Their Deed Follow Them! (Revelation 13-15)

Revelation 14:13 ESV And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

Those who die in the Lord (saved) during a time of great tribulation are doubly blessed. They are blessed in the sense that they are no longer striving and suffering. Often when a godly saint who has suffered physically passes away, we draw comfort from the fact that they are no longer suffering. Indeed for a believer to be no longer suffering on earth is to be rejoicing in heaven. Especially those who were hunted down, betrayed, and martyred.

The second way that they are blessed is that their deeds follow them. What they have done in obedience to Christ has not been forgotten. They will be remembered and rewarded for trusting the Lord. We won’t be able to take any earthly riches with us into eternity, but we will get to take the demonstrations of God’s grace that revealed themselves in real works of faith.

When I meditate on this today, I’m praying to walk in the good deeds which God prepared beforehand (Ephesians 2:1). I’m pondering what it means to store up treasure in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20). I’m praying that I honor the Lord with my conduct. I’m also rejoicing in the testimony of those who were faithful to the end. Men and women who though dead, still speak through their outstanding lives of character.

Father, thank you for saving me. Thank you for enabling me to do good works which will honor you. I pray that I build my life out of the things that really matter and honor you. Help me to seek your kingdom first and honor you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

2020 Post on Revelation 13-15

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God is Still on the Throne (Revelation 10-12)

Revelation 10:5-7 ESV And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven (6) and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, (7) but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.

There is a lot of symbolism in these chapters. You can look back at last years post to see how I understand some of the images that are described in this section of scripture. It’s important that we don’t miss the forest for the trees in the descriptions in the book of Revelation. God is sovereign over His creation! The point of the book of Revelation is to note that He is Almighty Sovereign God and He reigns over everything. There is nothing that take Him by surprise. Events unfold at his prerogative and at their appointed times.

This is important because there will be moments where it looks like He is losing. His faithful servants will be persecuted. There is an evil enemy that seeks to devour them. Yet, even when it looks like the faithful are perishing, God is in control…. As we round the corner going into the Passion week before Easter, we are reminded that it must have looked like evil was winning when Jesus was crucified, yet it was through His death and resurrection that we are saved!

My big takeaway from todays reading is to remember that all of history is headed to a particular destination and will reach that destination at the exact right time. I’m reminded that God is in control. Somehow as I fret with small things that cause us stress (family, bills, work, etc.), I am comforted to place these things in the hands of the Lord and pray for His kingdom to come. There is great personal peace to be found by seeking first the kingdom of God.

Father, thank you for these chapters in the book of Revelation today that reminds me that you are in control. I admit I am often consumed with the minor details of life that I can’t control. How refreshing it is to know that you are in control of all things. I pray for your kingdom to come and your will to be done. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

2020 Post on Revelation 10-12

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They Did Not Repent (Revelation 7-9)

Revelation 9:20-21 ESV The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, (21) nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Sometimes when we read through this section of scripture we can get caught up in imagining what these creatures described in Revelation nine might be. In fairness, there tends to by a lot of symbolism in Revelation. What is unmistakable though, is that despite all of the calamity unleashed on mankind there is still a clear defiance against the LORD.

Those who survived didn’t repent of serving false gods nor the associated sins. This illustrates two things. One is God’s mercy in allowing them an opportunity to repent. Two thirds of the world’s population are left at this time. They have seen all that has happened. This is the time for them to humble themselves and turn to God. But unfortunately this also demonstrates how hard the hearts of the people are against the Lord. They have seen massive calamity overtake the world and yet their hearts grow harder against God instead of becoming soft.

This causes me to pause and question for the sake of application. Am I hardening or softening my heart to God? Do I receive his instruction? Do I welcome his discipline? Do I run to Him or run away from Him? What about my friends and my neighbors? Do they seek after God?

A Step Deeper: On this list of sins we see both “sorceries” and “sexual immorality.” It can be easy to pass over those words and not know what they mean. The Greek word for sorcery is pharmakeia, which is where we get our English word pharmacy. In the dictionary it’s first definition is mind altering drugs. The reason it is also translated as sorcery is because the practice of ancient magic included doing hallucinogenic drugs in order to get into contact with “spirits” who would do your bidding. (Who did you think the sorcerers thought they were talking to when they cast their spells?) The Greek word translated as sexual immorality is porneia, it is where we get our English word, “pornography.” It means any kind of sexual act outside of the bonds of marriage between one man and one woman. The list of perversions that this word refers too is a long list.

Father, thank you that you love us and welcome us to come to you when we come in humility and repentance, trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ. I pray today that our hearts would be soft to you. I pray that we would be submitted to do your will. I ask for our family, our friends, our neighbors to seek after you before the great and terrible day of your judgement. I pray they are found by your mercy and grace before it is too late. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

2020 Post or Revelation 7-9

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Fruitful (2 Peter)

2Peter 1:5-8 ESV For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, (6) and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, (7) and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (8) For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have a peach tree out back. It’s produced plump and juicy peaches before, however this past year it struggled to produce smaller, shriveled up peaches that weren’t much larger than the pit. If we want to see real fruit on the peach tree again we will need to do some work. We need to prune the tree, work around the roots and perhaps add some fertilizer.

The tree never really stopped being a peach tree. The environment and lack of maintenance caused it to produce shriveled fruit rather than large juicy peaches. Our faith works in the same way. We may have a saving faith in Jesus Christ, but for faith to be fruitful in our lives it needs to accompanied by character transformation. Actively trusting in the promises of God should produce these character attributes that lead to, or are a demonstration of, God’s love in our lives. We should be growing towards maturity. In the Christian life that means that the fruit of the Spirit is produced in our lives in greater and fuller quantities.

Father, thank you for faith. Thank you for the fruit/ evidence of the spirits work in our lives. I pray that we grow more fruitful in our following after you. I ask that you would see true growth in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

2020 Post on 2 Peter

Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

We Were Called To Get Along (1 Peter 1-3)

1Peter 3:8-9 ESV Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (9) Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

How incredible is it that sometimes the people that fight the most have the most in common. Brothers and sisters can argue and fight like cats and dogs. Indeed some churches are known more for there arguing than they are for their love. This shouldn’t be so!

Peter challenges believers to fight for unity. We can’t all be in control. So we seek to come to the right understanding of things together. We look to have sympathy for one another and genuinely care about what others are going through. We seek to love our brothers and sisters in s fiercely loyal sort of way. We are able to empathize with others and the situation they are going through. And we seek to serve one another in humility.

When others don’t demonstrate that behavior towards us it doesn’t give us a right to forget those attitudes and retaliate. Rather we are to continue to demonstrate love for one another by returning blessings on those who curse us. Think about that. When is the last time you asked God to bless someone who mistreated you, yelled at you, or called you names?

Father, thank you for your grace that changes everything. Thank you that you have called us together, to love one another and work in unity. I ask that you would give us grace to honor one another, speak well of one another, bless one another, and strive to glorify you in all things, even when someone has been mean to us. Thank you for grace, may we experience it and demonstrate it in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

2020 Post on 1 Peter 1-3

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Faithful Men and Women (Hebrews 11-13)

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

Hebrews 12:2 ESV looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

We often learn by following someone else’s example. We need to be shown what something looks like when it is lived out. We might grasp what faith is on an intellectual level, but demonstrating it in our own life in the midst of persecution might be challenging. Especially if we are young in the faith.

Writing to a young church who is experiencing persecution, the writer of Hebrews demonstrates what faith in God looks like. He examines the lives of different individuals throughout the Old Testament. He demonstrates the core aspects of faith (believing that God exists and he rewards those who seek him – 11:6), through the lens of different Old Testament saints.

In chapter twelve we are challenged to not be lazy, but to diligently lay aside the things that would stop us from demonstrating real, biblical faith in our own life. We are reminded that we are not the first to discover faith in the midst of persecution. And we are also reminded that Jesus has blazed the trail ahead of us when it comes to trusting God the Father in the mist of suffering. Indeed He is the, “Founder and Perfecter of our faith” (12:2).

My big takeaways today were two fold. 1. In Preaching and teaching, it doesn’t hurt to use examples and “case studies” to demonstrate doctrine as applied to everyday life. Indeed this might be exactly what a less mature audience (5:12) might need. 2. Am I laying aside the things that hinder me from pursuing God in faith? What “weight” can I lay aside? For me it’s not watching a few hours of TV this week that I might normally watch, so I might have time to study the Word of God more.

Father, thank you for your word. Thank you that you demonstrate what faith looks like. Thank you for the stories we have in the scriptures of so many individual who have walked with you. Thank you that we can learn what faith looks like. Thank you that we can lay aside the things that hinder us from growing in a relationship with you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post

Books:

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Consider One Another (Hebrews 9-10)

Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, (25) not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

The church is the people, not the place or the programs. Sometimes the church meets in a certain place and has programs, but do not be mistaken, the church is the people. There is something special that happens when we gather together. We come in as individuals with strengths and weaknesses. We come in with different personalities, spiritual gifts and talents. Yet, as we gather together for the purpose of worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism we find fulfilment in the gospel and in one another. God has given us our brothers and sisters in Christ to aide in our spiritual development.

As a pastor I get a front row seat to see the congregation gathered together each Sunday. I see folks going through trials in life blessed by those who use their talents to sing and introduce a new song or hymn to the congregation. I see those who are discouraged become encouraged by the words of faithful friends. I see the formerly lonely now greeted with handshakes, hugs, and high-fives. I see individuals praying with one another through times of crisis and celebration. I see tears of sorrow made more bearable by those who silently come along side and offer comfort. I see a lot of things.

Sometimes we are tempted to think when we skip out on meeting together that the only things we are missing are the songs and the sermon, but what we really miss is the life of the church. We are told to consider one another. This text was originally written for a church that was suffering persecution. They weren’t able to meet in public places. Yet they are told not to forsake assembling together… because they needed each other. They needed to be there for their brothers/sisters and they needed their brothers/sisters there for them. We are foolish today if we don’t think that we need each other as well. We should strive to meet with our brothers and sisters in Christ whenever we can.

Father, thank you for your church. Thank you that you have given us brothers and sisters in Christ. Give us grace to know how to help, encourage, and strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ when they need is. May they always be there for us in real and tangible ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post

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There is Mercy! (Hebrews 6-8)

Hebrews 8:12 ESV For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

I don’t know where you are in your relationship with the LORD, but how great to know that He is a God of mercy. How good it is to know that my sins are forgiven and indeed forgotten by God. We don’t deserve this kind of mercy. We could never earn it. The only way to receive it is as a gift from God.

Father, thank you for your overwhelming mercy today. There is so much to consider in your word, but I marvel that you should love me like this to forgive my sins. Thank you for your overwhelming goodness that is so evident in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post

Join us in reading though the New Testament in 90 Days! You can find the plan and previous posts here.

Milk or Meat? (Hebrews 3-5)

Hebrews 5:11-14 ESV About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (12) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, (13) for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (14) But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

We set different levels of expectations on individuals due to their age or experience. For example we might expect a 1 year old to crawl and start taking first steps. We might expect a 15-16 year old to be interested in driving and learning to drive. We might expect a 2nd grader to tie their shoes. Each of these abilities/ milestones open them up to even more freedom and experiences down the road.

The author of Hebrews has some down the road information the he wants to share with this church, but they are too immature. They won’t be able to stomach it, because they are still dependent on others to spoon feed them the world of God. He wants to give them milk, but they are delayed in their development. They can’t take the next steps, because they haven’t taken the first steps to grow.

So often we look at spiritual giants and imagine that they took a leap to get there. The reality is that they just obeyed the LORD to take the next step in their growth and the next step, and the next step, through to maturity. We can look at the other end of the spectrum and see those who for whatever reason failed to take the next step towards maturity and so languish as spiritual infants. The question before us is what will we do with what we have been given? Will we grow to maturity?

Father, thank you that you give us milk and meat of your word. Thank you that you have given us teachers and pastors to lead us to maturity. We pray for grace to take the next steps to grow in faith that we might not need the milk, but can go straight to the meat. I pray that we would be those who press on and grow to maturity in Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Last Year’s Post on Hebrews 3-5

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Motives Matter (Philemon)

Philemon 1:14 ESV but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

Motives matter. Paul wrote this letter to Philemon about Onesimus, a slave (indentured servant) that had stolen from Philemon and ran away to Rome. While in Rome Onesimus meets Paul and becomes a Christian. He then begins to help Paul and is being discipled. It’s a great working relationship, Onesimus is growing in the Lord and Paul has an assistant. But there is a problem, Onesimus’ past can’t be left in the past. He is still unreconciled to his former boss and he legally owes him for everything he had stolen. What to do?

Paul had a choice on what to do. He could have sent a letter presuming that it was okay for Onesimus to serve as Paul’s helper in Rome. He was an apostle, the polite thing to do would be to let the matter go. If he did that, Philemon might feel like his hand was forced in the matter and be a little bitter. Onesimus also wouldn’t have an opportunity to really address his past sins and how they affected others. He wouldn’t really be reconciled to Philemon. And Philemon wouldn’t really be given an opportunity to forgive Onesimus and demonstrate grace.

So rather than opting for the practical, ends-justify-the-means, pragmatic logic, Paul goes for the uncomfortable, but right approach. He sends Onesimus back, giving Philemon an opportunity to forgive him and send him of his own free will. It gives Onesimus an opportunity to look his former employer and man he stole from, in the eye and ask for forgiveness. It gives Paul an opportunity to honestly ask for assistance in the form of a helper from Philemon’s estate known as Onesimus.

Motives really matter. Sometimes to grow in our relationship with Christ we need to embrace the difficult steps of doing the less pragmatic, but right thing. We may need to address sin in our lives that has affected others. We may need to ask help and assistance in non-manipulative ways. We may need to simply offer forgiveness and entertain the pleas of those who have hurts us. We don’t really know how the rest of this drama unfolded, but we do know that because Paul didn’t cut corners that He, Philemon and Onesimus all had an opportunity to grow in Christ because of it.

Father, thank you for the grace to address one another. Show us how to handle our past sins and seek repentance and reconciliation. Give us grace to forgive those who have sinned against us. Show us how we can honor you in how we deal with others. Thank you for how the gospel transforms every area of our live. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

RESOURCES:

Previous Post on Philemon

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