Today I was with a group of Evangelists who were challenged and inspired by some words from Jackie Pullinger. So often we are so locked into our own experience of the Christian faith that we fail to see that others simply do not see Jesus in the way we do. It’s as if when Jesus was on earth they wouldn’t be part of the crowd reaching out to him for healing or inspiration, he would have simply passed them by before they even realised it. Most of our evangelism and mission strategy is trying to persuade people to get to a place where we think they need to be, but it is a place they can’t even envisage. Meeting Jesus can only come from revelation not logic and they need to see the end from the beginning. He needs to reveal himself to them otherwise it relies on our words and descriptions which are imperfect and flawed. Vision isn’t something we construct, it is something God knows and lets us glimpse. The miracle is that by having the right word or deed for the right person at the right time, God can touch people with a sense of his presence and work his miracle of transformation. We need to be results hopeful not results oriented and we need to keep faithful to God’s spirit of revelation and pray that through the work and power fo the Holy Spirit that more people will catch this revelation. As Jackie said; “People will only learn the good bits of God’s story if they see something in us that is different, or churches often take too long to get to the good bit.” May we help more people get to the good bit before they miss it altogether.
“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him.” Ephesians 1:17
As you know, I have been reading the Biblical book of Revelation and I am about three quarters of the way through, reading about the dragons, whores, beasts and wars amongst the gods. It took me back to my early teenage years when I was taught about how the Common Market was recreating the old Roman Empire and, in taking the UK into it, Ted Heath was fulfilling biblical prophecy and the end times being almost upon us. It was the time of the Omen movies and the actor Sam Neil emerging in the final installment of those as the beast 666. For my own recreation there was even no escape as I was very much into the 70’s progressive rock group Genesis. The soaring melodies of Tony Banks and mystical lyrics of Peter Gabriel combined magnificently in their 23 minute pseudo apocalyptic opus master work ‘Supper’s Ready’ from the Foxtrot album. There is even a movement within the piece called Apocalypse in 9/8 which mentions Magog, fire falling from the skies, 666, 7 trumpets and the future of our eternal souls- stirring stuff! No one else was producing music like this that spoke to me and my developing Christian faith in this way and I was fascinated why a progressive rock group grounded in English public schooling would use one of the most complex books of the Bible as a basis for their most fantastic piece of music.I was in dreamland having discovered these new prophets of rock ‘n’ roll. Little did I know that with the passage of time the band would end up (minus Gabriel) singing about the hypocrisy of Evangelical preachers (Jesus he knows me) and sell their souls to chart pop music!
The prophesy of the end times has never been away- with the huge popularity of the Left Behindseries books in the US, and for some people who study every word and phrase of the revelation of St John as a route map to what will literally happen to the earth. Some politicians are so influenced by the story of Revelation it even impacts on their foreign and military policy thinking in the middle-east. As far me, coming afresh to Revelation after over 35 years, I am not so sure. What I know is that is uses a lot of obscure images that I do not fully understand and was written by John when he was around 90 years old, at a time when the early Christian church was facing persecution of a type they had not experienced before: this was a vision of how God would overcome evil. Someone very wise once said that ‘life can only be lived forward and can only be understood backwards.” Revelation is like this and I am pretty sceptical about any claims to interpret exactly what it all means other than God wins!
I’ll leave the last word from Genesis (not the first book of the Bible) but the rock group, and the closing lyrics from Supper’s Ready:
There’s an angel standing in the sun, and he’s crying with a loud voice.
“This is the supper of the mighty one”.
Lord of Lords, King of Kings, has returned to lead his children home, to take them to the new Jerusalem.
Now, there’s a promise.
You may have picked up from an earlier post that I am about to take the leap into Revelation- what I described as the scary book of the Bible. Well, I thought I may need some help so I pulled down from the shelves a copy of Nick Page’s The Bible Book- a Users Guide to get some advice. In his quick guide Nick wrote that “Well it’s a sort of a letter, but it’s more of a vision thing really.” He also said that the purpose of the book is “To record a vision of the end times. And to encourage certain churches to pull their fingers out.” The chapter on Revelation was headlined God Wins– well, that’s good enough commentary, I’d better get on with it.
The last time I encountered the book of Revelation from the Bible I was 15 years old- it scared me stiff and I became a Christian! But as I have been reading my way steadily through the New Testament I have gradually got closer to the book that probably divides Christian opinion more than any other . Later this week I will begin reading the only biblical book to carry both a blessing on those who read it and a curse on those who tamper with it (1:3; 22:18-19. Will it be like i’m back on that scary ghost train again at 15, or will it have lost some of its impact with the passage of time? After discovering more of the loving, inclusive and accepting Jesus of the Gospels, I know I will have to confront a very different Christ from these pages; a warlike murderer who shows no mercy for the godless as he descends from heaven on his war horse with his cape dripping with blood, wielding a tongue that slays thousands of Kings, generals and mighty men. Baby Jesus meek and mild it ain’t. So, pray for me and send in any comments and observations you have about this book- just one plea don’t shout boo whilst I’m reading it will you?