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.

Hidden Memories

I’ve just read two novels with a common theme — children, who as adults find that the parents who raised them are not their birth parents, and they have not been given the full truth of their childhood stories.  (if you’re interested in these books, the titles are The Tenth Muse and House on Endless Water).  Because of such “hidden memories” these children never quite felt comfortable in their own skin;  there was always a feeling that they didn’t belong, and they had difficulty establishing intimate relationships with others. They knew that something about their lives wasn’t quite right.

It occurs to me that all of us are like those characters.  If sin is part of our DNA, so it the memory of Eden–the memory of our true Father and the perfect relationship with Him we once enjoyed. Saint Augustine said it like this:

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

The author of Hebrews says this about the many faithful followers who have gone before us:

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” Hebrews 11:13

We’re out of place because we’ve lost our home. We have problems with our relationships because the most important one was broken.  Yet the memory and the longing for life in Eden and that perfect relationship is still with us  Unlike the characters in the novels I read, we are fortunate because we do have an accurate record of our beginnings– the Bible.  It isn’t a mystery we have to solve, it’s a truth to which we can cling.  Through faith and the sacrifice of our brother, Jesus,  we can have a restored relationship with our Father, and a firm hope in our future return to life with Him.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God'”. Revelation 21:3

For more on the Garden of Eden see these posts:

Back to the Garden

What’s a Libretto?

Free to the Max

The Lights of the City

I assume that this song by Michael Murphy refers to these verses from the book of Revelation:

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.” Revelation 21:23-24

Following the second coming of Christ, the New Jerusalem will be established.  At that point, believers will need only the light of God.  We can look forward to that day and even now, we can almost see it.

I learned this song on a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend.  Listen and enjoy imagining that city of heavenly light.

 

 

Fractured Families

A couple of days ago I wrote about the blessings of family — and I meant that sincerely.  However, in case you are thinking that my family is perfect, and we have great relationships with everyone — well, think again.  We’re no different than any other family this side of heaven.

My father was not a great dad.  He was never abusive, and he loved us, but he was not a good provider, and he was pretty self absorbed and neglectful. We weren’t estranged, and I forgave him, but we never enjoyed the close relationship you would hope to have with your dad.

One of my brothers is an alcoholic.  This disease has warped his personality and his ability to get along with others  It’s difficult to understand the way he behaves and thinks.  Some family members don’t want to be around him at all.

There are extended family members I never took the time to know and appreciate.  At my Aunt Lois’s funeral ( see How Aunt Lois Spent Her Time), her pastor spoke about what a wonderful Christian woman she was.  Evidently she was quick to visit the sick and homebound in the congregation with food and treats, and she taught Sunday School for over thirty-five years.  Sadly, I was “too busy” with my own life and children to spend time with her (although she invited me).

I could go on, listing my own failings and the failings of my relatives.  For now, all of our families are fractured, and sometimes we heal imperfectly and sometimes we never heal at all.  The good news?  As Christians, we get a do-over.  In heaven:

‘He (God) 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 21:4

When we get there, we (God’s family) will all be everything He created us to be.  We will not even remember our sinful habits and desires;  our relationships will be restored; and we will have eternity to be with one another.  If family is a blessing in the here and now, imagine what it will be like then!