Revelation 12:7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. (NIV) I think we all have this image of Heaven being a place of love, harmony, and peace. We picture beautiful landscapes and wonderful buildings, streets paved with gold, and angels on every corner. We look forward to being there eternally with Jesus, to look upon His face, to hear His voice, and listen to His stories. We create these wonderful pictures of Heaven in our minds because we want it to be a perfect paradise, where all our hopes are fulfilled and our fears are set aside. We want it to be a place like no other where we can joyfully spend the rest of Eternity with our Creator, Savior, and loved ones. And then, when we are reading the Book of Revelation, we come across today’s verse, so we wonder if our images are naïve and largely unreal. How could there be a war in heaven? How could the most beautiful and peaceful place in existence be plagued with division and violence, separation and conflict? Surely there must be something wrong here. We can sadly see all those things going on in our sinful world, but Heaven? How could Heaven be penetrated by war? According to the scriptures, Satan tried to overthrow God and ruin both Heaven and Earth. A third of the angels in Heaven was on his side, so Satan almost conquered the invincible God. The greatest angel of them all, Michael, fought against Satan and prevailed, hurling the devil and his demonic cohorts to Earth, where the war continues, which is why our world is so full of violence, hatred, racism, and injustice. Satan wants to spoil the Earth because God loves it. He wants to separate us from one another because Christ redeems us. He wants to destroy humanity, the environment, and this beautiful planet simply because the Holy Spirit sustains Christ’s Church here. Like the worm He is, Satan will do everything to contaminate our congregations, communities, politics, and nations in order to divide and conquer us because Satan is full of embittered grudges and seeks vengeance for his downfall by creating havoc among us, especially with regard to what is good and true. If the devil can make us question, twist, or reject the Truth, then we will become his pawns which will harm our present days and cause us to forfeit our future. No wonder then that Jesus called Satan the ‘Father of lies.” Perhaps you were expecting a different kind of devotional today. Maybe you were looking for something to comfort and sustain you, help and encourage you. I do write those kinds of devotionals, too, but today, I would be failing as a pastoral writer if I did not also write about the uncomfortable and inconvenient truth, or as the Apostle John reminds his readers at the end of today’s passage (Revelation 12:7-17): Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. (Revelation 12:17) Where do I see conflict and division in today’s world? Is this affecting my church and family? What does this tell me about its origin? Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Prince of Peace and the Teacher of Truth. Help us to see that the things which separate and divide us may be part of the war that Satan still wages among us. Grant us the ability to discern what is actually and factually true, instead of blindly accepting what we want to be true. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen. John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Come along and join us for worship on Sundays at 11:00 AM. You will be made very welcome 😊 Today’s image is one of John’s drawings for Lent called ‘Battle Beneath the Stars.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Battle. Revelation 11:6 They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want. (NIV) We have some amazing scientists in our congregation, who are world-renowned in their specialized research fields. They all teach at the University of Tennessee and are exceptionally knowledgeable about global issues and environmental matters. All of them are currently concerned about the common rejection of scientific data and research on climate change, industrial pollution, and environmental damage across our nation and around the world. They have years of experience in these major fields and planetary issues; their wisdom is something that could help halt the damage and restore our precious world. Sadly, time appears to be running out for human beings to effectively reverse these concerns. A continued insistence of ignoring the key facts and a foolish denial of adopting real solutions will deeply impact the world that our children and grandchildren exist in. Our pride and contempt will steal their future, causing our generation to be blamed for refusing to deal with our planetary problems. In ancient times, people were ignorant of what caused water to look like blood (red tide) or how to deal with earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, and floods. They were unable to either flee these terrible events or control the spread of the disaster. The Book of Revelation has many instances of people being destroyed by the elements. All of them were depicted as moments of God’s wrath over sinful people. However, today we have more information and scientific knowledge about what causes these things, helping us to diminish and avoid their major impacts. God gives us the intelligence to deal with them, but even He cannot compel us to accept the truth or facts. Human foolishness and capricious ignorance endanger all of our lives. Just because we don’t like what the scientists are telling us or can’t accept their solutions, does not mean that we are right and they are wrong. If anything, the history of humanity teaches us that when we ignore the facts, we end up suffering from the consequences of our own stupidity and inaction. When I look into my grandson’s eyes, I think about how much I love him and all that I hope for his future within my heart. Andrew will make his own decisions as he journeys through life, but some of those choices will be affected by what my generation think, believe, say, and do. I pray that I will hand over a planet to him that is worth living in, therefore, I will strive to defeat any ignorance, foolishness, or pride that may threaten his future environment and global existence. Do I accept or reject current scientific data on the environment? Why? Prayer: Lord God, You are the Creator of the world and the Sustainer of our planet. You see all of the damage and pollution that we are foolishly inflicting upon this precious jewel. Forgive our stupidity and open our hearts and minds to all that needs to be done in order to restore our world. Enable us to be willing to make sacrifices, as well as investments, which will heal and restore our planet. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen. Today’s image is one of John’s Bible drawings based on a verse from Psalm 119. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Psalm119. Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? (NIV) We all go through some dark and fearful times in our lives. A serious illness or injury to ourselves or a loved one may create some anxious moments. Domestic strife or a conflict at work may distress us and cause us to despair. Trying to meet a crucial deadline or struggling with important homework can put us under a lot of pressure. Losing a job or being disappointed by a friend can make us feel worthless or abandoned. Whatever the circumstance or situation, we feel vulnerable and weak, as well as scared and anxious, causing us to struggle with life and thinking about giving up on our dreams. Whenever I experience something like that, I frequently turn to the Book of Psalms for consolation, support, and wisdom. There’s usually a verse from those ancient sacred poems that resonates with my current situation which makes me feel as though God is speaking directly to me. One of those incredible verses is highlighted today. To know that in the midst of my darkness and despair that God is my light and salvation greatly helps me. To feel that the Lord is the stronghold of my life makes me feel protected, embraced and loved. Perhaps you need a message or a sign or a Biblical verse to get you through today. Maybe you have more going on in your life than you can handle. Whatever your circumstance, please take today’s verse as something from God that you can both lean on and rely upon. Let God lead you with His light; let God shield you from all that stresses you. What is currently stressing me? Am I willing to let God help me? Prayer: Lord God, You know our lives completely and are perfectly aware of all that is presently happening to us. In the midst of our trouble, be the light that leads us to better times. In our fearful moments, grant us Your strength and loving support. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen. Today’s image is one of John’s Easter drawings called ‘Beyond the Cross.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Cross. Psalm 25:4 Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. (NIV) It was in the Boy Scouts that I learned how to read and use a map. I can remember hiking in the Campsie hills above Glasgow, Scotland with my Scout troop. As we climbed the hills, a deep fog descended around us and before long, it seemed to me that we were hopelessly lost. As the mist slowly cleared, we began to see the landscape of the Campsies around us. During this time, our patient Scoutmaster unfolded a map and pointed out the various small streams and elevation markers that were drawn on it. At first, all I saw were lines on a piece of paper which meant nothing to me, but as my Scoutmaster pointed to all of the trails, brooks, and peaks around us while carefully identifying them on the map, I began to make the connection. He knew exactly where we were and he was teaching all of us how to discover our location and re-find our path. It was a wonderful lesson that I have never forgotten and to this very day, some fifty years later, I still enjoy looking at and reading maps wherever I go. In today’s highlighted Bible verse, the ancient psalmist is asking God to show him the right path to take. The psalm writer, possibly King David, has reached a point in his life where he doesn’t know what to do or where to go. He needs God to indicate his location and show him the way ahead, so he prayerfully and sincerely asks for God’s direction. It’s a simple act of faith and trust which we all experience many times in our lives. Thankfully, God hears our prayers and is always willing to show us the path ahead. So, no matter who we are or what we are feeling, encountering, or experiencing today, it’s good to know that God is always aware of the life trail that we are on, and will always be our map reader and patient guide. Where am I? What path does God want me to follow? Prayer: Lord God, You have always been leading us through each day of our lives. Every moment is a sacred experience; every step is an act of faith. Be with us and guide us on this great journey we call life and, when all of this is over, lead us upward and onward to Your Eternal Kingdom. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen. Today’s image is one of John’s Appalachian drawings called “Smoky Mountain Morning.” If you would like to view a larger version, click on this link: Smoky.
Revelation 5:6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the Earth. (NIV) I had a really weird dream last night. I was trying to escape from a high-rise building, but the elevator wasn’t working, so I scampered down the stairs as fast as I could. At some point, I went through a door and ended up in a coffee house which was full of people from the 1930s. It turned out to be set in Austria, but don’t ask me how I knew this – I’ve never been there in my life. Anyway, the color in my dream faded to monochrome and as I watched everyone in the café go about their business, conversations, and meals, I realized that I was the only one who knew about the coming World War which would tragically affect all of them. Just as I was about to warn them of the future, I woke up in a cold sweat. Who knows what would have happened if I slept longer. Some people say that dreams are supposed to be metaphysical ways in which the brain processes current issues and personal problems. I have no earthly idea what my dream was about or what troubles it was meant to resolve. I’m more inclined to think it was due to the dark chocolate that I ate before sleeping – at least, that’s what I’m telling myself. Every time I read the Book of Revelation, I get intrigued by the fantastic descriptions and enigmatic symbols that the Apostle John dreamed and wrote about. Some of them I understand, but others are so mysterious that I have no way of knowing completely what they represent. Today’s passage has always puzzled me and even though I accept that the Slain Lamb is symbolic of Christ, I just can’t fully fathom the seven horns, seven eyes, and seven spirits stuff. Biblical scholars have argued over the symbolism ever since John wrote down his great dream. I know that he was writing in some sort of code which his contemporaries understood, but honestly, some of it is totally lost on me. However, despite my puzzlement, I get the thrust of the passage. Jesus, through His sacrificial death, is the only One worthy enough to open the great seals which will usher in the end of the world as we know it. It is His right to do so because He has now been given the complete authority to judge the whole Earth. On that special and solemn day, we will all get to know the answer to these mysterious things. This means that the Church’s primary role today is to prepare our people for that crucial moment in which everything will be changed, including ourselves, forever. Am I prepared for the judgment that is yet to come? How is my church helping me get ready for that inevitable and unavoidable moment in Eternity? Prayer: Lord Jesus, there are things about You that we do not fully understand. Help us to see You as the Sovereign of the universe, the Lord of all creation, and the King of our lives. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen. Today’s image is one of John’s early psalm drawings based on Psalm 75. If you would like to view a larger version, click on this link: Time.
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