Category: Revelation (page 1 of 7)

Here’s Looking at You

My kids tell me I’ve ripped this off from the movie “27 Dresses” which, as God is my witness, I’ve never seen. But when I’m at a wedding and the bride makes her appearance at the back of the church and begins to walk down that center aisle, I do turn my attention to the groom. I want to watch the groom as he sees his beautiful bride. Because the way that groom looks at the bride is the way our God looks at his Church.

Scripture tells us that God wants to be much more to us than just a mighty king with loyal subjects. He wants to be the groom to the bride. He wants a relationship of intimate love with us as profound and eternal as that between a husband and a wife. God calls himself the groom throughout the Old Testament.

“‘They broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 31:32

Jesus calls himself the groom in the Gospels and compares the Kingdom of God to a massive wedding feast.

“How can the guests of the groom fast while he is with them?” ~Mark 2:19

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son… All things are ready! Come to the wedding banquet!” ~Matthew 22:1-4

And at the end of time, when everything is finally made right and all of our Father’s plans have culminated in the new heavens and new earth and perfectly righteous relationships with him and one another, there’s going to be a wedding feast to end all wedding feasts!

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” ~Revelation 21:2

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” ~Revelation 19:9

This coming feast celebrates finally the intimate and permanent union of God and his people. This is how history ends. This is what God is doing.

When God uses a metaphor to help us see him better, it also helps us better understand how he sees us. God calls us his Father, he calls us his children, and then Jesus says, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more…?”

If God is our groom, then he must really love us. He must truly delight in us.

What does the bride look like when she walks down that aisle? How does her groom see her? Have you ever watched the groom?

When the groom sees her, he’s absolutely delighted. You can see the love in his eyes. You can almost feel the commitment in his heart. You can sense the complete devotion to her in the deepest part of his soul. He’ll do anything for her for the rest of his life, he’ll stop at nothing to protect her and provide for her and please her, he’ll dedicate his whole existence to loving her forever — you can see it in the way he looks at her!

How dare our Lord use a metaphor like that! How dare the Scriptures tap into this really powerful image and its accompanying emotions!

Could it be that he really loves us like that? That he really loves you that much? That God is that committed to you?

How different would your life be if you lived every day — hour by hour, moment by moment — in the awareness of God’s great love for you? He’s looking at you right now. He thinks you’re beautiful. He’s proud of you. And he loves you more than our words can describe.

Peace,

Allan

Central’s Resurrection Video

(Here’s the link to the video — “We Believe” — that goes with the following thoughts from the end of our sermon here at Central this past Sunday. Thank you to everyone who participated.)

“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'” ~Revelation 21:3-4

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Some of us are battling the challenges of old age. Some of us are bravely struggling against cancer. Some of us are mourning the death of loved ones. Some of us were born with disabilities that have impacted every single minute of our lives. Some of us have been limping for years because of something that happened a long time ago. Maybe your life is marked by some kind of tragedy, some past event. Maybe something really dark. And it still impacts you; it’s shaped your whole life. Some kind of violence or abuse, I don’t know. But there’s a wound in your soul, a deep scar. It’s this cloud that’s hanging over you every day — it’s there when you wake up in the morning and it’s there when you go to bed at night. For years. It’s always there.

“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice in what I will create… the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard no more.” ~Isaiah 65:17-19

No more fight. No more struggle. No more disappointment or depression. No more battling every day trying to forget and move on. Perfect healing forever. The Lord says, “Write this down. These words are trustworthy and true. It is done!”

We put undo hope in things that can’t deliver. We don’t rely on God like we should; we put more trust in ourselves and our stuff. It’s not because we purposefully downplay or reject the promises of God in Scripture. I think it’s because we don’t slow down enough to allow ourselves time to really reflect.

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Imagine your own resurrected body. Perfectly healed. Inside and out. Top to bottom — body, spirit, soul, heart, mind — all of you, made perfectly new, completely whole. Can you see that? Whatever the ailment, it’s gone. Whatever the physical limitations, whatever the emotional issues, they’re gone. Whatever walls there are between you and your spouse and between you and your children are gone.

Imagine sitting across the table from that loved one who died years ago and eating and drinking together. And laughing. Imagine introducing me to your grandmother. I can’t wait for you to meet mine. Imagine all the cancer and all the worrying about cancer gone. Imagine the guy in the wheelchair running and jumping and rejoicing. Imagine the friend with Alzheimer’s looking right into your eyes and knowing exactly who you are and remembering perfectly everything you’ve ever done together.

Imagine my daughter not wearing hearing aids and hearing my voice clearly, her almost-surgically-repaired feet made completely whole and not killing her every day, being able to communicate everything she wants to communicate to me, and me being able to understand everything about her the way I want.

And imagine nothing between any of us.

“He said to me, ‘It is done!'” ~Revelation 21:6

Peace,

Allan

Resurrection Guarantees Salvation

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“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” ~Romans 4:25

We are saved in, by, and through the resurrection of Christ. We would not be justified or forgiven if it weren’t for Jesus’ resurrection.

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless and you are still in your sins.” ~1 Corinthians 15:17

Your perfection, your righteousness, your holiness is in Christ Jesus. If he’s still dead… well… that puts your salvation in question. The resurrection, though, certifies that the bill’s been paid in full. Our sin is taken care of forever. Your sins are taken care of. All your sins are forgiven.

How many of your sins were future sins when Jesus went to the cross? That’s not a trick question. When Jesus died for you, how many of your sins were future sins? All of them! One hundred percent of them! Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he went to the cross. You haven’t surprised him. Jesus doesn’t want a do-over. He knew.

So please get off your self-hate.

“I can’t be a part of the body of Christ, I’m too bad. I can’t ever really be forgiven, I’ve done too much. Christ could never really accept me, it’s been too long.” Get over it! He already knew! And he went. It’s paid for. You don’t owe anything. The altar is closed. There’s no sacrifice you need to lay down. He is risen. And because you are raised with him and transformed by him, you are vindicated and justified and saved. It is finished! It’s done!

Because he lives.

Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.

And I don’t know your tomorrow. I don’t know what’s on the horizon for you. But because Jesus is alive, your fears about tomorrow should be gone. Why? Because he has us! He’s alive! We have no enemies! Death is dead, sin is vanquished, we’ve already won!

In Revelation 3, the resurrected Jesus is encouraging his Church. Our Lord Jesus, in his physical, resurrected body is talking to his people when he says, “Here I am. I stand at the door and knock.” He continues to extend the invitation. He is risen and he is still calling.

“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…”

…not with a long list of things you need to do better; not with a critique of how you’ve lived so far; not with a list of dos and don’ts.

“I will come in and eat with you and you with me.”

I will accept you. I will fellowship you. We’ll eat together.

It doesn’t have to be the way it is. You have not out-sinned his grace or his power. Christ Jesus, our Lord, is risen from the dead and he calls you to be raised with him and to enjoy the salvation of your body and soul.

Peace,

Allan

A Promise From the Future

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“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.'” ~Revelation 14:13

It’s a promise from the future that impacts our every moment in the present: Your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Not at all.

You know, salvation is not a private thing. God saves us in order to work through us to save others. And everything we contribute to the cause — everything! — is used by God toward that great and ultimate end. Just like the parable of the talents, what we use to his glory, whatever it is, will be multiplied and used. Like the cup of cold water given in his name, it will be rewarded. Our deeds will follow us into eternity. Our efforts for the Lord are going to last forever.

We are building for the Kingdom. All of our work matters. Every minute of your day is packed with heavenly potential. Every action is loaded with eternal consequences.

To his enduring praise and glory!

Peace,

Allan

He Climbed Into the Boat

“Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! I Am! Don’t be afraid!’ Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down.” ~Mark 6:50-51

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Notice that Jesus did not rescue his disciples out of the sea. He gets into the boat with them. He tells them, “I Am God!” Look at me. See this. I am God. I am in control of all these things. Don’t be afraid. I’m right here with you. I’m in charge of everything and you belong to me. I am God. And I’m getting into the boat with you. I’m doing this with you. We’re in this together.

Jesus gives them the strength and courage to continue the journey. They press on, confident that their Lord is with them, that he has dominion over heaven and earth, and that he will carry them through.

It’s like the letters in Revelation. Jesus tells the churches, “I know what you’re going through.” He knows the work and the toil and the endurance of Ephesus. He knows the affliction and poverty of Smyrna, the faithful witness of Pergamum in the middle of Satan’s throne. He knows the patient endurance of Thyatira and the struggle of Philadelphia. He doesn’t relieve them of their struggle. But he promises to be with them. And he promises victory if they’re faithful.

We must keep rowing. The wind is against us and we sometimes get completely blown off course. But we’ve got to continue “straining at the oars.” The power to cross the sea and reach the final shore does not lie with us. That belongs to God — the One who reveals himself to his people most perfectly in his Son, the One who guarantees that victory in his Son’s life, death, and resurrection.

Peace,

Allan

Ending Racism – Good Luck

Mom&DadHappy Birthday to my dear mother, Beverly Ann Stanglin, who probably celebrated this morning with a free breakfast at Denny’s in Kilgore. Classy, dad!  She’s seventy today. Seventy. Mom, you’re officially, legally, undeniably old now. Seventy is old. That’s you. And you’re doing it very well. I love you.

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Racism is alive and well in the United States and, sadly, throughout the entire world. No one can deny it. We have passed anti-racism legislation and outlawed racist practices. We have marched and preached, promised and reformed. We have boycotted, protested, and rioted. Yet racism is seemingly just as much a local and global problem right now as it was a hundred years ago, if not worse.

Obviously, racism has not been ended, nor will it be ended in our lifetimes. And that’s a terrible thing to believe. It’s a horrible thing to be true. But it probably shouldn’t lead to despair for followers of Jesus.

Racism, just like all sin, is the result of something good gone bad. Mark Galli, in a recent column for Christianity Today, reminds us that racism is an evil distortion of affection for loved ones. Affection for loved ones makes family pride possible. It allows us to feel and display pride in our community. And that’s healthy. But just like healthy sexual attraction is prone to turn into lust and healthy self-esteem might turn into pride, healthy loyalty to one’s own people can easily turn into racism.

Galli’s point is this: given our sinful nature and the fallen condition of the world, we will never get rid of racism in this age any more than we will get rid of lust or pride.

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But just because we can’t completely wipe out racism doesn’t mean we have to give in to its nasty and sinful expressions. And isn’t this where God’s Church comes in?

Like with lust, our societies create social norms and laws to keep it in check. We expect men to refrain from making lewd comments to women and we prosecute employers who sexually exploit their employees. Christ’s Body can lead the way in similar fashion as it relates to racism. If we acknowledge the terrible reality, if we can admit that there’s no way human beings are ever going to eradicate sin, we can turn our eyes and our hopes toward the only One who can. We can confess honestly, we can forgive faithfully, and we can work together toward various gospel expressions of reconciliation.

It requires accountability. It takes patience and long-suffering, love and kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control. These are the characteristics of the Spirit of our God who lives inside us. This isn’t about disposing of all tensions, it’s about creating space where people can commit to reconciliation and can treat each other with grace and mercy through the tensions.

It’s the only way.

In the meantime, we wait in hope together. We wait for the great day of true and eternal reconciliation between the races when that “great multitude… from every nation, tribe, people, and language” worships our God together.

Peace,

Allan

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