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.

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 20]

He grabbed hold of the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and the satan. He tied him up for a thousand years, threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he wouldn’t be able to deceive the nations any more, until the thousand years were complete. After that he must be let out for a short time…When the thousand years are complete, the satan will be released from his prison. Out he will come to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog. He will summon them for battle, a throng like the sand of the sea in number. ~REVELATION 20:2-3, 7-8

One of the challenges of reading Revelation is approaching it afresh, leaving behind preconceived notions, and ignoring the copious amounts of extra biblical literature and thoughts which have so heavily influenced popular interpretation of this enigmatic book. A fresh approach is what I have intensely attempted to embark upon ever since this deep dive began last December. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “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.”* This is how I’ve labored to ingest Revelation, to sit and listen for the Wind. It has been wonderfully fascinating to rediscover what is actually written, and not written, in this letter by John. For example, did you realize that the word “antichrist” is not in the book of Revelation? Who knew??

Another riveting detail is this thousand year business and all that goes along with it. Known as “The Millennium”, it has been the spark of much discussion and debate over the decades of my life, and beyond. There are three predominant views of the millennium: 1) It will occur after the second coming of Christ. 2) It will occur toward the end of the church age and Christ’s return will happen at the close of the millennium. 3) it started at Christ’s resurrection and will be concluded directly before His final coming. I grew up with view #1 being hammered in pretty emphatically, but as I said earlier, I tried my best to shed what I heard before and look at it again for the first time.

The interpretation most convincing to me is that this “thousand years” began with Christ’s resurrection, and is running thru what we call the “Church Age”, and that it is not a literal 1,000 years since that number is used so often in Scripture to denote simply “a long time”, and besides, the Church Age is obviously closing in on the 2,000 year mark. I wonder if churches will have huge bimillennial celebrations to commemorate!

(A quick caveat here. I am in no way saying I would argue this in court, or that you better also see it this way. I’m simply sharing what I’ve gleaned from my studies and what makes the most sense to me at this time. Ultimately, my hope is that you will find encouragement in the overall message.)

Now with this view there is an issue which needs some resolution, that of the satan being bound and unable to deceive the nations during the last two thousand years. It sure seems that the devil is indeed still deceiving nations, especially after hearing deeply disturbing updates from my Ukranian friends who were in town a week ago. But what does the text actually say? During the “thousand years”, the satan is not allowed to deceive the nations in order to gather them together to launch an attack on God and God’s people. The devil is still active today, and unfortunately deceiving many churches, but he is not able to go all “Gog and Magog” on everybody until God allows it. (over the years “Gog and Magog” came to represent everything that is against God and that attacks God–see Ezekiel 38-39)

But, the plot thickens.

Revelation 20 tells us that when satan does deceive the nations of the world into launching this attack on Yahweh’s eschatological plan, that it will fail miserably, resulting in the devil’s final defeat and destruction.

So why would God prevent satan from initiating his own demise?

I shall defer to Michael Heiser’s answer, the scholar who has been the most influential on my interpretation of Scripture: “God wants to forestall the judgment of the nations in favor of redeeming people from all those nations. The delay of Satan’s specific deception in Revelation 20:8 for the duration of the Church Age provides time for the Great Commission to be fulfilled.”

Here is some encouragement. God is patient. God waits until so many more turn to Him in love. Yahweh is crazy about us and seeks after more and more of us to join the family! Also, we yet again see that God is in ultimate control, dictating the outcome of history even in the midst of horrific ugliness caused by humans. The deceiving of the nations by the satan will ironically bring about the very battle in which he will be finally defeated. Oh how the turn tables!! As Jesus told Pilate, “You would have no power over me unless it had been granted to you from above.”


*The Greek word pneuma is used for spirit, wind, and Spirt.

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 19]

Then I heard something like the sound of a great crowd, like the sound of many waters, and like the sound of strong thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! The Lord our God, the Almighty, has become king!” ~REVELATION 19:6

Did you know that the word hallelujah occurs only four times in the entire New Testament? And that all four of those instances are found right here in Revelation 19?

Well now you do!

Hallelujah is the transliteration from a Hebrew liturgical formula which means “Praise Yahweh”. Like Hosanna, it is one of the few Hebrew words which have established themselves into everyday religious vernacular.

A little more “Did You Know?” The Greek word translated as “Almighty” in this verse is used only ten times in the New Testament, nine of which are in Revelation. The only other instance is in an Old Testament quotation in 2 Corinthians 6:18. That word is Pantokrator, meaning “the one who holds control over all things” is “the ruler of all”.

The significance? This shows us the characteristic theme of Revelation: Yahweh is the ONE in ultimate control of all things whatsoever, and thus is worthy of our complete and unending praise. Basically, you really should join and stay on God’s team no matter what.

Let’s go another layer deeper into the significance of all this. Revelation was written to a people and at a time of some of the worst and most intense persecution of God’s followers that we know of. As William Barclay put it:

“There was never a time in history in which such forces were drawn up against the Church as when the Revelation was written. There was never a time when the Christian was called upon to undergo such suffering and to accept so continually the prospect of a cruel death. And yet in such times John calls God pantokrator. Here is faith and confidence; and the whole point of this passage is that that faith and confidence are vindicated.”

As C.S. Lewis said, “We need more reminding than instructing.”

Revelation gives us the most cosmic of reminders–that God created everything, controls everything, and is the hands down, no doubt Victor in the end. God will mete out pure and righteous judgment upon all those who, like Rome in the first century, have committed the worst of sins (teaching others to sin (v.2), and killing God’s people (v.2)–two very big no-nos), all the while refusing to turn from those ways and to turn toward Yahweh. It is in the roughest times that we need these Spirit infused reminders of what is really true, of who is indeed in charge of all things. We do not have to comprehend all things or know every single “why” of each situation. But we are called to be faithful.

It is important to begin each day with praise and gratitude towards our Maker, for it aligns us appropriately for the day ahead, and puts us in our proper place where we were designed to exist and abundantly live. Over the years I’ve talked with several people who said they would begin their day by turning on the news. Now as you know, that can be rather depressing and keenly fear-based. It is not the way I would suggest for anyone to start their day, unless they’re just a little too happy with themselves and need to be knocked down a notch or two.

Instead, each day for us who believe needs to be initiated with some spirit calibration, attuning ourselves anew each day to praising our God, the Almighty, the Pantokrator. Then we need to remind ourselves, throughout the day, of the truth of who holds everything together no matter how it may look at the moment. When our mind is rightly ordered, we exude praise and are manifestly aware, at least on some level, of God’s permeating omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence. One way we can know if we are a bit off center is if the cares of this life are crowding out thoughts of God’s greatness, if the thoughts of this world are overriding our circuits and facilitating fear and disgust more than praise and gratitude. How we need to remind each other of the theme of Revelation! Sometimes we do of course see the Kingdom in action and spreading, and we rejoice. But other times we seem to only see evil getting ahead, and that is probably when we most acutely require the encouragement which comes from praising God simply for who He is, and expressing gratitude for every good gift from above, of which there are a plethora.

And don’t forget, God wins.

Hallelujah!

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 18]

Babylon the Great has fallen! She has fallen! She has become a place for demons to live, a refuge for every unclean spirit… ~REVELATION 18:2

Here is the big theological picture of chapter eighteen: Preparing the earth for the reoccupation of its rightful King–Messiah, Jesus. All obstructions to the loving, perfect rulership of Christ will be cleared away. They must be. All false gods must and will be kicked out to make room for the one true God.

The term “Babylon” had come to signify any anti-God world system under satanic influence, any culture seduced and animated by evil entities and their agenda. This is what we mean when we say “the way of the world” with a negative connotation. This also sheds light on the title “Ruler of this world” used for the devil in Scripture. It is not that the devil is so powerful that he runs everything on planet earth, it’s simply a way of saying that he is in charge of those who have surrendered to his seduction, knowingly or not, and who have allowed their God-given authority over their own bodies, minds, souls, and domains to be usurped by the great deceiver, and hijacked for nefarious purposes.

Rome was the Babylon of the first century. She had become a dwelling place for demons. Evil was comfortable living there since the leaders and so many others had surrendered to the seduction of unclean spirits and the worldly comforts of excess they provided.

One major aspect of Rome’s evil was that they had turned everything, which the Lord ultimately made and provided, into a commodity. They slapped an exorbitant price on everything they could get their self-serving hands on. There is quite the inventory list of Rome’s commodities in vv. 12-13, which the merchants of the world are weeping and mourning over because Rome is being utterly destroyed for her wickedness. What is particularly sad is found at the end of this inventory list, the merchandise mentioned after cattle, sheep, horses, and chariots–the bodies and souls of human beings.

Rome had turned human lives into a product to be bought and sold.

The language John uses is peculiar. Apparently no one really wrote like this in the first century when speaking of slavery. Ancient writers would indeed say “bodies” as John does, but not “souls”. That is interesting, and poignantly appropriate, isn’t it? With slavery, trafficking, you are disrespecting and disregarding human souls–the whole person. This particular evil is all-encompassing and horrifyingly dehumanizing, as I believe John is trying to convey here. Not only had Rome turned the precious stones, spices, and animals of the earth into their own exclusive cargo for profit–again, all created and generously provided by Yahweh for everyone–but they had even taken God’s uniquely special creation, humans made in His image, and treated them as mere property.

All of this was done under the influence of evil spiritual beings (that’s a Ripple for another day), and therefore must be undone in order for God’s kingdom to be fully consummated and for abundant Life to flourish.

It was serendipitous to come across this verse as we just saw Sound of Freedom in the theater this week. It is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen. I was an absolute tear-drenched mess while watching it, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. As difficult as it is, we do need to face the reality and horror of what happens to so many of God’s children. I love this powerful line delivered by Jim Caviezel: “God’s children are not for sale.”

May we each do our part to bring God’s Kingdom into reality more and more fully while we are here, and push back the gates of hell a little farther every day.

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 17]

I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. And I was completely amazed when I saw her. Then the angel said to me, “Why are you amazed? I will tell you the mystery of the woman...” ~REVELATION 17:6-7

Rome was pretty proud of herself. She thought quite highly of the empire she had become. That’s Roma the Roman goddess up there on the right side of a coin from about A.D. 71. She sits atop seven mountains as Rome was known as “the city set on seven hills”, and this was a picture of world domination. Rome was this great world power in the first century. But John depicted Rome as nothing more than a drunken whore.

Strong language.

While many back then called Rome “the mother of all cities”, John calls her the mother of whores and of the vile things of earth (v.5), characterized by conspicuous consumption and violence. Apparently John was not impressed.

Or was he?

It struck me that when he sees her, drunk as she is on martyrs blood, that he is “completely amazed” at the sight of her. The Greek word here is thaumazein, and I’ve also seen it translated as greatly astonished, tremendously impressed, and as literally amazed with great amazement. It’s a little ambiguous just how John was amazed at her. One commentary asks, “Was he perplexed and disturbed? Was he baffled like seeing an unusual work of art? Was he puzzled and astonished? Was he impressed?” Since the angel asks in the next verse, “Why are you amazed?” and then offers interpretive help with the vision, we are led to believe that John had at least a hint of admiration for a moment or so. There was at least a shred of awe for a second. How could one not marvel at a sight such as this? (the sight described in verses 3-5)

Even horrible things can be “impressive”. Evil can dress up for a fancy nite out and look seductively attractive.

Do not be fooled.

Take the time and thoughtful energy to look below the surface of impressive organizations or people. I don’t think John was standing there gawking in wonder for very long, for he knew the wretchedness before him, but it is still very easy to get caught up for a moment with something that is beyond what we have experienced before.

I have been looking at cults a lot this year, which has complemented my studies in Revelation quite nicely. In all of the cults I’ve looked at so far, each one does indeed impress me on some level. It’s truly amazing that they were able to build Jonestown in the middle of thick jungle many miles from civilization. Living communally in an austere compound, studying the Bible for hours a day in Waco for so long, making it work as they did, is somewhat admirable. Hillsong’s music really is wonderfully written and quite moving.

Don’t be fooled.

These imposing feats and displays are built on some pretty sandy foundations.

For some reason, we still look to people to follow. We still get fooled by humans who make themselves out to be more than human, and who accept followers, and sometimes even worship, as if they are deserving of being venerated as demigods. At times we are easily impressed with people who are no greater in God’s eyes than you or me. I tell you who is impressive–the Person who made all persons, our Trinitarian Creator, GOD.

Jesus is the one person worth following. Any other human is merely that–human, and just as imperfect and ready to sin as you and I are. Now I would say there are people who are inspiring, but may it appropriately stop there and serve to simply spur us on toward loving God and others more deeply, pursuing Christlikeness more passionately, caring for those in need more often, and following the Holy Spirit ever more intensely.

Soli Deo Gloria

The Blessed Gift of a Lifelong Friendship

Then the father said to him, “My son, you’re always with me. Everything I have belongs to you.” ~Luke 15:31

Today, June 27, 2023, my lifelong friend of forty-four and a half years, Joe Wendel, turns 50. I’ve been reflecting on this verse over the past several days with regard to our unique, enduring friendship.

In fact, this verse was impressed upon me and injected into me last week by Ruach while I was working on the slideshow for Joe’s birthday celebration.

As I was combing thru the plethora of photos spanning a lifetime, I kept seeing all the wonderful people Joe and his wife Julie have spent time with, broken bread with, traveled with. It was quite beautiful to witness the many lives they’ve touched so deeply in one sitting. Yet in seeing all of this magnificence, there was a moment when I had before me this fruit calling forth for me to grab and ingest, fruit from the tree of jealousy and envy. I could easily have found myself going down the dark road of “Hey, we’ve been friends the longest, why do they get to enjoy all this wonderful benefit?” And then I was suddenly stunned by the Holy Spirit and immediately filled with words from Jesus’s parable of the father and two sons. You may remember the end of that story when the elder son was complaining to his father about throwing this huge party for the younger son, stating his case with, “I’ve been serving you all these years!” It was the words of the father’s reply that completely melted me. He said, “My son, you’ve always been with me. Everything I have is yours.”

Tears.

Any hint of jealousy was crushed by the beauty of these words. I knew and felt that the Spirit was conveying to me what Joe has been showing me thru his life and friendship all these years. It was like I was hearing Joe say to me, “Rob, you’ve always been with me. We’ve been with each other thru every major aspect of life, post diapers. Even when we were many miles apart, we were really still together. Everything I have is yours, and I’m not simply talking about material possessions, but everything I am, my heart, has always been totally available to you.”

I just melted. I melted into a gratitude that is beyond what human language can properly communicate. I was overwhelmed by a fresh sense of this friendship that I know is pure, divine gift from our loving Father, and which I do not deserve.

This verse has a newer, deeper meaning to me now. May it move you as well to reflect with sincere gratefulness upon any beautiful, lasting relationship you might be blessed with.

Thank you, Papa Yahweh.

Thank you, Pneuma.

Thank you, Jesus.

Thank you, Joe.

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 16]

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” ~REVELATION 16:1

We’ve had the seven seals and seven trumpets, and now the seven libation bowls of wrath are poured out on earth. Here’s a revelation from my studies in Revelation of late: The “recapitulation” view of how Revelation was written says that the seals, trumpets, and bowls are not necessarily different, successive outpourings, but rather a restating of judgments to give different emphases or perspectives. As we go from the seals to the bowls, we see that the judgments grow in scale and potency as John is given new views of them. It’s a little like watching the same event from three different camera angles.

What’s the point?

Well, for us today, we can relax that the message is not about strictly literal, timed out tribulations begging to be predicted with precision, but rather the message is to state very vividly and emphatically that God will decisively and dramatically eradicate evil. God will erase what goes against His kingdom, against Life, in God’s way, in God’s timing. This will happen is the message and the hope for us all.

We must guard against falling into endless and fruitless speculation about how exactly everything is going to go down at the expense of missing Revelation’s potent message and challenge to us. You may remember from our chapter 11 reflection that we said the message and challenge is the call to bear witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, to bear witness to the truth in your own personal context, even if that environment is hostile to that witness.

I also came across this very nice summary in the Dictionary Of The Later New Testament & Its Developments: “John therefore wrote at the behest of the risen Lord to strengthen the faith and courage of believers, to nerve them for battle with antichristian forces in the world and to help them to bear witness to the one true Lord and Savior.”

Apocalyptic language is used to inspire people to act NOW, and oh does Revelation paint inspiring pictures for us! Not only the visuals, but the many numbers used are also dripping with meaning. We have these “three times seven” judgments with the seals, trumpets, and bowls. “Seven is the number of perfection, implying something done according to divine design, the number of completion. Three implies the greatest or ultimate expression of something. So seven times three indicates triple perfection! These judgments describe the complete, perfect erasure of evil.” (from Revelation For The rest Of Us by Scot McKnight with Cody Matchett)

I can see some evidence of this recapitulation theory as each of the seals, trumpets, and bowls lead us right up to the eradication of evil and the establishment of new Jerusalem. In other words, they each take us up to the end. There is indeed a repetitive pattern. Again from McKnight and Matchett: “They are not chronological judgments, where each one follows the other, but are three overlapping revelations of the eradication and elimination of evil from God’s world…We are to see the three times seven judgments as as an indication that God is making the world right by eliminating the arrogant, anti-God, exploitative, dominating ways of Babylon.”

Whatever is not of God, and therefore not fit for the new heavens and new earth, will have to be removed so that the people of God may dwell with Him in heavenly peace.

Human trafficking has no place or use whatsoever in the Kingdom of God, therefore it will be eliminated. Racism of any flavor makes absolutely no sense in the Kingdom, so it is not only not tolerated, but it is destroyed. These, along with murder, theft, greed, selfish ambition, animal cruelty, and the like are as out of place in God’s Kingdom as having an American Ninja Warrior obstacle course set up in the middle of an assisted living facility. It’s of no use to the people who belong there, so it must be torn down to make room for what can actually be used and sincerely enjoyed.


After writing this, I found this very helpful article on the recapitulation thing. And then I found this article posted just last month. Please know that I am in no way saying that this is the way you must interpret Revelation. I’m just seeking to understand it better with the resources before me, none more valuable than the Holy Spirit.