Friday, February 28, 2014

Choose Grace.

Revelation 16:9 KJV
And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.

People respond differently to the various acts of God in the world. Some see the Lord's acts as righteous, good and just and glorify Him in those acts, whatever they may be. Others reject the righteous goodness of God and either refuse to acknowledge His existence at all or blaspheme His name as the cause of all their sorrows. 

The fact is that God is at work in every instance of human life. While a God does not do evil, He does use the evil that exists in this world - that of the devil and of sinful men, for His righteous purposes. He never does evil things, but He does
  • Chasten
  • Judge and
  • Pour out His wrath
all things that men may take in the negative sense if they choose to blaspheme God rather than to repent and give God glory.

No good thing is accomplished in blaspheming God.
  • He still exists
  • He is still just
  • He still carries out His righteous plan
The blasphemer is merely outside of the blessings of God instead of being a receiver of those blessings. We each have the choice to believe and receive God's grace or reject and receive God's wrath.


Choose grace.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lodging about the Wall

Nehemiah 13:21 KJV
Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.

Nehemiah had worked tirelessly to complete the construction of the wall around Jerusalem but when it was finished he was obligated to return to the king. This done, the king gave him leave to again go to Jerusalem; this time as Governor.  Nehemiah returned to find the walls standing, but the people still in a reproach. The exterior walls of religion are useless without inner walls of devotion. 

A number of complaints are observed. This meditation concerns the merchants of Tyre selling their goods on the Sabbath. In order to prevent the thing, Nehemiah ordered the merchants out and the gates shut at dark. But he discovered that these Tyrian merchants were lodging themselves "about the wall", waiting for the first opportunity to tempt the Jews and continue their trade.


An observant Christian can spot these same merchants lodging about the walls still today. They may no longer be selling fish and other items from the sea. The offense may no longer include the Sabbath. But the merchants are there nevertheless lodging as close as they are able to the believer, seeking opportunity to tempt them into breaking with God's Word and embrace some piece of worldliness. The careful Christian will treat these merchants of worldliness with the impatience of Nehemiah who threatened them if they continued next to the wall. We should not physically threaten anyone, but we can mortify the deeds of our own flesh and we must not have company with those who would draw us from the things of Christ.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Another Angel

Revelation 14:15-18 KJV
And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.

Verses fourteen through nineteen speak of three, "another angel"(s), (there are two others mentioned in verses six and eight). The three in the passage that I am concerned with are ministers of judgment, involving themselves in the harvest of the earth. Though I am certain that these angels are literal, I think in the context they are meant to be symbolic:
  • Of the activity of the angels in earthly events
  • Of the interest of the angels in the plan of God for man
  • Of the anxiousness of the angels to see God's plan fulfilled and God's glory vindicated

The affairs of men are of more importance than what we are able to see. Circumstances and activities are developing all around us in an unseen realm.
  • Battles are fought
  • Communications take place and
  • Influences are at play
that we cannot see, but indeed impact every aspect of earthly life.


Let us take courage that we are not in this conflict alone. God and the host of heaven contend alongside of us assuring us the victory.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Captain of Salvation VS The Captain of Rebellion

Nehemiah 9:17 KJV
And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.

In this deep prayer of confession Nehemiah professes the Jews in the wilderness had appointed a captain, a leader to help them return to Egypt. This is in contrast with that captain leading them to the Promised Land:

  • The one was appointed by man; the other appointed by God
  • The stayed with them; the other went to see God
  • The one would lead them backward; the other would take them forward
  • The one would deliver them to slavery and destruction; the other to liberty and life

Monday, February 24, 2014

Now is Come Salvation

Revelation 12:10 KJV
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
  
Revelation twelve is perhaps the most mysterious of all the mysteries that are written in this final book of the Bible. It seems to cover the heavenly contest between Satan and the woman from the beginning of time until the end of this world. In the middle of the contest we find this phrase, "Now is come salvation..." 

We, who are the saved, look forward to that day when our salvation is finished. Today it is a process;
  • Our spirit has been quickened
  • Our soul has been redeemed, but
  • Our body still bears the sin nature and
  • Our world still carries the curse
The devil is still our opposition and the systems of government still belong to the powers of darkness. 

But there will be a day when salvation is real in the fullest sense. Until that day we

  • Earnestly contend for the faith
  • Pray for strength to reach souls with the gospel and
  • Look for that blessed hope and glorious appearing if the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Who is Tormenting Whom?

Revelation 11:10 KJV
And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

In an ironic twist, those followers of Antichrist, those whose passion will be the unmerciful persecution and torment of those who are saved in the Tribulation, claim that the ministries of these two witnesses have tormented them. 

This is not to say that they caused any sort of physical pain to men. It would be impossible for the two of them to do that to people all over the world. The torment they caused was in the soul. It was that conviction that comes upon a man when he knows he is going the wrong direction but refuses to turn around. To push through the conviction he fights the source of the conviction. He does not want to change. He does not want to turn around, but the conviction of the soul is too great. He must stop it. He does it through attacking the source. 

In our day that source is manifold:
  • The Holy Spirit
  • The Word of God
  • The preacher
  • The faithful Christian witness
He denigrates the preacher through mockery in entertainment. He dismisses the Holy Spirit through rehearsals of the Christian atrocities of history. He demeans the Bible through science falsely so called. He devalues the Christian witness by accusing them of hate crimes. 

Though Christians have not always done right[1], the heart of Christianity is one of good and not evil. The two witnesses sought to be a blessing and not a torment. Indeed, they would be a blessing to those whose sins were forgiven as a result of heeding their message. 




[1] And genuine Christianity acknowledges it, confesses her sins, and corrects her course.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Marks of Earthly Ministry

Revelation 10:2 KJV
And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,

This is not the first book we have seen in the Revelation and some have suggested it is the same one, now considerably smaller as many parts has been fulfilled by this time. I see it as distinct:
  • The other was sealed until Christ opened it; this one was opened, but apparently shouldn't be recorded  
  • The other was executed by the angels of God; this one was eaten by the Apostle
The angel's word upon giving the book to John takes him momentarily away from his vision and back on the solid footing of earthly ministry. I see it as denoting our ministries as believers today. 

  • We receive it from the Lord
  • It is as mighty as the One from whom we receive it
  • It is open and plain before the world around us
  • Our part is only a small portion of the whole that God is doing
  • It is sweet to us. We love serving the Lord but
  • It can be bitter with the heartaches that attend the work of the ministry

Friday, February 21, 2014

Surrogate Spies for Sanballat

Nehemiah 6:17-19 KJV
Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them.
For there were many in Judah sworn unto him, because he was the son in law of Shechaniah the son of Arah; and his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah.
Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.

Few of us would challenge the idea that Sanballat and Tobiah were not friends to Nehemiah nor to the work Nehemiah was called of God to do.
·         They had mocked the work
·         They had threatened the work with violence
·         They attempted to legally halt the work
Nehemiah had consistently repulsed the threats and mockings. When Tobiah and Sanballat had asked to meet with Nehemiah, he refused. When they asked to join with him in the work, Nehemiah rejected the offer. Still, Sanballat and Tobiah had been in Jerusalem much longer than Nehemiah and had built some very strong relationships among the Jews. The intertwined connections of marriages friendships and past business transactions created a loyalty even among some of the nobles of a Judah.

While working with Nehemiah on the walls, these same Jews continued their relationship with Tobiah. Perhaps well meaning in their hearts, it turned out that they served more or less as surrogate spies for Sanballat, giving Nehemiah cause for fear. Their opinion may have been that Tobiah's friendship would be a plus for their work. Perhaps they just could not understand why Nehemiah refused to make peace with him so they decided to make it happen on their own.  Nehemiah did not agree and obviously God agreed with Nehemiah.

Well meaning Christians may never know the damage they do to the work of God by maintaining friendships with those who are crosswise with the church God has placed them in. Viewing themselves as "ministers of peace" they don't get why a pastor will not bend just a bit to come to good terms with someone outside. Maintaining that friendship, and passing on information that the preacher would not himself pass brings, at the very least grief of heart to the man of God.

Nehemiah did not require these Jews to quit the work; neither did he prevent them from associating with Tobiah. But he never did compromise with Tobiah and he did register the grief they had caused in the pages of God's eternal Word.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Earnest Work

Nehemiah 3:20 KJV
After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.

Of all those working on the wall, the Word of God singles out Baruch to say he "earnestly" repaired the piece of the wall that was assigned to him. The word means fervency or with anger.[1] He poured himself into his labor.
  • Others did the work
  • Others had a mind to work
But only of Baruch does the Bible say he earnestly did the work.

In the world of the believers we find many who are about the work of the Lord:
  • People in churches
  • Pastors and
  • Missionaries
We may say of them all that they do their work. But it is likely that only a few do the work with all of the earnestness and zeal they are capable of. We all, with more or less zeal, apply one hand to the work of God and the other to the world. 

This passage tells us that, though God records the good that every believer is doing, He also sees the one who puts just that much extra into his service to God.



[1] But not in a negative sense.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Few that Escape

Nehemiah 1:2-3 KJV
That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.
And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

Though it had been nearly 100 years since Zerubbabel had led a group of Jews back to their Promised Land, there were still Jews dwelling in the land of the Persians. Nehemiah's own circumstances as the king's cupbearer did in no way diminish his earnest concern for events in that land of his heritage, though he had only heard of it. In his conversation with Hanani and these other men of Judah, Nehemiah employs three terms to speak of those Jews now in that Promised Land.

Captivity
The original state of each of these Jews had been as captives; slaves to a foreign land. Some of them had risen to positions of rank. Others had earned the favor of court. But regardless of their relative blessings, they all thought of themselves, these many generations after Nebuchadnezzar took them, as captives. The Jewish culture was strong enough to maintain that longing for their own home even hundreds of years after any of them had been home.

Escaped
This could not refer to those who had escaped being taken by Nebuchadnezzar, as that was more that one fifty years previous. Those Jews who were allowed to return home in one of those waves previous to Nehemiah's own return were said to have escaped. They did not sneak away from Persian captivity. But so precious was their circumstance to a man like Nehemiah, who was still in Persia, that those who had gone home were looked upon as having escaped.

Though the Promised Land is not a pure illustration of heaven, it seems appropriate for us to think of those who have gone before us into glory as having escaped. No matter how well we might have it in this life (and some Christians have it quite well) every Christian must look at life on planet earth as preventing us from being "home."

Remnant
Though thousands of Jews returned to their Promised Land these thousands only represented a remnant of the total.


So it is with heavenly citizens; multitudes of people have been saved. But these multitudes only represent a tiny portion of the earth's population. It behooves us to view ourselves as a handful among the world's swelling masses, not so as to think of ourselves as small and helpless, but to remind ourselves of those masses whose escape from this world will be no release. How can we blithely go on toward home when so many will never meet us there?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What Motivates Fervent Prayer

Ezra 9:3 KJV
And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.

Israel had returned to their land but they had not come home a pure people. Over the years of captivity, and continuing in their early years after the return, they had involved themselves in gross compromise. Royalty, priests and common people had all alike relaxed the standards of God's Word. They were home but they were far from God. 

The situation is not unlike what exists in America. While the majority of Americans would still claim to believe in God, the overwhelming number of them have no real relationship with God.
  • Their lifestyle
  • Their choices
  • Their priorities
reveal that, though they may have some sort of religious affiliation, they are very far from God. 

Ezra's response to the news of this compromise is as telling upon us as anything we find in the Bible. Ezra was
  • Astonished
  • Grief stricken
  • Completely appalled
by the condition. An American preacher who thus responds would be considered a radical and unreasonable religious zealot. 

We need a call to such a kind of zealotry as Ezra displayed. America needs Christians who fear His Word to be
  • Visibly
  • Spiritually and
  • Emotionally
moved by our country's distance from God.


Then and only then will we pray earnestly and fervently for God's forgiveness, mercy and for real revival. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Weep not, ... Behold

Revelation 5:5 KJV
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.

There is a book that answers all the questions that belong to the human race:
  • Those questions pertaining to the future Great Tribulation and
  • Those questions pertaining to present tribulations
The tearful thing is that its answers are closed to carnal man. We cannot attain to them in the foolish wisdom of the flesh. 
  • Where will we find a means to unlock these answers?
  • How can we possibly survive without these answers
  • Who can there be to reveal to us these answer?
The dilemma is beyond us. We are hopeless and helpless so far as we can see. 

But then comes God's response, "weep not" behold there is 
  • One who has prevailed
  • One who is worthy
  • One who is capable
of opening God's book and revealing its wisdom to us. He is Jesus Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

To any who appeal to Him, the book is opened and its answers revealed. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Seven Lamps, Seven Spirits and Seven Churches

Revelation 4:5-6 KJV
And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.

John's initial description of the throne in heaven is similar to His first description of Jesus in chapter one verses 12-13. Chapter one ends by telling us the seven golden candlesticks are the seven churches; Jesus being in the midst of them. 

Now we have seven lamps before God's throne with two other descriptors;
  • They are lamps of fire and
  • They are burning
We are told these lamps of fire are the seven Spirits of God, also previously mentioned in chapter one. 

The two remind me that the tabernacle was made after a heavenly pattern. There is no reason to believe that the church is anything less than a pattern of what exists in heaven. The church serves as a pattern of the heavenly lamp.
  • The Father sits before the churches as the Supreme Overseer
  • The Lord is in the midst giving direction and leadership and it is
  • The Spirit of God that gives it fuel and power for its work.[1]

The churches belong to Jesus Christ. He is her object of love and affection. But her
  • Fire
  • Passion and
  • Anointing
comes from the Holy Spirit.

We must have our eyes fixed upon Jesus Christ and our hearts filled with the Holy Ghost. 




[1] That it is the seven Spirits of God merely correlates the ministry of the Holy Spirit to the seven churches and speaks of the sufficiency of the Spirit.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fellowship

Revelation 3:20 KJV
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Such words of peace and rest did our Saviour speak!
  • "Let not you heart be troubled ye believe in God, believe also in me...”[1]
  • "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you...”[2] And this,
  • "Behold I stand at the door and knock...”

Let it be remembered that these words are addressed to the Laodicean church whose testimony is so disreputable that Jesus said He would spew them out of His mouth. Yet even to this church, and perhaps especially to this church, there is granted to any who would, fellowship:
  • Sweet
  • Restful
  • Blissful
fellowship.




[1] John 14:1
[2] John 14:27

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Grace of God is Matchless

Revelation 2:20-22 KJV
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

What exceeding grace is of a God! Jezebel is a false prophetess.[1] This isn't her true name but hearkens our thoughts back to that wicked queen of Israel. She is guilty of idolatry and fornication.[2] The sin is
  • Blatant
  • Obnoxious and
  • Contagious
as it seeks to seduce others into it.

Yet God gives her space to repent. He does not judge her immediately. He does not prevent her from seducing others into her bed. He gives space; time and opportunity for her to repent.

Further, He gives the seduced the same opportunity. Those who fall into the snare of sin, regardless of how evil the sin is, are always welcomed back if they repent.

Grace, grace, God's grace. Grace that is greater than all our sin.... Marvelous infinite matchless grace, freely bestowed on all who believe




[1] In this instance the name Jezebel is used metaphorically, probably an heretical movement in the church rather than an individual.
[2] Likely a spiritual form though physical may be implied too.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Enveloped by Grace and Peace

Revelation 1:4-5 KJV
John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

Apostle John believed in the three Persons if the godhead as is evidenced by his 1 John 5:7 but also by his greeting to those who would read the Revelation. John pronounced both grace and peace upon these readers. His is not a wishful pronouncement but one that proceeds from all three Persons of the godhead:
The eternal God
Which is and was and which is to come.” God never changes. Yesterday, today and forever His name is, I AM.

The seven Spirits 
The Holy Spirit of God; He answers to the number seven
  • In respect to His perfection and
  • In regard to His place in the seven churches addressed in this Revelation

Jesus Christ
The faithful witness. It is from Jesus Christ that John receives this revelation. It belongs to Christ who faithfully and accurately delivers it to the Apostle. 

Grace and peace proceeding from the Trinity surrounds and envelops the believer in Christ. 

  • We have grace and peace from above emanating from God the Father
  • We have grace and peace from within emanating from the indwelling Holy Spirit
  • We have grace and peace daily emanating from Jesus Christ and His Word, the Bible

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

God's Blessing No Guarantee of Salvation

Jude 1:5 KJV
I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.

God's material blessing is no guarantee of God's eternal salvation.

Writing to urge these Christians to contend for faith and not merely membership in the organization if the church, reminds them that though God delivered all of the Jews from Egypt, He later destroyed those who were not believers. 
  • These are people who had partaken in the Passover.
  • These are people whom the death angel had passed over
  • These are people who had miraculously crossed the Red Sea
  • These are people who had followed the pillar of fire. 
By birth they were Jews and by form they appeared to be right, but by faith they came short. 
America needs to heed this warning of Jude for we have a spiritual climate much like these wandering Jews:
  • We have experienced the unmistakable blessings of God
  • We have enjoyed the fruits of a marvelously bountiful land 
  • We have rested in the liberties purchased by our forefathers
  • We have each embraced our own version of worship[1]
But, though we can each revel in the bounty, success and blessings of being Americans, it in no way guarantees a happy relationship with God.

Americans have the freedom to worship God (or to reject worship) according to the dictates of our own consciences but we are still responsible before God. Liberty to do a thing does not make the thing right in the sight of God. Enjoying the material blessings of being an American does not ensure one's place in the heavenly world of God. 
  • Birth
  • Blessings and
  • Religion
Are not our means of eternal salvation. That comes only by grace through faith.




[1] A recent survey revealed that 95% of all Americans still claim to be religious, though religion means something different to each if us.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Live Up to Our Reputation

3 John 1:12 KJV
Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.

It is one thing to have a good report of men, it is often an entirely different thing to hold that report in truth. 
  • A man might have a good report of men through coercion
  • A man might have it through bribery
  • A man might be well reported by the majority if men due to peer pressure
  • A man might have deceived men whereby their report is based upon skewed observations

Here is a man whose good report is not only from the mouths of men but is consistent with the truth itself. 

It should be our purpose to not only be well reported of by people, but to be in fact worthy of a good report. It is not enough to win the favor of men; we must seek to have the favor of the truth itself.


Let our lives live up to a good report.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Sort of Love John Commanded

2 John 1:5-6 KJV
And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

We are so given to assumption. We have particular views and we often inject those views into our understanding of the Word of God without considering the views of the one writing that portion of the Word of God. We do the same in conversations with others, hearing what they said, but interpreting it according to our own background and beliefs and not that of the speaker. By doing so we are likely to completely miss the point the speaker wanted to make. Such presumptions do great damage to genuine Bible study because we make the Bible say what we want it to say rather than what it in fact says. 

Here is a case in point. John says the commandment he has for them is to love one another. But people are very likely to read into the commandment things that John did not intend. 
  • Some would say that love means to never be confrontational
  • Some would say that love means to approve of things whether they are biblically right or not
  • Some would say that love means to disregard doctrinal purity in lieu of cross denominational peace
A person may become very defensive and hateful of someone who doesn't interpret loving one another the same way as they do. Our country now calls preaching against homosexuality a hate crime. They accuse the Christian who believes the Bible of being hateful when in fact we are merely obedient to the Word of the Lord. 

John saw this problem and corrected it by defining love as walking after God's commandments. Love has the specific quality that it is obedient to and lives consistent with[1] the teachings of the Bible. No true love may be demonstrated unless there is obedience to God's Word.

The love John commands then is a polar opposite to what would be the general interpretation derived from a human background and belief. It is a love that can only be understood by putting aside our own ideas and actually hearing what God has given in His Word.




[1] The passage says walking after His commandments rather than obedience to His commandments. It is possible to be obedient to the commandments of the Bible but to do so with a wrong heart. The Pharisees were guilty of this. Obedience to God is rather like a life instinct than a forced lifestyle.