Sunday, February 21, 2021

Fight the Good Fight of Faith

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all, according to Psalm 34:19.  It doesn't take long to realize that the spiritual battle is real, and right here now.  Paul describes the inner spiritual conflict in Romans 7, and the truth about the battle not being flesh, but spiritual in Ephesians 6.   Everyone who desires to overcome has to learn how to let God fight for them to win.  Faith overcomes the world because it depends upon the victory of the Lord Jesus.  On one hand He "trains our hands for war" and on the other hand, having done all in the armor of God (Ephesians 6), we stand until the Lord "perfects, establishes, and strengthens you." (1 Peter 5:10)  Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph. 

There will always be trials, until the Lord returns.  James, in chapter 1, tells us to count it all joy when trials come.    1 Peter reminds us that it is through trials that we grow in patience, which complete work is to perfect us to lack nothing.  Faith and patience inherit the promises.  What the enemy meant for evil, Joseph declares, "God uses for good."   

Focus is everything.  Romans 8 strongly encourages us to not set our mind on the flesh which cannot please God, but rather to set it on the spirit which is life and peace.  Not every thought or feeling needs to be entertained or expressed.  We can choose to think about what is true, just, pure, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy according to Philippians 4:7-8.  We can give thanks in all circumstances because no weapon formed against us will prosper.  Jesus, in His mock trial before the Pharisees and then Pilate, knew when to stay quiet and when to speak.  Likewise, in Psalm 38, David also reinforces this truth, "But I, like a deaf man, hear not; and I am like a dumb man who opens not his mouth," with the explanation, "For in You, O Lord, do I hope.  You will answer, O Lord my God." 

We don't belong to the world and do not have to cater to its demands.  Paul confessed that he gloried in "the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ by whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world."  Our life is hidden in Christ and the world cannot steal our peace and joy.  We win by staying in the spirit and trusting in the overcoming power available to us through Jesus' death and resurrection.  

It is finished. The battle is won. One of the exciting and encouraging effects of reading Revelation is seeing the dominion and power of the Lord Jesus rightly applied to all who reject His leadership.  The sounding of the seventh trumpet of the seventh angel declares that "the mystery of God would be finished."  The kingdoms of the earth have become the kingdoms of our Lord.  We are united with the Lord Jesus to reign with Him forever. 

We only see this total victory by faith now.  Hebrews 2:8-9 points out that all things and powers are subject to Him, but we don't see that now.  But we see Jesus.  The work of God according to John 6:29 is to believe in Him who He sent, in other words, believe the authority and victory of the Lord Jesus is complete to redeem all mankind.  Lets personalize that last comment, to make me overcome every trial.  We fight the good fight of faith by acknowledging Jesus' triumph and refusing to abdicate the incredible glory and honor He has given to us, to be one with Him in this complete victory.   Praise God forever, He is worthy!  


Monday, February 15, 2021

Well done, good and faithful servant!

At school this week our K through 3rd graders stood with poise, and with expression, as they presented their pieces at the all school speech meet.  Just as I deliberately spoke to each one by name, "Josiah, well done good and faithful servant," the day is coming when we will stand before the Lord Jesus, King of Kings, who will direct these powerful words to you and all who serve Him.  My goal clearly was to plant a seed within each one to seek that glorious moment when Jesus honors their Christian work.  

The Holy Spirit is emphasizing today the study of the book of Revelation because it is not too early to have a solid understanding of the greatest move of God where He establishes His Kingdom of love on the earth.  Christians who grasp the revealed biblical plan are not afraid, but rather are filled with boldness, confidence, and love. God is calling His people to prepare, not physically with food or guns, but spiritually so we are not "children shaken by every wind of doctrine" or threats to are well-being.  

The 7th seal releases the 7 trumpet judgments which are an effective attack on the evil antichrist empire.  We repeat, it is not an attack on believers.  At the onset the prayers of the saints are united with the incense or prayers of heaven from the golden altar, which further demonstrates Jesus' desire for partnership with His body in all He does.     

All heaven is overwhelmed into silence by the glorious and terrifying judgments coming to the earth.  Glorious, not only because it will effectively stop all injustice, but also because it describes the defeat and destruction of the greatest oppressor through out all history, the anti-Christ.  

God is the master of giving us fore-types of what will happen through prior events in Old Testament. The first five judgments parallel the plagues of Egypt that Moses called down.  Upon entering the promised land, Joshua blew the 7th trumpet to bring about the destruction of the great city Jericho.  Micah 7:15-16 declares that greater miracles than the wonders that happened in Egypt will occur in the God's deliverance of His people, which will cause the nations to be ashamed of their might and fear the living God.    

Rather than just a book of information, the plan and sequence of judgments will become a prayer manual for the praying church to step by step agree with God and call forth the judgments which will severely hinder the resources and control of the anti-Christ.  This will be the church's finest hour. Not only do we not want to just be gone, we will be used mightily by God and be the greatest source of warning, stability, and peace to unbelievers who are in chaos wondering what is going on.  As Daniel 11:33 declares, those who understand will instruct many, even at the cost of their lives.  

Some people dread the book of Revelation because of the fear of persecution.  Yes, there is persecution, but only 12 verses out of the 400 verses speak of persecution. The overwhelming theme is preparing the earth for the coming and majestic reign of the Lord Jesus, and the perfection of all He has planned for mankind.  The presence and perfect love of Christ casts out fear, even of persecution, and the privilege and honor of glorifying Him will be paramount in all believers.  

Scripture also gives us information about the use of trumpets.  In Numbers, the trumpet was both a warning to prepare for battle and a call for the congregation to come together.  We see both these features in the seven trumpets.  The church will rise to stand in the full armor and authority of Jesus Christ and do great exploits, even greater things that Jesus promised to those who believe.  It will be the greatest uniting of Christians into the oneness and maturity of character suitable to be a bride for the Lord Jesus.  What a glorious day!      

Saturday, February 6, 2021

In Darkness Come to the Light

 One of the most depressing truths about human nature is our pride.  John 3:16-19 reveals Jesus came to save the world so that we don't perish, but men loved darkness -- their evil deeds -- and refused to come to the light.  Jesus didn't come to judge, but to save and yet men will choose to be separated from God and His goodness FOREVER rather than humble ourselves and admit we need His forgiveness. 

In our walk through of Revelation, chapters 8 and 9, we see God seals the tribes of Israel and has a multitude of people from every nation and tongue rejoicing before His throne that salvation belongs to the Lord.  There is and always has been a divine seal and protection over His people.  Instead of being fearful and defeated, the people of God rejoice greatly to see the perfect plan of God and declare "blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever."  Just as a policeman by the road may incite fear in every heart, those who are driving the speed limit can have peace.   

At the opening of the seventh seal, the magnificent masterplan of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth brings overwhelming awe and speechlessness from all of heaven.  All the prayers of the saints, who throughout the ages cried out for God's justice and praised His goodness, were mingled with the coals on heaven's fire to yield a pleasing incense before the throne.  The harvest is ripe and God's unstoppable power and majesty are to be shown. The seven angels with the seven trumpets are ready and this dramatic climax begins.  

Unlike the more "natural" events of the first six seals, this final seal releases significant supernatural consequences.  Hail and fire, mingled with blood destroy a third of trees and grass.  A mountain on fire hits the ocean turning a third of the sea into blood.  A burning star from heaven turns a third of the rivers and springs of water into a bitterness that kills many. The fourth trumpet sounds and a third of the sun, moon, and stars are darkened.  Amazingly, just as Goshen was still in the light when all Egypt was darkened, the camp of the saints will continue to be unaffected.  What a call to "Wake up and repent!"

Even the angels know and declare that the 3 remaining trumpets bring woe to those on the earth.   The angel opens the bottomless pit releasing a horde of supernatural locusts that inflict great scorpion-like torment to those who do not have the seal of God, with such pain that they wish they could die.  Following this, the next angel releases the supernatural beings held by the Euphrates river with their two million army that kill one-third of earth.

At this point, the heart of God, in the midst of these judgments, is revealed.  The purpose of all these catastrophic events was to open the hearts of men to repent, but unfortunately many did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or thefts. 

God has planted something deep inside of each of us that desires all thing to be right, and to execute His promise that all will reap what they have sown.  As the body of Christ matures and hears the voice of God, the united Church will stand with Jesus calling forth the revealed judgments of Revelation so His purpose can be fulfilled.  Thy kingdom come! Yet God is merciful and even in the midst of judgment longs for all to receive what Jesus has done on the cross.  What a beautiful picture to show us the heart of God.  Count if joy when trials come that we may be perfect lacking nothing. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Behold His Glory - Wake Up Time

It serves him right!  That is our normal reaction when we see justice in the world, someone who is causing harm gets the consequences of his actions.  However, God knows that our emotional state cannot handle that kind of anger and resentment, so "vengeance is mine" says the Lord.  God is perfectly merciful and always desires that people repent and accept His merciful forgiveness.  Because He is also is perfectly just, and He knows when the heart of man has rejected every attempt to receive mercy, there will come a time of retribution.  What a man sows He will reap.   God does not change, so everything He does shows His greatness and glory, even judgment. 

At the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the angels sang, "Glory to God."  John 1:14 describes this event like this, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."  We saw how great God is, and His nature of love, in being willing to become man and pay the supreme price for our sin.  We marveled at the glory of His mercy and willingness to give His all for us. 

Likewise, Revelation 4 and 5 show the awesome greatness of God's majesty and eternal plan for Jesus as King over all the earth,  Revelation 6 and 7 show the greatness of God in shaking the foundations of the earth so as many men as possible will repent and believe in Jesus, that He died for their sins. 

Jesus is the head of the body, so He does not do anything without first telling us and involving us in His perfect plan.  Recall that after the resurrection Jesus was waiting with breakfast for his uncertain disciples who had returned to fishing, asking "Children, have you caught any fish?" Then He instructed them to put the net on the other side and they caught a multitude.  Then He said to Peter to bring some of the fish "he" had caught. Jesus obviously could have had fish already on the fire, but He chose to demonstrate that His plan is always to work in and through us.

Now consider the Old Testament picture of God's response to the Israelites being slaves in Egypt and crying out for deliverance. God moved upon Moses to set His people free.  When Pharaoh didn't listen He had Moses call down plagues that caused much destruction designed to change Pharaoh's heart.  According to 1 Corinthians 10, Old Testament events are physical examples which provide instruction and warning for New Testament realities.  Being delivered from slavery by Moses compares to Jesus bringing salvation, the deliverance from sin and its consequences.  

In Exodus God uses one man, Moses to set His people free and destroy the power of the Egyptians.  This also is a picture of the plagues that come in the end times.  However, in Revelation, God will not use one man, He will use the glorious man, the body of Christ, that works in unity with the head, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 4 speaks of Christians growing up into "a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."  Believers will hear God's voice and through united prayer stand with Head Jesus to call down the plagues designed to wake up sinners into repentance.  Once again, an amazing display of God's greatness and His awesome choosing and enabling us to be one with Him in carrying out His ultimate victory, complete eradication of all that hinders love. Psalm 149:9 declares the honor all His saints have "to execute on them the written judgment."

As each of the seven seals of the scroll are released from heaven, the kingdoms of man and all he trusts are proven to be fragile and ultimately worthless.  These "plagues" are not meant to punish man, but rather to turn His heart to trust that which cannot be shaken.  This will be accompanied by the early and later rain, the Holy Spirit being poured out on all flesh causing a multitude in the valley of decision to come to Jesus.  No wonder all heaven rejoices giving glory and honor to God, because His judgments are just and He has vindicated those who lost their lives for Him.  Scripture declares all flesh shall see the glory of God.   

We have beheld and will behold His glory beyond what man can conceive.  Romans 5:17 as well as Psalm 8, remind us that we have been crowned with glory and honor which enables us to reign in this life.  Therefore, walk humbly with God repenting of sin and flesh desires, and allow the Holy Spirit to transform your thinking with God's thoughts from the Word.  It is time to wake up from sleep and press in to the glorious plan God has for each of us, and all of us believers together. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

A Picture of Heaven - Holy, Holy, Holy

"Behold, a door standing open in heaven! (Revelation 4:1)  One glimpse of the glory, power, and absolute authority of heaven makes all the difference, and establishes perfect peace in the heart of the believer.  There is none like You, O God, and Your Word will never pass away. You are worthy to be praised forever.  

God gives us an awesome picture of how totally He is in charge and of the infinite glory of His Kingdom.  This picture of heaven is a powerful image to focus on when we come into His presence in prayer and praise.  Jehovah Shammah, He is here.  Remember when the Queen of Sheba saw Solomon's wisdom, provision, and order, how there was no spirit left in her.  Likewise, when the Holy Spirit reveals to us God's wisdom, beauty, and perfect rule, all of our doubts, fears, and worries completely disappear.  We can totally trust and worship this holy God through all the shaking events because we stand in awe with Him in an unshakeable kingdom. God inhabits and is enthroned in His praises. No wonder Psalm 150 calls everyone that has breath to praise the Lord.  

There is a powerful picture painted in Isaiah 30 that shows what happens as we rejoice in and praise the Lord.  It appears like God is a conductor of an festive orchestra whose arm swings to the music of our joyful worship, and as his hand descends He renders justice to the wicked.  "You shall have a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept, and gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute, to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the Mighty One of Israel.  The Lord will cause His glorious voice to be heard, and show the descent of His arm, with the indignation of His anger and the flame of a devouring fire."  The passage goes on to say with tambourines and harps, His voice will be heard, and He will strike with a rod the punishment of the wicked. 

In Revelation 5, one of the most awesome moments in heaven is displayed as a search for someone who could rightfully receive the title deed to rule the earth in righteousness and truth. Behold, Jesus, the Lamb of God, the Son of Man, is found worthy and God the Father hands Him the scroll. This perfect battle plan is wrapped in seven seals with the sure promise to remove everything that opposes God's kingdom of love.  God is love and the kingdoms of the earth will become the kingdoms of our Lord, ruled with righteousness and peace. 

As the Lamb, who rightfully earned this reward because of His shed blood, receives the glorious decree, all heaven falls in worship at God's glorious plan.  His sacrifice releases the infinite love and wisdom of God in transforming believers of the Lord Jesus into His priests and king who will rule on the earth forever. Perhaps the greatest miracle on earth is the transformation of the church into a holy bride, fit for a King.  

God has always been revealed as a unshakeable rock, a refuge in the storm, and a very present help in times of need.  Therefore it is consistent of God to provide this glorious picture of His plan and victory to give us peace as He deals with the rebellion of man.  Furthermore, the heart of God is manifested even in the righteous judgments of rebellion,  He is beckoning men to repent and receive His mercy.  God desires all men to be saved, and this is the perfect plan to bring in the greatest harvest possible of souls into the kingdom.  As Psalm 149 declares, God takes pleasure in His people.  God doesn't change, His way is perfect. 

In Luke 21:28 Jesus tells us how we should react, "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."  Clearly we are to live by the Word of God, not by bread alone, or by our fleshly perceptions.  This "beyond description of words" revelation of God's throne and glorious triumph over every evil presents us a sure promise of a future and a hope. As we see end time events beginning to happen, rather than be fearful, it is time to look up and cheerfully give Him all our love and praise.  He is worthy to be loved with all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength.  Let us rejoice in Him and be glad. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

See If There is Any Wicked Way in Me

Nobody likes to be criticized.  The typical response of human nature is to deny the accusation, blame someone else, or "kill the messenger."  Obviously the Pharisees chose the brutal last response when Jesus exposed their hypocrisy.  On the other hand, Jesus always looks through the eyes of mercy, and as He told the woman caught in adultery, "neither will I condemn you, go and sin no more."  His heart is to set us free and safely bring us home to share His glory.  The book of Revelation continues to be His Word to prepare us so we don't fail.  

What parent doesn’t prepare his child when a blizzard is coming and make sure he puts on his coat, hat, and mittens?  How much more does the Father want to prepare us for what will shortly happen and equip us with all we need to be safe from the storm.  This is exactly what the letter to the seven churches is about.

Number one, notice that the seven stars or churches belong to the Lord Jesus and He holds us in His hands.  Even though the specific churches are actual historical cities, the 7 suggests the complete church, and the descriptions represent the condition of the church today.  Jesus visited these churches to commend their faithful actions and expose the areas of weakness so they would not be destroyed in the days to come.  He is calling and making sure that His church (us) repents and prepares to be safe from the storm.  Just as Jesus told Peter “Satan has asked to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you,” so the Lord knows the enemy’s plan and has already made provision for us to overcome.

If the shoe fits, wear it.  While it is always easier to see the faults of others than the “beam” in our own eye, the bottom line question is in which church does the Lord describe you so you repent?  When the light of the Holy Spirit exposes darkness it is so we reject the way of our fallen nature and let Him make it light (Ephesians 4:13). 

Let’s examine the seven churches.  In Ephesus they were doing good works but had lost their first love.  Need to repent and do the deeds they had done at first.  Smyrna was in the midst of persecution and Jesus lovingly encourages them to be faithful even to death.  Revelation 12:11 reminds us that we overcome the devil by the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and that we love not our lives even unto death.  The church in Pergamos was a compromising church that tolerated evil and, like Balaam, wanted the approval and money of the world rather than the holiness of obeying the Word of God.  In 1 John 2:15 the Holy Spirit warns that if you love the world, love of the Father is not in you.  Ouch!  Holy Spirit, help us desire Your approval and not seek the approval of men or money.

A significant part of the people of Thyatira listened to Jezebel and accepted her teachings of sexual immorality.  God honored those who stayed pure.  What is considered acceptable in the media or in popular entertainment such as homosexuality, adultery, gender changes, and various forms of nudity definitely does not align with God's standards of sexuality.  Sex is God's holy idea and causes death not life when not governed by His Word.  

The church in Sardis had a reputation of being alive but was really dead.  When we live by what others think is honorable we are on dangerous ground. God searches the heart and life only comes from accepting the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  At least in Philadelphia, the people were faithful even though they had little strength, but God was pleased with their perseverance. Faith and patience inherit the promises.  

Lastly we see the lukewarm Laodiceans who were content to be “part-time” Christians, who claimed they had enough of God, rather than realize how weak and needy they were.  This statement is true: we only have as much of God as hunger for and receive.  If we choose to be lukewarm, God vomits us from His mouth. Now is the time to seek Him for a fresh revelation in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus and let His love constrain your heart. 

These seven churches reflect the sins of today’s Christians. But rather than condemn us, these Words of life give us an opportunity to repent so we can be unshaken in the goodness and peace of God no matter what happens.  Holy Spirit, expose our hearts and help us acknowledge our sin, so we can receive His forgiveness and allow You to transform us into Jesus' holy bride, without spot or wrinkle.  God is not mocked and His plan will surely be accomplished.  Notice the promise in Ephesians 4 that He has provided ministries that will build up the body of Christ "to have unity of the faith and the knowledge of God, until we reach perfect manhood and the stature of Jesus Christ."

How is this going to happen?  God is at work "to will and to work for His pleasure."  He will pour out His Spirit, called the early and the latter rain, to enable His church to walk in the love and power of God. Psalm 110 states that in the day of His power, His people will offer themselves freely.  So get ready, let the Lord expose the wicked way and be quick to repent and forsake your sin.  Open your heart to be filled with the Spirit.  God has great things for you, and the faithful church, to do in the days ahead.  What a mighty God we serve and what great things are planned for His people!  

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

When all else fails...

Can't you see a frustrated father at 2 AM on Christmas morning struggling to put a bicycle together?  When all else fails, read the directions.  Rather than laugh at this man, maybe we should ask if we have read the directions God has given us about living in the end times.   The beginning of Revelation declares that this revelation is what God gave to show His servants what was going to happen shortly.  God wants His servants to know what is going to happen, so much so that He promises a blessing on those who read and those who hear the message of this book.  

We see the heart of God is to prepare His people so we don't fail.  Jesus also shows this heart in what He did for His disciples, recorded in John 16:1-4, preparing them with a reasonable picture of what was going to happen so they wouldn't stumble and fall.  Scripture tells us that John, who is known as the beloved of God, bore witness to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.  It needs to be repeated, this book is a revelation of Jesus Christ and a testimony of Him.  We can trust John to record accurately and lovingly the message the angel revealed, so that in grasping the message we also may receive the grace and peace God promises to His church (Rev. 1:4) who heed these instructions. 

In general, God is the master at understating His qualities.  When the Word states He is love, the description reveals little about how much He embodies love in which one lays His life down for another.  It doesn't describe all the beating, torment, and pain He endured, even to the point of where "His visage was marred more than any man" (Isaiah 52:14) and yet for the joy set before Him (seeing you and I saved and able to share eternal glory) He willingly suffered and died.  So likewise, it takes the Holy Spirit to open up the meaning of the phrases and words Revelation declares about Jesus to begin to grasp His magnificent nature.  

In the first three chapters of Revelation there are some 31 references to qualities and descriptions of Jesus.  Take for example, "who was, and is, and is to come" as a reminder of His eternal nature, past and future.  Life on earth is such a drop of water in the ocean of time, compared to His eternal past and the eternal future plan to share God's glory, the salvation that He purchased for us.  It also presents absolute certainty that He will return to bring justice to the earth, including rewards for serving Jesus as Lord and consequences for rejecting His love.   Likewise, consider the description, "the faithful witness."  Jesus is the exact image of the Father and every word spoken and every thing He did reflects perfectly the heart of God.  He gives us a true picture of what God is like. 

Clearly we could analyze each descriptive phrase, but for brevity sake, lets look at two more.  The first born from the dead reveals His leadership as a man opening the way to life eternal, a quality of life beyond human imagination.  It also assures us of our being raised from the dead in and through Him.  

The next one might be a summary of much of the rest of the book of Revelation, "the ruler over the kings of the earth."  Even though Satan and the Anti-Christ may have seduced and taken over the earth, in one broad stroke Jesus will overcome all the governments of the world in one day!  What a glorious takeover and complete destruction of evil, so His kingdom of love can reign in the earth forever!  This is not only the battle plan, but the powerful assurance of total victory for the saints, causing them to experience His glory and holiness forever.  Every tear will be wiped away, and we will joyfully join the angels, elders, and living creatures crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy" forever.   

We need to read this book and let the Holy Spirit reveal Jesus to us, beyond what our natural mind can fathom, so we can live in peace and joy with a true perspective on His power and glory.  This Word will help us understand life's purpose and cause us to look forward to what God promised in Jeremiah 29, that we would have "a future and a hope."