Discipleship, Grace

Conquered

As I read Scripture this morning I came across a passage in Revelation 12 that at once made me nostalgic. In the apocalyptic narrative of the dragon’s defeat and Satan being thrown down, the people belonging to Christ overcome by the blood and the word of their testimony.

The description, written to encourage believers facing first century persecution, is meant to stir rejoicing in the heavens, and among those in Christ. New Life Worship added the refrain to their mid-2000s song Overcome. That was my jam for a bit. That is the place of our victory, by the blood of Jesus we have forgiveness, a new covenant of grace. And the word of our testimony echos back the glory of our Savior as we stand firm in his righteousness and mission.

But as I read this text again this morning it was something else about these conquerors that stirred a different part of my soul.

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Revelation 12:11 (ESV)

Did you notice it? “For they loved not their lives even unto death.” You see if I worship only from the first half of the verse it can be my life that I cherish, a settled comfort in my faith when things are going right. After all we are overcomers. But I am struck that the conquering, the overcoming in Revelation 12 has an longer lens than my present experience. After all, there are plenty of moments that don’t feel like conquering. Especially when the standard by which I make such judgments is my life.

These conquerors though, who I think we are numbered among, don’t use their life as the gauge of overcoming. They gave their lives away. The did not love their lives, even dying for it. They answered the call of the Kingdom to come and die, not for self, but because the self had found something better.

In a year where many of us have made more than one statement prioritizing our “rights” and have aggressively tried to maintain our “lives” as they were before the pandemic, I wonder if this opportunity is exactly what we needed to steel the conquering spirit in us. All of this is for Jesus, his glory, his message, his Kingdom come. When we embrace sacrifice, surrender and giving away of our own lives, that is where this truth is owned. And where the Lord bolsters us for the battles ahead.

I know how hard this is and I am convinced that is why Scripture puts it before us so often. I also know there is never enough when the flesh lives for self. The only way I have experienced satisfaction is finding it in Jesus regardless of what life looks like. You still overcome by the blood and the word of your testimony – of God’s faithful, of his grace. And it is that blood and testimony that prime you to surrender your life for the only thing that is better.

As you ponder this today I pray that Jesus meets you and frees you of your life.

Discipleship

Pomegranates and the Christian

It is pomegranate season, or at least the tail end of it. When the trees are full and the fruit falls easily and the red, juicy flesh is ripe for the enjoying.

Our back yard has one such tree and it has been a delight for these six years (and no small amount of work for our harvester Stacy!) This year the kids were creative and decided to sell the pomegranates to raise money for Buddy Break, a respite program for families with kids with special needs.

As the harvest has come though, I can’t help but see the Christian in the pomegranate. And as I study the Sermon on the Mount I see it all the more.

You see, pomegranates grow from a bright pinkish red flower in the spring to the hardened dusty colored ball in September. You know the pomegranates are ready when you see them begin to break open under the force of the fruit inside. The bright purple proves them.

Now, bear with the illustration, the believer is formed and grows under the stress of life. The seasons of heat, and little water. Avoiding, if we can, the ‘birds’ or ‘rats’ that might try to pluck and harm us. As we persevere, something is happening inside. There is fruit welling up, getting strong and ready to be seen.

Then we are broken open and what is inside is bare for all to see. We don’t prefer the brokenness, but it is the way. And if we have found our source in Christ and his life, then the fruit is sweet and draws others to glorify our Father who is in heaven.

I am praying that this is a fruitful season for you as you trust in Jesus, and let the light of Christ shine in you.

Discipleship

Face to Face

I am thankful for the letters of the Apostle John in the Bible. To me they serve as permission to be brief but weighty in communication. But in the wake of this pandemic, John’s concluding line in his second letter laid bare my heart.

Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” 2 John 12 (ESV)

I have much to say to those I pastor, and man have I tried using the paper and ink of our day. But I long for face to face. It is what we were meant for. Without a doubt. And thank God we are in the beginning stages of gathering as the church again.

Even with this desire, the hunger for the complete joy we find in community, I don’t think John would encourage us to be reckless about it. As a whole I don’t think Scripture would either. So I won’t infringe on the conscience of others with my claim of my own rights, I will be patient as we get toward the day we can see smiles without masks again, I will attempt to humbly remind and be reminded that every path is an experiment as we don’t have all the answers.

I hope to be face to face soon, and that hope will carry us through… We are people of hope, now we get to live like it.