What?!?!?

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls spoke with me. “Come,” he said, “I will show you the judgment upon the great prostitute, who is seated on deep waters. The kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her, and those who live on earth have become drunk with the wine of her whoring.” Then he brought me in a Spirit-inspired trance to a desert. There I saw a woman seated on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names. It had seven heads and ten horns. The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing, and she glittered with gold and jewels and pearls. In her hand she held a gold cup full of the vile and impure things that came from her activity as a prostitute. A name—a mystery—was written on her forehead: “Babylon the great, the mother of prostitutes and the vile things of the earth.” I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the saints and the blood of Jesus’ witnesses. I was completely stunned when I saw her. Then the angel said to me, “Why are you amazed? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and the seven-headed, ten-horned beast that carries her. The beast that you saw was and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. Those who live on earth, whose names haven’t been written in the scroll of life from the time the earth was made, will be amazed when they see the beast, because it was and is not and will again be present. This calls for an understanding mind. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated. They are also seven kings. 10 Five kings have fallen, the one is, and the other hasn’t yet come. When that king comes, he must remain for only a short time. 11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is itself an eighth king that belongs to the seven, and it is going to destruction. 12 The ten horns that you saw are ten kings, who haven’t yet received royal power. But they will receive royal authority for an hour, along with the beast. 13 These kings will be of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will make war on the Lamb, but the Lamb will emerge victorious, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings. Those with him are called, chosen, and faithful.” 15 Then he said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples, crowds, nations, and languages. 16 As for the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will destroy her and strip her bare. They will devour her flesh and burn her with fire 17 because God moved them to carry out his purposes. That is why they will be of one mind and give their royal power to the beast, until God’s words have been accomplished. 18 The woman whom you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 17:1-18. CEB)

What does all of this mean?

A great prostitute with seven heads and 10 horns.

The heads are the mountains she sits upon and the horns are the kings that defile themselves with the prostitute…

Why is this verse out of the context of everything around it and what are we supposed to get from it? Sometimes when a Bible text is taken out of context it doesn’t have meaning, or can be read to mean something it doesn’t mean in context, in the context of the historical narrative where it sits. Actually all of the time a biblical passage is taken out of context, it is read wrong and used for the wrong reasons.

The Bible is a collection of books that tell us the story of human interaction with a God that created and loves them.

Don’t read more into than it means.

Loving People. Loving God.

welcome

So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory. I’m saying that Christ became a servant of those who are circumcised for the sake of God’s truth, in order to confirm the promises given to the ancestors, and so that the Gentiles could glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, Because of this I will confess you among the Gentiles, and I will sing praises to your name. 10 And again, it says, Rejoice, Gentiles, with his people. 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and all the people should sing his praises. 12 And again, Isaiah says, There will be a root of Jesse, who will also rise to rule the Gentiles. The Gentiles will place their hope in him. 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:7-13, CEB)

Welcome others as Christ welcomed you.

Broken. Not good enough. Fallen short.

God in Christ accepted us as we were, and welcomed us to be a part. That is how we welcome others.

We accept them as they are and don’t try and change them.

Welcome as Christ welcomed you.

Loving People. Loving God.

neither

19 “There was a certain rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and who feasted luxuriously every day. 20 At his gate lay a certain poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 Lazarus longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Instead, dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 “The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 While being tormented in the place of the dead, he looked up and saw Abraham at a distance with Lazarus at his side. 24 He shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I’m suffering in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things, whereas Lazarus received terrible things. Now Lazarus is being comforted and you are in great pain. 26 Moreover, a great crevasse has been fixed between us and you. Those who wish to cross over from here to you cannot. Neither can anyone cross from there to us.’ 27 “The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, send Lazarus to my father’s house. 28 I have five brothers. He needs to warn them so that they don’t come to this place of agony.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. They must listen to them.’ 30 The rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will change their hearts and lives.’ 31 Abraham said, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, then neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31, CEB)

I am always taken aback by this story.

The rich man has no name and the poor man is named Lazarus. Usually it is the other way around, those with money are given names and the rest of us are out of luck. Here the lowly is lifted up and those who treat others as low are not lifted.

Also the rich man tries to get Lazarus, whose name the rich man knows, to help him and do things for him in the afterlife.

And then the rich man tries to persuade Abraham to send Lazarus to inform his brothers. And Abraham says if they don’t listen to what Moses and the prophets told them they won’t believe if someone rises from the dead! Is this not the foreshadows of foreshadows!

There are people who still don’t believe with Jesus rising from the dead. Sometimes we see it right in front of us and don’t believe! What does it take for us to believe?

Loving People. Loving God.

What?!?!

Then, when the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel came and stood at the altar, and he held a gold bowl for burning incense. He was given a large amount of incense, in order to offer it on behalf of the prayers of all the saints on the gold altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense offered for the prayers of the saints rose up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the incense container and filled it with fire from the altar. He threw it down to the earth, and there were thunder, voices, lightning, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:1-5, CEB)

The last seal on the scroll was opened and there was nothing. Silence for half an hour…

Then seven angels stood before God and the seven trumpets were distributed.

And an angel stood before the altar and took fire from the altar and filled an incense container and threw it down on the earth and there was thunder, voices, lightning, and an earthquake.

What does this mean?

It is a vision we try to make sense of to help us understand what is coming.

But really that is it, it is a vision. It could happen like this, and it might not. It might help us know what is coming and it might not.

Let us focus on what we know. The promises of God are always true and God is always with us.

So be about sharing God’s grace.

Loving People. Loving God.

washed and made white

After this I looked, and there was a great crowd that no one could number. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language. They were standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They wore white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out with a loud voice: “Victory belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels stood in a circle around the throne, and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell facedown before the throne and worshipped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and always. Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders said to me, “Who are these people wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” Then he said to me, “These people have come out of great hardship. They have washed their robes and made them white in the Lamb’s blood. 15 This is the reason they are before God’s throne. They worship him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They won’t hunger or thirst anymore. No sun or scorching heat will beat down on them, 17 because the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them. He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:9-17, CEB)

I have always been intrigued by the statement, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the Lamb’s blood.” If you have ever gotten anything stained by blood, it is not easy to get clean, let alone white again. And as I type that I think, wow I sound like I have had a lot of blood on white clothes, and I haven’t but the few times I have, it has not been easy to get clean. But here they wash their clothes in The Lamb’s blood and they are made white.

That is because the Lamb here is the messiah, the one who makes all things new.

We are made new in the Lamb.

Trust in the promise and know that no matter what you are going through here, in the fulfillment of the kingdom all will be made right.

Loving People. Loving God.

Good

17 As Jesus continued down the road, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to obtain eternal life?” 18 Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except the one God. 19 You know the commandments: Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. Don’t cheat. Honor your father and mother.” 20 “Teacher,” he responded, “I’ve kept all of these things since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him carefully and loved him. He said, “You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” 22 But the man was dismayed at this statement and went away saddened, because he had many possessions. 23 Looking around, Jesus said to his disciples, “It will be very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom!” 24 His words startled the disciples, so Jesus told them again, “Children, it’s difficult to enter God’s kingdom! 25 It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.” 26 They were shocked even more and said to each other, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible with human beings, but not with God. All things are possible for God.” 28 Peter said to him, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “I assure you that anyone who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or farms because of me and because of the good news 30 will receive one hundred times as much now in this life—houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and farms (with harassment)—and in the coming age, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last. And many who are last will be first.” (Mark 10:17-31, CEB)

What is good?

Who is good?

Are any of us good all the time?

A person asked Jesus what they must do to obtain eternal life, and Jesus gave the person a run down of the commandments. Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. Don’t cheat. Honor your father and mother. Notice the quote here is from the text above and all of the don’t are in italics except Don’t cheat. Because it is not one of the commandments from the tablets. But still have we all not done these? Even if we don’t take them as far as Jesus told us to. We can usually then if it isn’t to the Jesus level say we haven’t murdered, committed adultery, stolen, but then we might get hung up. False testimony, cheating, and honoring are really subjective. And would others say you haven’t done those. But this person says I’ve done all these. So Jesus says, sell all you have and give the money to the poor and follow me. And the person had many possessions so they were sad about this.

We want to be good as long as we don’t have to be uncomfortable. Which really means serving is about having things our way. We can’t follow God and have it our way.

Let go and follow where God is leading, and then you will be good.

Loving People. Loving God.

doctrine

Then Pharisees and legal experts came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why are your disciples breaking the elders’ rules handed down to us? They don’t ritually purify their hands by washing before they eat.” Jesus replied, “Why do you break the command of God by keeping the rules handed down to you? For God said, Honor your father and your mother, and The person who speaks against father or mother will certainly be put to deathBut you say, ‘If you tell your father or mother, “Everything I’m expected to contribute to you I’m giving to God as a gift,” then you don’t have to honor your father.’ So you do away with God’s Law for the sake of the rules that have been handed down to you. Hypocrites! Isaiah really knew what he was talking about when he prophesied about you, This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me. Their worship of me is empty since they teach instructions that are human rules.” (Matthew 15:1-9, CEB)

This is a slippery slope, but doctrines are not God’s law.

When we focus on what we are told to do by the institution and not actually do what God has told us to do, we are not serving God but serving man and institution. We are supposed to follow God’s law and shine the light of God’s love in the world.

Do not let doctrine get in the way of your following God.

Loving People. Loving God.

Miss it…

Therefore, since the promise that we can enter into rest is still open, let’s be careful so that none of you will appear to miss it. We also had the good news preached to us, just as the Israelites did. However, the message they heard didn’t help them because they weren’t united in faith with the ones who listened to it. We who have faith are entering the rest. As God said, And because of my anger I swore:They will never enter into my rest!” And yet God’s works were completed at the foundation of the world. Then somewhere he said this about the seventh day of creation: God rested on the seventh day from all his works. But again, in the passage above, God said, They will never enter my rest! Therefore, it’s left open for some to enter it, and the ones who had the good news preached to them before didn’t enter because of disobedience. Just as it says in the passage above, God designates a certain day as “today,” when he says through David much later, Today, if you hear his voice, don’t have stubborn hearts. If Joshua gave the Israelites rest, God wouldn’t have spoken about another day later on. So you see that a sabbath rest is left open for God’s people. 10 The one who entered God’s rest also rested from his works, just as God rested from his own. 11 Therefore, let’s make every effort to enter that rest so that no one will fall by following the same example of disobedience, (Hebrews 4:1-11,CEB)

The promise of rest is still open, let us be sure we are open to it and do not miss it.

When we do not have faith and trust in God to uphold the promises we are given we are making it so we are like those who did not trust, believe or have faith in God in the wilderness, the ones who could not enter into God’s rest. Yet we still have time to not miss it.

Trust in the promises and know they are true for you.

Loving People. Loving God.

believe

So, as the Holy Spirit says, Today, if you hear his voice, don’t have stubborn hearts as they did in the rebellion, on the day when they tested me in the desert. That is where your ancestors challenged and tested me, though they had seen my work for forty years. 10 So I was angry with them. I said, “Their hearts always go off course, and they don’t know my ways.11 Because of my anger I swore:They will never enter my rest!12 Watch out, brothers and sisters, so that none of you have an evil, unfaithful heart that abandons the living God. 13 Instead, encourage each other every day, as long as it’s called “today,” so that none of you become insensitive to God because of sin’s deception. 14 We are partners with Christ, but only if we hold on to the confidence we had in the beginning until the end. 15 When it says, Today, if you hear his voice, don’t have stubborn hearts as they did in the rebellion. 16 Who was it who rebelled when they heard his voice? Wasn’t it all of those who were brought out of Egypt by Moses? 17 And with whom was God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it with the ones who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18 And against whom did he swear that they would never enter his rest, if not against the ones who were disobedient? 19 We see that they couldn’t enter because of their lack of faith. (Hebrews 3:7-19, CEB)

Do we find it hard to believe the promises we see God has done?

Sometimes it is really easy to say God will do that for others but not for me. God’s grace and promises are for every one else, but not me.

Know that you are not so powerful that you can stop God from fulfilling God’s promises in your life.

When you hear God’s voice and feel the moving of the Spirit, believe.

Loving People. Loving God.

Not just doing…

27 “You have heard that it was said, Don’t commit adultery. 28 But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart. 29 And if your right eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. It’s better that you lose a part of your body than that your whole body go into hell. 31 “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a divorce certificate.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife except for sexual unfaithfulness forces her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago: Don’t make a false solemn pledge, but you should follow through on what you have pledged to the Lord. 34 But I say to you that you must not pledge at all. You must not pledge by heaven, because it’s God’s throne. 35 You must not pledge by the earth, because it’s God’s footstool. You must not pledge by Jerusalem, because it’s the city of the great king. 36 And you must not pledge by your head, because you can’t turn one hair white or black. (Matthew 5:27-36, CEB)

This passage basically makes all of us adulterers.

Jesus here says it is not just about the act of committing adultery, but you commit adultery if you think about it. Thinking about doing something is the same as doing it. And probably all of us have thought about doing something we shouldn’t with some one who isn’t our partner.

And we can not pledge on anything either. We are all basically sinners. Oh wait we are.

We are all sinners, made saints by Christ.

So in everything you do, try to think pure thoughts and always share God’s love in the world.

Loving People. Loving God.