Thursday, May 16, 2024

The Promised Blessing of Revelation

is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. ( Revelation 1:3 ESV)

I have 2 weeks left with the One Accord Sunday School as we have been digging through the Book of Revelation this quarter. It has been quite a journey and, to be honest, we haven't spent nearly enough time on it.

Just the Old Testament references alone require a lot of exploration and careful examination.

But peek back at that top verse on this blog- Rev. 1:3. Notice the instruction to read the Book out loud, hear it, and keep it. The reward is "blessing".

I may have already written this, but when the class shepherd asked me to do my series on Revelation, me heart sank a bit. I have between 10 and 15 Sunday School series that I have written and taught over the last 35 years.

At our church, you are usually booked a year or two out and I will normally wait on them to tell me (remind me) where I will be for a quarter and what I am supposed to teach. I tend to do the same series over and over (I am kind of the "Isaiah' guy).

This time, I assumed I was doing my series on Isaiah, until the shepherd asked, "Do you do anything else?"

And I emailed him my list of series and WAY down the list is "Meditations on Revelation" that I originally wrote in 2009 and had last taught in 2014.

When he picked that, I thought "I don't even know where my notes are!"

And I didn't! For a while..... I finally found the old large orange hard drive that had notes, articles, files, and the 31 day devotional I wrote for the series. And it broke... thankfully our IT guy at school recovered the files and now they live in the cloud! (He is coming in the clouds- see how the apocalyptic mindset works? LOL)

But now I had to re-learn this material- and when I come across stuff like this from that long ago, it is like reading from a stranger... there are times I say 'I remember that guy' with a laugh. And I miss that young man as well!

Now before you accuse me of living on perpetual re-wind... I start each new series fresh. I re-study and update. I'm a different man with perspectives and change. God's truth does not change, but I may have deeper understandings or better perspective than I did when I was studying and writing (and sometimes I am much worse!).

There are tools that exist today that were not available to me even in 2014. For my newest venture, I actually utilized podcasts, you tube, and even Chat-GPT (A.I.) to help me. The information available to study the Bible today is exhaustive. There is a lot of bad theology out there as well.

Typically, when I teach Sunday School, I spend my devotional time just reading the Scriptures and praying for 'fresh eyes' and 'true truth'. The Lord usually wants to teach me...not others... and then have me lead discussions about how these truths may apply to our lives.

Then at night, I just spend time doing what I call 'thought experiments' where I ask questions and then see if the Bible as a whole can support the thoughts. I read and watch opposite viewpoints to my views. And then about Thursday or Friday, I begin to try and formulate how that 25-30 minutes may go on Sunday. My friends and family notice how quiet I am, they will even ask if I am OK- but I am just lost in the thoughts of my introverted self.

It is a lot of time, but honestly it is a selfish thing.... I benefit from teaching even if no one else does.

People have asked me about the thought experiments, because it seems wrought with danger. I was impressed about this when I read a biography on Einstein (I am no Einstein) where he would lay in a meadow and do thought experiments- for example he would think of a bucket filled with paint on a rope and imagine how it might swing in the wind and the principles that governed the movements and patterns it might make. 

Then, he would use math as the boundaries and proofs of the experiment. If he couldn't justify the experiment by math... it couldn't stand.

I try to do that with Scripture- what could this mean? But if I can't find supporting thoughts in other parts of Scripture, then it just can't hold water with me.

I am not smart enough, nor do I trust myself enough... so I also depend on outside teachers and counsel- the beauty of today is the internet allows me to consult Calvin, Warfield, Hodge for the past and people like Keller, McArthur, Piper, and Sproul (and many others) who are more present.

My early love for reading and years of reading literature helps me here... part of God's design to give me a skill set to use me... but a healthy self-suspicion keeps me out of the ditches!

Back to the blessing- 

Once I start back into Revelation, it can become a mess. It makes a mess of me- the apocalyptic mindset is real... news cycles are immediately compared and contrasted to the images in the Book and I can almost hum twilight zone theme music when I see how eerily synchronized they are.

My dreams become fantastical... and I wake up remembering them. And I mean STRANGE stuff. things I can't even put into words. 

It also drives me back to the minor prophets where I get a taste of the same metaphors and style that the genre represents.

I also get more conscious of my ever present and many sins and my entanglements with idols. I find I am less satisfied of them and much more afraid of the consequences that come from sin.

Who/what are my idols? Sadly, my biggest idol is often a false idea of God Himself. I wrote about this back in 2010 - 

So I realize now that the way God cares is so alien.... it is his strange ministers that make up His HOLINESS. He does seem intolerable careless to me about my scars and crosses- but He should be. Things I tremble at, He just shakes His head. Do I really know of loneliness and pain? 'Come on' He says, "Give me a break. Your powder puff- magic dragon God of expediency does not exist".

Bottom line: Reading Revelation creates a 'beautiful mess'.

And I truly believe this 'beautiful mess' is the ultimate blessing of the book. It keeps us on our toes... it keeps us more awake and ready... soon is soon and near is near.

I also find it makes me more energized to share my faith... I find my daily conversations with even strangers going more naturally to the things of God and I am more willing to take the openings to ask others about their faith and where they are with Christ.

This August, I will turn 60. I am in the worst physical shape I have ever been in and that is solely my fault and a result mostly from letting my job (stress) impact my health. When I look at what I have been through personally and professionally from 2019 until this year, I am thankful and humbled by the grace God has given me to just keep going. It wasn't ALL bad, believe me I have more good days than bad and my troubles aren't critical. 

Just look at the picture I posted to go with this blog.... I have a great life- but getting older is no joke either! I don't know how people live without Christ.

But Revelation is so good, it has also has inspired me to pick it up physically as well. Hard to explain it and I think it has something to do with my grandchildren- I want them to know Jesus and experience Him as I have been able to all these years. I want them to know God's grace, His love, His patience... How in the world a sinner like me has been so rich in life... hard to believe! (By the way, 'blessing' isn't financially or materially, it is much better than that!)

Thankfully, my work place is moving to a place of healing and positive momentum... I may be wrong, but I feel like the pruning is done for now though the battle will ever rage. The kingdom of darkness hates the light. We have great things happening and good days ahead.

If you would like to experience the blessing of Revelation (though it will feel like a curse at the beginning) feel free to reach out to me and I will be happy to share thoughts and notes with you.

I am somewhat sad to only have 2 lessons left and the class has been so loving and wonderful to be with.

Maybe my dreams won't be so crazy, and maybe I will celebrate a break from the apocalyptic mindset after this study is over.... but I won't be as blessed. We need more Revelation in these days... not less.

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