?  You are a holy nation.  The rest of the verse defines what Peter means by that.  To be holy is to be set apart for God’s use.  We think of preachers and missionaries.  Peter doesn’t.  He thinks of the entire church.  Then he carefully defines what we are separated for and why.  To be a Christian at all is to be called out of the darkness of the present order into the marvelous light of God’s glory and grace.  But being called out does not mean being taken out.  We are left here for a time in this ‘present darkness’ (Ephesians 6:12) to proclaim the excellencies, the moral virtue and boundless goodness and massive righteousness and lavish grace, of God who saves us in Christ.  That is a holy life!  Singing, shouting, saying by whatever means we can how good God is!

Does the church still matter?  When the church acts like 1 Peter 2:9, she matters more than anything in the world.  She is nothing less than the Bride of Christ and she is engaged in nothing less than the most important, honorable, and urgent work ever, telling the Jesus story that sinners may hear and come out of the darkness and join her in the wonderful light of the glory of God.

What a wonderful Savior He is!

Famous Can Kickers of the Bible

Famous Can Kickers of the Bible

“Kicking the can down the road” has become a familiar phrase to us and crops up most often in reference to our government’s inability to deal with the national debt.  But the phrase applies to many situations.  Anytime that we fail to take needed action now we are ‘kicking the can down the road.’  We should know that when do this, we will certainly see the can again.  It is just a matter of time.

This came home to me reading the opening verses of Jeremiah 8.  The first three verses are actually the conclusion of Jeremiah’s famous “Temple Sermon” which began in 7:1.  That sermon featured Jeremiah standing at the Temple door telling all who entered not to believe what was being said inside.  Then, as they say, Jeremiah went from preaching to meddling.  Along the way, in what should have been cold, cold water in the face of God’s sleepy people, we hear God say to Jeremiah that he should no longer pray for these folk.  At that point you have to wonder what could be more gut-wrenching and attention grabbing than that!  Jeremiah 8:1-3, that’s what.

These verses are not for weak hearts.  God told Jeremiah that a day was coming when the graves would be opened, not for a resurrection, but for an exposition.  God gave a litany of the so-called leaders of the people; kings, officials, priests, prophets.  Then God added for good measure the citizens of the great city, Jerusalem.  It is hard to imagine the shame of having your bones brought out and scattered across the face of the earth.  Yet the bones of these people would soon be spread before the sun, moon, and stars they had worshiped during their lifetime.  They had worshiped nature while they lived, so God would let them worship nature in their death.

Now we all have hope of a decent funeral.  Some expect more, some less.  But I have not met anyone who would not like to be fondly remembered when they are gone.  Some may say, as I have said in lighter moments, “do what you want, I’m outta here!”  But it isn’t true, is it?  Imagine for a moment that one of those kings is your father or a beloved friend.  What shame was visited upon this nation by this exposing of the bones of the nation’s leaders!

That’s when I realized that these people were the can kickers.  They did not follow the ways of God in their lifetime and they must have thought that judgment would not come, at least in their lifetime.  And in their last conscious moments on earth it must have seemed to be true.  “Whew!  At least I got through before the ax fell.”

We do note that these were leaders and leading people whose bones were exposed to such shame.  Leaders have an awesome responsibility.  They are not responsible for the sins of others but they are responsible for the unique position they hold and the influence they exert or fail to exert.  We influence people every day toward God or away from Him.  Leaders especially.

Hezekiah was a remarkable man of faith.  The record of his walk with the Lord is written large in the Old Testament.  But you will find no perfect man until you bow at the foot of the cross.  There was an incident from Hezekiah’s latter days that is telling.  In a moment of foolish pride, he invited some visiting Babylonians to view his personal wealth, the nation’s wealth, and the nation’s armaments.  As soon as they were gone, Isaiah came to him with a word from God that these very people would be the undoing of the nation.  In fact, it would be the Babylonians who brought the bones out of the tombs.  But it was Hezekiah’s response to Isaiah that rivets our attention on the attitude behind kicking the can down the road.

Isaiah 39 tells the story and verse 8 is Hezekiah’s response.  Here is what he said.  “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.”  But here is what he thought.  “There will be peace and security in my days.”  Can you hear it?  The last worst thought of a can kicker – at least the ax won’t fall on me!  If a man of Hezekiah’s stature fell prey to kicking the can down the road, certainly I need to be careful.

The debt that is being kicked down the road by our government is only a symptom of a much bigger can that is being kicked down the road by our nation.  Failure to live within our means is a spiritual problem and we will not find real answers without a spiritual solution.  God’s ways are being spurned at the very moment we need Him most.  There is no encouragement in the Bible for can kickers.

But there is great encouragement for anyone who will stop, pick up the can, and go to God with their failure.  He didn’t send those leaders away.  They left.  They could have come back.  I did.  You can.  John 3:16

What If You Knew the Outcome

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven!  And the first voice, which I heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”  Revelation 4:1

What if you knew the outcome from the beginning?  What if you knew where the stock market would be next month?  Would it change your actions?  What if you knew the final result of the tournament?  Would your attitude be different from the fans around you?  If you knew that your team would prevail, would there be an air of confidence, not to mention the word ‘swagger?’

Surveying heaven to get the scoop on earth

John was invited by God to see what was coming next.  Imagine that.  No less an authority than God wants to show you things that only He knows.  Once John saw these things his attitude was bound to be quite different.  No swagger, I’m sure.  But talk about confidence!  When a brother or sister in Christ grieved over the loss of their property at the hands of the Romans, John more than anyone else would be able to stand with them knowing and sharing a future of which he was certain though they were struggling to believe.

Everything about this invitation to John is amazing.  But the order of things is important.  God intends to show John the future on planet earth.  But the next two chapters (4 & 5) are not about planet earth but about heaven. Apparently God thinks it very important that His people get a good survey of heaven before He gives them the scoop on earth.  We find sound biblical reasons for this.  Not the least of these reasons is that we need God’s help to see anything as He sees it.  Remember this?  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”  (Isaiah 55:8f)  Everybody will see what is happening when it is happening.  But not everybody will understand it.  John is given a gift of perspective by God Himself.

Everything John saw when he stuck his head through that door shed a new light on everything he would see as he finished his walk of faith on earth.  And everything John saw has been given to us in God’s Word.  By attending to His Word we too can gain a new perspective, a walk that is distinctive, and an attitude that breathes confidence.  The real scoop on earth was not that there were ‘wars and rumors of wars,’ but that those wars were themselves signs of something coming, something big, really big.  John was shown the big thing.  God had him write it down so that you and I could see it too.

Each piece of that vision of John is important to us because it changes how we see.  Yet the first striking thing in this vision is the door itself.  The ESV translates this way, “standing open.”  That is what the verb means.  This door did not just open for John to come through.  It was already open, had been open for some time.  Now, no one can look through that door and understand what they see without God’s help.  But the fact that the door stands open tells me that God really does want to help.  He isn’t hiding.  He hasn’t hidden the things we really need to know.  They are in His Word and we can go through the door with John.  What we see when we survey heaven will change our understanding of the scoop on earth.