Dream

Misery awaits those who ignore the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ

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Read: James 5

You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. (James 5:8)

Reflect:

[This post is going to be a bit different from my usual meditation on the Bible. Bear with me, please!]

This morning, I woke from a terrible dream.

I dreamed that I was in a giant, colourful store with large glass windows all across the front, a store with everything necessary for life.

A woman was there, and when a man came furtively into the store, she pointed him out to me. “He comes here often,” she said. “Watch him.” She called out to the other people who worked in the store and they came to speak to the man, gathering at the front of the store.

But the man snuck off to another room, grabbed an immense painting, gilt-framed, a portrait of a family, and tried to take it. He would not listen to the others as they crowded around him, trying to speak. In the end he left the painting and slipped way out the door.

The woman spoke again to me: “If only he would listen! Everything in this store is available for free, if only people will receive it as a gift. Nothing here can be stolen, yet he always tries to steal, when he could have all this for free.”

She gestured around the store, and I saw that it was filled with food and clothes and all things that are needed for a good and pleasant life.

Next, I looked out the large glass windows that made up the front and side of the store. Outside, all was black and grey, stark and sombre. A black bitumen road lay in front of the store, coming right up to the window panes.

At first, I thought there was some sort of procession going past, but then I saw that no one was moving. Rather the road itself, beneath them, was moving, carrying them along as if it were a conveyor belt.

On the moving road, people stood and sat and even lay down, still and static as if in a tableau. No one made any attempt to leave or get off. Everyone was in shades of black and grey, there was no colour in them. It was as if I was watching a black and white movie panning from right to left, but there was no white, no lightness anywhere. Somehow I knew that some were Mormon, some Muslim, some of no recognised religion at all.

On the faces of the people were expressions of such misery and agony that I could barely look at them. I saw two men on the ground, lying as if dying or dead, but no one stooped to help them.

I turned to the right and my attention was caught by another man, outside the store but out of place because he was colourful and cheerful. He was green all over, and he looked like a living tree.

This man saw me looking at him, opened the door of the store and came over to me. He leaned over, looked me straight in the eyes and asked me, “Would you like me to explain what this means?”

All at once, I needed no explanation. I stared back aghast at this Man of Life and, through sobs, I spoke: “I will be so sad, so very sad, when my father dies. Then there will be no more hope for his escape.”

And then I woke, shuddering.

This morning Jeff preached on Revelation 8-10, including the seven trumpets of Revelation 8:6-9:21. The woe of which the trumpets warn is one and the same with my dream (Genesis 41:25).

crux:

Misery awaits those who ignore the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Read: James 5

Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:20)

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are full of compassion and mercy. Please have compassion on my father and extend mercy to him. Please grant him repentance and faith.

You are the Judge, standing at the door. Please do not judge my father until you have first justified him and granted him your forgiveness and your righteousness.

Please help me to speak to my father today. May my words always give you glory.

Amen.

 

Revealed

Righteousness requires worship of the rightly revealed Redeemer

Read: Deuteronomy 29

When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. (Deuteronomy 29:19)

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Reflect:

The LORD my God is holy. This is an inescapable fact. So I must go his way, no matter how hard that is. There are serious consequences, for myself and for others, if I go my own way.

But what does this mean when it comes to, say, choosing a restaurant in which to eat my evening meal? Tonight I am eating at The Elm Street Restaurant, and I think it is will be the one pricey, high-class meal of my holiday in Toronto. I even ordered “sweetbreads,” something I have only heard about before on the Masterchef grand final. It was delicious, but was my choice to eat here and eat that evidence of going my own way, or was I legitimately going God’s way?

And earlier today, when I spent hours admiring Inuit art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, appreciating the magnificent skills which God has granted to people to re-create his creation … was I going my own way of God’s way?

Sometimes I think this sort of question is one of the “secret things” 29:29 talks about. But verse 29 also says the LORD has revealed what is required in the Law. The New Testament tells me this is ultimately through the revelation of Jesus Christ his Son. Jesus belongs to me and I belong to him, so I may be righteous in all these everyday ordinary choices, because Jesus followed the Law on my behalf.

crux:

Righteousness is not merely a matter of right choices but of worshiping the rightly revealed Redeemer.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for your many blessings to me, temporal and material as well as spiritual.

May I never be so caught up in the enjoyment of what my eyes see and my mouth tastes that I forget the overwhelming glory of you, the One who created all things and gave skill to the artist and chef. May I be ever thankful for your creative beauty that is reflected only dimly in the beauty of human artistry. Many I be a witness to your heavenly glory and not solely a consumer of human art.

Amen.

Respond

Jesus wants people to respond to him and enjoy their relationship with God

Read: Matthew 21

“For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him.” (Matthew 21:32a)

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43)

Reflect:

Some days reading the Bible is like wading through treacle. It’s just a hard slog. I read the words and then I re-read them. I leave the Bible aside a bit to mull over it, then come back and re-read again. The message still doesn’t want to stick.

Part of the problem today is that I slept in and didn’t read the Bible first thing when I was fresh, so I’m coming to the Bible filled with evening angst. Also, I’ve had about a million things to do today and I’ve had to make two million decisions. It’s been a Busy Day, the kind of day I try very hard to avoid, but which is sometimes unavoidable. So my brain is tired.

But actually, the words of Jesus are quite difficult too. At first I think he’s teaching a basic lesson about children obeying parents (21:28-31a). But then I see the thread that joins these story vignettes together. It’s not generalised obedience, but response.

Jesus says, “choose how you respond to me.” (I’m paraphrasing.) One way will bring you into the kingdom, the other will get you kicked out. But there’s no avoiding the choice.

My eldest daughter asked me today what “agnostic” meant. I explained according to the dictionary definition, but according to Jesus there’s no such thing as a fence-sitting agnostic. Either you yield your “fruit” (the efforts of your heart, soul, mind and strength) to the “owner” (God) of your “vineyard” (your life) or you will be brought to a wretched end. Two choices: two very different futures.

crux:

Jesus wants people to respond to him and enjoy their relationship with God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

It’s hard not to judge when I read a passage like this. Hard not to judge myself for yielding such flawed fruit up to you. (I need to be reminded of the gospel every moment.) It’s hard not to judge others for refusing to care about the owner of the vineyard that is their lives.

But now I want to rest and relax and just appreciate the way you call and call and call again for people to hear your voice, repent and believe the good news. Thank you for sending the prophets, for sending John the Baptist, for sending Jesus your Son. Thank you for keeping after me until I surrendered to you.

Please do not let me get so caught up in Busy that I don’t have the mental energy to appreciate your revelation, your word, your voice calling my name in the wilderness of my everyday ordinary.

Amen.

Who

The most important question I will ever answer is: “Who do I say Jesus is?”

Read: Matthew 16

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21)

Reflect:

Verse 15 is the hinge upon which Matthew’s gospel turns. Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” was addressed to his disciples. Yet Matthew places it at the narrative core of his gospel so that Jesus effectively asks Matthew’s readers as well: “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter was ready and bold with his answer: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Simon knew that Jesus was God’s anointed king, the Messiah (in Greek, the Christ),  but he clearly had no idea that God’s king was to ascend to his throne via his own death and resurrection.

Simon said Jesus was the Christ, but at this time he did not know what it would mean for Jesus to be God’s Christ. Matthew spends the rest of his gospel revealing exactly what this means. But here, Matthew leaves me with Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?”

I say Jesus is my King, God’s Son, my Saviour and Redeemer, my Lord and my God.

crux:

The most important question I will ever answer is: “Who do I say Jesus is?”

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I say, Jesus is the Christ-King.
I say, Jesus is the one and only begotten Son of God.
I say, Jesus is my Saviour, who saved me from your wrath by his death.
I say, Jesus is my Redeemer, who bought me out of slavery to sin and death.
I say, Jesus is my Brother, through his blood shed so that you, my heavenly Father, may adopt me.
I say, Jesus is my Head, the authority and source of all spiritual blessing and experience.
I say, Jesus is my Rabbi, the one who teaches me all things because he is your Word.
I say, Jesus is my Righteousness, the source of all that is good within me.
I say, Jesus is the Lamb, the sacrifice which paid the price for my sins.
I say, Jesus is the Lion, the great and mighty King of all God’s people.
I say, Jesus is my Lord, sovereign in authority over me.
I say, Jesus is my God, the one and only True God.

I say these things, not only think them or write them. I declare them to be true.

May I always say them confidently, for your everlasting glory.

Amen.

Know

As a child of God, I know the Father through his Son

Read: 1 John 5:13-21

We know that we are the children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:19-21)

Reflect:

These are the facts of the matter, according to John: We know that we are children of God, “born of God” (5:18); yet the world we live in is (temporarily) under Satan’s power and influence. We will always live in tension, at odds with the world around us, because we belong to God and are kept safe by him, yet our surroundings and our non-Christian peers are in bondage to God’s enemy, suffering under evil’s control.

Furthermore, we know that Jesus Christ the Son of God has come. He has opened and renewed our minds so that we may understand Him Who is True, God himself (as far as limited human minds may understand such a glorious, infinite being).

The Son has come in the flesh and through him we comprehend the Father, in the same way as meeting my eldest son and observing his antics would enable someone to understand my husband’s personality and preferences.

We know God, therefore John instructs us to keep ourselves from idols; from false gods and from lies about God.

Crux:

As a child of God, I know the Father through his Son.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are true. There is no lie or falsehood in you. You are genuine, authentic, original, unique. You are the real deal: a god who is The God, the one and only God – not an idol, not a mirage. You are the only true God. I worship you.

Please keep me from idols, LORD. May I keep learning about you from your Son. May I understand you better as I learn about your Son. May I be strong in faith to stand firm and withstand the lies of the evil one who has control of the world at this present time.

May I be strong in faith to run away from idolatry, to pursue you and a closer relationship with you rather than seeking the cold comfort of the accuser. May I study diligently your word, reading all you reveal to me in it. May I not be distracted by false gods, false promises, false hopes.

May you be my all in all.

Amen.