0.0 John Introduction

One of the books I read this summer discussed the training of the US Marines and other military branches on “the Big Why.”  Soldiers are trained to clearly understand, before anything else begins, their big why.  Why am I doing this?

At a high level, this may be to make a better life for me and my family.  It may be to honor those who came before me, particular past family members who have served.  It may be a love and commitment to country.  When things get tough, when you get tired, hungry, hurt, drained, feeling that you can’t go on and do more in the heat in the mud; the soldiers are taught to ask each other, why are we doing doing this.  The answer draws back to the big why.

At a mission level, understanding the big why of an operation or goal is critical to not get mired in the little challenges and obstacles.  When faced with obstacles, it allows for alternative approaches but maintains focus on the important objectives instead of the small impediments.

As we embark on a 30 week daily lesson plan, I think it is important for each of us to ask and answer our own “Big Why.”  Why do you want to complete this study of John?  Why do you want to show up every week?  Why do you want to do your lesson every day?

God doesn’t “require” you to invest time with Him every day.  God doesn’t “need” you to be in the word every day.  You aren’t doing this for God.  God also doesn’t love you more or less based on the time you spend with Him.  His love for you is unconditional – meaning, it doesn’t depend on you meeting certain conditions.

But there are a lot of good “Big Why” answers.  Maybe it is because the bible is the major way that our God has chosen to reveal Himself to us.  Maybe because it is the true inspired Word of God.  Maybe because your heart desires a closer walk.  Maybe you want more faith and less fear, more joy and less worry, more life and less just living.  Maybe you want to read and hear an eye witness account from someone who walked with Jesus every day.  Maybe you want to better understand, at every level, why this is called the Love Gospel.  Maybe it is because of the sacrifice that Jesus made.  Or maybe it is just because when you love someone you want to be with that person every day and you truly love Jesus.

There are lots and lots of possible big whys.  What is yours?

Because, the road will be difficult.  Every scheduling conflict will occur during BSF time.  Daily plans for doing your lesson will be met with distraction and chaos.  Your time will be hijacked, family will get sick, sporting events and commitments will pile up and things will conspire to keep you from having a daily walk in the word of God.  Temptations will abound and you will be faced with obstacles.

The road was not easy for Jesus.  As we will read this year, He faced every obstacle: physical, spatial, mental, spiritual.  He faced deceit from His closest followers.  He faced hatred from the religious leaders.  He faced death.  But His focus remained.  His Big Why was to do the will of His Father.  His Big Why was to save His sheep, so that not one would be lost.  His focus (which included quiet times of prayer when the obstacles mounted the highest) always came back to His Big Why – the love and unity with His Father.

What is your Big Why for the study of the book of John?  Write it down.  Carry it with you.  Put it on your bathroom mirror.  Put it on the visor of your car.  And pray!

Neither you nor I will be able to complete this journey on our own strength and will.  But with the power of the Holy Spirit, all things are possible, no obstacle is too great and no evil barrier can block our path to being with our Lord and Savior this day and for every day to come.

17.5 Revelation – Not just Counterfeit, Not just Tricked

Not just Counterfeit – Not just Tricked

I used to think that the warnings Jesus gave about false prophets and false messiahs referred to the end times and the role that the dragon and beasts would play.  But in our reading this week it became clear to me that this isn’t the case.

I know there have been false prophets and false messiahs.  I know it is important to know scripture so as not to be confused and to test their prophecies and signs against what actually happens, what is true, what is the word of God.

But the beast, while deceiving people, is not masquerading as Jesus.  He/It does not desire to be like God or like Jesus, he doesn’t want people to think he is those things.  He wants to replace God and Jesus.  He doesn’t want confusion.  He blasphemes God and wants to be worshiped in His place.  The people who bow down to the beast know he is the beast – they don’t think he is Jesus.

I understand where BSF is coming from with their discussion of the false trinity and false messiah and false lamb, but I don’t see that to be the desire of Satan.  I don’t think he wants to be a conterfeit God, where people think they are actually worshiping God, but in fact are worshiping him instead.  I think he wants to replace God.

We see this even in our times.  God is ridiculed and denegrated, while evil is positioned as fun and hip and attractive.  To quote an old Billy Joel song, there is still a belief that ‘I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun.’

But that is a lie, perpetrated by the father of lies.  Hell is not more fun – it is hell.  An eternal life apart from God is not a party, it is agony and hatred.  Evil does not ever love – it only lies and hates and decieves.

I do not think believers will be tricked by the beast to believe it is the messiah returned.  I think those who read, hear and heed the word of scripture will know the beast is the beast.  The biggest challenge is not head knowledge, it is an adequate faith and hope and confidence to endure 42 months of persecution and agony.  But what Satan and the world can dish out, the elect can transform into honor for God:

Acts 5:40-41 – They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.

Rev 3:10 – Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

In the end, Jesus Wins and Satan is left with nothing.


My Answers:

Dragon, Beast, Second Beast

To take on the appearance of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – this one brings the world to sin

the trinity of God is one of unity (between the elements of God and mankind), for peace, teaching, wisdom, gratitude.  The trinity of evil is to deceive, conquer, contrive war and cause mankind to fall and be denied peace and love

Test by the truth, by prophecy occurring, by consistency with the scriptures and prophets, will never draw you from God, good bears good fruit, evil does not – look at the fruit of the words.  Stay on guard – Revelation tells what will happen, don’t be amazed

By studying the word, wonderful signs are seen only as fulfillment of what God has promised and confirmation of the truth of God and wickedness of those who bring about the signs.  The signs, instead of demonstrating their authority and power, confirm their identity.

06.5 Revelation – Rebuked and Disciplined in Love

Rebuked and Disciplined in Love

In Revelation 3:19, Jesus tells the church in Laodicea, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.

I think we need to really understand what this is saying.  We use these words today as a synonym to punish.  When we think of rebuke, we think of scolding someone, berating, finger-wagging, criticizing.  When we think of discipline, we think of punishment, spanking, time-outs, being grounded, yelling.

But how does that fit with “those whom I love”?

It also brings up the question in our minds, when we are going through hard times, is it God’s punishment for something that we are doing wrong?  This thinking isn’t anything new, Job faced it when he was tested, the priests professed it for those who were physically diseased.  Even some religions profess that difficult situations, pain and affliction are “karma” for bad things.  You earn the punishment.

Again, that doesn’t fit with “those whom I love”.

However, if you dig deeper and look into the origins of the words rebuke and discipline, it paints a bigger picture with a deeper meaning.

The word rebuke has origins in in the Old French language.  It means to force back or repress.  It is similar to repent.  Repent is to turn back away from the wrong path.  Rebuke is to intervene in the life or actions of another to direct or prompt them to change their path.  It word be God’s personal engagement in your life prompting you into an act of repenting and changing path from the direction you are going.

But the word is actually even deeper in meaning than that.  The “buke” in the origin of the word is the same word that became busche or buche in French, meaning log.  Even non-French speakers may have heard of the Christmas treat known as a buche de noel (yule log cake).  So, in the original word, a rebuker would be someone who, literally, would cut out logs as in removing the dead and diseased word from a tree.

A gardner or arborist who “rebukes” a tree is not punishing the tree by forcing it back into a healthy path and trimming off the dead and diseased word.  I’m not saying that I think the tree would look forward to it or enjoy it, but it is being done in love and for the good of the plant.

In the same way, I think we misinterpret the word discipline.  Again, to most of us, to face discipline means to face punishment.  However, we also use the term as a compliment at other times, commending an individual or group for being disciplined to accomplish their goals and objectives.  We want our police, fire, soldiers, scientists, engineers, etc. to be disciplined in what they do.

The primary definition of the word discipline is not punishment but training.  It is “to train someone to follow and obey rules or a code of behavior” according to the dictionary.  Interestingly, the origin of discipline is the same as the origin of disciple.  To be a disciple means to undergo training and to submit in obedience to God.

I think with this further light we gain a much deeper understanding of this verse.  Because God loves us He is willing to actively be engaged in our lives.  He is willing to not only stand in our way when we have gotten our lives on the wrong path, but to intervene and cause us to turn back.  He is willing to step in and trim away the dead and diseased wood we have allowed to grow.  And after turning us around, He doesn’t leave us to wander aimlessly, but He trains us in His path, in His word, and toward His light.

In response, we are called on to “be earnest and repent.”  Even in repenting, we are not called upon to use our own strength and will power.  God is calling those He loves “to be sincere in their conviction” (earnest) toward Him and yield to His desire to turn their lives around and back toward Him (repent).

As a loving parent, God’s primary desire is to help His children grow and accomplish amazing things.  He wants His children to be on the right path and He is willing to do all the hard work to lead and teach and walk along side and even carry them along the way.

That is love!

My Answers:

Forgiven and clothed in wedding robes given a gift to present

crown, eternal life

Rebuke = force back original from cut down wood (bukier as in busche, log).  Cut away dead wood.
Discipline – root in the word disciple, method or methodology.  train, drill, teach

It is not punishment, but training and correction to adhere to a new course, a better course, with deadwood removed

05.3 Revelation – I Want to Do What I Want to Do

I Want to Do What I Want to Do

The letter to the Church in Thyatira starts out great.   I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” If only it could have stopped there.  But, there was something else living in their ranks.

Nevertheless, “You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet“.

Jezebel is likely a reference to the philosophy of the wife of King Ahab at the time of Elijah.  That Jezebel personified the self-centered attitude of “I want to do what I want to do.”  It was a philosophy of life without boundaries.  It was a belief that power and authority were to be used as weapons to take what I want from whom I want.  It was a life focused on self-indulgence seeing others beliefs and boundaries as tools that could be used against them for my own personal wants and gains.  It was an attitude of “live for the moment,” where lies flourished, image was everything, and eternity was mocked (may they be damned, and may I be cursed if…).  It was an attitude of living for now regardless of consequences.

Sound familiar?

There have been Jezebels of every age.  They have been people in power and authority.  They have been neighbors.  They have found their way into our places of work, our neighborhoods, our schools and even in to our churches.  Some of us may have been a Jezebel earlier in life.

Jezebelism is not to be tolerated.  I am not simply talking about the person.  The cardinal matter here is not the person but the attitude and philosophy of which the the person is a prophetess.

The instruction to the church is to “hold on”.  Jesus knows the corrosive nature of this attitude and philosophy.  He has been at work, in the spirit, on the hearts and minds of those who hold to what they contrive to be “the secret”, but is in fact nothing but lies.  He has called them to repent, but they have refused.

The instruction to the church is that He is coming and He will take care of this.  The proper authorities are on their way – just hold on.

The instruction is the same to us.  There are boundaries.  I am not the center of existence.  Power and authority are gifts given to serve.  It is not about me, it is all about God. Hold on.

But holding on doesn’t just mean not jumping in to the temptation with our entire being.  It also means not yielding to the temptation to see how far we can stretch the boundaries.  It means not seeing how close we can put our own self interest to the center of our world before we’ve pushed God aside.  It means not yielding to greed, lust, sexual immorality, theft, murder, idolatry, lying, cheating, self-centered behavior – not even a little beyond what is honoring and holy before the Lord.

There are boundaries.  Not as oppressive limits, but as healthy and helpful constraints.  Sweet treats are good, but a diet of only sweet treats is deadly.  We understand that, but we want to listen to Satan’s so-called deep secrets, including the idea that more is always better.  It’s not – that is one of the lies – and living a life without boundaries is missing the mark.  It is called sin.

Just hold on.  Keep doing good deeds.  Keep loving.  Keep on being faithful.  Keep your focus on service and perseverance.  Keep doing more than you did at first.


My Answers:

deeds, love and faith, service and perseverance, doing more now than you did at first.

sexual immorality.  eating of food sacrificed to idols.  Allowing and holding to the teaching of false teachers

She was a murderer, idol woshipper, blasphemer.  She was amoral leading her husband the king and the people he led against God and into sin

suffering (cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely) – strike her children dead, be repaid according to deeds

He is all knowing.  His eyes (like blazing fire) penetrate hearts and minds and know.  He will justly repay according to the deeds performed

04.2 Revelation – Tolerating Wicked People

Tolerating Wicked People

The buzz-word of our time seems to be tolerance.  Tolerance has been positioned to be not only a virtue, but a requirement of modern society.  Tolerance is defined as a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

But, your tolerance toward another does not grant that person the right to do wrong or perform wickedness nor does it require you to tolerate those wrongs or wicked acts.

Jesus commends the church of Ephesis because, “you cannot tolerate wicked people.”

I think the ways to reconcile this in our lives are as follows:

  1. Purposefully eliminate filling your life (what you read, listen to, think about and discuss) with the wickedness of the world.  There are far better things to fill your life with rather than the latest celebrity news and debauchery.  It can feel like we are swimming in soundbites of sin because that is what we have allowed to surround our lives.  Turn it off.  Spend less time on tabloid trash (or no time) and use that time to serve God by drinking in His Word and pouring out His love to others around you.
  2. Do not be drawn into the notion that practicing tolerance is the same as being accepting of every sin someone wishes to continue to perform.  It is possible to consider sinful behavior sin without hating the person committing the sin.  Jesus modeled this.  While we were sinners, He first loved us and died for us, paying the price for our sin before we did anything.  Jesus was inviting to sinners, but he absolutely did not encourage them to continue sinning.
  3. Do not allow your own sin to disqualify you from being able to stand against wickedness.  Those in the family of Jesus are not perfect (yet), but we are saved and forgiven.  We desire to continue to be transformed into holiness and desire to sin less.  The fact that you are not to cast the first stone, does not equate to giving up your right to believe that sin is sin.  It is not judging others to hold onto the core values of right and wrong.  That is a form of perseverence.
  4. Like the church in Revelation 2, test those who claim to be bringing a “new truth”.  If their teaching and preaching is not consistent with all the words of scripture, it is false teaching.

Will doing these things be an easy path?  In our times, the most intolerant people seem to be those refuse to tolerate beliefs by others that anything and everything they want to do is acceptable and right.  Tolerance is expected for all beliefs except the one that says that sin is sin and we require a savior from our sin.

But whose acceptance and praise do you desire?  From those on social media and in the news or from the one who holds the stars in His hand?  Do not grow weary.  Persevere.


My Answers:

The 7 stars are the angels of the 7 churches and the 7 lampstands are the 7 churches

The words John writes to the churches are the Words of Jesus, who holds the churches in His hand and knows all

1. Deeds   2. Hard Work   3. Perseverence   4. Cannot tolerate wicked people   5. Tested those who claim to be apostles but are not (and found them false). 6. Persevered 7. Endured hardships for Jesus’ name 8. Have not grown weary

I desire to have less tolerance for wicked people.  They tend to dominate news and discussions – there are better things!

examine the scriptures to see that it is true, do not conform to the world but stay transformed to know God’s will, if speaking by the spirit then praising Jesus as the Lord (always), test by actions and share good things with their instructor, test against scripture, know right from wrong by being fed daily by the bible

To, regardless of consequences, stand firm in the name of Jesus.  To witness the gospel.  To speak boldly and act differently.  To not back down.  Not for own sake – but for Jesus’ name.  To accept the persecution and hardships that come from that.


02.2 Revelation – Remember, Redeemed, Removed, Renewed

Remember, Redeemed, Removed, Renewed
Revelation Themes

As the conclusion to the amazing story of the bible, the book of Revelation is filled with victory.  It is a victory that can be shared by anyone who chooses the gift of being on the team.

The fact that the book opens with letters of warning to the churches shows the mercy and grace of our God.  That even in this final book, where John outlines the end times of God’s wrath and judgment, God tells him to extend an invitation again to put on the jersey of Christ and be clothed in His sacrifice.  John, in particular, calls the church to remember.  If you have ears – then listen.  This is important.  This is important enough that believers for ages have been willing to be afflicted, persecuted and subjected to suffering for the honor of staying true to the team colors.  Remember and repent.  You want to be on the winning team.

A game-winning, grand-slam, home run happens at the moment that the ball connects with the bat.  Yes, it has to fly through the air out of the park.  Yes, the players have to run the bases and touch home plate.  But, from the very moment of impact, the work is done.  In the same way, Jesus’ work of paying the price for sin and defeating death is done.  When He resurrected from the dead, He connected with a strike ball that has been on a victory trajectory ever since. We are redeemed. It is done.  But Jesus is not done, yet.  One of the central themes of Revelation is this run of redemption.  The best is yet to come as He rounds the bases and returns back to home plate on Earth, gathering every one of His team to rejoice in victory.

When He returns, it will not be a partial victory, but a final one.  Satan and sin will not, as the saying goes, “live to fight another day.”  Christ’s return is a time when Satan and evil are just defeated, but completely removed.  Those who have made the choice of evil, who have rejected the gift of Jesus and rejected God, are judged and will be found to be incapable of paying the price of their own sins.  They and all enemies of God and good will be removed, forever.

And, finally, the book of Revelation closes with the most amazing gift of all.  God does not leave us to clean up the mess of this broken world.  We are not left in a war savaged place, with the need to tear out and rebuild on top of the weak foundations of the past.  But, instead, God takes us to a new place.  A place of beauty and peace of joy and happiness.  We have nothing to contribute to it, it is a wedding feast and the one true happily ever after ending.

My Answers:

1. greetings from him who is, who was and who is to come. Jesus the ruler of the kings of the earth.  Look his is coming with the clouds, every eye will see him – Look, I am coming soon, blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy
2. Be faithful, Jesus knows about affliction, persecution, suffering.  He will give you life as a victor’s crown. captivity and death will continue, but be patient, endure and faithful
12. Dragon removed from heaven, triumphed over by blood of the lamb.  The woman who gave birth to the child was protected, dragon went off to wage war with her offspring.  Beast was given… (note: it did not take, it was given – it is not in control)
19. For the wedding of the lamb has come – blessed are those who are invited – white horse, rider was faithful and true, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS
21. New heaven and new earth, God’s dwelling place is now among His people – new heaven forever, river of water of life, tree of life, see the face of God in the city.  no more night, reign for ever and ever

b. God dwelling with His people for ever and ever – the new Heaven


00.0 Revelation – The Bible

When I used to travel for business I enjoyed reading Tom Clancy novels.  Clancy was a master of weaving threads into his stories.  You would be reading about a Russian submarine commander and then, with the turn of the page, the story would shift to a cargo ship in a storm which accidentally loses the ties on a piece of lumber which tumbles into the sea.  300 pages may go by before all of these separate threads suddenly merge into a final climax of the book.

But God, the greatest author, is the master of creating a tapestry of inter-joining threads through time.  He started with a single thread, “in the beginning, God”.  He is the thread, the origin of the story.  From here he spins Himself out into all of creation, the heavens and the earth, day and night, plants and animals, us.  He allows for darkness to exist, because He wants us to choose the golden threads of light.  But even when we choose darkness through sin, God still, like a master weaver, simply weaves that into His masterpiece to further highlight the brilliance of His gift.

We as humans, tend to think of this spinning and weaving as always going out and becoming bigger, wider, longer.  Stretching and expanding, spinning further and further out of control.  But the greatest author, God, tells a different story in the bible.  These multiple threads are not the conclusions in and of themselves.  Instead, there is one protagonist, one single main character, that interconnects every thread of life throughout eternity.  The point is not to spin off into a million or billion different stories, but instead to open our eyes to the fact that all of these different stories all lead back to a single, unbroken, thread.

In the book of Revelation, we see the climax of the story.  We see the author separate the dark from the light, we see the lifting and joining of every story and every soul who is connected through grace and faith.  We see the destruction of the darkness, but, more so, we see not only the salvation of God, but we see how everything, through all time, has not been about us, but it has always been about Him.  We think of the bible as books of law and poetry, as history and prophecy, but, it is actually a biography, written so we may understand God and God’s big story.

And, finally, while we reach the climax in Revelation, we don’t reach the conclusion, because, as we will read and study, that thread continues into the sequel, into new life in a new heaven and new earth through the same amazing, eternal God.