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

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

Potential power

Many moons ago, I processed cheques for one of the largest banks in Canada. Every work day, I was responsible for balancing the sum total of all cheques deposited to or written on accounts at the the bank I worked for. A half a million cheques could pass through my hands on any given day. Massive machines running at incredible speeds made this work possible. Anyone using these machines had to go through hazardous energy training. (Why this training was introduced after these machines had been used for decades was beyond me.)

What is hazardous energy? According to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), hazardous energy is any electrical, mechanical, pneumatic, chemical, nuclear, thermal, gravitational, or other energy that can harm people. When a machine was down for maintenance, the hazardous energy program required us to turn off, unplug, and lock out the machines so that they could not be used. Were they going to blow up and kill us all? Unlikely. But, because of maintenance issues, they had the potential to become dangerous until repaired. Because the machines were locked down, the power within simply remained a potential.

Many Christians are liked locked down machines waiting for a repair that we don’t even need. We know that there is potential inside of us, but something has caused us to power down, unplug, and lock out anything that might spark that potential. Just because we’re not sure where that potential may lead us, we often view it as hazardous energy—something to be avoided at all costs.

Yes, everything is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.

Philippians 3:8-10a (NLT)

Our trust, or faith, in Christ unlocks power within us. And not just a little bit of power, but the same mighty power that raised him from the dead. Like a locked-out machine, we sit dormant. Useless. Waiting. But we’re not broken. We’re not in need of maintenance. Rather we need to unlock ourselves and our potential to release the mighty power of Christ that’s just waiting to burst out from us. We need to plug ourselves back into the power source and allow Him to flow through us so that we can do the work we were created to do. We were meant to be effective and productive, working together to accomplish seemingly impossible, daunting tasks.

Satan thought he had locked Jesus out for good and thrown away the key, but the power within Christ was so great, that nothing could hold him back. The same power flows through us. We can either lock ourselves out and simply enjoy the potential access we have to the power source or we can get plugged in and affect change in the world around us.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.

James 5:16b (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 37-38, Philippians 3

A word of encouragement

Who doesn’t need or want a little encouragement every once in a while (or all the time)? We feel good when someone gives us a pat on the back, tells us we’re doing a good job, or sends a text just to say they’re thinking about us. But what about those days when those things don’t happen? What about the days when we could really use that encouraging word and it doesn’t come? What then?

It sure would be nice if our frame of mind wasn’t so dependant on outside reassurance.

I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are discouraged take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

Psalm 34:1-3 (NLT)

It’s interesting that, in all these lines about praising God, David inserts something about the discouraged. He saw a relationship between praising God and a happy heart.

What if, when we’re feeling a little down and tend to focus more inwardly, we turned it around? What if we took the focus completely off of ourselves? Think about this, when you’re worshipping God, praising Him, speaking about His greatness, what’s your mental state like? Do you feel burdened, in need of a pick-me-up? No. It’s pretty difficult to stay down when you’re lifting God up.

When we turn our focus on to God and His greatness, first of all, our troubles become very small. Second, we allow our spirits to commune with His Spirit—our helper and comforter. Our affirmation doesn’t need to come from outside sources—it shouldn’t come from outside sources. We have the ability to lift ourselves out of the gloom and into the glorious light of God.

How can we be anything but encouraged when we shift our focus from our inward troubles and outwardly praise the Lord, speak His praises, boast in Him, tell of His greatness, and exalt His name?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 34-35, Acts 22

Living Water

As you may have read the other day, Jesus said a lot of things that we may now take for granted having heard them spoken in church for years, but if you put them in the context of the time and culture and you realise that Jesus said some pretty crazy things!

On the last and most important day of the feat Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from that person’s heart, as the Scripture says.”

John 7:37-38 (NCV)

I don’t know about you, but if I were to take that literally, I’m not sure I’d take Jesus up on his offer. What would rivers of living water flowing from my heart look like? Would the water spew from my mouth or would it just burst from my chest? How would I stay alive either way?

In addition to this being an odd thing to say, Jesus was actually taking advantage of tradition to show that he was going to make changes. It is important that the end of the feast is mentioned. At the end of the seven day Feast of Tabernacles, it was tradition to tack on an eighth day to the festivities for a closing assembly. This assembly included a procession from the temple to the Pool of Siloam (which is another story in itself). Once at the pool, a priest would draw water to be poured out as an offering on the altar back at the temple. What could possibly be the most important part of this entire tradition is the scripture recitation that accompanied it.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

Isaiah 12:3 (ESV)

No wonder the religious leaders were incensed! Jesus stood up and loudly proclaimed to be able to replace and improve upon a very important part of the Jewish tradition – and the Jews loved their tradition like Thor loves his hammer.

So what does this mean for us? Aside from the incredible gift of salvation that Jesus offers, it gives us a glimpse of what Jesus came to do. He didn’t come only to save the world, but he came to change the world. At every turn, Jesus took the opportunity to turn Jewish tradition on end. Not because it was necessarily bad, but because he had a better replacement.

What do you think Jesus wants to replace in your life? You are free to keep doing things the way you’ve always done them, but what if Jesus wants to take those things and change them into something better? What if he wants to take your stale old traditions and allow something life-giving and refreshing to flow from them? Instead of joining the procession to the pool for salvation, you can be the source of it.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 1-2; John 7:32-53