Archive for : November, 2017

Revelations 2

In our reading Jesus through John now begins to share personal messages to the seven churches of Asia (central Turkey). To each church Jesus declares to them that if they overcome and remain faithful in the face of trials and persecutions … they will be victorious! There have been many times in my life that I have thought about the message that Jesus gave to the church in Smyrna. “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” This message stands out for me because it reminds me that the promise is not that He will remove the suffering or the persecution, but that if we will stand with Him no matter the cost, in the end we win!

Revelations 1

As our reading opens we find John in confinement on the island of Patmos because his stand for Jesus. It is now late into the 1st century and Rome has begun her persecution against Christians. These are dark days for Christians and I am sure many are wondering why they have to endure such suffering? They also are wondering, if God is truly in charge why does it feel like they are losing? These are also questions that we struggle with and Jesus in the context of their struggles, in very powerful and colorful language will answer those questions. In context God and Jesus expected the things of Revelation to soon or shortly take place! The sense of the Greek expression is that an impending crisis of persecution was soon, near, shortly, or about to break in on the Christians. Yet the opening scene of this book reminds them and us that God and His Son are still in charge! An important reality they needed understand, as we do today!

Jude

Jude in our reading adds to the voices of Peter, Paul, and John in their latter letters, beware of the danger that exists within the church. Jude reminds his brethren and us that the truth had been established “once for all” but there will always be those that will come into the church and teach false doctrine. As Peter also noted, the danger they pose comes both from the doctrines they teach and from the influence of the sinful lives they live! Jude declares that the Lord will judge them, but the Lord’s church must be on guard at all times to stand against this ever present danger!
“In a culture that is increasingly apathetic or even antagonistic toward the Christian faith, in an era when pluralism and acceptance are the only ultimate virtues, we need to hear Jude’s reminder that there are times the faith must be defended. In Jude’s day as well as our own, that defense calls us to oppose false teaching, to live lives of faith and love, to pray in the Spirit, and to save those who falter.” (College Press)

2 Peter 3

Peter declares in our reading that we have been forewarned! For there will be a day when all of sudden our Lord will appear and everything will change! For those who have been faithfully walking in the Light – this will be a day of great joy, but for those who continue to walk in darkness, this will be a day of terror! It is so easy to be caught up in life and become complacent, but we have been forewarned and we need to remind ourselves of the coming reality!
“Thus Jesus taught, and Peter here reaffirms, that his coming will be as unexpected as the coming of a thief at night. Christ’s unexpected though predicted coming will bring the destruction of the present creation. The heavens likely refer to the galaxies and solar systems beyond the earth’s. The elements could refer to the earth’s solar system, or the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, or to the atomic particles which are the basic structure of nature. The earth describes the planet we inhabit. All of these things will disappear, be destroyed by fire, laid bare, and melt in the heat (cf. v. 13). All of these expressions are meant to emphasize that God’s final judgment will be total and complete— nothing will escape.” (Holman New Testament Commentary)

2 Peter 2

In our reading Peter reminds them and us that the truth and the church is always under attack, both from the outside world and in the fellowship! We see in these latter letters the call for those leading in the body of Christ to stand their ground and protect the body from these attacks. In our reading Peter warns that we must always be vigilant against false teachers. Peter also warns of the influence of those in the body that continue to walk in darkness yet claim to be children of light. The danger of both is very real to the body of Christ, for as Peter reminds us, our brothers and sisters can be seduce back into the world and lose their salvation!

Reflections

Today is a day to reflect over our readings. Peter declared in our reading that our Lord has given us all we need for “life and godliness.” That means our Lord has given us the tools, resources, and power to be transformed into the people He wants to be. There is no limit – He has given us everything we need! The only thing holding us back from the abundant life, the fruits of The Spirit, and true glory … is us!

Reflections to consider

The crowning attribute of Christ was this: his heart was spiritual. His thoughts reflected his intimate relationship with the Father. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” he stated (John 14: 11). His first recorded sermon begins with the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me” (Luke 4: 18 NASB). He was “led by the Spirit” (Matt. 4: 1 NIV) and “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4: 1 NIV). He returned from the desert “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4: 14 NIV). Jesus took his instructions from God. It was his habit to go to worship (Luke 4: 16). It was his practice to memorize scripture (Luke 4: 4). Luke says Jesus “often slipped away to be alone so he could pray” (Luke 5: 16). His times of prayer guided him. He once returned from prayer and announced it was time to move to another city (Mark 1: 38). Another time of prayer resulted in the selection of the disciples (Luke 6: 12–13). Jesus was led by an unseen hand. “The Son does whatever the Father does” (John 5: 19). In the same chapter he stated, “I can do nothing alone. I judge only the way I am told” (John 5: 30). The heart of Jesus was spiritual. Transformation is all about transforming our hearts into the heart of Jesus! (Adapted from “by Max Lucado)

2 Peter 1

The Greek language has two words for the word knowledge. One Greek word means knowledge of facts, the other Greek word Peter uses in our reading is knowledge that has been incorporated into one’s life. A person gets this knowledge when he becomes what he ought to be. The word does not mean a mere intellectual understanding of some truth, though that is included. It means a living participation in the same truth that Jesus stated in the prayer to His father: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Some Christians can quote scripture, but they do not obey the scripture. They have the head knowledge, but they have not made the knowledge of God and Jesus a part of their lives. Such a Christian does not have abundant grace and peace through an experienced knowledge of Jesus Christ. The basis of a person’s relationship to God and Jesus stands firmly on experienced knowledge. Peter declares in our reading that our Lord has put in place all we need to have such knowledge!

2 Thessalonians 3

In our reading Paul concentrates on certain members of the church whose behavior urgently requires correction. Most of the attention is given to those who had given up working and were living by the charity of their brothers and sisters, but Paul also discusses those who are willfully disobedient of the instructions and doctrines Paul had taught. For both Paul requires specific discipline. These are to be treated as outsiders, no longer a part of the community of God’s people, cut off from the fellowship of the church. In 1 Cor 5:1-13 Paul orders that the Corinthian church to expel an immoral member and others like him who refuse to repent of their sin when confronted with it. But the purpose of such discipline was to induce the sinner’s repentance and to isolate their influence on other disciples. A fellowship in which sin is ignored and repentance is optional has lost it’s identity as the kingdom of light. It is sad, but the culture that has been growing in the Lord’s church over last 20 years is to ignore the sin of our brethren. Of course, we are not talking about someone who is struggling in their walk, but a Christian who deliberately keeps on sinning and makes no effort to change the course of their lives (Heb. 10:26-31). I came across this quote that I have considered a number of times: “Without the thoughtful and deliberate application of such disciplinary practice as a part of the renewal of the genuine, intimate fellowship that existed among the earliest Christians, modern Christians can make little claim to have restored the life of the New Testament church.” 

2 Thessalonians 2

Paul wanted to reassure the Christians that Jesus has not already returned, as some were teaching, because Satan is still at work. Who or what is the “man of lawlessness” is not clear but don’t miss an important point that Paul is telling these Christians! They were struggling now with persecution and suffering but Paul is telling them it is going to get worse before it gets better! In fact, referring back to the first chapter – things will not truly get better until Jesus returns and Satan is cast into the lake of burning fire (hell). Who is the “man of lawlessness?” Well that is a good question and no one truly has the answer. Let me suggest my understanding of the “lawlessness one,” whatever it is worth. The lawlessness one is not one figure in history – but all those like the antichrist who oppose Christ and His children. The language in this text reminds one of Daniel and in the future were emperors like Nero, Domitian both whom claim to be deity and persecuted the Christians. In the third century A.D. Thessalonica was selected to oversee a Roman temple, and under Decius (ruled A.D. 249-251), who was infamous for his persecution of Christians. Please don’t miss the point in our reading! Things were going to get ruff to be a Christians and many might have to suffer for their faith – but stand firm to the end and you will win!

2 Thessalonians 1

Paul notes that the gospel is Not only to be believed but obeyed! When the gospel was preached there was always a call to respond to the call of the gospel by repenting of our sins (Acts 17:30), being willing to publicly take a stand that Jesus was now Lord of our lives (Rom. 10:9-10), and submitting to a water baptism in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38). It is worth noting that “obey” in this text is in the present tense, so it is implied that one must continue to obey the gospel in order not to receive punishment when Jesus returns!! So how does one continue to obey the gospel? Jesus made it very clear that response to the gospel was on going when He told the apostles “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20). So not only is our initial obedience to the gospel important, but so is our on going commitment to strive to do ALL of God’s will. Paul when he closes this letter will talk about those who are Christians but are not continuing to obey the gospel. Paul also noted in our reading that it is God, through The Spirit, that provides the power to continue to obey. 

1 Thessalonians 5

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” There it is! Here is the key that will change your life forever!! In these three short verses (which are commands, not suggestions) Paul lays down the keys for a life of peace and joy in the mist of trials and chaos. These three things Paul is telling us to do require that we see our lives through a lens fashioned not by the world, but by God. These three commands require effort and determined focus! Paul makes it very clear no matter what we face in this life that Joy, prayer, and thanksgiving should be an on going reality in our daily walk with Christ. Of course one of the reasons we can have this focus is because of the coming reality of our Lord’s return!

Reflections

Today is a day to pause and reflect over our readings. In our last reading Paul urged the Thessalonians to live to please the Lord and continue to do so more and more. Note, there is no time that we can declare we have arrived, transformation is a journey throughout our whole life. The old saying is if you are not moving forward you are going backwards, there is no retirement and there is no vacation in this journey. A good question to ask ourselves today would be: “What is direction of my spiritual journey?” If we are not investing in this journey, we are digressing.

Reflections to consider

John’s Gospel records seven “I am” statements Jesus uses to explain to us who he is: • “I am the resurrection and the life.” • “I am the good shepherd.” • “I am the bread of life.” • “I am the door.” • “I am the vine.” • “I am the light of the world.” • “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Believe it or not, in these sayings is the secret to significance and security. Jesus is telling us through these tremendous truths that true significance and lasting security can be found only in him. All that we hope for, all that we need, can be found in him. Knowing how we long for hope, knowing how we fear death, Jesus offered his followers, and offers us, a glimpse of what lies beyond this life for those who trust in him. (52 Weeks with Jesus)

1 Thessalonians 4

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” When I read those words I had just gotten a text from Jim Nichols that Sunny’s brother had just died. Buddy had been a faithful Christian all his life so his passing will of course bring pain, but our grieve when a child of God passes is different. For those of us that are in the kingdom of light there is a wonderful new beginning that awaits us when we die! Joy and suffering, birth and death, are all part of this journey and yet when this test called life is over we get to meet our Lord one day in the air when He returns. I am truly looking forward to that day!! So, yes we grieve but we do not grieve like those that have no hope! Amen!!

1 Thessalonians 3

Did you hear what Paul told the Thessalonians? He told them that trials were destined for them, that they should not be surprised when they come either to Paul or them! Paul sent Timothy to them to encourage them, so that they would not be unsettled by these trials. Paul wanted them and us to understand that trials are all part of this journey with Christ. Too many enter into Christianity believing they were promised a rose garden and when trials and suffering come along – they cry foul! The trials these brethren were facing came primarily because of their stand for Jesus. Their confession of faith caused them both social and economic problems. Yet the Christian walk demands that we stand for Jesus no matter the suffering and trials that it brings!

1 Thessalonians 2

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” It is important as we read the bible that we realize that we are listening to God. Your response might be to that statement – of course! Yet I wonder if we place the focus on reading and studying the bible that understanding should demand. When we trust God’s Word, we accept it into the depths of our hearts and minds. This gives us the desire and power to live it. Paul makes a point of noting that reading and understanding the bible is not just an intellectual exercise but it plays a very important role in the process of transformation in our lives.

1 Thessalonians 1

Paul in our reading refers to the suffering that took place in Thessalonica. The apostle Paul visited Thessalonica in A.D. 49 or 50 during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-9). Paul’s evangelistic efforts met with success. Within a short time a vigorous Christian congregation had blossomed, consisting of some members of the Jewish synagogue as well as former pagans. This success provoked the hostility of the Jews, who then started a riot. When they were unable to find Paul, they brought some of the believers before the local authorities and charged them with disloyalty to Caesar. The believers became fearful for Paul’s safety and sent him and Silas to Berea, where Timothy joined them later. The Jews were so aggressive and hostile against Christianity in Thessalonica they went to Berea and stirred up trouble for Paul there. With this background, the church in Thessalonica undoubtedly suffered under suspicion and community unrest. Paul refers to this hostility and suffering in both of his letters to the Thessalonians. But the Holy Spirit gave them the joy and ability to follow Christ. As Paul later wrote in his letter to the Philippians, there is fellowship in suffering for Christ, a fellowship with Christ himself. (Phil. 3:10)

John 21

Our Lord that morning asked Peter three questions. On the surface it just looks like Jesus is repeating Himself, but it all has a point. This conversation is related back to the time that Peter denied Jesus three times. So, Jesus gives Peter three opportunities to reaffirm his love for the Lord. Yet what does Jesus mean when He asked Peter “love me more than these?” Again, I believe it is directly related back to the evening that Peter denied Jesus. If you recall it was Peter who boldly proclaimed: “Even if all fall away, I will not.”  A statement declaring that his love was greater than the rest of the apostles. I believe Jesus starts this conversation asking: “Peter is your love for me greater than the rest of the apostles?” And to Peter’s credit he was not willing to again make such a bold and rash statement, so his reply was more humble this time! Jesus in His question used the word “agape” for love – a love that sacrifice and puts the needs of other first; it is the word that describes God’s love. Peter realizing his failings was not willing to place his love on that plain so he choose the Greek “phileo” – the love of affection and friendship. This conversation was all about restoring and reinstating Peter to a place of service in our Lord’s kingdom!

Reflections

Today is a day to review and reflect over our readings. In our last reading we saw unfold before us the resurrection of our Lord. Of course, our Lord’s resurrection gives us reassurance that one day we too will rise! What an amazing day that will be, an event that allows us to face death with a smile. I can think of nothing better to reflect on today. What an amazing and joyous day will be, just think we will be in the presence of the Lord forever!!