Protect the promise

If you’ve made a commitment to someone, how far will you go to see that it happens? If someone has made a commitment to you, how far will you go to see that it happens? And what about what God has promised to you? How far will you go to hold on to the promises that you have from the Lord? Only until it gets a little uncomfortable? Only until it’s inconvenient and doesn’t really fit into your plans?

What if we could see the end at the beginning? Would it change our response to God’s promises? It certainly made a difference in Judah. God had promised that David’s line would never end. David would have an heir on the throne forever. But as we read in 2 Chronicles, that line was in serious jeopardy. Upon the death of King Ahaziah, his mother took it upon herself to destroy every possible heir. But one got away. Just a child, but an heir nonetheless.

Jehoiada said to them, “The king’s son shall reign, as the Lord promised concerning the descendants of David. Now this is what you are to do: A third of you priests and Levites who are going on duty on the Sabbath are to keep watch at the doors, a third of you at the royal palace and a third at the Foundation Gate, and all the other men are to be in the courtyards of the temple of the Lord. No on is to enter the temple of the Lord except the priests and Levites on duty; they may enter because they are consecrated, but all the other men are to guard what the Lord has assigned to them. The Levites are to station themselves around the king, each man with weapons in his hand. Anyone who enters the temple must be put to death. Stay close to the king wherever he goes.

2 Chronicles 23:3b-7 (NIV)

That is an awful lot of fuss for a kid just barely out of kindergarten. Yet Jehoiada knew that this boy was heir to far more than just the nation of Judah. He was the heir of a promise that would extend throughout eternity and they would protect that promise with their lives.

We have a book full of promises from God. How far will you go to see those promises come to pass?

The thing is, just because a promise has been made, doesn’t mean that we aren’t required to do anything. It doesn’t mean that we just get to sit around and let it happen around us. Had Jehoiada decided to leave matters be—it’ll all work out in the end, won’t it?—Joash would have been killed along with the rest of his siblings. The last of David’s line gone. And then what? It’s not as though God couldn’t have come up with another plan for salvation. But that’s not what God does. He’s not a God of plan B. He doesn’t even have a plan B. It’s plan A. Period.

So how do we know that God will keep His promises?

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NIV)

If God has made a promise to us, we can be assured that He will keep it. But we also have a responsibility to protect that promise. We must arm ourselves as Jehoiada armed the priests and Levites to protect Joash. God has given us His Spirit so that we can stand firm in the face of our enemy and declare the Amen—let it be so—with confidence that if God has promised it, He will perform it.

Do you have a promise from God? Protect it. With your life.

Read: 2 Chronicles 23-25, John 16:16-33

The Word

The first five verses of John’s Gospel may very well be my favourite verses in all of scripture. One could study them for a whole year and still not grasp the full weight and complexity of their meaning. Previously, I’ve been focused on the Light, but today, the Word jumped out at me.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1 (NIV)

Revelation 19:13 speaks of Jesus and his name is the Word of God. So, one could read the first verse of John like this:

In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.

If Jesus is the Word of God, what does the Bible have to say about the Word?

…so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

In this context, Jesus had to give himself up as a sacrifice for our sins because that is what he was sent to do. And if God’s Word, Jesus, will accomplish what God desires, Jesus had to achieve the purpose for which he was sent.

For me, this is another one of those big revelations that needs time to roll around and fully form. Read these verses again for yourself and see what God is speaking to you through His Word.

Read: 1 Kings 14-15, John 1:1-28

I Am

Who created God? When did God begin? How can anyone not have a start?

These are all the logical questions anyone might ask of a God who claims to have no beginning and no end. And they are all questions that, even if we have the answers right in front of us, we will never really be able to wrap our minds around.

We humans know we have a beginning. And an end, of sorts. And another beginning. And then eternity (which we can’t really wrap our minds around, either).

When God speaks to Moses through the burning bush, He doesn’t say, “I was the God of your father…” God said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6) This implies that, not only was God the God of Moses’ ancestors, but He still is their God. And if He still is their God, they must still exist somewhere.

Jesus mentions this account when the Sadducees made an attempt, like the Pharisees often did, to stump him with the law. Don’t try to stump Jesus. You can’t. The Sadducees couldn’t, either. They gave a long hypothetical situation in which a woman ends up marrying seven brothers and eventually dies childless. In heaven, who is her husband?

After explaining that the finite things of life do not come with us into eternity, Jesus closes with this:

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

Luke 20:38 (NIV)

Our short lives on this earth are amazing things on their own, but when you add eternity to that experience, it is a mere shadow in comparison. When we make Jesus our Lord, God our Father, He is our God for eternity. Again, a tough concept to grasp. But no matter how difficult it is to fully comprehend eternal life, it is ours nonetheless.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—is is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)

Even as I try to put into words the vastness of this truth, I am blown away by what God has offered us. Not only has He given us life on earth, but He has made a way for us to live forever with Him.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 (NIV)

God isn’t an I was, He isn’t an I will be. He is. And He has made us to be like Him.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:16 (NIV)

When we are made alive with Christ, we become a part of The Great I Am. Who I was no longer matters. Forevermore, I am with I Am.

Read: 2 Samuel 15-16, Luke 20:27-47

Infinity and beyond

Read: Deuteronomy 14-16, Mark 13:14-37

When was the last time you had something repaired? Maybe it was your car. Perhaps a computer or an appliance. It was probably a big-ticket item, whatever it was. Once upon a time, people would repair just about everything. Socks were darned. Jeans were patched. Dresses were refit to a different shape and size. Phones lasted decades. Books for centuries.

Mark 13-31

When we read about Jesus’ words enduring forever, we really don’t have a frame of reference. After all, nothing lasts forever, right?

Wrong.

We need to get our minds out of our world of temporary and easily replaceable. We need to get our brains fixed on the fixed. We need to look beyond today and into eternity. Into infinity and beyond.

Jesus, the Word, was there in the beginning. He will be there long after all we know ends. And he has invited us to share eternity with him. We’d be crazy not to take him up on that offer.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

John 1:1-2 (NIV)

It is this assurance that we can hold on to. Outside of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, there is nothing that endures. If we desire meaning and anything that lasts, it can only be found through Christ. It is this knowledge that will keep us going when everything else we know is gone. This life may be temporary, but the next one isn’t.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NIV)

The last and the first

At the close of a year especially, we tend to view the world around us with endings and beginnings. With the turn of the second hand, one year is behind us and a new is upon us. We put the previous year behind us and make resolutions for the new. Even though the clock passes midnight every day, we view 11:59pm on December 31 as somehow different.

In Revelation, Jesus declares himself to be both the beginning and the end.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Revelation 22:13 (NLT)

But what does that mean? Is Jesus like December 31 and January 1? Sort of, but he is so much more than that.

I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne.

Revelation 22:16b (NLT)

Jesus was with God at creation. He is in all of creation. And he will exist long after creation as we know it passes away. He is the source of life and that which sustains life. He may be the Beginning and the End, but he is also everything in between. When the end comes, he is there and at every new beginning, he is there.

Unlike a number on the calendar that will never come around again, Jesus will come again. And not only will he come again, but he is already here. It all sounds like a grand paradox. Our mindset of starts and finishes cannot comprehend how all-encompassing Jesus really is, but we can try. As one day ends and another begins, we can look to him as the author and the finisher of our faith—the one who started it and the one who will complete it.

He who is the faithful witness to all these things say, “Yes, I am coming soon!”
Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all.

Revelation 22:20-21 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Malachai 1-4, Revelation 22

No doubt

To even the most accomplished scholar, the book of Revelation can be daunting. Filled with inexplicable visions and prophecy, who can really know what the writer saw? But there are a couple of things that we can be sure about.

First, no matter what’s going on, worship continues. Aside from that half hour pause, every being in heaven continues to worship God. Their songs, their attitudes and their posture never changes.

Second, is the assurance holding on to God’s promises.

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The whole world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 11:15 (NLT)

The host surrounding the throne of God was so confident in their remarks that they announced long before the end what the end would be. According to John, the entire world is in turmoil at this time and yet the declaration is past tense.

But those two songs which precede it show that the real result is the coming of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom. The tense is that of prophetic certainty—the Kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, though all is in the future. But there is no more doubt about the future than about the past if God has determined it.

F. Bertram Clogg, The Abingdon Bible Commentary

When God makes a promise, we can be as certain that He will keep it as though it has already come to pass.

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in him. That is why we say, “Amen” when we give glory to God through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NLT)

Notice the use of past tense again here. All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in him. In whom? Him. Jesus. The Amen. The Alpha and the Omega. The One who knows both the beginning and the end because he is the beginning and the end.

You may question or doubt a few things in Revelation, but there should be no doubt at all when it comes to whether or not God’s promises will be fulfilled.

Daily Bible reading: Micah 4-5, Revelation 11

The beginning and the end

They said,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength
belong to our God forever and forever,
Amen!

Revelation 7:12 (NLT)

This chorus of saints and angels will sing in perpetual praise around the throne of God. Notice the beginning and the end. Amen!

This is the message from the one who is Amen—the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

Revelation 3:14b (NLT)

The source of all creation, Jesus, is the Amen. He should now and forever be both the beginning and ending of our praise, our worship, our adoration. Through him all things began and he will be there until the end and through eternity. How fitting that the choir of all creation would recognise his place—to confirm, establish, and verify the Truth.

Daily Bible reading: Amos 7-9, Revelation 7

The Amen

Christians say amen a lot. So much so that we probably don’t even realise we do it and, if we do, its meaning has long since been forgotten.

AMEN: As a verb, it signifies to confirm, establish, verify; to trust, or give confidence, as a noun, truth, firmness, trust, confidence.

At the end of our prayers, amen is meant to say let it be so. But Revelation gives us a different revelation of the word.

This is the message from the one who is Amen—the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

Revelation 3:14b (NLT)

The one who is Amen. Jesus. Read the definition of amen again, but with Jesus in mind rather than a simple word we use to close our prayers. Jesus is truth. Jesus is firmness. He is trust. He is confidence. He doesn’t just inspire these things, he embodies them.

As the Amen, he is the one in whom the revelation of God finds its perfect response and fulfillment.

International Bible Commentary

This is how Jesus introduces himself to the church at Laodicea—a church that had grown lukewarm in their faith. While they still believed, they had grown so confident in their own accomplishments that they failed to recognise Jesus as the Amen—the perfect response and fulfillment of the revelation of God.

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one of the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!

Revelation 3:15-16 (NLT)

The church was being likened to their city’s water source. Laodicea had water piped in from a hot spring five miles away. By the time the water reached the city, it was tepid, not longer hot yet not cold like the water spring in Colossae. The further from the source the water, the less like the source it is.

When Jesus said that he is ruler of God’s creation, the word ruler can also be translated as source. The cold water at Colossae was cold and refreshing. The source spring from where Laodicea got their water was hot with healing properties. But, like the lukewarm water in the city, the church there was good for very little.

So let us get back to the Amen. Let us get as close to the source of God’s creation as we possibly can. Let us be cold and refreshing or hot and healing, but not lukewarm and useless. If we begin with the Amen, let us also end with the Amen.

Daily Bible reading: Hosea 12-14, Revelation 3

Light

The first chapter of the Gospel of John may well be my favourite in all the Bible. I can read it over and over again and still be greatly humbled by those few words.

In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make. Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone. the light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

John 1:1-5 (NLT)

We’ve looked at the parallels between these verses and those in Genesis 1 before, but it never hurts to go back. Both books start with the same three words, in the beginning. The beginning as we know it to be. we know that God is timeless. John said that the Word already existed. So when God created the heavens and the earth, Jesus—the Word—was there. We also know from Genesis 1:2 that the Spirit was there, hovering over the surface of the void.

Then there was light. Not the sun, mind you, but Light. The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. The sun doesn’t appear until verse 14.

Jesus is Light. Jesus is the Word. When God spoke His Word over the void earth, He spoke Jesus. Jesus went out and accomplished all that God spoke. In my head, Jesus is always the man with the well-coiffed hair, white robes, and a lamb draped around his shoulders. But he is so much more than that.

He is the Good Shepherd, but he is also the Word that created the earth. He is the friend of sinners, but he is also the Light that pushes back the darkness. He is the healer, but he is also in the seed that produces after their own kind.

If we only ever see the Jesus of the Gospels, we will never understand the Jesus that existed prior to his short stint on earth. He was there in the beginning. He literally was the Word that went out when God the Father spoke. He created everything there is. Jesus did that. The same Jesus that went to the cross and gave up his life for us is life itself. He is light.

Science lesson: The only reason we see anything at all is because of light. Of course! Our eyes receive signals of light reflecting off surfaces and our brains translate that into objects. What we perceive as colour is certain wavelengths of light. Light is a type of energy.

Now swap out light for Jesus.

I’m not going to explain that any further. Just think about it for a while.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 14-15, John 1:1-28

Begin Again

I’m a couple of days late starting this again. I’ll catch up though, I promise. I don’t want to miss out on the very beginning. It’s the best place to start, after all.

In 2016, I based the majority of my study from the English Standard Version. Why ESV? I wanted to use a Bible that I hadn’t previously marked up with highlights, underlining, and notes. If you’re like me, your eyes are always drawn to the highlights and you tend to miss everything in between. I didn’t want to miss anything and I happened to have a beautiful ESV that was begging to be marked up. Now it is.

This year, I’ve pulled out a New Living Translation. Yes, I know it’s not even close to being the most accurate. It’s even borderline paraphrase, but it’s not marked up and it’s also a worship study and devotional Bible. The CVC worship team aims to write more music this year. What better way to get in a place to write the songs of Heaven than to study from a place of worship?

All that being said, let’s get into today’s reading.

This is the history of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless man living on earth at the time. He consistently followed God’s will and enjoyed a close relationship with him.

Genesis 6:9 (NLT)

Do you ever feel as though you’re not as close to God as you’d like to be? I do. Then, do you wonder why?

There are many reasons as to why we can’t seem to get close to God. Making Him a priority is certainly at the top of that list. Life can get in the way and spending time with someone you can’t see may begin to seem silly when there are so many others vying for your attention.

But what if the problem isn’t the time we spend with Him, but how we’re spend our time in general? Are we doing what we’re supposed to be doing? I’m not necessarily talking about work and family relationships. If you have a family, you should most certainly be making them a priority. What about everything else, though? Are you doing what God put you on earth to be doing? Are you in His will? Do you even know what His will for your life is?

Noah enjoyed a close relationship with God because he consistently followed God’s will.

How much closer would we be to God if we simply followed His will?

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 6-8, Matthew 3