December 22 Blessed When We Read Revelation
When trying to decide if a book is a good one some readers will glance at the first chapter and if it captures their attention they continue turning pages. Others choose to read the last chapter and if it offers a satisfying conclusion, they will then invest in the rest of the book. With God’s Book, the Bible, we can take either approach and discover His Story is one not only worth reading but worth living by. Genesis, the beginning of God’s Story, records many blessings. The blessings do not stop there; they continue on generation after generation, situation after situation. Revelation, the conclusion of God’s written Word to us, maintains this blessing theme.
John lived on a small island as an outcast for telling God’s Story. In his nineties, he wrote down everything he saw, just as God told him to do. The final book in the Bible is challenging to fully comprehend but God rewards those who read and embrace its truth. The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it are blessed, because the time is near! The time is more nearer today than it was yesterday. May we be encouraged to love God’s blessings and journal them for ourselves and for the generations yet to come. We can take good comfort in knowing that the time is near. God is near. Live fully in the God of the blessings!
December 23 Blessed Be the Lamb Forever!
Suddenly, John is transported to Heaven. I wonder what that must have felt like! John had just recorded interesting and eye-opening messages to seven different churches, messages that critiqued each for what they had done well and for what they had failed to do. Today, churches can be more effective when leaders read this information and needed adjustments are implemented. While in Heaven, John was escorted by an angel. John sees amazing, hard-to-express things that human minds can only somewhat imagine. But what he hears is loud and clear: on-going praise to God the Father and Jesus. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
Then every living creature everywhere (in Heaven, on earth, under the earth and in the sea) all joined in with the praise chorus: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” What an incredible foretaste we are privy to as we read God’s Story. If we allow our minds and hearts to take in all that John tried to describe, we too cannot help but to worship. Lord Jesus, You are worthy to be praised forever and ever. All blessing is Yours. All honor, glory and might belong to You. We will join the masses to praise You throughout all eternity. May our lips and lives praise You even now. Amen.
December 24 Blessing and so Much More Belong to God
There is a promise for those in Heaven that brings such hope: God will wipe away all tears. All who love God will experience full and abiding comfort. One day, multitudes from every nation, tribe, people and language will worship Him. The angels will join in with the praises. “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.” And the praise goes on! When we notice people who are different from us, try to see them as God sees them. See them as people Jesus died for— those who, if they bow their knee to the King of kings, will join the multitudes to receive His peace. May we be active in extending God’s hope, one person at a time. Honest transparency helps us as we seek to share God’s Story with others. Even though I know the joy of what the future holds, some days on this earth I still slip into melancholy.
The dark, cold afternoons of London winter contributed to my sense of discouragement so I prayerfully considered my options and then I joined a gym. Each day before going I would ask God to give me a friend to share His goodness with and He faithfully provided many opportunities for meaningful conversations. After one workout, I met Fariba, a beautiful Iranian who was also new to the gym. Fariba and I had fun exploring London together, learning from each other and discovering what we each valued. About a month before Easter, Fariba asked me what I was giving up for Lent. I told her depression. My depression is not the kind that requires medical care. When I choose to focus on Jesus as my Hope, my dark mood lifts. In a gym we train our bodies; in God’s Word we train our minds. When a pity party breaks out, stop, and invite in thankfulness. Hopefulness and gratitude are good workout partners for the mind and at times we need to do more repetitions of both. When it is our turn for Heaven, let’s be in good shape to join the faithful around God’s throne. May we be strong in lifting up His praise because all glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor belong to Him. He is the One who gives us strength and power to live now in hope and to actively share it.
December 25 Blessed Rest yet Before Us
Trumpets, angels, plagues, battles, evil enemies and God’s faithfulness; the next few chapters of God’s Story, as recorded in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, stretches one’s imagination to say the least. God’s judgment and hostility toward the adversary’s assaults cause havoc on the earth. But God remains in control. In spite of everything that is taking place at the coming of Jesus and with Satan’s war against Christ’s church, there is hope for the faithful and blessings as well. From Heaven John heard a voice say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”
Mary, the mother of Jesus, had rest from her labor the night Jesus was born in a manger so long ago. Jesus encourages us to come to Him to find rest from our labor when we give our burdens to Him. All of us long for rest in spite of the variety of labor pains that we presently experience. And the kind of rest that comes to those who die in the Lord is a blessed rest indeed. But until then we have the joys and challenges of this life. Let’s remember that the good deeds that we do and the ways we blessed others will not be forgotten. Let us go forward in faithfulness to our Lord. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for we can come and adore You! You have taken fear out of death. There will come a day when we will rest in lasting peace. Your life, death and resurrection made it possible for those who trust in You to have reconciliation, peace, and joy. Joy to the world, the Lord of rest has come. Amen.
December 26 Blessed Are the Watchful Ones
God’s righteous punishment continues against everyone who obstinately remain in their wicked ways: those who will not repent of their rebellious actions and give glory to God. Seven angels will go forth on the earth to pour out seven bowls of God’s wrath. The destruction will be final and there will come a thorough cleansing of the world from sin. Those who remain alert and watchful for God will be blessed. “Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.”
This statement from Jesus reminds me of Adam and Eve at the beginning of God’s Story. When they disobeyed God their eyes were opened to their nakedness and they no longer had joy and peace but were ashamed. God wants us to trust Him and obey Him; He has provided a way for us to give up our shame. Jesus died in our place, and the sin and shame of all of mankind was nailed to His cross. Because God’s love is greater than our sin, God raised Jesus from the dead and we can be dead to sin and alive to walk and live in new life. This news is good! May we live in awareness of God, intentionally and bravely practicing perseverance in the trials we face every day. May we be ready, humbly relying on God, no matter what comes our way. For we know that Jesus is coming! Let’s live expectantly!
December 27 Wedding Invitation Blessings
John’s role as a scribe continues and he writes a great encouragement of what is yet to come. Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” Remember the wedding in Cana that Jesus attended at the beginning of His earthly ministry? John was at that wedding. When Jesus performed His first miracle, turning water into wine at that marriage celebration, John was there. When the angel in Heaven told him about the wedding supper that will take place in the future, I wonder if he thought back to the Cana wedding. Just what did he picture?
Think back on the wonderful wedding celebrations you have been to throughout your lifetime. Recall the happiness of shared love as the groom and his beautiful bride are joined together in holy matrimony, beginning their lives as one. Then there are the weddings written about in novels and we read the story describing all the great and blissful details: the prince and princess overcoming insurmountable odds and they victoriously live happily ever after. We have watched moving weddings in movies when we cry happy tears, or maybe we’ve followed the pomp of royal weddings with all the grandeur of riches. Even a combination of the best of these events will be colorless in light of the marriage feast of the Lamb! The invited ones will be blessed beyond measure. Believe it! God’s Story is not a fairytale.
December 28 Blessed Resurrection
At last, Satan, the enemy of old, will be seized, bound and thrown into the abyss, locked away for 1,000 years. Now more fascinating things happen. The faithful-to-God ones (people who had been beheaded due to their testimony about Jesus, those who had not worshiped the beast or accepted his mark) will come back to life! Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of the Messiah, and they will reign with Him for 1,000 years. Satan, for the last time, is set free to deceive and then is thrown into the lake of fire. God will then judge everyone, both the living and the dead.
God’s Story is anything but boring. But as we read it, we need to keep in mind that we are a part of it; we will be judged by how we choose to live. God, I pray that we would choose wisely. You have provided so much for us in the way of knowledge and nearness, in provision and blessing. But You do not control us like puppets on a string. You allow us choice, even if that may mean choosing against You. God, have mercy upon us and those we love because Your judgment is coming. No one can stand against You in their own strength; we need the covering of Jesus. May we humbly bow before You. Amen.
December 29 Amazing Blessings to Inherit
God is preparing something incredible: a new Heaven. The descriptions tell us that it will sparkle and shine with precious stones and gold. There will no longer be barriers to love. The glory of the Lord will illuminate and life will be fully satisfying. The new Heaven is the guaranteed blessing for all who have their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Real joy will abound. No tears. No pain. No mourning. God promises: “All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.“ There will be the absence of sorrow and the fullness of joy! We will see God face-to-Face in our new unbelievably stunning home. The curse of sin and the fear of death will be gone forever.
The death of Ben still makes my heart ache. Ben was about eleven, a little older than our Sophie, when we first met him. We rented the Thai house that his mother had built and our friendship with his family grew deep over the years. A compassionate son, friend to many, Ben’s genuine smile bridged cultures. He had a way of making everyone feel at ease. It was fun cheering alongside his father as we watched Ben, in his number eight jersey, play soccer with skill, passion and integrity. Then came a Thursday morning when his life tragically ended in a motorcycle accident while he was on his way to school. Grief unimaginable. After several days of Buddhist rituals, the community gathered for his cremation. And when I thought I could cry no more, fresh tears formed as a friend of Ben’s family, a famous saxophonist, played Amazing Grace in the stillness of that blue-skyed setting. God, do I know Your grace that is beyond amazing? Will I be with You surrounded by joy, alive in peace, as one who has inherited Your blessings?
December 30 The Obedient Are Blessed
Although the conclusion of God’s Story is about our bright future we are still living in a world that is upside-down and broken. John also lived in a broken world and everything that he saw and heard concerning the new Heaven seemed too good to be true. Finding the goodness hard to take in, John, in awe, bowed down to worship at the feet of the angel who had shown to him these marvelous things. The angel, however, was quick to tell John not to worship him but to worship God alone! God is the worthy One. Trustworthy, praiseworthy, bless His holy name forever! Are you like me curious about the time frame for when this all will take place? We may not be able to mark the date on our calendar, but we do know that the time is closer now than when John first wrote about it.
Jesus says, “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.” When Jesus says we are blessed for obedience I want to obey. Throughout God’s Story we see how generous God is, over and over again lavishing His extravagant love upon those He created. And like all good fathers He desires for His children to grow up to maturity. Jesus is God in the flesh, come to the world to show us what it means to grow up: to be holy (set apart) and full of compassion, kindness, humility, and joy. Our strength to be this, and so much more, really does come from Him. God’s training in righteousness leads to great freedom; we can be free to live a satisfying life that pleases Him. Our Father does not keep us guessing about what makes Him happy. We can detect God’s love language throughout His Story, and right up through to the end we read that Jesus has the same love language: obedience. “If you love Me, obey My commandments.”—Jesus.
December 31 Blessed to Receive the Tree of Life
God’s first blessings came to mankind in a beautifully fresh garden filled with good food to eat and unhindered love. As we experience His Story personally and throughout history, we see that God is good and He blesses us with way more than food. God’s final recorded blessings will take place in a spectacular garden city. One of my favorite cities to run in is Singapore, an island city-state in South East Asia about eighty-five miles from the equator. Among the skyscrapers and busy sidewalks are spacious parks with ancient trees that provide cooling shade in a land of interesting diversity. As clean and green as Singapore is, it cannot compare to what is yet before us. In God’s perfect timing everything will be made new. The future Holy City’s foundations will be rare jewels that glimmer and I get so excited trying to picture what it will feel like to run on streets made of pure gold! Planted along the crystal clear river flowing with the water of life is the Tree of Life. This tree will yield both fruit and healing.
Those who belong to God will live forever in His protection, provision and love. In Jesus we are fully blessed. Because of Him we know true love and have hope even as we wait with eager expectation for everything that is still before us. Our future hope is real and God’s Story concludes with His children being blessed. Jesus declares, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.” Jesus says He is coming quickly. Come, Lord Jesus, come! May the grace, joy, peace and favored blessings, of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people now and forever more! Live Blessed! Amen.