Revelation of Jesus Christ–Intro

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants– things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,  who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.  (Rev 1:1-2 NKJ)

What Kind of Book is it?

John the Apostle

The opening verses of Revelation suggest that it’s not just one style but three.

First—Revelation  of Jesus Christ. The word `revelation’ or `apocalypse’ (apokalypsis) suggests that the book belongs to the style of ancient Jewish and Christian literature, which modern scholars call apocalypses.  John used this style of writing to hide what he had to say from the Roman government.

Second, Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev 22:6-7 NKJ)

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; (Rev 22:18 NKJ)

So prophecy in the New Testament is more a proclamation, and should not be confused with the dispensation of Old Testament prophets. In chapter 22:18, John is so sure that he has a word from God that he didn’t want anyone adding to it or taking away.

Last, it’s a letter. This would have been set to one of the seven churches under John’s care and past on once it had been read in the congregation, often referred to as a circular letter.

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Kýrie, Eléison

Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. (Dan 9:20-21 NKJ)

While speaking and praying, Daniel also confessed his sins and the sins of his people, a practice seen in other scriptures. Traditionally confession includes a cry for the mercy of God. The Greek phrase Kýrie, eléison, Lord, have mercy, was also a common response in prayer in the early days of the church, and in the Byzantine period, Kyrie became a sung chant. Today, confession is still part of the service in Mainline denominations, and in my church.

The biblical roots of this prayer first appear in Psalm 31:9,”Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body!” The prayer is simultaneously a petition and a prayer of acknowledgment of what God has done, doing, and will continue to do, and the result of sin on and in the human body. It is refined in the Parable of The Publican (Luke 18:9-14), “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

The lament in prayer appears to be a dying practice for today’s Christian. Have we forgotten that it is humility and not haughtiness that God is looking for? So as we speak the Word, pray and confess our sins, and the sins of our nation, let us ask the Lord, “in Your judgment remember mercy.”

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How Can God Use THEM!

Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6 saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! (Mt 8:5–10).

Peter said to Cornelius, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation.” (Ac 10:28)

It wasn’t that Jews were forbidden to mix with Gentiles in general, it was the idea of entering a house, or eating and drinking. And in the Midrash Rabbah on Leviticus, 20, there is an interesting example of the sort of ceremonial defilement which association with the the gentile might bring about, “It happened that Shimeon the son of Kimkhith (who was high-priest) went out to speak with the King of the Arabians, and there came a fleck of spittle from the King’s mouth upon the priest’s garment and so he was unclean; and his brother Judah went in and served instead of him in the high priest’s office.

Clearly, this didn’t seem to bother Jesus, who ministered to the Centurion, the Canaanite woman, the Samaritan woman, and the Samaritan leper.  In each case, it was as if Jesus wanted to shock the Jews into realizing the opportunity they had; God had come into their midst. It was the unclean Gentiles that seem to express faith, as opposed to the Jews who showed their unbelief.

Perhaps we, too, need to open our eyes and be willing to receive from the Muslim, the Jew, the Buddhist, the mystic or even the atheist. The shock value might change our thinking.

Join the conversation on the Asheville Progressive College’s Facebook page.

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Be a Good Neighbor

October 21, 2019, Just Thinking

“He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Lk 10:26–29).

In the twenty-first century, with the aid of modern technology, media, business, and commerce, I can have neighbors that live all around the world, and not just next-door. The world that once seemed so vast and remote has become a global village. Below is a quote by Brian D. McLaren in his book ‘Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope.’

Global poverty is on the increase

“More and more reflective Christian leaders are beginning to realize that for the millions of young adults who dropped out of their churches in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the Christian religion appears to be a failed religion. And for a reason not unlike the one expressed by the young healthcare worker from Khayelitsha: it has specialized in dealing with “spiritual needs” to the exclusion of physical and social needs. It has specialized in people’s destination in the afterlife but has failed to address significant cant social injustices in this life. It has focused on “me” and “my soul” and “my spiritual life” and “my eternal destiny,” I would add to that the theology of exclusivity and triumphalism.

Brian goes on to say, “but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, systemic poverty, systemic ecological crisis, systemic dysfunctions of many kinds.”

The gospel isn’t just words; Jesus reminds us that the gospel is practical too. “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Mt 25:44–46).

Now, being a good neighbor means thinking about the gospel on a global level. Join the conversation on the Asheville Progressive College’s Facebook page.

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The Real Deal

So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? “Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!” Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important. Col 2:20-23

It has always amazed me how those preachers and priests cannot walk out of their houses without putting on a suit or clerical clothing.  It’s almost as if, like Superman or Batman, the clothing gives them special powers. Somehow I get the impression that the Apostle Paul would have been a big disappointment to them, more concerned about the words he preached than the clothes he wore. Elbert Hubbard once said, “God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas but for scars.”

So often, a suit, clerical collar, rhetoric, empty words,or a position gained through family ties is meaningless. I want to hear from those that have been through and still going through life’s battles. 

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Do Christian hold others in contempt?

Contempt shows on your face

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income. Luke 18:9-12

The Pharisee saw prayer and his spiritual life as a way to be exalted, but the tax collector approached God in humility.  

Are we any better? Our triumphal language, our hymns, and our attitude can unconsciously speak the language of contempt.  We can’t be a good neighbor if we hold those different to us in contempt.  The problem is, we may be the last to know.  We need to listen to ourselves.

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Listening to God

Dear God, what does the future hold?

Then the man said to me, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel, because, from the day you first set your mind to understand things and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard. I’ve come because of your words!  For twenty-one days, the leader of the Persian kingdom blocked my way. But then Michael, one of the highest leaders, came to help me. I left Michael there with the leader of the Persian kingdom.  But I’ve come to help you understand what will happen to your people in the future because there is another vision concerning that time.” Danial 10:12-14

I just came back from two weeks in the UK, visiting family.  During that time, I tried to write, think, and meditate but found myself feeling like I was being pushed back, as if there was a different atmosphere and yet many similarities.  There were those with a passion for unification without losing identification.  There were those passionate about the environment, and there are those longing for what they perceived were the ‘good ole days.’ The common thread was their concern for the future.

In the text, Danial nemesis was the Prince of Persia, but can I interject that it could easily have been hatred, obsession, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, racism, nationalism,  jealousy, all these attitudes can block us from receiving God’s best.  That can be on a personal, local, or even national level.

God knows the future, and I, for one, would be wise to stop second-guessing God. Perhaps that’s why the Apostle John tells us to use both ears and listen to the Spirit

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Extinction Rebellion, a Christian Response.

Last year, Dan Tomberlin wrote, “The sociopolitical tribalism promoted by postmodern social justice warriors is just as insidious as the racism & sexism of the modern era. Both are born of anger and hate. The Christian vision of New Creation is all tribes & tongues as one new humanity in Christ bound together in love. There can be no justice without love. Love transcends tribalism.”

Extinction Rebellion Logo

Let me start by saying how much I love and appreciate the theological contribution Dan brings to the table. However, as a postmodern social justice warrior, I don’t hate or get angry with anyone. I do find it frustrating when a Christians motto is ‘don’t know, don’t care, and don’t tell me.’ The kingdom is about love, yes! But its also a love for the things that God loves.

Recently, in various places around the world, you may have heard about a group called ‘Extinction Rebellion.’ They probably fit into Dan’s concept of a sociopolitical tribe, yet, upon closer scrutiny, they are not hateful or angry and seem to have values that a Christian could adhere to.

Extinction Rebellion has 10 principles:

  1. They have a shared vision of change. Creating a world that is fit for generations to come.
  2. They set their mission on what is necessary. Seeking to mobilize 3.5% of the population to achieve a system change – using ideas such as “Momentum-driven organizing” to achieve this.
  3. They seek to create a regenerative culture. Creating a culture that is healthy, resilient and adaptable.
  4. They openly challenge themselves and the toxic system. Leaving behind comfort zones to take action for change.
  5. They value reflection and learning. Following a cycle of action, reflection, learning and planning for more action. Learning from other movements and contexts as well as their own experiences.
  6. They welcome everyone and every part of everyone. Working actively to create safer and more accessible spaces.
  7. They avoid power structures, breaking down hierarchies of power for more equitable participation.
  8. They avoid blaming and shaming, we live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame.
  9. They are a non-violent network, using a non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change.
  10. They are based on autonomy and decentralization to collectively create structures needed to challenge power.

Anyone who follows these core principles and values can take action in the name of the Extinction Rebellion.

As Christians, can we say amen to these values? Do we have a shared vision of change? – Do we want to see Love winning overall, to see all people committing to loving one another and knowing they are loved (as Jesus commanded)?  Do we want life for all people in the generations to come? To we care about the environment, the future, and future generations?

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Small Minded People

Gulliver’s Travels

For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, “Why do you prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; and Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape from the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face, and see him eye to eye. (jer 23:3-4)

Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD. (Je 1:7–8).

In the story of Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver is shipwrecked and finds himself on the shores of Lilliput.  The little people there (six inches tall) tie him down with ropes. After giving assurances of his good behavior, he is given a residence in Lilliput and becomes a favorite of the Lilliput Royal Court. He is also given permission by the King of Lilliput to go around the city on condition that he must not hurt their subjects. The people of Lilliput spend most of their time focusing on trivial matters. Eventually, Gulliver is convicted for putting out a fire by urinating on the flames.  He is sentenced to being blinded, but escapes.

A children’s story? Yes! But, it is also a political satire against the royal court of King George III, and against the current teachings of philosophers like Thomas Hobbs, who wrote about the need for a population to be submissive to the King.

Like Jeremiah, the people will go along with a majority view, even when it flies in the face of the word of God.  The prophets are bound, imprisoned, and killed. We too can be guilty of focusing on the small things, rather than seeing God’s bigger picture.

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Holy Discontent!

“Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is!” (Isa 43:19)

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Cor 13:11-12)

Holy discontent! That’s what you feel when you know that God is up to something, but you just can’t quite put your finger on it.  The Apostle Paul talks about, ‘looking in a mirror that gives only a dim, blurred reflection of reality as in a riddle or enigma.’ I know in my case, God will give me a clue by exposing me to an article, a book, a thought, or a scripture, but my frustration will build as I desire to see the whole.

The Isaiah text is part of a bigger paragraph where God talks about doing something tremendous that goes beyond just another exodus.  Israel is stuck in a religion of past miracles, past events, and faith that has got old. Claus Westermann, in a commentary on Isaiah by Walter Brueggemann, says of the new things:

“Israel requires to be shaken out of a faith that has nothing to learn about God’s activity, and therefore nothing to learn about what is possible with him, the greater danger which threatens any faith that is hidebound in dogmatism, faith that has ceased to be able to expect anything really new from God.”

Holy discontent is just God’s way of shaking us up, keeping us fresh and always expecting something new.  Beware, the ‘new’ might challenge the old, requiring us to change.

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