Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We win!

Revelation 11:15

15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
“The kingdom of the world has become
    the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
    and he will reign for ever and ever.”

Truth time.  Have you ever read a book about half way through its chapters and pages, then turned over and read the closing pages so you could see the outcome?  For some that is a habit, for others, it ruins the book for them if they know early how things are going to turn out.

If you have ever turned to the final pages of the Bible, you already know. We are going to win!  Trials and troubles will be over, Satan will suffer his ultimate defeat, only good things remain. Good things for eternity.  These things should never be in doubt for the Christian.

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, written by John, who testifies to everything he saw. The purpose of the book is to make solid in the hearts and minds of believers, that God is forever sovereign, and his kingdom is victorious. 

While all of that seems to be in the far distant future, there are many likenesses to these times in which we are living.  Even now, we are taught to pray for and seek Christ's kingdom, as well as the advancement of the kingdom.  For the child of God, earthly success and prestige is not of great significance if the kingdom comes. That is the primary and most important thing for the believer.

Where are you in relation to what John saw of the coming kingdom?  Don't forget the seventh trumpet and the loud voices in heaven, which said, 

“The kingdom of the world has become
    the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
    and he will reign for ever and ever.”

For a life that has trusted in God, there is the assurance the kingdom will come. God himself will bring it to reality.  Just as Jesus lives and rules in your heart right now, his kingdom grows and advances until that time when "the kingdom of the world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah."


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

God is going to roar!

The Old Testament prophets had a really difficult job.  We know that God spoke to the people through the prophets, and often the message from God to Israel was not something they wanted to hear. God's chosen people had the reputation of being "roller-coaster" followers. They had made vows and declarations of their allegiance to God, but ultimately they disobeyed him and strayed from him.  There were times when they sought and received forgiveness and God blessed them and fulfilled numerous promises he had made.  Before long they would find themselves straying again. 

In the arrangement of the Old Testament, scholars have made a distinction between the "major prophets," and the "minor prophets."  That might indicate to us the message of God through the minor prophets was less important than the messages revealed through the major prophets.  I assure you that is not the case.  In fact, some of the most important revelation from God for that day came from those we call the minor prophets. 

One such prophet was Amos.  In doing some research on another topic, a Bible reference led me to a section of Amos and before I left that short book of the Old Testament, I noticed something I had read before but just today started to sink in.  Remember, the messages are from God, through the prophet, to the people.  In the opening verses of Amos 1, look closely at the first part of verse 2, 

“The Lord roars from Zion, and thunders from Jerusalem."

Apparently God was not happy with his followers, and in language which is expressed rarely, our God is described  as roaring and thundering!  What do you supposed they did to bring that on?
Chapter 2 reveals their actions. First, these children of God were actually abusing and stealing from the poor.  They were taking advantage, not only of the poor people, but the widows, orphans, and others who were what we call "the less fortunate."  These were not isolated cases, instead they held entire villages and tribes as slaves.  Chapter 2  and chapter 5 also give information that they had become perverted in their sexual relations. 

So here is the prophet Amos, with the task of relaying God's message to the people, calling for their repentance and turning back to God.  This lifestyle of the people would not do. These were not the actions of people which God had made his own, and brought them through so much.  The corruption which now motivated them cause the anger of God.

Amos warned them, "the Lord is going to roar!"  "God will make his desire known to you in thunderous ways."  What else is a prophet to do?  The whole world had gone mad and God was not happy. 

Today I watched the news and heard stories of terrorism, rape, murder, hunger, homelessness, strife in families, and destruction of personal relationships. I know it will not be easy, nor will it be pretty, but I, for one, actually find myself longing to hear God roar.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Spiritual Discipline

"7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."  Hebrews 12:7-11

I read the story today in an old issue of "Our Daily Bread."  A young man had called a talk radio program asking for advice.  He described his lifestyle while living at home as a life of wholesome living, good guidance from his parents, and a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  He continued by saying when he left home, he allowed himself to get in with the wrong crowd. Alcohol and drugs were soon a way of life. He also confessed an addiction to pornography. 

The radio announcer answered the young man's plea for help by using statements like, "focus on your God-given potential," and "get in touch with your inner self."  While both of those statements may possess something that young man needed, I must confess as I read them, I am not sure the troubled young man has been steered by those statements to find solutions.  He is having a tough time and he, along with countless others, have the need to know what is happening to them, and its close relationship to the spiritual discipline mentioned in the verses above. 

Is there any among us that could tell this young man he has a SIN problem?  We shy away from being that direct and open for fear of damaging a friendship.  I am suggesting the real friend of someone like this young man will gently and lovingly open his heart and life to discipline from above.  It is only when we recognize God's discipline for us, that we will be ready for the encouraging words to focus on our God-given potential. 

Have you ever been called on to advise or help someone find solutions for their life, and it became apparent to you that you were dealing with a sin problem?  Would you lead them in the direction of repentance, and help them make the turn from worldly ways, to a life of honoring the Lord? Can we become a people showing the way to righteous and wholesome living sometimes leads first through spiritual discipline?

Answers to those questions do not come easy.  But look again at the verses above to see what is at stake.  "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness."  The Hebrew writer agrees that discipline might be painful, and unpleasant, but "later it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace."


Friday, July 26, 2013

Like living stones

1 Peter 2:4-6
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
    a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
    will never be put to shame.”

I have always admired those who have a "knack" for building.  I am told those people have a mental picture of the structure and how it will look, long before the foundation is laid and the framework begins. Things built are usually built to last, withstand strong storms, face other elements of nature, and be useful for a lifetime. 

Maybe it's because of my admiration of builders that I can grasp the illustrative language of Peter as he describes Jesus as the living Stone which has been chosen by God, and then lets us know that we too, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house. 

That picture we get of the living Stone and us being like living stones making a spiritual house, is Peter's way of describing the church. Any good builder will tell you the most important thing to get right when building a structure, is the foundation, and often times, the corner stone. Lots of work goes into making sure the measurements are correct as the entire building is laid out on the basis of having that corner stone exact and strong, because every other aspect of the building is based on the corner stone.

So Peter is on the right track when he calls Jesus the living Stone, the perfect stone to which we, like living stones, can be connected together in building a spiritual house, the church.  Notice also the tense in which the description of the building takes place. Peter says, "you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house."  That tells me the process of building the church is a ongoing thing as new living stones are produced.

Now a warning.  We have become a people that place a lot of emphasis on our church buildings. When we construct a beautiful structure and think of that as the church, we are missing Peter's instruction. The brick and wood, the windows and the roof, the sign and the lobby......those things are not the church. 

In every instance in Scripture where the church is mentioned, it refers to people, and not a physical building. Let me be clear and say when we build a structure in which to worship, and even have a special service to dedicate that building to God and the work of his people in the community, that is a wonderful gesture, but God's church is still not that building, it's the people.

We find no argument that anyone other than Jesus can be that living Stone. By virtue of who he is and especially what he accomplished at Calvary, only he can be that living stone. Your place is in the part where you share in becoming a living stone and being added to the spiritual house, the church. 


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Suffering Persecution

Matthew 5:10
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

All of you who are Christians and have chosen to happily be persecuted for your faith, line up on this side of the room.  The rest of you which are not willing to suffer persecution, form a line on the other side of the room.   In which line have you placed yourself?

I will be the first to admit that persecution is not a happy thought for me.  I would hope that I would do everything for myself and my family to prevent it.  However, if we read the Bible correctly, there are statements made in its pages which indicate being persecuted because of righteousness is something that could happen to each of us. 

Some will read the beatitudes and confess they have no problem trying to be meek or merciful, pure in heart or poor in spirit, but the thought of actually being persecuted causes them to take another look at wearing the name of Jesus.  God wants each of the attributes in our lives, and wants us to rise above the rest of the world in our righteous example of his principles. 

One article I read recently describes it like this:  The beatitudes are reaching the very core of what it means to be a follower of Christ. The true follower is one that is totally sold out to living a life for the Lord. 

If we are that devoted in giving our all to following Jesus, then we will gladly step up to suffer persecution for our faith. In our country, we will probably not suffer physical persecution, but the ridicule and criticism that exists these days, borders closely the description of being persecuted for our faith.  We must also remember there are places on our globe where people who profess allegiance to God will bring immediate death.

The beatitude under consideration today assures us those who are persecuted because of righteousness, the kingdom of heaven is theirs.  Think for a moment of all the beatitudes being the instructions of Jesus for those who choose to follow him. Each one is progressively linked to those that follow.  As we get to the end of the list, we have been instructed by the Lord as to what our lives should be like.  We then get to the last one and it comes, not only with the blessing of the kingdom of heaven, but informs us we might have to suffer persecution. 

The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Roman Christians, says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  Romans 8:18

That's what Jesus is wanting us to know in this beatitude. Whatever suffering and persecution we may encounter, those faithful to him will join him in his kingdom.