Archive for : December, 2019

12/16/19: Revelation 7:1-17; Psalm 135:1-21; Proverbs 30:5-6

While there are sections in Revelation that are difficult for us to understand in this life the Holy Spirit inspired John to record promises that the Lord has made to believers.  They are descriptions of comfort and reassurance.  And we should live each day yearning for these rewards:

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 Lamb. 15 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.

12/15/19: Revelation 6:1-17; Psalm 134:1-3; Proverbs 30:1-4

As we begin reading the next several chapters of Revelation I find that the commentators I read make the point that the signs and symbolism in these chapters are not easily interpreted.  And that we should beware of those who state that they understand fully.

I am reminded of the multiple warnings from Paul, Peter, John and others on the urgency of our remaining in the Word and being alert to the false teachers who may approach us.

2 Peter 2:2 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

12/14/19: Revelation 5:1-14; Psalm 133:1-3; Proverbs 29:26-27

From today’s reading and with just a little imagination I think we can get at least a “micro-glimpse” of the glory that exists in the presence of the Lord:

Revelation 5:  11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

While the numbers are not to be taken literally and really express an infinite number envision at least 100 million angels in one location, walking in circles around a throne all speaking in unison.  Now add to that every creature (KJV – created thing) also offering praise.  Is there any reason that the “elders fell down and worshiped?”

What else could be done in the presence of the Lord, God Almighty; the Alpha and the Omega; the Beginning and the End?

12/13/19: Revelation 4:1-11; Psalm 132:1-18; Proverbs 29:24-25

If you are like me I am sometimes a bit frustrated that I do not understand all of the images described by John in Revelation.  For example:

Revelation 4:  From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.  In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 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.

But then I realize that even though he was inspired by the Holy Spirit John could not quite describe what he was seeing either and, using the simile “like,” tried to relate the majesty to a human reader.  And I am reminded that in this earthly lifetime there are just some things our minds cannot conceive – but they will be extraordinary and we will be in the presence of the Lord God Almighty.

Corinthians 2:9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him—

12/12/19: Revelation 3:7-22; Psalm 131:1-3; Proverbs 29:23

Reflect a bit – you have probably seen this picture …

It is an representation of Jesus standing before an old wooden door.  He is often portrayed carrying a shepherds hook.  And he is gently knocking on the door,  leaning forward as if listening.  And the passage inspiring this picture is:

Revelation 3:20  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

 

Look closely at the picture and you will see something a bit odd  — there is no doorknob on the outside.  The original of this painting was made by English artist William Holman Hunt.  When asked about this oddity he replied, “Oh! No, I didn’t forget the handle. When Jesus knocks on the door of your heart – the handle’s on the INSIDE.”

The analogy is clear – Jesus will not force himself on us.  He invites but the decision is ours.  And the very next verse tells us what a reward we receive!

 

Revelation 3:21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

 

 

 

12/11/19: Revelation 2:18-3:6; Psalm 130:1-8; Proverbs 29:21-22

Have ever written notes or instructions on an older “white board” (or if you are my age a chalk-board.)  Then once you are finished you erased the writings?   Often, no matter how hard you rub or whatever cleanser you use a residue remains & you can still see some of the smudged letters.

Psalm 130If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I sometimes think that our concept of forgiveness is like those older boards.  We are forgiven and, yet, in our minds the “smudges” remain and we reflect on what we have done.  And Satan can use these thoughts to drive guilt deep within our lives.

But the Psalmist reassures us that if we truly repent the Lord does not reflect on our “smudged letters.”  In fact he does not erase a white board — when we are forgiven we start with a brand new one!

12/10/19: Revelation 2:1-17; Psalm 129:1-8; Proverbs 29:19-20

As I was reading in Revelation the words of the Lord to the church at Ephesus a warning for the church today entered my mind.

Revelation 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

It appears that the church at Ephesus was doing many of the right things.  They were well organized, and remained loyal.  But did you notice that even though they were doing what was needed they seemed to have forgotten why.  I think of them as being a well-run organization.

And I think churches today need to be aware of the same potential weakness.  Keeping the building in repair, well-organized pot-lucks, and well-planned fellowship opportunities are all terrific & vital for the Body.  But do we do these duties without remembering who it is that we serve or that the “church” is not a building but is each individual member with our own needs and talents.

12/09/19: Revelation 1:1-20; Psalm 128;1-8; Proverbs 29:18

I can think of no more powerful expressions used to denote the full power and omnipotence of the Lord than two that are written in Revelation 1.

Revelation 1:  “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: 1When 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.

I think most of are familiar with the fact that “Alpha” is the first letter in the Greek alphabet and that “Omega” is the last.  And in His deity the Lord is the totality of and encompasses all things.  With my human limitations the full reality of this concept is difficult to comprehend.  The authors of the ‘Got Questions” website present some thoughts that help me begin to comprehend:

Christ, as the Alpha and Omega, is the first and last in so many ways. He is the “author and finisher” of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), signifying that He begins it and carries it through to completion. He is the totality, the sum and substance of the Scriptures, both of the Law and of the Gospel (John 1:114). He is the fulfilling end of the Law (Matthew 5:17), and He is the beginning subject matter of the gospel of grace through faith, not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9). He is found in the first verse of Genesis and in the last verse of Revelation. He is the first and last, the all in all of salvation, from the justification before God to the final sanctification of His people.

12/08/19: Jude 1:1-25; Psalm 127:1-5; Proverbs 29:15-17

When we read Jude there are several points I think we need to consider.  First Jude introduces himself as being a brother of “James.”  Scholars identify this “James” as being the earthly brother of Jesus.  This means that Jude is also the earthly brother of Jesus.

Secondly, this letter is, again, focused on the “false teachers’ who were infiltrating the early church.   And in my opinion Jude’s inspired description of these men is explicit:

Jude 1These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

 

12/07/19: 3 John 1:1-15; Psalm 126:1-6; Proverbs 29:12-14

I often find myself learning from others.  Most often it is from those doing well & I can model their behavior.  But sometimes I find myself learning even more by observing others who are performing badly and committing to not follow their pattern.

Like Second John Third John is also a personal letter written to his dear friend Gaius.   We see John praising Gaius for his hospitality in welcoming travelers who are spreading the Word of God.  Then, we see John condemn a man, Diotrephes, for his actions.

3 John I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

We can learn from that within the Christian community there is no place for (1) Pride  (2) Gossip (3) Not practicing hospitality to other believersI believe it is important that we examine our lives to see if we are modeling Gaius or are we letting some of the actions of Diotrephes enter?

12/06/19: 2 John 1-13; Psalm 125:1-5; Proverbs 29:9-11

When I read 2 John the first thing that struck me is how tenderly and personally this letter is constructed – from John (the elder) to “the chosen lady and her children.” Most scholars I read (including Coffman) feel that “the lady” referred to an unnamed church and “the children” are members.  The theme of John’s letter is a warning of the intrusion of false teachers.  And as I read I could almost feel John’s love and concern for the souls of this Body.

2 John   And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.  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.

12/05/09: 1 John 5:1-21; Psalm 124:1-8; Proverbs 29:5-8

Maybe it is just me but I often have trouble deciding on just the right gift that I can give someone to show how much I love them.  I mean – should it be a card, lyrics from a meaningful song, or a physical present?  And, then what card, song, or present should it be?  And, then who is going to wrap it?

And how do we show the Lord how much we love Him?  Well, the inspired Word has the answer — “obey his commands

1 John 5: This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.  And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

 

12/04/19: 1 John 4:1-21; Psalm 123:1-4; Proverbs 29:2-4

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.

A question — if “God is love” how can he condemn unbelievers to an eternity of damnation?  That thought has entered my mind, and I have heard it used to rationalize that hell does not exist & that all of mankind will spend eternity in heaven, regardless of their religious believes.

In answering this question for myself I did a bit of reading and I think the following explanation answers the question.

The phrase “God is love” only occurs here and verse 16 in the Bible.  This phrase affirms a condition about the nature of God, all that God does is love.  If He provides, He provides in love; if He judges, He judges in love.  Love is inherent in the nature of God; it is at the heart of all God is.  Additional to love and among other things, God is also truth, justice, righteousness and long-suffering.
    — Dr. Grant Richison

 

12/03/19: 1 John 3:7-24; Psalm 122:1-9; Proverbs 29:1

1 John 3: 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 

In an earlier blog we referenced “hypocrisy” where our actions do not support what we say.   Here we see John, known as the “Apostle Jesus loved,”  highlight what “love” truly is:

— love is serving one another with the actions we take — not the platitudes we offer.

12/02/19: 1 John 2:18-3:6; Psalm 121:1-8; Proverbs 28:27-28

Psalm 121: 

The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

And to these inspired Words I can only add — AMEN!

12/01/19: 1 John 2:1-17; Psalm 120:1-7; Proverbs 28:25-16

Often in our Christian walk our focus is, rightly, on our relationship with the Lord.  But, as John inspired by the Holy Spirit reminds us today, we are also instructed to focus on our relationship to other members of the Body:

1 John 2Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.