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True Wealth

Today God has given me something in Revelation 3, verses 17 through 19, which say:

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:17-19)

A couple days ago, we talked about how you could be the poorest person in the World, but still be rich if you had Christ. Well, thing about that is, it works the other way ’round, too. If you don’t have Jesus in your life, it doesn’t matter how rich you are, you’re Spiritually poor. This is why God counsels them to “buy from me gold refined by fire,” because His “gold” is Spiritual. His gold represents a life lived closer with Himself, and with a greater amount of fellowship with Christ-something which is far more valuable than any Earthly gold. He also counsels them to ‘buy’ from Him “white garments,” so that their “nakedness”-i.e., their sin-may not be seen. He also tells them to buy from Him ‘salve’ for their eyes, so that they’ll be able to discern right from wrong, given that sin often times blinds us to the wrongness of our actions.

Hopefully this is nothing new, though. Most Christians know that their relationship with Christ should come before money, family, friends, etc., and that we need Christ to cover over our sins, and that apart from Jesus helping us to see, we would be Spiritually blind. The really interesting bit about this passage, however, is that He tells the Church in Laodicea to buy from Him the gold, garment, and salve. We all know that God is no peddler, why should He be when He made everything (including money) in the Universe? Moreover, Spiritual things are not easily purchased… You’ll be hard pressed to find cream in your local drug store that can allow you to see your sin clearly for what it is, or a robe that can cover your sin entirely.

So then, how do we buy something from someone who already owns everything we could give Him? We don’t. We couldn’t if we tried, because we humans are physical beings (up to the point when we die). It’s just as impossible for us to purchase something Spiritual with something physical as it would be for fire to purchase water; the two just don’t mix. That is why it took Christ, being both fully God (Spiritually) and man (physically), to purchase what we could not. It seems that God is telling the Church to “buy” the various items, in order to get them to realize that, in spite of their Earthly riches, they could not buy this with money. He’s showing them here the pointlessness of wealth that isn’t coupled with a love for Christ.

No currency in the World could have bought what Jesus bought for us with His death and Resurrection. It’s only by His paying the greatest price that we could be given a relationship with God; it’s only by His blood that our sin could be entirely covered, as by with a robe; it’s only by Him being made blind in death that we should be able to see clearly. So then, let’s give Christ the glory, and stop focusing so much on the money we do or do not have. In the end, it really won’t matter how much money we died with, but it will matter if died without having a relationship and love for Christ.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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The Danger of Being Lukewarm

Today God has given me something in Revelation 3, verses 14 through 16, which say:

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16)

Being lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-is never a Spiritually good thing. If you’re on ‘fire’ for Christ, and are really feeling zealous for God, then wonderful! If you’re really struggling with sin, and having a truly hard time, then you have only to repent and God will forgive you. The problem comes with being lukewarm; when you’re “lukewarm,” you aren’t doing anything to further God’s kingdom, but you aren’t exactly struggling with sin either. It’s the kind of thing where it’s a problem, not because it’s impacting your life, but because you’re setting an example of mediocrity for others; an example of being in the World and almost not of it.

One sinful person who refuses to repent can infect a body of believers. Likewise, one person with true zeal for God in his heart can have a positive impact on a Church. A lukewarm believer, however, impacts the Church without being readily obvious in doing so. By that I mean, a lukewarm believer slows everyone down, by the simple fact that they aren’t doing anything. Someone whose sinning can repent and use their experience with that sin issue to help others with their sin issues, but a lukewarm believer can only cool the fire of a zealous person, or halfheartedly try to help someone whose stuck in sin. They don’t help others learn from their mistakes, nor do they help spread the Gospel, but rather simply hinder the Church by sapping the life out of it.

Thus, we see God saying that He’s going to “spit them out of his mouth.” Jesus didn’t die and rise again so that we could go to Church, sit there dully for an hour or two, then head home. He died so that we could be given a new life, not so that we could give Him half our worship. Giving Him half our devotion is in fact more counter-productive then blatantly living in sin, because the one whose blatantly living in sin knows that they are sinning, and can thus repent. However, with someone who only gives half his worship to God, it is possible for them to not immediately realize that they’re also giving half their worship to the World; after all, they go to Church, perhaps they even read their Bible from time to time. Surely the fact that they get drunk from time to time, or that they smoke, or gamble on occasion, surely that’s perfectly fine. I can tell you now, the two do not counter balance each-other. You can’t really live a half-life; you can try, but in reality you’re giving your life to Satan and deluding yourself about it.

We must always strive, then, to not only be giving God half our worship. Jesus sent us His Holy Spirit after ascending to be with the Father, it would be abusing His gift to only half love God, or to only half obey when He asks us to do something. God wants those who are on fire for Him, not those who put up a facade of Christianity to make them-self feel justified when their sin later.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Opening Doors

Today God has given me something in Revelation 3, verses 7 through 8, which say:

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:7-8)

That we do good ‘works’ is not something which is required for a Christian to be saved. Good works have no part in salvation, other than to make it clear that we are indeed saved; if you don’t try stop that robber, or you walk away from a mugging, you need to seriously examine your faith. However, God does still judges our deeds… Not to determine if we’re worthy of His grace, but to see who would benefit most from having a door opened in some area of ministry for them. As He says here, “I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”

They didn’t deny His name, and they did good in His sight, thus He rewards them with a more influential ministry. He hasn’t stopped doing that just because some time has passed, either. However, God opening a door for us doesn’t entirely hinge upon us doing good works. God loves to open doors for people to do good works, give them a little shove towards it, then reward them when they actually do those good works. However, what is important for us, is to ‘walk through the door’ when it is opened. We shouldn’t hesitate because we aren’t sure it’s in our best interests, or because we think it will take away from our free times; anything God wants us to do is always in our ‘best interests’.

Knowing if it’s God’s will for us to doing something, though, is a tad harder. That requires discernment. However, a general rule of thumb is this: if it would further God’s kingdom, it’s probably from God.

 
 

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God’s Anger

Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 20 through 23, which say:

But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:20-23)

Talking about “God” is something Christians often enjoy. What they often times do not enjoy, is talking about God’s hate. God’s hate and wrath is somewhat taboo among Christians, because many think that for God to hate anything or anyone would be for Him to be a hypocrite. After all, He Himself commanded that no one should murder, and then through His son Jesus said that hate is murder. However, God’s anger is not like human anger. For example, here we see that God is angry at Jezebel, not just because she had sinned against Him, but because she was tempting the Church to sin. Basically, God’s anger is always righteous. He never acts rashly like we humans sometimes do, rather He gives the person time to repent. If they do not repent, and they still persist in hurting the Church, that is when He delivers punishment.

We humans get annoyed easily; some more so than others, some less, but it’s none-the-less true that we all get annoyed more quickly than we might like. God isn’t like that. God never got angry at us when we rejected His son prior to being saved, and Jesus didn’t even get angry when He was being wrongly crucified for sins He didn’t even commit.  This is because God never gets angry when it is He Himself being mocked by some foolish human (though that particular foolish human can expect some form of, un-angry, divine retribution), but He does get quite angry when it’s His people being attacked.

In the Old Testament, God ordered the Israelites to attack neighboring empires and wipe them out, or make them slaves. He did this because those people and the empires to which they belonged had angered Him by attacking or mocking His people. What He did not do, is punish them in a vindictive rage, intending to “make those people pay,” for something they’d done against Him.

This is why, while Jezebel’s punishment may seem harsh, just as the punishment God doled out to certain nations in the Old Testament may seem “harsh,” it’s not actually as harsh as we might think. What we frequently misunderstand is just how horrendous God sees a woman such as Jezebel, or a nation that mocks Him and His people. We look at people like her and are ashamed on behalf of the parents who raised her, or we consider calling the cops on her in a more modern World. God looks at her, and He sees that her heart only wanted to turn aside Christians, and that her mind was taken over by Satan. He sees the demon behind the mask, if you will. That is why God’s punishment is never as harsh as we think it is–He sees far more than we ever can, and thus understands far better than we ever can what should be done.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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At The Gate of Hell

Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 12 through 14, which say:

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:12-14)

One interesting thing to note about this passage, is that God isn’t criticizing them when He says that they dwell where Satan’s throne is. To the contrary, it’s only after He mentions it that He says what it is He has against them. What the church in Pergamum was doing, was setting up a camp right next to Hell, if you will. Most Christians today aren’t even willing to go near the “bad side” of town, much less live in a city that hated Christians; they deserved some form of recognition. However, living so near to sin lead to some of them to return to it.

There is always danger when we are near to sin. Paul put it rather well in his epistle to the Galatians, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (see: Galatians 6:1) Though we might not fall for the teaching of Balaam, we may be tempted by other things. Everyone has something that, if they were not clinging to Christ, they would turn to–some type of modern-day idol. Which is why it is so important that we do evangelize and help others who have fallen to sin, but we do so while keeping our-self pure from the sin which they are caught in. And, as only Christ is pure in this World full of impurity, that means making sure that our focus is on Him. Of course, our focus should always be on Him, but even more so when we’re trying to help a fallen brother or sister.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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The Seven Lampstands

Today God has given me something in Revelation, chapter 1, verses 10 through 13, which say:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. (Revelation 1:10-13)

Remember those “symbolic sentences“? This passage is has quite a few of them. However, one thing that somewhat sticks out, is the seven lampstands. There are seven churches which God tells John to send this book to, seven lampstands, and in the middle of the seven lampstands stands Jesus.

The specific number of lampstands (i.e., seven) seem to indicate a correlation with the seven Churches. An interpretation which makes sense, considering that the purpose of a Church is to uphold the light. Also, when we understand that it must be Jesus in the middle of the lampstands (given that only Jesus would have the voice of God and yet be in the form of a man), we see the Churches are centered around Christ. So then, what we see is seven Churches, upholding the light, and centered around Jesus.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in Interpretation

 

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A Revelation of Christ

In order to avoid too much repetition, given that the Psalms do tend to somewhat repeat themselves (leading to me repeating myself in some of my posts), I’ve decided to move for a bit to the book of Revelation. We will return to where we left off in the Psalms once we’ve finished Revelation. With that said, the passage we’ll start off looking at is in Revelation 1, verses 1 through 2:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (Revelation 1:1-2)

The interesting thing about John’s choice (which is reality is God’s choice) to start off the book in this way, is that it somewhat sets the scene for the rest of the book. “The revelation of Jesus Christ,” tells us that this is a revelation of Jesus Christ. I hate to restate the obvious, but it’s important to know that the book is intended to be read as a revelation of Christ. Not as a book about revelations about life, or for that matter of any other subject; though we can certainly learn lessons from it that we can and should apply in our own lives. So then, essentially, we can know that everything we read is meant to reveal some characteristic of Christ to us.

 
 

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Calling Upon God

Today God has given me something in Psalm 86, verses 4 through 7, which say:

Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. (Psalms 86:4-7)

God is good. Not only is He good, He’s forgiving, and abounding in love, to all who call upon Him. He is the one person who we can confide and trust entirely in, because He already knows everything bad we’ve ever done, and in spite of it has still forgiven us. God alone understands every temptation we’ve ever gone through, because only He (through His son Jesus) has experienced the exact temptations we’ve experienced.

We can pray to God when we’re in trouble, because we know He’ll answer us. For Him not to answer us when we’re in trouble or being tempted, would be the same as for Him to ignore Jesus (as Hebrews 7:25 points out, Jesus is forever interceding on our behalf before the Father.). Thus, we can send our plea for grace to Him, knowing that He will indeed answer us. Of course, whether that answer will be “yes” depends upon whether the prayer is according to His will or not; If we truly are pleading for Him to give us grace, however, we can be assured that He will always give it to us in abundance.

 
 

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Sacrifices

Today God has given me something in Psalm 76, verses 6 through 12, which says:

At your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned. But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Selah. Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt. Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared, who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth. (Psalms 76:6-12)

God is a just God. He can’t look on sin, and not “utter judgment” upon it; it’s simply not in His nature to turn a blind eye. Back then, they believed that by bringing God gifts (i.e. gifts of food and livestock, also known as sacrifices) they somehow merited favor with Him. Of course, we know today that no sacrifice that they could offer would earn them any kind of forgiveness before God. Hebrews 10 makes that clear:

8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”He sets aside the first to establish the second. (Hebrews 10:8-9)

The sacrifices that they once offered where only a foreshadow of something that was to come. They were never meant to save anyone, and thus had no power to atone for sins. However, when God saw an innocent creature being killed in order to, in the minds of the people in question, atone for the sins of the people, He would look forward to a different sacrifice which could (and did) atone for sins. The author of Hebrews states it best just a couple of verses farther from the last section we quoted:

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices,which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14)

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, our sins have been entirely and completely atoned for. We no longer have to give gifts to God (though we should want now to offer our time and energy to Him), because He gave the greatest gift to us. We no longer have to live in fear that God will punish us, because there is no more punishment left for us (though God will still discipline His children when need-be; it would be cruel of Him not to)!

 
 

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Becoming Zealous For God

Today God has given me something in Psalm 63, verses 1 through 4, which says:

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. (Psalms 63:1-4)

I wish it was possible for every Christian to be able to say what David says here. Unfortunately, there are many believers who’ve become like the Church at Laodicea: lukewarm in their faith… Yet, the question has to come, if many believers in today’s World have grown lukewarm in their faith, how is it that someone living in the time of the Old Covenant can be seeking after God to zealously? And more importantly, how can we be as zealous as he was?

Well, David needed God, and was acutely aware of it. Lukewarm Christians still need God, but are often considerably less aware of exactly how much they need Him. By that, I mean that David was frequently fighting real, physical enemies, and He understood that the only means by which his army was going to defeat his opponent’s army, was if God helped him. We, however, are frequently fighting Spiritual enemies. The problem with this, is that Spiritual enemies are far more subtle than physical enemies. If an army is knocking on your door, you tend to notice it. Not only do you notice it, you notice it and (hopefully!) go running to God asking for help. If, however, a prideful thought creeps into your mind, it’s easy just to overlook it. Normally it doesn’t cause immediate concern, and unless you already are seeking God like David did, it’s hardly something that’ll cause you to go running to God. So then, how is it that we can get our-self to not only notice, but indeed run to God when temptation (such as the aforementioned prideful thought) come up? Simply to do as Paul recommends:

By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! 2 I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:1-5)

When we take our thoughts captive, and make them all obedient to Christ, what we are doing is attempting to make all of our thoughts be about Christ. Now, of course, we can’t hope to perfectly accomplish this while we are still living in physical bodies; we are bound to have sinful thoughts until we get to Heaven. However, making sure that we quickly turn to Scripture to help us when we realize we’re having sinful thoughts, is a very good and necessary habit that we all should form (or else continue to practice as the case may be). More than that though, we should keep in mind always that we wouldn’t be able to do whatever it is we’re doing if it wasn’t for Jesus’ work for us on the cross.

 
 

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