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Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Finish Line

It’s about 6:20 p.m. now on Wednesday night, and I am sitting here in our Living Room next to the Christmas Tree to write the final blog of the year 2015. As most of you know, I have been blogging every weekday (except Labor Day) this year through the New Testament. And it’s kind of funny – coming home tonight, I parked the car in the garage and starting to come inside, I realized, “I’ve got to blog!” It’s not the first time I have forgotten this year. But it was kind of funny, as it is the last blog of the year. Maybe it was my friend Kevin who made me forget – he sent me a congratulatory text this morning about having successfully blogged through the Year (and he read them all – a true friend!), so subconsciously perhaps I thought I was done. Not yet. I am close to the finish line though.

Finishing. I haven’t always done it so well. And I suppose I’m not alone.

Starting is dreaming. Finishing is…work.

But don’t be too quick to give me kudos, for with the blog there was significant social pressure. Not having written a blog sometime this year would have been like showing up on Saturday night or Sunday morning without a sermon. I may have come close to this pastoral nightmare sometime in my life’s work, but the sheer terror of letting so many people down has kept me from it. People-pleasing runs strong in my blood.

And so I finish today. And so do you, if you joined us on our journey through the New Testament. Congrats, and hats off to you! I know it has been a blessing (at least the Bible part, if not the blog!). For you regular readers wondering where the blog will go from here, I have an answer: I will be publishing a blog every Tuesday. There, I said it. Now the five of you waiting with baited breath each Tuesday should hopefully be enough to keep my keyboard to the blogstone (like “nose to the grindstone”, but clever, you know, for bloggers). Of course, I won’t be writing exclusively about Scripture, like I did (sort of) this year. I will also write about current events or books I’m reading and such – whatever strikes my fancy, I guess, but all, I trust, to the Glory of God.

If you enjoyed our Inspired reading program through the New Testament this year, and you’re interested in a reading program for the year 2016, you might consider The Discipleship Journal Reading Plan or the M’Cheyne Reading Plan.  However you plan to read the Bible in 2016, consider this thought from the Puritan Thomas Brooks in his book, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices:

“Remember, it is not hasty reading—but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the bee’s touching of the flower, which gathers honey—but her abiding for a time upon the flower, which draws out the sweet. It is not he who reads most—but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”

Therefore, if you choose to read the whole Bible this year, then may I urge you to be sure to slow down and meditate on some smaller portion of what you read each day. Draw out “the sweet” and be one, not who reads most, but who meditates most.

Now this blog was about the finish line, and it just so happens that the passage we are reading is also the last chapter in the Bible, and is all about the ultimate finish line, Heaven, and so let me close with the secret to getting there, from Revelation 22:17…

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (ESV)

That’s it – the message of the Scriptures is that God is Holy, and He demands our holiness too, yet not one of us has been holy. However, we can stand before God with the perfect holiness of Jesus Himself. All we need to do is drink the water of life, and that water is only available by the grace of God. You can’t pay for it, and in fact, if you try to pay for it, a sip of its cool refreshment will be denied you.

So, come, ye who are thirsty, come; and drink deeply.

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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How is Heaven Like the New Year?

There is an idea going about that we can’t know what Heaven is like and will never know until we get there. Randy Alcorn, in his book aptly titled, Heaven, says this thinking comes from misunderstanding a particular verse…

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”– 1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV)

Many have quoted this verse through the years to illustrate that we will not know anything about the eternal state until we die or Jesus returns. And, at first glance, it sure seems true. But in fact, this verse is ripped out of context. If you combine it with what comes after, you get a different picture:

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”–  these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10 (ESV)

So, we can know, you see, by the Spirit of God, and one of the many things we learn in Revelation 21 and 22, two chapters devoted to a description of our future life, is that everything there will be new…

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5 (ESV)

There is something hopeful about newness, isn’t there? It’s one of the reasons we look with a smile on the New Year. “Last year had its problems,” we admit, “but in 2016, I’ll get life right.” We have this sense, don’t we, that we will be able to fix things with a do-over. Relationships will be better, health will be improved, goals will be reached, and all will be different if I can only start writing new numbers on my checks.

January 1 sometimes does lead to new things for people, but for most of us, hoping for new things with a turn of the calendar, we are left a bit disappointed.

But it won’t be that way on the first day of Heaven. Everything will be new on the day we step across the threshold into eternity. Disagreeable relationship issues will be a thing of the past, health concerns will be over, sadness over missed opportunities will be only laughed at. All will spread before us in glorious hopeful newness, and each day will hold the same hopeful happy possibility.

For behold…He will make all things…new!

 

For Thursday, New Year’s Eve! – Revelation 22!

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Reigning Over Everyone And Everything

Reading the book of Revelation, it occurs to me that the greatest thing we can take away from it is that God reigns over everyone and everything for all of history. For instance, He certainly has Satan under His control…

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. Revelation 20:1-3 (ESV)

And beyond that, He has all of humanity under His control…

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 (ESV)

There was an interesting theology that developed 15 or 20 years ago called Open Theism. It was popularized by a professor at Bethel College in the Twin Cities named Greg Boyd. The simple take on Boyd’s theories was that it is illogical for anyone, including God, to know the future.

Dr. Boyd was worried that a God Who knew the future would destroy free will, something Boyd himself was anxious to hold on to. In essence, if God knows that I am going to wear my new red button-down shirt tomorrow, can I do otherwise than wear it? More importantly, if God knows that your aunt Betty is going to accept the free offer of eternal life in the Gospel, can she do otherwise? Is she truly free?

So Boyd and others found a way to tweak Scripture and say that God doesn’t know the future. And as you might imagine, this required some serious tweaking, for Scripture definitely says again and again that God definitely does know what you and I are going to wear tomorrow, just as He knows that one day, Satan and everyone whose name is not written in the book of life will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

He is absolutely sovereign. But whereas Boyd and his ilk found this bad news, we should see the opposite. When we pray, we pray to One Who is actually in control of history, the same One who is able to make a difference and answer our prayers. We pray to the One Who holds history…and all of the future, in His hands.

 

For Wednesday, December 30: Revelation 21

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Way to Heaven? Get Married

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there won’t be any marriage in heaven, not really. In other words, if you’re married now, you and your spouse won’t be married to one another in heaven. But as a believer…you will be married to Christ…

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”– for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Revelation 19:7-9 (ESV)

But what does it mean to be married to Jesus? Well, a lot of things, but one of the most wonderful is this: you get what He has. Because you have a legal union with Him, what’s His becomes yours.

You know what I’m talking about if you were poor when you married someone who was a lot wealthier than you. On the day that you were married, your debts were gone. Your money troubles were over. Your spouse’s riches became your riches. Did you deserve it? Well, now that’s a weird question, isn’t it? Because it’s not about deserving it, is it? It’s about being married. What was previously his, or hers…became yours.

Now, even better than material wealth, when we entered into a union with Christ by faith, all of His righteousness became ours. So it is granted to us to clothe ourselves in “fine linen, bright and pure.”  It is not that we earned it. We could never earn it – but we who have welcomed Jesus into our life by faith are now His, and what’s His…is now ours.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

 

For Tuesday, December 29th: Revelation 20

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Whose Glory Will You Live For?

There is a contrast in Revelation between the wicked city called Babylon and the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. And we have a choice as to which city we will build in life. The first city is about self. The second city is centered on the glory of God. In his message on Revelation 18, Tim Keller compares this first city to the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11…

The men of what would become Babylon got together, and they said, “Let’s form a city.” Do you remember why? This is Genesis 11:4, “… let us make a name for ourselves …” “Let’s build a tower so high no one can see the top. Let’s build a great city.” Now this is the reason most people come to New York. It’s the spirit of Babylon. “… let us make a name for ourselves …” That’s why many of you are here. That’s why many of you came originally. It’s the only way to really make it in this field or make it in this field. “I’m going to make a name for myself.”

You have talents. You’re a lawyer. You’re a dancer. You’re a person in finance. You can either use those abilities to make a name for yourself or to honor God. A city can either be a city forming a culture that glorifies humanity, that glorifies the self, that maximizes your bank account, that maximizes your ego, or you can build a culture that honors God. As a dancer, as an artist, as a businessman or businesswoman, you can use your culture-forming ability to build a civilization that either maximizes the human ego and maximizes your own name, or one that honors God. That’s what God is saying.

Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

It’s a choice that each of us must make – who will we live for? Ultimately, will we seek to glorify ourselves…or God? If we choose to live for selfish glory, we should realize that any glory we achieve will surely pass away. We will be working for the short term, for this life alone. But if we choose to live for the glory of God, we will in some way be contributing to the brightness of His glory that will never fade, and we will be truly living for eternity, and for the Eternal One.

 

For Monday, December 28: Revelation 19

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Greatest Truth in the Book of Revelation

There is one great truth in Revelation 17 that has the power to sustain us through life. It is found in verse 14.

They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. Revelation 17:14 (ESV)

The Lamb will conquer them. This is glorious truth. So many today are making war on our Lord, and sometimes they are making war on us in the process. But no matter. Though they make war on Him, He will conquer them. If not the greatest truth in Revelation, then it is one of the greatest. This is our hope when “darkness seems to hide His face.” This is our hope in tribulation. He will conquer.

And because we His followers are “in Him”, when He conquers…so will we.

 

For Christmas Day, December 25th: Revelation 18

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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How a God of Vengeance Discourages Violence

Imagine this horrific scenario: it is the first century A.D. and you are out laboring in the fields while your family is safely at home…so you think. But upon returning home, you find them murdered by Emperor Nero’s minions for the simple crime of following Christ. Now, understandably, filled with a storm of anger and wrath, you determine to assassinate as many Roman soldiers as you can. What will hold you back? What will keep your anger in check? Isn’t it true that the only thing that will keep you from violence in the face of such a horrific event would be knowing that someone else would take vengeance?

So, there are many today who call for non-violence, at the same time foolishly saying that the idea of a judging God is primitive and that the “true” God is himself “non-violent”. They don’t like chapter 16 of Revelation. For instance…

And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!” Revelation 16:5-6 (ESV)

Indeed, one of the main reasons God gave Revelation to the early church was to encourage persecuted Christians that He would take righteous vengeance on their enemies. Miroslav Volf comments, in his work Exclusion and Embrace

“My thesis is that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance…My thesis will be unpopular with man in the West…But imagine speaking to people (as I have) whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned, and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit…Your point to them–we should not retaliate? Why not? I say–the only means of prohibiting violence by us is to insist that violence is only legitimate when it comes from God…Violence thrives today, secretly nourished by the belief that God refuses to take the sword…It takes the quiet of a suburb for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence is a result of a God who refuses to judge. In a scorched land–soaked in the blood of the innocent, the idea will invariably die, like other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind…if God were NOT angry at injustice and deception and did NOT make a final end of violence, that God would not be worthy of our worship.”

 

For Thursday, Christmas Eve, Revelation 17

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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