Saturday, December 3, 2016

WORKING FOR THE KINGDOM

The ways that we work in this world are pretty well defined. The goals that we have as individuals in deciding what our work is to be are also usually quite well established – we all seek to find a job that we like, one that we are good at, and one with which we can make a decent living. Some people may include the words fulfilling and satisfying in this description of finding good work, as in having a fulfilling career.

I purposely did not use these descriptions, because they are more subjective in nature. The work that is fulfilling today, may become frustrating tomorrow. That which began as being satisfying and challenging, ends up being boring and disappointing. This should not surprise us about our work experiences, because that is the extent of any reward that the world can give us. Everything in the world fleeting. It is all just temporary.

The poet Robert Frost wrote about this as illustrated to us in nature itself: 

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay. 

King Solomon also came to the conclusion in life that “nothing gold can stay.” He tried every means to find a lasting satisfaction in his work, but found that every sense of fulfillment was fleeting. Here is what he said: 

I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees… I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces…And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11 ESV) 

A pessimistic attitude, no? Not really...(to continue reading, press the READ MORE button below)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"MY REWARD IS WITH ME"

Jesus said this: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” (Revelation 22:12 NAS).

When Jesus speaks of bringing his reward, what is it that he means? Other Bible translations use the word recompense instead of reward. The two words in some ways may be synonymous, but in my way of understanding, the word reward has a meaning that makes it seem more like winning a prize. Recompense, on the other hand, seems more to me to carry the meaning of compensation for work done or for service. It is the second of these that is closer to the meaning that Jesus intended.

“I am bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” (ESV).

At another time, when Jesus was with his disciples, he told them this: 

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. (Matthew 16:24-27 NAS italics mine). 

It is clear that at least here, Jesus is talking about payment, as we would normally think of when we think of earning a wage. Indeed, this is very close to the meaning of the word that Jesus spoke in our verse in Revelation 22:12. The very literal meaning of the word (misthos) actually is “wages.” James uses the very same word when he speaks of the pay or the wages for the laborers (James 5:4). 

The Ol’ 9 to 5

When I was going to the university, I also worked part time in a factory. There, every two weeks  on a Friday, my foreman would walk around the factory floor with a handful of envelopes. One by one he would stop at each work station and hand the man or woman working there one of the envelopes that he carried with him. My own work station was near the end of the long building, and I could see him stop at each place as he made his way down the building. Each worker would brighten a little when he handed them the envelope, and very soon rip it open to look inside.

What was in there? It was their wages, of course. It was payday! We had worked for two weeks and now we were to be rewarded for that work. 

The Day that Jesus Comes Around
(to continue reading, press the READ MORE BUTTON below)

Friday, November 18, 2016

BLOOD WHITE IN COLOR

Even as children we all have a sense of justice. “Jimmy’s piece of cake is bigger than mine! It’s not fair!”

Things ought to be fair. What is more, we feel that someone who does wrong must in some way “pay” for his wrongdoing. If someone causes harm or damage, they are responsible to make things right.

This sense of justice is universal. The standards about right and wrong may vary from culture to culture, and the specifics of the transgressions and the reparations may change over time, but everyone has some sort of sense what is or what is not fair. We all have our own view about how a just society should conduct itself. We all have an opinion about what is right.

Inherited from God

There are two separate words in English for justice and righteousness, but in the Bible there is a single word for both of these.[1] The Bible treats the two as the same. To be just is to be righteous. Each of us may have our own interpretation of the specifics of what is just and right, but all agree that that there are standards.

Where does this universal sense of justice come from? Why is it that we all have some sort of idea about what is right and what is wrong? It seems to be hardwired into our DNA.(to continue reading, please press the READ MORE button below)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

DECISIONS IN THE FINAL DAYS

These are words from the Apostle John in the book of Revelation, chapter 22 and verse 10: “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.’”

On the isle of Patmos, John had seen and heard many things pertaining to the end of the first things. The first things are what we know now – the first heaven and the first earth. John, in his vision, saw also the ushering in of the new things, that is, the New Heaven and New Earth. In this last of his visions given in the book, that is, when he saw the throne room of God, the first heaven and earth had already passed away. We also saw earlier how he also witnessed the holy city, the New Jerusalem, descending from heaven.

I am sure that it was to the best of his ability that John described all these things to us. But as I mentioned at various times earlier, he was working with some substantial disadvantages. First of all, he saw creatures that defied description and witnessed events that surpassed any human understanding. He was shown buildings and formations unlike any that that he had ever before seen. Several times in the book of Revelation, John himself had to be given an explanation for what he was witnessing, since he had no understanding about it whatsoever.

These were only the first of his problems... (to continue reading press READ MORE button below)

Saturday, November 5, 2016

“DO NOT WORSHIP ME”

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)*****************

Here are some words of John that he wrote near the end of the book of Revelation: 

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. But he said to me, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God!” (Revelation 22:8-9 NAS).

Throughout the entire book of Revelation, John had seen very many things that were actually quite impossible for him to understand. He had been given the task to write down and describe what he saw, which was also for him an almost impossible task since what he witnessed was in many ways beyond description. With all that he had been shown and with the job that he had been given to do, I am sure that John must have been in a constant state of wonderment and awe.

In the two verses that I have just quoted above, I think that when John is referring to the things that he had heard and had seen, he is speaking specifically about his vision of heaven and of the throne room of God. The glory of God that he had seen in that place must have filled him to overflowing with praise – so much so that he fell down to worship at the feet of the angel that had shown all of the things to him.

“Don’t do that!” The angel told him. “I am only a fellow servant just like you. Worship God!” 

Correction Number One

John, being in such a state of astonishment by what he had seen and heard, and with the angel, who himself had a rather other-worldly appearance, it was almost a natural response for John to bow down before him. The angel needed to help John direct his worship correctly.

This actually was not the first time that John had to be corrected in this manner. (To continue, please press the READ MORE button below)

Friday, October 28, 2016

"I AM COMING QUICKLY"

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)
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“Behold, I am coming quickly,” Jesus told John. “Blessed is he who heeds the prophecy of this book (Revelation 22:7 NAS).

John wrote these words some two thousand years ago, and Jesus has not yet come. This is not our idea of the word “quickly.” Nevertheless, there are very many of us who still take Jesus at his word and believe he is returning, just as he promised multiple times in the Bible. Are we foolish to do so?

There are people who ridicule these words of Jesus. Perhaps you have not heard anyone mock this statement outwardly, but certainly, the priorities of the lives of many people demonstrate that they do not believe what Jesus said. This should not be surprising to any of us. After all, we were told by the Apostle Peter that we might expect this to happen.

Peter said, “Know this first of all, that in the last days scoffers will come with their mocking, following after their own sinful desires. They will be saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? Ever since the ancestors died, everything continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

Peter’s response to these doubts is that the people who think in this way, simply do not consider the entire scope of the history of the earth into their view of reality. Not only is this assessment of the history of the earth wrong, it is an assessment of pessimism and doom, as voiced in the book of Ecclesiastes: 

   All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full.
   To the place where the rivers flow, there they flow again.
   All things are wearisome; man is not able to tell it.
   The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled
 with hearing. 

   That which has been is that which will be,
   And that which has been done is that which will be done
   So there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:7-9 NAS) 

New Things Under the Sun

The true fact is however, everything has not continued as it was from the beginning.(to continue, press READ MORE below)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

THE REVELATION

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)

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We are coming near to the end of the book of Revelation – indeed to the end of the entire body of the revealed word of God. John is preparing to conclude his writings of what will become the final book of the Bible. From this point in the book of Revelation, verse six of the twenty-second chapter until the end of the book, John tells us no more of what he has seen in this vision of the new heavens and earth, or more of what he saw in the New Jerusalem. This final portion of his book can be considered an epilogue of his vision.

In verse six, John writes this: “He said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true.’”

To know who the “He” is, that is, who it was who told John that the words are faithful and true, we must return to what we might call the prologue of these two chapters, when John first began to have his vision of heaven and of the throne room of God. There, the one speaking is identified as the “Alpha and the Omega,” the same way that Jesus identified himself in the very beginning of the book of Revelation (1:18). The Alpha and the Omega are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, and by identifying himself as these letters, Jesus is indicating that he is the beginning of all that there is, and he is also the conclusion of it all.

John wrote of Jesus in the beginning of his vision of the throne room of God, “He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new…Write, for these words are faithful and true’” (Revelation 21:5 NAS)

This twice repeated phrase by the one who sits on the throne, “These words are faithful and true,” speak of the certainty of what John saw. (to continue, please press the READ MORE button below)

Friday, October 7, 2016

THE SLAVES WHO REIGN

“Fools are put in many high positions, while the rich occupy the low ones. I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves.” Ecclesiastes 10:6-7 NIV
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(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)
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“And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them” (Revelation 22:5a)

John had just written much the same thing not many sentences previous to this. He is repeating himself. John, it seems to me, is simply in amazement as he views this scene in the throne room of God and as he tries to describe the best that he can of what actually surpasses description. It is not only that, but as he views all that is happening and as he begins to grasp the reality of the situation, this fact of God illumining the people returns to him as he sees the full impact of what it all means.

It is also the slaves around the throne that are affected by the illumination of God. These are the same slaves that are serving him, who see God’s face, and who have the name of God written on their foreheads. (see previous posts, Slaves Forever, and To See the Face of God)

John says of these slaves, “And they will reign forever and ever.”
These are the slaves who will reign in eternity. (To continue reading, please press READ MORE below)

Friday, September 30, 2016

TO SEE THE FACE OF GOD

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)***********************
There are two simple phrases in the fourth verse of the twenty-second chapter of Revelation: “They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.”

To the old man John the Apostle, who saw this vision of heaven and who wrote these words, the fact that the people of God will actually see the face of God in the New Jerusalem was an astounding revelation. We know this because twice, in his earlier writings, John had stated, “No one has seen God at any time” (please press READ MORE below)

Friday, September 23, 2016

THE STORY OF THE BIBLE

The study of the Bible is a daunting task.
The history of the Bible spans thousands of years, and its scope is no less than eternity, both in the eternal past and the future. Its themes run from everyday common sense to deep philosophical discussions. The pages of the Scriptures are filled with stories of love, hate, faithfulness, and treachery. There are hundreds of characters with names that are foreign and difficult to pronounce and nearly impossible to remember.

There are many ways to tackle this job of research. The Bible student might study the Bible’s historical aspects or break it down into themes or topics. We can study the biographies of the characters of the Bible, or we might concentrate on an analysis of the doctrines. Scholars have divided the pages and subjects of the Bible and analyzed the text as if it were a laboratory specimen.

It is not that it is wrong to do this. In fact, it can be very helpful. However, the danger in doing only this is we may miss the broad and universal theme of the Bible. We may come to know the parts, but we do not know the whole. To avoid this myopic view of the Bible, it is important to preserve the overrunning premise and topic of the Bible.

Why was it written? If one had to state in a sentence the purpose of the Bible, what would it be?

Others may have different answers, but mine would be that the Bible is the story of God seeking fellowship with man. (to continue reading, press the READ MORE button below)

Friday, September 16, 2016

SLAVES FOREVER

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)***********************
As we considered what was happening around the throne of God, we saw worship as it is expressed in many ways. One of these ways was by being a faithful steward of what has been entrusted to him. Worshiping God through service.

Indeed, that is what John now says in his commentary of the Lord’s throne: …The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him” (Revelation 22:3 NAS).

Along with all of the voices around the throne, the service given to God the king is also worship to him. This worship is being carried out by the bond-servants of the king. Some Bible versions simply say “servants” instead of bond-servants. Actually however, rather than either the term bond-servants or servants, the word would be better translated as slave. However, I could only find two Bible versions that used this word instead of servant or bond-servant.

The Greek word in this case is doulos. The word really does mean slave. The word doulos is derived from yet another Greek word that means to tie or to bind. A doulos (if we can put it that way), is one with no rights of his own and truly is simply the property of his or her master. He is a true slave.

However, the word slave has an extremely negative connotation to us, and rightly so. The history of slavery in our own country is evidence enough of the horrors of this practice. Of course, our country was not the only one in the world to practice slavery, nor was that the only time in history when it was done. Men and women have misused and abused other men and women with slavery throughout history and on every continent. Even with the abolition of slavery, the consequences do not soon disappear, nor easily so. The effects of the slave practice can continue to bring harm to relationships for generations even after the actual slavery has ended.

It is no wonder to me that Bible translators decided not to use the word slave in this context. However, in some ways it is unfortunate that they did not. The differences between a slave and a servant are actually quite significant. (to continue, press the READ MORE button below) 

Servant or Slave?

As servant is a respectful position in our thinking – a gentleman’s gentleman, if you will. English literature especially has many stories concerning a man of high standing and high society who has a servant who takes care of him. In many instances, these are stories where the servant is actually the one who seems the more competent, and he is constantly keeping his master out of trouble of repairing the master’s mistakes.

A servant also has a private life. He receives a wage, he can own property, and he can decide to terminate his employment as a servant at any time. He makes his own decisions. He is independent concerning his personal destiny.

This is not so with a slave. A slave has no rights. He has no form of independence. A slave can be bought and sold. A slave cannot even claim a right to his own children over the desires of his owner. The owner of a slave can take the slave’s own small son and sell him to the highest bidder on the auction block.

This is the ugly side of slavery. Quite frankly, since this has been the history in this and other countries, this is what we think of when we think of slavery. As I said, it is not wonder to me that the Bible translators did not use the word slave when speaking of our relationship to God. 

A Slave Has Something a Servant Does Not

But by instead using the word servant instead of slave, look what they have missed. If the slave is owned by someone who loves him even more than the slave loves himself, a slave will be cared for in every aspect of life. His home will not be a hovel, but it will be a dwelling where the slave can live in happiness with his family. With a loving owner, the slave does not have to worry about the security of his children or worry about the needs of his family. They will always have good food to eat and good clothing. If they should get sick, they will receive the best care.

“Ah,” but you say, “All of this sounds very nice, but this slave still has no rights of his own. He does not have the right to make an independent decision apart from his owner. And freedom,” you say, “is everything.”

What you say about a slave is true. But with the slave of God, he does not enter into this relationship with God unwillingly. No one has come into his village in the middle of the night and taken him away in shackles by force to be loaded onto a ship and sent to a land far beyond the sea. A slave of God has not been forced to be God’s slave against his own will. He or she does so willingly, of his or her own decision. 

How to Become a Slave of God

There is a beautiful picture of this given to us in the Old Testament. In early Hebrew society, although the people did have slaves, there was a provision in their laws that if a man buys a fellow Hebrew, that person would be considered the master’s slave, but this relationship was only to last six years. On the seventh year, this slave was to be set free. Not only this, but he was to be set free with many provisions of food and animals in order that the one-time-slave could begin his new life.

However, there were cases where the man who had been the slave was so well treated by the master, and so loved by him, that the slave did not want to leave. He did not want to choose to live as a free man, but rather to remain as a slave forever in the house of his master.

If this was the case, then the slave was to stand next to the door of the house and put his ear up to the door. Then, the master of the house was to take an awl and pierce it through the earlobe and into the door, thus leaving the slave with a pierced ear. I suppose the imagery here was to show that, since the door was the place of exiting the house, the slave instead shows that he is pegged to the door, and would not go out of the house. This could be the case not only with male slaves, also with the female slaves (Deuteronomy 15:12-17, Exodus 21:5-6). 

The Question is – a Slave to Whom?

Nevertheless, despite stories like this, we have such a negative view of slavery in our society that even with thoughts of a benevolent master who will provide for one’s every need, many say that they would still prefer to choose their independence over slavery, even if it is slavery to God. Servanthood perhaps. They might agree to be called a servant, but not a slave. Although Bible translations may use the word servant in place of the Greek word for slavery, this is not the option God puts before us.

What we sometimes do not understand is that there is no such thing as true freedom in this life. The concept of true freedom is just an ephemeral illusion. The promise of independence and freedom was how Satan tempted Adam and Eve. He told them that “they would be like gods,” knowing good and evil and able to choose their own way. Even in the very act of choosing as they did, although their own wills certainly were involved in this decision, their choice was not completely independent. They followed what Satan told them to do. They believed him and obeyed him, but instead of finding freedom, they found bondage.

Jesus told this to the Jews one day. “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin,” he told them (John 8:34).

The Apostle Paul taught the same thing. He said, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16 NAS)

So then, as much as some would like to think that they are independent beings and under no authority in their spiritual lives, it seems that there is no such thing as complete freedom and independence of thought. In the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Adam and Eve with thoughts of independence, rather than finding freedom, they found instead slavery to sin. Instead of fulfillment in their love for God, they found emptiness in loving themselves. God had placed them in a garden, and they turned it into a desert.

This is our condition without Christ. We like to pride ourselves in being able to make up our own minds about things. We like to think that by our own force of will we can control our lives. Perhaps we are even able to do this in some minor ways. But these modest victories in small things only serve to hide the fact that without Christ, we are slaves to our own private passions and to our own special weakness of character. 

Freedom for the Slave

However, in the midst of all this dark talk of slavery, there are some other words of Jesus that shine like a ray of sun through an opening in the dark clouds overhead. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 ESV).

This is what we have been waiting for! Words of true freedom! A way in which we can be free of our present struggles and inward battles! How is it that we get there?

Contrary to what you may think, the path to freedom is not by throwing off all that would shackle us. It is not by forcefully proclaiming that no one owns us and that we are our own free beings. Ironically, the road to freedom is by way of slavery. When Jesus said that the Son would make us free indeed, this was not a call to independence. It was instead a call to slavery.

Remember that Jesus also told his disciples “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Jesus is speaking here of a total surrender. It is, in other words, a call to slavery. For many, this is too much. Our freedom is too important for us. From our perspective, it is difficult for many to understand why any man or any woman would choose slavery over freedom.

This slavery however, is slavery with a promise.

It is interesting to me that Jesus said that it was the “Son” who would set us free. He is speaking of course, about himself. However, he spoke in the third person, referring to himself as “the Son.” By doing this, Jesus introduces the subject of the freedom of sonship. The full statement of what he said was “Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36 NAS).

The Slave Who is a Son

Paul made a similar observation and made a similar comparison of a child. In Galatians 4:1-7, he spoke of a son, living in the house of his father. When boy is a lad, he may not appear to be any different than a slave. The child has no real freedom to make his own decisions about his day. He is told when to rise and he is told when to go to bed. He is given tasks to do during the day and has no choice whether he will or will not do them. He simply obeys the instructions given to him. In fact, in the day when Paul was writing and when most wealthy families had slaves, the son of the master was sometimes even put under a slave. It was sometimes the household slave that gave instructions to the son of the master.

However, despite the appearances of the life of the small child and that he is even under a slave, it remains that he indeed is the heir of his father’s wealth. The time is set by his father as to when he will receive that inheritance.

Sons and Daughters

What we see in this statement of Jesus is the combining of the ideas of slavery with one who is a son. As somewhat of a side note, I want you also to understand that he is also talking about daughters here. I know that some women take offense at the male dominated language of the Bible, and I can understand this. But it is helpful to remember that most of this is merely a reflection of the society in that day. In the mentioning of sons, implied also in this is the daughters. We may wish that it were not like this, but people tend to write according to the custom of the day. In these present days, when I write something, I try to be more inclusive by sometimes including both genders, but I have to say, doing so also is a little cumbersome. It sometimes makes the sentence long and difficult to follow.

Sometimes in the Bible we see both. Isaiah writes the words of the Lord when he says, “Do not fear, I am with you. I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather them from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’  And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 43:5-6 NAS).

Even the Apostle Paul, who is often accused of being chauvinistic, at one point actually amended an Old Testament quote to include the daughters when he quoted God as saying, “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me” (2 Corinthians 6:18).

I am sorry if you are offended by the constant reference to sons, but I hope that this whole matter does not detract from what we have to learn about this teaching of slaves and of sons (and of daughters). 

The Transformation from Slavery to Sin to Slavery to Righteousness

Despite all of our high-sounding talk of personal freedom, once we understand that there is no such thing as complete independence, we can begin to understand how we can at least control under whom or under what we will put ourselves as slaves. It is time to move beyond our arrogant ideas of self-determination. The simple fact is, it is as Paul has said, we are either slaves of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness” (Romans 6:16).

Slaves we may be, but we do retain self-determination in choosing upon which of these paths we will follow in our lives. It is our choice.

The Apostle Paul puts it in these terms. “Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5 NAS).

By referring to the flesh, he means those things that are destined for death. It is only the Spirit of God who can give us direction for life and for peace. It is our choice which direction we are to go. If we live according to the flesh, we will die, since that is all that the flesh has to offer. But if we are learning to live by the Spirit of God, we will find life and peace. This is life and peace not only for today, but for eternity. The flesh only can give us death. It is the Spirit of God who writes “eternal life” onto the DNA of our own spirits.

Here is how Paul continues: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-15)

The word “Abba” is Aramaic for “Father,” and it is an especially close and endearing term. It is somewhat like a child may say “Daddy” or “Pappa.” Paul purposefully inserted this Aramaic word in his Greek text because he wanted to demonstrate the closeness of our relationship with God. Paul further says, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17a).

This is what it means to be slaves of righteousness. Slaves we are, but it is slavery with an inheritance. Like the son who may appear to have a life no different than a slave, God has destined us for great things. We are daughters and sons by adoption. We once were slaves to sin, but God has purchased us and made us slaves of righteousness.

We were purchased, by the way, for a very high price. This fact alone demonstrates how much God values us. It shows us how much he loves us and how he intends to extend his inheritance to us. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NAS) 

Praises in the Throne Room of God

And now in Revelation we read that in the throne room of God, the slaves who are also sons and daughters will serve him. Along with the Seraphim, along with the angels and the elders who are praising God, and along with the martyrs and the multitude who are singing their praises, the slaves of God will be serving him. It means only that we will worship him by being good stewards of what he has given us. We will recognize him as the origin and originator of all things. He is the creator of all that there is. 

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

IN THE THRONE ROOM OF GOD

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)
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In the same breath as saying that there will be no longer be any curse in the New Jerusalem, John tells us that the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in that city.
All throughout history, thrones have been the customary places where kings would sit and oversee their kingdoms. Although the thrones in different lands have also differed in appearance, the position and meaning of the throne has crossed many cultural barriers and has existed in many cultural settings and societies.
 
Concerning the throne room of God, there are several places in the Bible where we read of it. Of course, no one who has lived on earth has actually been in God’s throne room and then returned to describe it to us. All of the accounts in the Bible are from visions that were given to prophets of God. When we read these accounts, I am not certain if it is helpful thing to draw upon our own ideas about what we think a throne room is like to help us to picture it, or if it is better if we try not to put our preconceived ideas about what we already think that we know about throne rooms.
 
Sometimes, when we read words written by prophets, it is difficult to know exactly where the literal ends and the metaphor begins, or the other way around. Generally when I read the Bible, I am a literalist. I try to take what is written in a literal sense. This is my default position. However, I also understand that much is written that is intended to be metaphorical and should be taken figuratively. The difficulty sometimes comes in knowing which is which.
 
Sometimes the prophet will say what he saw “looked like” something that we know, or it “had the appearance” of something in our experience. This tells me that there is some figurative language here. The best that I can tell you about this is that I believe that my method is the best, that is, to try and first take things literally. But the very best is to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into understanding as to what these words need to say to you. (press the READ MORE button below to continue)