Archive for December, 2016

Holding on to former things (Revelation 19-22)

December 30, 2016

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Once again we approach (by the grace of God) the closing of a year (2016) and the beginning of a new year (2017).  Each year we become reflective as well as resolved.

We become reflective concerning what has happened during the present year.  We also become resolved for what we want to see happen in the new year.

Question:  “Did you place on your resolved list, The Second Coming of the Lord?”

As I read the final chapters of the book of Revelation, it was with joy in knowing the events written about speak of life at the time as well as after Jesus Second Coming.  Here is a brief overview:

  • Jesus will return for His church, Rev. 19:-10 (We will celebrate our reunion with the Lord.
  • Jesus will return to destroy His enemies, Rev. 19:11-21. (We know the true victory at the battle of Armageddon comes from the hand of Jesus).
  • Jesus will rule for a 1000 years at His Second Coming, Rev. 20:1-5.
  • Jesus will release Satan who will gather for one last battle and will be defeated and cast into the lake of fire, Rev. 20:7-11.
  • Jesus will judge all lost people at the Great White Throne Judgment, Rev. 20:11-14.
  • Jesus will establish a new heaven and a new earth, Rev. 21.
  • Jesus will reign forever and ever, Rev. 22:1-5

Brothers and sisters, the church has so much to look forward to!!!

But the question I have for you is this: “Are you ready to put behind you the former things spoken of in Revelation 21:4?”

Many people cannot focus on the things of heaven because they are fully engaged in the things of this earth.

The book of Revelation closes with both a strong invitation as well as a supernatural assignment.

First the assignment is clear, “We are to faithfully proclaim, protect, and live out the truth of this Book.”  You and I have to be willing to let go of the worlds agenda in order to accomplish heaven’s agenda.  Oh how I pray this will be your resolve in 2017!

Second, the invitation is clear, Rev. 21:17

17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

May you and I resolve to invite everyone to come to Jesus in 2017!!!

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How can I do anything but go? (Revelation 6-11)

December 28, 2016

15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Revelation 9:15

Sitting at our dinning room table on Christmas day, with brothers and sisters I love was an amazing experience.  As we fellowshipped in Christ (I John 1:3-4) the subject turned to end times.  As we got really intense the agreement of all at the table was this: “Jesus is coming again.”

The question that plagued my mind was this, “Who will go and reach the world with the gospel before the end comes?”  The end spoken of in Revelation 6-11.  In these chapters we see both the seal judgments as well as the trumpet judgments.

Question:  “Does the revelation of what is to come move you to go?”

Below I have copied a recent article written by our Malawian Mission Partner, Ovi Cornea.  He leads hope for the future.  The title of the article is: Do you have a special call to stay home:

 

The question in the tile of this article was asked by Hudson Taylor, to a room full of people, sometimes towards the late 1800’s, in England. Just like today, in those times many Christians saw foreign missions as something of a less importance to the church and missionaries as individuals who, at best, love to travel to weird places. In worst case scenarios, missionaries are seen as crazy people, irresponsible towards their family and running away from a regular 8-4 job.

The same Christians, most of them pastors of that time, could not believe their ears that some heathen fishermen would let a man drown because they were too busy fishing, while they sat passive as millions die eternally in hell.

Sadly, not much has changed today when it comes to this twisted perspective upon life. Any of us, followers of Christ, are shocked when we hear somebody died because of someone’s negligence, while we can care less if thousands go to hell every day, being eternally separated from God. What is more important? The body or the soul? When have we become so blind to the real needs of this world?

In a previous article I shared about our new intern, Roxana, who is coming from Romania. Knowing a little about what she is going through during this time of preparations, my mind was flooded with memories of when we, as a young family, did just that. As if the whole preparation was not fearful and stressful enough, there were some that felt they had to use their gift of discouragement in order to make things even more difficult. Several Christians questioned our call to Malawi and wondered if we were not supposed to actually stay in Romania? Others had other ideas about what God’s plan for our lives could be and it seemed, more often than not, that those who do little or nothing for the cause of Christ are experts in giving advice.

I’ve always welcomed and enjoyed answering sincere questions regarding our call to Malawi. After all, it is an opportunity to show how great our God is and how many amazing things He has done in and through our lives. I do remember, though, on at least a couple of occasions, when that question was meant in a sarcastic way.

  • Sarcastic person: Do you have a special call to go to Malawi?
  • Me: Do you have a special call to stay home?

Hudson Taylor was addressing a church in England just before going back to China to continue God’s work of spreading the gospel to those who had never heard. He was explaining how there were regions as large as England that had not one preacher and then he said this… “It will not do for you to say that you have no special call to China. With these facts before you need rather to wonder whether you have a special call to stay home. If in the sight of God you can not say you are sure you have a special call to stay at home why are you disobeying the Savior’s plan and His command to go. Why are you refusing to come to the help of the Lord again of the All Mighty? If however it is perfectly clear that duty not inclination, not pleasure, not business, detains you at home, are you laboring in prayer for those needy ones as you might? Is you influence used to advance the cause of God among them? Are you means largely employed as they should be in helping forward their salvation?“.

I read this words years ago and I found them to be very convicting. No, there is nothing special in coming to Malawi. No, there is nothing special in being a missionary. From the Bible, I believe that is actually the norm. It has to be a special and unique call to rather stay home and do nothing for Christ. It must be a special gift to be on the side and mock, ridicule and discourage others who want to obey Christ.

I don’t know where God may want you to serve Him, maybe China, maybe Malawi or maybe even home but, until everyone is saved, Christ’s call stands.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…

What Hope Is There? Revelation 1-5

December 27, 2016

And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Revelation 5:3-4

Question: “Did you do it?”  Be honest, “Did you read the first five chapters of Revelation?”  The Bible says, “if you read, hear, and obey His Word,” you will be blessed!

True admission:  Life can beat you down to the point that you cannot focus on what is right in front of you.

Case in point:  Ours is a world that is in turmoil.  Nations are against nations and countries are having turmoil within.  Our own nation cannot come together because there are competing forces for the lordship of men.  It would be easy for us to say, “What hope is there?”

A recent Gallup poll (released last week) suggests that 21% of Americans now claim to have zero religious affiliations.  Increasingly we are becoming less and less a nation of hope.

Question: “Where does your hope lie?”  My answer is this, “My hope lies in the God of the book of Revelation.”

The Apostle John in chapters 1-5 presents to us Jesus.  Jesus is presented as the one who loves us and has freed us from our sins (1:5).  Jesus is presented as the one who is coming again to rule and reign forever (1:7).

The Apostle John sees the resurrected Jesus and falls in awe of the one he describes in Vs: 12-16.  The very first words John records after see him are these:  “Jesus says, ‘fear not.'”

Brothers and sisters, these are words of hope in a world gone crazy.  Why do we need not fear?

  • We do not fear because we serve a God who was, who is, and will be forever. (No one will overthrow His throne).
  • We do not fear because Jesus has the keys to our eternal home (He has the keys).
  • We do not fear because Jesus is the leader of the church (Revelation 2-3).
  • We do not fear because Jesus is the one who is the conquering Lord of life (Revelation 5).
  • We do not fear because Jesus is coming again (Revelation 5).

Brothers and sisters, any one of these things, by themselves is reason enough to have hope.  Put together they give us a picture of what is coming to be in our world.  We hold on in hope knowing better days are ahead.

We cry with the church of the ages, “Come Lord Jesus!”

Are These Things Important? II John-III John

December 26, 2016

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. II John 7

10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. III John 10

A closer friend visited a neighboring church (To where he lives) during a recent special service.  Here was his text to me describing his experience:

“The preacher go up and talked (not preached, or taught) for about 15 minutes.  He told just enough truth for it not to be a lie.”  He began the text with: “You did not miss anything.”

Question:  “Does the church miss anything when it does not focus on the whole counsel of God?”

Allow me to leave this question before you for a moment and come to context in our readings for today.

The Apostle John is addressing (I believe) two churches who have two distinct and strongly different issues:

  • 2 John addressed the issue of those who were teaching the false doctrine of Jesus not really being human.
  • 3 John addressed the issue of one man who refused to care for the needs of the traveling evangelist.  Everything was for one.

Here is the deal:  2 John addresses the question of Christian doctrine and 3 John addresses the question of Christian duty.

Some people believe the subjects of doctrine and duty are not important to God.  Brothers and sisters, nothing is more important to the Christian message than doctrine and duty.

Doctrine teaches us who God is and what God requires.   How can anyone be saved apart from the truth of Scripture?  Romans 10:13-17.  How can anyone fulfill the call of God for their life apart from service (duty)? Matt. 16:24.

If Jesus was not the “God-Man” you and I are still lost in our sins.  Because He was the “God-man” He was able to purchase our redemption and to understand our weaknesses( Hebrews 9; 4:14-16).

If duty is not important we find ourselves doing things not for God but for ourselves.  We find ourselves building a kingdom to ourselves.

I want to encourage you to think deeply on these two issues.  I know, as a pastor who is deeply committed to doctrine and duty, first hand the pull to build a church on feeling instead of fact and to engage in a church life that experiential based instead of expectation based.  Unless we stay grounded we will build churches that magnify ourselves and fool people into thinking this is the way to heaven.  The words of Jesus occupy my thoughts in this moment:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23

Brothers and sisters, “May our New Year’s Resolutions include a stronger commitment to doctrine and duty.”

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2016

The Birth of Jesus Christ

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.[c]

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Avoiding the quarrel(II Timothy 1-4)

December 23, 2016

14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God[a] not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. II Timothy 2:14

You knew it was going to happen, but you just could not avoid it.  You had prepared yourself to talk the alternate route, but when it came up, you turned down that familiar street.  And just like Uncle Si says, “It was on like Donkey Kong.”

You ask, “What are you referring to?”  Answer, “that dreaded argument that has lingered in your extended family for years.”

In some circles people identify this as simply “the elephant in the room.”  In my life, it is the conversation that stems from unresolved conflict in a relationship.

As Paul writes to Timothy, He is charging him to teach the Word faithfully.  In chapter 2, Paul moves to direct Timothy to handle the Word in the correct way.  It would be useless to quarrel about non-essential words or views.

I believe we can apply this teaching to every part of our lives.  The goal of teaching is for the redemption of the circumstances you are speaking into.  All of life is broken because of the fall.  Every relationship has brokenness stamped on them.

This day I challenge each who read this blog to consider what really needs to happen in your family get together.  It is not that God does not want you to address the brokenness, but that He wants you to address it with the correct heart.

23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant[a] must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

The above Scripture is the path to take as you head down the street of your family time.  Be prepared to live out these verses and discover the joy of reconciliation!!!

A Gift that keeps on giving (Hebrews 11-13)

December 22, 2016

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6

For some people, this day will be filled with the frantic effort to purchase gifts for people who have been put off until this moment.  Question, “How would you like to be able to give someone a gift that keeps on giving?”

A wise shopper would ask two questions:

  1. What is this gift?
  2. How much does the gift cost?

The writer of Hebrews in chapter 11:1 identifies the gift:  “It is the gift of faith.”  Notice the great explanation of the gift:

  • Faith is in the present progressive state which means it is active and always moving forward (It is the gift that keeps giving).
  • Faith is having a belief that rests in the knowledge of the ability of the one you evidence faith in.  You have assurance of what is promised.
  • Faith is a conviction that keeps on believing all the way through life.  It is a gift that keeps giving in hard times and in happy times.

The writer of Hebrews in chapter 11:6 identifies the cost of the gift: “The gift was purchased by Jesus on the cross.”  The only cost to you and I is to have genuine faith in God.

Here is our faith:  “God exists.”  This means He is our Father who created this world and is the Sovereign Lord of the universe.  This means Jesus is God who came to be the Son of Man to purchase our redemption.  This means Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father and is going to return in glory and power to rule forever.  This means the Holy Spirit is real.  The Holy Spirit resides inside of every true believer representing Jesus to us and empower us to do His will.

Here is our faith: “He rewards those who seek Him.”  This means God daily keeps on giving us faith as we evidence faith.  This very day, I know my needs will be met.  This very day I know God’s wisdom will direct me to victory no matter how deep or how dark the trials may be.  Faith will keep giving until faith delivers me into the very presence of the Father in heaven.

So just before Christmas I cry out:  “Let Faith Arise!”

The Big Day is Near (Hebrews 7-10)

December 21, 2016

19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. Hebrews 7:19

In recent days our nation (USA) has been deeply divided concerning the direction of our nation.  For some people the big day of the election brought hope to their hearts.  But for many others the big day drained them of hope in their hearts.

As a Christ-follower it would be easy to get caught up in the rhetoric.  But as students of Scripture you and I are always brought back to grounded truth.  Here is truth:  “Christ is the guarantee of a better hope (7:22).”

The author of the book of Hebrews leads us to discover the wonderful truth of the superiority of Christ’s priestly ministry to that of the priests of the Old Testament.  The truth in chapters 7-10 can only be grasped through the understanding of the Law.  I challenge you to read Leviticus 1-11 to understand the background.

For our time sake I want to focus on one part of one chapter: 7:19-28.

The writer shows us the glorious blessing of Jesus priestly ministry:

  • Because of Jesus, you and I can draw near to God, Vs: 19.
  • Because of Jesus, you and I are forgiven before God, Vs: 22-25.
  • Because of Jesus, you and I have perfect hope, Vs: 26-28.

Take time to consider the implications of these blessings.  After doing so, consider this fact: “You and I are just days away from the big day when we will celebrate the inauguration of Jesus ministry.”

Our nation needs this truth.  The fact is, earthly leaders come and go.  Some of these leaders do a better job than others.  But in the end, all of them fall short of the great need of humanity.  There is only one who meets the need of humanity.  His name is Jesus.

As we look forward to a celebration of this day, we also look forward to another day, it is even a bigger day for us in the church:

28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28

I am looking forward to the BIG DAY!!!

 

Long Ago (Hebrews 1-6)

December 20, 2016

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1-2

The opening words of Hebrews one, “long ago,” remind of the lyrics I used to read in children’s stories as a child.  Those words were placed there by the author to get your attention about something that you had not experienced in your lifetime.  For example, “long ago in the land of Oz.”

This morning our Lord direct’s our attention in the book of Hebrews to a day that you and I were not a part of.  It was long ago. In particular, it was the days of the prophets.   Keep in mind, the prophets were those who were called of God to represent Him to the people.  In Numbers 12:6 God reminds the people that only Moses had the honor of speaking with God face to face.  All others would hear through the prophets.

We ask, “Why was this the case?”

The people were sinful and prone to wander from God.  They did not seek God nor did they walk in daily fellowship with God.  God raised up prophets who would call the people back to Him.  God raised up prophets to direct the people to repentance.  God raised up prophets to proclaim judgment if the people did not repent.  Lastly, God raised up prophets to predict the coming of the Messiah who would restore to me the opportunity to be right with God.

The book of Hebrews celebrates the coming of the Messiah.  The book of Hebrews lifts up Jesus in His superiority to everything God has created.

In chapter one verses 2-5 we see no less that 7 superior characteristics of Jesus:

  • He is the appointed heir.
  • He is the agent of creation.
  • He is God revealed.
  • He is co-equal with God.
  • He is the sovereign ruler of the universe.
  • He is the redeeming sacrifice for our sin.
  • He is seated at the right hand of God making intercession.

These 7 superior characteristics remind me of this truth:  “What was in the long ago is still now and will be forever.”  I find myself longing to know this one called Jesus.

This day I challenge you to spend extra time in devotion discovering Jesus who the hymn writer says, “give us a foretaste of glory divine.”

Enjoy the words of that blessed hymn:  Blessed assurance

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood

This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

Perfect submission, perfect delight
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight
And angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love

This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior

Praising the Father in Heaven
Whose Son died for me
Praising my Savior all the day long
Lyrics from <a href=”http://www.elyrics.net”>eLyrics.net</a&gt;

 

This might help (I Peter 1-5)

December 19, 2016

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time[a]the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. I Peter 1:10-12

R.C. Sproul makes a timely comment in the Reformation Study Bible concerning these verses.  Here is what he writes: “The prophets were suddenly made aware that they were serving future generations by what they spoke.”

The above comment serves us well in our readings.  The fact is, there are somethings in life that no amount of human effort can help.  Example:  “If a person is grieving during the holidays, no among of presents can heal the hurt.”  The help comes from somewhere else.

For us, the help comes from what we gain in reading I Peter.  For our time we will examine just chapter 1.

Peter shares with the glorious news that God has offered mercy to us through Jesus Christ (1:3).  This mercy (upon reception) leads us to the inheritance of eternal life with Jesus.  We know God allows us to go through times of trials to strengthen our faith as well as to show others faith, 1:4-9.  We know the outcome of our faith is secure, 1:9.

But do we know how important this is for others to know?

The prophets in 1:10-13 spoke the words given to them, by God, concerning the coming of the Messiah.

The prophets in 1:10-13 inquired (they asked others and they asked God) and they studied (what had God already said before their day).  They wanted to know when the day would be (time) and they wanted to know what the Messiah would be like (Person).

All that God revealed to them would help them to understand two truths:

  1.  Jesus would come, but not in their day.
  2. Jesus coming would be a blessing to the entire world (Heb. 11:39-40).

By their simply obedience to study and pray, God would bless the world!!!

This Christmas season often is overshadowed by things that really do not make our hurt any easier. But the more we share the truth of Christ, the more people are helped.

Yes, it is true, “Give the gift of Christ at Christmas.”