Hope in the Dark – Week 1
This week we kicked off a series called “Hope in the Dark” – you can catch it here if you missed it.
The fact is, we are a community of people who are desperate for hope right now. And there are many things we “look” at to have hope, to feel hopeful. We feel hopeful if we see
The numbers going down
Announcements of help or good news
Our investments going up
The test results for our loved ones coming back negative
That email we’ve been waiting for
A text that boosts our self-esteem
More followers or likes
But when things are dark – because we can’t see what’s in front of us, or because what we do see looks bad, worse or approaching the worst-case scenario – then we are tempted into despair and hopelessness.
How do we have hope when its dark?
Over the next two months through this blog (alongside the weekly teaching) we are hoping to answer that question; not primarily through information but experience. Our goal is to have an experience of hope that will be both tangible and share-able. Because the people around us need hope too.
Our guide for the journey is unlikely and bizarre – the book of Revelation. It’s a genre of literature called “Apocalyptic”. And we don’t mean “the catastrophic end of the world”, which is what the word Apocalypse has come to mean. For a more accurate and helpful understanding of a book like Revelation, watch this video that explains what Apocalyptic genre (in ancient Jewish and early-Christian literature is about):
With that in mind, this blog will help peel the layers of this book, week after to week, to give us together an experience of hope…in the dark.
For this week, we are going to read the same passage every day. Do not think “oh, I know this already”, and just skip the reading. Remember, the point is not information but experience. This is a vision/dream that we are meant to “See” with our imagination, to immerse ourselves in so that we see it as clearly as John did.
Pray: Lord, thank you that you speak to us – through your word, through the words of others. Holy Spirit, open my eyes so that I can see what’s real. Open my ears to hear what you want to say to me and my community through this ancient letter. Open my heart to receive it with joy and surrender to whatever you ask of me.
Read Revelation 1(here’s the online version)
John’s letter comes to a community of people dealing with isolation, chaos, hardship and injustice. In what ways do any of those words describe your situation or the community/circles you are a part of?
Thank the Lord Jesus that as the reigning King, He is over and above all of these circumstances. V.14 says that John saw a Jesus whose eyes were like fire. Thank Jesus that he sees everything you’re going through, and sees through all of the things that are confusing, hidden or foggy for everyone else.
In v.8 and v.17 Jesus describes himself as the “alpha and omega”, “the first and the last”. What feelings does this produce in you, knowing that Jesus has been Lord through all of time, and that He has seen the end from the beginning? What questions does this make you want to ask?
As you end your time in 2 minutes of silence, ask Jesus to impress on your imagination the part of this vision that is most important for you to “see” today.
Read: Revelation 1:9-18
John sees a vision of Jesus that is far greater, far more powerful and far more magnificent than even the Jesus he had seen many times in-person, years before. Each aspect of the image of Jesus that John describes is loaded with significance, both for John’s readers and us. Over the next four days, we will camp out on different aspects of this vision.
V.13 describes Jesus as wearing a robe that reached down to his feet, with a golden sash across His chest. This clothing reminds John and his readers that Jesus is our great High Priest. For most of us, the idea of a priest is far removed from our day-to-day lives; at the very least perhaps it connotes the idea of a holy (or maybe holier-than-thou) person who is disconnected from us, very unlike us. But that’s not what this aspect of Jesus is meant to communicate. Just the opposite. Jesus as the great high priest means that He brings God close to us (through Himself) and he brings us close to God. Whereas otherwise we would feel far or disconnected from God, Jesus bridges the gap completely; we can run to God with all our cares and burdens and concerns. And we can know for certain that Jesus is always bringing our concerns before God. Even when we grow tired of praying the same things, waiting for more hopeful results, distracted by lesser things, Jesus never loses sight of what matters most to us and for us.
Knowing that He is our great High Priest, close your eyes now and imagine each of the concerns and issues you are facing as big rocks; weights that you have been carrying. Imagine yourself sitting down, amongst all the burdens; you just don’t want to carry them any longer. Now see Jesus coming towards you, wearing the long robe and golden sash. He smiles at you, as he begins to pick up each of the burdens. One by one he lifts them up to God’s throne; and finally he picks you up. You feel weightless, your muscles relax and your breathing slows down.
End your time by asking Jesus to keep this picture playing over and over in your mind. As you encounter each burden throughout your day, ask Him to help you let him carry it, and carry you.
Thank Him for bringing you and your concerns near to God. Thank Him that He is God, near to you.
There are many smart people involved in the current issues of concern in the present. Whether that be political leaders, medical professionals or people who study human behavior. Intelligence, smarts, is a good thing. But it isn’t the most important thing – especially when it comes to making decisions; especially when it comes to making decisions in the dark. Smart people make bad decisions, foolish decisions, immoral decisions – just like less-than-smart people do. What’s needed more is Wisdom. Wisdom is about doing what’s right and best, which brings blessing to all involved. Man do we need more of that. All of us. Each of us. It’s good news that the first characteristic of Jesus that John observes in his vision is that He (Jesus) has white hair. In the ancient world, white hair was synonymous with Wisdom. Jesus shows John that He is ultimately, supremely, (thankfully) wise!
What decisions lie in front of you? List them, in your mind or on your digital/paper journal. Express the emotions that you feel about these decisions to Jesus. Stress? Worry? Fear? Frustration? Confusion?
Now ask Him for His wisdom. Ask him to reveal to you the things you can’t quite see or understand. Ask him to show you how your trust or confidence might be placed in something that is not worth your trust. Ask Him to show you the roots of your fear or anxiety or confusion. Ask Him for His wisdom to work through your speech, your actions, your decisions.
Thank Him for who He is.
End your time in two minutes of silence, slowly breathing in, as it were, His wisdom.
Read: Revelation 1:9-18
Pray and ask Jesus to show Himself to you in a vivid, powerful and lasting way, even this moment or this day.
v.15 says that Jesus’ voice when it spoke had two features – it sounded like rushing waters, and it looked like a sword coming out of his mouth when he spoke. Both these images connote a voice that is overpowering, louder and more clear than any other voice or sound. Rushing waters fills all the space in our eardrums, drowning out any other sound. A sword implies words that cut through the noise, words that can be heard clearly. It also implies that Jesus’ words cut through lies that we otherwise might mistake for truth or wisdom.
Today we are going to ask Jesus to make his words like that to us.
Think about what words have been loudest in your ears. Maybe it’s the words of a parent – either in the past or the present – that pushed you or shamed you or criticized you or were deafening by their absence. Perhaps it’s the words of a friend or spouse that have torn you down, instead of built you up. Perhaps it is your own voice, your own words, that are harsh, critical or discouraging. Now ask Jesus to speak. Ask Him what He thinks of you. Ask him to speak louder and clearer than any voice that is causing havoc in your life. Thank Him for what He says to you.
Now think about the voices or words or sounds that are causing hopelessness in your life. News reports? Economic conditions? Bad results? Less-than-positive prognosis? Ask Jesus to speak to you directly about any of those situations. What does He want you to know? Take 3 minutes to be silent and hear his response.
Finally, think about the people in your life that are battling difficulty, despair or hopelessness. Ask Jesus what clear and powerful words He has to say about those situations. Listen for words, verses or phrases He has. Perhaps you are meant to share them with those individuals, via text, email, msg or phone call. Prayerfully consider what you should do.
Read: Rev 1:9-18, paying special attention to vs. 17-18.
This weekend’s message reminded us that we need visions of Jesus which eclipse what is normally in daily view for us; a vision that fills the frame of our view of the world.
Let’s take time today to slowly personalize the last section of John’s vision of Jesus. Close your eyes and slow your breathing down. Imagine Jesus coming to you and putting his hand on your shoulder. He’s looking at you, focused on you. What does it feel like to know that the reigning King over all is giving you His undivided attention?
And now hear his words to you:
Do not be afraid. What are you afraid of right now? It may not look like fear in your life – it may look more like worry, anxiety or preoccupation with one thing. Hear Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of _____”, filling in the blank with your specifics.
I am the first and the last. Jesus has seen the end from the beginning, has always existed and will always exist. What situations or difficulties in your life seem to be going on “forever”? Which things need to change but seem never to change? Ask Jesus to help you patiently endure this season, situation or relationship.
I was dead…and now I’m alive forever and ever. Submit your fears of death, pain, suffering or calamity to Him. Be reminded that if He has conquered death itself, that all calamity, pain, suffering and even death, for those “in Christ”, will also end in everlasting life, victory.
I hold the keys to death and hades. What or who seems so powerful or overpowering in your life? A bully in your school or workplace? A boss? A political leader? Remember that Jesus is the ultimate authority that all authority must answer to. Picture Him faithfully and powerfully standing next to you as you live under the present “powers” in your life.