Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The reliability of prediction

Revelation 21:2  "I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband."

Chapter 21 of Revelation is John's description of seeing the New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven.  He hears God's voice announcing His arrival to live among His people.  An angel shows John the intricate details of the city's wall, the precious stones it was constructed from, the street of pure gold.  The description goes on to say that the New Jerusalem has no temple and the sun is gone.  Neither are needed because God will live among His children and there will be no night. 

I have to admit I read all of this with a certain detachment.  Although all of this sounds wonderful beyond words, it is difficult to comprehend.  It is the difference between reading what has been deemed as history versus reading predictions of the future.  We accept history as fact, but we classify predictions as opinion.  Opinion doesn't carry the same weight with us as facts. 

But in this case, history and prediction have one common thread- they are both God's Holy Word.  The same sense of truth and reliability I feel when reading God's Word about events that have already occurred should be the same sense I feel in reading about what is to come.  The Author is the same, and His nature and character are the same.  Words that come from His mouth are trustworthy and true, whether they describe things that have already happened or are yet to occur. 

Although the descriptions in Revelation will probably always be difficult to wrap my mind around, the feelings of reliability, inevitability and factual integrity should be the same as I feel when reading of Jesus' birth or death on the cross.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The reality of warfare

Revelation 12:17  "Then the dragon was enraged with the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring- those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus."

The dragon John refers to above is Satan.  Satan is a very real and very powerful force in our world.  He exists, and he does his work among us.  As it says in the verse, he makes war against those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. 

We would all do well to admit that Satan exists and to become more aware of his work in the world and in our lives.  Without this recognition, we can be blindsided by his schemes and attempts to sway us in his direction.  His most common and dangerous ploy is deception.  Satan tries to convince us to believe he is not real.  He tries to convince us that his work is really the work of God, and that God's promises are not true and worthy of our trust.  He also deceives us into passivity.  If we become convinced that these evil forces do not exist, we certainly don't need to fight against them. 

As much as we believe in the reality and strength of Satan, though, we can never forget that God is greater and more powerful.  The war has already been decided, and we as believers are on the winning side.  Although the all-encompassing, ultimate outcome is assured, the individual battles that are being waged are for the hearts and souls of God's children. 

God's strength and power are more than adequate to fend off Satan's attacks, but we must remain in Him.  We must also be diligent in helping others find the source of power to defend against attack, and the peace and assurance of ultimate victory.  The source of this power is the grace and redeeming mercy of Christ's death on the cross.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The double-edged sword

Revelation 1:16  "In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.  His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance."

John's description of Jesus withdrawing a double-edged sword from His mouth is symbolic of the double-edged nature of His Word.  The Word of the Lord carried with it two aspects: 1) rights, and 2) responsibilities. 

The Word of the Lord shares with us the greatest news of grace, mercy, redemption and joy that we could ever hear.  We are quick to point to these parts of God's Word and rejoice (rightfully) in the blessing they bring to our lives.  When we freely choose passages of Scripture to read for encouragement, we choose passages that remind us of God's promises to us and the glorious inheritance to which we have been made heirs.

But then there is the other edge of the sword- responsibility.  Anytime we are granted rights that have value, there are related responsibilities that are transferred to us, as well.  God calls us to obey His commands and to live according to these commands.  These commands ask some difficult things of us, but it is for our joy and prosperity.  Obedience leads to a life that is infinitely more complete and fulfilling than what we try to create on our own.  But living this life isn't easy, nor is it supposed to be.  The good things in life aren't free.

We are quick, as human beings, to speak out when our rights are violated.  We are less eager to call attention to the responsibilities to which we are not being held accountable.  We are quick to seek and protect our reward, but not as eager to take on the responsibilities.  If we could understand and view the responsibilities as a pathway to the reward rather than a restriction on our rights, I believe we would more full embrace what God has called us into.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Walking in obedience and love

2 John 6  "And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands.  As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love."

Love is sometimes a difficult concept to wrap our minds around.  It is hard to know definitively what is and is not love.  This can get even more confusing when we realize that there are different types of love.  The love one feels for their spouse is certainly different than the love one feels for their country. 

We know from Scripture that God is love.  Therefore, to know God is to know love.  But how can one be sure that they truly know God?  A true knowledge of God manifests itself in our inward and outward actions.  As John says in this verse, love is walking in obedience to His commands.  There are three important words to highlight in this statement:

1) Walking- implies action taken on our part.  Action can occur inwardly (such as changes in our thoughts) or outwardly (such as showing hospitality to others).
2) Obedience- this says that we obey God's commands and model our lives in accordance with His Word.
3) Commands- two things of note here.  First, in order to walk in obedience, we have to know God's commands.  There is no substitute for our own personal investment of time and energy in studying and learning God's Word.  Second, these aren't "requests" or "suggestions", these are commands.   If you call yourself one of His own, you have no choice but to follow His commands.

What John has instructed leads to love in two ways.  First, by truly following and obeying God and His commands, we show that we truly love Him.  Second, by walking in His ways, love manifests itself in our thoughts, words, and actions toward ourselves and others.

Monday, March 5, 2012

It's about our heart

1 John 3:15  "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in Him."

John is speaking to us in this passage about how your actions and your attitude toward sin are evidence of Christ being in your heart and in your life.  He argues that fulfilling the command to love always results in actions that show the presence of love in our hearts.  If we say we love someone but do not express it in sacrificial service, do we truly love them?  Likewise, he argues that one who continues to willfully sin against Christ does not know what it truly means to have Christ in their heart.

The verse above speaks to God's lack of a ranking system for sin.  We read this verse and might think that putting hatred and murder in the same category is a little extreme. In our minds, we can harbor hatred against someone, but as long as we don't act on what we feel, we haven't committed a sin against them.  But God hates all sin, and doesn't differentiate between specific types of sin.  Looking at a woman with lust is the same in God's eyes as committing adultery. 

Not acting on what is in own hearts is no grounds for self-congratulations.  What is in your heart, good or bad, is the ultimate issue.  God wants our heart, not just our outward obedience.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Powerful video on the Gospel

Please take a few minutes to watch the attached video.  It explains the Gospel in a powerful way.  But it doesn't stop at salavation, as many Gospel messages do.  There is more to it than that, and this video explains the full story.  We aren't just saved for salavation's sake.  We are saved in order to serve and glorify the Name of Jesus Christ on this earth.  We don't do it in our strength.  If we try, we become a "miserable replica".  Instead, we allow the Spirit of God to dwell within us, and He does it through us.  We are not then a replica, but it is Him imitating Himself.  And He is very good at being God.

Pay close attention, and let the entirety of this message sink into your heart...


Our flawed reliance on intelligence and reasoning

Jude 10  "Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals- these are the very things that destroy them."

The human mind is finite, and our ability to understand things through reasoning is limited.  This is simply a fact.  It is a fact that many people bristle over and take issue with.  These people are usually ones that have attained a level of success and comfort through their own mental abilities and intelligence (or so they believe, anyway).  To them, anything that is true is capable of being understood by reasoning and application of human intelligence. Likewise, anything that is not subject to understanding by human reasoning must be false.

The core of this belief system is that God (if, in fact, they believe there is a God) designed us equal to Him in our ability to comprehend universal and eternal truths.  It implies that we reside on the same level as God, and He reveals all and we are capable of understanding all. 

While we are created in His image, we are not created equal.  We are not gods and our intellect is not to be an object of worship (which is idolatry).  If all of God and His ways were comprehensible through reasoning, what room would there be for faith? 

Even those who rely on their own intellect practice faith.  People regularly place their faith in the intellect and experience of other human beings.  There are subjects and skills at which I am not personally adept.  In situations where those subjects and skills are involved or required, I place my faith in someone else who has those skills and experience.  An example for me is repairing a car.  When repairs are needed, I have no problem placing my faith in someone else who knows what they are doing (or so I believe).  In doing so, I am placing my faith in something other than my own knowledge and abilities.  If I were to reduce the world and what was acceptable to me down to only those things I personally know and skills that I personally have, the world would be a very small place.

Why, then, are we more comfortable placing our faith in finite, fallible human beings than in the One Almighty God?  Our reliance on reasoning and instinct is, indeed, our downfall.  We are all depraved humans at our core, and what makes sense to us must always be tested against God's truth in order to be truly reliable.  Putting God in the box of our own understanding limits who He is and, consciously or unconsciously, elevates us to a level we are unworthy to occupy- equality with God.