Putting God's Word into Practice…

Revelation 14:14-20 ~ Grain and Grapes

We read in Revelation 8 that the prayers of the saints were mixed with the incense that continually rises before God’s throne.  The specific prayers mentioned were petitions to God to exact vengeance on His adversaries.  God always answers prayers, and He always answers them in His timing.  The angels that come bearing the command to “harvest” the earth do so straight from His presence.  God knows the appointed time for judgment–when there is no one left on earth who will turn to Him.

There are two “reapings” mentioned in these verses.  In verse 16 it says,” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.”  This is a reference to wheat or grains. Verse 19 says, “So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.”

When I read about the grain and grape harvest, it reminded me of communion.  Bread is the physical representation of Jesus’ body being broken for us, and wine is the symbol of Jesus’ blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus was taken outside the city and nailed to a cross where He bore the full wrath of His Father on behalf of sinners.

When we trust in Jesus and believe His sacrifice is sufficient to purify our hearts and lives, then we don’t have to face God’s wrath and judgment.  “It is finished!”  But for those who don’t surrender their hearts and wills; who don’t believe and trust in Jesus; they will face God the Father’s wrath.  And it is not unfair of Him.  What is unfair is that He chose to send His perfect, divine Son to bear the wrath over sin in our place.  In His steadfast love and unfailing mercy, He gave us a way to escape His coming wrath.  He didn’t have to–He did it for love!

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2 Peter 1:1-2 Introduction

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.  May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 

This letter was written sometime between 65-69 A.D. shortly before Peter’s death as a martyr for His belief in and preaching of Jesus Christ.  Historians state that Peter was crucified in Rome under the persecution of Nero.  Believing himself unworthy of dying like his Savior, it is believed that he was crucified head down.

Peter mentions three reasons for writing this letter:

  1. Remind them of the godly qualities they should be growing in (1:12)
  2. Warn them of false teachers (3:13)
  3. Encourage them to anticipate Christ’s return (3:12).

Know who I serve!  Peter titled himself as a servant OF Jesus Christ.  If my service is not first and foremost for Christ, I am a slave to whatever I am serving.  I will feel like a slave to my family, church, boss, teachers, neighbors, etc…which can lead to a life of weariness and bitterness.  All service must flow out of serving Jesus.

An equal standing!  All followers of Jesus Christ are on a level playing field.  Peter’s faith and mine are the same.  Our salvation only comes by way of the righteousness of Jesus Christ that He gives to all who believe on His name.  Peter may have been an apostle, the leader of the first church, an author of letters that are found in the Bible; but we are both sinners saved by the blood that Jesus shed on the cross.

Growing in knowledge!  The two things I need multiplied in my life on a daily basis are grace and peace.  I need the Lord’s help, favor, and divine enabling to succeed in living the life to which He has called me.  I need His peace in my relationships and circumstances.   The only source of abounding grace and unfathomable peace is knowing Jesus.  As we grow in the knowledge of Him, grace and peace will be multiplied to us.

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Hebrews 9 ~ Eager Longing

I love spring cleaning!  Although throughout the year I try to maintain surface cleanliness, there is nothing like the clean feeling once a year from deep, thorough, every crack and crevice cleaning!  That is kind of how the old system of sacrifices were set up.  The priests offered daily sacrifices on behalf of the people, but one day a year, the priest prepared himself to go into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for all sin–especially unintentional ones.

Then along came Jesus!  He was a perfect–completely perfect in every way–priest who offered His own life once and for all as the perfect sacrifice to thoroughly clean away the sin of all mankind.  His death on the cross–the blood He shed–secured eternal redemption, purified us into our deepest conscience, forgave every sin, and provided us with an eternal inheritance!  Just like in an earthly will, the inheritance can only be passed on at death.  Jesus’ last will and testament was for us to inherit His righteousness upon His death.  His death brought us so many good things, and His life brings us even more!

If you were prosecuted for a crime and found guilty.  Then someone came along and took your punishment and paid your fines/fees.  Wouldn’t you want to know and see them?

If you were taken from your family and someone had to pay a ransom to your kidnappers to get you back, wouldn’t you anticipate when they came for you to take you safely home?

This chapter ends with this:  “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting FOR HIM.”

After all Jesus has done for me–the freedom and forgiveness He bought with His own blood–why would I long eagerly for anything/anyone else?  I need not long for the redemption of my mortal body; or long to be in a place where there is no sin, sadness and death; or yearn to see the loved ones who have gone on before me.  My eager longing should be to see the One who purchased my salvation face-to-face!

Lord, let all else melt away except the surpassing joy of seeing you someday–looking into your eyes, touching your nail-scarred hands, hearing your voice, and seeing you smile.

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Galatians 1 ~ Truly Good News

This is a letter from Paul to the church in Galatia (modern day Turkey).  He had visited and shared the Good News of Jesus there, but after his departure other men came in and tried to change the beliefs of the young Christians.  They tried to make the Christ followers believe Jewish customs (circumcision) were necessary for salvation.  In this way, the false teachers could earn the respect of men.

Paul started off right away pointing to truth–Jesus GAVE HIMSELF for our sins and to deliver us from this evil age, and reminding them of their purpose–to give glory to God the Father.

Paul stressed that man’s gospel is zealous for traditions, is distorted, is contrary to the truth, and aims to please man not God.  Christ’s gospel sets us apart, involves His grace and His opening our eyes to truth, gives glory to God, and involves a complete character transformation (not a bodily transformation like circumcision).  In essence, the true gospel is fully up to God not man.  He calls us, He shows us truth, He changes us!

Today there are false gospels among us.  A gospel that makes people feel good about their sinful condition–tolerating and rationalizing it, a gospel that devalues the grace and cross of Jesus Christ, a gospel that adds work and rules are NO GOSPELS AT ALL.  THEY ARE BAD NEWS!

The true gospel–THE GOOD NEWS–is pure and unchanging.  There are no additives!  True Good News is just Jesus–Jesus giving Himself to deliver us from sin.

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1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Unworthy Manner

Taking communion (the Lord’s supper, the eucharist, the bread and cup) together as a body of believers is supposed to be a symbol that unifies the body and points it to Christ.  In Corinth, the times of communion were dividing people into social classes–the rich were humiliating the poor by basing their sharing on outward appearances.  Paul said they were despising the church!  Taking communion together should remind us that there is common ground at the cross; that freedom and forgiveness is for all without favoritism.  When someone truly understands grace, mistreating others is not an option.  

Another way the church was taking the bread and cup in an unworthy manner was by putting self first.  It is called the “Lord’s supper,” not “my supper!”  The Lord’s supper is about receiving not taking.  Verse 23 says, “On the night he was betrayed took bread.”  Think about that!  He was about to be betrayed and handed over to people who would beat Him, mock Him, spit on Him, tear out His beard, and nail Him to a cross.  Yet, Jesus gave thanks and gave the bread and cup as a symbol of Him giving His life.  That’s my Jesus–give, give, give!  By fixing our eyes on Jesus, we take self out of the equation and can receive in a worthy manner.

There are consequences to taking the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner.  It results in guilt, judgment, and discipline from the Lord.  And Paul also says that physical discipline is probable–weakness, illness and death.

So, how can we take communion in a worthy manner?  Humbly examine and truthfully discern our hearts in light of Jesus’ sacrifice, and put others first.  Eating and drinking goes to the inside of our body and nurtures it.  Christ’s sacrifice was not to make us look good on the outside but to purify and cleanse us within!

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Mark 8:31-9:1 Plainly Put

After all the parables and analogies, Jesus speaks plainly about His upcoming persecution, death and resurrection.   This really upsets Peter so he pulls Jesus aside to rebuke Him.  “But turning and seeing His disciples” Jesus rebukes Peter.  I wonder if looking back at the disciples and crowd behind them if it was a visual reminder of why He came and why He must die and why He gave such a stern rebuke.  He calls Peter, Satan!  Can get much harsher than that!  According to Jesus there are two things we can set our minds on–the things of God or the things of man.  In James 4:13-18 it says that all wisdom not from God is earthly, unspiritual and demonic.  How we think and how those thoughts direct our words and actions is a big deal!

In the next paragraph there are two “ands” that stand out.  In verse 35 it says, “Whoever loses his life for my sake AND the gospel.”  In verse 38 it says, “Whoever is ashamed of me AND of my words.”  There are three things that are characteristics of someone with a mind set on God–standing on the name of Jesus and proclaiming the gospel and being unashamed of His truth.  Offering these to the world is self-denying, cross-carrying, Christ-following, life-losing, soul-gaining Christianity.  Offering anything less is Satanic, shameful, soul-forfeiting, and superficial safety.

Lord, may I lay down my life, my rights, my comfort, my reputation to proclaim that Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life! In His mighty name, I pray, Amen.

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