Ephesians 2 uses the metaphor of a building to describe the nature of the church. Paul says that the cornerstone of this building is Christ, every stone thereafter is a Christ-follower, and the structure is an ever-growing temple that houses the presence of God. It is a beautiful picture of the church, but it’s more than just beautiful, it has a significant practical implication. As we consider what it means to be the church in any day and any age and any culture, we must always return back to the cornerstone. The cornerstone of a building is the model for every other stone. The stones are shaped and molded in relation to the cornerstone. So as we explore what it means to be the church, we begin with the model Christ has laid for us, the self-sacrificial love he demonstrated for the world, and the new life he calls us into.
The book of Revelation can feel a little like walking into a curiosity shop or Ripley’s Believe-It-or-Not. You walk through the shop looking at the shrunken heads, mummies, double-headed snakes and then walk out hoping to spot something like that in nature—though with no success. But the reality of the matter is Revelation is not a curiosity shop and it is a deeply practical book. It is twenty-two chapters that relentlessly ask one question: Which city do you call home? Babylon or new Jerusalem? The book, therefore, is a warning to those who would cozy up with the Babylons of our day, and it is an encouragement to keep searching for that eternal city where the tree of life produces fruit 12 months a year and the river of life runs through it.
In the new Jerusalem, the sun and the moon are said to be unnecessary because whatever light they might produce will be overshadowed by the glory of God who dwells among mortals. But the glory of God has an interesting effect. According to Revelation 21:24, something about God’s glory draws the nations and their kings to stream into the new Jerusalem like a line of ants drawn to a lollipop left on the back porch in hot summer sun. But more striking than the streaming of the nations is that the kings are said to bring their own glory. And more striking still is that these kings were seen, just chapters prior, siding with God’s enemies. What in the world is going on here? And what does it mean for us?
In Eden, the world was hospitable and kind because God walked in the garden and dwelled with creation. But east of Eden, the world was inhospitable; food grew at the sweat of one’s brow; babies were born amid pain and danger; brothers acted savagely toward one another. What changed? It wasn’t the new location but the absence of God that changed everything. Like a prodigal child looking for contentment in all the wrong places, we went in search of that which we already had. Today we see a vision of a world in which God once again dwells with humanity, a world where union with God is restored in full. What a world that will be!
Have you ever read a book so gripping that by the time you were nearing the end you just could not put it down? You had to keep reading. And as you read, you were filled with anxious energy, excitement, a full heart, or perhaps even joy. If you know this feeling, then you know quite well where Revelation 7 sits in the emotional journey of the narrative of Scripture. It sits in view of the end of it all, where the book is coming to a close and everything that the book has been building up to is beginning to get tied together. God and the Lamb are on the throne, and salvation is at hand.
Modern Christians don’t always celebrate it, but for most of church history, the Easter “season” is not a one-day affair. It goes on for 7 whole weeks! It even has a fun name: Eastertide. Like the tide of an ocean that goes up and down but requires a little patience to fully enjoy, Easter and the resurrection of Jesus lasts for a little longer than we often let it.
God has taken the most tragic event of history and turned it into the most beautiful event of history! Now, if God is able to make beauty from ashes in an event as profound as the death of Christ, just imagine what God can do with your life!
Palm Sunday is a paradoxical day. Today we celebrate Jesus’ “triumphal entry”, but just how triumphal is it?
With the death and resurrection of Christ, the world changed forever. A ray of light shot out of the darkness and began to transform everything and continues to transform everything. You and I are called to participate, becoming mirrors of the light that it might shine farther and wider.