I love a good mystery. When I travel I always take one along to read – it’s a form of escape for me. Some of my favorite mystery writers are Ted Bell, David Baldacci, Clive Cussler, John Grisham, James Paterson. As a matter of fact, last night I finished a John Grisham book and I have a Jeffery Archer book waiting for me. I have not read Archer before so I will review it after I have read it. I think Ted Bell is my favorite. He can’t write them fast enough for me!
Now before someone gets upset; no, these are not Christian books, per se. They are pure entertainment. As talented as Patricia Cornell is, I didn’t enjoy the one book of her’s I did read. The first book she wrote was a book about my mother, Time for Remembering – a delightful book. But her other books are dark, the language is vile and the details gruesome. So…I don’t read her or anyone who writes like that!
I am amazed that these writers can think of the plots, create them in their minds, put them to paper to entertain and intrigue us – mystery is intriguing. I am not usually one who goes to the last chapter to find out what happens – I like the mystery. And these good writers always seem to find a twist in their plots so the last page might not be much help until you get to it.
The dictionary says a mystery is “anything that is kept secret, remains unexplained or unknown…the quality of being obscure or puzzling…any truth unknowable except by divine revelation…”
Mystery is used in the Bible frequently. My concordance lists 22 times that the word “mystery” is used. “Mystery of the kingdom of God”; Paul has a discussion in Romans 11 about the mysterious relationship the Gentiles have with the Jews in the family of God. There is a “revelation of the mystery” (Ro. 16:25). Which in the context seems to mean the mystery of God’s patience that all might have the opportunity to know Him. I Corinthians 2:7 speaks of God’s “hidden wisdom”. In I Corinthians 15, Paul talks about the mystery surrounding the resurrection of our bodies. And again in Ephesians Paul mentions the mystery of God’s will in bringing all things together under the Lordship of Christ. Grace is mentioned as “mystery” in the way God is going to join the Jews and Gentiles in the promise of Jesus. He illustrates it with a picture of marriage, how two become one. Paul talks of the mystery of the Gospel. And in Colossians Paul says while it has been hidden for ages it is, Christ in you the hope of glory.” The book of Revelation is full of mystery: mystery of the seven stars (1:20), “the mystery of God will be accomplished just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” (10:7), the mystery of the woman on the beast (17:5. 7) There is much we do not know in Revelation. There are those who have tried to explain and some have true understanding by divine revelation. But those are few.
God has chosen to veil His truth. Partly as protection – we could not bear the whole of it. But also He hides it to make us seek it out, dig for it. We are promised that when we seek Him with our whole heart we will find Him. (Jer. 29:13) Jesus told us to seek His kingdom first and everything else would fall into place. (Mt. 6:33)
I have had these thoughts, incomplete at best, rolling around in my brain for a while now. One afternoon at the gym while my friend was putting me through my paces, I asked her what she thought the mystery of God was. She thought for a moment and said, “His methods.” I think she nailed it! To gain you have to loose. To live you have to die. To receive you have give…God does things inside out and backwards from us! It’s a mystery.
Job 9:10 says, “Who doth great things past finding out”….and in 26:14 he tells us, “These are but the edges (fringes) of His ways”. Romans 11:33 says, “Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord?”
We serve a mighty, powerful, awesome God. He is beyond our imagination and beyond our comprehension. Yet He reveals Himself to us as we diligently, earnestly seek Him. He wants to be found by us; wants us to seek Him and know Him intimately. He is a God who can be known in personal relationship. And it is an adventure to seek Him!
I think I shared with you last year that I decided to read through the Chronological Bible in 2015. I did. I heartily recommend it. The year’s reading ends in Revelation. With all the tragic news of 2015, all the uncertainty, all the loss…the devastating floods, the catastrophic financial losses, the saber-rattling of nations, the threats from leaders, the godlessness, N. Korea testing a hydrogen bomb, the slaughter happening at a workplace or school, the war of words between candidates, the corruption… you know the list. We can rehearse it in our sleep. In light of all of that and more it is great to once again, be told that God is in control. Everything is on His time schedule. He has not forgotten us.
When I was young sometimes I would jump to the last page of a book to see how it ended – too impatient to let the plot unfold. I am sure we’ve all done that. When we look at the condition of the world, it is disheartening if not downright frightening. I am sad for my grandchildren; they will never know the world in which I grew up.
When I watched the evening news with my mother she’d often turn the TV off and declare as she did so; “I have read the last chapter and I know who wins”!
Let’s take the time to read the last chapters and remind ourselves Who wins!
21 – 22
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away. And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true. And he said unto me, They are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. … And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: her light was like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal: having a wall great and high; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: … The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the several gates was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof. And the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof: and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it. And the gates thereof shall in no wise be shut by day (for there shall be no night there): and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it: and there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they that are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more: and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and his servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face; and his name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall be night no more; and they need no light of lamp, neither light of sun; for the Lord God shall give them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
And he said unto me, These words are faithful and true: and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly come to pass. And behold, I come quickly. Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book.
And I John am he that heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel that showed me these things. And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren the prophets, and with them that keep the words of this book: worship God.
And he saith unto me, Seal not up the words of the prophecy of this book; for the time is at hand. He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still: and he that is holy, let him be made holy still. Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have the right to come to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city. Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie.
I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright, the morning star.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely.
I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.
He who testifieth these things saith, Yea: I come quickly. Amen: come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with the saints. Amen.
For those whose names are in the Book of Life, that’s our future and what a future it is! If you are not sure your name is written there you can make sure by repenting of your sin and asking Jesus to live in your heart. Immediately your name is written in the Book of Life and cannot be erased.
You have all of glory to look forward to. That’s your future.
American Standard Version. 1995 (Re 21:1–27). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
We are entering a new year. We may have plans, goals, and resolutions but have we stopped to invite God into the process? It is good to plan the year. Ask Him meet us in it – to dwell with us there. That’s not only a good thing but a wise thing to do.
In 2 Samuel 6:12 we read about a man named Edom. The Ark of God was placed in his home, temporarily. While it was there, God blessed him and all he had. Solomon assures us in Proverbs 3:33 that, “He blesses the home of the righteous”. Do we want all God has for us this year and do we want Him to bless all that we do? Let’s ask God into the planning; not wait until we have gotten ourselves into a mess.
So often when we plan we worry and fret over whether we have covered all our bases. Second-guess ourselves. He wants us to quit striving and trying to figure things out. Trust Him. He wants to be in control of the process and planning.
He’s already got plans for this year. His plans are precise – nothing is by accident – and perfect. His ways are good.
Let’s ask God to meet us this New Year in a special way. Let’s make plans as to how we will meet with Him: at what time, morning? afternoon? evening? where? Do you have a cozy, comfortable spot? What will your time look like? (you don’t have to follow some formula from someone else.) Journaling? Reading the scriptures? Studying the scriptures? Praying the scriptures? Praying? What posture? standing…kneeling…sitting…lying down? If you need some ideas there are many good books out now to help with your private devotional time. There are many. Just go to Amazon and type in “Bible devotional” – you will be flooded with titles. Actually, I published a 100 devotional book: Fear Not Tomorrow God, is Already There.
This past year I read through The Chronological Bible. Excellent. Some days the reading was quite difficult but I made it! It was worth it to me and I recommend that Bible or The Daily Walk Bible. God will bless your efforts. And we can rejoice today for the blessing that is already waiting for us in our tomorrow.
Happy New Year!
It had been a long 400 years of silence. Malachi had been the last “official” word from God. Now the silence was deafening. Life went on but where was God? Did He care? Did He leave them? Did He forget them? Had He washed His hands of them? Did they misinterpret what He said to them?
God had used prophets throughout Israel’s history to tell His people what He wanted them to do. He wanted them to rebuild the temple and worship Him alone. He wanted them to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him. Their history was very sketchy with God. It was a history of obedience, then rebellion, then obedience, then idolatry – up and down, back and forth. Most of them hadn’t listened to the prophets – there were a few that were obedient, a remnant. Most continued to disobey God. He warned them that their disobedience would be judged.
And then God got quiet – deathly quiet. He didn’t say anything to His people. He didn’t say anything for 400 years. That’s a long time! Just because God is silent does not mean He is not at work.
God’s people went through a hard time. But He was silent. Maybe He had forgotten them – but He said He wouldn’t. Maybe something happened to Him – but He is eternal. Maybe He went away – but He is always near.
The ones who were obedient were hopeful that God would one day speak to them again. They hoped year after year. They had no idea how He would speak. He surprised them. He didn’t shout from heaven. He didn’t stand on a street corner preaching. He didn’t send a letter. He sent a baby – His very own Son!
Why that’s ridiculous! Absurd. How would a baby bring victory over oppression? Peace to war and conflict – especially that in my own heart and mind? Who would devise such a plan? Can a mere baby do anything about my fears of the future and guilt of the past? Why would God think such a crazy plan would work? And for what reason?
Why expose Himself to the ugliness of the world? Foolishness. A baby isn’t relevant.
Or maybe, just maybe God is onto something! A baby is innocent and pure. A baby is sweet and tender. A baby brings people together. But wait a minute a baby grows up! This just doesn’t make sense. How would a baby make a difference?
Let’s ask the shepherds that had heard the angel’s message and then went to the stable to see the baby. They were glorifying God and praising Him all the way back to the fields. Or ask the magi. They bowed and worshipped the baby. Before they left, they gave lavish gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh . Odd gifts for a child. Not one toy.
Well, at least the gold could provide for their needs. But frankincense? It was an expensive spice which was the only spice allowed on the temple altar. And myrrh? It was used in embalming?
What was all that about? It speaks to the treasure to be found in Jesus. As the song says, “I rather have Jesus than silver or gold.” It speaks of the sacrifice of Jesus that would end the need for blood sacrifice it the temple. I speaks of Jesus death.
So what does all that gruesome stuff have to do with the baby and Christmas? Everything.