Monday, January 9, 2017

maybe it's Maybelline

(written by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Revelation 9
From the dark underbelly of the advertising world, three particular commercials reached me as a kid growing up. Despite having no need or desire to use any of these products, they, for whatever reason, got stuck in my head. The first two involved shampoos: Pantene and Denorex. I would drive my parents crazy by going around and saying: "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" or "On this side, I can feel a tingling sensation" over and over. But the one phrase I remember joking around with the most was "Maybe it's Maybelline" because, no matter the situation, it applied to my junior high mind. We would blame every success or failure around us on poor old Maybelline: if someone spilled their milk, made a free throw, got in trouble, passed a test. Maybelline was always the real culprit.
"Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Maybelline" In a strange bit of irony, that company used commercial after commercial full of women who were definitely "born with it" to convince the rest of those who were not that the only possible solution was their product. But this silly phrase is very appropriate in helping us to understand the human heart.
Over the past two days, we've been reading through some downright terrifying passages describing the Great Tribulation. Starting in chapter 8 and right through today's reading, we see the following consequences occur, related to the 7 Trumpets:
- Trumpet 1: 1/3 of the earths vegetation is burned (8:7)
- Trumpet 2: 1/3 of the sea, sea creatures and sea vessels are destroyed (8:9)
- Trumpet 3: 1/3 of fresh water becomes poisonous (8:11)
- Trumpet 4: the radiance of the sun, moon & starts diminish by 33% (8:12)
- Trumpet 5: the Abyss is opened and creatures torment mankind (9:1-12)
- Trumpet 6: 1/3 of mankind is killed by destroying angels (9:13-19)
It's hard to even the imagine the scale and suffering of such horrors. But even more amazing to me is the reaction found at the end of this chapter. Consider vs. 20-21:
The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood--idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Each person has all the evidence they need to demonstrate their utter need for God. But instead of seeking Him for refuge, they still cling to all the practices that got them into this mess in the first place. The problem is not in the mind but in the heart. We saw this kind of insistence of doubt in the Israelites as they wandered in desert. Every day they experienced God's presence in the Pillar of Smoke and Fire, and God's provision in the manna he gave them. But this was not enough. "In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe." (1)
That is true of mankind today. All the evidence in the world cannot move a hardened heart. Believers and non-believers alike have this tendency to blame any and everything for our circumstances and problems, except ourselves. We have the tendency to trust in any and every possible solution, except God. We are not that different than the unrepentant people of Revelation 9 or the unbelieving Israelites.
And so the Word of God, here, as well as in numerous other passages, tells us the true conditions of our hearts. He warns us of our almost limitless capacity to deceive ourselves. These people serve as an example of what happens when we harden our hearts towards God.
Today's passage is a spiritual stress test on our hearts. So how is yours?
Instead of blaming God or the church or hypocrites or Maybelline, what we ought to do is come to the understanding that maybe we are born with it. Maybe the problem is really us. Maybe we are by nature "children of wrath" and "dead in our sins" (2). Maybe we really are still in need of a Savior- to save us not only from hell, but to also save us from ourselves.
And it's only from this place of total need that we begin to see the real Revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1) Psalm 78: 21. Read all of Psalm 78 for a short and sad summary of this thought.
(2) See Ephesians 2:1-10

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