What a culturally stupid question that must have been to ask in the first century Roman Empire. Can you imagine? Who’s in charge? What do you mean who’s in charge?
Put yourself in Ephesus or Pergamum or Smyrna or any of the seven churches to whom John addressed the Revelation. As disciples of Christ, you meet in each other’s homes, huddled up in the back somewhere, whispering your songs, if you sing any at all, and speaking in hushed tones the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Outide the front door you can clearly hear the footsteps of the Roman soldiers marching down the paved street. Maybe even the sound of chariots as they roll by, pulled by the Emperor’s horses. And you hold your breath until they pass.
On the island of Patmos John watches every single day as the Empire’s trade ships pass by right in front of him, loaded with what the rulers of the world buy and sell—“cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men.”
Who’s in charge? Caesar or Christ? Is it the Emperor or the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
What a stupid question. The Roman Empire’s in charge! The Emperor holds the ultimate power. The Empire is all powerful and almighty. It’s everywhere. It controls every facet of everyday life. It cannot be escaped. The Empire owns and runs everything!
That’s the human perspective. And it’s easy to understand why and how that thought would prevail under those conditions at that time. And it’s just as easy, I think, to have that same view today living in America. We’re surrounded by American culture. Who’s in charge? Technology and democracy and entertainment and consumerism and nationalism and marketing and big business; divorce and abuse and murder and rape and burglary and road rage and terrorism and cancer and death; poverty and homosexuality and violence and racism and lying and cheating and selfishness. Who’s in charge? Our culture, which is inescapable? Taking us over? Or our Christ, who sometimes seems oblivious or powerless against the evil in our world, or sometimes even absent?
A culturally stupid question.
The wonderful book of Revelation, the Apocolypse of our Lord Jesus Christ, gives first century Christians living under the tyranny of the Roman Empire and 21st century Christians living under the oppression of American culture the divine perspective on reality. Our human and worldly perspective is blown away by God’s perspective. Revelation gives us an encouraging, faith-building glimpse of the way God sees things, the way they really are. That the Lamb, Jesus the Christ, the Resurrected One rules!
Gary Pence is doing a marvelous job teaching the Revelation in our Wednesday night Bible class. Somehow he manages to teach the entire book every week, and still progress chapter by chapter. And I’m struck every week by the unmistakable message that Jesus is Lord. None of the powers or authorities of this world matter in the big picture. The truth is that the Christ destroys all of it.
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the Kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
They overcame him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.” Revelation 12:10-12
The sleepy little towns of Johnson City / Stonewall, just 14 miles south of Marble Falls, will be busy for the rest of the week and weekend honoring a Texas legend. Lady Bird Johnson was a Texas icon, the first lady who changed the image of the first lady. She loved her native Texas and gave her life to preserving its natural beauty. Full of grace and kindness, she exemplified everything we want our politicians’ wives to be. It’s difficult, especially if you’ve lived anywhere in Central Texas for any period of time, to look at a beautiful field of Bluebonnets and not think of Lady Bird. There’s a great Dallas Morning News story on her life and legacy right here.
There are only 49 more days until football season. And #49 in the countdown is another Texas icon. The great Tom Landry. Landry wore #33 as the Texas Longhorns team captain in 1947 -48. But he was #49 with the New York Giants as a defensive back / punter during his short NFL playing career from 1949-55. When he retired, Landry became the Giants’ defensive coordinator, serving alongside offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi. No wonder nobody can remember that Jim Lee Howell was the head coach during those days. Can you imagine playing for both Landry and Lombardi on the same team? And neither one was the head coach?
It was in New York where Landry invented the Flex Defense, which he took to Dallas when he became the head coach of the expansion Cowboys in 1960. 29 years later “the man in the funny hat,” as Roger Staubach called him, had led Dallas to five Super Bowls, two World Championships, two more NFL championship games, ten NFC championship games, 20-consecutive winning seasons (still an NFL record), and 18 playoff appearances. He’s the third winningest coach in NFL history. And every single coach that’s followed him at Valley Ranch, the six different men Jerry Wayne’s shuffled in and out of there in just 19 years, has paled in comparison to Landry’s success and character.
Landry was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August 1990. Carrie-Anne and I had been married for less than a year when we loaded up the ice chest with ham sandwiches and drove the pickup to Canton, Ohio to see the ceremony. We were dirt poor and only ate out one time during that five day trip. It was months before either one of us could eat another ham sandwich. Since we had eloped in Las Vegas and I had to be at work in Pampa the next day, I always tell C-A, jokingly, that the trip to the Hall of Fame eight months later was our honeymoon.
Landry flew 30 missions with the Air Force during World War II. The high school football field in Mission, Texas is named after him. And if Jerry Wayne doesn’t name the new stadium in Arlington after him (he won’t), he’s a fool.
Tom Landry, for a thousand reasons, is the best to ever wear #49.