Author Archives: anglinsam

Zechariah 10-12; Revelation 20

Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened – the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds.

Revelation 20:11-12

Without a doubt, one of my favorite chapters in all of scripture is Revelation 21. The vision of a restored heavens and earth, creation put back to shalom is something I look forward to constantly.

But alas, chapter 20 fell to me, and I’m glad it did, it was a good challenge for me.

I was talking to a friend today about a situation we are both trying to navigate and I realized that I have a pretty big fixation on justice. I think that all people do, but for some reason I’ve always felt especially passionate about issues of injustice. I appreciate that now, but I didn’t appreciate it as much the time I started crying during a speech against abortion in 7th grade.

Anyhow, I can tend to get kind of fired up about injustice, but oftentimes I gauge injustice by my own standards, not necessarily God’s standards. Honestly there are just times that I don’t understand God’s standards, most of the time I do, but there are times when it’s a little tougher.

In chapter 20 there is a clear separation, it seems in the end the thing that matters is whose name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, and whose isn’t. Which is where I have trouble.

I often want chapter 21 without chapter 20, but it isn’t possible.

The brokenness and evil in the world has to be dealt with. In order for shalom, justice, and peace to be restored to God’s original and final hope for creation, the evil must be removed. In order for healing, the pain must be dealt with. It’s not something that people like to talk about, it makes me uncomfortable even now. My hope is that not a single human soul would be left out of the book of life. A hope that I echo from 1 Timothy 2:3-4

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Ultimately I trust God as he pursues all people with his endless grace and love, but the hope that all people might eventually declare Jesus as Lord requires that I live in a way that Jesus is actually real, is actually Good news, and is desperate to reconcile relationships with all people.

Even the ones that I have the hardest time loving.

My prayer for this next year is that the walls I’ve built up against people would be broken down, that Jesus love might be shared through my love for them. Tangible love backed up with action is what drew me to Jesus, now it’s time to share that with others.

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Nahum 1-3; Revelation 13

The beast was permitted to go to war against the saints and conquer them. He was given ruling authority over every tribe,people, language, and nation, and all those who live on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written since the foundation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was killed. If anyone has an ear, he had better listen!

If anyone is meant for captivity,

into captivity he will go.

If anyone is to be killed by the sword,

then by the sword he must be killed.

This requires steadfast endurance and faith from the saints.

Revelation 13:8-10

Admittedly, most of the time I have no idea what to do with Revelation. In many cases, I know what I don’t want to do with it, but when it comes to making concrete statements on what certain things mean, I tend to be pretty careful.

In any event, we know it was written to Christians who were undergoing serious persecution, and was ultimately supposed to give them hope in Jesus’ final victory, while acknowledging present suffering.

So in verse 8 when it talks about the beast having authority, I’m not so concerned with who or what the beast is necessarily, but more so with the purpose of the symbol, which is to acknowledge that satan has power in the present world, and that power is used to do evil, often against God’s people.

As for everyone whose name isn’t in the book of life who will worship the beast, it seems to be a good portrayal of the kingdoms/warfare view, which is essentially that people are either a part of God’s kingdom, and are called to advance that kingdom. If they aren’t in God’s kingdom through faith in Jesus, then they are essentially against God, and have aligned themselves with ‘the beast’. So the question is, since I believe I’m a part of God’s kingdom, am I utilizing my energy, words, actions, etc. to advance that kingdom?

And then the refrain, which is found all over Revelation, that Jesus’ people are supposed to persevere. We have the spiritual power to persevere through trials because Jesus who began his kingdom, will come again in power to defeat satan, and fulfill the renewing of all creation.

As I think about the end, which is Jesus’ victory, I’m compelled to weigh my actions based on whether or not they are helping to advance Jesus’ victory until he comes.

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Amos 4-6; Revelation 6

In both of these passages, I was struck with the heavy warnings of God’s judgment.

Imagery of fire, sword, famine, death, conquering, these aren’t things I typically spend very much time on.

It can be uncomfortable to think of God as judge, even if he is the one true righteous judge, there’s something in our humanity that fears that, and doesn’t want it to come.

 

But there is always hope tucked in small refrains like this one from Amos 5:14+15

 

Seek good and not evil so you can live!

Then the Lord, the God who commands armies, just might be with you,

as you claim he is.

Hate what is wrong, love what is right!

Promote justice at the city gate

Maybe the Lord, the God who commands armies, will have mercy on those who are left from Joseph.

I’m reminded of two things today when we’ve gone astray and fear judgment, or when those we love are possibly living in judgment or facing it in the future:

1. Like a parent disciplining a child, God’s reproof is always with the goal of reconciliation. His warnings are always with the hope that we will return and he can relent from what he intended. But there’s no trick way out, it’s a repentant heart change.

2. When God has no choice left but to reprove, judge, correct, his heart absolutely aches, because he is defined by his lovingkindness, and sometimes that requires discipline. The idea that when God needs to use the rod of correction, he is hesitant to do so and does it out of love, has helped me to see him in a new light through passages like this.

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Ezekiel 45-46; 2 Peter 3

The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

II Peter 3:9

One of the issues I think about quite a bit, is what is getting addressed here in 2 Peter. We believe Jesus died, rose again after three days, then ascended to the father. We believe he is coming back. Soon.

But Jesus starting talking about how soon he was coming back almost 2,000 years ago.

So we live in the tension between God’s version of soon, our version of soon, and why he hasn’t come back yet.

And I love how Peter puts it here, “The Lord is not slow concerning his promise” granted this was written fairly soon after Jesus had ascended, so I wonder if Peter would still say that if he were here now?

I think he would, and this verse explained it then, it explains it now, and if another 10,000 years go by before Jesus returns, this verse will still stand as the really good reason why.

“…because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

At the heart of two versions of the Christian worldview is this question: Is the world fundamentally getting better? Or is it getting worse?

I used to think the latter, but I am now wholly convinced the former is true. If we take the New Testament and teachings of Jesus seriously, I think we have to say the world is fundamentally getting better as God’s Kingdom continues to advance. Sometimes in large scale things like the Jesus Movement which birthed thousands if not tens of thousands of churches. But sometimes the Kingdom advances slowly. Like a little leaven in a lump of dough, or like a mustard seed that grows slowly.

When Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom, I believe that Kingdom has continually advanced and is constantly defeating the powers of darkness in this world. And God is exceedingly patient watching as his children, who have been given the keys to the Kingdom, continually work towards shalom in the world. As it says in the Lord’s prayer, ‘Your Kingdom come…’

So back to Peter’s reason for why the promise of Jesus coming has yet to be fulfilled, simply put, there are more people who God wants to bring into his Kingdom – namely, all people!

So the question I ask myself is, do I want to see those people enter into the Kingdom as bad as God does? While I know in my flesh I don’t love people the way God does, when I’m being led by the Spirit, my heart should ache for those who do not yet know him, and I should stake my life and energy towards bringing the Kingdom to those people. In this way of living, I would actually make proper use of the time that God has given me. It would be a shame to approach the throne and have God say, ‘I gave you so much time. You were always waiting and wondering for Jesus to return, but you never worked for those around you that were still in need of salvation.’

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Ezekiel 32-33; 1 Peter 1

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the deadthat is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. This brings you great joy,  although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. Such trials show the proven character of your faith,  which is much more valuable than gold – gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing awayand will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  You  have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious  joy, because you are attaining the goal of your faith – the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9

I added some bold in there so we could talk about what stuck out to me that I usually don’t think about. We’ve all heard messages about having joy in trials, and often this passage is used – rightly so.

But as so often happens, other layers to the text can get subdued because of one understanding. Often times the biblical authors are saying a whole lot, and we boil a passage like this down to the place we go when times get hard.

Another common one is John 3:16, that’s that passage all about going to heaven after you die. Well, yes, but there’s so much more there in the dialogue – especially verses 17-19!

But I digress. It’s been a hard season for my wife and I, so I read this passage thinking, “Oh good, I’ll get that nice reminder about it showing the character of our faith, etc.” But I noticed something here that I have missed before.

The first part that talks about joy is before Peter even says anything about trials. If you boil the passage down, you essentially get him saying, ‘you guys are always taking joy in your inheritance of salvation, even though sometimes times are going to be hard, it proves your faith has character, and so you rejoice because you are attaining the end goal of your faith (salvation).

So while he mentions trials, the main point of this section is really more about rejoicing in two main things, despite the trials of this earth.

First thing to rejoice in: By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the deadthat is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Second thing to rejoice in: because you are attaining the goal of your faith – the salvation of your souls.” 

In this view, the thing we are rejoicing in is the finished present/future work of Jesus, despite the trials.

Rather than the rejoicing in the trials because they prove something about my faith.

And of course there’s nothing wrong with rejoicing in a trial, we should rejoice at all times! But I think the subtle nuance in this passage of what we are rejoicing in, is the thing that will ultimately allow us to withstand the trials of this life.

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Ezekiel 16; Hebrews 12

‘For this is what the sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you according to what you have done when you despised your oath by breaking your covenant. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish a lasting  covenant with you. Then you will remember your conduct, and be ashamed when you receive your older and younger sisters. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on account of my covenant with you. I will establish my covenant with you, and then you will know that I am the Lord.'”

Ezekiel 16:59-62

Ezekiel 16 is an especially heavy chapter,

The indictments against God’s children Israel are serious, so serious that the best way that God can explain what they’ve done to him is through the context of a wife who chose to become a prostitute.

But not only that, the story starts with a classic ‘rags to riches’ tale. Israel was nothing, they weren’t even a nation when God called Abram and made the promise to him. After taking the Israel from a wandering bedouin, to a powerful force amongst the nations, you would think that of course they would only worship God, but not so.

They play the harlot with other gods and other nations, making treaties with them when instructed not to, worshipping their gods, and taking their women as wives.

But even worse than a prostitute the Lord calls them, because not only did they give themselves to others, they did it for free! They didn’t gain anything from these other nations, in fact they were often attacked and enslaved by them yet God says they still gave themselves freely to the false gods. And even worse than giving themselves away for free, they even brought offerings, they paid others for the honor of being their prostitute!

But after all that, the Lord, who can always bring beauty out of the ashes and brokenness, says that he will remember the covenant that he made with them. And even better than that! he says that he will even expand the covenant to include Israel’s ‘older and younger sisters’ which is what God was calling the pagan nations that Israel had been proverbially sleeping around with.

It’s hard sometimes to fathom the grace of the God that not only forgives Israel, but forgives the pagan nations that attacked, and led astray Israel his wife.

What the old covenant signs foreshadowed, Christ has now completed.

God provided the ram to Abram, that he might not sacrifice Isaac – on the same mountain that years later Jesus would die on, to allow in all tribes, tongues, and nations to the family of God.

God alone walked through the animal parts to seal the covenant, as if to say: ‘you and your descendants can’t possibly uphold this covenant, but as I walk through it now, so my son will walk through it finally, to seal you as mine forever.’

So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdomlet us give thanks, and through this let us offer worship pleasing to God in devotion and awe.

Hebrews 12:28

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Jeremiah 36-37; Philemon

So the story goes, Onesimus runs away from Philemon, and has been with Paul, taking care of him.

There’s all sorts of stuff I love about this letter, especially Paul’s funny way of ‘asking’ Philemon to release Onesimus, but really he’s telling him to.

But the biggest thing for me is how much the letter is dripping with Grace.

In Paul’s other letters we see a lot of arguments about grace, atonement, the reality of bodily resurrection, etc. But this letter has much more of a narrative feel to it, which I really enjoy.

 

You see Paul’s theology from other books play out in a real circumstance. There’s echoes of ‘neither slave nor free’, when Paul talks about Onesimus as a Son and a Brother rather than a slave. Onesimus is a ‘new creation’ – no longer in his old identity as a slave.

 

Paul has grace for Philemon, by asking him (albeit strongly) rather than just pulling authority cards (he reminds Philemon that he could though).

He has grace for Onesimus, even though he ran away – which was wrong – Paul realizes that Onesimus had a good heart in wanting to care for him while he was in prison. Paul also reminds Philemon that really he  should be taking care of Paul , but asks if Onesimus could be released for that task. And although we aren’t sure from this letter how it plays out, we assume that Philemon had grace on Onesimus and followed Paul’s appeals.

 

Furthermore there’s a lesson in here about taking God’s will into our own hands. Onesimus could have appealed to Philemon to be allowed to go care for Paul – but he took things into his own hands and ran off. Instead of scolding him heavily in the letter, Paul just sends him back with the letter to Philemon, correction Onesimus’ mistake, and teaching him a valuable lesson. God is the one caring for Paul while in prison ultimately, no matter who he uses to do it.

So often I see something needing to be done, and try to take it into my own hands, or gripe about who should be doing something about it that isn’t. When the better thing to do I see in this letter is to commit those things to the Lord’s capable hands, and he will provide according to what he sees as the current need. This happens all to often in ministry, we see a need and stretch ourselves too thin trying to cover everything. When I see something like that this week, I’m committing to pray for God’s provision in those areas, rather than taking things into my own hands. The right thing done the wrong way is never God’s plan.

Sam (anglinsam)

 

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