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Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Smell That God Loves

Yeast free healthy homemade breadPerhaps you’ve heard before that if you want to sell your house, when someone is coming for a showing, you should have fresh bread baking in the oven. If the scent of delightfulness is strong enough, people will pay full price without a counter offer. Well, okay, I doubt that is really true, but I’ll bet that a good smell wafting through the house does make people more favorable to some sort of purchase. Smells have a powerful effect on us. And here’s the wonderful thing: Scripture says that God can smell our prayers. And it’s like homemade bread baking in the oven to Him.

Okay, not homemade bread, but incense; however, since incense isn’t such a common thing in our culture (at least in my neck of the woods), I prefer to think about homemade bread, or maybe a lovely perfume on the wife of my youth. Whatever you want to compare it to, God apparently likes the smell of our prayers…

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Revelation 5:8 (ESV)

And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Revelation 8:3-4 (ESV)

Golden bowls full of wonderful smells – that is how our Heavenly Father thinks of our prayers. But why does He delight so much when we seek Him? Well, for one, God delights to be trusted in. But an even greater reason may be that He just plain likes being with you.

Pastor R.T. Kendall (successor to D. Martyn Lloyd Jones at Westminster Chapel in London) relates the story he heard from an evangelist named J. John. The evangelist was in the company of a woman named Sister Theresa (not the famous one) noted for giving a prophetic word and so, he asked her for one. She took some time but came back with a long list of very accurate items regarding him and his ministry. But the last thing she said changed his life:

“God likes your company and asks that you give Him two hours of your time every day.”

God likes your company. Indeed, He not only loves you. He also likes you. Now, by the way, I don’t think you need a prophetic word to come to an understanding of this, but apparently, the word from Sister Theresa helped the evangelist…as R.T. Kendall relates:

“J. John took her seriously, and I can tell you—he has told me more than once—he was never to be the same again. I personally think it explains, at least in part, why J. John is one of the greatest evangelists today, not just in Britain but also throughout the world.”

“What does prayer do for God? For one thing, He likes your company. I cannot imagine a greater motivation to pray than that God enjoys having me in His presence. He enjoys my company. He delights in listening to me! He doesn’t get bored with my repeated requests. He doesn’t moralize me if I get it wrong in what I ask for. He doesn’t laugh at me if I put out silly, even impertinent, requests. He never makes me feel stupid. There is no rejection, only total acceptance.”

Amen, and amen. So…start the heavenly oven, will you? Your Heavenly Father waits to delight in the smells you will send His way.

For Monday, December 14th: Revelation 9

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Here Comes the Bride…All Dressed in White

Beautiful bride standing back in her wedding dresssI’m a big fan of weddings, for a number of different reasons, but one stands out: like everyone else, I love it when the bride comes down the aisle toward her adoring groom in a beautiful gown of white.

Along these lines, Revelation chapter 7 is the white robe chapter of the Bible. Other portions of Scripture mention a white robe also, but these are always angelic beings. Only one other chapter mentions white robes for believers, and that only one time – Revelation chapter 6. But chapter 7 pictures believers in white robes in three different verses, the first time in verse 9…

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV)

What is the Significance of the White Robe?

It’s an incredible scene, isn’t it? An inestimable number of the faithful, all standing before the throne of God and all clothed in white robes. Glorious. But…what is the significance of this particular garment? Glad you wondered! One of the elders turns to the Apostle John and asks the same question…

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” Revelation 7:13 (ESV)

But the Apostle punts, turning the question back to the elder…

I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 7:14 (ESV)

The great question is, “How do I receive a white robe?” And the answer is clear – I must wash my filthy robe in the blood of the Lamb. Only His blood can cleanse my garment all soiled by sin.

Does She Deserve to Wear White?

Now, when it comes to weddings, the white, of course, is symbolic for the bride’s purity as she meets her groom. And I know that the cynical among us will say that many brides today do not deserve to wear white…but I will not join that unhappy throng. For the truth is this: no one on that Great Day before the throne will “deserve” their robe of white either.

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! Precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Robert Lowry (1876)

For Friday, December 11: Revelation 8

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2015 in Purity, sin, Uncategorized

 

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Why We Cannot Live Without a Judge

When you read the Revelation to John and scratch your head (as every reader does to one degree or another), there is one truth that helps make sense of the whole book: it was written to encourage persecuted Christians that there was coming a Day of Judgment on their enemies. For instance…

They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”…Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” Revelation 6:10-17 (ESV)

Now, it is avant-garde today to reject the idea of a judge, and people are saying today that the idea of a judging God is primitive. Moreover, many claim to be liberated by the idea that there is no God and thus no judge of the world. Ergo, they can do whatever they like morally. They sum up their thinking with this little chestnut: “What’s right for you may not be right for me. Each one must choose what is right and wrong for himself.” Tim Keller says that when intellectual New Yorkers would greet him after a service with this thinking, his question to them would go like this:

“Is there anyone in the world right now doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior?” They would invariably say, “Yes, of course.” Then I would ask, “Doesn’t that mean that you do believe there is some kind of moral reality that is ‘there’ that is not defined by us, that must be abided by regardless of what a person feels or thinks?” Almost always, the response to that question was a silence, either a thoughtful or a grumpy one.

Keller, Timothy (2008-02-14). The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (p. 45). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Keller also speaks to the idea of “no judge” through a quote from playwright Arthur Miller, and an atheist character named Quentin in his play, After the Fall. Here is Quentin beginning to realize what it really means to believe that there is no judge in the world:

Quentin says: For many years I looked at life like a case at law. It was a series of proofs. When you’re young you prove how brave you are, or smart; then, what a good lover; then, a good father; finally, how wise, or powerful or [whatever.] But underlying it all, I see now, there was a presumption. That one moved… on an upward path toward some elevation, where… God knows what… I would be justified, or even condemned. A verdict anyway. I think now that my disaster really began when I looked up one day… and the bench was empty. No judge in sight. And all that remained was the endless argument with oneself, this pointless litigation of existence before an empty bench…. Which, of course, is another way of saying— despair. 20

Keller: “What is he saying? We all live as if it is better to seek peace instead of war, to tell the truth instead of lying, to care and nurture rather than to destroy. We believe that these choices are not pointless, that it matters which way we choose to live. Yet if the Cosmic Bench is truly empty, then “who sez” that one choice is better than the others? We can argue about it, but it’s just pointless arguing, endless litigation.

“If the Bench is truly empty, then the whole span of human civilization, even if it lasts a few million years, will be just an infinitesimally brief spark in relation to the oceans of dead time that preceded it and will follow it. There will be no one around to remember any of it. Whether we are loving or cruel in the end would make no difference at all.

“Once we realize this situation there are two options. One is that we can simply refuse to think out the implications of all this. We can hold on to our intellectual belief in an empty Bench and yet live as if our choices are meaningful and as if there is a difference between love and cruelty. Why would we do that? A cynic might say that this is a way of “having one’s cake and eating it, too.” That is, you get the benefit of having a God without the cost of following him. But there is no integrity in that.

“The other option is to recognize that you do know there is a God. You could accept the fact that you live as if beauty and love have meaning, as if there is meaning in life, as if human beings have inherent dignity— all because you know God exists. It is dishonest to live as if he is there and yet fail to acknowledge the one who has given you all these gifts. Keller, Timothy,The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

For Thursday, December 10th: Revelation 7

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Ultimate Reason We Must Weep

There is much weeping going on in our nation and in the world lately. There is pain all around. John the beloved Apostle wept too, but he wept for a reason that others don’t often consider…

And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Revelation 5:2-4 (ESV)

Why did John weep? The answers seems clear from the passage: John wept because no one was worthy. No one. No one on heaven or earth was found worthy to open the scroll.

But what does this mean?

Let me ask you, do you think John wept because he wondered what was in the scroll, and since no one was worthy he thought he might never find out? Hmmm. I don’t think so. He isn’t weeping over an inability to satisfy curiosity. Time and space are different here in Revelation – the scroll isn’t just a prophecy – apparently, the scroll needs to be opened for the plan of redemption to actually take place. And John knows it. So John is weeping because there is no one to accomplish redemption and the consummation of history. No one is worthy.

This is the repeated message of the Scriptures since Genesis 3: no one is worthy.

As Paul said in Romans 3:

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:9-12; 23 (ESV)

Today, however, many people believe they are worthy to accomplish their own redemption. I run into these people all the time. When I ask them their plan for standing before God on Judgment Day – they tell me they have lived a good life. In other words, they are quite certain that they are worthy.

Jesus said that many would stand before Him on that day declaring their worthiness:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

“I’m worthy, Lord.”

“No…you’re not.”

In fact, there is only One Who is worthy…

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5 (ESV)

So, you see, Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, is worthy. He is the only One. And if we hope to be found worthy on that day, our only hope is to trust in Him…

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)

This is our reason, not to weep…but to rejoice.

For Wednesday, December 9: Revelation 6

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Why Does God Ask Us To Praise Him?

The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:10-11 (ESV)

Have you ever wondered why God asks us to worship Him? After all, you and I don’t ask for one another’s praise. And it would see inappropriate to do so. C.S. Lewis wondered about this very thing, and gave the most insightful answer in his book on the Psalms in a chapter entitled, The Problem of Praising. (The full essay is well worth your time and is found here.)

“When I first began to draw near to belief in God…I found a stumbling block in the demand so clamorously made by all religious people that we should “praise” God; still more in the suggestion that God Himself demanded it.  We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence, or delightfulness; we despise still more the crowd of people round every dictator, every millionaire, every celebrity, who gratify that demand.  Thus a picture, at once ludicrous and horrible, both of God and of His worshipers, threatened to appear in my mind…”

But he began to realize that God was much different than a human being seeking compliments…

“The miserable idea that God should in any sense need, or crave for, our worship like a vain woman wanting compliments, or a vain author presenting his new books to people who never met or heard of him, is implicitly answered by the words, “If I be hungry I will not tell thee (Psalm 50:12).  Even if such an absurd Deity could be conceived, He would hardly come to us, the lowest of rational creatures, to gratify His appetite.  I don’t want my dog to bark approval of my books…”

Here is the secret for why we love to praise – because we praise everything that we value…

“I had not noticed, either, that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely?  Wasn’t it glorious?  Don’t you think that magnificent?”  The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.  My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.”

Some years ago, I had a friend who went to see a movie, loved it, and then wanted to go back and see it with me…because she wanted to watch me enjoy it. So what did she do as she talked with me about the movie? She praised it! She told me how great it was so that I would want to see it too. When we love something, we can only be happy when others love it too. It is not too great dependence on parents when a young person brings home a new boyfriend/girlfriend and wants parental approval. It is only natural. When Mom and Dad say, “She’s great!” it completes the young man’s enjoyment of his new girl.

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.  It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.  It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with (the perfect hearer died a year ago*)…”

To see what the doctrine really means, we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God — drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by, that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable, hence hardly tolerable, bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression, our joy no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds.  The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  But we shall then know that these are the same thing.  Fully to enjoy is to glorify.  In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.

So do you see? You and I, like everyone else, want joy, and joy is found in praise. In fact, joy = praise. God is the ultimate One worthy of praise, so God is where we find ultimate joy. He commands us to praise Him because He loves us, and He knows that it is in praising Him that we will find true joy.

 

For Tuesday, December 8: Revelation 5

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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How To Become A Lukewarm Christian

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16 (ESV)

Steamy water cools off. Icy water warms up. Likewise, it is the natural tendency of men and women who are serious for Christ…to become lukewarm. So, in actuality, you don’t need to do anything to become lukewarm; nevertheless, here are some things you can do to get there faster…

  • Pray very little. If someone asks about your prayer life, tell them you pray “on the run.” In other words, be careful not to follow the practice of the Lord Jesus who regularly set aside special time for prayer, often going away from the crowds to be with His Father (Luke 5:16; Luke 9:28; Mark 1:35).
  • Avoid the Bible. Explain to people that you’re not a reader. But you do listen to sermons…occasionally, and on that note…
  • Be irregular in your church attendance. A couple was asked by their children why the family didn’t go to church more. “That’s not how we do it in our family,” Mom and Dad replied, as if moderation in church attendance was a principle to be proud of. Hmmm. Well, here’s a rule of thumb – God is sovereign, and while there is nothing we can do to absolutely guarantee that our kids will follow Christ, we can do a lot to make them not follow Him. One of the best ways to do this is to communicate that Christ is of mediocre importance. Kids who grow up assuming that church is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition…will often leave it.
  • Store up treasure on earth. Not in the other place. Some years ago I heard of a family that gave up tithing “because our kids need designer clothes to keep up with the Joneses at school”. The saying is true, however, that everyone tithes, but not everyone tithes to the One True God. Many pay tithes to idols. And anyway, that widow with the two mites was irresponsible (Luke 21:1-4). And while we’re at it…
  • Ignore the poor. Social Justice is for liberals. You wouldn’t want to be one of those. Best to help your own family and keep it to that.
  • Keep your mouth shut about Jesus at work and in the neighborhood. You don’t want people to think that you’re one of those fanatics who believes that eternity is actually on the line. Leave evangelism to the evangelists. Besides, it’s not your gift.
  • Forget the gospel. Get annoyed at all those “gospel-centered” Christians, and tell them that you’ve got the cross thing figured out and want to get to the deeper stuff. This is the best way to get lukewarm. For none of us can be hot or cold enough (yes, including those who write snarky blogs). You see, everyone needs Jesus. And all of us are in danger – everyday – of forgetting it.

For Monday, December 7th: Revelation 4

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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What Did Jesus Say About Sexual Sin?

There seems to be a line of thought in the church that says sex outside of marriage is a small thing, just a peccadillo. It’s almost as if people think, “Yeah, it’s wrong, but God’s not that concerned about it – He’s got bigger fish to fry.” I’m not sure where this idea comes from. Perhaps people think that this was the stance that Jesus took in the gospels with prostitutes and other struggling sinners, in other words, that He didn’t really care about their sin. Actually, however, He cared a lot about their sin, and it was His love for the people themselves that drove this care and concern. Jesus was gentle and caring toward those involved in sexual sin, and yet we can’t forget the message He gave the woman caught in adultery: “Go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11 ESV)

In reality, we need to think differently about the issue depending on who is engaging in it. There is a stance we take toward people inside the church who are caught up in this sin, and there is a stance we take with those outside the church. The Apostle Paul clarifies this…

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality… 1 Corinthians 5:9 -11 (ESV)

Paul is expressing a version of an important truth: Never expect Christian behavior from non-Christians. But…what should we expect from those who claim the name of Christ? In short, we should expect from Christians a striving toward holiness – to be sure, a faltering striving toward holiness but a striving in that direction nonetheless. Where there is no striving toward purity and holiness, we must firmly and lovingly call the sinner to repentance. If they will not repent, we are to help them see that they are likely not Christians at all.

To more fully understand Jesus’ view of sexual sin, we need to look in another place besides the gospels: the Apostle John recorded the Lord Jesus’ words on the wickedness of sexual immorality in Revelation chapter 2…

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

I think we can safely say that sexual sin is not a small matter at all to Jesus. In fact, there really are no “small sins”. Like other sin, sexual immorality separates people from God, and even more than that, Paul tells us that it carries a penalty that other sin apparently doesn’t…

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18 (ESV)

In the end, we do well to remember that though Jesus speaks harshly about sexual immorality and those who partake in it, committing sexual sin of any type is not a bridge too far in terms of His forgiveness. For He is also the One Who died so that sexual sinners might know His love.

And as James Montgomery Boice once said, “When sin hit the high water mark, grace flooded the world.”

 

For Friday, December 5th: Revelation 3

 
 

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