December 21

December 21

Revelation & the Trumpet — People will be called suddenly into God’s presence
Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Revelation 4
Reading 2: 1 Corinthians 15:35-58
Reading 3: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

After the instructions and encouragements to the seven churches, Jesus shows John what is to come. Today we see the implications of us being created in the image of God – eternal. All those who have received the life-giving spirit of Christ will live with Him forever. If we die before He returns we will be raised in new bodies. If He returns before we die we will be transformed. Then we join the eternal party with God!

No matter how dark this world becomes, the light shines, and we have much to look forward and anticipate!

Have a great day!

Mark.

December 20

December 20

Revelation & the Seven Churches — Jesus’ promise to the church will be fulfilled by Him
Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Revelation 2
Reading 2: Revelation 3
Reading 3: Matthew 16:18

The seven churches to which Jesus writes (through John) are located in Asia Minor (today’s Turkey) and you can see their locations on a Map here.

The seven churches display certain characteristics of churches both then and now:

  1. Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) – the busy church
  2. Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) – the persecuted church
  3. Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) – the compromising church
  4. Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) – the tolerating church
  5. Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) – the dying church
  6. Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) – the enduring church
  7. Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) – the lukewarm church

Some commentators also draw parallels between the seven actual churches and seven divisions of Church history:

Ephesus: The Apostolic age (AD 30-100)
Smyrna: The Persecuted age (AD100-312)
Pergamum: The Indulged/Compromising stage (AD300-600)
Thyatira: The Pagan church (AD600 until the tribulation)
Sardis: The Dead church (AD1520 until the tribulation)
Philadelphia: The Loved church (AD1750 until the tribulation)
Laodicea: The Apostate church (AD1900 until the tribulation)
We can each relate to some or all of the churches, and the Words of Jesus to each are as relevant today as they were then, because Jesus is building His Church on the revelation that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
That is who we serve, and who has a plan for each one of us.

Have a great day!

Mark.

December 19

December 19.
Revelation & the End Times — Jesus’ soon return will mark the end of a “Spiritual Night”
Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Revelation 1
Reading 2: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Reading 3: Romans 13:8-14

Today, and for the rest of the year, we turn our attention forward to the portion of God’s One Story that has been written but not yet fulfilled. The Revelation of Jesus Christ (yes, the title of the book is singular) is given to the Apostle John to record what is still to come. This prophetic book is John’s second book, just as the Book of the Acts of the Apostles was Luke’s second book. (There is some dispute about the identification of John, which you can learn more about here). Both these second volumes are not yet fulfilled; we are still living in the age when Jesus continues to work through His disciples, and we look forward to the end of this age described in Revelation.

Of the 2500 or so prophecies in scripture, about 2000 have already been fulfilled, with approximately 500 to go. So we can be sure that God will do what He has promised, and bring us safely out of darkness into light, through the upheavals to come when He judges sin and recreates the world to His original standard, filled with life, love and righteousness.

We are people of light – His light shines into your life, and from your life to those around you.

Have a great day!

Mark.

December 18

December 18

Peter & Paul — Peter & Paul finish their life well & are prepared for eternity.
Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: 2 Peter 1:1-15
Reading 2: Philippians 1:12-26
Reading 3: 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Today’s readings are the final words of the two men who spearheaded the birth and growth of the early Church. We have come a long way since Peter and Paul wrote these parting instructions, but distance can allow us to become distracted from the wisdom they leave us. Today’s passages are powerful reading for any Christian at any time, but as we wrap up our journey through the past story of God’s plan, and prepare to look forward for our last couple of weeks of the year, they are especially valuable.

See what stands out to you from these wise legacies, and think how their outlook differs from ours today. For example: “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” is not a truth that many live by, even in the Church. As a result, it is rarer today to hear someone say: “I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.” But that simply means that there is greater opportunity to shine brightly for Jesus today. And then you and I will be able to say one day: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.”

May God grant us boldness to live fully the grace we have received!

Have a great day!

Mark.

December 17

December 17

Paul — Journey #4 (Shipwreck, Malta, Rome) — Onesiphorus cares for Paul in prison
Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 27
Reading 2: Acts 28
Reading 3: 2 Timothy 1:15-18

Today we reach the end of the Book of Acts. Well, at least the recorded part of the Book of Acts. If you recall, Luke started his account by saying his first book (the Gospel of Luke) was the account of “everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven.” So this second book is the account of all that Jesus continued to do through the Church. In a sense we are still in the book of Acts, because there is no conclusion to the book. It is as though Luke simply stops writing one day and never picks up where he left off!

But these last two chapters are just as full of drama as the rest of the book. We have shipwrecks and poisonous snakes and massive storms; through them all Paul is characterized by his calm trust in God and his bold declaration of God’s power, accompanied by demonstrations of God’s rule through healings and fulfilled prophecy. Such a change from the man Paul/Saul used to be!

Remember: the same power that enabled Paul to be this way is at work in you and me. How will your life show God’s presence and power today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

December 16

December 16

Paul — Journey #4 (Caesarea) — Paul’s trials & submitting to the laws of the government.
Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 25
Reading 2: Acts 26
Reading 3: 1 Peter 2:11-17

Paul’s trials continue in Caesarea, where Felix (the outgoing governor) leaves his case to be decided by Festus (the new governor). Festus does not understand the case because he is a Roman, not a Jew, and has no knowledge of Jewish customs or of the growing, but persecuted, Church. When King Agrippa (grandson of Herod the Great and current puppet King of Judea) arrives to pay his respects to Festus, there is an opportunity to understand the argument more clearly. Agrippa is a Jew (at least by heritage) who has been raised in a Roman setting, so he can comprehend the significance of how God has been working in Paul’s life.  Paul is bold and challenging with these powerful men, urging them to follow Jesus. His spiritual authority exceeds the earthly authority of these rulers.

At the same time Paul is respectful of those in power, even though it is clear from the account that none of them have any understanding of the gospel or the power of salvation. Peter urges us to follow Paul’s respectful approach with earthly authorities, and so demonstrate the power of God to change people. This is good advice for us to take to heart, whether nationally during election cycles, or when things do not go as we wish in local matters.

Have a great day!

Mark.

December 15

December 15

Paul — Journey #4 (Jerusalem, Caesarea) — Sadducees, Pharisees, & Paul’s trial before Felix.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 23
Reading 2: Acts 24
Reading 3: Philippians 1:27-30

Yesterday we read how Paul encountered violent opposition comparable to the violence he himself used against the church before his conversion. Religion is invariably violent when challenged because it is rooted in human effort. We see this today in Islamic extremism as well as in some “Christian” cults and sects.

Today we read more about the judicial process Paul goes through as a consequence of that opposition. He is passed from one official to another, yet maintains an attitude of faith and trust as he uses the opportunities to evangelize and declare the truth about Jesus.

Paul tells the Philippians that we are citizens of heaven, not victims of this world’s corrupt systems. So we can live lives of obedient faith in the midst of opposition and persecution. What does that look like for you?

Have a great day!

Mark.

December 14

December 14

Paul — Arrest in Jerusalem — The Jews oppose Paul for being called to the Gentiles.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 21
Reading 2: Acts 22
Reading 3: Philippians 3

Paul was called by God out of his strong opposition to the church and into a life of sacrificial witness facing the same kind of opposition. Today that lifestyle leads to the conclusion which was inevitable: the Jews have Paul arrested by causing an uproar. But this gives Paul the opportunity to tell his story in giving his defense, so God gets the glory!

How would God get the glory from the struggles in your life? Maybe you can testify, as Paul does to the Philippians, that God’s power has been seen in your sufferings?

Have a great day!

Mark.

December 13

December 13

Paul — Journey #3 (Macedonia, Troas) — Paul teaches the Elders how to shepherd.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 20
Reading 2: Titus 1:5-10
Reading 3: 1 Peter 5:1-11

Paul travels through Macedonia on his way to Jerusalem, and in his journey we see details about many of the churches to which he wrote letters (Philippi, Ephesus, for example). It is notable that Paul cares deeply about leadership and godly structure in the churches he oversees. He teaches the elders, from his own experience, how to shepherd.

These verses have often been overused to prohibit women, divorced men, and others from serving as elders or overseers. But this approach is not supported by the original texts, nor is it consistent with other records in Acts and the rest of the New Testament. There is not space here to discuss the Biblical roles of women and men, even in church leadership, but there are some excellent articles challenging the “status quo” teaching that excludes women. One example is here and another, which addresses a parallel passage in Titus directly, is here.

Have a great day!

Mark.

December 12

December 12

Paul — Journey #3 (Plan for Rome) — Paul’s plan to visit Rome after visiting Jerusalem.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Acts 19:20-22
Reading 2: Romans 1:8-17
Reading 3: Romans 15:20-33

We have seen in many of our readings how Paul is deeply motivated to share the good news, especially with the Gentiles, and in places where others have not yet started churches. Paul is a pioneer and his energy, strategizing, and willingness to suffer have caused the church to expand dramatically.

He writes to the Christians in Rome telling them what he has been doing and looking forward to being with them. His expectation is only tempered by his desire to first take the love offering from Macedonia and Achaia (including Corinth) to the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem who are suffering. Thankfulness for the heritage passed on from the Jews and early believers in Jerusalem inspires the more recent believers in these far-flung places to honor their forerunners in the faith.

As we read about Paul’s example, and about the gratitude of the Macedonian and Corinthian believers, let’s think about those in our own lives who have been an example, or paid a high price, for us to be in relationship with God. How can you honor them?

Have a great day!

Mark.