The competition for your attention is fierce. From pop-up ads and notifications on the screen in the palm of your hand to the constant deluge of data that comes from all angles, it’s no wonder the human attention span is comparable with that of a gnat.
Nevertheless, what we see and hear, soaks into the subsoil of our thoughts and imagination and shapes how we see ourselves and the world around us. Human societies and their power brokers, commercial, ideological, and political know this and spend billions to win our attention and gain the allegiance of our hearts and minds. (Even if it’s just to sell us soap!)
I guess the challenge of how we stand out when we are bombarded with all of these social pressures is what has drawn me to Revelation for our autumn series. To preach where preachers fear to tread!
Spoiler alert! For those of you looking for a blow-by-blow, dated account of the road to Armageddon and the end of the world be prepared to be disappointed. Revelation is intended not for empty speculation about the future but for informed discipleship in the present.
What do you see?
Revelation is an invitation to see. It asks us to lift our vision up from the pressures and powers that seek to form us and to live in the light of heavenly reality.
Of course, to see the unseen world is somewhat more of a challenge than to be distracted by the next thing in our line of sight. Yet, it is vital if we are to be disciples of Jesus, and not clones of our culture and our personal afflictions, that we see a different path and hear the beat of a different drum.
Michael Wilcox’s commentary is subtitled “I saw heaven opened” which brilliantly captures the theme of the book. John’s testimony is to have seen Jesus, exalted as the object of eternal worship and engaged in the world at the centre of history.
I am struck that this vision comes through his commitment to worship and pray. It is as he is “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” that his eyes are opened to see. He sees through worship.
That tells me that our personal practice of worship (whatever that looks like) is essential to our living distinctive lives.
And it begs the question.
What do you worship?
Revelation exposes that the conflict that rages between the beast and the lamb is a worship war. It asks,
“Who or what has ultimate worth for you?”
“Before whom do you cast your crown of allegiance?”
For sure we become like what we worship. A society like Rome which worshipped status and influence, was preoccupied with sexual gratification and the exercise of power over others, was one which was rotting from the inside out.
Christians soaked in this culture (and ours!) needed to decontaminate and to reset their values. To see the world from heaven’s perspective, not Rome’s.
Seeking God in confinement on his prison island in worship and prayer, transported John into a different world where Christ is all the glory, where the lamb has won the victory and the nations lay themselves down in wholehearted eternal praise. That reinforced his persistence against the power of the empire and spurred the churches on to remain faithful followers of King Jesus.
How do you worship?
Consider how you might find ways to reconfigure your perspective, and how worship and prayer might be for you a window into God’s world.
If you fancy digging into Revelation a bit more here are some recommendations:
1. Discipleship on the Edge – Darrell Johnson. Pastor (First Baptist Vancouver) and teacher. A wise, deep and challenging look at how to live the lessons of Revelation.
2. Revelation for the Rest of Us – Scot McKnight looks at the tricky themes of Revelation and applies its message to the challenges of being a disciple amidst the empires of our day.
3. Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination. Eugene Peterson’s beautifully written reflection on the imagery and poetry of Revelation
And some songs to “read” revelation by:
“7” by Brooke Ligertwood – inspired by Revelation, and Darrell Johnson’s commentary!