Heavenly Worship (Revelation 5)

worthy is the lamb

Heavenly Worship
Scripture: Revelation 5
Notes from a message offered, 5/5/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Do you have a book of the Bible you avoid?

  • Leviticus – What happened to the story in Genesis and Exodus? It’s law and how to build the tabernacle.
  • Numbers- It’s a census
  • Joshua- Full of blood and genocide
  • Job- Very hard to read. Doesn’t seem fair.

How many of us avoid Revelation? It’s weird, mysterious, hard to understand.

All Scripture is God-breathed. We need all of it. We don’t have to avoid any of it. We can hear from God there.

Revelation 1-5

  • Revelation 1 is a vision of the powerful, victorious Christ
  • Revelation 2-3 are 7 letters to the 7 churches which were located in what is modern-day Turkey. All 7 letters were read by all 7 churches even though they are addressed to specific churches. They traveled together as a bundle. They are also letters to us, the current church, on how to be faith-full.
    • Jesus Christ is to be your first and only love
    • Following Jesus comes at a price. Discipleship is costly. You will suffer for your faith.
    • Choose truth over error/falsehood
    • Choose right relationship (righteousness) with God and others over evil
    • Don’t be a hypocrite. Your inner life should match your outer words and actions.
    • Jesus opens a door of opportunity to share the Good News in every time, place, and circumstance, no matter how hard the times seem
    • Stay awake, alive, afire, wholehearted in following and sharing Christ (not lukewarm)
  • Chapters 4-5 describe the heavenly throne room and worship in heaven
    • The One, True, Living God is seated on the throne surrounded by 4 powerful, divine creatures. On both sides of the throne is seated 12 elders- 12 to represent the 12 tribes of Israel (Old Testament) and 12 to represent the 12 apostles (New Testament).
    • There’s light, singing, and worship. It’s glorious!

Revelation 5

  • Scrolls of the ancient world were folded accordion-style (like a map) with seals on each fold. 7 seals meant the document was important, like a will. The scroll represents the will of God. It is in the right hand of God- the hand of power and authority.
  • Who is worthy to fully release the will of God into the world? Only Jesus Christ!
    • The Lion of the Tribe of Judah
    • The Root of David (covenant with David fulfilled)
    • The One who Conquers
    • The Lamb of God (who takes away the sins of the world)
    • The Slaughtered, Wounded One (by his stripes we are healed)
    • The One Who Is Worthy
    • The Resurrected One
  • The number 7 is used over in over and over in the book of Revelation to represent fulfillment, completion.

Heavenly Worship

  • The first response to the releasing of God’s will in the world is worship
  • Go to Revelation as a Word of hope for a persecuted people and you will find God
    • When, O Lord, will your will of peace, justice, goodness be released in the world?
    • When, O Lord, will your will of no more sin, no more pain, no more night, no more death be released in the world?
    • It will be released because the Lamb has conquered!
  • Worship 1- the 24 elders and 4 living creatures making music, bowing down, holding the prayers of all the faithful.
    • The fulfillment of the Great Commission (proclaim to all the world)
  • Worship 2- the elders and living creatures are joined by too many angels to count. All are singing with full voice.
    • Their song includes a list of 7 things the Lamb is worthy to receive: power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, blessing. You are worthy to receive it all.
  • Worship 3- The worship of all creation echoes the words of the angels.

We get a chance to experience a taste of heavenly worship in the here and now. We’re practicing. What do we do in heaven for all eternity after we die? We worship, we sing, we pray, we fellowship (every tribe, every language), we feast. No more separation between us and God and us and each other.

Come to worship. Come and gather. Come and hear the story. Come and sing. Come and pray. Come be together. Get a little taste of heaven. We need it.

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Heavenly Worship © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

7 Letters of Revelation: What Christ's Church Should Look Like

seven_letters_title_widescreen_16X9This is the summary page for seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. The posts contain quotes and prayers useful for sermon preparation or devotional purposes. In these scriptures, Jesus Christ reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

John Stott, in his book What Christ Thinks of the Church, writes:

In each of the seven letters Jesus Christ lays emphasis on a different mark which should characterize a true and living church. The Ephesian Christians are urged to return to their first, fresh love for him, while the Christians of Smyrna are warned that if they do not compromise they will surely suffer. The church in Pergamum is to champion truth in the face of error, and the church in Thyatira righteousness in the midst of evil. In Sardis the need is for inward reality behind the church’s outward show. Before the Philadelphian church the risen Lord has set an open door of opportunity for the spread of the gospel, and he bids them step boldly through it. The seventh letter is addressed to the church in Laodicea; it combines a fierce denunciation of complacency with a tender appeal for wholeheartedness.

Letter 1, Ephesus: God is our First Love
Revelation 2:1-7

Letter 2, Smyrna: Suffering and Sacrificial
Revelation 2:8-11

Letter 3, Pergamum: True to the Name, Jesus Christ is Lord
Revelation 2:12-17

Letter 4, Thyatira: Look Like the One You Love = Holy
Revelation 2:18-29

Letter 5, Sardis: Alive and Awake
Revelation 3:1-6

Letter 6, Philadelphia: Open to Opportunity
Revelation 3:7-13

Letter 7, Laodicea: On Fire for God
Revelation 3:14-22

7 Letters of Revelation: On Fire for God

on fire for godRevelation 3:14-22 NIV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity. – Frederic D. Huntington

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
― Elie Wiesel

The following quotes are from What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3 by John Stott

  • One longs to see today robust and courageous men and women bringing to Jesus Christ their thoughtful and total commitment.
  • This then is Christ’s view of us – of nominal Christians who are neither really nor wholeheartedly, committed to him. Morally and spiritually such people are naked, blind beggars. They are beggars because they have nothing with which to purchase their forgiveness or an entry into the Kingdom of God. They are naked because they have no clothes to fit them to stand before God. They are blind because they have no idea either of their spiritual poverty or of their spiritual danger.
  • Like the Laodiceans we have to renounce the old life of easygoing complacency. Smug self-satisfaction is not appropriate in one who bears the name of Christ. Shallow piety never saved anyone. There will be no hypocrites in heaven. So we have to break with these things. We much spit them out of our mouths lest he spit us out of his.

2 Timothy 1:5-7 NIV
I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. ― Brennan Manning 

I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. I claim the Methodist and the Baptist as mine and I claim everybody that loves Jesus Christ as mine; but I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. Men and women of all generations and everywhere that love the savior until ‘adoration’ has become the new word and they do not have to be entertained or amused.  ~ A. W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity

Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire,
Make my life a witness of Thy saving pow’r.
Millions grope in darkness, waiting for Thy Word,
Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire.
– Gene Barlett

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This is the seventh of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

7 Letters of Revelation: Open to Opportunity

Key in LockRevelation 3:7-13 NIV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars–I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Three quotes by John Stott from his commentary What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

  • The church urgently needs Christians of apostolic zeal who will count all things loss for Christ, and hazard life, comfort, career and reputation for him. The open doors are many, but there are few to go through them.
  • Here then is the balance of the Christian life. It is a life of give and take. “Freely you have received,” said Jesus, “freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) First we gratefully take what he offers; then we gladly give what he asks. He sets before us the open doors of salvation and of service. He bids us go in through the one to receive salvation and out through the other to give service. It is not possible to go through the second until we have been through the first. As Jesus puts it: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)
  • Not only is every individual Christian called to be a witness, but every local Christian community is called to mobilize its membership for mission. This will involve a careful training program, the regular visitation of the whole neighborhood, the development of home evangelism, and the arrangement of special events at which the gospel is shared. These are some of the doors which Christ as opened. We must make sure we go through them. The key is Christ’s but the choice is ours.

2 Timothy 4:1-2 NRSV
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.

Maybe “witnessing” is about the choice we have to plant seeds of unkindness, hurry, hate, and greed in one another’s lives, or to plant seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Whether it’s in our closest relationships or our brief encounters with strangers, we always have that choice—to bring life or to bring death, to bring an agenda or to bring love, to bring a product or to bring Jesus.
– Rachel Held Evans, Why I Don’t Witness to People on Airplanes (A Post in 3 Acts)

The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians, and business leaders. They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes- a time for men and women to be heroic in their faith and in spiritual character and power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low.
Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives

Prayer: Blow Open
Holy Jesus, blow open the doors of our hearts
We’ve locked them tight
in pride, in guilt
Swing them wide with wonder and grace
that we may walk through them
into your welcome
into your saving love

Holy Jesus, blow open the doors of your house
We’ve locked them tight
in fear, in apathy
Swing them wide with courage and hope
that we may walk through them
into your harvest
into your kingdom come

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This is the sixth of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

Prayer: Blow Open © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

7 Letters of Revelation: Alive and Awake

alive awake awareRevelation 3:1-6 NIV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

There was every indication of life and vigor. But outward appearances are notoriously deceptive; and this socially distinguished congregation was a spiritual graveyard. It seemed to be alive, but it was actually dead…. The reputation that Sardis had acquired was a reputation with human beings – but not with God. – John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

Proverbs 6:6-11 NRSV
Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise. Without having any chief or officer or ruler, it prepares its food in summer, and gathers its sustenance in harvest. How long will you lie there, O lazybones? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want, like an armed warrior.

Ephesians 10:14 NRSV
Sleeper, awake!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.

Jesus did not numb himself or withhold himself from human pain, as we see even in his  refusal of the numbing wine on the cross (Matthew 27:34). Some forms of suffering are necessary so that we can more fully know the human dilemma, so that we can even name our shadow self and confront it. Maybe evil itself has to be felt to understand its monstrosity, and to empathize with its victims. Brothers and sisters, the irony is not that God should feel so fiercely; it’s that his creatures feel so feebly. If there is nothing in your life to cry about, if there is nothing in your life to yell about, you must be out of  touch. We must all feel and know the immense pain of this global humanity. Then we are no longer isolated, but a true member of the universal Body of Christ.
– Richard Rohr

They watch for Christ who are sensitive, eager, apprehensive in mind, who are awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in honoring him, who look for him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if they found that he was coming at once…. This then is to watch: to be detached from what is present, and to live in what is unseen; to live in the thought of Christ as he came once, and as he will come again; to desire his second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of his first. -John Henry Newman

Psalm 57:7-8 (NIV)
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

We’re like kids whining in the back seat, “Are we there yet?” Well, we are there yet. We are here now. But we’re so busy being busy, and whining about it, that we don’t notice. Our busyness is not fruitfulness; it’s fear. We’re afraid of the stillness, afraid of the dark, afraid of what might come up in the silence. We’re afraid of not being in control and of being dependent, afraid of not knowing. We keep busy to stay unconscious. Advent invites us into the dark, into the silence, into wakefulness.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Pregnant Pause

Let me describe what it means to be truly present. Being present involves letting go of our constant preoccupations, immersing ourselves in the here and now, and giving ourselves wholeheartedly to whatever is at hand. … It’s about becoming more aware, alert, awake to the fullness of the immediate moment. If we are with another person, it means engaging with him or her with all of our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength. Such wholehearted attention requires patience, time, and disciplined effort. And it is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to those around us, especially our suffering neighbor. -Trevor Hudson, A Mile in My Shoes

Prayer: Break Through
Break through Jesus
Break through the tombs we make for ourselves
Break through the layers of sin and habit
callused eyes
hardened mind
gravelly heart

Awaken us from apathy and busyness and self-deception
We’re just going through the motions
We’re asleep at the wheel of life
Forgive us and awaken us from automatic pilot faith

We know nothing can keep you in the grave
You are risen, just as you said
We trust you to raise us up with you
and to make us alive with your joy. Amen

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This is the fifth of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

Click here for a worship resource entitled Awakening.

Prayer: Break Through © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page