I have preached a couple of sermons lately from Revelation. One of things I stressed is that some people wrongly avoid the book entirely. They were given bad advice to avoid reading and studying it, and some believers go through life afraid of it. That’s ridiculous.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
I saw a headline just two days ago that said supply chain problems could mean bah humbug. At ports on both coasts are dozens and dozens of container ships with goods waiting to be unloaded. The backlog could mean that by the time the regular Christmas shopping season starts, traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, there will be no toys, clothing and electronics left on store shelves. By the American way of thinking no stuff means no Christmas.
I came across a question about leadership this week in a Facebook group. What does good leadership look like? Several options were suggested ranging from control to chaos. It was a Christian group so I assume that Christian leadership was the topic. My response went something like this.
How often do we say that? Maybe you run into a friend at the grocery store. You talk about recent events, ball games, what grades the kids are in and your friend mentions a relative in the hospital, some big life event or whatever and ends with “pray for us” and begins moving away. “I will” you say as you check your list and keep shopping. Sometimes we get real requests for prayer from people that are seriously hurting. Do we say “I will pray for you” just to make them feel a little better or do we really mean we are going to spend time in prayer with God interceding on their behalf?
“Hey, how are you?” is a casual greeting that doesn’t mean much anymore. We don’t really want to know, and might get annoyed if they set in explaining how they have been. “I will pray for you” needs to be more than that. It would be better left unsaid than casually dismissed in passing. Sometimes we say it in all earnestness but life happens and that person, and the need, slips away. The next time you say “I will pray for you” if at all possible stop and do it right then. It might have to be a 10 or 20 second sound bite if you’re at work or holding up a line somewhere. Saying you will pray is one thing; making it so is something else. It will ensure that you do not forget altogether and maybe you could pray again later as well.
I spend a lot of time online. I do all of my Bible study and sermon prep online. I blog and update the church website. I also spend time watching YouTube videos and scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. I’ve seen a lot of memes lately, like the one shown here, about giving Eve the stink eye when meeting her in heaven. Sometimes people want to have a long theological discussion or engage in debate in a comment thread. Someone else’s comment thread is not the place for that kind of thing. This is the place for that kind of thing. Without being critical of anyone for having a sense or humor let’s be serious for a moment.
I recently saw a question online asking if Christians really believe Jesus came back from the dead. It was obvious that the question comes from the point of view that people don’t do that; come back to life that is. Jesus was a man, he died, and it seems unreasonable to think that he came back to life three days later. Maybe he was a wise teacher with many followers, maybe it is not crazy that we study his sermons and emulate his behavior but do we really believe he rose from the dead and appeared again alive to his disciples and others? Fasten your seatbelts.
The term cancel culture may be new to our vocabulary but the idea of silencing voices of those we do not want to hear is ancient. Jeremiah lived around 600 B.C. and was once thrown in a nearly dry well. There was no water but he sank into thick mud and could not free himself. On another occasion he wrote a letter of warning to King Jehoiakim who cut the scroll with a knife, a few lines at a time as it was read, and threw God’s word into the fire. Many of the Old Testament prophets were ignored, mocked, exiled or killed.
He Cannot Save Himself is a poem I wrote some years ago for Good Friday. It presents an account of the crucifixion based on the Gospels in scripture. I want to go ahead and post it now, a couple of weeks before Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter, so that my readers have time to share it. If you wish to reblog, share on social media, or even print the poem in a church bulletin or elsewhere, feel free to do so just give the original author a by line. This photo is one I took myself, of a crucifix hanging in my office.
When a multitude of the heavenly host appeared to a group of shepherds out in the field, they proclaimed “Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.” Someone may take a critical look at the world today and ask “Where is it? I don’t see peace on Earth.” The first thing we need to do is examine what this group of messengers were really saying. The full text of Luke 2:14 is “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Your translation of choice may not include among those with whom he is pleased so let’s not even go there. These angels are worshipping. They proclaim Glory to God in the highest which we do not see everywhere in the world today. The creation points to God’s glory but the majority of people walking the face of the earth do not acknowledge God. The angels were announcing the birth of the Messiah/Christ so peace on earth could be similar to Jesus himself saying “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” He certainly was. So the angels did not prophesy in so many words “There is going to be peace on earth” or “from now on there will be peace on earth and goodwill everywhere you look.” But I still want to address these two questions: Is there or can there be peace on earth? Will there ever be peace over the whole earth?
As we talk about giving thanks I’m not going into this holiday season with blinders on. Over 258,000 Americans have died of Covid or Covid-related illnesses this year. Unemployment reached levels unheard of since the Great Depression with 33 million unemployed in April. (Unemployment will go back up as the total number of cases and hospitalizations rise and things shut down again.) Theaters, restaurants, airlines and hotels may never been the same, or so it seems. On a personal level, we all know someone that has been quarantined, hospitalized or died from Covid-19. Some families have been hit hard.