Week of 2/17/19 - Pages 27-39

The book of Genesis fascinates me every time I dig into it. The richness of the stories both grand and small. The very real people's lives we get to look into with an authenticity and depth we rarely experience outside of perhaps a few close relationships.

There are several interesting story lines in this section, but the thing that struck me this time through Genesis was Abraham's character; the good, the bad and the ugly of it and how this can actually bring us comfort today. Please understand that I have tremendous respect for this incredible patriarch of God's chosen people. In fact it is because he deserves our deep respect that I think we can receive peace and comfort when we look honestly at the full picture of Abraham's character. 

 On the good side, Abraham had such faith and confidence in God that he followed God into a completely new direction for his life. He left his security and everything familiar to go where ever God told him to go. He even believed and trusted God so completely that at over 100 years old he was willing to follow God's test of his faith and sacrifice his only heir and son, until God stopped him at the last minute. Personally I do not know that level of faith. I do not think I could have done what Abraham did on the mountain with Isaac.  Abraham shows tremendous faith in God.

 On the ugly side, I am grateful that God includes in the Holy Scriptures the very significant lapses in Abraham's faith and character too. On Page 27 Abraham shows an incredible lapse in character and faith in God to protect him when he passes Sarah off as his sister to King Abimelech and then the King takes Sarah into his harem. I have to admit that I can be very judgmental of Abraham when I read this story. I think: "WHAT..!!! Are you kidding me Abraham, how could you be so fearful? Less than 12 months ago God sat face to face with you and personally promised you that Sarah would bear you a son within a year, how could your faith be so overcome with fear and desert you."

 It is easy to read that story and be indignant about Abraham's severe lapse in character and faith.  But I think this is where the application of this story can really help us. As I humbly walk with Jesus and I listen to the Holy Spirit in my day in day out life, I am often made aware of the significant lapses in my own character and faith. Truth be told about my lapses, they are for reasons much less dire than the possibility that my life is about to be taken, as was Abraham's fear. My lapses normally come out of the fear of losing my job, or that my kids might struggle, or health issues for loved ones, or that I will not have enough money to retire as I desire.  These lapses in my faith and even character happen even though I can also point to specific examples of God's incredible faithfulness in every one of these very same areas.

 Whatever the reasons behind our character lapses, or the times when we find our confident faith has deserted us, we can take comfort in these stories of Abraham and Sarah. Even the patriarch of God's people was fearful, struggled to trust God at times, and suffered severe lapses in character. When fear, past pain, or life's current circumstances overwhelm us and we respond poorly, know that God is not far and that His deep desire is to have us draw close to Him - not push Him away or spiritually run and hide. We can soon enjoy profound peace and comfort after our lapses, if we humbly draw close to Jesus and allow Him through the Holy Spirit to teach us how to be more consistent in our character and increase our faith (Matt 11:28-30).  He is the most gentle and faithful of teachers, and He always rewards the humble heart who draws near! May the Lord comfort you as you draw close to your Heavenly Father.

Week of 2/10/19 - Pages 14-26

The story of Abraham is a powerful one. It is one of faithfulness to God. There is a point in the story where God tells Abraham that he will have another son. At this time in his life he was old. He was about 100 years old. His wife was about 90. When both of them heard the news that they would have a son, they were in disbelief. They doubted what God told them. At one point in the story God responds by saying, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” When I read this, I paused. I probably read it 5-10 times and just focused on it. We often forget of the power and might of God. We forget that God can do all things. Dwell on that. He can do ALL things. There is no need to doubt, worry, fear, or be anxious about anything because the God of Abraham is the same God we know and love today. This same God is capable of all things, and even more importantly, He loves you and me. He loves beyond our understanding. When we humble ourselves, and think about the greatness of God, we are left in total wonder. 

Week of 2/3/19 - Pages 1-13

Beginnings Introduction

 This week marks the start of our incredible journey into the Old Testament.  Your book, Beginnings, contains the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in their pure, narrative (or story) form. 

 It’s important to realize, as you begin this journey, that you are reading a story. It is a story that reflects real history.  There are those skeptics who see these extraordinary narratives as far-fetched.  They read such fantastic accounts of paradise-like gardens, talking snakes, life-giving trees, global flooding, gigantic animal- bearing boats, burning bushes, plagues, and parting seas – and chalk it up to myth, or at least, allegory.  By allegory they mean, that these stories are not history – they didn’t really happen because they couldn’t have – but rather they must be ancient fairy-tales that serve as fanciful wrappings of ancient moral values or beliefs.

But I urge you, don’t buy in to the skepticism.  Such skepticism is based on the idea that these kinds of fantastic stories could not be grounded in fact because they “are scientifically impossible.”  But, if you believe in God, the supernatural being Who created the universe “out of nothing”; Who made Man in His image; Who found a way to not only design and build paradise, but restore and recover it after it had been marred by sin; even if you’re not sure what you believe, but are toying with the possibility of a Supreme Being – then talking snakes, gigantic boats, and parting seas are relatively miniscule matters in comparison.

To deny the historicity of the Old Testament is to deny its divine inspiration, something Jesus believed in unequivocally and pointed to as proof of His identity as the Son of God. The first five books of the Old Testament are history. They read like history. They offer first hand accounts, genealogies, geographical and anthropological realities of past cultures and civilizations.  But more importantly, they give us a glimpse of the beginnings of not only our world and mankind, but of the nature and character of God and the relationship He fashions and facilitates with human beings. 

The timeless and universal value of these stories can only exist because of their authenticity and realness.  Real men and women wrestling with God, and finding their way to Him through His redemptive, merciful plan.  That’s why Paul writes, “the things that were written beforehand were written for our leaning…that we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). They were also written so that we would be warned to not make the same mistakes as they did – repeating history all over again:

 As examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come (1 Cor. 10:6-11). 

The Old Testament is, indeed, a collection of authentic stories of messy lives.  They resemble our lives – struggling to be lived out daily, interacting with God and the world around us.  They have become an invaluable teacher for us, a “tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we could be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).

Make no mistake; you are reading history – the ancient Story of stories.  And your story intersects with this Story, becoming more a part of it everyday.  So jump in, and enjoy it in all its epic glory, confident that you are reading the Truth about God, about you, and about your relationship.  

Happy Reading!

Pastor Lee

Revelation Chapter 22

The last book in the Bible is about God's message to all of mankind of what is to come.  Interestingly enough, the Bible starts off in Genesis with "The Tree of Life" and ends with the same "Tree of Life" in Revelation.   

God sends The Angel to share his message and this Tree of Life is reintroduced as our means to eternal life.  Here we see prophesy and God's promises fulfilled.  We are left with hope because despite reading all about the coming suffering and judgments ahead of us, we can always count on the proverbial "Light at the end of the Tunnel", which is GOD.  That is what we are walking towards, so if we can keep that in our focus, walking daily with him and not dwell in all the other challenges we are faced with, our future will be set and we will be rewarded with eternal life.

Chapter 22 ends with the title JESUS IS COMING.    Throughout the Bible GOD warns the world of Jesus' imminent return by giving plenty of advance notice to all before his wrath is unleashed (think of the warnings through Noah or Abraham regarding Sodom and Gomorrah) and he did this to give everyone  time to repent and to be ready to receive him and have eternal life with him.   We should not forget that as Christians, we are all going to be with Jesus Christ as believers and the way we live our lives here on earth, may very well determine just how we will reign with the Lord.   He gave us free will, he died for our sins, he desires for us to commit our lives to holiness.

Jesus came to us the first time as an expression of GOD's love and he came to die for our sins. But the Bible says that when he returns, he will come in vengeance to pour out the wrath of GOD on those who have rejected GOD's love and grace.   The good news is, there is still time for all to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before his return.   If you haven't done so yet, it's not too late.

Revelation Chapter 21

In Revelation 21, we read about God’s revelation in a vision to John, the author, about the end of the world when Jesus returns.  The new holy city of Jerusalem, described as a beautiful bride dressed for her husband, Jesus Christ, comes down from heaven.  The magnificence and splendor of God’s glory illuminating the city, its perfect structure, and building materials of precious minerals, stones and pearls  is beyond our comprehension.  Those whose names are written in Jesus’s Book of Life, God’s children, are allowed to enter the city freely.  In this walled city, there is no more death or sorrow or crying or pain because it is God’s home where God lives with His children who have been given life through Christ.  Evil cannot exist here.

The fate of those who are not God’s children is the fiery lake of burning sulfur which represents endless separation from God and eternal, excruciating pain and sorrow. 

For me, the most beautiful aspect for God’s children in this new city is the existence with God where pain and sorrow and death do not exist.  As people of the world we live in, we spend much of our time, effort, worry, and resources in our earthly lives to deal with and battle pain, sorrow and death.  They are our constant shadows.  For some, the battles can be all-consuming and overwhelming especially without God’s help. But thanks to God, through Christ there is a beautiful, new heaven and earth which is God’s home where God welcomes His children who trust in Jesus.  In this home, we honor and glorify the Lord God and Jesus Christ, who are the temple at the heart of this city.

I recently visited my cousin who has suffered with extreme pain from a growing cancer tumor for more than five years despite treatments.  She looks forward to being in the new city, Jerusalem, of no pain, sorrow or death.  Her faith in Christ, in spite of her suffering, has made this city of God’s habitation all the more real and beautiful to me.

Revelation Chapter 20

When I realized, I was to write about this chapter it overwhelmed me.  Even the most profound Biblical scholars don’t agree on the interpretation of this book.  As I studied the chapter and prayed for insight, one thing kept glaring at me….

"Books were opened" (Rev 20:12). This has to be the scariest line in the entire Bible. Revelation 20 tells us that someday, the books will be opened. Someday, every single person will stand before the throne of God –  We will be standing there by ourselves – just me and God. Solo. My family and friends are not surrounding me and supporting me. I am not there with life's achievements – position, power, glory, grades, ribbons. I am not there with my money and my wealth. I will stand before God by myself and the books will be opened.

"Books were opened" (Rev 20:12).Does this scare you? It should. It should if your name is not written in the other book, the book of life. It should if you are not a believer. It should if you do not confess Christ as your Lord and Savior…

Is your name in the Lamb's book of life? How can you know? You trust Him. How can you know you trust Him? Your life begins to change, as He changes you, from the inside out. However, as much you struggle, He plants inside you that deep, deep desire to live for him. And we can be assured, as Jesus said in Revelation 3:5, He will never blot our name out of that book. We can be assured that we will be His forever, in the forever kingdom of the Son of Man.

To sum it up—this verse says it all……..

(John 3:16) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

There you have it – whoever believes in Him shall NOT perish.  Blessed assurance, we need not be afraid.

Revelation Chapter 19

Merry Christmas! 

As Christmas nears each year, I seem to gravitate to one of the classic hymns: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (ancient Latin origin). Both the music and lyrics have a hypnotic grip on me:

“O come, O come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear” 

With child-like giddiness, I long for Christmas to arrive - it overflows with joy, echoing the glorious birth of Jesus, Messiah! 

Although “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is commonly viewed in the context of anticipation of the virgin birth, it can be heard as a beckoning for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 19 is massive. It is climactic. THIS IS THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST, which Jesus Himself talked about in Matthew 24! This is a grand scene, nearly indescribable – shouting, singing, praise, falling-down worship, and then…:

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. 

Revelation 19:11-14

The image of Jesus as the Faithful and True rider of the white horse is beyond compare. Could this be the same flawless yet fragile Jesus that was placed in the manger in Bethlehem? Is it really the same innocent yet condemned Jesus that perished on a cross at Golgotha? Could it be the same Jesus that was placed in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb yet was raised from the dead on the third day?

YES! On all counts! This is exactly the same Jesus! This is Emmanuel, God With Us! And here, in Revelation 19, He is the conquering, everlasting, omniscient, omnipotent KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS! In vv.19-21, John graphically described Jesus’ vanquish of the beast and the false prophet (two-thirds of the Satanic Trinity), leaving only Satan himself for later.

Especially after reading vv.11-21, I find myself open-mouthed and wide-eyed. As Christians, we are in relationship with this same Jesus! One of the sweetest beatitudes in scripture is found in this chapter:

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

Revelation 19:9

As believers, we are blessed to be invited to the wedding feast! And collectively as Christians (the Church), we actually are Christ’s bride! In this truly extraordinary relationship, Romans 8:31-39 comes to mind – we are more than conquerors!

This Christmas, contemplate that the flawless and fragile infant we celebrate (the first coming of Jesus) is the King of Kings, the ultimate conqueror we eagerly await (the second coming of Jesus)!

“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel”


Revelation Chapter 18

After John was given the vision of Babylon falling, he hears another voice with a double edged message.  One edge  cutting into Babylon and her followers and the other challenging God’s people to “give back to her as she has given, pay her back double for what she has done, mix her double portion from her own cup.  Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself.” (vv.6-7)  These instructions seem to fly in the face of what Jesus taught, that revenge belongs to God alone.  So, in Revelation, Christians to “heap burning coals” is in obedience to the commands of Jesus as well as Peter (I Peter 3:9) and Paul (Rom. 12:19-21). This paradox calls for patience, endurance and faithfulness which result in Christians participating in judgment by not taking up the sword, like Jesus, being the slain Lamb of God.  

The other edge of the message refers to how the world reacts to the demise of the Babylon/Roman Empire.  The three laments from the kings, merchants, and seafarers are repeated, “Woe! Woe! O great city, O Babylon, city of power…”  What are they lamenting about?  The loss of life?  I doubt that. They are lamenting about the loss of revenue, loss of profit, material wealth!  I wonder what we, here in America, would lament about should disaster, calamity on a large scale occur?  I think about what some people said in light of the oncoming hurricane Florence to the East Coast,  “…we’re not evacuating our homes/businesses because we want to be available  to see, protect what we own…”  At the risk of life, material possessions are a priority? As Christians, when Jesus asks for commitment, what  are we committed to? What are we willing to give up for following Christ?

Revelation Chapter 17

The rich imagery of the book of Revelations is something I have yet to fully delve into and understand.  In the meantime, we know that all Scripture is beneficial for teaching, reproving and setting things straight.  Even with my limited understanding of the book of Revelations, the Holy Spirit revealed a big truth from my own life.

The Harlot

I remember the first time I realized I was “playing the harlot” and it shocked me at the time.  There are many ways to play the harlot, and most of them have nothing to do with sexual immorality.  For me, it was a high-tech company in the Bay Area that seemed to be providing me with everything I needed.  They gave me ample compensation, matched my retirement fund contributions, kept us all healthy through medical insurance, paid me for time off whenever I needed it.  They even provided a free campground for my extended family to vacation at every summer.  I began to think of this company as a sort of provider for my families’ needs – and that is where I was playing the harlot.

By enlarging my view of this company, I was taking my eyes and my heart away from God as my true Provider.  They call this “spiritual infidelity” and it is very serious.  What I have learned all these years later is that God has many ways to provide for us.  He rebukes the devourer, for example.  He sometimes makes what we have “never seem to wear out” (Israelites in the desert) – haven’t you experienced that?  He brings us so much contentment and peace that our desires are fewer and our rest is greater.  Sometimes he uses a job.  In the end, only God is our Great Provider.  No company, benefactor or inheritance will ever take His place. 

Today, all I want are His Plans, His Thoughts.  By simply asking Him daily what are His Plans, His Thoughts for me, I’m tied securely to Him and free from the bondage of spiritual infidelity to a false provider. 

Revelation Chapter 16

We are nearing the end of the New Testament challenge and I have read about many great miracles and of people’s lives being transformed in positive ways.   God’s wrath has been mentioned but not put on display.  Well now I see it, and it strikes me as if I am watching a horror movie, and I don’t like horror movies!  I have heard people described in a positive light as “God fearing”, and I often think why would people fear the God that loves us so much that he sent Jesus to bring us new life and to reconcile us to Himself.  Well maybe it is this side of God, the side that is described in this chapter, that we should  fear.  I don’t really know.  But this chapter has made me think.