Fri, Feb 29th - 7:35PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
Chapter 20 is the divisional point, the pivotal point, for the three main schools of eschatology: Postmillennialism assumed that Christ would come at the conclusion of the one thousand years. Man would bring in the kingdom by the preaching of the gospel. This is an optimistic view. This view believes that there will one day be a great, worldwide turning to Christ and the world will be converted. This view has suffered during the latter half of the 1900's.
Amillennialism has become popular in recent years and has pushed postmillennialism to the rear. The prefix negates the belief in the millennium. It holds out no false optimism and does emphasize the coming of Christ. The main weakness it suffers from is in spiritualizing the thousand years, as it does the entire book of Revelation. It is fitted into the present age that we are living in. It makes for alot of juggling of historical facts to get them to match up consistently with prophecy in Revelation and in Daniel. It makes for personal interpretations, of which we are told in scripture that we are not to do. Truth is truth, given by God to man. One interpretation only is allowed.
Premillennialism, takes chapter 20 at face value, as well as all of the book of Revelation, applying the literalist interpretation unless the context instructs otherwise. You cannot spiritualize scripture on any basis you decide to choose, which is what has been happening over the past several decades at the very least. In this view, the thousand years cannot happen until Christ comes, and this at the beginning of the thousand years.
There you have the basic views of the millennial period, and from this develop all of the arguments for and against that wage on through the years. Many "enlightened" individuals believe that the premillennialists are pessimists, doom and gloomers. They still believe that society is achieving headway towrds attaining the "golden society." President Johnson back in the 1960's voiced this very concept when our government set foot upon a very ill-conceived plan to spend taxpayer dollars to lift the poverty striken individuals in our country up into the middle class. Throwing dollars at sociological problems never works in the long run. On the other hand, the premillennialists believe that society is going to just get worse and worse over time, finishing up at the Great Tribulation. You can see how the two opposite views would clash over their differences, especially if God's Holy Spirit is not really abiding within the individuals involved in the arguments.
Listen to what Justin Smith, an 1883 commentator wrote: "It has been said that in twenty-five years more, if the present rate of progress continues, India will become as thoroughly Christian as Great Britain is today. There will be thirty millions of Christians in China, and Japan will be as fully Christianized as America is now."
Well, those 25 years have come and gone with none of those cheery results ever being achieved. India is pretty much a closed society to Christian missionaries. China is hostile as a whole to Christianity. If Japan had done what they thought it would back in 1883 we never would have lived through the horror of World War II.
It is probably quite obvious that I am a premillennialist. I truly believe that scripture speaks clearly about Jesus coming back to earth and then the thousand years of His earthly reign shall begin. Am I a pretribulationist? I do not know for sure these days. Prophecy is not that clear on this particular subject. One condition for the Kingdom to be here on earth is that Satan must be removed from the earth. Another condition is that the curse of sin must be also removed from the physical earth. God and sin cannot exist in the same place. Another condition is that the resurrection of the Old Testament saints must take place at the beginning of the thousand years. Only Christ will raise the dead, so He must be here to do that. Another condition is that the tribulation saints are included with the reign of Christ during the millennium.
Finally, this millennium is the final testing of man under ideal conditions. This is the answer to those who say there is nothing wrong in man which circumstances and environmental conditions cannot change. Man is an incurable, an incorrigible sinner. Even at the end of a thousand years of ideal living conditions he is still in rebellion against God. The human heart is deceitfully wicked, and the depraved nature of man together are inpossible for any man to comprehend. What can anyone possibly imagine God means when He says "Thy kingdom come?" In Matthew 6:10 is seen the kingdom which He is going to establish here on earth. The kingdom that was promised to David in II Samuel 7:12-17 is going to be here on earth. This is the kingdom repeatedly mentioned throughout the Psalms and the prophets of Israel. This kingdom is not of man but is of God, it is to be a theocratic kingdom here on earth.
And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season(20:1-3).
The next phase of God's program is introduced by another great angel coming down from heaven itself. This angel has the authority and power to take Satan and chain him up and then throw him into the pit. The angel seals Satan in the pit for a thousand years, equal to the millennial reign of Christ on earth over all remaining people who survived the Great Tribulation.
The prophecy contained in these three verses alone has been the subject of endless debates and disputes. It must be this way because the viewpoints of pre- and a- millennialists hang upon it. The passage yields itself to plain interpretation, and there is no logical reason for taking it in something other than its ordinary sense. According to the passage the angel is empowered to do six functions: 1) to lay hold on Satan, 2) to bind him for 1,000 years, 3) to cast him into the pit, 4) to shut him up in the pit, 5) to place a seal on him, 6) to loose Satan after 1,000 years have passed. Those who spiritualize this passage dispute each and every point made here. Those who hold to historical interpretation dispute its future implications for they claim each point has already happened in the past.
Questioning as to how an immaterial angel can possibly lay hold of Satan who is also immaterial is a question born straight out of unbelief. Objections have been made to the ludicrous notion of being able to bind up Satan with just a chain. Again, these objections are all made out of unbelief.
We must remember that John saw the angel with a chain in his hand. The word chain here in the Greek is the same as found in Mark 5:3 relating to the man possessed of demons who had been bound with chains.. It is also used for the chains which fell off Peter (Acts 12:7) and for Paul's chains (Acts 28:20, II Timothy 1:16). Different words, however, are used in II Peter 2:4 referring to the chains of darkness binding the wicked angel, and for the everlasting chains of Jude 6. No reason can be found then, to interpret the word other than in its normal sense.
We do not know the nature of this chain that is able to bind Satan. Do we trust God? Then we can be assured that the action here is so designed as to render Satan inactive, not merely restricted.
Now, to place this against the background of the prevailing interpretations of this passage. If this passage refers to the millennium as that period of time between Christ's two Advents, then Satan must be bound up and not able to influence our world at all today. Too many scriptures mention Satan's being around after the first Advent to successfully support the amillennial view. John saw what he saw in the vision, but he also was given divine interpretation to also write down that explains the vision. Commentators are not free to inject their own preconceived notions but must accept the plain statements being made by God. I hope and pray that I am not inserting my own preconceived notions into these postings, as I pray for Christ to keep me clean of that mistake.
Next time we shall delve deeper into this chapter and try and understand more of what John saw in his vision given to him by Christ. Until then, may Christ richly bless each and everyone who may read this post.
Fri, Feb 29th - 1:17PM
MY INNER GARDEN
Now that we have slowed ourselves down and quieted our minds in anticipation of communing with God, we are ready to pray with what Thomas Kelly called "the eyes of heaven." Once worship has been completed, intercession can really begin. Now we can effectively begin praying on the behalf of others. This can be the most privileged ministry, and perhaps the most difficult, that a Christian has. No one can stop us from praying for them, correct?
Have you noticed, as I have, that most effective, and dedicated, intercessors are older people? It is not simply due to the fact that that is the only thing that they are capable of doing! It is because they have learned that lives are changed through effective prayers. Prayer can not be stopped! These people have learned that an hour of fervent prayer gains more for others than hours of wasted, misdirected, physical activity that tends to make us feel better. They have also learned the value of leaning upon Christ for everything in their lives.
Personally, I began an earnest work towards praying fervently for others a few short years ago. It is something that I should have begun doing back when I first became a believer but I allowed too many other "things" to blind me to this truth. Perhaps you have noticed that I end most posts with some type of prayer? This is not by accident or by whim. It is a part of my decision to incorporate more and more prayer into my daily life, whenever possible to do so.
So, I believe that this awareness is what is reflected in what is recorded in Acts 6. The apostles asked for associates to take on the job of ministering to the widows and orphans so that they could concentrate on prayer and to the preaching of the Word. Now intercession literaly means to stand between two parties and plead the case of one to the other. Aha! So I am to stand between Christ and the person that I am praying for and plead their case before Him. We have Moses as an example of interceding on the behalf of others.
Who could we normally intercede for? If I am married (and I am), for my spouse, and child/children. How about for my in-laws? Or their children? My own family members. How about my friends and coworkers? How about members of my congregation? How about my neighbors? Hhhmmm. Does it stop there, with only those with whom I have friendly relations? I believe Jesus said something about including our enemies. If I am to love my enemies, then it stands to reason that I need to intercede on their behalf before God. I ought to ask God to touch their hearts and draw them to His Son. I ought to ask God to heal them of any afflictions that might be a stumblingblock to their acceptance of Christ. I ought to entreat God to embrace them and let them feel His love flow through them, and perhaps through this experience they will repent. Above all I ought to pray that all will be done according to His will and not mine.
Now that we have rummaged about in our inner gardens, shouldn't we now wonder about something else that took place in the Garden of Eden? Rest. It is hard to maintain order when there is a lack of appreciation for genuine rest, a cessation from all of our routines. In our culture today there is evidence everywhere that we look that we are a tired generation. It can found in multiutdes of articles about health problems related to stress, to overwork, and exhaustion. Workaholic is a modern term. It creates a sense of desparation within us because deep down inside we always sense that somewhere someone is out performing us. Someone else is willing to put a few more hours on the clock than we are able to. Yet we live in a leisure-oriented culture too. It is contradictory in a sense. We have shorter work weeks, in general, and more time to pursue leisure activities and yet we are more exhausted and fatigued today than ever before. Why? Is all of this fatigue merely all in our heads? Perhaps this is evidence that too many of us no longer understand genuine rest. As opposed to pursuing leisure.
I am sure most of you know which scriptural passage I am going to quote here. Exodus 31:17 says, "In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day, He ceased from labor, and was refreshed." And you were thinking something from Genesis? I picked this one simply because it speaks directly about "ceasing from labor, and was refreshed." Did God need rest? Of course not! Did God choose rest? You betcha! Why? God desired to place all of creation under a rhythm of rest and work. God desired to impress upon our world cycles and rhythms. It is how He has ordered all of Creation and it is a picture for each of us to understand how to order our personal lives, and the lives of our families. Rest is a necessity. Our children today frequently are run to exhaustion by all of the extracurricular activities that they MUST participate in. Why? So that they can be successful as adults. Huh? Leisure and amusement can provide a momentary lift in the spirit, but they do not satisfy the deep need for rest. They are still an activity, burning up more energy. At some point we must have sabbath rest which penetrates to the deepest levels of fatigue within our bodies.
Tomorrow I want to talk about the meaning of sabbath rest as it relates to us as Christians today. Does this mean every Saturday? Are we back to the Ten Commandments? But what about what it says to us in Hebrews? All of this will be looked at tomorrow, beloved. I hope Christ is alive and real for you today. I pray that His Holy Spirit dwells within you and shows you new things daily. I thank Christ for all of my family. I thank Him for all of you who stop by and read these postings by a stranger in a strange land. I thank Him for the fellowship that He has given to me through the grace of Jesus Christ. I pray that all of you may have the same. Until tomorrow, may Christ richly bless you all.
P.S. I have not forgotten about Revelation chapter 20! LOL I intend to resume that study this evening, my friends!
Thu, Feb 28th - 1:15PM
MY INNER GARDEN
All of us are going to find different parts of each day to best for our spiritual disciplines. My wife is a solid morning person, I tend towards late afternoon into the evening. Others might be mid-day people or even nighttime people. It does not matter when this occurs, it simply must happen at some point in each day. Each of us must identify it and then determine to use that time period to exercise ourselves spiritually. No matter when we decide to settle down and spend time with Christ, we all will need to cycle down our racing thoughts, hectic schedules, etc.. Perhaps a short time of journaling, or reading of scripture, will be sufficient to calm you down to the point where you can focus only on Christ and then begin prayer time.
Is there a proper posture for effective prayer? Good question. Some folks would like all of us to think that there is only one correct way to pray. They believe that one must be kneeling down with head bowed down reverently. In biblical cultures people most likely stood or were seated when they prayed. However, the word prayer from within the Old Testament means to prostrate oneself, and that could very well mean at times to be full length upon the floor. Am I advocating that we all must be horizontal on the floor while we pray? God forbid. How could I possibly pray without ceasing each day if that is the only acceptable form available to us? Christ urges me to pray unceasingly each day. Can't do that if I am driving out on the interstate highway and prostrate myself in the vehicle. So obviously there must be several acceptable ways of offering up effective prayer to God. Some people find that they can clearly order their thoughts and hence their prayers if they slowly pace back and forth in a quiet room. Okay. Some find that it is easier to do this if they kneel down in front of a chair or couch. Those with bad knees find that sitting is preferable. When I attended a Saturday morning men's prayer meeting several years ago I used to witness men who would do several of the above postures and there was always at least a couple of men who would end up horizontal on the carpeted floor to pray. Sometimes I have done so and some times I kneel down. Other times I pray while driving out on the interstate on my way to retrieve family members gone astray. Some of my most intense dialogues with God have come while behind the wheel of a car out on the freeway. Probably it happens due to the fact that I am usually all alone there, solitude has settled down around me and I can tell God my concerns, my feelings, my hopes. I can also listen to His responses and hear them in the quiet.
Okay, we have figured out that prayer can be done at different times of the day, and in different postures. What about what we should pray for? A sticky topic for many a Christian when called upon to pray aloud in church, at bible studies, or in bible class. Let's glance at what Samuel Logan Brengle, an evangelist of the Salvation Army at the beginning of the last century used to pray:
Keep me, O Lord, from waxing mentally and spiritually dull and stupid. Help me to keep the physical, mental, and spiritual fiber of the athlete, of the man who denies himself daily and takes up his cross and follows Thee. Give me good success in my work, but hide pride from me. Save me from the self-complacency that so frequently accompanies success and prosperity. Save me from the spirit of sloth, of self-indulgence, as physical infirmities and decay creep upon me as I age.
Aha! Mr. Brengle knew what to pray for, and he also knew how to pray for it. Adoration ought to be the first item on our prayer agenda. Reflect on who Christ is and thanking Him for all of the things that He has revealed about Himself and us personally. We must feast upon what He has done in the distant past, the near past, and what He has said that He shall do in the future. All should be done in an attitude of thanksgiving. In this way we begin to sense a broadening of the reality of God's presence and being. Instead of believing that we live our lives inside of a "box" we can realize that this universe is expansive as the Creator meant it to be. We can accept that once we cross over the boundary from the natural world into the supernatural world we cannot force anything into preconceived notions. Once, we thought as children; now we think as mature adults, putting away the foolish things of childhood. I am not going to force any of you into accepting the supernatural, unless you are ready to do so. That is completely up to the individual. When one sings "How Great Thou Art" what limitations get placed upon God? Or in singing the chorus to another song, "Our God is an awesome God," how awesome is He allowed to be? Nothing is impossible with God! Never forget that, ever.
So, we should give adoration to Christ in prayer. We should also give confession in prayer. Jehovah is our yardstick to measure everything else by, including ourselves. Do I measure up? Well, then I need to be honest and confess my shortcomings to God. Notice I did not say "if I don't measure up?"
"God be merciful to me a sinner" is a shortened version of the prayer of confession. Daily we need to face the imperfection of our spirits, the propensity we have to seek evil ways, self-serving ways. As we mature in Christ it becomes clearer to us the levels of sin that we could not spot within ourselves before. When I first accepted Jesus Christ years ago I was able to see that I had to give up profanity, drinking, and drugs. Next came realization that I had to stop with seeking out premarital sexual relations. Next came the realization that I had to read the bible daily whenever possible. Next came the awareness of dressing modestly and speaking modestly also. Next came driving home the fact that I was not my own, Christ owned me lock, stock, and barrel. Next came the dawning of the importance of effective prayer. Somewhere in there came the comprehension that I must control my tongue or else be in trouble constantly. My point is that over the past twenty years I have come to see new things within me that need to be transformed in the image of Christ. Things that must be sacrificed in order to become what Christ desires me to be. To get that much closer to what I originally was meant to be. I am not there yet, beloved! This process can be likened to living in New England and working the soil there. You see, each fall one can have the ground looking free of rocks and boulders. But over the course of the winter through the actions of freezes and thaws new rocks and stones work their way up to the surface once again. Hidden out of our sight, but still there nonetheless. Sins in our lives are similar to this. Hidden deep down in our lives, out of our line of sight until we mature enough in Christ in order to "see" them for what they truly are. Then we can begin to cultivate them out of ourselves and plant better seed in their place. Remember that Paul, at an advanced age, called himself the "chief of sinners." After all that he had done in service to the Lord, he still recognized what he was. We all need to encourage those young Christians who say that they are dismayed by all of the sin that they find in their lives. True, it ought not to be there. But at least they can see it. If they did not see the sin, how could they work towards removing it? We need to be sure to help them learn how to remove it from their lives, one by one. Here are some things that we all need to find within ourselves and then surrender them over to Christ: anger, resentment, fear, worry, desire to dominate, guilts, self-preoccupation, sexual impurity, jealousy, lack of creative activity, inferiorities, lack of love. All of these lead to ill health. This brings to mind another refrain from a popular hymn, "All to You I surrender..." in which we say that we give all to Jesus. Do we? Are we willing to?
Next time, beloved, I will write about intercession as a ministry. Until then, may Christ richly bless you and your loved ones.
Tue, Feb 26th - 9:48AM
MY INNER GARDEN
Now, just because I say that sometimes prayer seems to be unrelated to actual results, it does not mean that I believe that God does not answer our prayers. I do in fact strongly believe that God answers prayer. What seems to happen is that God does not always answer prayer in forms or on schedules that we preconceive that they should be answered in. That would wind up in my being able to tell Almighty God what to do and Him having to obey me. That is foolishness of a major magnitude. Sometimes it can seem that at those times in which I am praying up a storm for days at a time that nothing much happens and then when I am forgetting to pray even daily, then there is a landslide of activity. What is this? Why do we continually fall into Satan's trap of thinking that Christ MUST give us an answer to our prayer/s within a specified period of time pursuant to our uttering the prayer? Here is the reality of it all: We pray to Christ, He listens, He answers at His discretion. It might be yes, it might be no, it might be not at this particular time but later. We need to accept His answers when they come and whatever they happen to be. Too many of us assume that we are in control of ourselves and our lives. "See you next Sunday!" Really? Only God willing will I see you next Sunday, or tomorrow, or later today for that matter. I think for us to get in touch with reality we need to begin including God's will into more and more of our speech on a daily basis. "Not my will, but Your will be done Lord." And so it goes with this subject that I am talking about here. Christ desires us to enter into daily times of prayer so that He can hear what we feel we need and then He can answer us and give us knowledge and wisdom.
So what was up with those times of heavy prayer and no answers from Christ? Those were times when God was saying, "Not at this time." He may simply have been waiting for the next week, the next month, or even five years from then for your answer to be delivered. The bottom line with prayer is that we cannot predict the outcome beyond this: when we pray, God listens. He hears our prayers but answers them according to His divine will, not according to our carnal will. So I must not directly tie my prayer life to the results received. I must trust Christ and be faithful in my prayer life. So I am beginning to clearly see that worship and intercession are far more the business of aligning myself with God's purposes than asking Him to align with mine.
Now, praying is unnatural for the carnal, natural man. But Christ has entered life, and what was once unnatural now becomes natural through the power of God. I must ask for this power, otherwise I shall have not. Yes, praying signals weakness and dependence. But that is reality, and it is healthier for me to recognize reality. Yes, the answers to my prayers do not always meet my expectations. But that problem is in my expectations---not in the capabilities or sensitivities of Christ our Lord.
The final thought that I wish to leave with you today is that the practical side of worship and intercession has to do with time---when to pray; posture---how to pray; and content---what to include in our prayer. I will flesh out this thought next time, beloved. Until then, ponder how you can transform your prayer life, energize your inner garden, and begin to learn from the Holy Spirit.
Mon, Feb 25th - 7:29PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;
That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great(19:17-18).
If there was any passage of scripture that could be said to be revolting, this would probably be it, my friends. This picture is given partially to reinforce in our minds how revolting the deeds of the flesh are to God. Those who live in the flesh will have their flesh eaten from off of their bones. All carrion-eating birds are invited to come and partake at this "banquet." Prime rib flesh will be available for them to feast upon.
Some point to this angel standing in the sun and say that it is proof that this passage, along with most of Revelation, is nothing less than symbolic in nature. I say that angels are spiritual beings and can be anywhere they need to be in our physical world. This invitation given to the birds of the air to gather for the supper of the great God is in contrast to the invitation given to the saints other than the church to come and attend the marriage feast of the Lamb. The Greek word for "supper" is deipnon, referring to the main meal of the day, just as in the verse where we found the marriage feast. Of course, we see once more that judgment from God is not a respecter of persons. The great and the small, the weak and the mighty, all will face judgment.
There is an evident parallel in this passage to the prediction of Ezekiel 39:17-20 as far as the description is concerned. But the Ezekiel passage seemingly refers to an earlier battle, when the army from the North invaded Israel. The resulting destruction of human flesh and the devouring of it by birds are similar. The actual parallel to the scene in Revelation is found in Matthew 24:28, where reference is made to carcasses of those who have fallen in battle and the birds that gather to eat the bodies. Care must be used in interpreting passages so similar by always following the rule that similarities do not necessarily prove identity. We can say, however, that birds of prey are always evidence of the presence of death.
And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army(19:19).
Here we see the sheer audacity of the Beast, the Prophet, and their assembled armies! They can not see the folly of their choice. They are blinded to the reality of what they attempt to do. Here are the ten kings that have aligned themselves with the Antichrist. Inspite of evidence indicating that there is strife of sorts in parts of the Antichrist's global empire, once Christ our Lord makes His presence seen to the world all of the armies of the world join up with the Antichrist.
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them theat had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone
And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh(19:20-21).
Notice that we do not see any evidence that the army that accompanies Christ is directly involved in any fighting. It may be that the heavenly host will actually engage in physical combat, but we have absolutely no evidence here that that will be the case. We see that the beast and his false prophet are to be seized and cast into the lake of fire and brimstone while still alive. At this juncture we must assume that they are the first to inhabit the lake of eternal fire. The unsaved who die prior to this time are not cast into this lake of fire but are cast into Hades, a place of torment, until final judgment before God's throne. A thousand years later we shall find these two individuals still alive in the lake of fire. This is a concept that the "God is only love" believers cannot accept, yet they must for it is written here in scripture. The lake of fire is neither purgatorial nor is it annihilation, nor is it purifying in nature. It is eternal torment for freely choosing to not accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
Lastly, we see a sword coming from out of the mouth of God. This is not a literal sword, for we are told that God's Word is like a sword: "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart(Hebrews 4:12)." "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God(Ephesians 6:17)." "But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked(Isaiah 11:4)." Beloved, do you see how clearly this symbol is explained by scripture? The sword that comes from the mouth of Jesus Christ is His Word. It was His Word that created this universe. It is the Word of God that will save you if you so desire. And it will be the Word of God that is to destroy the wicked at the end of this present age.
There you have it. The first nineteen chapters of Revelation are complete. Tomorrow we shall begin looking into chapter 20 and all the fuss about this millennium thang. Some students of the Word have concluded that since this chapter is basically the only place in scripture that the millennium is mentioned they are allowed to ignore it entirely, or place it up high on a dusty shelf called symbolism. I will end all debate over the meaning of the word millennium since in the Latin from which it originates it means literally one thousand. People used to be called chiliasts since in the Greek chiliasm also means one thousand. Irregardless of the terminology, God speaks of one thousand years as a period of time in our future when Christ rules supremely on earth. Until next time, my friends, may Christ richly bless you in all that you put your hand to do. Do all as unto Christ our Lord.
Mon, Feb 25th - 1:26PM
MY INNER GARDEN
Another way to enhance communication with God while in our inner gardens is through prayer as worship and intercession. As Thomas Kelly has written, "Let inward prayer be your last act before you fall asleep and the first act when you awake." If we all do this, then in time we will find that those of us who have the fulness of the Holy Spirit will go forward even in sleep. Admittedly, most of us never experience this. Daily, disciplined prayer is one of the most difficult exercises that we as Christians undertake.
It seems that worship and intercession are at the top of any list of spiritual struggles we can make. Is there any who deny that prayer is important? I doubt that I could find any willing to say such. But how many of us believe that our prayer life is adequate, and is growing steadily? If our prayer life is inadequate, then our inner gardens continue in a state of disorder. Outer props are necessary to hold our lives up and together under these conditions. Knock away the props, and down crash our lives.
So why do so many of us have these difficulties when it comes to kneeling down and actually praying? Why do so many of us stick to prayers about the mundane things in our lives? "Lord, I pray that you would bring new visitors to our service tomorrow." "Lord, put your healing touch upon the weather, bring us some rain." These are okay things to cover in your prayers, but why stop there? Or dwell there repetiously? Why not move on to including some of the scriptures that you have been reading recently? Or actually pray for someone by NAME who needs to come to know Him as their Lord and Saviour? Perhaps that begins to approach being personally involved in this whole process and that makes me uncomfortable? Why not step out in faith, pray that believers will not be tempted to rebuild the walls of separation that Christ rent asunder at His crucifixion? Why not pray boldly for God to enable you to teach that Sunday morning class of sixth graders? Why not pray for God to broaden your coasts, enlarge your horizons, and open doors of opportunity for your church's outreach ministries? Could it be knocking on doors handing out literature? Could it be a bus ministry? Could it be a Teen Night ministry? Prayer needs to be fervently done to intercede on behalf of these types of ministry. Do not mistake my intent here, I understand that this type of prayer seems to be an unnatural act.
We were originally created to desire intimate communication with God. Sin entered in and has dulled most, if not all, of that desire. Sin has turned a natural inclination into an unnatural function, and in the process created a roadblock within each of us that must be overcome. My suspicion is that sin affected man very deeply, spiritually, but left all of our original physical desires and appetites virtually untouched. So we find ourselves easily preoccupied with food, sexual pleasure, security, cosmetic good looks, generalized pleasure, and possessions. Our spiritual hunger has been dulled to the point where we struggle to worship and intercede.
Our culture today champions looking out for number one, namely, ourselves. Society for a long time has spoken of how we are not our "brothers keepers." In our outer worlds we are all about action, moving, doing, getting things. Prayer goes directly counter to all of this activity that we are so used to. It makes us feel like we are just wasting time by praying. We need to realize that we still have a natural body, a carnal nature, that is at war with our "new man." Until we accept that in our hearts, that we remain owners of a carnal nature until Christ returns, prayer will never become a real and highly significant activity in our daily lives. Prayer cannot be prevented by anybody, it surpasses time and space. And so we must consciously labor to overcome that part of us that rebels aginst praying to Christ.
Another reason that it is difficult for many of us to enter into worship and intercession is that by doing so we adknowledge our personal weakness. When we ask for intercession in our lives, in the lives of our children, we are admitting that we have fallen short. We are telling God that we do not have the answers to solve the problems that currently exist. Today my wife and I are struggling with whether or not to help our eldest daughter make a physical move from Massachusetts to Virginia. Do we spend our money helping her this way, or do we hold the money to help raise her oldest daughter who has had to come and live with us? And perhaps, our youngest granddaughter will eventually end up living with us as well. I do not have the answers to these problems, but God sure does. We must go before His throne and ask Him to show us the way that He desires for us to follow in these matters. It takes lots of prayer. We cannot be there to help our eldest daughter through her mental health struggles, but we sure can ask God to watch over both her and her youngest daughter. We can, and must, request that Christ send His holy angels to minister to both of them, if it is within His will for them. And then, of course, we must be willing to accept His answers to our prayers, even when they are not to our liking at the present time. Hard things to do. Which is why the inner garden must be built up strong and vital so that it may sustain you through times of trouble.
Why do I find it difficult to pray with my wife? Do any of you ever struggle with that one? Perhaps it is because we men have been taught by society to never reveal any weakness. I remember back in early gradeschool being told that boys never cry, men never cry. Sorry, but I do cry. Yes, when prayer is becoming very real you may very well begin to shed tears because it begins to get real for you. It touches your heart and soul and the tears begin to well up with the realization of feeling within you. Any of us who are having trouble dealing with authority figures in our lives will not find prayer to be easy.
A sign of spiritual growth/maturity is when we discover it possible to admit that we need a relationship with Christ in order to become the person that we were intended to be. A personal case in point, my youngest daughter suffers from bipolar disorder. I still do not really know who she is intended to be. She does not know that either. The illness skews everything about her, the distortion affects all aspects of her. I pray for Christ to reach in and heal her enough so that she can recognize her need to have that relationship with Him so that she can become who she was supposed to be, not who she is now. Will this ever happen? I do not know. It is in God's hands now. I can not help her do this at this point in our lives. I can say this much, an enormous sense of liberation, of freedom, comes with the realization of needing a relationship with Christ.
I will stop here, my friends. Next time I will post about how sometimes prayer seems to be totally unrelated to actual results. Until then, may Christ richly bless you all.
Fri, Feb 22nd - 1:29PM
MY INNER GARDEN
Question: What do I do with silence and solitude once I create some? Answer: Listen to God.
Consider the circumstances of Moses and Aaron. What was different between them? I think that the main difference was that Moses listened to God while Aaron listened to the people all around him. Moses comes down from off of the mountain with the tablets of stone and finds everyone dancing and prancing around a gold calf. How did this come to pass? Because Aaron listened to the complaining people around him and did not seek out God. That is one lesson we ought to take away from this post, do not listen to the complainers all around you but go and seek out God, and listen to Him.
Our inner gardens are where we need to go to listen to God. Every time we open up the scriptures and read the Word, we are listening. We listen when we become sensitive to the proddings of His Holy Spirit indwelling us. How can I create more times of "active listening?" One good way is to do journal keeping. As you read God's Word have a notebook and pen handy for jotting down notes, thoughts, questions. At first it will be difficult to write anything down, but over time it will become a time to share more and more of your thoughts with God. Your feelings, fears, and hopes will all wind up being expressed there. In this fashion you, and I, can prevent fears and struggles from remaining inside without any definition. They are dragged out into the daylight to be recognized and then resolved.
If my prayer life seems to be disjointed, inconsistent, and unanswered, then journaling can help organize that too. Writing down prayers helps to see how many prayers actually get answered by God over time. It also assists us in improving our prayers since we can incorporate our thoughts on scripture just read with what we are feeling inside at the time and then putting the prayer down on paper, or onto a disc on the computer. This journal becomes, over time, a record of the good times and the bad. It can be used to remind us that God does hear our prayers(for He has answered them in the past!) and that we should continue praying to Him.
Write in your journal daily if possible. Include things about your children, if you have any. One day they just might read them and be affirmed, even led to believe just as you believe in Christ. If you have personal privacy issues to deal with, then I suggest that you figure out a location in which to secure your journal in between times of writing in it.
But everything needs to be entered in order for it to become a true part of us. What are you talking about? I mean, just as I can type lines and lines of data on my computer's monitor screen and it is not a part of the computer until I touch that "enter" key, so too, in my life I must internalize my experiences and the knowledge gained each day. This means it must reach down into my "heart." Something must reach down and touch my heart, otherwise all is for naught.
If nothing can touch my heart, how will I be able to acknowlege God's voice when I hear it? Young Samuel was told by Eli that when Samuel next heard that voice calling his name in the night that he needed to respond: "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears!" In other words, punch that "enter" key! When we do this then the Words of God strengthen our garden, they strengthen the inner strands of our lives. So my first step in disciplining myself spiritually is finding solitude and silence; then we must learn to listen to God. The third step, which is hitting that "ener" key, is accomplished through reflection and meditation. I am not speaking about transcendental meditation or zoning out for hours on end. We must focus our thoughts upon the various "pictures" given to us in God's Word and ponder them, twisting them around and around in our minds. In this fashion we can reach true understanding of what is there before us in His Word. How else, except through meditation and reflection, can I understand how Jesus can be my Shepherd, my Priest, my Lord, my King, my Redeemer? How else can I understand why God had Moses create a replica of the Tabernacle that exists in heaven? Or what He meant when He said to pick up my cross daily and follow Him? If I am unwilling to take the time to ponder and mull over, and through, these concepts then I most likely will never really come to understand them. When I read the first Psalm, can I understand how that tree represents my life, my faith, my inner garden? How else can I comprehend how Jacob and Laban felt when they "buried the hatchet" and asked God to watch over each of them whenever they were apart one from the other. Mizpah, not just for young lovers. In each of these cases we can see the Word of God entering our private worlds through meditation.
I will continue this tomorrow, my friends. Until then, ponder the possiblities of reading such works as Pilgrim's Progress, and the works of C. S. Lewis and A. W. Tozer. Ask yourself what you might gain from reading what these inspired Christian authors have put down in print.
Thu, Feb 21st - 10:40PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS(19:13-16).
Please see that His garment is spattered with blood and that He is treading the winepress of wrath. This picture pulls us back to Isaiah 63:1-6 which I have already quoted. Christ as the slain Lamb speaks of redemption by blood; here the blood speaks divine judgement upon wicked men. Christ is given the name "The Word of God"(ho logos tou theou, Greek). Thinking back to John 1:1-3 we then see that Christ as the Word of God is the Creator, and He is also the Judge of man.
Psalm 2:6-9 speaks about Christ's wrath and how He will reign over the world with a rod of iron. This fury of God's wrath is in sharp contrast to His gentleness and humility at His first coming. But both are aspects of our Holy God.
Coming with Christ in His return to earth are "the armies which were in heaven." Who are in these armies? Angels? People? It is quite natural to limit who is a part of these armies by the very fact of how they are clothed. White linen signifies righteousness and typically represents the church. However, the church is not alone in being righteous from the doing of righteous deeds. God's holy angels could very well be spoken of in this verse also.
We are given further description of Christ, fleshing out the picture of divine judgment. Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, which will be used to strike down the nations and bring them under His rule. This sword is a sharp instrument of war, not some paring knife from the kitchen. In Ephesians 6:17, as part of an explanation on being prepared for spiritual battle, we are told that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. So here in chapter 19 of Revelation we are being told that from out of His mouth will issue His Word and that this Word will slay the nations. The same Word of God that we are supposed to use daily in our fight against wickedness is going to bring every person under Christ's dominion. This is to be unyielding, absolute, sovereign rule under which men will be required to conform to the righteous standards of God.
This divine act of judgment is defined in the last part of verse 15 with the words, "he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." This is another view of what was previously shown to us in 14:19-20. All of these passages point out to us that in the day of judgment it is too late for men to expect any mercy from God. Where grace has been spurned, inflexible divine judgment remains.
The last verse reveals to us that at long last has come One who has the right to rule the entire earth. In view of the fact that God will break the nations into pieces with His rod of iron, how pertinent is the invitation of Psalm 2:10-12 to serve the Lord and kiss the Son while there is yet time to claim the blessing of those who put their trust in Him.
That is all for this evening, my friends. Until next time, may Christ richly bless all of you.
Wed, Feb 20th - 9:07PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself(19:11-12).
Here we have the grand event taking place. Christ opening up heaven and being seen by John. Here is what all of history has been moving towards, the Return of the King. What a contrast between the picture of the rapture and the return of Christ. In His triumphant return Christ is called Faithful and True. He shall execute judgment and war against the wicked through His righteousness. Zechariah 14:3-4 says, "Then shall the lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."
Upon His return, Christ will touch earth exactly where He left it when He ascended. The mount of Olives has two high points that would seem to suggest where the division will take place. His second coming is also spoken of in Matthew 24:27-31: "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
Many believe this passage states that the rapture takes place at this time. But it states that His angels gather His elect from one end of heaven to the other and not from the ends of the earth. This is an ingathering of His elect from within heaven. These are those individuals who are to return with Christ in triumph. It is marked by something similar to the way that lightning flashes across our nighttime skies, lighting everything up into stark relief.
What a contrast to how He came to earth the first time! He entered our world as meek and lowly, a tiny baby. He was the Saviour who died for sinners. Now He comes in glory. Now comes the Judge, executing His wrath upon a sinful world. The rebellion of Satan, demons, and men is finally contained, put down, and judged righteously. All unrighteousness is to be put down before he establishes His kingdom in righteousness.
Heaven opened up in chapter 4, verse 1, to let John enter heaven and witness prophetic things there. Now, heaven opens to let Christ exit. When Christ rode into Jerusalem it was upon a lowly donkey, now he rides a white stallion of warfare. He is called Faithful because He has come to execute judgment in the long-time program of His Father. Remember the scoffer who said, "Where is the sign of His coming?" No sign is needed, He is here. He has made good on His promise. He is the only One you and I can trust, and rest assured upon.
He is also called "True" since he not only tells the truth, but is Truth itself. He is the yardstick by which all is measured. Today when everything we hear, read, and see is slanted and used as propaganda by someone it is reassuring to know that there is someone whom we can trust wholeheartedly.
The dramatic presentation of this awe-inspiring scene is introduced by John's statement "I saw heaven opened." The plea of Isaiah in 64:1-2 is now fulfilled: "Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!"
Now the true King of kings and Lord of lords (many crowns upon His head) is going to triumph over the blasphemers who assumed control over this world. These titles are consistent with the divine judgment that follows. God is going to demonstate the sovereignty and righteousness of Christ in this His second coming, even as Christ demonstrated grace and truth in His first coming. The titles here are repetitions of those given earlier in Revelation 1:5 and 3:7, and were anticipated in the prophecy of Isaiah 11:3-4.
Finally, we come to "a name written that no man knew but He Himself." What might this name be? We will probably find out once we make it into heaven. It most likely is a name for Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity. Perhaps a name that He has had since before Creation began.
I apologize for being somewhat longer in this particular post. I wished to keep it all together rather than split it into two parts. Until next time, beloved, may our God richly bless all of you.
Tue, Feb 19th - 8:48PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. and he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy(19:9-10).
There are quite a few interpretations about who is at the marriage supper and where it is held. Personally, I do not believe we can narrow down as to exactly where it is held. It could more than likely be in heaven, but it could also be on earth. I lean more towards heaven than earth at this point in my life. A picture of those who are supposed to attend the supper is given in Matthew 25:1-13 where we read about the ten virgins with their lamps and oil.
Dr. McGee believed that the Millennium would be the marriage feast of the Lamb and His wife. It is possible, but there is nothing definitive in scripture to tell us so. Dr. Walvoord believes that the church is the bride, attendees are those Old Testament saints and Tribulation Period saints. He feels that God treats Israel different from the Gentiles just He treats the church age saints differently from those of other ages. I do not find scripture that tells me that God is treating anyone differently today. We all must come to the Father through Jesus Christ, His Son. No other way is open to us. That is how it was in the Old Testament and that is how it will be when Christ comes the second time. Why else would we be told about the people of "faith" in the book of Hebrews? We are told repeatedly in the Epistles that the wall of separation has been rent in two, the church to be built of Jew and Gentile. Therefore, it is safe to say that there is no special dispensation for Jews today or in the future. They must come to the cross of Christ and accept Him as their Messiah, just as we Gentiles must also do.
Now John has been recording these events all along. The angel tells him that these are the true sayings of God. These are not his words but those of the Living God. So immense is this revelation that John falls down at his feet in worship. But notice how his actions are corrected. This is not God speaking to John here, just an angel. This is how men were corrected throughout the Old Testament also. They were told not to worship the messenger, only the Living God who sent them. Here we see John being told that this angel is just another fellow slave of Christ's, doing His will in all things.
The final phrase of verse 10 is very significant: "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." This seemingly tells us that prophecy at its very heart is designed to unfold all of the beauty, wonderment, glory, and loveliness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. So in this present age of ours, the Spirit of God is not only going to glorify Christ but He is also going to show believers things to come as they relate to His person and majesty (John 16:13-15). Christ is the central theme of prophecy as He is the major theme of the entire bible.
A short summary then; the revelation of Christ in the book of Revelation is in contrast to the Christ as presented in the Gospels where He is revealed to us in rejection, humiliation, suffering, and death. His truimphant return is to be one in glory, sovereignty, and majesty. This return is anticipated in chapters 17 and 18 and is introduced in the first ten verses of chapter 19. This coming scene is not only the high point of Revelation but is the high point of all history. Any theology that minimizes the second coming of Christ is impoverished and limits the Christian's blessed hope.
Next time we shall continue exploring this chapter and the return of Christ. Until then, beloved, prepare yourselves for the spiritual battles that we all must face each day. Put on your battle gear, pick up your sword. Shield yourselves with your faith. For we do not strive with people but with spirits. In this way we can love the sinner and hate the sin.
Mon, Feb 18th - 9:47PM
MY INNER GARDEN
From Gorden MacDonald's book I have borrowed these four spiritual exercises that he has mentioned: (1) the pursuit of solitude and silence; (2) regular listening to God; (3) the experience of reflection and meditation; and (4) prayer as worship and intercession. It seems that too many Christians neglect these four things. In our society we rarely have time for solitude and silence or we choose to not have them in our lives. Once we accept the first condition it becomes difficult to listen to God or to even hear Him when He does speak to us. If we do not determine to create the first condition in our lives it then becomes impossible to experience the third and fourth conditions.
God does not usually shout to make Himself heard. Elijah found that out while out in the desert. So we need to realize that our archenemy, Satan, has conspired to surround us at every conceivable point in our lives with interfering noise. Endless music, chattering, Ipods, cellphones, traffic, machinery. It is everywhere. We have become so used to noise that when it is absent we become restless, uncomfortable. We must become acclimated to silence all over again.
Not only are most of us bothered by lack of noise, but we are uncomfortable with those times of aloneness. But why should we be? We have Christ with us always, don't we? Exactly. There must be times of withdrawal from our hectic schedules. Periods of time when we break from our routines, relationships, and the demands of our "outer worlds" so that we can go and meet our Saviour in the garden. This cannot be done at seminars, conferences, and retreats. It must be done in solitude, by yourself.
Have you ever wondered why Zacharias was silenced? Perhaps to put a stop to his impossibility thinking when he discovered that he and his wife were to become parents of John the Baptist? If he could not accept the Word of God as it had come to him, then his tongue could be stilled for several months so that he couldn't blurt out the details of God's plan and he could have ample time to ponder about it. His wife, Elizabeth, seems to have realized what was happening and she chose to withdraw. Probably partly due to the local custom of pregnant women but also because she needed to meditate upon these strange things that were happening to her.
Then we have Mary, who was the first to carry the gospel. When she found out her specific role in the birth of our Lord she chose silence (Luke 2:19). Christ's birth was heralded by angels but also by silence from the human partners who needed solitude to think through and appreciate their roles in divine history. Wayne Oates said that silence is not a native species in our noisy world, it is a transplant from heaven that needs our cultivation and care for its survival and growth.
Have a quiet evening in the presence of Christ!
Mon, Feb 18th - 9:10PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
As we recall various scriptures we see this joining together of Christ and the church. In John 3:29 there is, "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom..." Here is shown that the bride occupies a unique relationship with Jesus Christ. He loved the church and gave Himself up for it. In His High Priestly prayer He said this: "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them(John 17:23-26)."
What is really wonderful about all of this is that we are going to know Christ for the very first time. We are to be joined to Christ in a legal marriage. When Christ comes for His church the second phase of the wedding is fulfilled, namely, the bridegroom goes to receive His bride. The third phase then follows, the wedding feast. It is significant to note here that the bride is already the wife of the Lamb prior to His second advent. What is described here in chapter 19 is not the wedding union but the feast afterwards. And if the feast is herein described then the rapture of the church must have already happened previously to this event in prophecy.
Some may attempt to interpret this passage to refer to Israel as God's wife since that is what the nation was described as in the Old Testament. However, it would be quite awkward to presume such a position with the wording of the passage. This describes a future event, not an event that took place ages ago. In the Old Testament Israel is described as the unfaithful wife who will be restored to her position as a faithful wife in the future millennial kingdom. So Israel is already married to Jehovah, while the church is pictured as a virgin waiting for the coming of her bridegroom (II Corinthians 11:2).
In verse 8 we see a magnificent picture drawn of the holiness and righteousness of the church for the bride is described as being clothed in fine linen, clean and white. The clothing is not left for us to personally interpret for God gives us the meaning. It is the righteousness of saints. The Greek word for "righteousness" is dikaiomata, which means righteous deeds and is in the plural tense. It seems to mean the righteousness wrought, or created, in the lives of the saints who make up the wife of the Lamb. It links back to the previous verse where it says that "his wife hath made herself ready."
All of this dovetails into what we read in Ephesians 5:26-27 where Christ is said to be carrying on His present work with His church "that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" with this future view of presenting it in glory as then stated in verse 27. Sanctification is separate from justification which by its nature is an act of God by which a believer is declared righteous. Sanctification is the work of Christ in the believer to bring our spiritual state up to the level of our position in Christ. Our righteousness which is created in our lives through the Holy Spirit is pictured here as the fine linen. Even though this righteousness is a product of the grace of God, it is seen as being related to human works, an experience.
After the wedding, our wedding dress shall be laid aside for we are to accompany our bridegroom in His return to earth. Just as the 24 elders placed their crowns at the feet of the Lamb, proclaiming Him to be worthy, so too shall the bride proclaim Him worthy and reveal His glory. We shall be on display, sinners saved from eternal damnation, brought home to heaven for evermore.
That is all for this post tonight, beloved. Next time we shall move on to verses 9-10 where we will read about the marriage feast. Until then, consider preparing yourself for the bridegroom and His marriage feast that He plans to hold for you. Consider how this concept affects your outlook on your marriage, if you are betrothed to another person today. Men, look long and hard at how your bridegroom treats you. Ought not we to treat our wives in like fashion? All of us need to continue cleansing ourselves daily in God's Word and transforming our minds through the reading and study of His Word. Amen.
Sun, Feb 17th - 1:56PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
As is quite obvious, I have returned safely from my roadtrip to Massachusetts. My granddaughter and I made it back to Virginia in 11.5 hours Friday during the daytime. I thank any and all who prayed for a safe trip. We flew on the wings of eagles despite all of the holiday traffic which I thought was going to slow us down several times. Now we begin the truly difficult work, adjusting to another new person living with us. Keep all six of us in prayer!
Let's get back to our study of Revelation, shall we?
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints(19:7-8).
In continuing their praise of God the multitude now announces a huge feature of His reign upon earth. Here in this verse we find joy being expressed that the marriage of the Lamb has finally arrived AND that His bride has prepared herself. As there is no language that indicates we have left heaven from the previous verses, this current scene is a heavenly one and not earthly as some claim it must be. We can assume that this marriage and its subsequent supper comes after the destruction of Babylon and before the Second Advent of Christ. The saints of the church/bride return with Christ to earth and so I believe that this marriage is necessary to that return.
We need to review the husband/wife relationship here. In Ephesians 5 we can read about these relationships when both members are believers. Both husband and wife are Spirit-filled and there are certain relationships that flow out of this. No Christian home can exist without both spouses being Spirit-filled. In fact, how can you know what true love is until both spouses are believers? Here we see Paul's instructions: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish(Eph. 5:25-27)." This how God desires that we treat our spouses and it is a picture of His relationship with the corporate church.
Does anyone doubt that we live in an age of "new" morality? Our society is flooded with sex. It oozes from out of every corner and crevice. Our younger generations know a great deal about sex but very little about love and intimacy. I can walk through a mall in almost any of our cities and I could easily observe at least one couple necking or making out in public, unashamed at their own behavior. And they believe that they are being intimate! Perhaps physically they are, but they are not actually being intimate at all.
Do any of you recall the day when you first looked at your future spouse and felt that thrill run through your heart? Recall the day when you first embraced your future spouse? That is what is being pictured in Ephesians 5. This is why young men and women ought to be bringing purity to their marriages today. Having issues with "baggage" brought along from prior relationships? Purity eliminates these problems for us.
Marriage is a wonderful picture of the joining of Christ with the church. In ancient times usually there were three major aspects to the marriage custom: (1) The marriage contract was often consummated by the parents when the parties to the marriage were still children and not ready to assume adult responsibility. A suitable dowry had to be paid. Once consummated the contract meant that the young couple were legally married. (2) At a later time when a couple had reached a suitable age, the next step in the wedding took place. This ceremony was one in which the bridegroom and his friends would go to the house of the bride and escort her to his home. This is the backdrop of the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. (3) Then the bridegroom would bring his bride into his home and the marriage supper, to which guests were invited, would take place. It was such a wedding feast that Christ attended at Cana as recorded in John 2:1-12.
Next time we will continue this investigation of the marriage relationship. Until then, love your spouse as yourself, and be willing to sacrifice for them.
Sat, Feb 16th - 7:01PM
MY INNER GARDEN
There are privileges that we can lose unless we decide to make a start on ordering the spiritual dimensions of our private inner worlds. There are a number of privileges that God designed inorder to make us fully alive. The first is that we will never learn to enjoy the eternal and infinite perspective on reality that we were created to have. Our powers of judgment will be significantly reduced.
King David in the Old Testament shows us just a bit of this eternal perspective when he writes to us about the "kings of the earth" launching movements and systems by which they thought to replace God in Psalm 2:2. David would have been intimidated by these kings and the plans and schemes that they worked at had he not had the eternal perspective of an eternal and sovereign God ruling over all. So David rested upon his eternal assurance that God was in absolute control over everything and had no fear.
If our spiritual center goes undisciplined, we will lack a vital, life-giving friendship with Christ. Once more, David was very much aware of his loss of this kind of contact with his God when he sinned with Bathsheba. He could only contain his loss of intimacy with his Lord for so long before he had to make confession before the Creator and request restoration. That type of intimacy meant too much to David.
Another privilege we can lose is the fear of accountability to God. We will tend to forget that all that we have, and all that we are, comes from Christ and then we will also begin assuming that it has been ours all along. This happened to Uzziah, king of Judah, who at one time had a great relationship with God, and then he let it all fall away to the roadside. In II Chronicles 26 we can read all about this and see the growth of pride that led to his embarassing downfall. He began a hero; he ended as a fool. He never decided that the growing chaos and disorder within his inner garden was of any true importance.
Allowing disrepair to enter into our inner gardens means that we also lose the awareness of our real size in comparison to the Creator and our specialness and value before Him as His sons and daughters. Forgetting all of these things, we wind up repeating the mistakes of the Prodigal Son and making a series of reckless judgments that have extremely painful consequences.
Finally, we end up losing any reserve or resolve for crisis moments such as failure, humiliation, suffering, the death of a loved one, or loneliness. If we cultivate and care for our inner gardens, then we can be like Paul in the Roman jail: everyone had left him, but he was sure he was not alone. He knew who was always with him no matter where he might end up. How about us? Do we have that assurance?
So what are the observable results when we cultivate our inner gardens? For one thing, harvests are regular events. The fruits? Try things such as courage, hope, love, endurance, joy, and immense amounts of peace. Am I totally happy with my family's current circumstances? No. But I am at peace, I have inner joy, courage, hope, love, and endurance to run this race until the very end. We can also harvest increased capacity for self-control and an ability to discern evil and to pry out truth. This is what Proverbs tells us:
For wisdom will enter your heart, And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you,
From the man who speaks perverse things (Proverbs 2:10).
It becomes obvious that we must create an inner chapel, still waters, a private garden where we can meet with Christ. Jesus Himself gave us this picture through His actions by pursuing spiritual discipline of His spirit. David did it, Moses did it, the Apostles did it, and this includes Paul who wrote to us of his own routines:
I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified (I Corinthians 9:26-27)
What has happened to this discipline? Why are we not practising this today? Why do too many pastors stray away from teaching this on Sunday mornings in their classrooms and pulpits? Today we hear all the time about the importance of "quiet time" and of a daily devotional. But are these being truely done God's way, or are we reducing them to a system or method that is swift, streamlined, efficient? Is that the "way" that Christ speaks to us of? Is this the way that Christ Himself did things?
What will it take to force me into cultivating my inner garden? Will it require the experience of severe suffering? Will it require the loss of all of my "things?" That is what history seems to indicate over and over again: those under pressure seek out God, those smothered in "blessings" tend to drift with the prevailing currents.
Next time, my friends, we can see what silence and solitude can do for us in ordering our inner gardens. We can see how individuals in scripture handled this. Until then, ask God for wisdom and understanding. He shall hear your request and honor it, He promises to do so. Ask and receive.
Wed, Feb 13th - 6:59PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his sevants at her hand.
And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.
And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia(19:2-4).
It is interesting to notice that all of those who are in heaven and have knowledge of what is happening do not feel that God's judgments are unfair. Their knowledge is complete, ours is incomplete. God judges the Satanic world system of belief that has corrupted the earth for centuries and in the end days corrupts it completely. Here is the avenging of the blood shed of martyred saints. Is this destruction sudden and then over with? To all appearances I would have to believe that this destruction is one of eternal duration. I know that there are many who do not believe that a loving God could possibly do such a thing. I simply remind you that God is a jealous God, He will have no other gods before Him. He is also a holy God, He cannot give place before Him to anything containing sin. So, if He has provided the means for whosoever will come to Him and turn from their sins to be cleansed of those sins, and they refuse to do so, what do you think His response is going to be? Those who have tortured His beloved saints, are they going to receive anything less than torture themselves? We have already read where He commands the cup of iniquity to be double filled for Babylon and her inhabitants. That sounds to me like God intends to avenge fully the spilled blood of His children.
In verse 4 we see once again the twenty-four elders from back in chapter 4 along with those four living creatures. They all fall down and worship God, saying, "Amen, Praise the Lord!" If we remain with the thought that these elders represent the called out church, then this is the last time that we read about the elders. The church will no longer be called out for she will finally be called the "bride of Christ."
And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth(19:5-6).
Joining in, and towering over and above the praising of the elders and living creatures, can be heard a mighty voice. It is most probably another angel since it would be most awkward to attempt to place the voice as being God's. But this voice commands everyone to praise God, no matter how insignificant or well known the person may be. Verse six reaffirms the fact that Jesus Christ is omnipotent, all powerful, and He reigns.
We are on the threshhold of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Here we will find His bride, who has made herself ready for Him. That is all for today, beloved, and will be until perhaps Saturday evening. In about nine hours I depart on a roadtrip to Massachusetts to bring my eldest granddaughter back to Virginia to live with us. We ought to be back in Virginia around daybreak on Saturday morning. Keep me in prayer, keep my wife in prayer as she will be in charge of the three boys at home.
Tue, Feb 12th - 6:41AM
STUDY IN REVELATION
This morning, beloved, we come to the thrilling events that concern us. In chapter 19 we see a page turned which marks a tremendous change in the tone of Revelation. The capital of the Beast's kingdom has been destroyed, marking the end of the Great Tribulation. The transfer is from darkness to light, from inky blackness of night to a white illuminating light, from the stark days of judgment to bright days of blessing. We see ushered in the greatest event that this earth shall ever see--the second advent of Christ to the earth to establish His kingdom. This is the great bridge between the Great Tribulation and the millennial kingdom on earth. Hallelujahs open this chapter and the opening of hell concludes it. Two great feasts are recorded in this chapter: the marriage feast of the Lamb and the feast of carrion after the end of Armageddon.
And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God(19:1).
In response to the invitation of 18:20, John hears a "great voice of much people in heaven." John makes clear to us that this great voice of people in heaven came after all that transpired in chapter 18. We have seen this expression (meta tauta) before, first in chapter 1 and again in chapter 4. This is the last time that this expression is used.
"Alleluia" we shall see occurs four times in this chapter(verses 1, 3, 4, 6). This word is transliterated from the Greek word allelouia, the equivalent for hallelujah, the Hebrew word found in the Old Testament. All this great multitude of people in heaven have been patiently waiting for the moment when they could utter this great word of praise. Here is the only place in the entire New Testament that this word is found. In the book of Psalms this word occurs frequently. Hallelujah means "praise the Lord." Every time in scripture where we see these words, "Praise the Lord!", we are seeing a "hallelujah" moment. This particular moment in Revelation is what Paul talked about in Romans 8:18-23.
My friends, this is that wonderful day when we become adopted and have completed the redemption of our bodies. It will become official, the Judge will have put His official signature upon the court document and we will be adopted into God's family forever more! Halleluhah!
In addition to the hallelujah we also see expressed four great words: salvation (Greek, soteria), glory (Greek doxa), power (Greek dynamis), and honour (Greek time). The first concerns His redemptive act, the second concerns His moral judgment, the third concerns His righteous execution of sin in our world, and the fourth concerns our giving of our praise and thanksgiving to Him for what He has done.
That is all for this morning, my friends. Until next time, may Christ be more real to you today than yesterday, and may you love Him more today than yesterday as well.
Mon, Feb 11th - 10:27PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her(18:20).
Here we see the contrast to the grief overtaking the worldly rulers and merchants by the utter destruction of Babylon with those in heaven who are called upon to rejoice! Be happy for the saints have been avenged as promised! Here is the righteous recompense for all of Babylon's martyrdom of the saints. Here is the judgment of the saints being carried out by our Almighty God. They cried out to the Father from under his altar in heaven and now He has answered their cries. No one is standing afar off in heaven, no sir. They are all high fiving and singing praises to God on the highest. They are giving to Him all the praise, honor, and glory of which He deserves. The saints have prayed for this, the prophets and the apostles both predicted this would happen. Now all is fulfilled, judgment has come upon the wicked. What is your heart fixed on today? It will make a huge difference in that day for you will either be with the mourners or you will be with the rejoicers. I desire to be with the rejoicers, don't you?
And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all(18:21).
Here we have another of those mighty angels, just as in 5:2 and 10:1. And he is demonstrating how Babylon is to be destroyed violently, rocked down to its very foundations. A similar instance is to be found in Jeremiah 51:61-64 where Seraiah, who accompanied Zedekiah into Babylon, is instructed to bind a stone to the book of Jeremiah and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates with the words "Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary." The symbolism is the same in each case. As with casting a stone into the sea and finding it no more, so too shall Babylon disappear, never to appear ever again.
And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;
And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived(18:22-23).
Rock and roll music, hip-hop, R&B, country-western, and Punk Rock will all go out of style in one hour. No factories of any sort will be open, they will all be closed down. In verse 23 we then see that marriages will be curtailed. The greatness of Babylon that led to her meteoric rise in power and influence during the end days makes her downfall all the more impressive and nerveshattering.
And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth(18:24).
This was Satan's city, and he was a murderer from the very beginning in Genesis. Babylon was a city that murdered; its final crime was slaughtering God's people.
It is quite natural to think of other great cities and civilizations of the past which have fallen. A very influential book written by Edward Gibbon back in 1788 titled, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" gives five basic reasons as to why that great civilization faded and fell apart:
1. The undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis for human society.
2. Higher and higher taxes; the spending of public money for free bread and circuses for the populace.
3. The mad craze for pleasure; sports becoming every year more exciting, more brutal, more immoral.
4. The building of great armaments when the real enemy was within--the decay of individual responsibility.
5. The decay of religion; faith fading into mere form, losing touch with life, losing power to guide the people.
Can you see examples of each of these five within our own society here in America? History is in the process of repeating itself, here within the United States, and very few politicians are even aware of it. They ought to be scared to death at what they see around them in Congress, but they aren't. They are still pursuing their mini-kingdoms of political power and influence, thinking that they are very important persons in their own right. All of these five things work together to destroy the individual, the family, and religion. Should we then wonder at all that neither political party has the power to guide the people? The power has been frittered away, the accountability has been thrown away, faith in God has been made obsolete and tossed into the trash can. I thank God that this sad story of our sin will come to an end.
We do not know the day nor the hour when Jesus Christ will return. We do not even know the period in which He will return. It may be soon. It could be tonight. On the other hand, He might not come for another hundred years or even several thousand years. Anyone who sets a date for His return is entirely guessing and is out of order. He who claims to know exactly when Christ will return has information that is not from out of the Bible.
We know that we live in an exciting and great period in the history of our world, but all we can say for sure is that our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. Significant events are happening in our times, Western Europe obviously looking for a strong enough leader to reunite all of Europe under one flag. They desire a return to their glory days, and I perfectly understand that sentiment. But Antichrist is coming. They may not know it, but they are waiting for him. Russia to the north, Egypt still alive to the south, and China slowly awakening off in the east. All shall revolve around Israel once again, to the utter dismay of those who claim that Israel is a non factor in our world. The church could be raptured out at any time now, and the Tribulation would begin. Three and half years of incredible profit and commercial success, prosperity theology run amok! And then the hammer falls for the final three and a half years as Antichrist shows his true intentions. We do not know the day or the hour, but it is coming. Are you ready? Will you be a mourner, or a rejoicer? Choose wisely, as the ancient Crusader advised Indiana Jones, choose wisely.
Next time we will begin to look at chapter 19 of Revelation. This chapter will take us to the marriage of the Lamb and the return of Christ in judgment. Alleluijahs will abound!
Until then, beloved, walk each day confident, knowing that your God is with you always. That He shall never forsake you, and that He is coming back to take you home to be with Him forever and forever. Amen!
Mon, Feb 11th - 12:56PM
MY INNER GARDEN
Over the past two and a half months my inner garden has been severely challenged. Two grandsons coming to live with us under our custody, adoption of our 3 year old medically handicapped son, and replacement of our well's pump and wiring. I could have thrown up my hands and blamed God for all of it. I could have surrendered and turned my back on Christ, doubting that any of His promises are for real. But I didn't. I have instead turned to Him the more, I have decided that no matter what goes on in my life and my family's life that I will never turn away from my Lord and Savior. Without Him I would be utterly lost. Without Him I would probably not even be alive today. So today I continue with this series of posts, hoping that someone out there will stumble upon them and be able to grab ahold of them and use them as an anchor to steady themselves in this chaotic world of ours.
It is easy for Christians to be convinced of the existence of the soul. But how many of us struggle with the quality of life within that center? Many are disappointed with their level of contact with God. A disorganized spirit often will mean a lack of inner serenity. What should be tranquility is in fact only numbness, unfeelingness, emptiness. People feeling that they never quite measure up to the expectations of Christ. Many are concerned with the inability to sustain spiritual momemtum during the week. They start the week off well on Sunday during worship service but by Thursday they have lost interest.
If we look at the great saints and prophets of the Bible we become envious of them. The burning bush experience by Moses, the vision of the Temple by Isaiah, and Paul's meeting with Christ on the road to Damascus, John's visions on Patmos. If only I could have one of those moments I would be set spiritually for the rest of my life! But wouldn't that be like having a "quick fix?" Wouldn't we fall into forgetting its impact as time passed, just like we had been doing each week? Sure.
But we are still tempted to reach out for quick fixes that seem to make God closer and more real to us. Here are four types of quick fixes:
1. A preacher who angrily thunders forth with accusations and denunciations makes us feel deeply enriched by being caused to feel terribly guilty.
2. Or emotional experiences that lift us out of ourselves into ecstatic levels.
3. Immersing ourselves into endless rounds of Bible teaching and study, making the search for pure doctrine a way of finding satisfactory intimacy with God.
4. Pursuing spirituality through busyness in the church, thus becoming closer to Christ through continual service.
Hhhhmmm. All of the above are able to produce good results in certain situations but cannot sustain an intimate relationship with Christ over a period of time. If we are ever to develop a spiritual life that gives us contentment, it will only be because we have approached this spiritual living as a discipline, much as an athlete trains their body for competition. Just as Paul has told us in his writings in scripture. If we do not, there will come a day when we will regret that we did not undertake this challenge from our Lord and Savior.
Thus, we come to the matter of cultivating this inner garden. David wrote in the Psalms about imagining his spirit to be like a pasture where God, his Shepherd, led him as a lamb. There were calm waters, green pastures, and tables full with food to be eaten in absolute safety. This was a place where the soul was restored. The picture of this place being like a garden means for me a place of tranquility, peacefulness, full of life and safety from all of life's troubles. A refuge, or sanctuary. A place where God can come to me to share wisdom, give affirmation or rebuke, to give encouragement, and to give direction and guidance. This is a garden where everything is in proper order and excludes busyness, noise, and confusion. But we must keep our inner gardens from becoming disorderly, infested with weeds, for God does not often walk in this sort of garden.
So we are basically speaking about spiritual gardening. We must turn over the soil, pull out unwanted weeds and growth, plan the use of the ground, plant good seeds, water and nourish the seed, and then enjoy the harvests that will follow. Remember this! God's house is not at the local church building but within each and every believer's heart. It is here that He sets up His abode with us, here where His Holy Spirit works upon our lives. Perhaps in many cases we must only make a resolved start, take the first step and find out that He will provide us with the strength to continue on in the work! Step out in faith and let Christ fulfill His promise to us. If we never do this then how can He fulfill His promises to us? He did say after all, "You have not because you ask not." So we must ask Him to enable us to discipline ourselves to tend to our inner gardens so that we have a place to approach Him no matter where we may find ourselves.
Next time I will illustrate some privileges that we can lose unless we make a concerted start to ordering our inner gardens. Things that Christ designed to make us fully alive. Until then, walk in peace with all whom you meet, if at all possible.
Sun, Feb 10th - 10:05PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!
And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate(18:17b-19).
We see here the third group of mourners. It is composed of those engaged in maritime trade of goods. They too, refuse to come close to Babylon during its judgment from God Almighty. They like all of the others can only marvel at the suddenness of the destruction of an entire city, complete in one hour. Their source of income is suddenly evaporated before their very eyes. Worldwide depression is riding on a horse, and it is galloping towards everyone.
For the third time we see the use of the same expression, Ouai, ouai. It means, "Woe, woe." Their lament is not over the city per se, but over the loss of their anticipated future wealth through commerce with this city. Christ warned all of us against coveting the wealth of this world when he said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for your selves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also(Matthew 6:19-21)."
Contrasted against the wealth of this present world are the true riches of faith, devotion, and service for God. Include with those these also: soul-winning, discipleship, love for the brethren, advocating for the widows, the fatherless, and all who cannot speak up in their own defense.
Here comes some hard application to our lives. How do we see the luxury of this world? Do we see it as it really is? How would you and I feel if the luxuries in our lives which we have come to consider necessities suddenly went up in smoke within an hour's time?
Today we all talk about spirituality and spiritual things. We hear about these things on radio and see/hear about them on television and the computer. Even within our Christian churches there is a zeal to get people to give, expecially the wealthy people. And it is done in the face of God specifically telling us not to esteem one person above another. The real world problem created when wealthy people are courted for money is that they will begin to feel entitled to something in return. They will be tempted to make demands. We must remember, beloved, that all of this is passing away. We must remember that our God does not esteem one man above another. So do not pay too much attention to this world, it is all passing away. The great cities of this world are all passing away. New York, London, Paris, Moscow, Peking, Tokyo, they are all passing away. God is going to judge them all. The bottom line question then is: Will it break your heart if you see the things of this world go up in smoke? Or, is your heart in heaven with your bankrolled spiritual treasures? Is your heart fixed on Christ, or is it fixed on the things of this world?
We see here the end to the control that Babylon has had over souls, and the control she exerted through religion, politics, and commerce.
I will halt there for today, my friends. Next we shall cover the remaining verses of chapter 18. I will give you a comparison of ancient Rome and our American society today and then give a summary of what has transpired thus far in the book of Revelation. Until then, remember the words of Psalm 130:
3If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? 4But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. 5I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. 6My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Sat, Feb 9th - 5:43PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,
And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.
The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!
For in one hour so great riches is come to nought(18:11-17a).
What a passage! Could you picture yourself in one of our great shopping malls today? All of these items are amply displayed for all to see in our malls. Jewels, trinkets, fancy clothing, fragrances, and jewelry for every conceivable occasion. All that panders to our senses and to our vanity. Just as these items were available in the Roman Empire of John's day, they are available in our society today, and they most certainly will be available in the restored Roman Empire of the future. All of these luxury items will become necesseties in the future. Today we can already see it happening across our nation, teenagers being raised needing the latest fashion clothing, cosmetics, and jewelry. Face it, my friends, you and I live in an age of luxury. Bathtubs and showers in every house, toilets in just about every house. Refrigerators in our kitchens to keep our food chilled for us. Electricity running to almost every home in our nation.
Let's look at each of these verses and see just what is going on in them. Verse 11 indicates a global depression is in effect. No one is buying what the merchants have. Jewelry is being mentioned in verse 12 and proceeds to probably women's clothing when mentioning the various colors of the materials listed. Then it proceeds to the pricey home decor items made from fine woods, ivory, brass, iron and marble. From there we proceed to items found in our cosmetics and personal hygiene isles. Then we see items from alcoholic beverages, and the foodstuffs found with the wealthy elite. We then see a visit to the meat department; all of the finest cuts can be found here. Perhaps the horses represent the racetracks with all of their off-track betting. Chariots could refer to the means of transportation of the wealthy, and last, but not least, we find that people will indeed be bought and sold on the market. The human slave market will never cease to exist until Christ returns and puts an end to it once and for all.
We see a picture of merchants worldwide weeping and wailing over the utter loss of such immense wealth and merchandise. All gone in the span of one hour.
Verse 14 speaks of the sweeping removal of all these precius possessions ("the fruits that thy soul lusted after"). Like the kings of the earth, the merchants shall also fear to go any where near the city. Everything contained within Babylon shall be destroyed. You might be wondering if anything remotely similar happened in the Old Testament. The answer is yes. In Ezekiel 26-27 we can read about the judgment of Tyre, the captal of the Phoenicians. Tyre was to the ancient world what New York City is to America today and what Babylon will be to the future.
That is all for today, beloved. Tomorrow I will speak about the shipmasters's anguish and then about the joy that fills the heavenly host over this judgment. Then we shall see so more defining of the iniquity of Babylon. Until then, stay on your knees praying unceasingly for the brethren. Remain watchful, looking for that blessed hope of us all.
Fri, Feb 8th - 12:34PM
MY INNER GARDEN
Another way to grow through listening comes through listening to mentors. God brings a variety of people into our lives who can be teachers to us. They contribute to our understanding of our world and our relationships with those around us. The last way for us to grow through listening is to listen to our critics. I am not saying we should heed the dire words of negative criticism, but rather we need to consider the words of constructive criticism. We should take this into our prayer closet and place it in front of the Lord Jesus. We then can ask God to unveil the kernel of truth that might be hidden in the criticism.
We grow through listening, aggressive listening: asking questions, watching intently what is happening all around us, taking note of the good or bad consequences that happen to people as a result of their personal choices.
WE GROW THROUGH READING
In today's age of mass media, out young people are finding it harder than ever to acquire the discipline of reading. A person without proper reading comprehension is at the mercy of the media giants. Paul wrote to Timothy requesting that he send parchments and books to him, reading was important to that man of God. We need to be reading God's Word and also other books that expand our awareness of the world around us. It can easily be seen that the person who is not reading is not growing mentally, they are stagnant.
WE GROW THROUGH DISCIPLINED STUDY
Naturally, the amount of time we spend upon studying will vary form person to person. We grow when we engage in offensive study, that which is aggressive in its nature. It can be done through reading, occasionally taking courses that stretch our minds, taking on new challenges that force us to learn new skills and/or knowledge, and simply exploring new topics simply for the joy of learning more about God's creation.
Studying obviously means that we need to create good filing systems to store the new information so that it is not wasted, or lost. Perhaps this is a set of good reference books, or testbooks, or even a series of ringbinders to hold notes. But again, this will not come to pass unless we exert determination and discipline. I will state unconditionally here that we must guard study time for ourselves, for our spouses, and for our children. Hopefully our spouses will also see the need to support and guard these same things. But as husbands and fathers it is necessary for us to take the first step as the leaders of our families.
I will leave you with this note: "And Ezra set himself to study the law of the Lord, to do it, and to teach its statutes in all of Israel."
Thu, Feb 7th - 6:28PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come(18:9-10).
In this passage great Babylon is gone, dust, a pile of rubble. The news has flown around the world instantly and the world is stunned. All of the kings will wail and lament at the sudden loss of the physical city that they have supported and shared wickedness with. In the last chapter religious Babylon was eradicated and these kings helped the Antichrist do it. Here they are all sorts of upset because the commercial center is gone. Money talks now and it will still talk in the future with businessmen. However, if you will notice, they all separated themselves physically from Babylon. They stand far away and lament.
Does this passage still suggest that ancient Babylon will be rebuilt? If one looks at the Old Testament scriptures concerning ancient Babylon one notices that one phrase stands out. Jeremiah 51:8 speaks of the destruction of Babylon as being sudden, just as in Revelation 18:17-19. In Isaiah 13:6, 9-11 is formed the context of Isaiah 13:19-22 indicating that the destruction of Babylon would be in the day of the Lord. This particular phrase refers to the Second Coming of Christ by most observers. It is the phrase that is seen in the very first chapter of Revelation. So I am inclined to think that Babylon is to be rebuilt somewhere close to its original site. Then it can be destroyed by God.
Regardless of location, the burning of the city is a symbol of the fall of its political and economic might, and the kings of the earth marvel at the destruction of this seemingly infinite power of the world capital. The kings fear a similar judgment for they stand far away. What a sad picture of the future.
That is all for tonight, unless I have time after I return from a bible study tonight! Next time we will see the merchants of our world weep over this city's demise. Until then, be cheerful, be loving, be kindhearted.
Thu, Feb 7th - 3:07PM
I have prayed about this today, and I finally have concluded that it needs to be brought before you all. My wife and I received a phone call from our eldest granddaughter the other night and she asked if she could please come and live with us. The situation at home was beyond what she can cope with anymore. At this point in time we have decided to let her come live with us for safety reasons. Please pray for God to give us guidance, strength, courage, and increased faith in Him. Our living space is shrinking dramatically! We just had our two grandsons come to live with us last Thanksgiving weekend and we have feared that the household of our eldest daughter might fall apart. It seems that it is disintegrating now. Whether our youngest granddaughter comes to live with us remains in question, but it is a very real possibility. Pray for me, that Christ will lay upon my heart all that He wants me to accomplish in this matter. Pray for my wife, that she will receive the necessary strength, and encouragement she needs. Pray that Christ's love will fill all seven of our lives each and every day! Pray for our grandchildren's parents, that they will all come to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior! And that those who may have already done so might determine in their hearts to serve Him rather than the flesh. That they would decide in their hearts to put the needs of their children ahead of their own. Amen. I praise Jesus Christ and all that He has done for me and my wife! I praise Him for helping us raise our son to become a promising young man, sober, learning how to walk as a man. I praise Him for directing me to this website and laying it upon my heart to bring messages of love, peace, and hope to all who may happen to stop and read them. I thank Him for all of you who have stopped by and left kind comments to encourage me. Please continue to do so...
In Christ's love, Eric
Thu, Feb 7th - 12:50PM
MY INNER GARDEN
So how can I kickstart the growth of my mind? There are at least three objectives in building up the intellectual dimension of my inner world. Here they are as a springboard for mental improvement.
1. My mind must be disciplined to think Christianly.
This means to look at my world from the perspective that it is made and owned by none other than God, that what I do with creation will have to be accounted for, and that it is important to make choices according to the laws of God. This is called stewardship. Christian thinking looks at all things from the standpoint of what God desires and what may give Him honor. This type of thinking requires work. New believers do not normally think automatically in this manner at all. It has not been our way. We must consciously force outselves to view everything from the new perspective, until it becomes habit. Too often we think Christianly but do not follow it up with the proper actions.
If I am thinking Christianly but without any regular renewal of my committment to Christ it will lead to a deadness of my religion, a boring faith, an ineffective witness to God. As we all mature with the gospel of Christ we need to remain aware of this trap.
2. My mind must be taught to observe and appreciate the messages God has written in creation all around me.
Psalm 19:1, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God," reminds us that everything God has made purposes to reflect the honor of God. Unfortunately, the power of sin has tarnished some aspects of creation to reflect that honor. Romans chapter 1 informs all of us that the things of God can be found out by the things that He has made in creation. We must exercise our minds so that we can discover all of those "things" that we possibly can.
3. My mind must be trained to pursue information, ideas, and insights for the purpose of serving the people of my public world.
As with any gifts that we have from God, our minds must be used for the good of others. Developing my mind merely for my own personal advancement is wrong. I must put my thinking power to work for the use of others. That could be my spouse, my children, my grandchildren, my coworkers, my boss/es, my pastor, or my community of believers at church. I cannot keep it hidden away, it would be unChristianly.
I believe that too many of us are walking around and just do not realize that we have not even made it to intellectual puberty yet. We are in intellectual elementary school, repeating our ABC"s over, and over, and over again. Let me ask all of you this. Now that you are out of the classroom, who is there to push or pull you along mentally? Who challenges you intellectually? Who asks you hard questions that require some thought? Or are the questions all of the variety that can be answered from what you already have learned?
WE GROW BY LISTENING TO OTHERS
Perhaps the very first step in becoming a listener is to learn to ask questions. This means becoming a good question-asker. We all ask questions of each other daily, some are right questions and some are wrong questions. Right questions give us valuable information for growing knowledge-wise, wrong questions give us fairly useless information that does not help us in any fashion. The old game show, "What's My Line?", comes to mind as an example of this concept. Ask the right questions and contestants could figure out what type of job the mystery person did for a living.
We particularly need to listen to older people (like me!) and children. They have stories to tell that enrich our minds and hearts. They expand our horizons in how we perceive the world around us. Children simplify things, often with brutal honesty. Older people bring the perspective of their longer years on issues facing us. Suffering people also help us understand what are the genuinely important matters of life. Handicapped people provide us with sobering reminders of the sheer veneer of good health in each of us. What I take for granted each day, someone else may have to consciously think their way to do each and every time that they want to do it. Walking for instance, or having my own private, bedroom. I can learn much from merely sitting and watching people as they go about their business all around me each day. All that it requires from me is taking the time to observe, to really see what is happening all around me. Too frequently each of us move too quickly through our days, missing hidden gems left by God to lift our spirits, or to point us further along our way in walking in His footsteps. Moving too fast to notice, we lose what God has provided for us to see and learn from.
So now I understand that I must walk, and then stop. I must look around and take note of what is going on around me. Walk along some more, stop, and perhaps sit and ponder all that I am seeing and hearing. I must ask questions of those around me, right questions, not just useless questions. I must accurately answer questions asked of me by others, otherwise I am not building up those around me. Sounds like I have some work to do...
Wed, Feb 6th - 12:54PM
MY INNER GARDEN
What is the cost of mental flabbiness?
Without doubt the organizing of my private world cannot possibly happen without strong mental endurance and the intellectual growth of my mind. In our current pressurized society, too many people are out of shape mentally and are continually falling victim to ideas and systems that are destructive to our spirit and to human relationships. They are victimized because they have not taught themselves how to think; nor are they in the process of improving their minds. Not having a strong mind, they become dependent upon the thinking and opinions of others. They become suckers on the whole system of opinion polls, think tank written works, etc.. People become willing to defer thinking to a dominant person. Jim Jones in Guyana was an example of this plight. His followers ceased thinking for themselves and followed whatever Jones said. Once his mind stopped functioning properly they all suffered the consequences.
There are examples in our churches today of congregations delegating the thinking to a dominant pastor. Perhaps they all ought to reread 3 John? The danger comes when the selected person loses touch with the Bible and its scriptures. No one has been thinking for themselves and now they cannot think that something is not quite right with what they are being told, they just accept it as being right.
What are the dangers of being a pre-mature success? It can be more of an obstacle than a help. This person is usually a fast-learner, able to gain expertise with a minimum of effort. They are usually blessed with good health and lots of energy. They can talk their way into or out of anything. They may, over time, conclude that they can do just about anything that they put their mind to. Why do they need something like God to help them? These people can sustain this for entire lifetimes, but usually sometime during their thirties indications of potential trouble begin to surface. Signs may begin to show that they will have to finish the race in life on endurance and not just on talent. They may begin to wonder how much slower runners are beginning to catch up with them. They reach a midlife crisis point.
Much of the time it can be seen that these people also waste too much time in the pursuit of little more than pure amusement. Amusement? If we were to take a close look at the meaning of this word we would discover that its root words reveal its true nature. A meaning "without" and muse meaning "to think" are literally meaning to function without thought. These people go through their lives without ever doing serious thinking about anything. They desire someone else to tell them what things mean. It is too hard for them to think it through to a conclusion. Flabby minds, sloppy thinking skills, even lazy thinking. Our minds must be pushed, filled, stretched, and forced so that they will grow and mature. Elton Trueblood once wrote, "No vital Christianity is possible unless at least three aspects of it are developed. These three are the inner life of devotion, the outer life of service, and the intellectual life of rationality." That third aspect is the easiest for evangelicals to ignore, faultily thinking that it is too worldly and offensive to God. But the dulling of the mind leads to compromise of the Word of God for one will not know when someone else is teaching falsely from it.
Even though evangelicals have made a committment to education, there is not always a high enough value placed upon critical thinking skills. The emphasis gets placed upon memorizing facts and learning rules rather than upon teaching individuals how to rightly handle the truth. Memorizing volumes of scripture is good but it does not automatically indicate spiritual individuals. We ought to be the strongest, broadest, most creative thinkers in the world. Why shouldn't we be, we have been given the mind of Christ!
President Jimmy Carter has related how his interview with Admiral Hyman Rickover went. Mr. Carter was applying for service under Rickover and felt that he was qualified for the position. The Admiral proceeded to show him how little he actually did know. At one point the Admiral asked Mr. Carter where he stood in his class at the Naval Academy. Mr. Carter responded proudly with, "Sir, I stood 59th in a class of 820!" No congratulations were forthcoming. Mr. Rickover responded with this question: "Did you do your best?" Mr. Carter was forced to admit to the Admiral, and to himself, that no, he had not always done his best. Admiral Rickover simply stared at him for a long time before turning his chair away, effectively ending the interview. He finally asked Mr. Carter, "Why not?" That comment stayed with Jimmy Carter the rest of his life. We ought to ponder those two questions also. Will not Christ ask us just that sort of question at His judgment seat? "Did you do your best with My Word?" And when each of us answers, "No" we will also hear that deadening response, "Why not?"
Thinking is the amazing capacity God has given each human being to discover and observe the points of creation, to compare and contrast each of its various parts, and when possible, to use them properly so as to reflect the glory of the Creator. Thinkers make bold decisions, help us see new visions, and overcome obstacles in previously unseen ways. Proverbs 25:2 speaks of this: "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter." The very first man and woman on this planet were given the task of discovering and identifying all of the things that God had created. What has happened to the rest of us? Has sin blinded us to such an extent that we cannot think? Yet mankind still feels this original task that was handed out by God. We physically wrest discoveries from out of the ground. We explore creation finding things that were hidden from view. We mentally dig and discover ideas and truths.
Thinking is wonderful work. It is best done with a mind that has been trained and is in condition, just as an athelete must train and get in competitive condition in order to be successful at it. Paul tells us that this is how we must approach our lives as Christians. Train spiritually just as an athelete trains. Practise. Repetition.
Here are my conclusions: I must become a thinker. I have to become conversant with the directions that history is taking. I need to know how to grasp the great ideas of mankind. I have to learn how to make independent judgments about what I am seeing and reading. Other "runners" are catching up, the race is far from over for me. I do not want to be a better man at the end of the first turn and a no-show at the finish line. I want to endure until the very end, I want to attain the prize that is awaiting for me there.
Tue, Feb 5th - 5:36PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.
How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow(18:6-7).
This would appear to be poetic justice. The cup of iniquity is being filled to the brim; look at Obadiah 15 and Psalm 137. God is just, and right in what He does. The Greek word apodidomi means literally "to pay a debt" or "to give back that which is due." It is the law of retribution sometimes called lex talionis. Divine justice exacts the "eye for an eye" and the "tooth for a tooth." And people think that that stuff is obsolete.
But here we see that the law of retribution is doubled in the case of sinful Babylon. The cup is to be filled twice for her judgment. There will be absolutely no mercy for the apostasy found in this quasi-religious system.
Everyone thought things were proceeding wonderfully; trading was active on the stock markets and blue chip stocks were prosperous. World peace was in sight, optimism was high along with luxury, arrogance, pride, sin, and self deception. Then, just as in the days of Noah, judgment will come and people will not know what to do.
The same law of retribution is implied in verse 7 where the standard of her judgment is compared to her style of living which lent itself to self-glorification. The Greek word for "deliciously" is estreniasen, which means "to be wanton" or "to revel" and comes from a word meaning "hardheaded" or "strong." Her wanton sin is to now be rewarded with torment and sorrow. "Torment" comes from the Greek basanismon, meaning trial by torture with its resultant mental anguish and grief. Her prideful thinking of being a queen and thus exempt from judgment by anyone is to be rewarded by sudden destruction from God.
Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her(18:8).
The fact here that her judgment comes in one day, is reminiscent of the fall of Babylon in Daniel 5, which fell in the same hour that the finger traced its condemning words upon the wall. Remember that passage? By the next morning ancient Babylon was fallen completely. In a similar fashion, the rich fool in Luke 12:16-20 lost his barns and his soul in one night. God's judgment descends with unwavering directness.
"For strong is the Lord God who judgeth her." This is as predicted by Isaiah: "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and they garments like him that treadeth in the winevat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come."(Isaiah 63:1-4). Christ comes in judgment of this wicked quasi-religious system and utterly destroys it. The picture is graphic to impart to us the fact that God will personally execute His judgment upon them, no one else will do it for Him.
Next we will see the reaction to the downfall of this great center of human activity. There will be anguish out across this world, bereavement will be quite real. However, we will also know about the anticipation of joy in heaven over this judgment.
Until next time, beloved, share the joy in your heart with all who will listen.
Tue, Feb 5th - 1:29PM
MY INNER GARDEN
I must remember that all seemingly urgent things may not be the most urgent, especially those that cry out the loudest. Elton Trueblood wrote in his spiritual autobiography, "We must use the time which we have because even at best there is never enough." How true that statement is.
If I am inattentive, unseized time gets invested in things that gain public acclamation. Young preachers can fall into this trap quite easily. Music ministry heads can also fall into this trap. Speaking engagements, guest sermons at other churches, or conventions. or seminars. Singing careers. Money. Accolades. Do I really need to be sitting at the same table as some politician? Do I need to sing at all six of these banquets coming up this month? I must alwasys ask, "Is this my mission given to me from God?" If it is not, then it is time to cast off from shore and seek deep water, and Christ.
HOW TIME IS RECAPTURED
1. I must know my rhythms of maximum effectiveness.
I have to do a careful study of my personal work habits. What tasks do I do best at certain times and under certain conditions? Are there things that I complete quickest at certain times of the day? Or perhaps certain days of the week? Am I a morning person, or an evening person? So there are weekly patterns, daily patterns, and even annual patterns. Do I suffer from SAD? If so, then winter is a problem time for me and I should not overload myself with work. Are there holidays when my family members have a particularly hard time coping with past events? Then I must be prepared to help them deal with this. I must plan for them ahead of time.
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, once wrote to his wife this: "Remember a long life of steady, consistent, holy labor will provide twice as much fruit as one shortened and destroyed by spasmodic and extravaant exertions; be careful and sparing of your strength when and where exertion is unnecessary." I need to learn to recognize what I must say no to, even if they are good things, in order to be able to say yes to the best things. My challenge then is to separate out the the best from out of all of the possible good things. I need to say no to Saturday night dinner engagements or sporting events so that I can be fresh and make it to worship service on Sunday. I need to recognize that it is going to be very hard to say no, because it will be a good thing that I wanted to do. But I must say no. Budget my time properly for serving God.
How can I do this? This sounds awfully hard to do. It demands a sense of our mission. What does God want me to do? What has He called me to do? What are the necessities that I can not get along without? Everything else is discretionary, not necessary.
2. I must seize time and so command it by budgeting it far in advance.
This is where my battle is won or lost. Some people have said that they must budget their time eight weeks in advance. Eight weeks! What goes into their time calendars? Spiritual disciplines, mental disciplines, Sabbath rest, commitments to family and close friends are all non-negotiable items. They are necessary. After this can come a secondary tier of commitments: bible study, writing, or perhaps choir practise; these are all just examples. If someone requests a meeting on an evening when family time is scheduled, what do I do? Reschedule family time because they claim it is an emergency? Or, do I figure out with appropriate questions just how much of an emergency it actually is. Perhaps this meeting can take place the next day?
What are your non-negotiables? Who is first on your daily calendar? Is it the TV, radio, newpaper, or PC? Shouldn't it be Christ instead?
3. Even men and women of great talent and energy have to run the entire course before they can claim the victory.
This race that I am in must be run at a steady pace all the way to the finish. Being ahead at the first turn is meaningless. Talent means little without endurance.
I trust that this message will benefit you today, and in the days ahead.
Mon, Feb 4th - 12:54PM
MY INNER GARDEN
Here are some symptoms of disorganization. Perhaps you will see yourself amongst them.
1. Symptoms of disorganization show up in the condition of my car.
2. I become aware of a loss of self-esteem.
3. There will become a series of forgotten appointments, telephone messages that I have failed to repond to, and deadlines which I have begun to miss.
4. I tend to invest my energies in unproductive tasks.
5. I begin to feel poor about my work, I do not like what I have accomplished.
6. Disorganized Christians rarely enjoy intimacy with God.
7. The quality of my personal relationships usually reveals the state of disorganization that I am in.
8. If we are not controlling our time, we just don't like ourselves, our jobs, or much else about our worlds.
So, what do all eight of these symptoms suggest that we do? They scream out to us to budget our time. Most of us might be budgeting our money, but more than likely very few of us are even thinking about our time. See, money is a part of that public, outer world of ours. We pay attention to that aspect of our lives since it is so easy to keep an eye on it. Time management? Yeah, right.
The reality, and truth, is that when money is limited, we budget. If time is limited, then we ought to budget. The principle holds true in both instances. Just as with money, one must properly identify what are "fixed" tasks, ones that must be done, and what are the "discretionary" tasks, or ones that you would like to do. This is a daily battle for all of us. If you are thinking to yourself, "I don't have a clue as to how I can organize my time better," then just start out by studying the life of Jesus Christ. He never seemed to waste a single minute of any day. Jesus was under constant pressure, pursued by friend and enemy alike. Every word, gesture, and action of His was scrutinized and commented upon. He did not have any private life to speak of. Intrusions by strangers seeking His healing touch, strangers seeking His wisdom with questions, people seeking out His miracles. And yet He managed His public time without any secretary. Did He hurry from place to place? No. Did He keep checking out the shadow upon the sundial? No. He went where He knew He needed to be, and still managed to set aside adequate amounts of alone time for prayer and meditation with God His Father. He also set aside ample time to be with the few men whom He had called to Himself. I always wonder about pastors of any church who do not "call" a handful of men out of their congregation to be intimate with, to teach, and to also learn from. Men with whom they may pray and meditate.
So why could Jesus organize His time so effectively? He clearly understood His mission. He was on this earth for a specific mission and everything that He did was to accomplish this mission. I fear that few of us reach this point in our understanding, and in our love for Christ. I struggle with this issue daily. How can I not? I am a sinner, an individual striving daily with my carnal nature. I must get control over my carnal nature, put a bridle in its mouth and exert my willpower over it daily. Of course, all of this must be done by asking Christ to help me with this struggle. It is a cross that I must bear daily.
In Luke 19:10 Jesus tells all of us what His mission was, and pretty much what our mission is today. To save that which was lost. Souls. This is the criteria that He used to organize His time. He also understood clearly His own limitations. Yes, He was God in the flesh. Yes, He was deity in the flesh. No, He did not have all of His rights as the Prince of Heaven. He got hungry, tired, thirsty. We must not forget the fact that Jesus always sought out time in solitude with the Father. This was a time of being in His inner garden. Gaining strength, encouragement, etc.. We conveniently forget this: time must be properly budgeted for the gathering of inner strength and resolve in order to make up for our weaknesses when spiritual warfare begins. These times were "fixed" on Jesus' time budget. They were needed items, not wanted items. Jesus also set aside time to train, educate, the twelve disciples. We need to do this with our children, with our families, and with our congregations.
Remember when Jesus said that where our treasure is, there will be our hearts also? I think that it dovetails into this quite nicely. Where my priorities are, there is where my time will also be. My priorities ought to center around where my eternal treasure is and thus my time ought to be managed so that I am filling up my eternal treasure room, not my carnal toy room.
So this all brings us to this conclusion today: I must seize control of time. I must identify my mission in this life. I must organize my time to achieve my mission. Any responsibilities that God has placed upon me, or that I have accepted, must have budgeted time. Any "free" time will be controlled by dominant people in my world. "Free" time surrenders to the demands of all emergencies. This last one means that we are governed by the tyranny of the urgent. That frantic phone call from one who just has to have you help them, NOW! Does that sound familiar? My wife and I have had to deal with that issue from our eldest child, even though she lives a few hundred miles away from us now. She calls and expects us to drop whatever we are doing and rush to help her. I finally decided, as did my wife, that it just could not continue no matter how much we loved her. If I could fit a trip in of several hundred miles(one way) into my schedule without sacrificing much more necessary tasks, then I could help her. Tyranny of the urgent! Beware when it rears its ugly head!
That's it for today, my friends, redeem the time! We all need to do this in so many different ways! I am no different than all of you in regards to this aspect of our personal lives.
Sun, Feb 3rd - 4:07PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues(18:4).
Does this verse say that the church will not be raptured until the end of the Great Tribulation? Maybe, maybe not. What it definitely does say is that God wants us to come out of the apostate world and not join in with the sins of the world. If we remain imbedded in apostacism then we shall share in their judgment. Christ has said before that we are to be in the world but not a part of it. We are not to associate with those who are wicked. God has made us holy, sanctified to do good works. That means that we are to be separated from the wickedness around us so that we can accomplish the works that God has ordained for us to do in His name.
This call to come out of Babylon has parallels with calls to leave Babylon back in Jeremiah. Compare this with Jer. 50:4-9, 51:6, 45; and with Gen. 19:15-22. The purpose of leaving is two-fold: first, by separating from her they will not be tempted to join in doing her sins, and second, they will not have to suffer her judgment. These plagues most likely are referring to the vials of chapter 16.
I agree with others that this verse has a pertinent application to us today. It ought to be a warning to us, not that God will fail to save His own children from this tragic hour, but that He wants us to be separate, not indulging our old nature, but walking by the Holy Spirit. If we do not deal with sin in our lives today by confessing and forsaking it, He surely will deal with it. Either He will judge sin now, or it will meet us at the judgment seat of Christ. I Corinthians 11:31-32 says that we ought to judge ourselves so that we will not be judged.
How can we judge our own sin? By applying I John 1:9 to ourselves daily. To "confess" means to see it the same way that God does. Don't just call it a mistake, call it sin. It is so easy to make excuses for our sins. If we refuse to police ourselves then it will pile up and be addressed by Christ at His judgment seat. God may not be taking each of us out to the proverbial woodshed immediately, that fact does not mean that He is letting us slide by without punishment of any kind. He will discipline us.
For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities(18:5).
Babylon's sins have reached all of the way to heaven. God does not turn His cheek, rather He executes judgment upon all of her iniquities. The words used in the Greek mean literally "glued" or "welded together," or piled one on another as bricks are in a building so that the allusion here is to the tower of Babel back in Genesis 11:5-9.
Next time we will look into the indictment of Babylon. Until then, beloved, pray without ceasing, lifting up the needs of our brethren to the throne of the Living God. Giving praise to our Lord and our King for all that He has done for us!
Sat, Feb 2nd - 4:20PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies(18:1-3).
We find chapter 18 opening with the phrase "And after these things." It indicates a later revelation than that in chapter 17. John tells us that "another angel" came down from heaven. So obviously we are on earth and not up in heaven at this point. This angel then is not the same one from in the previous chapter otherwise John would not have said another angel came down, he would have used different terminology. This is not Christ coming down from heaven, it is a literal angel. What is important here is that we comprehend the power and mightiness of angels. They are not little cherubs with one pair of little wings, all pink cheeks and twinkling eyes. No, they are immensely strong, have three pairs of mighty wings, and they are very knowledgeable of things in creation.
Some believe that the repetition of the two words, "is fallen", refers to the two aspects of Babylon. First, the mystery, which is the system or spirit of false worship, and second to Babylon as a city, in which this system or spirit is finally seen in a physical format.
In the Greek this is given in the prophetic aorist tense which speaks of coming events as if they have already happened. God says something is going to happen in the future we had better believe that it is going to happen just as He said it would and exactly when He said it would.
The latter part of verse 2 speaks about Babylon becoming the home of devils, foul spirits, and unclean birds. Dr. J. Vernon McGee felt that it indicated that this was the place where demons and unclean birds would be sentenced to during the Millennium. I am unsure if this is correct.
A question surfaces over whether this event in chapter 18 is a subsequent event from the one in the previous chapter. The woman, as we have already seen, who is destroyed in chapter 17 is made desolate, naked, and burned with fire by the Beast with the ten horns. From this it may be concluded that the destruction of the whore in the previous chapter is the fall of religious Babylon and that it occurs when the Beast assumes the position of God at the start of the great tribulation. The apostate church is destroyed to make space for a world religion honoring the political dictator, the Beast out of the sea of chapter 13.
Here in chapter 18 Babylon is viewed in its political and economic characters rather than religious. The first world empire physically came out of Babylon. So it seems that this chapter deals only with the first two aspects and not at all with the religious aspect.
Verse two's depiction of Babylon becoming the "habitation" and "a cage" needs comparison to Isaiah 13:19-22 and to Jeremiah 50:38-40. Others may claim that this is prophecy concerning the end times but I think that it pertains to Babylon's destruction long ago. That specific site will remain desolate according to scripture. Some other site may raise up the new Babylon for it will be destroyed again in the future.
Verse 3 talks about the merchants who have gotten fat off of the wickedness of Babylon. This is corporate business, big business as we now know it. God is going to judge big business. Today, business is a sacred cow that nothing must harm or get in the way of. We must sell each and every day of each and every week. Mankind has used business as the biggest excuse for having no time for God.
Let's stop right there, beloved. Next time we will examine the call for separation from Babylon and what then follows. Until then, remember what is found in Romans 7; O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fri, Feb 1st - 2:40PM
MY INNER GARDEN
So in our world we can identify two types of people, those who are driven, and those who are called. Both groups need to have strength from within themselves. Driven people are confident that they have that quality as they forge ahead, like the Titanic. But sadly, much too often they discover at times of hostility, extreme stress, and deadlines blown, that it is missing in action. They experience melt-downs. Whereas the called people normally have a reservoir of inner strength, perseverance, and power that are immune to the forces without.
Shall we look at some "called" men from in scripture? First, let's look at John the Baptizer. He never minced words when speaking. He was someone that was either loved or hated. He polarized people. He seems to have had a firm view of destiny, a firm sense of what was true, of what was reality. Where we can see that King Saul reacted violently, lashing out at perceived enemies, we can see that with John the Baptist the opposite was true. When he received news that Jesus was becoming more popular than him John didn't pop a gasket. No, he said something like, "He must increase, and I must decrease." What is wrong with this man? He is looking at losing his only job! Come on! Get real! Those who brought him the news about Jesus's growing crowds were waiting for some kind of explosion from John, otherwise they would not have even bothered to report such to him. What did they receive?
A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, "I am not the Christ," but "I have been sent before Him." He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. And so this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease(John 3:27-30).
Here we see John's concept of life by stewardship. Here we see what our concept of stewardship ought to be. The obvious assumption around John was that the crowds were his, he had earned them. If that were true, then he truly was losing something.
But John did not look at it that way. He didn't own the crowds to begin with, and owned little else either. He thought like a true steward, a quality of called people. The task of a steward is simply to properly manage something for the owner until the owner comes to take it back. Any Parables come to mind here? John knew that the crowds were never his, they were God's. God had placed them under John's care for a time and then took then back. And John did not have any problems with that. There is the big thought here. He did not have any issues with giving back to God what was God's all along. Now, I am not speaking here about tithing or giving offerings each Sunday, but can you see how easy it is to go there, from here? Stewardship of God's things. But I am speaking today about the inner world, our inner gardens where we need to meet with Christ daily.
John's concept of stewardship provides us with a great principle. His crowds may be our careers, our assets, our natural and spiritual gifts, our health. Do we really, in truth, own any ot them? Or are we merely managing them in the name of He who gave them to us originally? Driven people always consider them as owned, called people do not. Which are you? Which am I? When those things are taken from driven people it is a major crisis. With called people, losing them changes nothing. Their inner gardens remain the same, perhaps even stronger than before.
A second important quality seen in John is his awareness of who he is. John had said repeatedly that he was NOT the Christ. Knowing who I am not is the beginning of knowing who I am. My son once yelled at me that he was not me. Wisdom began that day, whether or not my son was aware of it. My personal identity must be established in my inner world.
Everyone who is driven has an ever increasing inability to separate role from person. What they do is what they are. When they lose what they do...yeah, you got it. They lose who they are. Do you know anyone who refuses to take any vacation time? How about anyone with difficulties coming to grips with retirement? Or what about empty nest syndrome with mothers? We need to consider this matter of identity very carefully. John the Baptist could easily have taken advantage of the crowd's gullibility while he was popular. He could have yielded to temptation, given in to arrogance and ambition. He could have simply nodded yes to the questions as to whether or not he was the Messiah. Does this happen in our media-driven culture today?
But John had an unwavering sense of personal purpose. He knew exactly what he was supposed to be doing. How many of us complain today that we do not know what we are supposed to be doing as Christians? Listen up, the answer is coming up. John responded to those who questioned him by likening his purpose to that of the best man at a wedding. The purpose of the best man is simply to stand with the groom, to make sure that all attention is riveted upon him. The best man's purpose does not include drawing attention to himself. He has accomplished his purpose perfectly when he draws no attention to himself, but focuses all attention upon the bride and groom. They are the focal point of marriage ceremonies, not the best man. That is what John did, and my frinds, that is exactly what each of us ought to be doing. We ought to desire, and strive for, riveting all attention upon Christ and not ourselves. We ought to clothe ourselves so that attention is not drawn to us. We ought to speak so that attention is not drawn to us. We ought not to behave so that attention is drawn to us. All should be focused upon Christ and God's Word. How else will people get the message? An example, If I look at the praise team and I do not even have to look hard to see open cleavage on a woman singing on stage, will my attention be riveted upon Jesus? Or will it be focused on her cleavage? I think that you know the obvious answer to that one! Our mantra ought to be, "He must increase, and I must decrease!"
Another lesser spoken of quality of John the Baptist is that there was a peacefulness about him. True? Can you find a time when he loses his cool? He never rants and raves against having to live in the desert and eat locusts, or having to wear sackcloth. John doesn't hang his head and sulk when he sees Jesus approach the river to be baptized by him. Joy is in his face as he announces to all who can hear, "Here is the Lamb of God, sent to save the entire world!" John was a called man, a shining example of what we ought to be today. I pray that I can become like that, and that each of you also can accomplish this.
Fri, Feb 1st - 1:18PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth(17:16-18).
Verse 16 reveals to us a remarkable development in this vision. The ten horns that have been revealed as ten kings hate the whore. They do not even like the religious system that has been riding on the back of empires and of nations throughout history. The beast joins in with these ten kings who operate under him, and they desolate the apostate church. All of the gaudy robes, flashy crowns/hats, and ornate vessels adorning the structures of worship will be as nothing when the beast turns against them. I imagine that the meaning here is meant to be one of "laying waste" and "making wretched." The apostate church will be laid bare, naked, to the entire world. She will be burnt with fire, consumed. This event must come to pass, we are told, so that all that God has written in scripture will come to pass. Here we see revealed, once again, the evidence that God is in absolute control of everything. God puts in their hearts to reach agreement, to give over their authority over the various regions of the earth, and to give that authority to the Beast. And it is all to bring God's plans to completion. It only happens because God allows it to happen. We must not forget this, beloved! He is the One in control! Not anyone, nor anything else.
By comparison with other scriptures that we have already covered, the time of this event may be placed around the midpoint of the seven years of Daniel's Seventieth Week, which leads up to and climaxes the second coming of Christ our Lord. In the first half of the Seventieth Week the apostate church flowers and establishes its global power over everyone. There is a measure of religious freedom for the Jews are allowed to worship and renew their animal sacrifices (Daniel 9:27). There may very well be widespread preaching of the Gospel at this time, as well. We see here the end result of the world's religions coming together in unity.
At this point in the Great Tribulation the Beast no longer needs the help and influence of the apostate church, he is ready to be complete dictator in his own right. All eyes must focus upon him, and Satan, or be slaughtered. This position is supported by Rev. 13:8 and also Daniel 11:36-39.
Some of you may be thinking, "How could God possibly use wicked people to fulfill His purposes?" This divine judgment upon the apostate church follows a long established pattern. Ancient Babylon was used of God to bring affliction upon the nation Israel, as were also the kingdoms of Assyria and Egypt. But another part of that same pattern is that those nations so used to inflict judgment are then also objects of God's wrath later on. All of these events obviously work towards "filling the cup of wrath" until it is overflowing with mankind's iniquity.
The woman is identified at chapter's end as being that "great city." She symbolizes ancient Babylon's religious influence over the nations. That she could be a literal city is possible, but it does not seem probable. Everything points us to her being something more than a physical city, that she is an organization of religious concepts, rites, rituals. Within this chapter we could see a distinction being made between her as the religious system and the beast and the ten horns as being the political system. The final global government will be in two parts, political and religious. Until Antichrist (Beast) determines that he does not need the fake church he will allow it free reign across the globe. Once that occurs, we then enter into chapter 18 which deals with "Babylon" as a political force.
I hope that everyone has been able to follow along through these difficult passages. As always, do not take me at my word, please study this out for yourselves. Spend more time pondering passages in Daniel that parallel what is happening here in Revelation.
As we prepare to study chapter 18 we need to review some things first. Chapter 17 was mostly about religious "Babylon" with a little about the political "Babylon." In this next chapter we are going to learn more about a third aspect of "Babylon," namely the economic system associated with it. Some people believe that Rome will be the center of the apostate church, after it is utterly destroyed by the ten kings and the Beast the religious center will shift to Jerusalem for that is where the Beast will cause his image to be erected and worshiped. They also feel that Babylon will be rebuilt and will become the commercial center of the world. Whether we wish to agree, or not, the truth is that immense wealth continues to shift into the Middle East via the sale of oil. I cannot see it stopping anytime soon. If one considers Isaiah 13:19-22 the conclusion can become that ancient Babylon must be rebuilt for it must be destroyed in Revelation 18.
In this chapter we are to see diametrically opposed perceptions and views of the destruction of Babylon. One is the view of men of business and politics who feel its destruction is a tragedy and they are in anguish. The other view is that of heaven. There we will see abundant joy and rejoicing over the vindication of God's holiness and justice.
Next time, my friends, we begin chapter 18. Until then, I remind you all of what is said in I Thessalonians 5: Let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep do so during the darkness. Let us, who are of the light, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and put on the helmet of the hope of salvation. Edify one another. Do not cool the Spirit! Do not hate prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good. Stay far away from all appearances of evil. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with each and everyone of you.
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