Revelation in an Hour

Over the years, I’ve taught the book of Revelation many times. It’s a long study, and rightly so, but I saw the need for an overview to give the student a basic understanding of the book, so I developed a seminar on Revelation that lasts about an hour. I was asked to repeat this seminar again recently, so I thought I would go ahead and video this study and post it on my Facebook page as well as here. Accompanying this study are some notes and a chart that can be found here:

HTTP://pastorjimmiller.com/pdf/Revelaton Seminar.pdf

HTTP://pastorjimmiller.com/pdf/THE GREAT TRIBULATION.pdf

COVID-19

Ani Kolleshi photo.

Let’s talk about COVID-19 or the Wuhan flu. What should the Christian response be?  Certainly, it should not be fear or panic nor should we be suspicious or view this with disdain.  I have to admit that I tend to view this as if we are burning the ship to save the passengers.  However, I’m wondering if this crisis isn’t more about God’s divine hand in using something bad to slow people down a bit and make us focus on what is really important.  What is important is knowing God and loving people, and the present distress gives us an opportunity to do both. 

We are in slowdown mode!  No school, no church service.  Staying home more.  What a great opportunity for families to just be families again and spend time together.  What a great time for dads to step up and lead their families spiritually.  What a great time to memorize some Scripture together.  What a great time go for a walk as a family.  The outdoors are not off limits, get out and enjoy God’s creation.  What an opportunity to read some good books and more importantly The Good Book! What a great opportunity to take some real time in prayer.  So dear Christian, don’t brood over what you can’t do, rather rejoice in what you can!

The second aspect of this is how we can respond to our neighbors. 

Franklin Graham posted this on social media a couple of days ago.  I think it is an excellent point of view: Many years ago, the great writer and theologian A.W. Tozer made this profound statement, “A scared world needs a fearless church.” That is so true. During this time with the coronavirus, fear is gripping the hearts of people around the world. There is a mountain of anxiety and alarm, and it is still building. It is as real as the virus itself—but it is treatable. There are people in need that we can reach out to help. Like a fireman runs to the fire, the church needs to respond to crises around us. We who are the church need to stand up and be the hands and feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. During these days of less group activity and gatherings, we could all take time to call and check on the elderly or others who are alone. Maybe you could offer to drop off some food or necessities they might need. Talking with someone on the phone, listening to what they are going through, and most importantly, praying with them, could change not only their day, but their entire outlook. We need to share the “reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Jesus Christ is our hope, our anchor, our comfort, and our peace. Let’s share His love with as many people as we can, making every day count. Christians, God can use you. The virus isn’t the only thing that’s contagious. What if we had an outbreak of people helping people and a sweeping eruption of prayer?

We can be the hands and feet of Jesus here and now.  We just need to see the opportunities.

I was encouraged by this passage this morning: 1 Peter 1:3-9, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

Our Generation Theology

The other day, I was reading a missions blog that bothered me.  Here is the phrase that stuck in my craw!  “Have you noticed that people in our generation want to make a difference in this world?” What the author seems to be inferring here is that previous generations did not have the same passion.  I wouldn’t have picked up on this except I keep hearing this phrase “our generation” in the context of missions.  As I mull this over, it seems to me there is this “belief” that the present generation is somehow unique to past generations and seems to have formed this view as part of their theology.  So I call this “our generation theology.” It seems to dismiss all the efforts and accomplishments of past generations. 

I Object! 

To be honest, this type of messaging makes me a bit angry.  When we truly understand the church and the mission of the church, we understand that each generation builds on the next.  One generation passes the torch to the next; and without a previous generation there is no torch to pass on.  We don’t stand alone as “twenty somethings” or “sixty somethings.” The foundation is Christ and our roots run deep to the book of Acts where the torch of missions was first lit.  It seems to me that when we belittle those who have gone before we do so at our own peril.  I appreciate the passion of those called to missions and to evangelism.  I appreciate the enthusiasm of youth; however, I object to the idea that they are the only ones who have such a passion.  What they seem to be forgetting or overlooking is that without those who have gone before they would have no roads to follow.  I think they need a history lesson in modern missions.

Let’s begin with the father of modern missions: William Carey (1761-1834)

William Carey was called by God to take the gospel to India.  He arrived in 1792.

At the time of his passing, he had spent 41 years in India, not returning to his homeland.  He had some seven hundred converts. He also created several Bible translations into Indian dialects as well. If anyone felt like the previous generation had neglected the gospel imperative, it was William Carey.  He was pretty much told to sit down and shut up about evangelism because if God wanted to reach the pagans of India God could well do it. God did reach them through William Carey!  He set the pattern for modern missions.  He passed the torch to D.L. Moody in America and Hudson Taylor in England, who went to China. 

D.L. Moody (1837-1899) was an American evangelist who reached thousands with the Gospel here in our own country.  He also was instrumental in founding a Bible College in Chicago, Moody Bible Institute, which has in turn produced thousands of pastors and missionaries over the decades, who in turn have shared the Gospel with countless numbers of people over the years. 

Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) went to China and changed missions by blending into the Chinese culture rather than being aloof from it.  He founded the China Inland Mission as well as many schools. Some twenty thousand professed faith in Christ under his ministry.  He spent fifty one years there! 

These men, and many others like them, had a passion for the lost and passed the torch to the next generation.  Women like Amy Carmichael. 

Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) who served in India for fifty-five years without furlough. She is well known for the books she authored about missions.  She gave her life to missions.  She passed the torch to the next generations, to men like William Townsend.

William Townsend (1896-1982) founded Wycliffe Bible Translators.  How many thousands have come to Christ because the Bible was translated into their own language?  The passion for the lost didn’t end there.  The torch was passed on to men like Jim Elliot and Billy Graham.

Jim Elliot (1927-1956) lost his life while trying to take the Gospel to the native peoples of Ecuador.  He wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” His widow, Elizabeth, carried on the passion and became a prolific author of Christian books.

Billy Graham (1918-2018) was the last of the great traveling evangelists.  Who could deny  Bill Graham’s passion for reaching the lost! 

People like Jim Elliot and Billy Graham were heroes to my generation growing up.  They passed the torch on to people like Martin and Gracie Burnham. 

Martin Burnham (1959-2002).  From Gracia’s web page: “For 17 years, Gracia and Martin served with New Tribes Mission in the Philippines where Martin was a jungle pilot delivering mail, supplies, and encouragement to other missionaries, and transporting sick and injured patients to medical facilities. Gracia served in various roles supporting the aviation program and also home-schooling their children– all of whom were born in the Philippines.

On May 27, 2001, while celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at Dos Palmas Resort off Palawan Island, the Burnhams were taken captive by a militant group of Muslims called the Abu Sayyaf Group. In addition to the Burnhams, the group seized several more guests and took them to Basilan Island, an ASG stronghold.”

In the ensuing months, some of the hostages were killed, but most were set free. From November 2001, only the Burnhams and one other hostage remained in captivity.

For more than a year, and under the total control of their captors, they were constantly on the move living in primitive conditions in the jungle, evading capture from the Philippine military, enduring gun battles, and witnessing unspeakable atrocities committed by the men of Abu Sayyaf Group.

Soon after the events of September 11, the news media took a greater interest in Gracia and Martin’s plight and kept their story in the national headlines.

On the afternoon of June 7, 2002, over a year since their abduction, the Philippine military attempted another rescue. Tragically, Martin was killed during the gunfight. Wounded, but alive, Gracia was rescued and returned home under a national spotlight.

Since that time, Gracia has authored two books, In The Presence Of My Enemies, and To Fly Again.

To not know the history of missions is a tragedy.  Possibly the problem lies with American churches that have not given missions the proper focus it deserves and so a whole new generations has grown up not knowing the place of missions in generations past.  Shortly after I was called to Faith Community Church, I came up with a plan to hang all our missionaries’ pictures in the back of the worship center in prominent view for all to see.  I especially wanted the children and young adults to see these people called of God to reach the lost.  They need to know the history of missions generally and locally. 

The passion and the enthusiasm is alive and well.  The torch continues to be passed on.  Let us not be arrogant about what we are doing, but rather rejoice in what God has done and will do.  Let’s do this together for the glory of God!

The Dresser Family

Hidden in these drawers was a family we had never met!

An interesting thing happened on the way to refinish a dresser, we discovered a family we didn’t know. Let me explain.  We have a used dresser that we purchased after we moved to Lynden, and Kathy wanted to refinish it.  As she took it apart, in one of the drawers under the liner was a potpourri of memories from the family that last owned it.  There was a silhouette profile of a little girl named Ann made in 1966 at Disneyland.  She was eleven. There was the “King’s Herald” magazine from King’s Garden in Seattle dated July 1961.  There were three cards, one get well, one Mother’s Day and one thank you.  There was a poem about Thanksgiving written by Kelli in 1974.  There were six personal letters, eight photos, and one receipt for a used gramophone dated 1972.  There were five newspaper clippings and two Western Union telegrams congratulating David and Norma on their wedding day dated February 5th, 1942. 

Quite a collection! 

Our first hint as to who owned the dresser was that written on the back of it was “Sept. 1960, Norma.” Now we had the wedding telegrams for her and Dave from 1942 so obviously this was their family dresser and memories.  The letters revealed Norma’s maiden name to be and that she and Dave once lived in Bellevue.  We also surmised that they had three children, Louis, Steven and Ann.  We learned that they were members of the Swedish Tabernacle Church.  I’m assuming that the “King’s Herald” was a publication connected with their denomination.

Of the letters, three were from the children to Dave and Norma.  Louis wrote in February of 1964 from College.  Evidently his parents were unhappy with him about something and he explained why he hadn’t been home in a while because he felt disconnected from the family.  I wonder what he meant.  I did some research and found his obituary.  He passed away in 2011 “into the arms of his higher power.”  I am assuming that he was connected with A.A. because of the use of the term “higher power” and by the fact that after his retirement he worked in the chemical dependency field.  According the obituary he was sober for the last twenty eight years of his life! Steve wrote home in September of 1967 from Hong Kong where he was serving with the military.  We learned from Louis’ obituary that Steve had passed away earlier, but we don’t know how or why.  Then we have a letter from their daughter Ann writing from Alexandria Louisiana dated June 1976. Evidently she and her husband are on vacation. 

So laying before us was the remnant memories of a family.  I found Norma’s obituary on line.  A few words to summarize a life: Norma Age 89 of Mercer Is. passed into the arms of the Lord at Covenant Shores on Oct. 2, 2010. Norma was born Aug 4, 1921 in Selah WA. Retired from the Bellevue School Dist. Food Service, she was a longtime member of Highland Covenant Church. She was famous for her Swedish rye & cardamon bread. Norma was preceded in death by husband Dave and son Steve. We would like to thank the staff at Covenant Shores for their care and support.

I was able to find Ann’s Facebook account and sent her a message that we had all of these bits of memories from her mom and wondered if she wanted them back.  We have had no response so far, but it may be that she actually doesn’t go on Facebook. 

So I wonder about this family. Are they still connected?  It bothered me that in Louis’s obituary nothing was said about his mom or dad, brother or sister, only his immediate family. I wonder why?  I wonder do they still have faith? Do David and Norma’s grandchildren and children have faith in Jesus?  I wonder! 

This was just a reminder to me of how important it is that we pass our faith along to the next generation.  Proverbs 22:6, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. The key here is what does it mean to “train up?” That same word in the Hebrew is often translated “dedicate.”  When we dedicate something we give it over, we give up ownership.  It seems to me that the thought here is more than just following rules and dictating lifestyle, it seems to be giving over our children to God and modeling true faith before them.  Deuteronomy 4:9 helps us here.  “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.”

When we get to Deuteronomy 6:6-7 we have similar exhortation. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

We need to live out our faith before our children and grandchildren!  It only takes one generation for faith to be lost, and we are seeing it happen before our eyes.  Did it happen to the family whose memories we stumbled on?  I hope not, but the discovery and the process of trying to find them reminded me of how precious faith and family are. 

Homeless!

Photo by Ev.

Sometimes, my devotions send me in the wrong direction.  If you read the Daily Bread devotional booklet, you might remember the one entitled “Jesus in Disguise” by James Banks.  (August 13, 2019). Mr. Banks told the story of his son participating in a “homeless simulation.”  He basically camped out on the city streets for a couple to days to help identify with homeless people. That sounds very noble, but I wasn’t so convinced and so my mind wandered.  The point of the devotional was to be like Jesus and care for people.  That I agree with, but the real issue we have is why are people homeless and does camping out with them really help you identify the problem? 

So I go to the word to see what does the Bible have to say about this subject?  Here are a couple of Biblical references to see God’s mind on this issue.

Deuteronomy 15:7, If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother.

Psalm 41:1, Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.

And there are many others text we could reference here.  God expects His people to be compassionate.  He expects us to help those who due to circumstances beyond their control need a hand up.  God also says…

2 Thessalonians 3:10, For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.

Proverbs 6:6, Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise.

God expects those who can take care of themselves to do so and to have the wisdom to plan for the future.

God isn’t sending us mixed messages here.  He expects people to work hard and not depend on others for their existence.  He also expects us to help those who are helpless.  We see both sides expressed to us in the book of Galatians. 

Galatians 6:2, Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:4-5, But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.

It seems to me that the issue within modern Christianity is that we are not addressing the right problem. In Jesus day, people were poor or even homeless because of circumstances beyond their control.  A widow in the ancient cultures may well lose all. An orphan had no one to care for him and thus become a beggar.  Drought and famine could take the prosperous farmer to a state of homelessness, as could injury or disease. It seems to me that we need to realize that the poor and the homeless of Jesus’ day wasn’t exactly the same as in our modern culture.  Our problem is drugs and alcohol from which homelessness is a result. The vast majority of the homeless in our culture are homeless because of drugs. Yes, there are some who become homeless because of adverse circumstances not of their own doing, but that is a very, very small number.  If you watched the documentary “Seattle is Dying,” you can’t miss the point.  Drugs are the problem.  It seems to me as long as we continue to identify homelessness as the problem we are missing the real problem and so come up with the wrong solution.  You will not solve the homeless problem in America until you first deal with the drug issue; and you won’t solve the drug problem until you deal with the heart problem. 

So when someone “pretends” to be homeless in order to better identify with the homeless, I tend to be skeptical.  Until you know the power of the drugs, the overwhelming urge to stay high, and the bodies longing for the next fix, you aren’t really identifying with the homeless.  You may realize some of their hardship, but you really can’t identify.  If I was homeless and someone was out there pretending to be homeless, I’d resent it.  I’d feel like it was demeaning, besides the fact that it’s basically a lie!  I don’t want to question this young man’s heart or his motives.  I’m sure they were pure, but I feel they were misplaced. 

So what can we do?  Well, we can follow the Biblical mandate.  Take care of our own lives first so we can care for others.  Don’t covet and don’t horde.  Take care of your family, don’t expect the government or the church to do so.  Take care of those in the body that may need help if you can.  Take care of your neighbor. Help the helpless.  Realize that if we are talking drugs, alcohol or mental illness you can’t fix this.  Throwing money, food, clothing or even housing at the problem won’t fix this.  In fact, it may make it worse.  In these cases we have to deal with the core heart issues or mental issues that are beyond physical Band-Aids. 

Why the Violence?

Christopher Lemercier photo.

A few days ago, America was rocked by yet another mass shooting.  Everyone is asking why, what has happened to America?  In my opinion, we are missing the obvious answer. God’s Word is clear why this happens.  Romans Chapter One gives us a clear picture.

Because of the nature of man, vs.18

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Ungodliness’ is living like there is no God.  It’s simply doing our own thing and telling God to take a hike.  It’s loving our sin more than reverencing God.  God hates sin!  God judges sin.  We sin because it’s our nature, but it’s also our choice. In Genesis Chapter Four, we see that Cain chose to murder his brother because his brother displeased him. He lived and acted like there was no God. He chose to murder his brother.  When we yield to the fallen nature, the result often is violence.  We see it in the smallest child to the grown man who abuses his wife.  We are sinful by nature and by choice.  When we accommodate that nature, violence often happens. 

Violence can also happen in cultures that suppress the truth. Genesis 6:11-12, The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

Back in Romans 1:18, the end of this verse is very interesting.  “Suppress” here is the word “ka-tekh-o” meaning to “hold down.”  Isn’t that exactly what we do as a nation?  We ignore God’s word, we reject it, we oppose it!  There are consequences for doing so. When an entire culture chooses to live like there is no God, the culture will suffer, which leads us to our next point. 

Because of deterioration in the culture, vs.19-25

Vs. 19-20, Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

God says, all of mankind is without excuse.  No one can say “I had no idea God existed.” Here is why that is true.

(1) Within every person is a God awareness, the “moral code” written on our hearts.

(2) The creation proves the existence of God, so there is no excuse for not acknowledging God as the supreme authority.  The design of the creation proves beyond a doubt there is a creator who must by definition be God.  The God of creation has reached out to us through His Word, His Spirit and by His Son. 

The text tells us “They knew God.” Everyone who got off the ancient ark, knew God, their descendants knew God.  But along the way, the truth of God was rejected for a lie.  What people tend to do is “change the glory of God” by corrupting the truth of God,  putting the focus on the creation rather than acknowledging the creator.  The theory of evolution is the highest form of this.  It is a belief system! Evolution is the worship of the creation rather then the Creator.  It is the religion of atheism.  This is where the problem in America lies.  We can trace all the ills of our culture back to embracing the origin of our beginning to evolution! 

Romans 3:10-18 quotes various texts in Psalms and Isaiah.

As it is written:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;

There is none who understands;

There is none who seeks after God.

They have all turned aside;

They have together become unprofitable;

There is none who does good, no, not one.”

“Their throat is an open tomb;

With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;

“The poison of asps is under their lips”;

“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood;

Destruction and misery are in their ways;

And the way of peace they have not known.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

No fear of God!  This is exactly what embracing the theory of evolution has produced! 

When you lose your fear of God, you devalue human life.  The result is violence!

From this came the sexual revolution of the 60s whose mantra was “God is dead.”

From that came abortion as a method of birth control, which is the modern day equitant of offering our children to Molech.

From this also came extreme Environmentalism, literally making the creation god.  This produces a culture with no moral compass and no respect for human life.

The result is HOPELESSNESS!  With the hopelessness, some have been ostracized.  Young men who have no hope and see no future despair and a certain element become violent.

I believe there is also a dark spiritual element as well. 

Ephesians 6:12-13, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

It is incumbent upon us to be light to this lost world. Don’t get distracted by the politics!  The real issue is morality.  So we must stand for truth! Kneel before God and Stand against sin. Stand up for what is right!

Considering all we learn from the Word of God and observe in our culture, we should not be surprised at evil outbursts in our culture. This lead sus to our next point.

Because we reap what we sow, vs.26-28

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;

We see here the results of a culture the does not fear God.  Sexual preversion is one of the results of a culture that has lost its way, and no longer fears God.  So God gives them there way:  Uncleanness, vile passions, a debased mind. That mind rules over them.  It then becomes the norm, and so does violence. 

Vs. 29-32.  Hits the nail on the head. 

Being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

This is exactly what we have become. But please realize this is not unusual.  The Church was born under Roman rule, a very similar moral culture to the one we live in.  God has ordained for us, the people of God to shine as light to a hopeless culture. 

Romans 1:16-17!  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Don’t allow the darkness to overwhelm you, walk in light! 

Isaiah 60:1-2, Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.

What can we do?

(1) Pray! The great Welch Revival of 1904 began with prayer!

(2) We can act. Speak out about the underlying moral issues that cause these terrible acts.

(3) We must evangelize!  The only hope for our culture is to turn back to God! 

(4) Turn your eyes on Jesus!

Treasure!

People are fascinated with treasure.

People are fascinated with treasure.  We dive on ancient shipwrecks in hope of finding treasure.  We put on headphones and dance with a metal detector trying to find treasure.  We obtain old maps hoping to figure out where the treasure was buried.  It’s like an Easter egg hunt on steroids.  I’m wondering, have we ever considered the treasure found in the Word of God?  Yes, it’s buried, but it’s not hard to find.  Even a child can partake of it.  Let’s discover what the Word of God says about its treasure.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7, For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

The first and best treasure is salvation. God, in His mercy, shines the light of His presence into our hearts and minds that we might partake of the treasure of eternal life.  The light of God shines on the face of Jesus!  He is the treasure!  He is the way, the truth and the life.  He is the Redeemer, the Savior!  In Him, we know the glory of God. 

God takes the treasure of His Son and places it in earthen vessels. Not in a beautiful treasure chest, not in a glorious Chinese vase.  He places His treasure in plain old ordinary people like you and me.  In so doing, the power of God and wisdom of God is on display because God is saving, using, and mobilizing regular people for His glory.  If you step back and look at what God has done in the world through the redeemed, it’s remarkable!  God takes the plain, the ordinary and hides His treasure deep within that the extraordinary things done through the lives of ordinary people might be understood to be only by the power of God through the person of Christ.

The Word of God also warns us about false treasure.  Not every things that glitters is gold.  When I was a child, we use to wander up on “Spud Hill” behind my grandmother’s house.  There we often discovered mica that sparkled like gold but was worthless. We liked to pretend we had discovered hidden treasure. 

Matthew 6:19-20, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Earthly treasure is fleeting. It may be stolen or decay.  Fame and fortune are fleeting.  In light of eternity, earthly treasure is but a moment in time.  That is why it is so important that our worldview is beyond this world. 

The verses in Matthew are a warning about false values.  Earthy treasure gives the things of this world too much importance in life. The downfall begins with coveting, which lead to greed or lust and ends in a love affair with stuff or fame.  When we love “stuff,” we cease to love God.  As Christians we must constantly police our hearts and examine what we love. 

God also speaks to us of true treasure.  Matthew 12:35, A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.

It’s what’s inside that counts.  True treasure is to value the things of God above all else.  To value God, to value His name, to value His Word and to keep his statutes is true treasure.  To surrender to the Spirit, to pray earnestly, to love well, this is true treasure.  With this treasure comes joy. If you look at people who have earthly treasure, are they really joyful?  I read a statistic years ago that 80% of all lottery winners’ marriages ended in divorce. If earthly treasure was so satisfying, the number should have been well below the 50% national average, not abovt it.  Earthly treasure does not truly satisfy; true treasure does.

True treasure produces righteousness in the person who possesses it. Righteousness is simply “right living.”  Godly living comes from God loving. 

We want to mine out that good treasure that bears eternal value and reject the “fool’s gold” that has no real lasting value. 

How do we know that we are really mining the real gold and not the false?  Jesus gives us a test to evaluate our treasure. 

Matthew 19:21, Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

As you examine this interaction of Jesus and the rich young ruler, it seems Jesus is testing his values. The young man felt he had given all and done all until Jesus asked him to literally give all he had, then he had second thoughts. The test is really “what do you love more than Me?” Are you willing to give it all up to be a follower of Jesus? It’s easy to say “absolutely” until Jesus asks us for something specific like sports, or hobbies, or a job. Why would He ask us to give up such wholesome things? Because they are getting in the way of our truly following Jesus with a whole heart. The point of your salvation is not your happiness; it’s your holiness. The point of it all is the glory of God. So the test is, are you willing? Some are; many are not.

One day, we shall all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). On that day, our treasure will be judged. 

1 Corinthians 3:11-15, For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

From this passage, we understand that Christ is the foundation of our lives and that He ultimately is the treasure!  From the foundation, we build either with worthless materials or precious materials. What makes the difference? The heart. This building is our life, and we are putting it up brick by brick. Our building is our life events or works that are established on the Rock the Lord Jesus Christ. What kind of works are they? Will they stand the test of time? Are they works that are eternal or just superficial that will be lost in judgment?  The works that last are the works that Jesus does through us! It’s not about what we do for Him. It’s all about what He desires to do through us. So the lasting works are those moments in time when we surrender our lives to Christ and He works though us by the person of His Holy Spirit. 

So dear Christian, where is your treasure?  We live in a culture that is crazy about stuff and fluff. We, as followers of Jesus, have a higher calling.  It’s not about the stuff; it’s about treasure in heaven.  It’s about things that will last for eternity. Wherever our heart is, that is what we truly treasure, either the thing of the culture or the things of God. 

What About Marriage?

We live in days of great confusion about morality, gender, rights, marriage.

We live in days of great confusion about morality, gender, rights, marriage. 

I thought it might be profitable in this era of confusion to meditate a bit on Christian marriage.  We must recognize that marriage is not just a Christian institution; it’s a human institution! Marriage was ordained of God before the fall of man; and thus, it was given to all men for all time, not just Christians.  However, today, let’s go beyond the basic institution of marriage to “Christian Marriage.” Just as God has called us to the “higher calling” in life, so we also have a higher calling in marriage. Ephesians chapter 5 is a great text for us as we consider what it means to be a Christian within the covenant of marriage.  I realize this epistle isn’t about marriage; it’s about living the Christian life. However, as marriage is a big part of our life, let’s study through this text with marriage in mind. 

Sanctification in Marriage. The need to protect Marriage

Ephesians 5:2, And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.1

Please consider carefully the phrase, “Walk in Love,” What does that look like? 

When you see a couple strolling along holding hands, you think, “Ahh, there is a couple in love,” but in reality they may not be in love at all.  They may just be going through the motions. “Walking in love” looks like Jesus! Note what Paul exhorts here, “As Christ also has loved us.”  Christ is our example. He walked selflessly.  If we want an exceptional marriage, we first need to die to self!  There are always marriage conflicts and life conflicts as two sinners come together under the covenant of marriage. These conflicts can be traced back to loving self.  James 4:1, Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 1

When a couple constantly point their fingers at their spouse and spout a litany of grievances without owning their own wrong doing and bad actions, they are consumed by self.  To protect your marriage and to allow it to prosper, you have to overcome self!

Vs.6-7, Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.1. Don’t be deceived by “empty words.” The secular view of marriage is just that, empty words that have no understanding of what marriage really is. To the secular world, marriage is optional; it really doesn’t mean much.  God’s view of marriage is that marriage isa divinely instituted lifetime covenant whereby a man and a woman become one.  Marriage literally means “joining.”  A covenant is an “agreement” we enter into, a sacred bond to love, honor and cherish one another until death do we part.  Marriage is something we should take very seriously, but also joyfully! It is God’s gift to us. It separates man from the animal kingdom and reiterates that we are indeed made in the image of God. There is a need for us to protect our marriage by not buying into the worlds view of marriage but rather keeping God’s view of marriage in the forefront. 

Vs.8-10, For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 1 One of the key phrases here is finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” What does God want our marriage to be?  As we view the Scriptures, it becomes pretty clear. (1) God wants two people to become one; one mind, one goal, one standard, one force. This doesn’t mean that Christian couples lose their individuality or don’t disagree or disappoint, but rather that they are able to overcome obstacles and walk this road together in unity because they love their mate more than themselves.

(2) God wants us to fulfill our God given “roles” as husband and wife.  Ephesians 5:23, For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.1

Headship does not mean a dictatorship. Husbands are to be heads of our home as Christ is the head of the Church. That means sacrificial love.  In the Christian model of marriage, we see husbands bearing the burden of life and wives coming along side to buoy him up. Think of riding a bicycle built for two. Both people are working toward a common goal, but only one can steer. 

Vs.14, Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”1

Our key phrase here is: “Give you light.” If you really want a good marriage, we have perfect instruction, the Word of God. We have perfect illumination, the Holy Spirit.  The problem is we usually want the other person to change rather than really wanting to work on changing ourselves.  God gives light, you must walk in it! 

1 Jn. 1:7A, But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.1 Who is the “we” here? Is this communing with God or fellowship with men? It works for both.  When we walk in the light, we have fellowship with God and that fellowship then translates into divine fellowship with fellow Christians, and hopefully our spouse.  If you want a thriving marriage, you have to intentionally work on it by working on you. This is the best way to protect your marriage from complacency, discord, and alienation. 

Edification in Marriage, or how to nurture your marriage

vs.15-16, See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.1

Paul exhorts us to walk carefully! The thought is not like walking on egg shells but rather to walk deliberately. Why are marriages falling apart?  People don’t walk carefully. They often take their relationship for granted; and then one day, it’s too late, the marriage is kaput.  We need to continually work on affection and submission. This is foundational to marriage. We live in dangerous times, and to redeem the time we need to make the best use of it.  We do that by loving well and selflessly. 

Vs.17, Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 1

Understanding…Lord is” What is God’s will for your marriage?  That’s easy, stay Married!  But even more important is that your marriage might glorify Him! When we walk well as individuals and as a couple, we are allowing our marriage to be what God intended it to be, a union that bears His image. 

Vs. 19, Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. 1

Are you saying we should “sing” to each other?  Well it wouldn’t hurt! I think the thought here is about the emotion of joy, to have a merry heart (Proverbs 17:22). 

Enjoy life together, Enjoy Jesus together! 

Vs.20, Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Give thanks together! Count your blessings. Remember the good things and be thankful. Joy and thankfulness in marriage will nurture and strengthen your relationship. 

Vs. 21, Submitting to one another in the fear of God.1

“Submit” means to “come under” or put the other person above yourself! 

To nurture your marriage, you need to realize the perils and pitfalls that are out there and that many couples fall into.  Marriage isn’t easy-it’s work-but it’s also very satisfying when we participate the way God intended us to. God will use your marriage to reveal the weakness in your character that He might accomplish His perfect will in you. It’s not just about marriage!  It’s about sanctification. We nurture our union by putting the other person’s needs ahead of our own.  When both husband and wife are living for the other, marriage works! 

 

Glorification in Marriage. How to glorify God in Marriage.

How wives can glorify God in Marriage:

Key verses: 22-24, Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.1

Don’t get so hung up on the “submit” word and miss the key phrase, “As to the Lord” If a wife loves and honors her husband, she will come under His leadership and trust him to lead.  Let him be the head of the home. Allow him to carry the weight. In so doing, God is glorified. 

1 Peter 3:1-5, Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.1

That inward adorning glorifies God!

How husbands can glorify God in Marriage:

Vs.25-29,Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.1

Again, don’t miss the key phrase here, “As Christ Loved.” That is sacrificially.  When we love our wives, we put their needs above our wants.  Husbands who love their wives in this way bring Glory to God.  1 Peter 3:7, Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.1

Here the key words are “understanding and honor.”  Husbands love and honor their wives when they realize that this is the woman God made just for him.  A husband’s attitude should be that his wife is God’ gift to him, just as Eve was God’s gift to Adam; and therefore, he values her. 

At the end of the day, marriage is all about glorifying God.  “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”1 1 Corinthians 10:31.  Including Marriage!

Your marriage needs to be about Jesus in you! 

Marriage is about two becoming one.  It is a metaphor of salvation. Vs.31-33, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.[1]

As we have become one with Christ, so we become one in marriage.  This is something we need to celebrate and make sure we are getting right by protecting, nurturing and glorifying God in marriage. 


[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (Eph 5:31–33). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Discipline of the Body

We have been working through the book Discipline The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot

It is my privilege to meet with a group of elders once a month to learn, fellowship and pray together.  We have been working through the book Discipline The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot.  This month we were discussing the discipline of the body.  Here are a couple of quotes from Chapter Seven of the book I thought were pertinent. 

Discipline, for the Christian begins with the body.” 

Isn’t that so true! From the discipline of the body comes all other disciplines. If we can’t rule over our own body, we probably aren’t able to discipline much of anything else. 

“We cannot give our hearts to God and keep our bodies for ourselves.”

If Jesus isn’t Lord over our bodies, then Jesus isn’t Lord at all. His dominion in our lives is all or nothing. He did not make us to live independent of Himself. He made us to be dependent and to worship and that begins with disciplining the fallen urges of the body.  I think Romans 12:1 is the optimal text here:

Romans 12:1, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 1

The very act of presenting our bodies to Christ as a living sacrifice is an act of worship.  We are acknowledging Him as Lord and giving to Him what is rightfully His, our lives which includes the physical body.  So in presenting the body as a living sacrifice, we discipline the body.

Elliot covers four areas that the body needs discipline in:  1. Food.  What we take into our bodies and how much.  2. Sleep. The body needs rest and therefore we must discipline when we go to bed and when we get up.  3. Exercise. The body needs to move and we must be intentional in this. 4. Sex. The body is designed by God for reproduction within the confines of the marriage covenant.  To quote Elliot here, “If marriage is not included in God’s will for an individual, then sexual activity is not included either.”  I couldn’t agree more.  We must also then define marriage as a God given covenant between a man and woman. Elliot didn’t have to make that distinction when she was writing. How sad that we must.

It occurs to me as I look over this list, food, sleep, exercise and sex, that the world you and I live in has attacked each and every one of these areas of life to such a degree as to almost make it impossible to live the disciplined life.  Take our food, for example.  We have so much highly processes food that is so cheap and easily available that it seems impossible to avoid it.  This highly processed food is at the root of the obesity crisis in America.

As Christians we must consider what we eat and how much if we are truly presenting our bodies to God for His glory.  Moderation in all things is the key. Limit processed foods, eat vegetables, fruit, and meat and you should be healthy.

Then we have exercise. With the advent of modern technology, we have kids and adults that are addicted to games, television, phones, and social media.  That means that kids often don’t go outside and play; they stay in inside and sit. Our new neighborhoods are constructed with no yards for kids to play in and so they don’t.  We might send them to the park, but that also has its threats from drug dealers and gangs.  On the other end, we have people who are so enthralled with the gym that working out has become their idol and their body their temple, their place of worship. As followers of Jesus, we need to walk well, not just spiritually but physically!  Let’s be intentional to make sure we exercise the body.  When you go to the mall park as far from the door as possible.  That way you are giving prime parking spaces to others and you get in a walk.  Make exercise a part of your lifestyle, but don’t let it become an idol! 

Sleep also is under attack from technology.  We stay up late and watch the tube and wonder why we or our children can’t sleep.  The body was made to go to sleep when the light fades, so plan on turning off all the electronics well before bed time and let the brain settle down before lying down for the night.  It’s a great time to read a book to the kids or to settle in with a cup of tea.  Be intentional in preparing for sleep. 

And last, but not least, there is the issue of sex!  Where do we start in describing the attack of the culture on the sexual relationship? It’s everywhere and it is exploited to the place that it has become the driving force of the society. In many ways, we are reaping the results of the sexual revolution of the sixties.  The results are death and divorce. As Christians, we must guard the mind to protect ourselves from lowering this wonderful gift of God to married couples to something animalistic.  Discipline what you take into you mind for the glory of God. 

So you see, dear friend what we are up against when it comes to disciplining the body.  Everything is under attack and out of proportion.  We have gone from moderation to over indulgence.  So what do we as the children of God do?  We become even more intentional in disciplining the body. We don’t want to over react and become hermits; but we do need to realize that if we are going to bring our body under subjection, we have to recognize the threats of the culture.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27, But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.1

His thought here of being disqualified from ministry was to be “benched,” unable to participate.  When we don’t intentionally rule over the body and its longings, we are then unintentionally worshipping ourselves rather than the God who made us. 

So there is a war out there for the mind and the body.  We have to engage the war for the good not just of the body but the soul. 

The New King James Version. (1982). (1 Co 9:27). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.