Archive for : December, 2018

12/31/2018 — Revelations Chapters 19-22

When I visit my home town of Martinsville, VA, a former prosperous center of textile and furniture manufacturing I personally experience the following description:

“It’s hard to see things grow old.  The town in which I grew up is growing old.  Some of the buildings are boarded up.  Some of my teachers are retired; some are buried.  The old movie house where I took my date has a “For Sale” sign on the marquee, long since outdated by the newer theater that gives you eight choices.  High school sweethearts are divorced.  A cheerleader died of an aneurysm.  Our fastest half-back is buried only a few plots from my own father. 

I wish I could make it all new again.  I wish I could blow the dust off the streets.  I wish I could walk through the familiar neighborhood and wave at familiar faces and pet the familiar dogs and hit one more home run.  I wish I could walk down Main Street and call out to the merchants that have retired and open the doors that have been boarded up.  … I wish I could make everything new … but I can’t.   Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven.” 

Revelation 21:  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 

Continuing from “Applause of Heaven: “I can’t.  But God can.  He doesn’t reform, he restores.  He doesn’t camouflage the old, he restores the new.  The Master Builder will pull out the original plan and restore it.  He will restore the energy.  He will restore the hope.  He will restore the soul.

What a wonderful promise to have to end the year of 2018 and to begin the new year of 2019.  What a God!  What a Savior!

12/30/2018 — Revelations Chapters 12-18

In these chapters we read of the great spiritual battle that will occur before Christ’s return.  And, as I mentioned yesterday, I cannot explain all of the imagery.  But one reality that is described is a great victory!

Revelation 12: The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
    who accuses them before our God day and night,
    has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over him
    by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death.
12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens
    and you who dwell in them!

And in this description we see an apt description of our enemy Satan, the accuser.  But we see an ever more significant description of what brings the victory — “the blood of the Lamb.”

12/29/2018 — Revelations Chapters 6-11

The next several days of reading contain imagery that no matter how much I study I cannot fully comprehend.   But there are promises and assurances in these sections that I know will be fulfilled.  The Lord always completes His promises.  And in today’s reading we see:

Revelation 7: 13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,
    nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

12/28/2018 — Revelations Chapters 1-5

What a wonderful months long study we could do on the book of Revelations.  But our reading is limited to the last four days of 2018 and what a way to end!

In these first five books a concept of total completeness was referenced several times:

Revelation 1: 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

Revelation 1: 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Revelation 2:  8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.

Revelation 4:  8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

To me there is nothing more powerful than this concept.  We will see these words again as we continue reading and we read them earlier in the book of Isaiah 44:6.

The online commentary “Got Questions” states:  “Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Among the Jewish rabbis, it was common to use the first and the last letters of the Hebrew alphabet to denote the whole of anything, from beginning to end. Jesus as the beginning and end of all things is a reference to no one but the true God. This statement of eternality could apply only to God.

12/27/2018 — the books of 2nd and 3rd John

In our readings we have seen Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others warn of the severe danger of false teachers that will appear.  In today’s reading we see John do the same

2 John: 7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.

Could there be any doubt that as believers today we see the same?  And it is our personal responsibility to be attuned to the inspired word of God so that these false teachings can be identified and corrected for the benefit of all believers.

12/26/2018 — The Book of 1 John

There are so many thoughts expressed in this chapter that it is hard to focus on just one.  I think my notes on this chapter (probably from Artie) summarize the message very well:

God is Light:                      1 John 1: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

God is Righteousness:   I John 229 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

God is Love:                      1 John 4:  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

12/25/2018 — the books of 2 Peter and Jude

As I read these chapters I noted one common element:

2 Peter 11So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.

2 Peter 3:1  Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.

Jude   Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord[c] at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.

We certainly engage in daily Bible reading to learn new aspects of God’s will for our lives.  To me, equally important,  is the reality that God’s inspired Word will remind us of the fundamental tenants of our Christian walk.

12/24/2018 — the book of 2 Timothy

Most commentators agree that 2 Timothy was written during a second imprisonment Paul incurred this time at the hands of Nero.  He had been under “house arrest” in Rome before, but this time is different. From the “Bible Study Tools Website”:

In the first imprisonment he had liberty to lodge in his own hired house, and to receive all comers, guarded only by a single soldier; in the latter, he was so closely confined that Onesiphorus with difficulty found him; he was chained, his friends had forsaken him, and he had narrowly escaped sentence of execution from the Roman emperor.

And as you read cannot you share in the emotions that Paul experienced?

2 Timothy 4For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

And, yet, even living under the reality of his impending death, Paul’s priority remained ensuring the vitality of the Body:

2 Timothy 4: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship,do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

 

Our prayer — we will remain faithful until the end and also receive the  ” … the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day …)

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/23/2018 — Hebrews Chapters 11-13

Of all of the inspired passages we read today regarding the “heroes of faith” standing as our example one verse drew my thoughts.  And it draws from the very first scripture in the Bible.

Genesis 1:1  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

And the related Hebrews verse:  Hebrews 11: 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

In my mind when combined these two verses speak volumes on faith.  For all of the natural laws of physics require that, as Einstein stated, “Energy (& correspondingly “matter”) cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from  one form to another.

And, yet, Genesis and Hebrews tell us that the Lord created – he did not just “re-form.”  From absolute nothing – he created.  And this is one basis of our faith!

 

 

 

12/22/2018 — Hebrews Chapters 7-10

As we read these 4 chapters it becomes apparent that, as many commentators state, at lease a portion of the audience of Hebrews is former Jews, now Christians.  Thus, the need to discuss the eternal nature of the “priesthood” of Jesus vs. the line of Levi.  I reflect on how blessed we are vs. the early church in that we have assembled in one book the complete and inspired Word of God for instruction.

And the logic used by the author reminds me of how Paul so logically discussed the salvation via faith vs. works. For example:

Hebrews 924 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

 

12/21/2018 — Hebrews Chapters 1-6

Have you ever been asked — “if God loved His Son so greatly why did he allow Him to experience the life of humans?”  Couldn’t God have “snapped his fingers” and said to his creations “You are forgiven?

Two verses in Hebrews that we read today help me understand.

Hebrews 2:   17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 4:  15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need

To be a true  intercessor you need to understand the conditions of those you are representing.   And we have this intercessor via the love and grace of the eternal Son of the Living God.

 

12/20/2018 — the book of 1st Peter

We often refer to Psalms when we are looking for encouragement.  My hope is that we have been reading together you have noticed that encouragement is present throughout all of scripture.

So, if you have ever wondered about the nature of the church (us) to the Lord just read:

1 Peter 2: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

12/19/2018 — the book of Titus

As I read this book I was, again, looking at some notes in the margins.  The notes (most likely from Artie) said that Paul give Titus 3 tasks:

(1)  Develop Leadership                                                            (Chapter 1)

(2)  Teach the Body how to live and “do what is good.”    (Chapter 2)

(3)  Teach why living that way is important                        (Chapter 3)

And there have been no changes to these tasks for the Body today.   A question — how are you contributing?

12/18/2018 — the book of 1 Timothy

1 Timothy is another inspired writing providing instruction for the conduct & leadership of the first century church.  And there are two phrases that speak to me regarding one of our our responsibilities as believers.  We are not to be selective or exclusive.  We are commanded to “reach out” to all people!

1 Timothy 2: 1-4  I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

 

 

12/17/2018 — the book of Philippians

OK, so I am one of “those people” who have their clothes laid-out the night before for the next day and who cannot begin work until each item on my desk is in it’s right place.  Now, I do believe that planning and organizing is generally a good thing.  That is of course unless conditions change, the organization fails, and “worry” enters the picture.

Maybe that is why Philippians is one of my favorite readings.  One of my “breath prayer” verses is:

Philippians 4: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

12/16/2018 — the book of Ephesians

As I read these passages I was taken by the instructions for daily living given to believers in Ephesians 4:17 – 6:20.  For these inspired writings are not just for the Ephesian church at that time but extend for the church until the time of Jesus’s return.

And with these instructions Paul includes a warning — one that also applies until Christ’s return:  Ephesians 6:  12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Flesh and blood” may break our bodies but “the powers of the dark world” can break our spirit.  Be alert!

12/15/2018 — the books of Colossians & Philemon

When I listen to a sermon or a teaching I will take notes in the margins of my Bible.  And in most of Paul’s writing, like Colossians, the margins are filled!  Paul’s inspired instructions to the first -century church and leaders form the very basis of the church of Christ.

But when I looked at Philemon I had very few notes and began to “ponder” what does Philemon tell us?  It is certainly a “personal letter” and the pronouns “I” and “you” are used extensively.

Then I remembered a commentary I had read from Christian author Chuck Swindoll:

The letter to Philemon reminds us that God’s revelation to humanity is intensely personal. In more formal biblical works such as the Gospels or the epistle to the Romans or even Paul’s letters to churches at Philippi or Colossae, it might be easy to get the impression that God does not care or have time for the trials and tribulations in a single household. Philemon stands as one piece of strong evidence to the contrary, revealing that lofty doctrines such as the love of God, forgiveness in Christ, or the inherent dignity of humanity have real and pertinent impact in everyday life. The book of Philemon illustrates that principles like these can and should profoundly affect the lives of believers.

On a personal note — replace Philemon’s name with your own & Onesimus’s action with those of someone who has wronged you.   How hard will it be to forgive and “welcome them back?”  (verse 17)

 

12/14/2018 — Acts Chapters 27-28

Isn’t it marvelous to read the level of detail Luke was inspired to give us regarding the voyage to Rome (even the figureheads of the final ship)  and the beginning of Paul’s time there?  I hope you will take a map and follow each segment.

Now, I would have enjoyed reading even more of Luke’s record of Paul’s stay and preaching in Rome but the Holy Spirit did not inspire this detail.   But, we will see some of the history as we read Paul’s subsequent letters.

But we are certainly assured of Paul’s continued faith and dedication regardless of the circumstances:   Acts 28:  31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

NOTE:  If you are curious as to Paul’s earthly fate there are a few different traditions (not inspired writings) in regards to how Paul died.  One of the most commonly accepted comes from the writings of Eusebius, an early church historian. Eusebius writes that Paul was beheaded at the order of the Roman emperor Nero or one of his subordinates. Paul’s martyrdom occurred shortly after much of Rome burned in a fire—an event that Nero blamed on the Christians.

12/13/2018 — Acts Chapters 24-26

What were you doing on December 13, 2016?    Now, imagine that you were under house arrest for that period of time — what would have missed in your life?

I present this scenario because sometimes I think we overlook time frames.  In doing so may, innocently, not realize the full hardships incurred by Paul.  In the chapters we just read we see Paul present the case for his innocence before Felix, the Roman governor of the region.   And in Acts 24 we read:

25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.  27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.

What had Paul planned for these two years?  We know that he had written to the Roman church that he intended to go to Spain (Romans 15:24.)  And, undoubtedly he had other plans.  But when he could not do what he wanted, he still took advantage of his unintended condition and continued to witness and teach, even to the King of the Nation (Agrippa.)

What a lesson — do we, like Paul make  the most of every opportunity even when circumstances change beyond our plans?

12/12/2018 — Acts Chapters 20-23

As I read through these chapters I was taken by the unjust treatment Paul received from the Leaders of the Jews (just as Jesus received.)  And if this were a “western” movie the Romans would arrive on the “white horse,” take Paul safely away after learning he was a roman citizen, and punish the Jews.

But they did not.  And a single verse (sometimes overlooked) explains why.  Reading from:  Acts 23: 11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage!  As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

As we have seen so often in our readings the Lord can take a very unpleasant situation (or person) and see His will fulfilled through them.