Week 61 – We have reached the last chapter of the Chronological Bible reading… congratulations!

As we come to the end of our reading with mounting anticipation, a great “HALLELUJAH” is being prepared in heaven, to which we will give voice HERE ON EARTH!

DAY ONE – 1 John 1-5, 2 John, 3 John

(The following references are from Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.)
  • 1 John 1:6– we are not practicing the truth
  • 1 John 2:4– not living in the truth
  • 1 John 2:8–Jesus lived the truth
  • 1 John 2:8–the true light is already shining
  • 1 John 2:20-21– all of you know the truth
  • 1 John 2:21-22–you know the difference… truth and lies
  • 1 John 2:27–what he teaches is true
  • 1 John 2:27–teach you what is true
  • 1 John 4:3–the truth about Jesus
  • 1 John 5:20–know the true God
  • 2 John 1–I love in the truth
  • 2 John 3–who live in truth and love
  • 2 John 4–living according to the truth
  • 2 John 10–the truth about Christ
  • 3 John 1–I love in the truth
  • 3 John 3–living according to the truth
  • 3 John 4–following the truth
  • 3 John 12–as does the truth itself
  • 3 John 12– we speak the truth

Since truth originated in God and was revealed in the creation, it can be discovered only in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. When all the lies that have been perpetrated and propped up in the hearts of the ungodly are revealed for what they are, ONLY TRUTH will perpetuate into the ages beyond. Even Pilate, the authority who delivered Jesus up to be crucified, asked, “What is truth?” Sadly he never got His answer, even though he was face to face with THE TRUTH.

DAY TWO – Revelation 1-5

This is a revelation OF Jesus Christ which was given to Apostle John. Remember, John was the disciple especially loved by Jesus, who was next to Jesus at the Last Supper, while still in his teens. John was one of the three who SAW Jesus in His glory on the mountain and heard God’s voice; and he was the oldest surviving original apostle at the time of this revelation. The seven churches (assemblies) in Asia were the recipients of the messages Jesus Christ wanted us all to have. Seven times we are exhorted to “listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches.” In fact, the readers of this revelation are promised a blessing for even reading it!

Exiled to a small island because of his faith and his preaching, John continued his life of devotion and service to Jesus. Then one day these striking scenes began to unfold before him. Scene one took place in the sphere of earth, in which John was introduced to Jesus in a way He had never before seen. Jesus was glorious and powerful, above and over everything, and obviously before, during and after everything! He introduced Himself as “the First and the Last.” Well! That got the old apostle’s attention for sure. Then came the messages from this ONE who identified Himself as LORD over all the gatherings of His ‘called-out ones.’ And for each of these seven messages, we are asked to pay CLOSE ATTENTION to their commendations and corrections. Promises are made to the faithful, to the ones paying attention and taking corresponding action. The second scene opened in heaven, in which John was privileged to ‘see’ Almighty God in visions and appearances that almost defy description–certainly persons and mysterious creatures not before seen on earth. This Great One was holding a scroll that was sealed, and no one seemed qualified to open it. But there was One, and He was introduced to John as “…the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, (who) has won the victory.” Revelation 5:5 (NLT) John remembered the day when, as a young man, he saw Jesus ascending into heaven with clouds and heard angels:  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Acts 1:11 (NLT) But the Jesus he remembered is now the Ancient of Days, resplendent with glory and power. This Shining One commands all authority in heaven, with millions of angels at His disposal. There is NO OTHER LIKE HIM! The message that John was getting, and the message we desperately need to hear today is, LOVE JESUS, SERVE HIM, OBEY HIM, while there is yet time. We are in The Revelation, the last Bible book, and there should be some urgency in how we prayerfully respond to Him.

DAY THREE – Revelation 6-10

Dear Reader, we are today given a glimpse into the Great Tribulation coming upon the world, variously referred to as the Day of the Lord. Words fail to inform our emotions sufficiently, so we cannot possibly register the correct feelings that match the scope and nature of the calamity . When the Great Flood occurred in Genesis, there were no words to describe the carnage, for there had previously been NO RAIN on the earth; and the enormity of the tragedy was unknown in human history. Such is the Great Tribulation. NO AMOUNT of war, famine or cataclysm prepares us for the worldwide destruction and suffering which will follow in rapid succession, one event upon another. However, incredulous as we might be reading these chapters, remember that THE ONE WHO OPENS THE SEALS was Himself the victim of all the world’s evil, turned against Him with savage force and incalculable rage, to rid the world of His sovereign grace and salvation. The devil himself inspired the brutal crucifixion of Jesus, and that same destroyer would gladly take out every one of us who follows Jesus with similar rage and evil prejudice. That we live and thrive another day is attributable to the great love and protection of our Heavenly Father who has commissioned us to give testimony of the Kingdom of God here on earth. Reading this Revelation again is a stern reminder that we live in a temporal world that has given itself to establishing a permanent order WITHOUT GOD. Those of us who tremble before the Lord in humble repentance and worship Him with gladness of heart, struggle to fully appreciate this great, final conflict that has begun and is playing out in full view of the nations. We may not understand everything, but we can certainly see the unexplainable increases in catastrophic occurrences in nature and international politics. And yes, there is a universal awareness that our world cannot indefinitely continue its present erratic course without intervention. The real tragedy is that, while public religion appears to be waning in the nations of the world, defiance toward God’s Kingdom is gaining momentum. People of God everywhere should be on constant alert and highly sensitized to changes in the spiritual climate around us. In the west, we are so thoroughly plied with technology, social connectivity and instant information about everything, that our distractions threaten to overrun our desire to remain faithful to Jesus. My plea as a fellow believer/follower is that we will read and understand; read and wake up; read and take appropriate actions to encourage, help and support one another in our common faith. Religious and political differences must give way in favor of our total reliance on the Kingdom of Heaven–now our highest priority and the world’s ONLY HOPE. What shall we do today to make a real difference?

DAY FOUR – Revelation 11-13

It is important to remember that, as Genesis is a book of beginnings, Revelation is a book of endings. Our Bible begins with these words: “In the beginning God…” It is only fitting that at the end of time, this same Almighty God–Creator of heavens and earth; Savior of mankind; and ruler over all there is, MUST RESOLVE all that has, since the days of Adam and Eve, corrupted the earth and troubled all of mankind. Human beings themselves fell prey to the evil rebellion against the Creator; that must be resolved. Satan, the devil and destroyer, led the rebellion against God; that too must be resolved. Finally the corruption that has brought misery to mankind must be resolved permanently. In John’s great visions events unfold rapidly–no longer in years and millennia, but in days and months. Prominent in all of this is the land of Israel, that little centerpiece of earth’s real estate that dominates nearly all of the Old Testament narrative and forms the backdrop to all of God’s dealings with this world kingdom. We can only ponder, sometimes wonder, where we are in all this drama. Are we witnessing in our 21st century what Jesus and the apostles described in scripture? Are their predictions unfolding before our very eyes? Has the Day of the Lord dawned on planet earth, the beginning of suffering that presupposes the final conquest of evil, rebellion and corruption? What John saw he could barely explain in words we can understand. Yet we are asked to look… and understand. What John heard we are asked to hear… and believe. Where are we to get this kind of wisdom and understanding? Our universities and think tanks are filled with propaganda that empowers kingdoms and kingmakers in this world, in their unquenchable thirst for power and wealth. To whom then can we turn? WE MUST TURN TO JESUS. The God who came from heaven to earth to reveal the eternal Kingdom of Heaven was killed here–died for our sinful rebellion to RESOLVE sin and provide eternal life to all who will follow Jesus. The visions in this Revelation depict the final stages of earth’s rebellion against heaven and against God, ALL OF WHICH WILL SOON give way to the Resurrected Jesus who has all power and authority in heaven and earth. We cannot look elsewhere for answers to the mysterious events and creatures featured in John’s visions. Rather than trying to pinpoint God’s timeline for all of these things, we do well to simply humble ourselves in reverential fear of our Holy God and WORSHIP HIS SON JESUS CHRIST, who towers over this world kingdom and is preparing to REIGN FOREVER AND EVER! The Revelation belongs to God and His Son, and He will crush the rebellion in a manner that FULLY RESOLVES all of human history in order to usher in His glorious and eternal  kingdom. And we… we are here… for such a time as this.

DAY FIVE – Revelation 14-18

The Genesis story informs us that God created the inhabited world in six days, and rested on the seventh. All was in motion, in perfect harmony and calibrated to maintain predictable order in His universe. Adam and Eve were placed there; biblical genealogy indicates that some seven thousand years of human history have unfolded to the present. We have been reading this history for more than a year in our Bible adventure. But the chapters we read today are filled with apocalyptic predictions of terrible destruction as not seen up to this time anywhere. What does it mean? John’s visions of a world gone mad, of the crumbling heaps of human achievement, are punctuated with pictures of heaven in which the hundreds of millions of souls from earth that have lived, believed in and trusted God throughout the ages are now ‘saved’–that is, they are alive and beyond reach of the sin, rebellion and destruction that have troubled the nations of the world since the beginning of time. A conspiracy of evil, driven by demonic passion, idolatry and gross immorality, has reached a feverish pitch, having enslaved the masses and led to the worldwide acceptance and worship of the ‘beast,’ so called because of his dark rage and rebellion against Creator God and His Son Jesus. The world of humanity has descended into the black darkness in which reason and sensibility have totally lost their power to restrain evil. The final judgments of human government and mortal supremacy have begun. As trumpets sound, swords clash, nations rage, and angels move swiftly to enact God’s orders throughout the earth, a fateful dread and fear begins to wash over humanity, the realization that ALL IS LOST and there is NO MORE REMEDY. The topography is catastrophically leveled, the sea turns to death, the rivers to blood; even the great Euphrates River is dried up so that an army two hundred million strong can begin its march of death. The world economy has finally collapsed under its own weight of incalculable debt and greed, ending the dreams of every nation. There is nowhere else to turn, no one who can now step forward to lead into tomorrow. The nations are AT AN END, and the time has now come for the LAST PLAGUES–the final thrust of judgment and the end of the world as we have known it. Revelation 18:20 (NLT) “Rejoice over her fate, O heaven and people of God and apostles and prophets! For at last God has judged her for your sakes.”  It is time for God’s ultimate Salvation to step forth from heaven, to preside over His triumphant victory over evil, and to disclose the working of His eternal plan set forth at the beginning of time.

DAY SIX – Revelation 19-22

Peals of praise–like the sound of thunder or roaring rivers–flowed from heaven, one after another, marking the transition of power on earth–from governments run by earthlings to that of our Lord Jesus Christ, making Him “King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” As earth’s armies, amassed to avenge the fall of human rule and the world economy, and to break free from heaven once for all, waited with their leader THE BEAST for the Son of God on the white horse to appear, the stench of death and hell was already beginning to assault their senses. Then He came. His servants seized the beast and his prophet and threw them alive into the lake of burning sulfur, as His sword slew the armies of defiance. And then it was over. The battle for heaven’s rule was instantly and finally won by Jesus, and He brought His heavenly kingdom fully to earth to reign for a thousand years, to be followed by an eternity filled with God and His wonderful new creation! This Revelation began with Jesus and it ends with Jesus. He is the very spirit and testimony of all true prophecy, making Him the worthy recipient of all our worship, loyalty and allegiance. And He is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Adam and Eve to save from among the world of humanity ALL who will worship and serve Him. God has ALWAYS had His gracious plan of salvation which He freely offers to all.

A footnote to Revelation is that it is THE END of human rule and THE BEGINNING of the new heaven and earth for all of those who have lived, loved and followed Jesus in a life of faith and obedience. Even John himself, the old apostle who had survived boiling oil poured on his body, ascribing all glory, honor and praise to Jesus–whom he first knew as a young man of Israel living under Roman government; whom he followed from his youth; and to whom he devoted the rest of his life in the Gospel of the Kingdom of heaven–gushed with anticipation as he cried, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” That was two thousand years ago. Then John rested with the saints and has waited these two millennia, as we ALL NOW WAIT, for Jesus to take His righteous scepter and begin to reign as promised. We too join two thousand years of faithful believer/followers who welcome these days of conflict which MUST COME on the earth in order for HEAVEN to finally RULE AMONG MEN. And while we wait we worship and serve our Father and His Lord Jesus Christ. We have died to any future except that which involves Him and welcomes Him into our daily existence here and now. As did Jesus, we ignore the humiliation of the cross and despise the shame in the eyes of the world in order to believe and follow Him. Thus with John, our life is a praise and a prayer… “EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS!”

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Week 60 – Nearing the end of our Bible reading journey.. we can do this!

“How long, O Lord?” Our reading this week tells us not how long, but HOW.. how we get from here to there!

DAY ONE – 1 Peter 1-5

In the middle of a moonless night, a man is crawling across a stretch of what appears to be endless dunes of sand, his parched countenance grimacing with each effort he expends. Everything within him wants to stop, to end it right there; but on the horizon he can see bright light penetrating the canopy of darkness, evidence that civilization and safety are not so far ahead. So he keeps moving toward the light. Addressing Jewish refugees who fled their homeland of Jerusalem and Judea because of persecution of their faith in Jesus; who left all behind to seek safety and an opportunity to live their faith; who were having to rebuild their lives in a strange place and were finding it very challenging, Peter wrote to encourage and strengthen them, to give them hope in a dark world where suffering abounds. Most of us are too busy to do a spiritual inventory, to painstakingly write out the problems we face, the emotions we tolerate, the shreds of hope to which we cling. So, like the man crawling across the dunes, we go about the business of living, often suffering quietly and gallantly, hoping that tomorrow things will be a little easier. But what of tomorrow? What can we write about tomorrow, seeing we don’t know what is there? Not so, says Peter; we do know; we do know, for tomorrow belongs to God, as does today. Now that you are saved through your faith in Jesus as your Lord; now that you are his child, the recipient of His grace and favor; and now that you live under His wonderful promises of salvation and eternal reward, live in a manner as befits the incredible inheritance that belongs to you as a co-inheritor with Jesus. Peter connected the blessings of God’s favor toward us now, with future blessings that are reserved for us in heaven. He also connected the short period of Jesus’ unspeakable suffering with the sufferings we encounter in our lives, on our way to the glorious home He has prepared for us. More than once Peter insisted that we are closer than we think to the end of the world. Yes, I realize every generation has to process that truth, and every generation discovers that the world goes on, and it is still full of challenges to our faith and well-being. But how well we live from our heart, how well we feed and maintain our faith, renews and builds our hope in a glorious future with our Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, we remind ourselves that we are not suffering alone; all around us are others who are believing and trusting Jesus to get us from here to there, to save us to the very day of our salvation, and to keep us along the way. Everyone suffers along the way. The difference is that we who trust in Jesus see the bright light on the horizon that strengthens us and keeps us moving forward with joy, courage and anticipation.

DAY TWO – Hebrews 1-4

We must at once understand that this letter was written to Jewish believers in Messiah (the Anointed One, or Jesus). However, it has universal appeal, because the central theme is Jesus (Hebrew ‘Yeshua’). If I were to simply complete this paragraph by writing the name ‘Jesus’ over and over and over, it would fully convey the most important revelation of the entire book. How important?  Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. Hebrews 1:1-4 (NLT) Given that Peter, Paul and our Lord’s other apostles all regarded their times as the last or final days, we may therefore conclude that NO FURTHER REVELATION ABOUT THE LAST DAYS is needed to prepare us for the coming of Christ. We are fully informed and, by the Holy Spirit, fully equipped to prepare for that day. So complete is the revelation in God’s word, that we are warned to not ‘drift away’ from what we have received and what we know. In fact, Jesus made this prediction regarding the end of days.  Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:12-14 (NLT) As we proceed through Hebrews, we will understand that what Jesus did in His life, His death and resurrection, is so complete that we have only to appeal to heaven on any and all occasions in His powerful Name to receive the help we need. By comparing the Old Covenant (our Old Testament) with the New Covenant (our New Testament) we can see how God’s work of grace through Jesus is superior in every detail to any other religious ideal or explanation. Why is it that people still attempt to come up with ANY OTHER MEANS of salvation than that offered by God through His Son Jesus? As Apostle Paul warned,  Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. 9 I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed. Galatians 1:8-9 (NLT) End of story.

DAY THREE – Hebrews 5-8

In order to fully appreciate who Jesus is and what He has done, there are two terms with which we need to be exceedingly familiar: the Kingdom of this World; and the Kingdom of Heaven. When Paradise was lost to Adam and Eve, they were put out of the Garden of Eden to make their home in the Kingdom of this World–that is, the realm in which humans live disconnected and apart from God, who lives in and rules over the Kingdom of Heaven. In this world people have to find their own way, their own resources and their own future. It is a struggle and requires that we use up our time and energy to survive. In the Kingdom of Heaven, the perfection of Eden is exceeded, for God lives and rules in light, peace, life and abundance. In order to bring us back into His world (although He owns this world as well!) our Lord sent His Son Jesus into the Kingdom of this World to reconnect us to God. But more than a thousand years before Jesus came, Father God was already doing a mysterious thing by calling Abraham to be His friend and colleague. Through Abraham and his descendants, the Lord eventually raised up Moses to be a deliverer of the Hebrew people, and at Sinai gave them the Law (Torah) of Commandments to reconnect them with heaven through RELIGION. Judaism is the ONLY RELIGION God ever gave to this world; and there were priests, a meeting place, sacrifices and offerings, and every other accoutrement necessary for the continual practice of their religion. Everything was specified and required by God. It was a physical and visible representation of what the Lord would later do when He reconnected heaven and earth through Jesus Christ. So the Jewish priests lived and died and were succeeded by their offspring. Jesus lived, died and LIVED AGAIN through resurrection. So He is a priest FOREVER AND EVER. He is our High Priest in HEAVEN, where He has all authority in heaven AND EARTH! The Covenant of Grace is far superior to the Covenant of Religion God gave the Jews. This grace extends to all people everywhere and restores eternal life to the human race, but only if we trust in and follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior. While the Kingdom of this World is under the law of sin and death, the Kingdom of Heaven is full of grace and life through the blood of Jesus. And while earthly religions–even the Jewish religion–offer FALSE HOPE to people who practice them, Jesus Christ offers genuine hope of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven with God’s true family. Paradise Lost is Paradise Found when we trust Jesus to save us and bring us safely to His Eternal Kingdom. Kingdom of this world–lesser Covenant, lesser priests; Kingdom of Heaven–greater Covenant and Great High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ… should be an easy choice for all of us!

DAY FOUR – Hebrews 9-13

Ours is a physical world, but is it the real world? To us it is, for it is all we have known. Yes, it’s real, but it is only temporary, no matter how long we think it has been here. “In the beginning God…” God was before our world, for He created it. So what comes after our world? What’s beyond our view, beyond our temporal understanding and beyond our human reach? It’s the OTHER WORLD, being prepared for God’s growing family. Jesus came from the other world; He came into this world to declare the Kingdom of Heaven to us and to open the way for us to enter that place. Heaven is the REAL WORLD– if real means perfect; and if real means forever; and if real means everything this world can never be. To struggle and to overcome in this world; to become our best in this world; to find peace and happiness in this world is still not permanent. We are all leaving this world in one manner or another, and our Creator has invited us to join Him in His great kingdom to live in a perfect state forever. Abraham, Moses, kings and prophets lived and died waiting for the real world to open to them. We are told they died “IN FAITH.” That means they believed the testimony of God and lived for the real world to come. This letter to the Hebrews, many of whom suffered terribly for their belief in Jesus, fled to other places just to survive. And now they are being begged to keep their faith and endure every trial in order to make it to their real, forever home with the Lord. The religion God gave to the Hebrews (Judaism) was temporary and unable to give them permanent forgiveness and safety. They had to perform its rituals over and over again to receive covering for their sins. They never really understood or knew God as He wanted to be known. So He sent Jesus. Jesus came into our world. He reconnected us to God through faith and obedience. He gave us eternal life by faith. And He has gone into the real world of God’s making to rule heaven and earth until He can gather all of His people into our forever home where He is. THIS IS REAL! Though we cannot see it, we yet believe, for Jesus is real and He was here, and He became our forever sacrifice for sin to reconnect us to heaven and our Heavenly Father. Our hope is well founded, and our faith will take us from here to there. Nothing in this temporary world is WORTH COMPARING OR HAVING if it destroys or impairs our faith. Hang with those who have accepted God’s testimony and are willing to stake their life on it. Hang with those who worship and serve God through our Lord Jesus. Hang with those who by faith live in this world today in order to enjoy the grand entrance into our permanent home tomorrow. Live it out every day, enjoying the peace, love, hope and joy that comes from heaven into our hearts through Jesus.

DAY FIVE – 2 Timothy 1-4

It is said that scores of pastors leave the service of the church every day–worn out, burnt out or otherwise demoralized and/or disillusioned. Some are tired of the poverty and the general hassle of trying to shepherd the flock of Christ. The passion they once knew and which was part of their calling to the profession is no longer. The aging Apostle Paul, still in prison, reached out to his spiritual son Timothy with deep feeling and strong passion. The last time they had parted, Timothy was in tears. And now from prison Paul plead with his young elder/pastor colleague to come to him again as soon as possible, and to bring Mark as well. Paul was alone; only Luke was still with him, because all of his other workers had opposed, abandoned or deserted him, perhaps ashamed of his status as a prisoner; or perhaps because Paul was so strongly committed to the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ and resisted every attempt to change it or adapt its teachings to popular culture. Surely rumors of Paul’s stubborn faith led some to conclude that he was too fanatical or too narrow for their continued loyalty. Paul carefully explained his position to his ‘son in the faith,’ lest Timothy too should lose confidence; he was known to be somewhat timid and needed occasional strengthening from his old mentor. Appealing to his own faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel that kept him in chains, Paul reaffirmed the strength of his convictions and assured Timothy that he prayed for him night and day to be strong in his faith, according to the example of his mother and grandmother; and to stir up the ministry gift that was conferred when Paul laid hands on him. The younger man had done an admirable job in ministry but was perhaps lagging in his resolve.

Not very many are privy to the approach of their own death, but Paul believed that he was nearing his time to leave this world. Unashamed and immovable, he asserted that he was ready to be with Jesus and receive the crown of life that follows the suffering and obedience of this life. Appealing again to the scriptures, the old apostle declared all scripture to be inspired (God-breathed) and effective for bringing us to strong faith and completion in righteousness. We are to guard especially against spiritual treachery and the breakdown of law and love in the last days, as people give in to their own out-of-control desires that lead into all kinds of sinful and aberrant behavior. A saved soul is a miracle of grace; a soul kept by the power of God is a sign to this generation that the Lord is near. May we do well to preserve our faith in Jesus Christ and follow Him daily through the power of the Holy Spirit. And if you have spiritual mentors, find them and give them a hug and a ‘thank you.’

DAY SIX – Jude, 2 Peter 1-3

‘Faith’ is an extremely common word in our Bible. However, Jude and Peter talk about ‘the faith’ given to the people of God. It seems inconceivable that faith in Jesus Christ could be challenged by the things of this world system or be lost to the follower of Christ. But both of these apostles speak of ‘the faith’ as an entity, a commodity, which is received and stewarded by Jesus’ followers–collectively known as the church, or assembly, of God. And both of them give stern warnings about losing this faith by following men who themselves prove to be false teachers. And what is ‘this’ faith we speak of? It is life transformed by the power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. It is life based on the revealed word of God, the holy scriptures. It is life that denies and disavows the sexual perversion that has taken hold of the nations of the world, being peddled to the people for money and personal gain. It is godly men and women who have surrendered whatever gain this world system offers in order to gain the promises of eternal life and heaven with our Lord. Appealing to the examples of Noah, a righteous man in his generation, as well as Sodom and Gomorrah, these apostles remind us that a fiery judgment awaits this perverted and sinful world system when the Lord has finished His great work of grace. We are warned against being deceived by the subtle and crafty lies being told by those who follow their own desires. Peter says, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” And Jude says, “But you, beloved, building up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God.” Our salvation is a completed work on God’s part. Jesus finished all the Father gave Him to do. As we recently read in Hebrews 1, when He had completed His work, He sat down at the right hand of the Father in heaven. I typically finish my work or project before I take the liberty of sitting down to relax. And so did Jesus. Everything we need to sustain us in our faith has already been done–granted and offered. We are already partakers of the divine nature of Jesus, by virtue of our faith and following Him. May we never again allow the destructive heresies of the old world system to gain even a foothold in our life. Keep your faith among your fellow believers, and be strong in the Lord together!

Week 59 – God is our Father in heaven; the Bible is His gracious gift to us…

Today is always the right day to turn fully to God and call on the GREAT NAME of Jesus to save our world.

 DAY ONE – Acts 27-28

We have already averred that when our life is bound up in that of Jesus; and when our will is bound up in that of the Father in heaven, the course of this life can only and finally accomplish whatever is best for heaven; or, as the case may be, heaven on earth! Is it then, best for us too? We have to choose that option by faith, for all the promises of God reside in Jesus, and when we say the “Amen” to these promises, it becomes so. Paul could never have imagined that his trip to Italy would be so fraught with danger, so perilously close to death. But given the circumstances and the poor decisions of those concerned with their material benefits, choices were made that imperiled them all. Is it not rather interesting that Paul–not once but on three separate occasions–brought the only wise advice, the only comfort, and the strongest encouragement from God that spared the lives of all? Are not we, we believers who advocate and practice our faith in the Lord, in the greatest position to bring glory to God and to encourage others in these perilous times of ours? Should we constantly fear the unknown, the difficulties, even the perils present before us? How can our faith be a beacon to others if we ourselves are grounded in fear? Paul’s wisdom, courage and faith became the conduit of God’s safety and protection for all 276 people on board a lost ship. After shipwreck his faith gave them hope that a future remained for them. And after the kindness they received among the people of the island upon which they were cast, they were able to safely complete their trip to Rome.

This historical beginnings of the body of Jesus Christ upon earth–His called-out ones–brings us to the end of the book of Acts, but it doesn’t end. The book remains unfinished, in a way. Even Paul’s story remained incomplete. After two years of detention in Caesarea, another two years elapsed in Rome, during which season the apostle preached the Kingdom of God, the Good News of Jesus, and the hope of the world that yet lay before them. He predicted that the Gentile nations would receive God’s word and salvation, and nobody tried to stop him. Can we be stopped, or will we carry on the work of Jesus in our generation, no matter what we may face?

DAY TWO – Philippians 1-4, Philemon

There are few treasures we will take with us to heaven, but among them are dear friends in the faith with whom we enjoy fruitful and mutual relationship. We sense this in Apostle Paul’s letters to Philippians and Philemon. Having invested heavily in them the love of Christ; and having received from them not only a requited love but ongoing support and enrichment, Paul poured out encouragement from his heart to them, requesting of them and instructing them to remain faithful to the Lord. In our days of social media and with access to hundreds of ‘friends,’ mostly family members and acquaintances we have known over the years, we are inundated with pictures, news feeds and other bits of information to keep us interested and otherwise occupied. Not to minimize the value of these associations, we nevertheless would be challenged to count on one hand the number of people to whom we could say, as Paul did to Philemon, “you owe me your very life.” Our love for and commitment to Christ adds a depth to every relationship. The fact that we are connected to heaven and are expectantly waiting for Jesus to return adds yet another dimension to the way we relate to one another. Who among us can say that we ‘owe’ a debt of love to another for the investment of life itself that person has poured into us? And who among us is so engaged in pouring out ourselves into others that we may expect that special bond to provide mutual encouragement and help until the day we welcome our Lord at His return, or He welcomes us into the blessed Kingdom of heaven? Exchanging information and news does not rise to the same level as giving up our time and energy for the sake of Christ. At the risk of cliché, I am reminded of the words of an old song, “Only one life ’twill soon be past / only what’s done for Christ will last.” The work of Jesus through us is mostly intentional, mostly by choice, and mostly requiring investment of our time and energy. It is not unusual that we experience difficulty and even suffering during the course of giving ourselves away as Paul did. The intrinsic reward is being able to write letters to your friends as Paul did to the Philippian believers and his friend Philemon. As none of us is totally self-sufficient, we all need help from time to time. Blessed is the one who can count on his friends!

DAY THREE – Colossians 1-4

This letter from Apostle Paul is addressed to the ‘called-out ones’ in the city of Colosse. It has one central message: Jesus Christ is Number One; He is the First among many; and He is everything to us who call Him Lord. Everything that God is, He invested in Jesus, in bodily form. As a man, Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood, so that God can remain at peace with our world until all His plans have come to pass. The pagan philosophies and practices of this world system, presided over and influenced by people unresponsive to God and unreceiving of His Good News, are destined to perish before the glory and power and authority which belong only to Jesus. Within the hierarchies of heaven and earth, only Jesus is exalted to First Place; only He can, by the blood He shed, cleanse away our sins; and only He can, by the power He exercises, keep us in peace in our chaotic world.

Having made his point, Paul, as he did in all his letters to different cities, exhorted believers and followers of Jesus to put away all the pagan practices and influences that can spoil their relationship with Jesus, and instead continue to grow and increase in their spiritual lives. After all, when we trusted Jesus, He rescued us from the dark kingdom of this world which is perishing, and literally gave us citizenship in heaven, His eternal home. What part of this new identity in Christ do we fail to comprehend? What part of complete salvation do we not understand? It is impossible to be half saved, or partially born, or ‘kind of’ a follower of Jesus. When a baby is born into this world, it is fully human, and it fully belongs to its parents (even though some are not worthy of this appellation). Christ is worthy; He retains all the deity of His father in His earthly form which was raised from the dead. And as such, He is able to give us a peace which rules over the cultural and political chaos of our times. We enjoy this fullness and confidence when we allow His Word to reign over our spirit and our mind. My experience has been that I return to His words again and again as I read the Bible, have fellowship with other followers, and converse with the blessed Holy Spirit who resides in me. And so, along with Paul, I exhort us all to live this life in Jesus with all faith and determination, giving no space to the world to encroach, to discourage, or to disconnect us from the Life we enjoy in our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Pre-eminent One.

DAY FOUR – Ephesians 1-4

The capital of proconsular Asia, Ephesus was considered the first metropolis of its time, sporting the great temple of the goddess Diana, as well as a 50 thousand seat sports arena. Apostle Paul chose this setting to reveal God’s secret of the ages, hidden until the time of Christ but now exposed for all the world to see. It’s the greatest story ever told, the disclosure of how the Gospel–the Good Jesus News–came into existence. As he related the story to the Ephesians, Paul often fell to his knees and cried out to God with thanksgiving or with petition, praying that they would be enlightened by God’s Spirit and given understanding of the things he was relating. It is no ordinary story, and it cannot be told without pausing to pray. When we read it, it cannot be grasped without frequently asking God to open our hearts to His truth. The Truth is not hidden, but it is hidden to those whose hearts are closed to God. If you are even a casual reader of my INSIGHTS column, I pray for you to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit so that the eyes of your heart can receive the truth of Jesus in all of His glory and honor. In our western culture we give status to knowledge and information. We have branded this as the ‘information age.’ But information is not necessarily the truth. Even science is not always a pathway to truth, unless the Creator God is at the center of our research. As Christ is the Head of everything, and as He is the Savior of the world, our search for truth is like a maze that has nothing but dead ends until we find the one marked ‘Jesus Christ.’ So these chapters of Ephesians must be read in their order to get the full story and see how God has unfolded His secret plan down through the ages.

Prayer is our primary function as we put truth into practice. It is heaven’s conduit through which pass our petitions and praises as well as God’s grace and truth. Over and again, Paul prayed over the work, the groups of believers in various cities, and the obvious clashes the Gospel created in a fallen world. By His great mercy and grace the Lord God saved us through our faith in Jesus. As our understanding grows may we follow the great example of the apostle in praying over everything we think and do. Try reading today’s chapters out loud as a form of prayer.

DAY FIVE – Ephesians 5-6, Titus 1-3

When Jesus Christ came into our world, it was to invite us into His. Confessing openly that He originally came from heaven, Jesus demonstrated heaven on earth to the extent we could see the obvious differences between our world and His. Sickness, death, disease and every kind of evil, present continual challenges to the wellbeing of all who are born into and live in this world. Jesus, however, spoke of a place where life, vitality, peace and joy are the norm. There is no death in heaven. He gave us a choice between death and life, darkness and light, this world or His world. And then He asked us to believe in and follow Him. If we followed Him, He would save us and connect us to His Father in heaven. If we followed Him, our sins would be forgiven and washed away by virtue of the blood He shed at His death by crucifixion. And if we followed Him, we would have a permanent home in the heaven from which He came and to which He was returning. All of this, and more, if we followed Him. There is a CULTURE OF HEAVEN, just as there is a culture of this world. So the Lord Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to inhabit our inner life and be our Teacher, Guide, Helper and Comforter, so that the Presence of Jesus would remain with us. Then He gave us apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors and evangelists to assist us in learning and growing in the culture of heaven, while living on earth. There is no doubt that living and growing in the culture of heaven is a joint effort of spirit and will, so long as we live here in this world.    But God went one step further. From antiquity He spoke to the fathers, prophets and apostles to write into text all that He had spoken through Christ Jesus. This is our Bible, to be read, read again and digested into our very being so that we are instructed in the ways and means of Jesus. It is not ours to interpret privately, but to live out in communion with other believers as we pray, work and do life together. We are to be trained, taught and encouraged through the Scriptures and power of the Holy Spirit. We are to serve one another, love one another and pray for one another. We are to accept and respect spiritual authority and grow in spiritual understanding. We are to guard against all forms of teaching other than that of Jesus, the fathers and the apostles. We are to suspect our own wisdom as we acquire God’s wisdom. And we are to PURSUE THE THINGS OF GOD while rejecting the culture of the world in which we live. Like OIL AND WATER, the kingdom of heaven and kingdom of this world do not mix well. They exist in the same solution, but they always retain their own character. So are we in this world on our way to heaven–we are in the mix but not mixed up! Stay with the group following Jesus and study well His ways, praying with the power of the Holy Spirit as we fill our hearts with heaven on earth.

DAY SIX – 1 Timothy 1-6

Apostle Paul to his disciple Timothy: Stay in Ephesus and teach people how to be godly–godliness being the way we conduct ourselves, as if God really means something to us. Godliness originated in the kingdom of heaven, from whence Jesus came to earth as a baby human being. Tutored by the Holy Spirit, and not subject to a sinful nature, He was the paradigm of all that is godly. His life, His manner, His works exploded with ‘heaven’ written all over them, demonstrating how a godly person really looks and behaves. We are called into this. Godliness is very practical, reaching into our personal life, family relationships, work habits, and standing in the community. It is apparent that a godly person values highly the testimony of Jesus and the reality of the kingdom of heaven on earth. It is more than just talk, more than appearance, and more than a doctrine. The godly person lives a life that can be admired and emulated. The godly person throws the light of his life onto heaven itself, heaven being a part of his end-game. He rarely has to make claims or prove himself to be a godly person; it is just apparent that the Lord and His kingdom are on his mind more than anything else. And as I write this piece, there is fire in my heart to be known as a godly man living in the alien culture of this world system. My salvation is from heaven, my heart is set on things above, and I live my life with the prayer that the scent of heaven will accompany me wherever I go. Should we be concerned with perfection; should we attempt to live without sinful mistakes in our life? That would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? But let’s not make the mistake of focusing on ourselves. Jesus is the standard of godliness and perfection; so it is through Him that we are declared by God and considered to be, righteous and godly. Our Father in heaven looks for the person who is in LOVE with Him, with the Lord Jesus, and with heaven. That person LOVES to do what is right, and he trains himself to carefully follow Jesus and to live as if the world system is giving way to the eternal kingdom of heaven. Many challenges remained in the Gentile nations from their old godless cultures and worldviews. Strong, godly leadership was Paul’s strategy to counteract their old sinful habits and encourage their faithfulness as Jesus followers. We have much to think about in our world culture dominated by self-aggrandizing and self-centered philosophies and behaviors. LIVING OUR FAITH is much more effective than arguing about it. A godly person naturally gives evidence that he is a follower of Jesus and is intentional in his heavenly goals.

Week 58 – The more I read the Bible, the more I realize how much God loves me.

How free are you to serve Jesus as you wish? How ready are you to live in the freedom He has given us?

DAY ONE – Romans 5-8

Living to die and dying to live–such is the human paradox of our transition from the old life to the new. Before God gave the Ten Commandments, everyone since Adam died as Adam did. The life connection from heaven to earth and back again was irreparably broken–human life was temporal and terminal. But the Commandments went a step further; they condemned us under sin, for in our life without God we are slaves to the sin that rules the world. Now we become aware that we deserve to die because of our sin–we deserve to be separated from God forever. Where does THAT leave us? Basically without hope. Yet into this conundrum God sent His Son Jesus to be born as we are, only without sin nature. Living under and obeying the Ten Commandments, Jesus became qualified to condemn sin and death and to so utterly destroy it that its hold would be broken now in this world and forever in the next! Because Jesus died a human death without sin in His glorious life, God raised Him from the dead and took Him back to heaven to be Savior and Lord over all creation. It is our FAITH IN JESUS that repairs the broken connection with heaven and allows God’s life to flow into us while we are living here. The power of sin and death, having been destroyed by the resurrection of Jesus, can never again dominate those who believe in and follow Jesus from their heart. And this is EXACTLY where the Holy Spirit fits in; He was sent by the Father to represent Jesus and heaven in our life, leading us out of darkness and bondage into light and victory. The blessed Holy Spirit is the Person who takes residence within us and guarantees our salvation. With Him leading and we following, Jesus continues to rule from heaven and fulfill the Heavenly Father’s plan to save all who are chosen by Him and brought into heavenly fellowship. So when we talk about the Good Jesus News, that is what we mean. Death no longer reigns, and to die in this world is no longer separation from God. Yes, when a follower of Jesus dies in this world he immediately is in heaven with the Father and Jesus to continue his eternal life. What amount of suffering, whether in body, soul or spirit, is worthy to be compared with the glory of living forever with Jesus? What degree of sickness or poverty or trouble here can keep us from this eternal spiritual destiny if we ONLY HAVE FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST? What condemnation, either from within or without, can separate us from GOD’S LOVE granted us through Jesus? NONE, none, none! Dear saint of God, look up and choose LIFE, choose happiness, choose blessing in Jesus as your LIFEGIVER. We will never be disappointed again.

DAY TWO – Romans 9-12

This is a parenthesis (  ). At the moment it is empty, but let’s take Romans 9-11 and place them inside this parenthesis, for that is what Paul did. As he explained the merciful heart of our Father in heaven, he could not help but release the agony of his own heart over faithless Jews who would not believe and obey the Gospel. So in these three chapters he makes extremely clear that whether one is Jew or Gentile, the way to God is the same–through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the Gospel. He also stresses that God does not receive us on the basis of our human ancestry or religion, but by the work of the Holy Spirit through grace. I strongly recommend that you read these three chapters more than once, and if you can, read them in the New Living Translation of the Bible. Remember, only One Son of God pleased Him and was accepted by Him–that’s Jesus. The rest of us wandered away into our own willful life and were overcome by our own sin nature. Religion could not reconnect us to heaven and God, so Jesus became like us and died on the cross to repair the connection point; His resurrection declares that He is the glorious Son of God! He is our connection, but we must believe in Him and follow Him in this life. Is Israel finished? Absolutely not! God loves Jews and Gentiles alike; even so, many Jews today are believers in Messiah (that mean Christ, or Anointed One); and many Gentiles around the world are believers in Christ (Messiah). But even that is not the end of Israel; for once God’s grace is fully demonstrated among the Gentiles, He will return to save all of Israel as well. How He does that is His business; that He is willing to do it concerns us ALL, for it confirms that He is the God of all mercy and all grace for the whole world.

Given that, Paul goes on to encourage us to humbly accept who we are, what the Lord has done for us, and what the future might hold. Our human condition is changed only by God’s grace, so we are to accept whatever gift or ability He has given us and use it mightily to bless others and grow God’s kingdom on earth. Yes, our gifts differ, but that is precisely what glorifies the Lord; for when we use them to bless everybody, everybody wins! And when our behavior conforms to our faith in Christ Jesus, we turn the world on its head, for then heaven has come to earth!

DAY THREE – Romans 13-16

Earlier we mentioned LIFE PRINCIPLES that may be applied on a wide scale as we encounter life with its many experiences. Apostle Paul brings this one up with emphasis: “Love others as you love yourself.” Take a hard look; it’s one we can’t get over, under or around. It applies to our relationship with the public authorities, neighbors, family and just about everyone else. Nor does it leave much wiggle room to rationalize on the basis of how life is treating us. This is really an over-arching principle that SHAPES and REVEALS our character–the way we treat other people. Partisan causes, injustice, dishonest deals, and other annoyances explode around us in angry outbursts, civil strife and violence that leave people in chaotic imbalance. What’s the big fuss? The world kingdom is rushing onward to oblivion, while we wait patiently for the Lord to finish what He is doing, so that ALL OF HEAVEN’S PROMISES may finally be realized and our faith rewarded. No one said it would be easy; to that even Jesus and the apostles say “Amen.” On our worst day the Holy Spirit living in us is as loving, powerful and faithful as He is every day. When our worst fears, anxieties and emotions are at their highest levels, God is loving and caring for us. But sometimes the only way we are reminded is through a friend or loved one who is doing the heavy lifting alongside us and showing Christ’s love to us. Paul lifted up this truth by naming scores of people as well as communities of believers who helped him, supported him, traveled with him, prayed for him and took over the works he started in so many places. This is Christ’s Community around the world, all of us stepping into the great body of Christ with our love, our involvement, our gifts, and whatever else the Lord has graciously given us. We step into that which is closest to us, only to find ourselves eventually connected to our brothers and sisters around God’s wide world! For this we are willing to go beyond, to suffer even, so long as it brings glory to our wonderful Lord and the Father in heaven. Love much, for it is the springboard of life that returns the largest blessings.

DAY FOUR – Acts 20:4-23:35

This reading is one of those inexplicable vignettes from Apostle Paul’s life detailing a transitional period from location-based ministry to a series of events that would lead to Rome itself. Along the way there were meetings with believers, a few miracles, much explaining and encouraging, and near-death encounters. Paul seemed to be able to have as much excitement in a few days as one of us might in years–and not all of it welcomed! But also along the way it gives us an opportunity to take in his mission, the inner drive to serve His Lord Jesus, his character, and the vitriolic hatred the Lord’s enemies had against Paul. Especially clear when he met with the elders from Ephesus was that he was totally committed to the vision and assignment he had received through the Holy Spirit to faithfully witness Jesus to the Jews and Gentiles he met all over the world to which he traveled. It was also clear that he was willing to labor endlessly with his own resources to keep up his end of the work. Finally, it should be noted that he was willing to face even the persecution that was prophesied over him before he ever arrived in Jerusalem, so long as it would facilitate his witness of the Lord Jesus. And so it went. Through innuendo and assumption, Paul, while doing what was asked of him by the Jerusalem believers, found himself in very hot water and under accusation before the high council. Under threat of death he was removed from Jerusalem to Caesarea to stand trial before his accusers. But before they could carry out their threat, Jesus spoke to Paul in the night with reassuring words that his predicament would bring him before Caesar himself in Rome, where he would be able to present the Good News at the highest level of government.

What do we learn? First, Paul was free to carry out a Jewish ritual or not. It made him no difference, for his faith in Jesus was the platform from which he lived and served. Second, Paul was free from the fear of man and of death, for his life was bound up in the life of Jesus and the Kingdom of heaven. Third, he trusted God to the extent that whatever circumstance or situation he faced, he was committed to the Lord to lead and save him, or to take him home to heaven. That kind of life comes only by the Holy Spirit working in us; let’s affirm that now… again… always!

DAY FIVE – Acts 24-26

Lawyer jokes have been around for a long time; is it possible that Tertullus, the lawyer who came with the Jewish leaders to present their case against Apostle Paul, inspired some of these stories? He certainly wasted no time in twisting the truth into lies of the worst kind. Was Paul a troublemaker, or did the devil stir up his minions whenever Paul preached the truth of the resurrection and glory of Jesus? Was Paul the leader of a sect, a cult? Or did the envy and hatred of the Jews concoct the wild fantasies accompanying their accusations? Was Paul desecrating the temple in Jerusalem, or did their false assumption upon seeing his companion lead to an unjust and biased conclusion? In these three chapters we watched as Paul was interrogated and interviewed time after time by governors, magistrates and even kings. And each time, he simply and consistently told his story as it happened in real time. We already decided that Paul’s life was bound up in his testimony of Jesus and that he was willing to live or die as it pleased the Lord. Aided by the Holy Spirit then, his testimony actually became a repetition of the Gospel each time he was called before the court. The Holy Spirit even convicted those who heard Paul, to the extent that one of them fled to safety and another was almost ready to surrender to Jesus. However, pride of position may deter even the most persuaded seekers to keep them from becoming a follower of Jesus. Nonetheless, it turned out that had not Paul appealed to Caesar, he would have been released after the two years of detention for lack of evidence!

Fear of man and fear of death are two great motivators, leading people to sometimes scramble their testimony in order to preserve themselves. Most of us have not had to face that yet; do we know what we would do or say? I suggest we pray that through with Jesus as our audience; and that we enlist the help of Holy Spirit to settle the issue before it ever becomes reality. We will all leave this world; but will we leave with our conscience clear and our testimony of Jesus intact? I pray so, and I adjure you to remember me when you pray, that I will remain strong and true.

Week 57 – Reading thru the whole Bible.. nearing the finish line!

LIFE PRINCIPLES — get them right and experience our Lord’s kingdom blessings along your way!

DAY ONE – 1 Corinthians 15-16

We read the account of the twelve apostles at the beginning of the New Testament. We read the story of Apostle Paul in Acts 9, and throughout Acts. Now we are reading his letters to the various assemblies of people in many cities where he preached and taught the Good News of Jesus. This Good News invaded the pagan world in as little as thirty years, starting a spiritual revolution that has lasted for over two thousand years! The news was spread first in Jerusalem, then Samaria, then everywhere, exactly as Jesus had instructed. Why would men and women devote their entire lives to travel and live for the Gospel, moving from city to city to meet with, teach, correct and assist the folks who were going about their lives in the usual manner? Because of the importance of the Good News! 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (NIV)  Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

It’s either true or it isn’t. If Jesus died and was raised from the dead, then it is the only salvation available to any and all. If Jesus did not die in the manner presented in the Scriptures, then we may as well get in line for the high windows and end it all, for life without hope is not worth living. And hope built on a lie is not worth sacrificing all my time and energy! All of heaven and history attest to the Word of God in the Bible, demonstrating over and over that Jesus came into our world and gave His life for ours. God in heaven wants to save us; and a piece of heaven lives on in every person who gives his life to the Lord and lives that life for Him. No improvement can be made on an already perfect plan offered to us from heaven. Believe God, believe Jesus, and welcome the Holy Spirit. It is the everlasting adventure that people everywhere are seeking and not finding, until heaven comes into their soul. God’s kingdom, God’s heaven, still has open doors.

DAY TWO – 2 Corinthians 1-4

The songwriter of a  gentler, kindlier generation wrote, “Well, we’ve got trouble / Right here in River City / With a capital ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P’ / And that stands for pool!” The pool hall was considered to be the blight on the youth of that day. Every generation has its share of trouble of different kinds, but the cause of Jesus Christ is at once the most promising and most troubling in every generation. The Good Jesus News is the only hope our perishing world has, but it is also the greatest threat to the perishing world. The Kingdom of Heaven, God’s kingdom, functions entirely by God’s will to save as many as He can and to bring them into His growing, eternal family. The kingdom of this world, on the other hand, functions entirely by the will of man, separate from God’s will, which understandably creates conflict like no other. Before the kingdoms of this world topple completely and become the kingdom of our Lord and His Messiah, a fanatical buildup of force to halt the advance of Jesus’ kingdom will continue to come about. It has been occurring periodically ever since Jesus rose from the dead and ascended back to the heaven from which He came; but it is increasing in scope and intensity as we approach the ‘day of the Lord’ here on earth. That is why we encounter such angry protests from those who want complete freedom FROM all that God is and represents morally and spiritually. The idea that mankind is in charge and will control his own future links him to the very personification of evil, the devil himself. God’s saved people, on the other hand, weep grievous tears over the condition of our failing culture, and strive to live as Jesus lived, in submission to God our Father in heaven. And yes, that brings trouble–the trouble of suffering and conflict. But the Lord comforts us with His hopeful promises that what is yet ahead so outweighs this trouble in the glory He has prepared, that we are able to endure and to even rejoice in these times. With this joyous outlook Apostle Paul wrote,  That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)

DAY THREE – 2 Corinthians 5-9

Certain LIFE PRINCIPLES appear repeatedly in scripture, such as 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NLT)  For we live by believing and not by seeing. By life principles we mean that we can build our values and goals around these principles, which will always stand the test of time and circumstances. God sees to it, for they are created in truth that has endured through the ages. This principle was first exampled in the father of our faith, Abraham: It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. Hebrews 11:8-10 (NLT) Faith means believing without seeing. So many of our actions toward God are based in the reality of His Word and His Character, leading us to believe before we see. The Holy Spirit, our Guide, Comforter and Teacher, leads us in our life experiences before we see the results. So all the instruction, teaching, examples and requests Apostle Paul made to the Corinthian believers were based on this life principle. He asked them to live, give and love out of their faith in God and His ability to keep them in every kind of circumstance, to bless them in their generous giving, and to prove Himself through the outcomes. What a demonstration of the eternal power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change not only individuals but a whole community of people! God bless the Corinthians for responding to the Good News!

In our world in which everything of value has been tossed into the air to see what will still be standing when it comes down, we do well to discover and adopt for ourselves those life principles that our spiritual fathers tested and lived by. It is certainly okay to test our own faith through our relationship with our Lord by proving His promises in real time. Jesus summarized these outcomes when Peter asked Him about those who had left all to follow Him:  “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. Mark 10:29-30 (NLT)

DAY FOUR – 2 Corinthians 10-13

The greatest anointing and authority rests upon those who are most obedient to Christ and demonstrate the character of the Kingdom of Heaven in the spirit of Christ. And so Apostle Paul wrote with deep conviction to his spiritual children, the Corinthians. So desirous was he that they give up completely their old pagan proclivities that he seemed to be wielding his authority over them. But not so, for what sounded like threats was merely the wrenching of his heart over them, born out of tears and grief. Sad that he had to defend his apostleship to them, he listed the terrible suffering he endured for the sake of the Good News and Jesus. Yet out of suffering came a powerful presence into his proclamation, one desperately needed in our western church culture. We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 6 And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NLT) Paul’s letters to this assembly of believers underscore what every generation needs to know: Our world system lies within the parameters of that which is passing away and will be no more. Dare we build our future on such false hope? When did heaven begin to lose its reality in our heart? Was it when we began to lose ‘heaven on earth,’ the full expression of Jesus’ life among us? Do we recognize how much we need spiritual renewal and awakening in the Body of Christ on earth? All of the apostles labored under the conviction that Jesus would return soon. Every generation of Spirit-filled believers has experienced this same conviction; will we be the generation that loses this powerful, blessed hope?

We do well in the 21st century to renew our hope, our consecration, our determination to please our Lord Jesus Christ in our gatherings as well as in our personal life. One way we do this is to reevaluate the radical Holy Spirit movements our spiritual fathers experienced and the suffering they endured to live in the power and passion of the Spirit. Then Paul’s benediction will seem more real in our gatherings as well: May the (amazing) grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the (incredible) love of God, and the (unbroken) fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NLT)

DAY FIVE – Romans 1-4, Acts 20:1-3

This letter emanating from the heart of Apostle Paul is often cited as the ‘magnum opus’ of all his writings. It is certainly the defining message of his having been sent to preach the Good Jesus News in the pagan, Gentile world. No stronger motivation is discernible than his own words: For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” Romans 1:16-17 (NLT)  The only religion God ever gave to the world was the Jewish religion, founded on the faith of Abraham, the father of the Jewish race of people. Paul goes to great length to describe this entire process, demonstrating clearly that Abraham’s acceptance by God was because of his faith and trust in the Lord. In fact, the Jewish Law given by Moses hundreds of years later, which became a symbol of Jewish acceptance by God, condemned those who didn’t have the faith of Abraham, for believing and trusting is the means by which anyone is approved by the Lord. Anyone who  thinks that religious practices and protocols can save us and secure God’s approval must realize that whether we are under the Law or living solely by our conscience, breaking God’s law brings condemnation and death. But our loving God, having approved His Son Jesus Christ, and having raised Him from the dead, has made the Good News our means of being saved and given eternal life. Was, then, the Jewish Law of Moses valid or even necessary? By all means, for it was the Law that revealed the depth of our sin and our need for salvation through Jesus. Is it any wonder that, in our age of reason and technology, the Ten Commandments have been so vehemently opposed and efforts made to completely remove them from public visibility?

In our post-modern, technology-laden world, our Good Jesus News must sound totally alien to those who are reared on the university-contrived, humanistic and man-centered philosophies of life. Paul referred to the Good News as the ‘power of God’ at work. God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, awakens people to sin, condemnation and judgment. God’s Spirit reveals the greater Kingdom of Heaven and the realities of the world to come. Dare we try to influence or convince people to have faith in Jesus unless we ourselves are living a believing, consecrated life? By faith in Christ we are living out the righteousness of God in our world, and the Ten Commandments confirm God’s righteousness and justice.

Week 56 – Will faith or fear be our operating system?

What we call relational dysfunction is really an absence of trusting and committed love.

DAY ONE – Acts 18:19-19:41

The apostolic impulse carries a ‘door-opening’ anointing. (By ‘anointing’ we simply mean a special grace working through the Spirit of God in someone’s life so that he is able to do special things.) When Jesus appointed apostles, He sent them out to various places that He planned to visit. Now that Jesus is in Heaven, the Holy Spirit still employs this effective strategy. People with a special anointing from the Lord still want to take on new places to preach the Good News–they are ‘door openers.’ They have the grit and determination from the Spirit of God to take on difficult–sometimes impossible–odds and to solve knotty problems as they preach the Good Jesus News. For them the answer is always “Yes, we can do this.” If it requires miracles and other supernatural manifestations, they are equipped as Paul was. In the face of opposition they simply lean forward and keep going until there are believers and followers of Jesus established in the faith. When God’s Word is established in an area and an assembly of believers is carrying on the mission, door-opening people often leave the work in others’ hands and move to another new field of endeavor. Always there is that supernatural cutting edge to their work. In Paul’s case handkerchiefs that had merely touched his body became the means of healing and deliverance from demons to many people.

If we wish to see another great spiritual awakening and outbreak in our western culture, we must by all means pray for and welcome a ‘door-opening’ move of God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, that defies opposition, bypasses obstacles, and is accompanied by supernatural phenomena. Our modern assemblies are so maintenance and ‘full-service’ oriented that the power to break the spell of cultural distractions simply isn’t there. The Holy Spirit is powerful, the Word of God is powerful, but we also need powerful and anointed people to stand up to the milieu and preach Jesus even in the face of persecution. Yes, grace, peace and love should be the context of our message, but supernatural outbursts are also needed to demonstrate that the Kingdom of Heaven is destroying the works of the devil and defeating the world kingdom and its false powers. God give us another generation of Spirit-empowered young men and women in full apostolic mode. Are the people of God ready to take on this prayer and preparation assignment?

DAY TWO – 1 Corinthians 1-4

It’s easy to confuse philosophy with knowledge. ‘Philosophy’ is a Greek compound word (philos-sophia) that means ‘love of wisdom.’ In our world of education and ideas, a great deal of what we call ‘truth’ is nothing more than philosophy, or another theory. What we know or think we know is often elevated above how we live, and Apostle Paul took great care to correct the thinking of the Corinthians, who were raised on Greek philosophies. In fact, when Paul was in Athens, the great cultural center of the world at that time, he observed that the Greeks had so many ideas about God, they actually knew practically nothing about Him! Yet many Greeks believed the Good News of Jesus and followed, and it is to them this letter is written to ask them to put away their quarreling and wrangling with each other in order to really focus on Jesus who saved them and was working with them. God’s power is more important than the person who preaches, and His Word is more important than the one delivering it. In the end, God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is the One who knows and interprets all things spiritual to us. Don’t get hung up on who said what. God the Holy Spirit gives us all we need, but it is so that we can carry and live out the Good News to our world.

Jesus is central to the Gospel of God. He is the power of God. His victory over temptation, sin and death brought eternal life to us, and it is through Him that we receive everything so that we can overcome everything. Drop the tendency to elevate important people by trying to identify with them. They are only Christ’s servants. Thank God for each one who has blessed you, taught you, mentored you, loved you. But don’t go beyond that, or you will steal their blessing, for the greatest blessing is when we are judged by Christ when He comes and are found faithful to the task we were given. Live your life to the glory of God–humbly, sincerely and in the grace of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus comes again to judge the world, may we be found worthy of His grace and love by loving the assembly of believers around us and in serving as we are called. This is sainthood!

DAY THREE – 1 Corinthians 5-8

It’s difficult to put into human terms the revolutionary power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. The corporate life of the new community of believers in Jerusalem was so different, that the Jews looking on described them as the people of The Way (See Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-36). It changed their social structures and attitudes tremendously, energized by the life of their Savior Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. In our scriptures today Apostle Paul confronted the pagan practices of the new Corinthian believers, practices which, if left unchecked, could compromise the entire community. These were holdovers in attitudes and behaviors from their pagan society, given completely to religious superstition and idolatry of many kinds. Sexual immorality of the worst kind had manifested, and the person was to be removed from the spiritual household until he repented. Settling disputes in front of unbelievers unqualified to judge within the believing community was questioned deeply. The sanctity and longevity of marriage was put forth in such manner that a believer would think twice before seeking dissolution or divorce. And finally, the conscience of other believers became a community priority regarding their old religious practices, such as eating meat offered to idols. Note that the COMMUNITY of believers was held in high esteem, for it represented Jesus’ Presence on earth through His eternal Kingdom. What the rest of the world saw when they observed the believing community was important. A real distinction of life and practice was observable, and Paul wanted to keep it that way. A single passage shows how dramatically a person is changed when he follows Jesus:  Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NLT) The power of paganism is shattered when Jesus invades us by His Holy Spirit. May all its ungodliness and destructiveness be cleansed from the Community of Believers, the Lord’s assembly.

DAY FOUR – 1 Corinthians 9-11

A world upside down and a world right side up–these are the extremes between this world kingdom and the heavenly kingdom. What seems natural here may indeed be unnatural. And what seems puzzling here may indeed be the supernatural natural of the kingdom of heaven! We often fail to see how paganism dictates the core values and teachings of popular culture, obscuring what is heavenly, good and right. When Jesus came into the world, He came from heaven and brought realities of heaven with Him–peace, love, healing, life, truth and other astonishing realities that caught His world off guard. It took several years of life and ministry for Him to show convincingly that the world system’s paganism is heaven’s opposite. And it took that long for His followers to accept and understand that God’s ways in our world result in what we all long for. While we understand that the whole world system must eventually give way to heaven’s authority and priority, we at this time live and die IN FAITH that our Savior’s world is our world also; that His resurrection life is our life; and that His home is our home. Once our faith crosses that line, all that is heavenly becomes our NEW NORMAL! Paganism is soundly defeated, and Christ Jesus leads His followers from faith to faith in victory.

How agonizing it must have been for Apostle Paul to methodically and painstakingly instruct the Corinthian (formerly pagan) believers to grasp the new realities of heaven working among them! Because we live and move and sense and feel and work and play in the old pagan environment of this world, it is very challenging to adjust to a new normal that invades our life with the coming of Holy Spirit. He leads us IN CHRIST to new realities that are normal in heaven. Our old pagan ways claw at our old unregenerate nature (before Jesus) to lead us back into the old normal that otherwise seems perfectly normal. Yet it can NEVER BE NORMAL again as long as the Holy Spirit has His way with us. We will always be warned and led from within to trust the Lord and His ways. How important is it to feed continually on God’s Words and welcome Holy Spirit to instruct us and lead us in our daily living? How important is it to pray with and for one another continually to provide spiritual influence and support? And how important is it for us to see our old world for what it is and soundly reject it in favor of new heavens and new earth, which even now our Father in heaven is planning for our future? Let’s get it right this time!

DAY FIVE – 1 Corinthians 12-14

The governing law of Jesus is LOVE, so the governing law of His people gathered together is love. Not so in paganism. The governing law of paganism is FEAR, for people fear the god they supposedly worship but don’t know and understand. Since fear motivates us to self-preservation, it influences every relationship we have, even when human love is present. What we call relational dysfunction is really an absence of trusting and committed love, and a person always feels vulnerable when he doesn’t feel loved. No wonder Apostle Paul devoted an entire section to governing love, which becomes the basic function of our life together as a gathering of God’s people. Coming freshly out of paganism, the Corinthian believers struggled to honor and prefer each other when they were together, because each needed what he could not attain through his pagan culture. So even though God had blessed them with spiritual gifts given to help and support one another, they were often displayed for self-aggrandizement, so that it left everyone confused and unsatisfied. The only remedy for this malfunction of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was God’s full expression of committed love reaching through His people in relationship.

Perhaps our modern issue when we gather is not the misuse of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but their lack of use. We are trained and accustomed to listen to someone pray or give a sermon rather than to interact and lovingly use the gifts of the Spirit to love, heal and strengthen each other. Under the current rules of ‘engagement,’ so to speak, we are often passive in our relationships, so that people may come and go from our gatherings without ever addressing their needs and receiving proper care. God has certainly provided for our wholeness, but perhaps we are withholding it from one another without even realizing it. What to do? First, receive a baptism of God’s love so that you overflow with His Presence. Second, when gathering, ask the Holy Spirit who needs your love and care at this particular moment. Then work with the leaders to see that prayers, proper care and large loving doses of healing are given away to people. That will supercharge our gatherings and renew our faith.

Week 55 – The Bible reveals that Jesus will take over all the kingdoms of the world!

We must never be surprised when we suffer opposition or distress at the hands of God’s enemies; Jesus has prevailed and will sit as King of kings and Lord of lords.

DAY ONE  – Galatians 1-3

Jesus was born of Jewish parents; that made Him a Jew. But He was conceived by the Holy Spirit; that made Him the Son of God as well. Then when He went public, He chose twelve disciples to do life with Him for three years. While that was going on, another young Jew was being educated, indoctrinated and groomed for a life among the Pharisees who hated Jesus and wanted to kill Him. That young man was Saul of Tarsus, later to become Paul the Apostle to the nations of the world outside of Jerusalem. While the twelve were eyewitnesses of all the works and teachings of Jesus, Saul was growing in boldness as he planned to stop them. And when the twelve were with Jesus after His resurrection, Saul was already finding ways to persecute the Jesus followers and eradicate them. With his own words, he recounts how he became ‘one sent’ from God–an apostle. Nothing short of a divine encounter and divine revelations could so thoroughly transform the hater of Jesus followers into the man who preached the Good Jesus News all over the world and wrote two thirds of our New Testament in the Bible. In our reading today he wrote to the assembly in Galatia to by all means turn away from those who would bring them back under the condemnation of the Jewish law after they had been transformed into new life through the Holy Spirit. Using powerful rhetoric and his own historic testimony, Paul did everything to persuade them to reject religious tradition in favor of faith in God’s promises of salvation through His Son Jesus.

There are so many self-improvement and self-fulfilling movements in our culture today, that the false gospel of physical and mental achievements is threatening to take Jesus’ place in our daily life. Body and mind are being elevated over development of character and the human spirit. A better human life is being sold as a cheap substitute for eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Don’t go for it; while trying to be your best you, remember that you are an eternal spirit, and being a Jesus follower is the way to become the best you of all. Remain culturally free so that you can be led by the Holy Spirit who leads us more into Christ Jesus every day.

DAY TWO – Galatians 4-6, Acts 15-16

Preaching the Good News freely will always spark confrontation, for the essence of the Good News is that we must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of all, in order to be saved. Then we must choose to follow Him and be baptized in His name. This is Kingdom of Heaven versus kingdom of man, in mortal combat. It was initiated in the Garden of Eden when the first man Adam chose his own will over God’s will and lost his God-connection. Unfortunately it brought human death and was passed on to the human race. Religion–human style–is always a person’s attempt to reconnect with God without the blood of Jesus and His resurrection life; in other words, we are trying to save ourselves. The new Gentile believers in our Book of Acts story were pestered by those insisting they had to be circumcised and follow Moses’ laws and traditions to be saved. Faith in Jesus had to be attended by Jewish religious practices in order to complete one’s salvation. NOT! True religion is the expression of our faith and obedience to Jesus, after He has forgiven our sins and given us His righteousness. Our own righteousness may give glory to God, but it will never save us! That struggle has been reenacted in every generation for the last two thousand years!

The Jerusalem assembly, birthplace of Christianity, held a sacred convocation to put this matter to rest, Paul and his friends attending to share their experiences in the Gentile world of nations. First Peter, then James, spoke clearly and pointedly, to demonstrate that Judaism was given to the Jews, but grace from God is given to all peoples everywhere, in the name of Jesus. It was determined, then, that Jewish people were free to retain their cultural ways, but they must not impose them on anyone else; that Gentle believers who serve God through faith in Jesus should at least avoid sexual immorality and follow clean preparation of foods that avoid idolatry and blood consumption. When the Gentiles heard the message sent them from the elders, everybody rejoiced. Unfortunately the controversy continues, for religious traditions tend to become embodied in our faith. We must place our faith in Jesus and His power to save us at the top of our spiritual priorities. Aside from reading and practicing righteousness from God’s Word, our own traditions must never be substituted for the real Good News. The Holy Spirit is our Helper and Guide in all these matters.

DAY THREE – Acts 17:1-18:18

Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth–Paul was faithful to Jesus Christ in every place and city he was led by the Holy Spirit. It followed a pattern–find the Jewish synagogue, explain who Jesus was, and reason with them through the Holy Scriptures which offer a great deal of evidence as proof of the Lord’s life, death and resurrection. Two things usually happened–people believed in Jesus and became followers; and the unbelieving Jews stirred up opposition; and more than once created riots to drive Paul and his companions out of their city. However, assemblies of believers were left behind in Thessalonica and Corinth, where they remained a year and a half. During all of this the apostle reached a major turning point in his life. Wearied with the constant opposition and threats from the Jews, having been beaten and stoned by them more than once, he finally had had enough. “Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, ‘Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.'” Acts 18:6 (NLT) And preach to the Gentiles he did, reaching most of the then western world.

It’s interesting to note that Paul’s visit to Athens found him alone and unaccompanied for a while. Walking the city streets, he was impressed by the proliferation of statues and idol symbols throughout the city. One shrine was even designated to an “unknown god.” Somehow Paul wound up in front of the council and preached a wonderful message concerning this “unknown god,” explaining that it was really Creator God, and Jesus His Son was the resurrected Savior God. How strange these things sounded to the Athenians, who spent most of their time trading stories and spinning new philosophies. But three things happened: 1) Some laughed out loud and scoffed; 2) Some pondered, wanting to hear more; 3) and some believed and became followers of Jesus. Our job is to share Jesus; the Holy Spirit’s job is to find the chosen and grant them a believing heart, resulting in eternal salvation. Pick it up, saints; there has never been a better time to be Jesus’ faithful witness in our world!

DAY FOUR – 1 Thessalonians 1-5

Personal letters from apostles to Jesus’ followers make up a good portion of the New Testament. Writing about faith in Jesus, about the function of Truth and how to live it out in our daily lives, these men, as they were moved and borne along by the Holy Spirit, revealed the Lord Jesus Christ, heaven, times and seasons; and brought great instruction that helps us all to live the right kind of life. Having suffered greatly for the Gospel in Philippi, Paul and Silas nevertheless moved on to Thessalonica and preached the Good News with power from Holy Spirit. Recounting his time among them, Paul writes as a father might write his children, reminding them of the wonderful times they had together and encouraging them to keep their faith and service strong. Going a step further, the apostle dispels arguments about what happens to us when Jesus returns. Faithful friends and family who have died anywhere in the world at any time, suddenly rise from their graves and materialize again, while we believers who are alive rise suddenly to meet them in the air… we will all forever be with the Lord! This is a cataclysm, attended with a mighty shout, sounds of trumpets, and voices of archangels. Heaven now visits us with God’s peace, favor and assistance. But then gravity will lose its hold, and we will rise triumphantly into the life for which we have all believed, toiled and struggled to maintain. God is faithful to do what we cannot; through Jesus He conquered hell and the grave, and through Jesus He will gather His great family together. In the meantime, we are a family of believers and followers, and we must attend to each other diligently while shining as lights in our dark world. The world we know now is NOT the world of the future. THAT world is prepared by our Father in heaven to liberate us into light, life and love such as we have never known. The world we occupy now by our life of faith has already begun to decay and will pass into eternity without ever delivering what it promised! Keep your hope in the future that Jesus secured and calls our inheritance. May God preserve you entirely and completely in every way through His divine Spirit.

DAY FIVE – 2 Thessalonians 1-3

Paul wrote a second letter to the Thessalonian assembly, picking up again the theme of suffering, retribution and the day of the Lord. There is a modern theme in Christianity that if our life pleases God and we live in faith, we will be blessed, have good health and prosper financially as well. That may be true for some; but for others there may be intense persecution, deep suffering and sometimes poverty. Neither can be a gauge of God’s blessings, which are given freely to all in the form of salvation, comfort, eternal life and daily blessings in His Presence. That the Lord mercifully strengthens and keeps us in His grace is indisputable. That He is coming again to deliver us from this present world into the glorious eternal life with Him is an unchangeable promise. We can take comfort from our brothers and sisters around the world that the believer/follower’s life with Jesus is wonderful, even when persecution and suffering are a part. But we must not allow ourselves to become weary or get worried that the Lord has already come or that the so-called “day of the Lord” has already begun. Yes, the conflicts between the kingdoms continue to clash around us, but very specific events will be set in motion when we near the end of that which we now experience. At that time a person who embodies all the evil rebellion and wickedness against God will surface as a world leader, resisting God and the Holy Spirit by advancing and elevating himself. Things will be very difficult for all peoples who hold faith in Jesus. But then Jesus will come with His mighty angels and kill that wicked person while establishing His own rule over this world. As 21st century followers of Christ, we see signs that this rebellion will soon reach its peak in world cultures and governments, so that there is no  human remedy left to us. But until then we are encouraged to live our life of faith, work hard to support ourselves and others, and always be ready to pray for and encourage one another. It’s time, dear brothers and sisters, to live unselfishly, serve wherever we can, and maintain a spirit of prayer and intercession for our families, friends and God’s people everywhere. We must turn loose of those things that can never save us, learning to be content with all that God gives us for each day’s blessings. Grace and peace from our Lord, Jesus.