YOUTH DEVOTIONAL – NT BLOG
 
 

#271 – The End…

 

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” –Matt. 28:18-20

 

I remember the last days of a school year.  You’re going through that right now.  The joy of being done, the feeling of accomplishment, the looking forward to a summer of “doing nothing.”  (Or maybe you’ll be jumping into summer school and a range of activities?)  For me summer was always a break.  Baseball and hay bailing and riding bike.

And I’m old enough that I’ve finished junior high and high school and college and graduate school… and though my days of formal education may be over (you never know… perhaps I’ll go back to school at some point?) the process of education never ends.  As I continue to do theatre, I’m regularly learning new lighting boards.  In the area of sound, my church’s expanding into a digital sound board has caused me to learn more and new things about sound.  And then there is my ongoing study of Scripture and faith-related subjects. Learning never ends.


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#270 – Heaven’s Stage Manager

 

Revelation 22:6-21

 

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.  Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.  – Rev. 22:12-17

 

In the world of theatre, my profession, there is one person about whom it is always said that they are the first ones in the theatre and the last ones out.  The stage manager.  For you who don’t know, the stage manager does a lot more than just walk around backstage saying, “five minutes to show time.”   They work with the director for the entire rehearsal process, keeping track of all the things the director says to actors and decides, noting them in the “show Bible” – their binder that has the script as well as everything else related to the show.  They are the means of communication to all the actors, designers and technicians, sending out rehearsal and production reports, which chronicle all the relevant activities.  They schedule and oversee meetings.  They make sure the designers are collaborating.  They tape out the scenery in the rehearsal space and make sure they have rehearsal elements – costumes, props, scenic elements – to approximate any necessary items.  They keep track of every scenic element that changes during the course of the play, every prop (where it starts, how it’s used and where it ends up), every lighting moment, every sound effect, every costume change.  They give warnings to the actors about when the show is to start and nothing happens – lighting, sound, scenery, etc. – without the stage manager saying the magic word… “Go.” If they have done their job correctly, hardly anyone who comes to see a play will know that they were there, but if they don’t do their job correctly, the impact will be felt far and wide.


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#269 – Eternal Newness

 

Revelation 21:1-22:5

 

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” [Isa. 65:17] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. – Rev. 21:1-3

 

I recently bought a new pair of shoes.  My old pair had holes in the soles and was literally coming apart at the seams. After choosing my new shoes, the salesman asked if I wanted the shoes boxed up and I told him that if he’d toss my old ones in the garbage, I’d wear the new ones right then and there.  I know it sounds odd, but I instantly felt like my whole appearance had been dealt an upgrade; now that I had NEW SHOES, things were right with the world again.

If you’re like me, you like getting new stuff.  It’s not that I’m big into getting stuff for the sake of getting more stuff – of course we need to be conscious of the draw of consumerism; I’m talking about after something has been used up and is no longer performing the function it’s supposed to.  Something you rely on.  An old frying pan that has worn out its non-stick coating so that now everything sticks to it being replaced by a nice new pan that eggs just slip out of.  A phone that had been dropped and cracked getting replaced by a newer model.  Even something as simple as a new pair of shoes.


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#268 – Ultimate Yearbook

 

Revelation 20:1-15

 

And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide.  I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books…And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. – Rev. 20:11-12, 15

 

What is the first thing you do when you’ve gotten a yearbook from your school?  Do you remember?  If you’re like me, you probably turned to the page that held your picture to make sure you were there.  You know… find the year of your class and then go through the alphabet and find your page.  After that, again if you’re like me, you probably looked on the pages that included activities you had been a part of and checked out if you’re there. Sporting teams, music groups, other things you’d done.  And THEN, you probably paged through the yearbook, because (if your yearbooks were like mine) there were a variety of “filler” pictures, so you never knew where a picture of yourself might pop up.  And then you looked for people you knew as well (but probably more of an afterthought.)

I actually had a couple different yearbooks in which I was NOT pictured where I was supposed to be!  Can you imagine!  What a disappointment!  I’m not listed in one college yearbook at all!  They listed people in an index at the back of the book and I’m not there! Not listed with my class, not listed as having been involved in the various theatre productions I was a part of. Not listed in the jazz band.  It’s like I was not even there, and there was nothing I could do at that point – the book was already printed!

In today’s reading, John gets a glimpse into the Day of Judgment.


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#267 – Reinvented Jesus

 

Revelation 19:1-21

 

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.  From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords. – Rev 19:11-16

 

As I’m writing this it’s graduation season.  My oldest daughter just graduated from high school and today’s passage has me thinking about the process that so many high school graduates will go through come fall – a reinventing of themselves. 

I admit I get a little jaded by that term “reinvent myself.”  To me it conjures images of pop music stars radically changing their dress and hair style and music style simply because they want to keep their name on the lips of people who wag about celebrity.  This is not that.


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#266 – The Decline and Fall of the Babylonian Empire

 

Revelation 18:1-24

 

Then I heard another voice calling from heaven,

“Come away from her, my people.
    Do not take part in her sins,
    or you will be punished with her.
For her sins are piled as high as heaven,
    and God remembers her evil deeds.” – Rev. 18:4-5

 

One of the pivotal works in the field of history is The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  Considered by many to be the first “modern” look at history, it looks at why such a great and far-reaching empire could crumble. (Don’t worry – we’re not going to dig into a seminar in ancient history… well, not really.)

The simple truth is that we could remove the word “Roman” from the title of this book and replace it with various other countries, and they would be just as correctly titled. Egyptian.  Babylonian.  Assyrian. Persian.  Greek.  These all came before Rome.  Mongolian. Chinese. British.  French.  Spanish. Russian.  American.  These all came after Rome. 

So then the question becomes, which one of these is John talking about when he shares the Revelation he received from God about “Babylon’s” fall?  The simple answer is we don’t know for sure.  And… if you’re not careful, you can find yourself in the tall grass of theology and speculative history very quickly.  A casual search on the Internet about this chapter of Revelation will lead you into various and wild theories that include everything from a detailed account of how every word in Revelation is ONLY about the ancient Roman Empire to how everything in Revelation is tied into a global conspiracy that includes everything from an FBI plot to kill JFK to how 9-11 was an inside job.


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#265 – Fitting the Crime

 

Revelation 16:1-17:18

 

And I heard the angel who had authority over all water saying,

“You are just, O Holy One, who is and who always was,
    because you have sent these judgments.
Since they shed the blood
    of your holy people and your prophets,
you have given them blood to drink.
    It is their just reward.”

And I heard a voice from the altar, saying,

“Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty,
    your judgments are true and just.” – Rev. 16:5-7

 

When I read through Revelation, I sometimes feel the weight of the judgments more heavily than other times. In today’s reading, seven angels pour out seven bowls of God’s wrath.  These bowls result in festering sores on people, all living things in the seas dying, rivers and springs turning to blood, scorching heat from the sun, more pain from sores (on the people of the beast), waters drying up, and a massive earthquake accompanied by falling hailstones.

This is some pretty intense stuff and gets me thinking about phrases like, “fitting the punishment to the crime.”  Our American society has moved away from punishment in many ways (some good – parenting not relying on beating kids is, I think in large part a good thing) and so Revelation’s descriptions of God bringing punishment can be a challenge to our faith.  And this leads us off into a great debate about the nature of justice.  What should a happen to someone who breaks the law, especially repeatedly?  What is worse, killing someone, or swindling people out of 200 million dollars?  Is selling illegal drugs worse that taking illegal drugs?  And what happens when the government decides a particular illegal drug shouldn’t be illegal anymore (marijuana)?  These are not easy questions.  Then there is the biggie – the death penalty.  Is that a fair and righteous response or “cruel and unusual punishment”?


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#264 – Harvest Time

 

Revelation 14:6-15:8

 

Then I saw a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was someone like the Son of Man [from Dan 7:13. “Son of Man” is a title Jesus used for himself.]  He had a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.  Then another angel came from the Temple and shouted to the one sitting on the cloud, “Swing the sickle, for the time of harvest has come; the crop on earth is ripe.”  So the one sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the whole earth was harvested.

After that, another angel came from the Temple in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle.  Then another angel, who had power to destroy with fire, came from the altar. He shouted to the angel with the sharp sickle, “Swing your sickle now to gather the clusters of grapes from the vines of the earth, for they are ripe for judgment.”  So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress of God’s wrath.  The grapes were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle. – Rev. 14:14-20

 

If you’ve never lived on a farm, never planted a garden, never had a tomato plant on your back porch, then you don’t know the joy of harvest time (and if you have done those things, this section of Scripture will still present its challenges).  My own history with planting and harvesting is largely confined to my childhood.  I remember planting seeds with my grandparents and a couple other extended family members when I was little.  Corn and carrots and beans and potatoes and strawberries and watermelon.  And I remember the joy of collecting and eating those fresh fruits and veggies. (I was a kid, so perhaps it goes without saying that I enjoyed the strawberries (heaped on vanilla ice cream) and watermelon a bit more than the carrots and beans, but it was all a time of great excitement.  To be able to go out a pick ears of corn fresh from the stalk for dinner was a real treat.

And part of the reason harvest time was so enjoyable is because you literally get to enjoy the fruits of your labors.  All summer was spent tending the garden.  Watering. Weeding.  That’s right, no herbicides touched our gardens back then – it was walking the rows with a hoe in hand, often getting down and pulling those little weeds from around the tender shoots.  It was hot, dirty work, but it needed to be done.  We removed and killed those weeds by gathering them into piles just outside the edge of the garden and letting them lay, roots exposed on the hot ground.  It wouldn’t take long for them to wither and die.

Now Jesus had a different philosophy of caring for weeds.


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#263 – Nothing to be Afraid of

 

Revelation 13:1-14:5

 

“He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead.  And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.” – Rev. 13:16-18

 

There are some things that just evoke fear.  As a member of Gen X, I can attest to the power of some fear-evoking moments. The music that accompanied a certain shark… (daaaaa-DUM. daaaa-DUM.  da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM…)  For a while in my high school years, I enjoyed the horror movies genre.  A plain white hockey mask.  A beat up brown fedora (or the shadow of a man wearing one).  For some people oddly smiling dolls freak them out.  (Thanks a lot Chuckie.)  For the older generation, Anthony Perkins ruined staying at small roadside motels (what a Psycho he turned out to be, huh?) 

Then there are some numbers.  13. It’s “unlucky” right?  It’s why so many buildings go from the 12thto 14thfloor.  Nobody wants their office located on the 13thfloor.  But of all the numbers to be feared, the one that will evoke more reaction than any other is 666.  The number of the beast. 


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#262 – No Surrender

 

Revelation 12:1-17

 

“Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels.  And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven.  This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.” – Rev. 12:7-9

 

War movies have a long and glorious tradition, and they include historically based stories as well as science fiction and other action movies.  And one of the most dramatic themes in cinema within the war movie genre is “fighting the losing battle.”  I think of Saving Private Ryan, The Lord of the Rings (all three movies),Star Wars, even The Avengers.  Our heroes face incredible odds and immanent destruction and do you ever hear them say, “well… we’re just really outnumbered and there’s no real chance we have to win, so let’s just give up?”  Of course not.  They say things like, “If I’m going down, I’m taking as many of them with me as I can!” or “Never tell me the odds!” or (in the campy Galaxy Quest)“Never give up!  Never surrender!”

And of course, because they’re movies, it’s the “good guys” who win.  But we probably sometimes forget that the “bad guys” faced those losing battles as well.  At some point, even those armies that had the upper hand realize that they aren’t going to prevail.  The tide has turned and the options are surrender or fight to the death. 


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