Sunday, August 31, 2014

Acts 17 - 'In Him We Are'

Monday, September 1, 2014 - ' 
1 Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - '
4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. 5 But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. 6 When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world have come here also; 7 and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. 9 And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - '
10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. 13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there.

Thursday, September 4, 2014 - '
15 Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left. 16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. 17 So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. 18 And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” 21 (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)

Friday, September 4, 2014 - '
22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

Saturday, September 5, 2014 - '
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” 33 So Paul went out of their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Revelation 14 - 'A New Song'

Monday, August 25, 2014 - '144,000'
1 Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. 4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. 5 And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.

After identifying the beast that won the worship of most of earth's inhabitants, the Revelator went on to describe those whose names 'are' written in the Lamb's book of life (Rev. 13:8). He calls them the 144,000. In chapter seven he wrote that they were 'sealed in their foreheads' as the bond-servants of God. This number is a symbol, since the actual number cannot be counted. They are the great multitude 'clothed in white robes', who have gone through the the 'great tribulation'. Their robes were made white in the 'blood of the Lamb' (Rev. 7:3,9,14).

In what way were they 'sealed on their foreheads'? They had the name of the Lamb and the name of His Father 'written in their foreheads' (Rev. 14:1). In other words, like Jesus, they walked with God. They lived in the Spirit. Their lives were all about God's will, not theirs. They lived in the world, but were not of the world. Their lives were like a 'new song' - one that only those who had entered the kingdom of God could ever learn. It was beautiful.

John wrote that they 'have not been defiled with women, for they are chaste'. We could take this literally and believe it means that only single 'saved' men will be saved. That wouldn't, of course, make any sense in a chapter full of symbols. The next sentence in verse 4 makes clear John's meaning. 'These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.' In other words, they keep their eyes riveted on Jesus and are not distracted by the temptations of this world. They are blameless before God in that they have had their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb - which means, they have been saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) and are thus considered sinless, clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ.

As 'first fruit' blood purchased from among men (v. 4), the 144,000 would seem to be the first generation of believers. On the other hand, the first generation of believers were very small in number. They could not be appropriately symbolized as 'numberless'. Though the term 'first fruit' may mean the first to be harvested, with more to come (1 Cor 16:15), it also has another meaning in scripture. Jesus was called the 'first fruit' (1 Cor 15:20). If a believer is 'one' with Jesus, the believer becomes 'first fruit' with Him. If the Root is holy, the branches are too (Rom. 11:16). 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 'The Kingdom of God'
6 And I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7 and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”

The 'everlasting' gospel refers to that which has, is, and will always be 'good news'. The source of this good news is 'heaven' and the target groups is all human beings on earth. The 'loud voice' suggests the importance of the message due to the imminence of 'judgment'.

How, though, can 'good news' be related to 'judgment'? Isn't the gospel about the grace of God?

Here is the problem. Believers often attempt to receive the 'grace' of God without receiving the God of grace. Grace is the gift of God. When we realize that we are saved by grace through faith, we are delivered from judgment. That is truly 'good news' for all people. Yet this first angel is calling folks back to the worship of God because receiving the 'gospel' without receiving God is futile. There isn't any grace apart from God, and thus there isn't any deliverance from judgment apart from grace. From the Biblical perspective, 'grace' without God is license to continue 'sinning'. God's grace is designed to be an invitation back to the 'worship' of God, not to forget God. Grace paves the way for believers to be reconciled with the only One who can recreate us - to transform our hearts.

In other words, this first angel reminds the world to shun the notion of 'cheap grace' and to determine to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 'The Kingdom of Man'
8 And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.”

When, by grace, we have been reconciled with God, we should forgive others just as we have been forgiven. By extending mercy to others we effectively 'worship' God.

Loving others, though, is not the same as loving sin. We are to be 'in the world, but not of the world'. The second angel reminds us that the world we live in is 'fallen'. It is drunk with immorality. Do not be deceived. Don't blur the lines between loving the sinner and loving sin.

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 'Make a Choice'
9 Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

The first angel called believers back to the worship of God rather than being misled into thinking that grace exists apart from God. The second angel reminds us that grace exists because immorality is rampant in our world.

But what does it mean to 'worship'? Worship has to do with whatever is given first place in our thoughts, feelings, motives, and actions. The hypocrite that Jesus often referred to is one who professes belief in God with his lips, while his heart is far from God. It is to say one thing, but to do another - to not walk the talk.

This third angel is a wake up call. We are asked to stop and reflect on who really has our heart. Is God front and center or is the world? Are our decisions based more on what pleases man or God? Do we fear the world more than we love God?

All this brings us back to the first angel's message. The hour of God's judgment has come. In other words, if you place the ways of this world as greater than the ways of God, you will reap the consequences of immorality. Do not imagine that grace covers a willing life of immorality. Grace covers the immoral choices of those who worship God, not those who continue to worship the 'beast'. We either have the 'name' of Jesus and God written on every choice we make, or we don't. We either choose to follow the Lamb wherever He goes, or we don't.  

Friday, August 29, 2014 - 'Deal With Your Fears'
12 Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”

Those who have chosen to follow the Lamb wherever He goes have chosen to be the 'bond-servants' of Christ. In other words, the teachings of Christ are not viewed as mere suggestions, but as commandments. The first and greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love God with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul. This is exactly the message of the first angel to all who dwell on the earth. The second commandment is meaningless if 'love for neighbor' does not arise out of a 'love for God'. The 'faith of Jesus' was exhibited in a choice to listen and to obey what the Father said. He did nothing except what the Father told him to do. If we have the faith of Jesus, we will do as Jesus did. We will chose to obey the voice of God - which begins with making the worship of God our first priority. So what does it mean to worship God?

As mentioned before, when we know that we have the safety net of grace and the hope of life eternal, we are free to love others. We cannot truly love others if we are afraid of failure and/or afraid of death. Once these two fears are fully put to 'rest', we can love others as Christ loves us.

Saturday, August 30, 2014 - 'Harvest'
14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. 17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18 Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.

There are two kingdoms - the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. These are two very different 'vines'. We are either ripening on one or the other.

Whenever the sickle is put forth, the reapers will select from one vine or the other. There are two reapings - the first reaps those who worship God and the second reaps those who worship man. Which vine are you growing on? You can make a choice.