Ruth — Beauty Among the Ashes

The Book of Ruth should be read when you read the Book of Judges. The biggest advantage is realizing that among the blood lust of Judges there is a beautiful story of redemption.

Reading Judges will be a tough read. Realize it’s not about the book telling us what is “right.” It is giving us a story of what is desperately wrong.

But read Ruth and be refreshed in the story of redemption among the rubbish heap of degradation.

 

Judges — The Refusal of Obedience

The Book of Judges is far worse than any movie Quentin Tarantino could make. Tarantino has NOTHING on this book and its demented plots.

This will be a bloody read for people following our reading journey this summer. That is why we put the Book of Ruth with this one. You really need to read the Book of Ruth at the end of this week!
One of the main lessons out of this book is this: when God says take care of the junk in your life, take care of it. If you fail to take care of the junk in your life, the junk in your life will take care of you.

Book of Joshua — The Call of Allegiance

6 “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. 7 Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. 8 But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.” (Joshua 23:6-8, NIV)

The call of God for the people of Israel was the call of allegiance. It takes strength and resolve to follow God. It means turning aside from all other possible allegiances. For Israel, the purpose of not mixing with other nations at the beginning was the realization that God was calling them to himself. Other allegiances would call out to them and they needed as few distractions as possible.
The Kingdom of God is a call for allegiance. He is not one among many gods, or many “priority.” The Kingdom of God IS the priority.
The Lord has cleared out all obstacles. He has cleared away all enemies. He has cleared a path for us to the Kingdom. Why do we want to keep dragging other allegiances along?

When This World Fails

Revelation 18 is an interesting picture. Babylon… the world’s system… that which so many have put their hope in for so long… has fallen. It has been exposed for the corruption at its core. It has been exposed as inadequate, to say the least. The Kingdom of God is revealed as what is lasting and powerful.

Yet, so many weep over the collapse of Babylon. For many, it’s the end of their economic income stream. Money had been their god, and that god was gone. Kings would weep because Babylon had delivered to them a false sense of power. Power was their god and that god was now dead.

The clear warning give to the people of God was to come out of Babylon. Do NOT share in her sins.

It is a call to allegiance. The call of God to people everywhere and in every time has been a call of allegiance. The call of Babylon has been the same. Those powerful draws we feel in our soul are calls to allegiance. Which call will we answer?

As believers in this world, those allegiances still call out to us. The Kingdom of God calls out, as do the kingdoms of this world. Believers have the ability to respond to those calls. Where will we land our ultimate allegiance?

Silence in Heaven and the Prayers of the Saints

Revelation 8 gives a break in the first few verses. John’s visions have been utter chaos. The first six seals have unleashed visions of terror. War, famine, economic collapse, natural disasters… and he didn’t even have CNN at the time!

Then, he is whisked into a vision of heaven and the incredible worship in Revelation 7.

But then… silence.

The seventh seal is broken and silence reigns in heaven for half an hour. Thirty minutes of silence. We can’t stand 30 seconds of silence.

It is the quiet before the next storm.

We then get a picture of intercession and prayer that is astounding. The prayers of the saints are brought before the Lord as incense. When the prayers have accumulated, God responds. And he responds powerfully. 

“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.” (Rev. 8:5, CEB)

I’m just wondering: What happens when I pray? 

The prayers of the saints should move heaven.

Why Does the Church Suffer?

We don’t suffer in America, or the Western world. Yet, the Church suffers. Revelation is vital to the suffering Church. This is a letter we need to read and understand. It’s not about escape from suffering. It is the understanding of why the Church goes through hard times. It is understanding the presence of Christ in that suffering.

Why does the Church suffer?

13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. 15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring —those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. (Rev. 12:13-17, NIV)

We are the Church at war. You can’t claim pacifism on this one. There is an enemy locked and loaded.

Rebellion

A scenario that occurs quite regularly throughout Revelation is a picture of rebellion. There are people so against God they don’t want to face him at all. When the world is literally falling all around them, they call out for the boulders to crush them rather than face God.

Even when God is revealing himself full force and the open rebellion of humanity is crashing down all around, there is no repentance. It is the picture of full out rebellion. It is the picture of what has gone wrong at the core of the Fall: we just want to be our own gods.

The only problem with that scenario is that there is only one God, and his glory will not be shared by another.

Revelation is a sober read.

The Door Standing Open in Heaven

Once the visions really start pounding away at John in Revelation, one key thing to look for is the consistent view into heaven.

This is where all the craziness begins. Before the Lord shows John the visions, he shows him what is going on in heaven. It is WORSHIP. It is putting all the attention on the Lamb. It is knowing there is One… and only One who is worthy.

“John, remember this. See this now, because this is what is going on right now in my presence. All the other crazy stuff is prelude. THIS is the ultimate picture.”

There will be key times throughout the book that John will be taken into that presence once again. The reminders are always there. There is ONE who sits on the throne. There is ONE who is worthy. No matter the chaos on this earth… in the tragedy… in the foolishness… there is a greater reality. It is in the worship of ONE.

There is a door standing open. Find that door in worship.

The Struggle of Revelation is We Want to KNOW

As we read through Revelation this week, another key passage to reflect on is Daniel 7. The whole book of Daniel would be good, but Daniel 7 really sets a base for how the early Church was hearing what Jesus was saying.

Does it answer any specific questions? No.

It is good to remember this, though: Daniel didn’t get any specific answers, either.

He is watching these beasts and these magnificent scenes unfold before him and he wants to know what each beast means. He is just like us.

But what he is told is to focus on the outcome. Look at the Ancient of Days. Look at the son of man. Look at the kingdom being handed over to the people of God. That doesn’t keep Daniel from asking again what the fourth beast meant.

We all want to KNOW. We want the details.

We would do well to remember this: If God didn’t tell Daniel what those things meant specifically, why does he owe me any further explanation?

Read Revelation focusing on the matters God tells John are important. See if you can get a broader picture.