Category Archives: Daily Meditations

Jesus Learned Obedience Through Suffering [part 2]

Let’s go just a little deeper down the rabbit hole, shall we?

I’ve been intensely fascinated by the idea of Jesus arriving at new stages of experience as one commentator put it. One road of Hebrews 5:8 we could journey down is that Jesus learned obedience through a particular kind of suffering which we do not normally think of. Suffering is, as we know, not limited to physical pain. Pain is a part of growth as a human being. As Luke Timothy Johnson astutely points out in his commentary on this passage,

“intellectually, the learning of new ideas is a form of growth: our minds expand to include new realities of which we had not previously been aware. The growth is good. But it is also painful, since it implies the disruption and rearrangement–and often the abandonment–of our previous mental furnishings. To enter into new mental territory means at least a partial death to old mental territory. Stretching the mind to encompass new truth means suffering the pain of mental disequilibrium.”

Can you wrap your head around the fact that Jesus, taking on our humanity to the fullest degree, likely leaned new ideas which stretched him?

Perhaps he grew up hearing some corrupt religious teachings which he later found out, through seeing more of the light of God, were unhealthy and not truly from the heart of Yahweh. To shed something we’ve been taught, or simply heard and absorbed most of our life, is indeed a death, a suffering. We’ve all had to drop certain ways of thought which we discovered were unlovingly judgmental, and it does kind of hurt to admit to ourselves that we ever harbored such views.

Of course I am not saying Jesus ever sinned, nor will I ever. I’m merely pointing out this fascinating aspect which shows how deeply he can relate to us because of his great sacrifice and service to humanity that is no doubt greater than we’ve probably previously imagined.

The word “learned” in this verse is not conveying that Jesus went from disobedience to obedience, but rather has the connotation of coming to know something firsthand through personal experience. This is why I love the First Nations Version (a wonderfully fresh Indigenous translation of the New Testament) of this verse: Even though he was Creator’s Son, he still had to learn, through suffering, what it means to stay true to the ways of the Great Spirit.

Maybe Jesus had to experientially learn as a kid that life is not about pleasing people or trying to look good, but about pleasing God and serving people. At some point he probably recognized that we cannot transform others; we can possibly inspire them. Even God’s Son did not have a 100% conversion rate. Therefore, we can say with a little more certainty that Jesus experienced the suffering that comes with people not accepting what you are offering them, of people not really listening to you, and perhaps the most confusingly painful of all–people misunderstanding you and your intentions. How horrible is that?

But he had to keep obeying his Father anyway, through all of this suffering.

Despite the inevitable unmet expectations and desires that come with being human, he still had to trust in God. Gee, that’s always easy.

And remember, obeying is deeper than simply keeping the rules, as efficacious as that might be. Did you know that the Latin root of the word “obey” means to listen, to hearken to, to pay attention to? Despite suffering, we must keep listening to the One who designed us. We must keep our attention focused upon our Creator who is perfect love and knows us better than we know ourselves and wants the absolute best for us at all times. And not only listening and paying attention, but saying yes–every time.

Jesus Learned Obedience Through Suffering

Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. ~HEBREWS 5:8

This verse has intrigued me for many years.

Jesus learned obedience through suffering.

I have sat with this single sentence for almost three weeks now, and feel that my thoughts still have yet to coalesce into any sort of non-ambiguous distilled formation worthy of sharing.

But there’s so much here, so much I’ve poured over, thought about, prayed through that I desire to share….so I will simply start putting down thoughts in hopes that Spirit will move if this is of God, and stop me if it is not.

I’m blown away by the fact that Jesus had to learn what it meant to be obedient. Think about that thought alone for a second! He became acquainted with what it was to obey in the face of suffering, to obey even when that very obedience was the cause of harm to Himself.

He had to overcome and override His (God-given?) human desires whenever they were at odds with the Father’s will and plan for His life. He took on human desires to fully identify with us. Along with humanity came temptation and weakness. So it seems there must have been times when he humanly wanted something other than what the Father had in store for Him. The most obvious scenario we could point to is having to override that innate sense of survival when He was called upon to give up His life, and in a most cruel manner.

In my study of this verse, one theme that kept coming up across the different commentaries was this idea of reverential submission. William Barclay had a really thoughtful insight on this topic: “Jesus learned from all His experiences because he met them all with reverence.” I don’t believe I have ever thought of that exact idea before. Jesus was always, without fail, looking to His Father, deferring, trusting, obeying. So therefore, in every situation of His earthly life He was learning since he greeted each and every circumstance with reverence and submission. His human mind and body must have possessed urges, because of how complete was His identification with us flesh and blood beings. Urges to play it safe, to do whatever His flesh messaged Him was good to do and pleasing for Himself. Temptation and weakness are not sins. But they are challenging to deal with as humans. And He dealt. So focused was He on Father in every situation, and on learning His will more completely, that He never succumbed to allowing Himself to be overwhelmed with what this life threw at Him.

In thinking of this, I was reminded of what C.S. Lewis said about temptation with regard to Christ in his book Mere Christianity. If you think Jesus does not understand our plight because He never sinned, think again:

A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is….A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist.

It’s like if there was a CrossFit contest with a 40 day course, Jesus would have been the only one to ever finish it. How foolish it would be for someone who tapped out after day 6 to say, “You don’t know what this course is like; you don’t understand how hard this is!”

A Year of Review

The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound it makes; but you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going to. That’s what it’s like with someone who is born from the spirit. ~JOHN 3:8

People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” -Samuel Johnson


I have received a word from the Lord.

No, I am not an aspiring cult leader.

It’s just that the Wind spoke a personal word, for me, as happens from time to time. And I think it’s important and encouraging to share these words with others, when appropriate.

This message concerns the upcoming year for me: It is to be “A Year of Review”.

A year of taking inventory.

It is to be a time of purgation, fasting, and decluttering of mind, body, and home. And it shall begin with a January fast from reading any books. I very much enjoy reading, but there comes an appropriate season to cease from accumulating and consuming so that you can simply metabolize and digest. This of course applies to much more than the reading of books.

I’m very excited for this 2024 journey of reviewing with God the countless blessings He has bestowed, and teachings He has given. As we touched on this in the last Ripple, there is a joy and efficacy in taking the time to read over what you have journaled, soaking in the growth Jesus has fostered in you, thanking Him for what He has brought you through. To simply go back over highlights and notes in books I’ve read, instead of jumping immediately to the next book, is such a wonderful practice of reminding à la Samuel Johnson’s quote above. To actually look through the 13,000 photos on my phone, reliving joyous memories, deleting those surplus shots to clear space… All of this cultivates a wide smile and deep gratitude.

I look forward to the removal of encumbrances and the making of room for more space to simply be with God in contemplation. And by contemplation I mean it as the mystics refer to it: sitting in silence waiting for a word from God which you cannot come up with on your own. In my experience there is no greater practice or use of your time than this.

I know this has been more of a personal sharing, but I’d like to encourage you, if you don’t already, to choose a word for the year, or a theme, some anchoring thought or centering truth you’d like to keep returning to. I have found this helpful and grounding.

Tho we may desire to improve ourselves in several areas, it is realistic to implement just one shift per year. In reality, if you do indeed initiate just one or maybe even two reforms over the course of a year, you are advancing at an impressive and sustaining rate!

There is a nagging pressure to do everything, or at bare minimum a lot of things in order to keep up or please everybody. This must be resisted so that you can make tangible and lasting renovations which will liberate you in some efficacious manner, as well as bless those close to you to a greater degree.

As I said, my specific calling for 2024 is to review with God the plethora of goodnesses in my life, and take moments to enjoy them anew, to appreciate what I already have by physically attending to it. This will naturally decrease time and energy for accumulating and consuming more more more. I anticipate sharing from this invigoration with those around me what I am enjoying. You can expect some rich Ripples of review this coming year, Lord willing 🙂

Oh the easy yoke and light burden of focusing on doing just a few things mindfully well!

What might be your word, theme, focus for the upcoming year?

What is one shift that would greatly free you? And likely bless the world around you?

You Gotta Rest to Grow

He took his leave of them and went off up the mountain to pray. ~MARK 6:46

For about a dozen years I was a certified personal trainer beginning back in 1998. One of the fascinating principles I learned was that when you workout, you cause micro tears in the muscle fibers, so you’re not really building muscle during the activity, you’re actually tearing it down. It is in that 24 hour period of resting the muscles after a workout where growth, in reality, takes place–provided you have proper nutrients and hydration of course.

If you work the same muscle groups vigorously everyday, they will never grow; they will just keep getting broken down with no chance to build back up.

One of my favorite bodybuilders was Mike Mentzer. He had such an incredible mind and approach to his craft. He said that optimally you would lie around resting and growing 24 hours a day, BUT reality dictates that you need to stimulate the growth, as well as sleep for about one-third of your life. So his philosophy was to spend the bare minimum amount of time in the gym to produce maximum gains in the body. His approach, which he termed “H.I.T”, or “High Intensity Training”, was to go to all out total muscle failure, but for a much shorter duration than the other bodybuilders. In other words, spend more time growing and less time tearing down. It seemed to work pretty well for him, as you can see from the picture.

I was thinking of parallels in the spiritual life, since Papa Yahweh created all that we call science, biology, anatomy, etc. to reflect Himself in some way, as well as reflect the spiritual journey itself, I believe.

And I realized that it is when we are resting in Christ that we are experiencing the most profound growth. As stated earlier, there must be stimulants for growth, such as Scripture meditation, acts of service, sharpening conversations, communal worship, and perhaps most stimulating, some sort of suffering.

But the maximal growth is not happening during these actions. You can’t read and study Scripture nonstop without reflecting on it if you’re going for optimal spiritual health. You can’t constantly serve others without taking a break. Think of the down time Jesus needed after feeding the 5,000 people; He didn’t immediately go feed another 4,000, He got away to take a break and pray (Mark 6:46). You’re not ready for the storm to hit while you’re building your house on the rock. It is afterward, as you are able to chill, to rest in said house, when the winds and the waves can beat upon it and you’re able to stand firm.

I believe it is when we are resting in Christ that those spiritual muscles are most literally rebuilding and becoming stronger. When you are simply sitting in God’s presence and enjoying Him with no agenda. It is when you are calmly reflecting upon Scripture, after reading or studying it, reflecting on a sermon after hearing it, reviewing your previous day after living it.

And then there is gratitude. Gratitude is of vital importance, for we are resting in a state of thankfulness, allowing our souls to expand.

Another way we can be resting in Christ is by trusting wholeheartedly in His goodness, love, and care in the midst of a difficult situation.

Twelve years ago this month I remember heeding Jesus’s call to take 30 days without talking to anybody (outside my family and work). By simply obeying that directive towards a sort of “nothing”, I experienced more growth than any other 30 day period of my life. Thanks be to God.

As a preacher once claimed, we grow close to one another by hanging out and doing….nothing. Not everyday needs to be an epic event–though some epic events are necessary in our life, for they provide us with so much to reflect upon the rest of our days!

I’ve journaled a lot in my life, I mean A LOT. That specific action is extremely helpful, but you know what is possibly even more valuable? You guessed it. Actually reading what you’ve journaled. Sure, some of it is embarrassing, but it is highly efficacious for fostering growth, probably because there is something powerfully effective in assimilating experiences and information. (For a Ripple on this see Developing the Film of Your Life)

I’ve read a couple of really cool brain books which talked about how during your deep sleep cycle, your brain is collating information you took in and experiences you underwent from the day, as if there’s someone in there filing everything away into their proper folders and drawers. How amazing! Therefore, if we are taking in or doing too much without appropriate rest and reflection, we will suffer from a sort of spiritual constipation. Not to be crude, but that will definitely inhibit growth and function!

Forcestart

It was quite wonderful a couple of weeks ago to spend the weekend with my good Spirit brother in Christ Aundre (that’s him on the left) down at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. Back in 2012 he and I both felt the “Pneuma nudge” to start a dad’s prayer group at our daughters’ elementary school, and we’ve been tightly bonded ever since. I’ve met very few people who are as Spirit attuned and led as Aundre. We had been wanting to do a weekend together at the monastery for over a year, and it did not disappoint in the joy it brought us.

Whenever I spend a weekend “on the hill” as they say, it never fails that I hear a message or more from Jesus, as the campus is so very conducive to the quieting of the mind, and filled with the presence of Christ.

The word I heard on this particular excursion was “Forcestart“. (Apparently it’s not an official word for the dictionary, but the Spirit doesn’t always use words from our dictionaries.) Forcestart to overcome the inertia of lethargy, as well as the fear of a task or the distaste for a task.

It takes an incredible amount of energy to propel a rocket or space shuttle out of the atmosphere and escape the pull of gravity. In the same way, it takes a kiloton or two sometimes to get me to perform a dutiful task, even a small one. The Holy Spirit was simply and plainly telling me that, at times, you just have to force yourself to do the bare minimum to get started, because beginning is typically what requires the most energy and therefore is the most difficult part. After a shuttle is blasted into space, the booster rockets fall away, and it is relatively smooth sailing from that point on as far as energy and fuel requirements go. Likewise, when I do force myself to start something I really need to do, not only does the work inevitably begin to flow, but I also find that it is always worth it. It always feels good and right to accomplish something meaningful.

Now I’m talking about more than merely setting out the garbage on Tuesday nite. For example, on this particular weekend away, I had brought with me two “Letters to my Daughter” journals (we have two daughters). Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to write down affirmations and life lessons I would like for them to know and have in written form. This is an extremely meaningful practice, but I often times find myself putting it off because it can feel daunting and intimidating. “You must write perfect and epic letters every single time, Robert!” I will hear a voice demand of me and quickly feel overwhelmed. But then, thankfully, there’s that still small voice of gentleness and peace whispering, “Just write. They will cherish every word because it is from your heart. Remember, done is better than perfect, for perfect will never get done.” So I forced myself to simply write “Dear Gabriela,” and before I knew it, a full page of something beautiful and lasting was made manifest.

The other aspect of this is the need to put aside the easy and self-serving in favor of the more meaningful and long-lasting. I love reading, so I brought some books with me to the archabbey, but there came the time to put the book down and write letters to my daughters, or email my friend in prison, or thank my wife for being amazing…. Reading is not a bad thing, but it was the easy and more self-serving task in this particular instance which had to be set aside to make room for that which is of paramount importance at this juncture. Was it better for me to tally up yet another book finished? Or take some time out to strengthen the attachment with my family? Hmmm, I wonder. (Related to this, how many seasons of shows do I need to watch before finally taking the time to intentionally bless someone? Sheesh.)

Is there anything in your life right now which you need to set aside in order to forcestart something more meaningful for life, for others?

Our Desperate Need for Encouragement

But encourage one another every day, as long as it’s called “Today”, so that none of you may become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. ~HEBREWS 3:13

It feels as though there is an acute need for daily encouragement these days more than ever. This feeling stems, at least in part, from the screaming and seemingly ubiquitous voices of negativity, thanks to technological advances which give amplification to more opinions than our ancestors would have been able to hear in several lifetimes. The sheer number of people we can (and perhaps are subjected to) see and hear in a given week alone is enough to overload you; and then if a significant portion of that cacophony is negative in some way, or flat out false, it is more than sufficient to assist someone in finding madness. On top of that, there’s whatever effect the last three and a half years have had on us. I’m sure many movies will come out someday to expound upon that experience with its many social implications.

All that to simply say it is of the utmost importance that we keep encouraging each other daily.

As the verse says, so that we do not become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and I wonder if we could say today, “by the deceitfulness of social media and fear-mongering news outlets.” I must admit that I have become full-blown cynic when it comes to politicians. So in that way I have indeed become hardened.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of how wonderful it is to receive a good word, whether it be a story of someone helping another person or aiding an animal, or perhaps a personally affirming compliment, or of course cute kitten videos–the best use of the internet by far.

Oh the immense efficacy of encouraging someone everyday! Please, may I encourage you to think of someone everyday to give a word of affirmation to. And may I say that the best way to begin, which I have found, is by praying earnestly and specifically for people you know. This enflames your heart for persons in your life, and facilitates clarity and purity of mind toward them. Another way this can look, for me, is simply sitting in a listening posture, and the Spirit of Jesus is so very faithful at placing someone on my heart who needs a word, and sometimes the Holy Spirit even supplies the specific blessing to speak.

This goes such a long way.

Just think back on the times you’ve been noticed by someone for a beautiful trait you possess, or some effort you put in which someone lovingly brought attention to. It’s incredibly inspiring, is it not? You are reminded that your action was indeed meaningful and that you really do matter. We may know on paper that we are of infinite value to God, but if we go a long time without hearing it via other humans, it becomes rather easy to forget experientially just how cherished we are by the Almighty, let alone anyone else!

How we need to spread more and more of this kind of positivity and affirmation; there’s plenty of judgment to go around already, much of it against ourselves, so let’s get shifting those scales the other direction and put into the ether what is lacking, shall we?

Everyone desperately needs encouragement.

Someone gravely needs to hear from you today….

Preoccupation with Appetites

Everything in the world, you see–the greedy desire of the flesh, the greedy desire of the eyes, the pride of life–none of this is from the Father. It is from the world. ~1 John 2:16 [NTE]

Last time, when talking about the spread of Eden, we briefly touched upon sin as being an inhibitor of extending Eden all over earth. We mentioned that sin is much deeper than breaking a rule, or simply doing something you’re not suppose to do. Sin, which means missing the mark, is what holds us back from rightfully serving our benevolent Creator and, consequently, from living a fulfilling life. We miss the mark by serving self instead of God, when we are subservient to our desire’s demands rather than our Father’s desire which, in short, is to have a big loving family spreading His love.

My friend Miguel named this condition a “preoccupation with our appetites”, and I found this description poignantly helpful. He also remembered something he read in The Screwtape Letters along the lines of the demons working to get humans so preoccupied with their inordinate desires, their appetites, that they (the demons) could kick back for a while and take a break. This so piqued my interest that I promptly dusted off my copy of C.S. Lewis’s masterfully brilliant classic and start reading it again. It is impossible to overstate how tremendously helpful the insights given in this book are for bringing into the light the many subtle ways in which we are deceived into living for our self and not for God.

Letter 17 gives us some of this insight into what may not be so obvious. A senior demon is sharing that one woman they have been tempting suffers from a gluttony of Delicacy rather than a gluttony of Excess, and this is something the demons have worked hard to achieve in her. Typical gluttony as we may think of it is somewhat easy to spot and, for many, easy to avoid because it is so clearly distasteful, but a gluttony of delicacy is much more under the radar. This is a gluttony of having to have things not in large amounts, but exactly the way you want them every time.

Screwtape writes to his nephew that “her whole life is enslaved to this kind of sensuality, which is quite concealed from her by the fact that the quantities involved are small.” And here is an example he gives which I have to share here because it is so darn insightful:

She is a positive terror to hostesses and servants. She is always turning from what has been offered her to say with a demure little sigh and a smile ‘Oh please, please…all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest weeniest bit of really crisp toast.’ You see? Because what she wants is smaller and less costly than what has been set before her, she never recognizes as gluttony her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may be to others. At the very moment of indulging her appetite she believes that she is practicing temperance.

See how scary this is?? Very appropriate for Halloween. This is one of those books you will throw against the wall several times before finishing.

A preoccupation with my appetites, over time, subtly turns into my default setting in which I not only crave more things than I can count in a day–be it food, drink, activities, experiences–but I also spend a vast amount of my day’s limited energy securing said cravings in exactly the way I have to have them. This is no way to do Kingdom living and Eden spreading. May it not be so in us!

Spreading Eden

Then the LORD GOD planted a garden in Eden…. ~GENESIS 2:8

As Imagers of God, our original mandate was, and still is, to spread Eden, God’s Kingdom Creative Love, all over earth.

Life is not only about getting to heaven when you die. Somewhere along the way it got grossly reduced to that in certain denominations and traditions.

We’re saved to bless the nations, to become a real part of Yahweh’s rescue mission for the world. Since the calling of Abram it was Yahweh’s plan to bless all the nations of the world thru His people. The restoration and expansion of Eden is still the mission.

With this grand worldview, the concept of sin becomes much deeper than merely breaking morality rules. We realize that sin is what holds us back from our God-given mission. When we miss the mark by serving the idol of self, we squander opportunity to serve our loving Creator, and we halt the spread of Eden, particularly in our “jurisdiction”. Our eyes and ears are temporarily closed off to those around us in need, for we are way too absorbed with fulfilling our desire’s demands upon us. As my friend Miguel poignantly pointed out to me, we become preoccupied with our appetites. Chew on that for a minute.

More on this preoccupation another time. Let’s continue with spreading Eden.

What might this look like?

Some people start organizations or travel the world blessing humanity, spreading Eden in this manner. That is the calling of some, especially ones God has gifted with the abilities to lead, manage, and organize. Now of course there are some situations in which Papa calls on those He’s not bestowed with any managing skills whatsoever to lead or gather people in some unique way of blessing, relief, and healing. That’s cool too.

For some, spreading Eden is a quiet kindness exuding from a Spirit-overflowing heart. Everyone they encounter feels joy and warmth. That is the Kingdom of God expanding a little farther, for it is Yahweh’s lovingkindness gaining some more ground in this project to take over the earth with selfless service and healing of the nations. When my mother was here among us in bodily form, she would fashion the most beautiful and thoughtful homemade cards for people and mail them out, blessing humanity from the overflow of God’s love in her heart, tending the Garden of Eden all around her.

It’s not everyone’s call to initiate a 501c3 or speak in front of hundreds of people. When the Bible says “both great and small”, as it does in Revelation, it is the Spirit’s way of saying “those of varying talent, social skills, economic status”….there’s something for everyone to do on God’s agenda. God does not show partiality or favoritism; He is not more impressed with the charismatic preacher who has a doctorate than He is with the poorest person with only a second grade education who shares all they have. We’re all called upon to spread Eden, no exceptions. We’re not saved from sin in order to sit around and wait it out until we get to heaven.

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 22]

Then he showed me the river of the water of life. It was sparkling like crystal, and flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb…Nothing is accursed there anymore…Let the thirsty come; let anyone who wants the water of life take it freely…Amen! Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. ~REVELATION 22:1,3,17,20-21

We made it! To the final chapter of Revelation. Of the New Testament. Of the Bible!! And how beautiful and fitting that it takes us back to the beginning: to Eden. Genesis.

The final chapter of the Bible takes us all the way back to the very first chapter of the Bible. New Creation eclipses the old Creation.

Since the creation of humanity, God has desired uninhibited, joy-filled communion with His people. To simply walk together in the Garden and enjoy one another’s company. But a few things happened to severely disrupt that glorious reality. If someone were to ask the big question, “What does God want from us?” I think the biggest answer would be: “A family. A family who freely chooses Him above all else, above all others.”

This is what God gets in the end, here in the final chapter of the Bible. A loving family with uninterrupted communion with Himself, enjoying His presence forever.

We come full circle, back to Eden, with all detractors and distractions eliminated.

Sigh (of relief and joy).

There is much in this chapter about life and water and eating. Only one place in all of Scripture do we find eternal life actually defined, and it is in John 17:3 where Jesus declares it to be knowing God and Himself. “Knowing” in the biblical sense, if you will. In the new Eden we will finally be able to see God fully. We will be able to handle God’s face shining upon us without its holy radiance blasting us into obliteration. We shall see Him as He truly is, without any veil, and enjoy His naked, unmediated presence without restraint.

Here in this life as we now know it, there is much that clouds our view and draws our attention away from fellowship with our Creator, which is why it requires significant effort to deeply enjoy God’s presence. The good news, quite literally, is that since the resurrection of Jesus, humanity has indeed been able to enjoy God’s presence as never before that event, for we may partake of it uniquely through the risen Jesus.

And yet…..

Although God’s final kingdom was in fact inaugurated by Jesus, it has not yet crystallized into its final form. By God’s divine wisdom and appointment, He chose to spread His kingdom thru Jesus and a handful of women and men, region by region, all over the globe, even to this day, while not eliminating evil forces all together until the appointed time.

Therefore we needs must remind each other daily of the truth that we are indeed clothed with power from on high, that we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ, able to overcome the wicked one and his followers thru the blood of the Lamb, and that it requires a special effort on our part to live in the energy beam of that grace and power due to accursed forces still at work deceiving us into thinking we are powerless until they are eliminated in the end.

This takes us back to the main thrust of John’s message and charge to us all who read and hear this letter: to remain faithful witnesses to the truth of the Lordship of Jesus, even if our environment is hostile to that witness, for God wins and is winning no matter how drastically the enemy distorts the picture of reality to make it look like God is losing.

God’s team wins. Choose your team. Don’t be stupid.

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!!

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 21]

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea…I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God the almighty is its temple, together with the Lamb. ~REVELATION 21:1 & 22

This has got to be one of the most beautiful chapters in all of Scripture. John is attempting to describe the indescribable new heaven and new earth. When witnessing something of this magnitude and glory, it is sometimes easier to communicate what it is not, more than what it actually is, since it is something quite beyond imagination, beyond human language. What will not be there? John writes that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and that there will be no more death, mourning, weeping, pain, or suffering in the renewed earth.

Sounds amazing!

There are two additional components missing from the new earth and new Jerusalem that are most intriguing.

There’s no more sea, and there’s no temple.

To keep this Ripple under a thousand words, we’re just gonna drill down on one of these elements–the sea. BUT! let’s just say quickly that the reason there is no temple is one of the most beautiful facets of this chapter. It is because our Lord God will be dwelling with us Himself like never before, so manifestly present that Yahweh and Yeshua themselves will be our temple; it will be like a sacred temple every square foot of this new place because God will be so noticeably and wonderfully infused in the fabric of it all, that there will be nowhere you can go where you won’t feel the permeating overflowing euphoric love of Christ! I am so excited thinking of this right now!!!

OK, settle down, on to the sea.

We know that Revelation is full of rich symbolism, and the idea of “the sea” is pregnant with all sorts of possible meaning. One of the many characteristics of Revelation I am enjoying (and really all of Scripture) is the multi-angled dimensions of meaning it presents to us for the mining. A work such as this must be the inspiration of the Holy Spirit because we humans just cannot come up with anything this profound, abstruse, and recondite on our own!

The sea was a very traditional symbol in the ancient Near east for the forces of chaos and evil, “a chaotic source of defiance to God’s sovereignty” as Brian Blount so pithily puts it. J. Richard Middleton says in his book A New Heaven and a New Earth that “the disappearance of the sea in Revelation 21:1 is not making the point that no one goes swimming in the new creation…The point is that the forces of evil and chaos will be eradicated.” I for one will be very happy to see chaos go bye-bye. With the combination of the internet and politics, could it get any more chaotic and confusing?? You know the evil one is having a grand old time with controlled narratives, propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation to keep us guessing and doubting what is really going on at any given moment. All of that garbage will be gone in the new earth, thank you Lord..!

The sea also represented the main arena where the world’s idolatrous trade took place. The Roman Empire expanded her brutal domination and exploitation of others through sea trade. From Craig Koester’s commentary, “The absence of the sea underscores the difference between Babylon’s brutal dominion, which relied on seaborne commerce, and the new order in God’s city. Just as Babylon fell and was not found anymore, the sea it relied on for its economy does not exist anymore.” No more sea is a way of showing that the exploitative sea trade of the Roman Empire will end forever. This is why the shipmasters, seafarers, and sailors were mourning and weeping back in chapter 18. To quote J. Richard Middleton again: “It is therefore good news that in the eschaton the sea (which facilitated the economic expansion of the Roman Empire) will be no more.”

One more aspect of the sea we can look at is a personal one which I found rather interesting from commentator M. Eugene Boring. “There may be a personal, existential element here. It was in fact the sea that separated John and his beloved communities of anxious Christians. But for the sea, he would be there personally to speak his word of encouragement he must now communicate in writing, and be with them during the great ordeal they must endure. The new world coming will mean the removal of all present barriers to human relationships.”

These are but a few highlights of the many layers of meaning that “the sea” in this passage brings. G.K. Beale sums up nicely, “The evil nuance of the sea metaphorically represents the entire range of afflictions which formerly threatened God’s people in the old world.”

In the new world there will be no more actual or possible threat to God’s creation.