The Revelation of Jesus Christ

December 9

The Revelation of Jesus Christ 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 138:1-8 | Joel 1:1-3:21 | Rev. 1:1-20 | Proverbs 29:18

Today’s Scripture Focus: Rev. 1

“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18 NIV).

How does one approach a book like Revelation? Some treat it as an exercise in speculation. They are fascinated about interpreting all the details and symbols in light of today’s news and trying to set dates for Christ’s return. Other people get confused by it all, and just try to avoid it.

Let me suggest another approach, one that I have found helpful. Try reading Revelation as a book of worship. Stand in awe of the revelation of Christ in his glory. Stand in awe of the wisdom of God as we get glimpses of Christ’s rule and reign. Long for more of a revelation of His presence here even as we wait for his coming in great glory as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Learn of Him. And worship and adore Him.

Let’s try it. Meditate on the truths that are revealed about Jesus, just in the first chapter. As you ponder his names and attributes, allow them to lead you to praise him for who he is.

In Revelation 1, Jesus is revealed as “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the Kings of the earth” (5). He is the “one who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a king and priests to serve his God and Father–to him be glory and power forever and ever!Amen” (6).

We look with anticipation for, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”(7).

He is the “Alpha and the Omega who is, and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (8).

He is revealed as one “like a son of man” in glorious brilliance and beauty (13-16).

He is the one who speaks saying, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

Don’t be afraid to read and meditate on this glorious revelation of Jesus Christ. May you grow in your knowledge of Him. Where the details are clear, rejoice. Where they seem a little fuzzy: stand in awe and worship (later you can come back to gain a fuller understanding of the details). When you see elders and angels and creatures worshipping, allow them to lead you to stand in awe and worship the Lord Jesus. He is the focus of this revelation and of our worship.

Father, open my eyes to the glory of Jesus. May your word open my heart to a fuller revelation of his glory. Let those things that I understand lead me to worship. Let the things that I don’t cause me to stand in awe. Amen.

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Grumblers and Faultfinders

December 8

Grumblers and Faultfinders 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 137:1-9 | Hosea 10:1-14:9 | Jude 1-25 | Proverbs 29:15-17

Today’s Scripture Focus: Jude 1-25

“These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires, they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage” (Jude 1:16 NIV).

Jude, in his one chapter, gives us one of the starkest warnings in the New Testament. He reminds us of the judgment of God in places like Sodom and Gomorrah. He uses strong word pictures: “they are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind, autumn trees without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame, wandering stars, for who the blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” He warns the faithful to stay away from these “godless men” who should expect to be judged in like manner.

What had these men done to deserve such strong words? Why did the people need to be so careful about their influence?

Of course, there was immorality, rejecting authority and slandering celestial beings. But that is not all. They were also “grumblers and faultfinders,” boasting about themselves and “flattering others for their own advantage.”

Do “grumbling” and “faultfinding” really demand such stark warnings? Boasting and flattery? We often tolerate the “sins of the tongue” and treat them as “not as big of a deal” as other sins. But they have devastating effects on people and in the life of the church. Perhaps that is why Jude includes them on his list of serious offenses.

Use your tongue to bless and not to curse. Allow it to encourage and lift up instead of grumbling and faultfinding. Don’t allow others to draw you into grumbling and faultfinding. It’s a contagious disease with devastating effects.

Father, help me to speak from a heart of gratitude that I might bless others through my words. May my tongue always bless and never curse. May it bring words of healing, not words that wound and hurt. Let my words always bring you honor and glory. Amen.

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Forever

December 7

Forever 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 136:10-26 | Hosea 6:1-9:17 | 3 John 1-15 | Proverbs 29:12-14

Today’s Scripture Focus: Psalm 136

Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever (Psalm 136:26 NIV).

Repetition can be a powerful rhetorical device. It brings emphasis making the point crystal clear. It enables the reader or listener to remember.

Repetition can be a powerful liturgical device. It helps us slow down and focus on a key theme long enough to let it sink in. It gives time for the truth to engage not only the mind, but the heart.

This Psalm is a great example. The love of God (Hebrew: hesed) is the focus. This Hebrew term, actually is much fuller than is suggested by the word love. It is certainly that, but so much more. It is the relentless love of God who is completely faithful to the people of the covenant; it is faithfulness, love, kindness and mercy all wrapped up in one word. It is the essence of God’s love for and commitment to his people. It is a wonderful word that is very well worth taking the time to meditate on.

Each of the phrases of the Psalm focuses on the character and actions of God that demonstrate his hesed (loving kindness). Then the congregation joins in; “His love endures forever.”

God loves you with the same kind of relentless, faithful love. Take the time to meditate on that. Remember something that God has done for you and then say, “His love endures forever.” Allow God to move that truth deeply into your heart.

Father, thank you for your ongoing faithfulness in my life. Indeed, your love endures forever. Amen.

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Love and Obedience

December 6

Love and Obedience 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 136:1-9 | Hosea 4:1-5:15 | 2 John 1-13 | Proverbs 29:9-11

Today’s Scripture Focus: 2 John 1-13

“And this is love that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (2 John 1:6 NIV).

John makes several connections repeatedly throughout his letters.  He repeatedly connects love for God to our obedience—especially obedience to the two great commandments (to love God and to love our neighbor). “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” 1 John 5:3.

He also repeatedly suggests that if we love God, we will walk in love toward brothers and sisters. Love for God will manifest itself in love for other people.

Here again, in verse 6, John reminds us of the connection of love and obedience to God’s commands. Loving God is the true motivation for obedience. We obey because we love Him. And to truly love Him is to obey Him. Every act of disobedience, then, comes from a lack of love for God.

Love for God is not measured so much by our words or our feelings as it is by our obedience to Christ’s command to love others. Do you love God? Are you demonstrating it by your obedience to his commands? Do you love others? Do you demonstrate that in practical ways–through action and truth, not just words? These are the true marks of love for God.

Father, fill my heart with your love and help me to love others as you do. Help me to make it practical—not just flowery words, but love in practical actions. Use me today to bring your love to others. Amen.

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Faithful to the Unfaithful

December 5

Faithful to the Unfaithful 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 135:15-21 | Hosea 1:1-3:5 | 1 John 5:1-21 | Proverbs 29:5-8

Today’s Scripture Focus: Hosea 1:1-3:5

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes” (Hosea 3:1 NIV).

Sometimes God calls a prophet to do something unusual as a prophetic action. Among the most difficult is the command of the Lord to the prophet Hosea. He is to marry Gomer, a prostitute who will repeatedly prove to be unfaithful. And he is to always take her back and love her faithfully.

In this extraordinary prophetic act, God is demonstrating his unrelenting faithfulness to his people in spite of their repeated acts of unfaithfulness.

The whole of the Hebrew Scriptures is a testimony to the truth God is demonstrating through Hosea’s prophetic words and action: his people have a tendency toward unfaithfulness—a tendency toward worshipping other gods—and they go through cycles of disobedience leading to judgment leading to repentance and return. But the cycle never seems to stop. After a while, they drift back into indifference and unfaithfulness.

Yet despite the repeated acts of unfaithfulness, he calls Hosea to demonstrate faithfulness to Gomer. In the same way, God has remained faithful to his often-unfaithful people and he holds out hope that one day they will return. In the final words of the book, God lays out his ultimate intention: that his people will one day return in faithfulness: “Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days” (3:5).

Old Testament or New, despite our wavering faithfulness, God always remain faithful. As Paul wrote to Timothy: “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself” (2Tim. 2:13 ESV). Open up your heart to your faithful God and praise him! Despite the fact that we sometimes prove unfaithful, he never gives up on us: he remains faithful! His love endures forever.

Father God, great is your faithfulness. Great is your steadfast love toward your people. Forgive us for times when we are unfaithful, when we drift and compromise. Thank you for always receiving us with love as we return from our prodigal ways. Give us a steadfast spirit and enable us by your Spirit to demonstrate faithfulness and perseverance as we continue on in faith. Amen.

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You Are an Overcomer

December 4

You Are an Overcomer 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 135:8-14 | Daniel 11:36-12:13 | 1 John 4:1-21 |Proverbs 29:2-4

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 John 4:1-21

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4 NIV).

You are an overcomer. There is no reason to wallow in defeat. Your greatest enemy, the devil, is a defeated foe. Greater is the one who is in you (Christ) than he who is in the world (Satan).

True, your enemy does slander and accuse. But you don’t have to listen to his lies. You are a new creature, forgiven and redeemed. There is no reason for you to remain defeated by false guilt; no reason to hang on to something God has long ago forgiven.

True, your enemy does know your weak spots. He does his best to tempt and lure you into those places of weakness. But Jesus lives in you—and his power is greater than the temptations of the evil one. Stand strong.

True, he will try to steal your joy. Rejoice that you serve the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

You are a child of the King. You are an overcomer. Jesus lives in you. Greater is he who lives in you than he who is in the world.

Jesus, help me to walk in victory today through the victory you gained in the cross and in resurrection. Enable me to be an overcomer this day and in the days to come. Amen.

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Love in Action

December 3

Love in Action 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 135:1-7 | Dan 11:2-35 | 1 John 3:7-24 | Proverbs 29:1

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 John 3:7-24

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. [17] If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? [18] Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-19 NIV).

The identifying mark of a true follower of Christ is love.This love, always more than a feeling that comes and goes, is evidenced in practical ways through our actions.

Christ is our example. He gave his very life to prove his love for us. That kind of sacrificial love is the standard he set for us to follow. His sacrificial act of laying down his life for us is the very definition of the love; the standard he calls us to follow with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

When a brother or sister in Christ is in need and we fail to have pity on him or her–when we fail to do what we are able to do to sacrificially meet the need—how can the love of God be in us? God sees the need and expresses his heart through the hands and feet of his people through acts of sacrificial love—laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

This is not to say that we have no discernment about those who would take advantage of our generosity. There are some for whom a handout could be counterproductive and keep them from living responsibly. There are undoubtedly times when tough love is necessary for the good of the individual who takes advantage of the generosity of others, yet in all cases the heart of God for us is that we follow the way of Christ’s sacrificial love.

We should not grasp too tightly to money and possessions. We are stewards of the good gifts we have been given. If the love of God is in us, we will demonstrate that love not just through words but also with actions and in truth.

Words are not enough. True love is demonstrated by practical actions when we bring the compassion and love of the father to those in need.

Good and Gracious Father, we delight in your generosity to us. We stand amazed by your grace and love. Fill us with a heart of generosity that we might demonstrate the love of Christ to each other and to those who most desperately need our help. Let our love be seen in practical ways, in actions and in truth. Amen.

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Dearly Loved Children

December 2

Dearly Loved Children 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 134:1-3 | Dan 9:1-11:1 | 1 John 2:18-3:6 |  Proverbs 28:27-28

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 John 2:18-3:6

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. [2] Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:1-2 NIV).

A great theologian was asked what he thought was the most profound thought he had ever had. He replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.” The words of a simple children’s hymn were more stunning, more profound to him than any of the theological work that he had written or read. To ponder the thought of God’s love toward us–that God lavishes his love on us, calling us his children–is truly amazing.

To truly comprehend the greatness of the Father’s love for you is to be forever changed. That’s why Paul prayed: “I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

To experience deeply God’s love–a love that surpasses knowledge–is to be forever changed.

Open your heart to your Father’s love today. Allow him to “pour out his love by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Abide in it–spend some time there just meditating on how much you are loved. Allow him to reveal how wide and long and high and deep is his love for you. You are his child–his dearly loved child. You are His beloved.

Father, help me to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is your love. Help me to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Amen.

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Worldliness

Quote from Open Up Your Heart by Jeff Syverson

December 1

Worldliness 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 133:1-3 | Dan 8:1-27 | 1 John 2:1-17 | Proverbs 28:25-26

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 John 2

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [16] For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:15-17 NIV)

John’s insistence that we should not love the world or anything in the world is easily misunderstood or misapplied. For some it signals a dualistic way of life that views life in categories where spiritual is prized over earthly, sacred is valued and secular is rejected. This rejection fails to recognize that “the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (1 Cor. 10:26).

It is common in some Christian circles to view worldliness as a style (music or dress, for example) to be rejected—a style that is typical of those outside the norms of the community. Thus, we tend to define worldliness in ways that it applies to someone else. But defining worldliness in that way often keeps us from seeing the worldliness of our own hearts. Focusing too much on the minor issues keeps us from seeing the real issue: the pride within each of us.

Worldliness is an attitude of the heart. At its core, worldliness is pride focused in three ways: “the lust of the eyes,” “the lust of the flesh” (cravings of the sinful man), and “the boasting of what he has and does.” Instead of finding my satisfaction in God, I find myself allowing the things of this world to gain too much significance in my life. My desire gets out of control and becomes a “lust.” The good gifts of God become my source of significance and the focus of my boastful speech. I fall into the endless cycle of trying to conform to the lifestyle of my neighbors in their materialistic pursuits and I become the focus rather than God.

Embrace life in its fullness under the Lordship of Christ. Enjoy the good gifts of the Father with gratitude, but do not allow your affections that rightly belong to the Giver to be focused on the gifts. Do not allow the focus of praise to turn from God to yourself.

Father, keep me hungry and thirsty for you. Help me to enjoy the good and perfect gifts you give without making them objects of worship. Enable me to live free of sinful cravings, the lust of the eyes, and from prideful boasting. Amen.

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Real Fellowship

November 30

Real Fellowship 

Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 132:13-18 | Daniel 7:1-28 | 1 John 1:1-10 | Proverbs 28:23-24

Today’s Scripture Focus: 1 John 1

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3-4 NIV).

Fellowship is more than casual conversation over coffee and cookies. Fellowship is the deep connectedness we have with one another because of our common bond, our relationship with Christ. That isn’t to say that the casual conversation is unnecessary or unimportant, but true fellowship will always go deeper.

True fellowship is our partnership and connectedness because we have a relationship with Christ. He is the common link that brings us together whatever our differences may be. The body of Christ is diverse, but it is held together by what we have in common: our relationship with Christ. We are free to share deeply our problems, our concerns, our heart’s desires with those we partner with on this life’s journey. We live life together, doing our best to help each other in our times of need.

True fellowship is strengthened when we live lives of obedience. “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” This obedience is centered in love for God and love for our neighbor.

True fellowship is enhanced when we confess our sins and live in the purity God brings through forgiveness. Those who’ve experienced God’s grace deeply, tend to show grace to others more freely.

True fellowship is enhanced by an attitude of humility and hindered by a “holier than thou” attitude. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (8). Deep fellowship cannot take place in an environment where people pretend to be more holy than they truly are.

God’s design is for us to live in true fellowship: fellowship with Him through a personal relationship with Christ, which leads to a deep sharing, and connectedness with one another. He desires authentic Christians who are honest about sin and longing to walk in the light. In communities like that we are free to open our hearts to one another and minister to one another as the body of Christ.

Father, thank you for fellowship—both fellowship with you and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Help us to grow deeper in fellowship knowing that we really do need each other. May we be an encouragement to each other as we seek to follow Christ on this journey of faith. Amen.

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