Friday, September 30, 2011

Big Questions Worth Asking

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Zechariah 7:5 Say to all the people of the land and the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?

Observation: Questions of purpose are offered to the people.

Application: Every so often it’s good to examine ourselves and ask questions like, “Why do we do what we do?” or “Are we doing this for the right reasons?” It’s an opportunity to take a step back and look at life’s bigger picture. Such reflection can be done in regard to small things (such as our daily routines) or big things (such as our career or our ways of relating with those we profess to love).

These were the kinds of questions that God, through the prophet, asked of the people of old. Their ritualistic fasting…was it really for God? Their lamenting…were they lamenting that God’s ways were not being done or were they lamenting that they weren’t getting what they wanted?

Elsewhere in Scripture we are reminded that God’s ways are not our ways. For people of faith the implication and belief is that God’s ways are actually much better than our ways. Still, when one considers our more than occasional self-centered ways of living and acting, it would appear that we often fail to take our own beliefs to heart. Hence the need to periodically take a step back and ask ourselves some larger questions.

Prayer: Lord, it’s easy to be so engrossed in the flurry of life that we often don’t take enough time to more authentically pray (in the form of listening) and consider how we might best live in light of your mercy. Help us to turn that trend around. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(readings today included Zechariah 7-9 and Luke 13)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Levels of God's Anger and What they may mean

Scripture verse that caught my attention today: Zechariah 1:15 And I am extremely angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they made the disaster worse.

Observation: God has different levels of anger?

Application: This verse really caught my attention for some reason today. God speaks of having only a little anger and then having extreme anger.

I liken this anger to parental anger. Parents, at times, can be angry with their children and it can seem like significant anger. But in comparison to someone else harming said children, well, that’s when more intense (or extreme) anger can come into play. Suddenly the original anger is seen for what it truly was/is—mild by comparison.

This glimpse into divine thinking is quite interesting and raises an equally interesting question; Are God’s levels of anger related primarily to deeds done (or not done) or to God’s relationship to said people?

Personally, I’m inclined to think the latter. It’s been said that sin is sin, and that no one sin is any greater in God’s sight than another. I think that’s largely (and perhaps entirely) true. Yet God is also in the business of forgiveness. And God seems especially interested in forgiving those who place their hope in God and/or God’s son. In other words, it appears that God gets “a little” angry with those who are part of God’s kingdom and extremely angry with those who harm those who are part of God’s kingdom—at least beyond God’s original intent.

Complicating all of this, though, is the fact that we are dealing with how the prophet Zechariah understood God. And in the New Testament Jesus reveals that some who think they are in will be out and some who think they will be out will be in. So perhaps it’s foolish to even try to surmise what God’s anger ever really means.

Prayer: Lord, whether you are a little angry or extremely angry, please allow your graciousness to extend to all of us who endeavor to call upon you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(readings today included: Zechariah 1-3, Luke 11)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Today's Workout

Warm-up followed by:

Set 1:
Chin-ups with knee-ups
Barbell Front Squats
Suspended-bar push-ups
Rest 1 min. Repeat.

Set 2:
Bent-over dumbbell rows.
Rest 30 seconds. Repeat.

Set 3:
Lying Hip Extensions
Cross-body mountain-climbers
Rest 30 seconds. Repeat.

Set 4:
Dumbbell Deadlift/overhead press combo.
Side plank with leg-raises.
Rest 1 minute. Repeat.

Be Merciful?

Scripture verses that caught my attention today: Luke 6:35-36 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Observation: This is the part of God that we often find most offensive.

It’s interesting, I think, how often we want to receive mercy, but are not so keen on extending it to those who we may feel have wronged us and/or become a real or imagined detriment to society. I was reading today that one state recently decided to suspend the long-standing practice of giving death-row inmates a choice for their last meal. For the record, I’m not really arguing for or against the meal. It is what it is. But the argument presented was that, since the victim(s) did not have a choice for their last meal, neither should the perpetrator—especially since, in the most recent case, the inmate didn’t actually eat the meal he had requested.

The reasoning and subsequent change in policy seems fair, even logical on some levels. Perhaps it’s the way to go. But it does seem to be in contrast to the section of Luke’s Gospel (good news) found above. Regardless of how we carry out things on this earth, Jesus says that “God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked” and then Jesus has the audacity to ask us to do the same.

God help us.

Prayer: Lord, you are way more merciful than we are. Help us to grow into you way of being and doing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Daniel 11-12 and Luke 6)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

God's Mercies

Scripture Verses that caught my attention today: Daniel 9:18-19 Incline your ear, O my God, and hear. Open your eyes and look at our desolation and the city that bears your name. We do not present our supplication before you on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and act and do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people bear your name!”

Observation: I love the line “we do not present our supplication before you on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of your great mercies.”

Application: I suppose the question that comes to mind is this: “is there any other way to approach God?” I mean, is there ever a time that we can approach God on the ground of our rightness? Answer? No. Not even close. I think that’s one reason why human relationships are so easily strained. When we endeavor to try to ‘correct’ one another, it is often done from the assumption that one is right and one is wrong. But the one who is accused of the wrong can so easily see that not all is right with the accuser either. And if the accuser is blind to that fact, well, the relationship can break down because there is so little trust of authenticity.

With God, however, there is no false pretense. God is in the right and we are in the wrong. Yet following the example of Daniel, part of what is so very right about God is God’s mercy. It could be said, ‘in God’s mercy we trust.’ And that’s a good thing because, well, it’s the only hope we really have.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the mercy that you so graciously grant. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today include: Daniel 9-10, Psalm 123, and Luke 5)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Today's workout

Finally back on a more regular track for workouts. Been rather discombobulated lately due to schedules.

Anyhow, today's workout went like this:

Warm-up followed by:

Set 1
Barbell front squats
Suspended-bar pushups.
Rest 1 minute, repeat set.

Set 2
Bulgarian Split Squats (1 1/2 rep per rep)
Lying Hip Extendions
Rest 30 seconds, repeat set

Set 3
Inverted Rows
Ab-wheel roll-outs
Rest 1 minute, repeat set

Set 4
Dumbell Dead-lift and overhead-press combo
Side planks with leg raises
Rest 1 minute, repeat set.

lasting impressions need not last forever

Scripture passage that caught my attention today: Psalm 137:7 Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
Down to its foundations!”

Observation: They vividly remembered some things that were said.

Application: Some things stick out in our minds. The look on someone’s face…the tone in which something was said…the way in which something was done. It sticks with us, for good or for ill. The ancient Israelites remembered well the day(s) of Jerusalem’s downfall. They remembered the neighboring peoples coming in and destroying all that the Israelite’s held sacred. Never mind the fact that the Israelites had themselves been unfaithful to God. At the forefront of their minds was still what they considered to be the injustice of their plight. And they remembered the onslaught of it all in vivid detail.

How does one move on from that? How does one navigate the arduous terrain between “let bygones be bygones” or living with a perpetual desire for vengeance?

Maybe by letting it all out. Psalms like this one are more descriptive than prescriptive. They are a expression of emotion rather than an act of emotion. Sometimes we all have a need to safely express our feelings of the moment…in a poem, in a song, in a journal, in a verbal outburst, in a candid outpouring with a trusted friend and/or in prayer. It’s how we feel at the moment or even for a while. It’s part of who we are, but not all of who we are. It’s part of our life experience, but not all of our life experience. It’s today, but tomorrow’s another day. Tomorrow might bring more of the same, or something a little different.

Prayer: Lord, traumatic events often shape us, but they need not define us. Help us find our ultimate definition in and through you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Daniel 7-8, Psalm 137, and Luke 4)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Watching and Waiting

Scripture passage that caught my attention today: Psalm 130:6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

Observation: I’d like to know more about the tradition of those who watch for the morning. Might have to research that when I have a little more time. My assumption is that they were people specifically charged with keeping a look-out during the night hours to protect ancient cities from harm or at least from being caught off-guard. My further assumption is that the wee hours in the morning may have been some of the hardest hours to stay awake. Several hours of nothingness have passed, and couple more hours, presumably of nothingness, remain. Eyes get heavy and there is an eagerness for the light of morning to come so that the people can observe for themselves whether or not danger is on the horizon while the watcher takes a long-desired rest.

Most of us of who have had our driver’s license for a while have probably had occasion to drive when drowsy. Perhaps we’re on a long trip, we stayed up late packing the night before, and it’s now late the following evening. Our kids and spouse are sleeping. It’s just us and the road…and heavy eyelids…can barely keep them open. Many of you have been there and know well that of which I speak.

Should something out of the ordinary occur—a police car pulling someone over, construction signs of the road narrowing to one lane, and the like can often break our drowsiness. But when nothing changes, when yellow strip after yellow stripe passes by, when there are few cars on the road and the cruise control has long since been set, keeping one’s eyes open can seem almost impossible. Morning and/or rest can’t come soon enough.

I’m think that’s what it might have been like for the watchmen. And, apparently, that was what it was like for the Psalmist too—though in the latter case the waiting was for the Lord.

It would be interesting to know how many people feel that way today. It seems that when things are going well, I’m not prone to wait for the Lord with much anticipation at all; I’m perfectly content. But when trouble looms, then it seems that the Lord can’t come soon enough! Hmmm…

Prayer: Lord, help us to wait with a little more anticipation, even as we continue to carry out the opportunities/callings you provide on this good earth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Daniel 5-6, Psalm 130, and Luke 3)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Today's Complete Workout plus a quick review of breakfast and other day-starters

Below you will find today's complete workout including my warm-up----all done after a mere 10-second/15-step commute to our basement! :)

Note: You can YouTube and/or google any exercises that you don't recognize.

My standard warm-up:
12 bodyweight prisoner squats
12 leg swings (per side)
24 walking lunges with hands clasped above my head
10 close-grip pushups
10 stick-ups,
10 waiter bows
30-second plank
10 light dumbell (2 15# dumbells) deadlifts.
Then on to the workout.

Set 1: 10 Underhand-grip chin-ups with knee-ups.
25 Barbell Squats with 90# barbell.
12 incline Push-ups on suspended bar
Rest 1 minute and repeat set, but with only 8 chin-ups.

Set 2: 10 1 1/2-rep bulgarian split squats per leg.
20 1-leg push-ups (10/side)
Rest 1 minute and repeat set.

Set 3: 8 lying hip extensions (held in up position for 8 seconds, down for 4 seconds)
15 25# Dumbell Rows per side
Rest 30 seconds and repeat set

Set 4 10 Dumbell deadlift and overhead press combos (with 2-25# dumbells)
10 Ab pikes with feet on skateboard.
Rest 1 minute and repeat set.
Done with exercise and on to devotions!

BTW, I always start my day, first thing, with a big glass of cold water to rehydrate my body after 6-8 hours of sleep. Then I almost always eat the same breakfast consisting of a bowl of uncooked oats topped with raisins and eaten like cereal. I also pour 2 tsp. of flax seeds (that have been soaked overnight) over the top. This breakfast gives me hearty whole-grain slow-release carbs, a serving of fruit, serving or two of dairy, and omega 3 fats in the flax seeds.

Ways to be thankful

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention Today: Psalm 145:10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your faithful shall bless you.

Observation: The psalmist poetically sings of a day when all of creation praises its creator.

That will be quite a day! For all practical purposes, many people do not live their lives truly in thanksgiving to God—even a good number of us who spend an hour each week in a pew or preaching from a pulpit. I mean, we have moments or periods during the week when we are thankful, but much of the time we’re just coping with life like everyone else—getting up, dealing with changes in the schedule, handling situations that arise, grabbing something to eat, glancing through the news and the e-mails, “liking” someone’s comment on a social network, remembering (way later than we intended in the evening) that we need to throw in another load of laundry and then being forced to stay up at least long enough to then put it in the dryer, etc. We deal with life as it comes and try to remember to thank God for it later.

Interestingly enough, the Psalmist doesn’t declare that creation will constantly give praise to God. That vision will come years later from the writer of Revelation when speaking of the second coming of Christ. Until then it seems to me that we will continue to live in a state of periodic (rather than perpetual) praise and thanksgiving to God. It’s not the perfect way to be, but since even life itself is a gift from God, maybe just living and embracing life is a form of thanks in and of itself.

Prayer: Lord, help us to be more mindful and thankful for your gifts and your benefits. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Ezekiel 38-39, Psalm 145, and Revelation 20)
PS: I remembered, after devotions, that today marks the official 20th year of my ordination. Milestones are neat and, yet, they are also just another great day and opportunity to live life.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mighty Do Fall

Scripture Passage that Caught my attention today: Revelation 18:9-10 And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; 10 they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,
“Alas, alas, the great city,
Babylon, the mighty city!
For in one hour your judgment has come.”

Observation: Prior to 9/11, most of us would have a hard time visualizing this passage. Not any more.

Application: In the Bible reading plan that I use, this passage is always read on September 13th which, of course, falls only two days after September 11th. I’ve probably reflected on it before, though I don’t recall for sure and am too lazy at the moment to look back through my old journal entries to see. Besides, today’s reflection is today’s reflection, whether I’ve reflected on it before or not!

Be that as it may, ten years ago in less than an hour each of the twin towers was hit by a plane. Setting aside, for the moment, the tremendous loss of life that came with and after the event, the symbolism itself of the twin towers first burning and then disintegrating will most-likely be forever lodged in many a person’s mind. Even the most patriotic of folks would have to admit that we took a very big hit that day. The city that never sleeps had just experienced a nightmare in broad daylight.

Lest there be some confusion, I am neither suggesting or rejecting the possibility that we experienced a form of judgment that day. A case could certainly be made for either side of that argument. Instead I am simply noting that the vision of verses 9-10 of Revelation 18 is easier to visualize in light of our own country’s experience of 9/11, even though I believe Revelation’s visions were largely a description of events in another time and place. In every generation there are mighty who fall.

Prayer: Lord, help us all to be humble of heart and confident in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Ezekiel 33-35 and Revelation 18)

Monday, September 12, 2011

With respect to people of every nation, tribe, and tongue.

Scripture Passage that caught my attention today: Daniel 3:29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins; for there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”

Observation: Chapter 3 in Daniel is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace for not bowing down to the king’s new statue. When the king learned that their God was able to deliver them from his fiery furnace, he made a new and opposite decree (expressed in the verse above) indicating that anyone who didn’t worship Shadrach, Meshack, and Abendnego’s God would severely be punished.

It’s amazing the games we as people play, especially when we think we have a little power, as was the case with the king. First he uses violence to make people worship his statue. Then he uses violence (or threatens violence) toward those who don’t worship God, as if God needed the king’s help and protection!

Violence and total allegiance was the only language the king knew.

Application: I once read a forwarded post on a social networking site that professed Christianity and then went on to suggest that those who disagreed should just go find another country in which to live.

I pondered, “is that what it means to be a Christian…to wish hardship (moving to another country is not exactly a logistical piece of cake!) on those who disagree?”

True, the post didn’t suggest that those who disagreed should be thrown into a fiery furnace or torn limb from limb! Still, the post sounded very much like King Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel who wished extreme harm on anyone who didn’t think and believe like him.

Whether we’re kings or just ordinary folks, we’re on shaky ground whenever we demand or insist that everyone else act and believe just like we do.

Thankfully, God’s love demonstrated through Christ offers an alternative language.

In the name of Jesus we need not we ostracize and alienate those who don’t practice total allegiance to our way of thinking and/or believing. Instead we can practice (and yes, it takes practice!) the more Christ-centered approach of invitation and welcome—not with platitudes filled with prideful boasts of country or religion, but to a life of grateful service with respect to folks of every nation, tribe, and tongue.

Prayer: Lord, your ways are so often not our ways. Help us make the switch to your way of thinking and working in this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Daniel 3-4, Psalm 81, Revelation 17)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Today's Workout

Got back to a more complete workout today after a couple weeks with more modest efforts. This one I picked up from Craig Ballantyne some time ago?

Set 1: Barbell complex including 8 reps of each of the following:
Romanian Deadlifts
Front Squats
Overhead presses
Regular squats (barbell behind neck resting on shoulders)
Forward lunges.
Rest 1 minute, repeat set.

Set 2:
Chin-ups with knee-ups (9 on first set, 7 on next)
Spiderman pushups (10)
Lying Hip Extensions (was supposed to be 1-leg Stability ball leg-curls, but somebody moved my stability ball, so I had to come up with a quick substitute)
Rest 30 seconds, repeat.

Set 3: (5 reps of each of the following)
Incline Dumbbell presses
Dumbbell Split squats (5 reps per side)
Stability ball pikes (but I used a skateboard instead of stability ball)
Rest 30 seconds and repeat set 4 more times.


Beyond Short-Term Good News

Scripture Verse that Caught my Attention Today: Revelation 14:6 Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation and tribe and language and people.

Observation: Eternal Gospel (Good News)?

Application: Life is full of short-term good news. A favorite team wins a championship. A new job is secured. A new car is driven. A new house is built. A new friend is made. A great night of romance is experienced. A child is born. Magnificent buildings are built. But then comes an upset loss, unexpected duties in the new job, car and mortgage payments and/or repairs that become a burden, complications with the friendship, arguments with one’s spouse or significant other, birth followed all too quickly by death, towers fall. Good news is often followed by news that is, well, not so good—maybe even downright awful.

The Christian faith offers a much-longed-for alternative—eternal good news. By eternal I don’t mean just future stuff. I mean right now!

The good news of the Christian faith, however, it not trite and shallow. It does not ignore the realities of the bad news around us or even within us but, rather, embraces them much like a loving parent holds and endeavors to comfort a hurting child. The eternal good news of the Christian faith enables one to courageously take on forms of suffering, not so much because we have necessarily volunteered to do so, but because we are possessed by the love of the One who has done so himself and who in turn promises to see us through the crisis of the moment in light of his lasting promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
People grasped by the eternal gospel are, to use the late Henri Nouwen’s term, “wounded healers.” They know suffering and, by the grace of God, continue to carry on.

Now, they might not carry on in quite the same way they did in the past. They may have been forever changed by an incident or other life experience. Innocence, if it ever truly existed, may have been lost. But the eternal gospel/good news is not about innocence. It is about the authentic and lasting hope found in the reality of a God who knows suffering and who promises, one day, to take it all away. Hence the words of hope found near the end of Revelation, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

Prayer: Lord, at the moment it appears to be a beautiful day. I thank you for it…as well as for whatever you will teach me regardless of how the day unfolds. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Lamentations 1-2, Obadiah, and Revelation 14)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An Alternative Example

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Jeremiah 40:6 Then Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah, and stayed with him among the people who were left in the land.

Observation: The choicest people had been carried off to Babylon in exile. Jeremiah was given his choice as to where to go; he chose to stay among the poor who were still in the land.

Application: As the story goes on to point out, Gedaliah reign and life were quickly cut short. So it would appear that Jeremiah’s ties to that particular land had less to do with Gedaliah and more to do with the people themselves.

These days this kind of loyalty is in short supply. Most people tend to do what they think will be best for themselves. Jeremiah provides an alternative example to consider.

Lord, thanks for the example of Jeremiah and others in the Bible who loved your people to the end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: 2 Kings 25, 2 Chronicles 36, Jeremiah 40-41, and Revelation 12)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Prophet, Priest, and Person

Scripture Passage that Caught my attention today: Revelation 10:10-11 So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.
Rev. 10:11 Then they said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

Observation: Being a prophet isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Application: In a Bible study at church last week we were talking about prophets and prophecy and to what extent such people and messages exist today. I explained that, at least from a Lutheran perspective, prophets only speak when inspired by God. I recounted pastor/theologian Rheinhold Neibur’s observation and lament in the early 1900’s that “a prophet speaks only when inspired; a parish priest must speak whether he [or she] is inspired or not.” I also mentioned that prophets are less about predicting the future and more about speaking a particular word to a particular people in a particular time and place. I even mentioned that prophets do not generally seek fortunes for themselves.

What I didn’t mention, because I didn’t think of it at the time, was that prophets sometimes (but not always) are given a word to speak that hurts; it’s painful to speak and painful to hear. Yes, it might seem, at one’s first thought, that being a prophet would be ‘sweet as honey.’ More often than not, however, it appears to be a bitter pill to swallow.

Historically speaking, often times the people didn’t listen to the prophets. Sometimes the prophets were imprisoned and/or ridiculed. Sometimes God put instructed them, as an example, to go through rather odd rituals, such as when God instructed one of the prophets lay on his side for over 300 days.

No matter. Being a prophet is not a choice or an aspiration; it is a calling—whether for a moment or a lifetime.

Thankfully, I understand myself to be a pastor. One of the incredible things about being a pastor is the trust that God can and does speak through us regardless of how high (or low) the reading might be on our inspiration meter. In fact, sometimes God’s best work seems to get done when we feel the least inspired. Conversely, sometimes when we think we are full of inspiration…well…we later discover that perhaps we were just full of ourselves.

Lord, thanks for whatever messages you send through whoever you send them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Ezekiel 25-28 and Revelation 10)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Laments and their Place

Scripture Verse that Caught My Attention Today: Ezekiel 19:14 And fire has gone out from its stem,
has consumed its branches and fruit,
so that there remains in it no strong stem,
no scepter for ruling.
This is a lamentation, and it is used as a lamentation.

Observation: The last line of the above verse is the one that struck me.

Application: In another book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes, it says that there is a time for everything. Clearly in the verse above the writer is talking about a time to lament.

I’m not a big lamenter, but nor am I afraid of it. There are times when it can be helpful to take an honest look at oneself or one’s situation or one’s family or organization or company or country or world and face any unpleasant realities that might be therein. Lament is often one part confession and another part frustration and/or regret. Sometimes those are the kinds of feelings that we can’t help but harbor for a day or maybe even for a season in our life—trusting that, in time, this too shall pass.

Before it passes, however, there may be a richness within it to be explored. Times of lament can be holy times, times when we consider anew the Lord’s work in us, through us, and, sometimes, in spite of us.

None of us wants to always be a ‘downer.’ Still, generally speaking, we need not lament lament. Sometimes a lamentation needs to be used as a lamentation.

Lord, thanks for allowing us to always be who we really are to bring the feelings we really feel to your attention, be they joyful or otherwise. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings Today Included: Ezekiel 17-19 and Revelation 7)