Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's all my fault...

     I have a confession to make, as you might assume from the title...  my wife was examining some of Tabitha's baby clothes, and marveling at how fast her 4-year-old frame is growing.  Tabitha just as marvelously made a simple, yet highly logical, conclusion, based on the song embedded that she learned at church (I had never heard it!) and now sings at home. 
"I'm growing because I read my Bible every day!"

"I'm sick of growing!"

      My wife laughed and pointed out that she didn't read the Bible;  her daddy read the Bible to her every day, and therefore, the blame fell squarely on my scrawny shoulders.  This is a refreshing change from the accusations of the older kids I've been blessed with, but it just goes to show you the impact a God-centered worldview has on our little bundles of joy.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin

The ultimate Civil War hero with facial hair...
     I usually blog on bible verses and serious issues, but I thought a semi-whimsical post would be permissible;  I feel a discussion on and some contemplation of an obvious symptom of the loss of masculinity in America is in order.  This evaporation of manliness is as plain as the nose on your face... or more to the point, the beard on mine.  Yes, that's right... let's think about facial hair. 
     For years, I worked at a grocery store that prohibited facial hair on its male employees (some of the older ladies had some rockin' mustaches though!), and until recently, I had not availed myself of the freedom of a public employee in regards to personal appearance.  But a few months ago, my wife mentioned her preference of whiskers, so I finally buckled down and committed to giving it a try.  Other reactions have mixed, and I discovered an interesting trend which is my main point today:  the younger a person was, the more likely they were to disdain my beard.  The more female a person was, the more likely they were to instinctively object to hair on a man (other than the Fabio/Brad Pitt mane which God has ordained me never to have).  The perfect example are 2 of my darling nieces... they come over periodically for the weekend, but there had been a brief hiatus, so my growth had gone from the trimmed, 6 day sprout common on boy-band stars to the bold declaration of manhood that it is now. 
     So I came home late Friday night to their beaming faces, only to behold their instant recoil.  "Ewww!  It's so long!  It's so grey!  You look so old!"  I wasn't shocked, but slightly puzzled would be closer to my reaction.  I pondered as I took advantage of their disgust, as any good uncle should:  rubbing their hand on my face, experimenting with a new twist on butterfly kisses ("beardfly kisses"?), etc.  Then it hit me, and it should be clear to you as well... look at the images of so-called masculinity our culture flaunts.  Shaved, trimmed, waxed little boys who couldn't find a chest hair with a magnifying glass!
     So the best correction I can think of is to highlight a couple realities of a holistic biblical perspective:

1.  Men and women are made differently!  Much of what our society dictates as attractive is formulated from a worldview that elevates so-called feminine equality (opposed to a biblical complementarianism) and denigrates masculine physicality and distinctiveness.  But my physical appearance is a perfect example of the grace of God in His creation of our genders... when God taketh away the hair on a man's head, He giveth extra hair on his face! That's probably not what Job meant, but seriously, in biblical times, a man without a beard was a disgraced spectacle (2 Sam 10:5, Ezr 9:3, Isa 7:20, 15:2, Jer 41:5).  Even in our country, when viewing old photos or portraits, you are met with long flowing mustaches and beards grown to almost comical lengths... until about 45-50 years ago, when the ripples of the "sexual revolution" began altering our society.

2.  This point is not exclusive to men, but neither are men immune to it:  we have built a huge, idolatrous monument to the false god of youth.  Anything that smacks of an age past 25 is vilified and fought tooth and nail.  I don't have the figures, but if you calculated the money spent per year on surgery, dye, Rogaine and the latest laser foolishness, it must be in the billions.  But God says "Gray hair is a crown of glory; (if of course...) it is gained in a righteous life." (Prov 16:31)  Respect for the wisdom of age is spurned today, but Israel was commanded "You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD." (Lev 19:32)

    Feel free to add your own points (especially if you're older and wiser than me!) and for you guys out there... grow it if you got it!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

God's repentance or man's counterfeit?

2 Cor 7:10  "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."
      It's no secret that I came to my present church home about 2 years ago... my previous fellowship had endured several grievous injuries to its unity and its leadership had determinedly pursued a seeker-friendly, worldly-minded methodology that, in my view, compromised the gospel.  So it's in that context that I relate a brief narrative from that period to perfectly illustrate the difference between godly grief and worldly grief...
"I repent... now let me out!"
     I was giving a friendly fellow church member a ride home when he confided in me that he was growing marijuana at home for "medicinal purposes".  Mind you, my state has since decriminalized possession of said herb, but at this time, I was pretty sure that one could only possess and use it with a doctor's prescription and a state-issued license.  I wanted to be sure of my facts, so I didn't pounce on him on the spot (to be honest, I was kinda shocked!);  after dropping him off, I verified the laws and next Sunday, I privately drew him aside and inquired if he had the requisite legal permission.  He said no;  he believed his medical conditions were all the justification he needed to pursue whatever remedy he felt necessary.  I took a deep breath, and in a low, discreet voice, asked him if he thought doing this, something clearly illegal, was sinful.  He said he didn't know, but he had no intentions of stopping and again stressed the horrible pain he was in.  As gently as possible, I affirmed that this was sinful, and asked him to repent.
     Other factors caused me to question the severity of his condition, but the greatest concern I had was that this man was the paid janitor for the church, and as a member of the staff, could cause much greater disgrace if made public.  So I thought it would be wise to inform the head pastor of this development in addition to continuing down the Matt. 18 path.  I shouldn't have been shocked, but I was dismayed when the head pastor thanked me for the info, and then insisted on handling things himself, removing the "facing your accuser" factor from the process.  Months later, I was meeting with the elder board with some other members to plead with them to withdraw the invitation of a famous No-Lordship speaker.  After stating our case, the board asked me to remain to discuss a private matter, and I discovered the issue was the Medicinal Marijuana Man (the best catchy title I could think of!).  Another elder had met with him and the pastor was pleased to report that MMM had repented and the problem was solved.  I wasn't so easily mollified:  I knew that there are many worldly, self-centered reasons that people regret their actions, and wish to change course.  Convicts in prison, addicts of all kinds, heck, even overweight people are caused to see the destructive results of their choices and reverse their path to a lifestyle our world would call "recovery".  
Worldly "repentance" at its best...
     But this is not "repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim 2:25).  Biblical repentance is defined first as a sorrow and grief that mourns the damage and offense done to God (not ourselves) by our sin;  a culpability that affirms our guilt and God's justice in damning us to hell forever.  But as the weight of our situation sinks in, the repentant saint doesn't run from God, as might be expected, but to God as the only Source of absolution and restoration.  This is why the Greek word (metanoia) simply means "to change one's mind"... repentance is a 180 degree turn in belief, attitude and lifestyle:  to go from hating God and acting against Him to loving God and clinging to Him as our Rescue.  This repentance is given by God (Acts 5:31, 11:18) and as such, can be trusted, if genuine, to act according to His word.
     So in our meeting, I knew that there would be one obvious reason for MMM to "repent"... to keep his job!  I briefly outlined the basics of godly repentance to the elders (yes, that's how bad the church was... the elders didn't know what biblical repentance is!) and asked the elder who confronted MMM if he exhibited any signs of godly grief, rather than just the standard "kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar" response.  He said he couldn't remember (which is why biblical restoration/discipline is done in the presence of 2 or 3 witnesses "that every word may be established").  
     It was then made clear to me that the discussion was over:  no pursuit of MMM, no interview or confession of sin, no thankfulness from MMM for loving him enough to call a spade a spade.  The next time I saw him, MMM was passively hostile, and ended the interchange as quickly as possible.  This is, of course, the opposite of what Paul experienced in Corinth after confronting the Corinthians in sin:  they were "earnest" in changing course, "eager" to own up to their guilt, "indignant" over their error and "zealous" to make things right (vs.11).  This is the pattern of the recipients of God's sorrow and grief... everything else is crocodile tears.

Photos courtesy of beachblogger42, vectorportal

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Future Grace"

    Having explored some of the incredible riches in 2 Cor 6:16-18, it's fitting that we see where that leaves us from Paul's viewpoint.  He's great at explaining himself (most of the time! 2 Pet 3:16) and tracing out for us non-geniuses where his thoughts are going.  Rom 6:1 & 12:1 are great examples of Paul answering the question "So what?"  2 Cor 7:1 is just such a verse:
Great tasting holiness...
"Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God."
     So we know which promises he's talking about, and how we have been included into the family of God under the New Covenant... now what do we do about it?  We are to "cleanse ourselves":  to purify every area of our lives consciously put it under Christ's feet, to (as Paul will put it later in 2 Cor) "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (10:5).  Also he mentions holiness:  rather than just moral uprightness, this term basically (especially in Hebrew) means "to cut".  That might puzzle many until we consider what happens when we slice and dice meat in the kitchen:  we set something apart from everything else.  We sever every tendon and bit of gristle that connects our piece with the rest, and dedicate that part to whatever use we see fit.  So briefly, God is holy in that He is separate from everything else that exists:  we are created, but He is Creator.  We are dependent on Him in every way, but He needs nothing from anyone.  In Christ, we can be holy in a derivative sense... we can be wholly dedicated to God's use.  The Mosaic Law often uses "holy" in this way:  the cups, incense, animals, etc. were only to be used for the rituals God had laid out
     But rather than further interpret our verse, I want to use the motivation Paul puts forth to introduce you to a great book I got for Christmas:  "Future Grace" by John Piper (thanks, Jeff and Mom!).  In the intro, he makes the bold claim that instead of gratitude as is commonly believed, our efforts and progress in sanctification should be motivated by "faith in future grace".  Simply put, this faith is the assurance that God will continue to shower sufficiency and goodness on us, based on His declaration to do so, and the experience of past grace (the greatest of which is Christ's work/our conversion) buoys and reassures us that God is faithful.  Piper therefore says...
"It should be obvious from this why future grace is so utterly crucial in God's great plan to glorify Himself and satisfy His people.  Most of our experience of God's active grace lies in the future.  The grace that I have already experienced from God -from a quantitative standpoint- is infinitesimally small compared to the future grace that I will experience from now to eternity.  This means that the great wealth of glory that God means to display for the enjoyment of His people is duly praised where future grace -in all its freedom- is duly prized."
     So you see why 2 Cor 7:1 made me think in terms of future grace:  Paul points to the guaranteed prospect of God's riches and generosity when we will be His children by glorified nature, as well as by our union with Christ (1 Jn 3:1-3).  It is this future reality that must propel us to and through holiness;  Piper warns that a motivation of gratitude can easily lead to what he calls a "debtor's ethic" we'll explore in the future.  In conclusion, Paul urges us in our verse towards what is the only fitting course for God's people:  to live out what God has declared us, promised to us and is continuing to remake us into... holy.

Photo courtesy of Amazon and borkazoid

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Is God love?

A great truth.... IN CONTEXT!
     I was driving in a van with a colleague back to base when he mentioned a local Unitarian church with a common billboard announcement:  "God is love!"  My coworker wanted to get my take on it;  he had already asked another guy who disagreed with the announcement totally.  He knew I was a religious guy, so why not ask the Bible thumper?   Now the incredible part about this exchange, I believe, is not the question, or the slogan, but the gracious analogy the Lord gave to me.  By way of background, I have a confession that you might identify with...  I'm analogy-challenged.  Someone will say something in Sunday School or bible study, or a question is raised, and the best, most theologically correct formula will come to mind, but I get stuck on how to express it!!!  I'll sit there and struggle to find a relationship or situation from a modern context that applies, or even worse, start to use something but then realize it doesn't adequately communicate what I was trying to.  The worst part is when your attempted analogy actually contradicts the point intended! 
     Now don't get me wrong:  analogies are good!  Jesus repeatedly and perfectly whips out great illustrations for His audience, situations that wonderfully "put the cookies on the bottom shelf" for all who are dim of sight and dull of ear (all of us, in other words).  So it was similarly wonderful for God to give me the perfect analogy to answer my coworker.  When speaking generically, as our slogan does, we must be careful to balance our response:  an example attempting to counter the implicit universalist heresy, but unbiblically swinging way too far, would be "No, God isn't love... He hates sinners!"  It is both true that God is love and "angry with the wicked everyday" (Ps 7:11, 5:5-6, 11:5-6).  So how to quickly and succinctly spell that out?  I asked him this:  "Well, if we were trying to communicate everything you are, your essence and character, your nature comprehensively for all time in one phrase, and we said (using a pseudonym here for obvious reasons)..."
"Sam is a bus driver!"
I dread seeing this one!
"Would that be a good way to put it?  Does that capture everything you are?"  He thought for a second, and I continued, "I mean, it's true that you are a bus driver, but you're a lot of other things!"  He saw the point, so I tried to bring it home:  "So the Bible does clearly say in those exact words that 'God is love', but without relating how His love interacts with and complements His justice, for example, or stating Whom God loves, that statement is, at best, incomplete."  We were nearing to base, so as quickly as possible, I sketched out a few Unitarian Universalist distinctives and how, in light of those, their slogan was intended to deceive people and sway them away from the exclusivity of Christ.  Basically, U.U.'s believe that god is one person (like Muslims or United Pentecostals), but also try to combine and fold in every other religion by viewing all gods as one:  Allah is Jesus is Buddha is Ganesh is etc.  So with this in mind, since god is one and he is love, we just need to love everyone, respect their beliefs as valid and "true for them" and peacefully coexist (presumably while saving the trees!).  The problem with this lie is that the real God, the One who actually exists, is coming to judge us some day soon and this is how He'll "coexist" with His competitors:
"But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.  Thus shall you say to them: "The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens." (Jer 10:10-11)
     All those outside of Christ and without His protection will be naked and hopeless in the Day that Jesus reveals all other "gods" (Dt 32:17) as false and destroys them.  There is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.

Photos courtesy of abocon, brownhorsegarments

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Will we see hell?

No... I have no idea what he's saying!
     I was studying with a friend the other day when he asked this question with trepidation:  "Will we be able to see people in hell?  Will we see them suffering?"  I had done some research on the topic of eternal damnation in the past;  both because of my own curiosity and due to the hubbub of that handsome heretic Rob Bell and his foray into universalism, "Love Wins".  Also, from an apologetic standpoint, the concept of God's justice and its consequences is among the most revolting to our modern mindset:  if we aren't bothered by our little white lies and adulterous glances (to say nothing of the gargantuan black lies and more substantive acts of sexual immorality), why should God?  Especially if He's soooo forgiving and all!  So if we know the doctrines that will be most offensive to our culture, it behooves us to be able to explain them biblically, accurately and with a spirit of love, first for God and His holiness and then for the person headed for hell right in front of us.
     One of the hell myths I love debunking most is the idea that hell is a New Testament invention, concocted by that meanie Paul, who's also homophobic and a chauvinist, and John for its fear factor in Revelation.  Two O.T. texts mention hell pretty clearly;  when I showed them to my favorite atheist, he immediately switched subjects... that usually means "Wow, you're right and I have no response!"  Dan 12:1-2 and Isa 66:22-24 say:
"At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.  And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.....  For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain.  From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD.  And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh."
What the Cross felt like...
     It's that latter passage that begins to provide an answer for our title question;  you'll notice that after worshipping, the seed of Israel (which Israel? the elect in Christ!) goes and views the corpses of the damned in what seems to be an eternal object lesson.  I think it's clear from the context that "corpse" is used figuratively... undying worms and fire don't cause much pain to dead people in the local morgue, so Isaiah probably refers to those who are spiritually estranged, incapable of communion with God and on the business end of His wrath as "dead", much like Paul in Eph 2:4, or Jesus in John 11:25.  What could God teach us with such a vivid, grotesque display?   His zeal for His holiness, the consequences of transgressing against Him and instilling and renewing the love, joy and praise we must have when considering where we could have, where we should have ended up.  Most importantly, a vision of hell gives us a better understanding what Christ endured on the Cross:  imagine seeing that place, hearing their screams and smelling the charred flesh... and then looking into the dark brown eyes of Jesus (He is Jewish, after all!) and hearing:  "I took that for you."
"...but bad guys go to hell!"
     The other relevant passage that comes to mind is Luke 16:19-31;  it's a familiar parable, so I won't cite it all; I'll just highlight the relevant points that seem to further reinforce Isa 66.  Though Abraham and Lazarus are in heaven and the rich man in hell, with a "great gulf fixed" between them, they can still see each other... what's more, Abraham and the rich man are even able to converse!  Abraham's didactic "moral of the story", that the earthly status of an individual is no sure measure of his eternal destination, flows along the same current as Isa 66:24, which forces us to consider the eternal consequences of rebellion against God.  The fact that this punishment is often delayed until death, that the godly often are afflicted in this life and the wicked often prosper (Ps. 73:17-23), both causes the elect to trust God instead of conventional wisdom (like the saying "Nice guys finish last!") and seals the doom of those without divinely-given eyes to see and ears to hear God's truth.  Many commentators have noticed that this parable is unique in that Jesus names one of the characters;  all the other individuals in His other object lessons are generic ("men", "bridesmaids", "servants", etc.).  Some speculate that this was because Jesus was using real people in this case... that there was a real beggar named Lazarus who sat at the gate of well-known rich man.  It makes sense to me:  Jesus would have intimate knowledge of the afterlife (having created it and all!), and using actual people known to His audience would add impact to His teaching (e.g. Lk 13:1-5). 
     So what would you say to someone in hell?  More to the point of my friend's question, can you
imagine what it would be like to see people you know in hell?  "Yep, there's Bob, my neighbor (no surprise there with the drinking and domestic violence!), and Janice my secretary, and is that... no!  Darrell!?!  We were in choir together for years!"  Seeing your family, friends, coworkers... people from every walk of life, from every socio-economic category, with one fundamental thing in common:  they hate God and deserve His wrath.  As I pondered that and thought about all the people I know, I was dumbfounded.  The thought of that great crowd...  I remember a great sermon by Paul Washer on Rev. 20, where he evangelistically asked the lost in his audience:  "Did you know you're in the Bible?"  Then he read vs. 12:  "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne... that's you, if you're outside of Christ."  If you're not speaking to people now about their eternal destiny, don't wait until they're in hell to do so.

Photos courtesy of gbrenna, Creativity103, brentbat

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Can you tell me where the Temple is?

     Back to 2 Corinthians again! My last post in the book was on 6:1;  one of my favorite passages in 2 Cor is 6:16-18, as you might have guessed when I tied it into a couple of my first posts there.  But I didn't exhaust the riches in this text (who could?), and I thought an exploration of one more aspect of Paul's use of the O.T. and its terminology would be permissible and profitable.  Here's our text:
"And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,  And will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (6:16-18)
     We previously pondered how we as Gentiles (Jews literally called us "dogs" in Jesus's time!) could partake in promises seemingly addressed to Israel as a nation, but I don't think I took a stab at answering what could be an even more intriguing question...

How could Paul say that our bodies are temples of God?  

"Not one foreigner is to enter inside the, around the Sanctuary..."
     Think about it... Paul lived at the height of what's called Second Temple Judaism (the first Temple, Solomon's, was destroyed by the Babylonians in/around 586 B.C.):  he had worshipped there, prayed there, learned there, and probably taught others there as a faithful Pharisee and one of Gamaliel's most prominent disciples.  The site of the Temple was likely the most highly regulated place in the nation:  the Jewish authorities were not allowed to issue a death penalty in most cases under Roman law, but a Gentile incursion onto the holy ground of the Temple was still punishable by death, and the immediate "execution" of such a sentence was permissible by most Roman governors (Acts 21:28).  That's why the above warning was posted... so that pious Jews would be blameless for the defense of their Temple.   Jesus and Stephen were likely the most famous prosecuted (falsely, of course!) under this regulation (Mt 26:61, Acts 6:13-14).
     So if anyone had a reason to be a ultraliteralist, a "it says 'Temple', so it must mean the gold-encrusted, stone edifice atop Mt. Zion!" kind of guy, it was Paul.  But that's not the case... he uses the term metaphorically 5 times (of a total of 11;  1 Cor 3:16, 17, 6:19, 2 Cor 6:16, Eph 2:21).  Both of his uses of "tabernacle", the predecessor to the Temple, are symbolic (2 Cor 5:1,4).  Where did he get this crazy idea that the Temple served as a symbol and picture of something greater?

The Lord Jesus Christ!
"Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?  I tell you, something greater than the temple is here." (Mt 12:5-6)  "Jesus answered and said unto them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'...  But he spake of the temple of his body."  (Jn 2:20-21)
Likely the worst misunderstanding of the Temple in Salt Lake City
     More than once, Jesus used the stone structure in Jerusalem to point to a greater reality of God dwelling with His people.  Think about it:  that's the whole reason He instituted a place where men could worship, commune, and interact with Him.  This overarching theme gives new meaning to verses like Jn 1:14 ("dwelt (lit. "tabernacled") among us") and Jn 14:16, 15:4 (dwelling as "abiding").  So, my conclusion is the climactic realization of the symbol of the physical Temple is Jesus Christ Himself:  He is Emmanuel ("God with us"), He is the ultimate meeting place between God and man, having the nature of both.  And for every believer under the New Covenant, He is where we go to for communion with God, for worship, and for atonement.  So as the Holy Spirit "abides with us forever", we become Temples of God through our union with Jesus.  This is the wonderful, eternal state we enjoy now and forever.

Photos courtesy of A. Vander Nat, jpstanley

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Vampires and the Bible

Vampires this way ---->
     I know, I know... some people will say anything to get readers for their blog.  But I am listening to a great series on Revelation by Voddie Baucham;  he's in chapter 7, but I got to reading ahead:
"...and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.  The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.  And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations.”  And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." (Rev 17:3-6)
     I haven't lived that long (compared to some!) but I've heard of some crazy things people drink to get a buzz, but blood?  That sounds like something only found on Oct. 31st... but we can loosely associate this symbolic woman and the mythical beasts Hollywood exposes us to.  Both hunger for, live off of and are completely unsatisfied without blood.  Now, your average vamp show or movie (I watched a lot of them B.C.;  before conversion/Christ) invariably has that conflicted character, the one that is fed up (pun intended) with killing, and now just wants to live at peace.  This virtuous vamp usually subsists on animal blood, but lives in a haze of unfulfillment, because nothing compares to the good ol' human stuff. 
Strange brew in there, I bet...
     The motivation for this abstention/restraint varies, but that's the point of contrast: the irreconcilable difference between those vampires in "recovery" and the woman of Rev. 17.  She doesn't want to quit, but insatiably indulges in the violent taking of life without qualm or conscience.  As a result of her hatred of God, as seen in her "cup running over" with perversion and everything God abhors, she relishes brutality, especially when her target is those who claim allegiance to God rather than her.  We saw this previously in the O.T.'s condemnations of those who love violence;  I don't think I referenced these verses:
"All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil...  My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts-- the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords....  deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men...  My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason;  like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit;" (Ps. 56:5, 57:4, 59:2, Prov 1:10-12)
     This is the sad, unavoidable reality of all those outside of Christ:  in their nature and at heart, they hate Him and heartily approve of His murder.  What's more, they hate all those who follow Christ and desire them dead (Matt 10:25).  I know it's hard to reconcile this biblical teaching with the nice, little old lady who lives down the street and bakes the most delicious cookies, but just happens to be a Buddhist;  we all know and care for polite, friendly unbelievers, and have, in certain cases, been thankful for their generosity.  To be sure, God does restrain the evil thoughts and actions of every lost person, and even uses them to bless His children so that "all things work together for the good of them that love God."  But again, everyone who is not God's child through Jesus has another father (Jn 8:44) and "the works of their father they will do."  I think I see this clearly because of God's insight into my own lust for violence:  I'm sure I seemed a nice enough guy as an unbeliever.  I held down a job, paid my taxes and even attended church regularly.  But give me an excuse to pummel someone and a couple of guys on my side, and I didn't hesitate to instigate rather than pacify.  This is the mindset of the woman and her master:  a lust for violence and abject fury towards those who preach and embody God and His righteousness. 
What's in the cup?
     Revelation is the last book of the Bible (in order and probably chronologically) for good reason:  almost every symbol in it is drawn from prior revelation.  So you'll notice it's not said that the cup in the woman's hand is filled with blood, but "abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality".  How does the rest of Scripture inform us on this cup?  Ps 75:8 says...
"For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them."
 Job 21:20, Ps 60:3, Isa 51:17,and Jer 25:15 all mention or allude to this cup that God has for those who sin against Him.  And the cup is full of God's judgment... the dregs in ancient fermentation were especially bitter and harsh;  so I feel safe in concluding that the cup in the woman's hand not only shows what she thirsts for and indulges in, but how God has judged her.  Romans 1 repeatedly speaks of unbelievers who are "given over" to sin as a punishment for sin;  the message of comfort for God's beleaguered people is that God has judged their tormentors.  We need only "rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." (Rev 6:11)  This last book of the Bible is thought by many to be difficult and incomprehensible (and to be fair, I wouldn't teach it to 1st graders!), but it is filled with encouragement for those "that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." (14:12)

P.S.  Sorry for the sparse posting of late... I tried to write several things at once, and was doomed to failure!

Photos courtesy of jm3, MaxSparber, Mr. T in DC