Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Revelation 1 (Prologue)


Introduction >> Revelation 1 (Prologue)

"Revelation 1 (Prologue)"

Revelation 1:1-3, December 6, 2006

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
Hallelujah! The "revelation" is of Jesus Christ!

1) It is of Jesus — it is about Jesus
2) It is from Jesus — only He could reveal it...

"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." (John 16:12-15)
What we're seeing in Revelation is part of the fulfillment of Christ's words in John 16.

It's interesting, I just noticed that the first line reads: "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show his servants what must soon take place."

Here we see an amazing interaction between Father and Son. The Son said that "no one knows the day" when He will come, not the angels and not even the Son, but only the Father. Here we see that the Father revealed something to the Son, and the Son revealed it to us by His messengers (and by the Holy Spirit, whom John was "in" when he saw all this).

Here right at the outset we dive straight into the beautiful mystery of the Trinity — how all are One, all are God, and God is One, yet Three, and we see their loving actions done on our behalf. God shared to the Son a bit of His own heart—His love & glory?and the Son in turn passes that love to the Spirit, who in turn passes it to us. The whole Trinity is a circle of love weaving from one Member to the other. (Hmm, that's what this picture was about!)

At the end of the prologue is the first of seven beatitudes (blessings) in the book of Revelation:

Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
Is this blessing only for those who lived in that century? Certainly not! This blessing is also for us. But it is only as we know our Lord and spend time with Him in His presence, seeking His face, communing with Him and listening to His heart. If we are not seeking Him Himself, we can easily become distracted.

But if we are seeking Him Himself, then most certainly we will experience the blessing John promises for those who read the book of Revelation and take to heart what is written in it—for in here we will again find Him who has taken us into His heart. Here we will see the revelation of God's heart. We will hear His love and hear the cry inside His heart.

Blessed are we when —as we seek Him— we listen to the things on His heart and read them, taking His words back to Him, asking Him to explain what only He can understand.

Lord, we look to You! We can't understand! Right now we hand Your words —Your book, Your revelation!— we hand them all back to You, Lord. Forgive us for running ahead without You! Forgive us for warring with one another over words that You never meant to be examined apart from Your loving presence, apart from the presence of You, Holy Spirit, our Teacher and Counselor. Thank You so much, Father, for the gift of this book, for the revelation of Your Son and the revelation of Your heart here. Help us lay aside everything—me included, Lord, help me do this, too!—help us lay it aside and seek Your face and seek Your heart. Help us listen and understand, seeing You in Your glory and bowing down at Your awesome throne of agape love that holds all the universe together.
In Jesus' awesome name, amen.


*****

P.S. (Dec.7,'06)

P.S. to "Prologue"

After I logged off last night I was still thinking about those words I had never seen before: "which God gave to Him." I can't believe I had never ever noticed those words before! They're deep, because they change the whole understanding of where the Book of Revelation comes from — it comes from the Father, was given to the Son, and then given to us. It makes me appreciate the Book of Revelation all the more, and washes it with a holiness and sacredness that nearly makes me tear and want to cry, because it's from the heart of God, given from Father to Son, and then to us!

It's an incredible mystery that God "revealed" the Revelation to His Son. The Son said that all the Father has given is His, so it's not like the Son didn't know. The wonderful, beautiful key to understanding this is that it is given by the Father, not taken by the Son. The Son humbly submits to the Father, and the Father lovingly gives to the Son. The Son humbly chose to become human out of love.

The freewill voluntary submission of the Son to the Father is the beautiful key. It is the key to our marriage relationships with our spouse — we lovingly submit. And here we see the greatest love imagineable at work between the Father and the Son. The Son waits on the Father, and the Father lovingly gives. The Son waits in loving submission, not out of compulsion or necessity, and the Father gives, not out of demand or obligation, but out of complete love for His Son. The Father, Son and Spirit are all equally God and are One God. Yet this beautiful relationship dynamic pervades their every interaction with one another and their wooing of humanity.

I looked up the ESV reading of the prologue, and it notes that the Greek word for "servants" is "bondservants"... looking in Deuteronomy 15, we read that "bondservants" are those whose debt has been paid, but who choose to stay with their Master because they love their Master. Is it no wonder, then, that having received this burden of the Father's heart ("burden" and "prophecy" are the same word in Hebrew), that the Son now passes it freely to us who have had the ears of our hearts pierced by His love for us?

I scribbled on the way to bed:

Wow, God! I never noticed this before! You shared Your heart & understanding with Your Son?who already knew all—and He then passed it to us in the same love!

This message came from very the heart of the Father and was given to the Son, who then gave it to us...

How much more then can I NOT understand any of this without You!!!

A holy heart, passed from within the Trinity from Father to Son! Thank You, Father! Thank You for sharing Your heart and all of You for passing it down to us!

You have included us in the intimate exchange of Your heart! You have drawn us right into the middle of the eternally intimate love-relationship between the Trinity!

And this revelation concerns us!! Here at the center of exchanges in the heart of the Trinity is us! You care about us & love us and want us to understand You & seek You & call for You to come teach us! We are on Your heart! Thank You!!!
*****

See also: "Call and I Will Answer" (at Weeping Jeremiahs)

Revelation Study - Introduction


Note: I started a study on the Former Adventist Fellowship online forum on December 6, 2006, about the book of Revelation, however I put it in a locked area. I decided to re-post it here. I may edit it later.

Introduction >> Revelation 1 (Prologue)

Two threads ago I mentioned the idea of starting a Revelation Study here. I don't know how long I can keep it up (we'll be moving on the 16th... please pray for us!), but it's wonderful and while it lasts it can be wonderful. I almost want to call it "Revelation Devotional", because the process of worshiping Him and seeking His face is what I want to do here above all.

I don't want to get bogged down early with preliminaries, however I'll mention a few things:

1) I've put this in the "theology" area because it might spin all over the place and I don't want it to get bogged down with SDA ideas, but I do believe seeing a healthy Revelation study would be good for questioning Adventists to see.

2) The primary interpretor of the book of Revelation is the Gospel, the New Covenant

3) I'm not using any "system" of theology or interpretation (that I know of), and generally I tend to avoid referencing others' systems or extended theories. This is done not so much out of principle, but just because it makes me tired. I seem to only be able to handle Bible study with some things, and this is one of them, I guess.

4) Above all, let's pray and seek His face as we read this stuff! Honestly, He wants us to know Him, not a lot of information. He is our salvation—not knowing this or that stuff about what might or might not happen. That said, there are two lines repeated more than once in the book of Revelation which can aid us greatly: "This calls for a mind with wisdom" and "Let him who has ears hear what the Spirit says"—we won't won't understand any of these words unless we're in the Spirit. We can call for wisdom. Call for it! So let's stop, drop and pray!

I believe the book of Revelation is about Jesus, and that He's given it not to have us squabble over, but to know Him better through and to worship Him in response to.

So yes, Lord, this is all about You, and it's all You. I want to share just a little bit of the little You've helped me and a few friends understand, I pray that this will be worship and devotion, and that we will all be filled with Your heart. Bless You, Lord, bless Your name and Your heart.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Evidence!




Well, folks have been asking to see how the "growth" is coming along, so here are a couple pictures. Unfortunately, they're a month old. We haven't had much time for other "progress" pictures since we just moved (two blocks from our old place) into a bigger apartment. We're still unpacking and arm-twisting with the manager to get some things fixed (please pray for us!). But life is good, and God is even better.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Life without the Law—
Resting from fear of sinning


The Lord makes firm the steps
of those who delight in Him;
though they stumble, they will not fall,
for the Lord upholds them with His hand.

Psalm 37:23-24

When I first learned about the Covenants—and that the Old Covenant included not only the Sabbath, but the whole of the Decalogue—of course it raised the question of morality, of sinning: How could I be safe from lawlessness? It caused a little crisis for me, because I didn't want to sin. I didn't want to fall. I didn't want to hurt anyone or be hurt, and I didn't want to do what displeased God. The Law had somewhat been my guide for these things.

But Sinai was replaced with the law of the Spirit of life. I had to lean back in a "trust fall" and trust God to produce good works—and not bad works—in me. The very thought of letting go of the Old Covenant (or shall I call it "the Old Guide"?) felt like becoming naked, like not knowing what was going to happen, not knowing if I would do good or bad.

Scripture said that the Old Covenant was obsolete—including the "words of the covenant" on the tablets of the covenant. Forceful words! I could spend my new Christian life trying to minimize or qualify the words, or I could accept them and trust God that He would not produce bad works in me. So the law of the Spirit came to life inside me, and I learned to trust His Spirit.

And along the way, I read folks like Dale Ratzlaff, who showed that the New Covenant—the Son! the Word Himself—had a far more piercing morality than the Old Law. The Old judged deeds, but the New judged the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, distinguishing in me even what was soul and what was spirit. Christ showed this contrast by His great words in response to the Old Law, "But I say unto you," after which He exposed the heart. I began to understand that this was the reason that the Old Covenant Law was obsolete.

As soon as we suggest the obsoleteness of the Law, part of us instantly objects because it sounds like we're giving a "license to sin" (we quickly forget that people are sinning just fine without a "license"!). It's significant to notice how Paul responds to this fear. When someone suggests the "license to sin" idea to Paul, what did he say?

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinnning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? ... We were buried with Christ through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so too we may live a new life...

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! ...You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness... Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master because you are not under law, but under grace.

It's amazing! He didn't talk about how the "moral commands" are continued. Yes, we still know certain things are sin, but Paul redirects our attention to Christ, to His death for us and His resurrection for us. He doesn't focus on sin—instead he focuses on new life. "Holiness" is not merely the "absence of sin", there is so much more! "Purity" is not simply the absence of "impurity". Nor is "light" the absence of "darkness". This is why the Law became obsolete in the new life that Christ brought us. There is a force, a substance, to purity, light and holiness—and it drives away sin. Merely refraining from sin doesn't make one pure, holy or full of light. If we were cleaned from our sin, we still wouldn't be able to bear the holy presence of God. So God gave us His Spirit living in us in place of the Law:

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

The way we serve God and live in Him under the New Covenant is not "Law"—it is "Spirit". Paul isn't merely talking about "salvation", he's also talking about living, he is talking about where we go, what we do and how we live after salvation. (Romans 7:4)

And so he says,

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

How many of us are comfortable reciting Paul's words to ourself, in public, or even more from the pulpit?—"Through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God!" Paul died to the Law so that he might live for God. In other words, he was not able to "live" for God through the Law. Sin sprang to life and brought death. But by dying to what once bound him, he found life.

By dying to the law—dying to the Law! It sounds fearful! How will we know that we don't sin? How can we make sure we won't do anything bad? Paul's answer—God's answer—here in Scripture is that we leave the Law for the Spirit. We fall into His arms, trusting Him to be the new law to us, to be our insurance & deposit—not only of our inheritance to come, but also we trust Him to do in us His works (instead of the enemy's works). From the perspective of Law, it is a fearful thing to let go of the law. Let go of that? That which kept me safe and on the straight path? That which kept me from evil deeds? Yes. Leave and fall into something better—a law that keeps you not only from evil deeds, but from an evil heart.

Yes, Christians have an intense passion to live in a holy, obedient manner. But we have to come to terms with the clear words of Scripture here: We are to die to the Law. The Law brought death. The Law is the ministry of condemnation. And we have been released from the Law to serve in a better way, the way of the Spirit.

For many years I unconsciously fought against Paul's incredibly literal statements about the Law simply because if I did take them literally, they would indeed appear to downplay or disparage the moral laws against sin in the Old Covenant. But I had to surrender to God's Word. I had to let the words of Scripture mean what they said. And in doing so, I found that I "fell" into the arms of a Spirit who is far superior than the letter. I found Christ to be my sufficient "rest"—I fell in to Sabbath-rest in my daily works, in my daily life. In desiring to live a holy life, I fell into His rest, trusting Him to do it instead of me.

Bless you in His rest, even in resting your moral security in the power of His Spirit!

"Secure!"

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Life without the Law - Finding rest from fear of sinning

When I first learned of the Covenants -- that not only the Sabbath, but the moral laws of the Decalogue were the "Old Covenant", of course it raised the question of morality, of sinning: how could I be safe from lawlessness? It caused a little crisis for me, because I didn't want to sin. I didn't want to fall. I didn't want to hurt anyone or be hurt, and I didn't want to do what displeased God. The Law had somewhat been my guide for these things.

But Sinai was replaced with the law of the Spirit of life. I had to lean back in a "trust fall" and trust God to produce good works --and not bad works-- in me. The very thought of letting go of the Old Covenant (or shall I call it "the Old Guide"?) felt like becoming naked, like not knowing what was going to happen, not knowing if I would do good or bad.

Scripture said that the Old Covenant --all 10 Decalogue commands included-- was obsolete (see Hebrews 8:13-9:4). Forceful words! I could spend my new Christian life trying to minimize or qualify the words, or I could accept them and trust God that He would not produce bad works in me. So the law of the Spirit came to life inside me, and I learned to trust His Spirit.

And along the way, I read folks like Ratzlaff, who showed that the New Covenant --the Son! the Word Himself-- had a far more piercing morality than the Old Law. The Old judged deeds, but the New judged the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, distinguishing in me even what was soul and what was spirit. Christ showed this contrast by His great words in response to the Old Law, "But I say unto you..." and then proceeding to expose the heart. I began to understand that this was the reason that the Old Covenant (Decalogue included) was obsolete.

As soon as we suggest the obsoleteness of the Law, part of us instantly objects because it sounds like we're giving a "license to sin" (we quickly forget that people are sinning just fine without a "license"!). It's significant to notice how Paul responds to this fear. When someone suggests the "license to sin" idea to Paul, what did he say?
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinnning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? ... We were buried with Christ through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so too we may live a new life....

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! ...You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. ... Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master because you are not under law, but under grace.

It's amazing! He didn't talk about how the "moral commands" are continued. Yes, we still know certain things are sin, but Paul redirects our attention to Christ, to His death for us and His resurrection for us. He doesn't focus on sin---instead he focuses on new life. "Holiness" is not merely the "absence of sin"... there is so much more! "Purity" is not simply the absence of "impurity". Nor is "light" the absence of "darkness". This is why the Law became obsolete in the new life that Christ brought us. There is a force, a substance, to purity, light and holiness -- and it drives away sin. Merely refraining from sin doesn't make one pure, holy or full of light. If we were cleaned from our sin, we still wouldn't be able to bear the holy presence of God. So God gave us His Spirit living in us in place of the Law:
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

The way we serve God and live in Him under the New Covenant is not "Law" -- it is "Spirit". Paul isn't merely talking about "salvation", he's also talking about living, he is talking about where we go, what we do and how we live after salvation. (Romans 7:4)

And so he says elsewhere,
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

How many of us are comfortable reciting Paul's words to ourself, in public, or even more from the pulpit?--"Through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God!" Paul died to the Law so that he might live for God. In other words, he was not able to "live" for God through the Law. Sin sprang to life and brought death. But by dying to what once bound him, he found life.

By dying to the law---dying to the Law! It sounds fearful! How will we know that we don't sin? How can we make sure we won't do anything bad? Paul's answer--God's answer--here in Scripture is that we leave the Law for the Spirit. We fall into His arms, trusting Him to be the new law to us, to be our insurance & deposit -- not only of our inheritance to come, but also we trust Him to do in us His works (instead of the enemy's works). From the perspective of Law, it is a fearful thing to let go of the law. Let go of that? That which kept me safe and on the straight path? That which kept me from evil deeds? Yes. Leave and fall into something better---a law that keeps you not only from evil deeds, but from an evil heart.

Yes, Christians have an intense passion to live in a holy, obedient manner. But we have to come to terms with the clear words of Scripture here: We are to die to the Law. The Law brought death. The Law is the ministry of condemnation. And we have been released from the Law to serve in a better way, the way of the Spirit.

For many years I unconsciously fought against Paul's incredibly literal statements about the Law simply because if I did take them literally, they would indeed appear to downplay or disparage the moral laws against sin in the Old Covenant. But I had to surrender to God's Word. I had to let the words of Scripture mean what they said. And in doing so, I found that I "fell" into the arms of a Spirit who is far superior than the letter. I found Christ to be my sufficient "rest" -- I fell in to Sabbath-rest in my daily works, in my daily life. In desiring to live a holy life, I fell into His rest, trusting Him to do it instead of me.

Bless you in His rest, even in resting your moral security in His Spirit.

A Gift in Our Lettuce


We found a gift in our lettuce the other day! We named him Joseph. To tell the truth, he kind of freaked me out when I took off the top leaf of the lettuce and saw him munching on the one underneath! I haven't kept caterpillars since I was a wee little lad, so it's kind of fun again, especially with my animal-lover wife, the expert on kawaii-ness (cuteness).

Joseph climbs the chopsticks and tests the upper boundaries of his new home Yoko likes this picture

Doesn't he have nice form? Peek-a-boo!

Munching! More munching! (note his incredibly cute arms gripping the lettuce!)

And MORE munching! Joseph's new jungle playground... he's still curled up in the middle in this picture, making us a bit worried, but after this he became really genki & went all over the place.

We gave him lettuce and tried some other leafy vegetable, but he didn't touch it, preferring the lettuce he was found on, apparently. But I just went & grabbed some leaves & twigs from various things on our street corner and put them in. Actually, I put in too much and it looks like a veritable jungle in there. I'd been worried about him all day 'cause he was curled up under some old lettuce & not moving. But after putting the new vegetation & spraying some mist, he's now climbing & crawling all over the place.

All of nature reveals God's glory & a bit of Himself... I wonder how Joseph here does that? Hehe, we'll see!