Wake Up!

There’s a lot of hype these days around the word “woke”, which has come to mean
alert to injustice and discrimination in society, especially racism. Another kind of wake-up call has been evident in my spiritual life lately.

A few weeks ago my husband’s sermon was based on the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew chapter 25). If you recall, all ten took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. He took so long to arrive that five of them fell asleep. By the time they woke up, it was too late to go out and purchase oil for their lamps, and they missed the wedding feast.

The following week, we worshipped at a different Lutheran church. Both the Sunday School lesson and the sermon that week centered around Matthew 24, a section that discusses the second coming of Jesus (this wasn’t planned, it just happened). We’re told to stay alert and ready because nobody will be able to predict when this will happen. Finally, my reunion group friend, told me this verse came up in the community Bible study she attends:

“(Behold I am coming like a thief) Blessed is the one who says awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed>’ Revelation 16:15

I guess you can see the theme that is developing. Advent is a time of waiting for our Savior to come. He came once, and He’s coming again. We need to anticipate that coming all year, every year, not just for a few weeks before Christmas. If we’re not “woke” to the magnitude of our sin, to our need to repent and live in a way worthy of our King, we’re not going to be ready to meet Him when the time comes.

So, if you’re already awake, stay that way. If you’re not, wake up! It’s not too late, but it might be soon.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.” Matthew 24:45-46

For more about being ready see:

Perhaps Today

The End of All Things

Get Ready to Get Dirty


Who is Worthy?

Recently the 4th and 5th chapters of Revelation have come up several times on different occasions, so I decided to do a lectio divina reading of those two sections of scripture. What stood out for me in chapter 5 is this phrase …. “Who is worthy….?”

There is great anguish in heaven because nobody is found worthy to open the scroll that will describe the fate of the world. The reason no one is worthy is simple and can be boiled down to one word — SIN. This is a motif that is repeated over and over in the Bible.. For example is Psalm 14:

“They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” Psalm 14:3

And Romans 3:23

“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The Jewish people believed that if they could keep just the Sabbath perfectly three times in a row, the Messiah would come. They couldn’t do it. He came only through the grace and mercy of God.

You’re not worthy; I’m not worthy; but thankfully there is One who is: Jesus, the Lamb of God. He took away our sins and set us free to be children of God. He holds the world in His hands. Thanks be to God! Amen!

For more about the book of Revelation see:

Revelation

Worthy Is the Lamb

Perhaps Today

A Glimpse of Heaven

Because the 4th and 5th chapters of the book of Revelation have been coming up in different ways in my study life, I decided to do a lectio divina reading of this text. In chapter 4, here’s what stood out for me:

“After this, I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven!” Revelation 4:1a

How amazing and wonderful that God would allow John (and us) a glimpse of the world to come! The description of heaven is, well, unworldly. Like nothing ever seen before. John uses words that describe valuable gems, robes of pure white, golden crowns and crystal. Imagine the most ornate and beautiful throne room and multiply that image by a million. The eyes are dazzled.

The animals around the throne are also only “like” the ones we know on earth– a lion (majesty), an ox,(strength) a man (intelligence) and an eagle (sovereignty). They are covered with eyes–maybe denoting that in heaven things will be seen completely and clearly. There are hints of the natural world, too– thunder, lightening, a rainbow. The kinds of things that produce awe in us, even here and now.

Everything is about the worship of God. This reminds me of the Santus, a hymn that used during many Christian liturgies:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts,
heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Glory be to thee, O Lord most high.
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

When you worship on Sunday, remember the communion of saints — those in heaven are worshipping right along with us! Keep that beautiful glimpse of heaven with you for the rest of the week!

For more about heaven see:

Heaven is a World of Love by Jonathan Edwards — Book Review

90 Minutes in Heaven — Movie Review

Living in Heaven

,

Worthy Is the Lamb

Evidently God wants me to pay attention to the Book of Revelation. My husband and I recently attended a Ligonier Conference in Pittsburgh. The last speaker used the 4th and 5th chapters of the book of Revelation to discuss worship– worship that is going on in heaven, even as we conduct our services here on earth. The next day we attended a Lutheran Church in our neighborhood, and the sermon was based on a reading from Revelation, chapter 5.

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever.” Revelation 5:13

The sermon hymn was The Lamb by Gerald Coleman. I couldn’t find out much about its’ history, but the simple tune and words touched me. Listen and consider what worship is really about.

For more about the book of Revelation see:

Revelation

Unraptured by Zack Hunt — Book Review

Interesting Word #3

The word paradise is used only a few times in the Bible. The most well known verse is in the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus tells one of the thieves on the cross:

“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

The apostle Paul also uses this word to describe a vision he experienced:

“And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” 2 Corinthians 12:3-4

Finally, it is mentioned in Revelation:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’ Revelation 2:7

But what exactly does paradise mean? Is it synonymous with heaven? Well, not quite.

Paradise was originally a Persion word meaning “an area enclosed by a wall” or a “garden.” In the Old Testament, it’s used to refer to the Garden of Eden in Genesis. In intertestamental (noncanonnical) literature such as the pseudepigrapha and apocrypha the word takes on a more specifically religious meaning. Human history will culminate in a divine paradise on earth. Since there was (and still is) no immediate access to the garden of Eden, or the New Jerusalem, paradise (also sometimes known as Abraham’s Bosom) was considered the realm of the righteous dead who are awaiting the resurrection of the body. It’s this intermediate state which is probably referred to in the verses above.

For more posts about the garden of Eden see:

Back to the Garden

It Started in the Garden

What’s a Libretto?

Great and Small Easter by B&H Kids Editorial Staff — Book Review

This delightful little board book would make a welcome addition to any toddler’s Easter basket.  Just the right size for small hands, it is sturdy enough to withstand lots on hands-on attention– a necessity as children will enjoy opening the flaps over and over.  Attractive drawings in lovely pastels illustrate animal pairs puddle-jumping, playing hide and seek, and singing and dancing to celebrate the season the the God who gives life to everything!

It closes with a Bible verse:

“Look, I am making everything new!”  Revelation 21:5

Little ones and their parents will love it.

VERDICT:  5 STARS

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

Great and Small Easter – B&H Publishing (bhpublishinggroup.com)

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more books for children see:

What’s So Wonderful About Webster? by Stephen and Alex Kendrick–Book Review

GraceFull by Dorena Williamson — Book Review

The Great Farmapalooza by Jill Roman Lord — Book Review

 

The Hope of Heaven

The Thessalonian believers were troubled.  They wondered what would happen to those who died before Christ came again. Here are Paul’s words of comfort to them and to us:

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Notice, he does not say do not grieve;  of course, we will mourn the loss of a loved one.  What he does say is this:  in spite of our sorrow, we can have hope.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ are not lost to us forever.  We can be assured that the God who resurrected Jesus is keeping them safe until He comes again.  At that time:

“…. the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

We don’t have many details, but we know that heaven will be a lovely place.  The City of God, the new Jerusalem will be:

“… prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”  Revelation 21:2

God will live with us.

” They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.”  Revelation 22:4-5

Best of all:

“He will wipe away 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.” Revelation 21:4

So, whatever your situation, be encouraged.  If you are in Christ, you have something to hope for.

 

For more about heaven see these posts:

Living in Heaven

Martin Luther on Heavenly Blessings

The Beginning of Heaven

 

 

 

Lost

I had a dream the other night about being lost.  In fact, I have recurring dreams of this sort — I’ve lost my purse, my keys or my car.  I’m lost in the Mall or at a school and can’t find my class.  Along with the “lost” feature, I’m also usually worried because I’m going to be late.  I call them “anxiety” dreams, and it turns out they’re not uncommon.  Many people have them.

It recently dawned on me that maybe there’s a reason so many of us feel lost in our dream lives.  It could be quite simple — we feel lost, we worry about being lost because we ARE lost.  It tells us this quite plainly in the Bible:

All we like sheep have gone astray”  Isaiah 53:6

We are lost because we are displaced, never quite feeling quite at home in this life, as Peter acknowledges in this exhortation:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” 1Peter 2:11

We are constantly searching for our permanent dwelling place:

“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Hebrews 13:14

On the surface we may seem comfortable in the life around us, but unconsciously we know that we were meant for something different:  a life described in chapter 21 of the book of Revelation.

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell 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.”  Revelation 21:3-4

Until then, we’ll always feel a little bit lost.  We’ll always be looking for something.  We’ll always be unsettled.  Or, as St. Augustine once wrote:

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

 

Revelation

If you want to read about God’s final triumph over evil, turn to the book of Revelation in the Bible.  Written by the apostle, John, it recounts the vision given to him by God.  It should be interpreted in a general way,  and attempting to draw specific connections concerning the time frame and nations involved is futile.  The genre is “apocalyptic”  and this is a type of Jewish literature that is highly symbolic.  It was meant to communicate hope in God’s ultimate victory to Christians in the midst of persecution.  For further study, my husband, who is a Lutheran pastor, recommends More Than Conquerors by William Hendriksen, as the best book he has read on the topic.

What we do know is that in the conflict between God and Satan, evil will be defeated:

“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”  Revelation 20:10

God’s people will live with Him and death will be banished:

“Now the dwelling f God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will by His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain ….” Revelation 21:3

Creation will be restored to its’ original perfection:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.  On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse.”  Revelation 22:1-4

What more can be said?

“These words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 22:6

That means, you can believe it!  Take comfort.  Whatever is happening now, the best is yet to come.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I implore you– Part 2

Part 2 (first and final measure)

What does the Bible say?

Revelation 21:

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

A long-awaited day. A day awe and joy so full you cry with relief. A day that reinforces all the promises, validates all the heartache, and ends the unnecessary. In this season of Lent as we look toward the day our King died for His people, His loves . . . this vision comforts. His love is so great; that like a hen covering her chicks, He took the disgusted spit in the face that we deserved. He took the slap that was for our shame, the angry clenched fist bruised and broke His skin instead of ours. The lashes meant for the criminal he willingly accepted. So much so that His countenance no longer resembled the Lord and Teacher His disciples came to know.

This Christ, the same Christ we put to death and who defeated it Is the Christ I follow. This Christ who says to me truly, truly; is the Christ Lord Jesus that is not just a swear word to me. He is my teacher, my confidant and loving Abba, Father. This is what the title Christian means and represents. I bring shame if I carry it carelessly. Therefore, I expect any church I attend to take this title and responsibility with the same seriousness. I expect any church that claims the title of Christ to believe in EVERY, SINGLE, TRUTH, written down and handed down to us in the Holy Bible. The true word of God. Anyone that selects as they wish, or adds a meaning without context, or intentionally disregards anything; should take a good long look at Revelation 22: 18 & 19.

Churches, Pastors, remember please. Remember your duty. Your sacred job to tell the truth. Your job is not to pander, it is not to spare feelings. (Re-read the new testament if you think Jesus did.) Your job is to unburden the burdened. To free the trapped. Your job is to warn those who blindly go. To warn the ignorant and hope they return to God and away from worldly temptations. And your job is the most important job on the planet.

John 14:

 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

22 ` Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

 

 

For this reason, God’s word must be the Christians first and final measure.  The rule by which we test all things. The standard for all templates of worship must follow the instruction, the guidebook and sacred history that is the Bible. It proves itself true time and time again. It shows us truths of heaven that are but shadows on this earth. Just as Jesus said.

 

John 14:

“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

 

 

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian* Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

*Christian: the ancient text reads “catholic,” meaning the whole Church as it confesses the wholeness of Christian doctrine.