tohu va bohu Posts

When John turned to see the Lion, instead he saw a Lamb, standing as though it had been slain. He was worthy to take the scroll. Here’s the diagram for the central paragraph in the chapter, Revelation 5:6-10.

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The Lord’s Table will be sweeter the last time we taste it than it was the first time.

We have celebrated communion 468 times as a church. We’ve finished nine years (so 52 x 9), minus the first day and two snow cancellations, but three years had 53 Sundays. It all works out.

Each week we discover fresh reasons to love. Each day brings hundreds of new graces to us, undeserved gifts. Counted among our little flock, or considered in the universal church, how could we calculate the new mercies of every morning for every Christian?

A thousand years ago in Britain they made a scarlet dye from whelks (small mollusks or sea snails), said not only not to fade as it aged in the sun and rain, but the dye became bolder and more beautiful in color. The gospel works the same. As we eat and drink today our rejoicing is more colorful than last week.

Think of how much fruit has grown since the first supper the night that Christ was betrayed. Think of how many haters/enemies have been won by His conquering love. Think of how much sin in your own heart He has loved out of you. It is more now than ever.

The (only?) problem with eternity is that it still won’t be long enough to develop every deep hue of Christ’s loving sacrifice. But weep no more, the Lion, who is the Lamb, has conquered.

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Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He works on a much smaller scale as well.

In John 13, Jesus began to wash the disciples feet as a demonstration of His love for them. When He came to Peter’s side of the table, Peter objected and, in a sense, we understand his objection because Jesus was the Master and the Master should be the one having his feet washed; He should not be the one washing. Jesus, of course, overcame Peter’s initial refusal, and then Peter bounced to the opposite side and told Jesus to give him a full-body bath. Jesus again corrected Peter’s misunderstanding by explaining that dirty feet didn’t necessarily mean his face was filthy.

The first lesson of John 13 is about service and Jesus taught His disciples to follow His pattern of humility. But there is another issue as well, the issue of cleanliness.

We are Christians, and one of the things that means is that we are clean; our sins have been forgiven. Our body of sin has been washed in Christ. But our belief of this and our having confessed our sins for sake of salvation does not mean that it was one confession and done. We, as Christians, get our feet dirty with sin. John teaches Christians in 1 John 1 that, for the sake of our ongoing fellowship with God and with each other, we must keep on confessing our sins.

We ought to confess our sins each time we sin. And as a congregation, when we gather for sake of fellowship with God and each other, we do well to wipe our dirty feet at the door rather than track mud all over the place.

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John’s vision of the heavenly throneroom moves to a focus on the one who is worthy to open the scroll in Revelation 5:1-5.

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The difference between being a fruitful Christian and a frustrated Christian is how well you can translate liturgy into lifestyle.

The order of our service applies beyond Sunday. God does something when we assemble before Him, and part of what He’s doing is reminding and equipping us for when we go out from the assembly.

God calls us to worship Him. When does that call end? It doesn’t even end when we confess our sins; that is part of our worship. When you rise up, when you walk around, when you hammer the nail, when you enter the data, when you pack the lunch, God calls you to worship.

We confess our sins because He is faithful. If we say we don’t have sin, we make Him a liar. Confession happens for the church corporately only once a week, but confession and forgiveness for each Christian is a constant all week.

God is conforming us to the image of His beloved Son by His Word, as our minds are renewed. This is sanctification, consecration. But this isn’t only a sermon work. This is the Spirit’s work through the Word as we meditate on it day and night, Sunday and the other Sixdays.

When we leave we are given a good word, a benediction. We’re reminded of what grace we have and what grace is promised to fulfill our calling.

And as now, we commune with God. Christ Himself instituted the Supper. We eat and drink as a picture of our reliance on Him, but it is not merely symbolic, and it is not a single event. Communion is how we bear fruit. Communion is how we laugh. Communion with God through Christ is our life, not just a piece of our liturgy.

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I assume that if you are a Christian, then you want to be wise, and that if you could, you want to be more wise at the end of this year than you are now. This wouldn’t become a competition because wisdom is not a zero-sum pursuit; everyone could get wiser.

You should pray for wisdom. Paul regularly asked God to give wisdom (e.g., Colossians 1:9), and that shouldn’t surprise us because Solomon, who had more wisdom than any other human-only man, explicitly said that God gives wisdom.

For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
(Proverbs 2:6)

But that was at the end of a lot of effort. “Receive my words,” “treasure up my commandments,” “[make] your ear attentive,” “[incline] your heart,” “call out for insight,” “raise your voice for understanding,” “if you seek it like silver,” “search for it as for hidden treasures” (Proverbs 2:1-4), then you will be in position to receive it from the LORD.

I hadn’t noticed the following until a few days ago. After all those verbs of effort and focus, Solomon says, “then you will understand the fear of the LORD” (Proverbs 2:5). And, of course, the fear of the LORD is where wisdom starts (Proverbs 1:7).

The fear of the LORD is a response that we have to Him, but that awe, that reverence, that lens through which we see what is wise, comes from the fear of the LORD that is His revelation. That’s part of the reasion that Scripture is called “the fear of the LORD” in Psalm 19:9.

So in order to be more wise you must read the fear of the LORD and worship in the fear of the LORD. Get wiser.

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I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. The YouVersion Bible app is great and I am grateful to God for it.

I like apps. I try a lot, and buy a bunch. I’ve used half a dozen Bible apps in particular. I use Logos every week for reading commentaries and other resources, and open Olive Tree in order to look up Greek and Hebrew when I’m on my phone or iPad. YouVersion won’t replace those, but it has still earned a place in my daily rotation.

  • YouVersion has a buffet of English translations (let alone other languages). I choose the ESV in YouVersion 99% of the time, but all the translations are available for free. Wow.
  • Most of the translations have accompanying audio. It is amazing to have a digital servant ready to read at the tap of a button. Listening is not my favorite way to consume the Word, but there are many people (my wife included) for whom it is fantastic.
  • Earlier this year YouVersion added auto-scrolling of text with audio. The “official” ESV Bible app used to be the only app I knew of with that option, but this addition brought me back and I’ve stayed.
  • There are apps for iPhones/iPads, Android, and the web.
  • There are umpteen reading plans to choose from, plans to read through the Bible in a year, to read for shorter sprints, to read about particular topics. I like how the app keeps track of progress, sends optional notifications, and offers to read with others.
  • Social aspects of the Internet are both edifying and time-sucking. If I could only choose one app for connecting with people, I think I’d choose YouVersion. Where is a better place to encourage others to crave and to meditate on and seek to do the Word than in a Bible app?

I realize that I was late to the game with YouVersion (their counter is ticking up over 404 million app installs as I type), so this recommendation may not have told you anything new. But again, I’m thankful to the God of this Word for the team who made and maintains and updates this app. If you’re looking for a Bible reading plan or a new resource for 2020, I highly recommend giving this app a try.

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The worship of the angels in the heavenly throne room is astounding (Revelation 4). He who sits on the throne is there. From His throne all that has been and is and will be is set. The living creatures, the twenty-four elders, and the myriad of the heavenly host praise God.

The angels are in God’s presence, they know and sing about and do His will. But, there was a time when they were curious about something that wasn’t obvious. They knew God was worthy to be praised for His glory, His honor, His power, but they didn’t get His grace, His suffering, and His salvation.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you by the Holy Spirit sent form heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10-12, ESV)

The heavenly beings will also praise God for His Redeemer, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 5). But grace is something they know from watching, not something they know from tasting. Jesus did not take on “angel flesh,” He took on a human body and blood so that we could be saved. He purchased our salvation. He will bring us to the throne at the appointed not only to be seen by the angels, but to judge them (1 Corinthians 6:3).

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The end of the year is not magical for life change, but it is as good of time as any for evaluating your life and examining your heart. This flip (or swipe) of the calendar brings a close and opening of a decade. We are just days away from the 20’s, the TWENTY-Twenties. As usual when there are more than two people, one exhortation will have to work for many applications.

Some of you, for sake of increasing growth in Christ this next year, need to take on more. This past year we studied Paul’s exhortation to run to win with full self-control (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). We heard him say to quit like men, be strong, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58; 16:13). We were reminded that every believer is part of the body, and gifted for sake of building up the body (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:12). Watching others work is not a gift, and I mean that in multiple ways. Do you need to add Bible reading and prayer to your disciplines? Do you need to add faithfulness to your participation at small group? Do you need to stop making your husband to all the work at home, or visa versa?

Others of you, for sake of increasing growth in Christ, need to take more off. Hebrews 12 also uses the race metaphor, and running is a lot easier when you lose some weight. I once calculated my weight per step in a marathon, and losing just a few pounds would make a huge different over the entire course. It’s never good to carry sin around, and there are other things, not sinful per se, that we also carry that help no one.

“Lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)

This is the end of a lap but not the end of your race. How are you running to win?

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Here is the second half of Revelation 4 and the scene around the throne, with special focus on the four living creatures and their worship.

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