Putting God's Word into Practice…

Revelation 2:8-11 ~ Better than a Beauty Pageant

When Jesus had John write His message to the church in Smyrna, He reminded them that He is the “First and the Last, who died and came to life.”  Then He goes on to say, “I know your tribulation, etc…”

Jesus doesn’t just know–He KNOWS–because He experienced it before them!  He endured tribulation, poverty, slander from “religious” people, suffering, prison and death!!!  Jesus had already been down the same road so that we can have victory over it!

In verse 10, Jesus gets to the root of their troubles.  The real trouble is Satan–the enemy of Christ and Christians.  He is behind their negative, painful persecution.  But he has no power!  Even if they die; they gain–heaven and eternal life in the presence of God where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

Jesus challenges the church in Smyrna to “Be faithful unto death,” and follows it up with a promise: “I will give you the crown of life!”  Death is not the end. Death is victory for a Christian because it has been conquered and overcome by Jesus–the First and the Last!  Death leads to a heavenly victory celebration where Jesus Himself will give the faithful ones their trophy!  Think of the joy Miss America exudes when the one who went before her places the crown on her head, and then multiply that joy by a billion!

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1 John 5:16-21 ~ We Know!

The verses I studied for the last blog were about the confidence we have that God hears and answers the Believer’s prayers when the prayers are asked in accordance with His will.  John goes on to tell us that we should also pray on behalf of other believers who are struggling.  These two verses are a little tricky, so I researched several commentaries I trust and prayed for God to show me what they mean.  In light of uncertainty, I’m thankful that these two verses are surrounded by eight “we know” statements that remind me there are many certainties for those who belong to God!  1 John 5:15 says, WE KNOW God hears our requests and WE KNOW God gives us a response…the rest come in verses 18-20.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, HE SHALL ASK AND GOD WILL GIVE HIM LIFE–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. (v. 16-17)

This is a call to pray on behalf of other believers struggling with sin.  They are already saved and have eternal life.  These believers should not want to continue sinning.  God has given us the privilege of coming alongside of them (or them alongside of us), and helping them by way of prayer.  Two things stand out to me in these verses: 1) We should want free and abundant life for each other. 2) We are called to PRAY when we see a believer sinning, not judge, condemn, gossip–but PRAY to God!

There is a sin that leads to death, and it is unbelief.  When someone completely disregards God’s plan for salvation, they are headed for eternal separation from God.  It is impossible to ask God to restore someone who has never believed on Jesus for salvation, repented and received eternal life. (John 3:14-18)

WE KNOW that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but He who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.  WE KNOW that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (v. 18-19)

Christians should have a distaste for sin–we should want it put to death in our lives.  Satan is constantly tempting our sinful nature, but because of Jesus’ protection–he can’t touch us!  It reminds me of going to haunted houses when I was younger.  There were two things that made me feel safe enough to go inside: 1) My dad or my husband standing by my side. 2) The realization that the monsters can scream, reach, moan, and so on, but were not allowed to touch me.  It is the same for believers in this world–we have the protection of Jesus Christ and the promise that Satan has limitations when it comes to God’s people.  We can have victory over sin in this world!  Satan doesn’t have any power over us!

If someone claims to be a Christian and continues willfully to practice sin, they may not be God’s child at all.  We cannot love and follow the world’s system and be in fellowship with God because the WHOLE world is under the control of the evil one.  Loving the world, makes us partners with God’s enemy.

And WE KNOW that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that WE MAY KNOW him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal life. (vs. 20)

Jesus came!  Knowing God is impossible apart from Jesus revealing Him to us.  Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God! (Colossians 1:15)  Jesus is the only Mediator between man and God! (1 Timothy 2:5) Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life–the only way to the Father! (John 14:6)

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (vs. 21)

I like the way the New Living Translation puts it: “Keep yourselves from anything that MIGHT take God’s place in your heart.”  Since we have so much confidence in our salvation and our God, we must keep Him first in our hearts.  Because we live in a world controlled by Satan and his chief objective is to dethrone God, we need to be on guard!  Anything that MIGHT threaten God’s first-place position, must be guarded against.  One of  my favorite quotes is, “Don’t even taste what you don’t want to be hungry for!”  It is better to starve sin because small bites lead to feasts!

Loving God first, loving others well, and not loving the world are the themes of this letter.  Living by loving achieves the four-fold goals John put forth in this writing:

  1. To teach what maintains fellowship with God.
  2. To lead us on the path to unity with all believers.
  3. To help us avoid sin in our lives.
  4. To make our joy complete.


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1 John 5:5-12 ~ Son of God

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came BY WATER and BLOOD–Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.  And THE SPIRIT is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the SPIRIT and the WATER and the BLOOD; and these three agree.  If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the TESTIMONY OF GOD that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the TESTIMONY IN HIMSELF. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning His Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life!

Son of God is a pretty popular title for Jesus right now with the recent release of the movie by that name last month.  I did not see the movie, but after talking to several people who did, the most common critique is that it didn’t present Jesus as the only One who could save us from our sins, and how desperately we needed the Son of God to come and sacrifice His life on our behalf so that we could be reconciled to the Father and receive eternal life. Without this truth at the forefront, the movie could leave holes in His purpose to those viewing the movie who don’t really know Him.  Jesus was more than a political figure, a religious revolutionary, and a supernatural doctor…He was God’s Son in the flesh walking among “earthen vessels” He created in order to sympathize with us and save us from our sins.  Believing He was a good man or a martyr is not enough, we must believe that He is God’s Son and that true, eternal life is only found in Him.

How can we know that Jesus is truly the Son of God?

  • Testimony by water…at Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and the Father called out from heaven, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:15-17)
  • Testimony by blood…at Jesus’ crucifixion the Centurion realized, “Truly this was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54)
  • Testimony by the Father…not only at Jesus’ baptism, but also when He was transfigured on the mountain prior to His death.  The Father spoke from Heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.” (Mark 9:7)
  • Testimony by the Spirit…”This is the Good News about Jesus who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:4)
  • Testimony by my heart…I know that Jesus is the Son of God because He is the only One powerful enough to transform my heart’s desires, my character and my lifestyle. “For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

There are several different views of what “by water and blood mean.”  One view is that it entails the total work of Jesus from beginning of ministry (baptism) to end (crucifixion).  Another view is that it correlates to His ministry of salvation by blood (Matthew 26:27-28) and sanctification through the washing of the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:25-27).  A different view is that since John wrote this letter, and he is the one who saw the Lord’s side pierced and watched the water and the blood flow out (John 19:34), that “by water and blood” is a personal testimony from an eyewitness at the crucifixion.  How we interpret “by water and blood” doesn’t really matter, whether or not we believe the testimonies about Him does.  In The Bible and Knowledge Commentary: New Testament: 1 John, Zane Hodges wrote, “The Bible does not complicate faith…once we have understood the message, the issue is: Is it true or false? Do we believe it or do we not?”

Eternal life is only found in Jesus–the Son of God (John 3:16).  Abundant life is only found in Jesus–the Son of God (John 10:10)!  Jesus is life–Jesus is THE life! (1 John 5:12, John 14:6)  Either we believe that or we make God a liar and nothing can be trusted!  What you believe about the Son of God is the most important decision of your life!

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Hebrews 7 ~ The Word is Living and Active

I’ve been studying this chapter for 3 days trying to make it personal and pouring over the phrases that have stood out to me the most.  

This chapter starts out with a more thorough reference to the King and High Priest of Salem, Melchizedek, who is compared to Jesus.  Melchizedek means Righteousness, and Salem means peace.  In Genesis, Melchizedek bursts onto the scene for a short while and then we don’t hear anymore about him.  He not only was king, but also a priest on behalf of his people–receiving tithes, giving blessings, and offering sacrifices on behalf of sinners.  He was a foreshadowing of a greater King of Righteousness and Peace and a Great High Priest of all people for all time who would burst onto the scene on earth, live a short life, make Himself a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and be raised to life everlasting! 

The trouble with earthly priests is that they can never obtain perfection for others or attain perfection themselves.  They could only get people so close to God.  We needed a new priest and a better hope of drawing near to God.  Former priests (and current priests) die because they are human and enslaved by the curse of sin, which is death.  Jesus is a priest forever because He took our sin and died for it, yet He lives–conquering sin and death forever.

The Word is Living!  Jesus alone saves completely.  His death allows us to draw near to God through Him.  We can boldly go before the throne of God to find mercy, grace and help (Hebrews 4:16).  He lives so we can be near to the Father.  He doesn’t just live–verse 16 says He has the “power of an indestructible life;” verse 24 says He “continues forever;” and verse 25 says He “always lives.” Therefore, we are always welcome before God!  We are saved completely and eternally.

The Word is Active!  I can remember being in Gatlinburg one time and seeing a T-shirt shop–well maybe 100 T-shirt shops–but one in particular.  The front window was filled with T-shirts that said, “I live for…” baseball, cheerleading, fishing, bowling, etc…  If Jesus had a t-shirt like that it would say, “I live for intercession!”  Interceding for His followers before His Father is constantly on His mind and mouth.  Jesus prays for us!  And the Bible promises that whatever He asks His Father, His Father gives Him.  And we can trust that whatever Jesus asks the Father on our behalf is what is perfect and right and good for us!

Random thoughts:  

  • The word “better” is in this chapter two times and both are linked to Jesus (better hope, better covenant).  Everything about Jesus is better than what we are offered on earth.  Who doesn’t want “better?” Why do we settle for less?
  • “Draw near to God” is mentioned two times as well.  In both cases, we are the ones who desire to draw near to God. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  Jesus is the only way to draw near to God.  If we try to draw near to God through any other means, we will never find Him.
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1 Timothy 6:11-21 Intentional Pursuit

This section opened up with Paul telling Timothy to “flee these things” being the love of money and the desire to be rich.  The best way to flee one thing is to pursue the opposite!  In this case, Paul said to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.  I don’t know about you, but pursuing those things is a full time job!  In fact, Paul called it a “good fight of faith.”

What we fix our eyes on will determine what we pursue.  If our eyes are fixed on eternal life (17) our lives will not be filled with pursuing temporary, earthly pleasures, but those things that draw us closer to God–the blessed, Sovereign, immortal King of kings and Lord of lords!  Along this journey/path that leads to eternal life, there are many riches and blessings along the way that are given by God for us to enjoy (17).  We can flee the riches we think we want to pursue God and receive the riches that he wants us to have. They will be much more enjoyable and do not lead to ruin, destruction and sorrow.

One way that we can enjoy the riches of God is to share them generously (18).  This lays up a good foundation for our eternal life as it lays up true treasure in Heaven–our eternal home.

We need to examine our desires and pursuits because they lead somewhere.  When our desire and hope and pursuits are toward God, we will experience fulfillment, joy and contentment.  When our hope is set on temporary riches we will experience a lifetime of disappointments.  Even if we achieve the “riches” we pursue, a lot will be lost along the way and all could be lost for the life that follows death.  Nothing on earth is going with us or belongs to us then!

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2 Corinthians 5:1-10 Desperate for Home!

Paul refers to our earthly body as a tent!  (Feels like that some days!)  If I lived in a tent, I would long for a real home.  One that holds up well in storms and cannot be blown about or collapse!  Our bodies are an earthly tent that houses our soul.  Our soul longs, even groans, for an eternal home.  However, here I am in this tent and I need to embrace it!  Paul said that while we are on earth, we need to walk by faith not by sight–faith that God has prepared for us a perfect, eternal body that will house our soul forever. We ought to always be of good courage.  Think about the timeline of our lives as a great battle.  Those who believe in Jesus Christ know that the battle ends in victory!  Knowing the ending, should help us to fight courageously while we are on earth.  Thirdly, we need to aim to please the Lord while we are here.

God has prepared us to receive eternal life and placed His Holy Spirit in us as a guarantee.  This should give us great confidence as we face our days.  It also gives us the desire to please the Lord.  We will ALL stand before the judgment seat and EACH will receive our due reward for good or penalty for evil done in this world.

Unfortunately, there is no one who is good and righteous apart from Jesus Christ (Psalm 14:1-3, Romans 3:10).  He, Himself, is our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21)!  When we humbly turn to Jesus knowing our spiritual poverty, He floods our lives with the riches of His grace (Ephesians 2:7) and we are sealed forever by the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts.  It is through the Spirit’s power that we do good works and are given the desire to please the Lord in our actions.

Verse 9 says, “So whether we are at home (Heaven) or away (Earth) we make it our aim to please him.”  If Jesus is not our Lord and we don’t make it our aim to please Him on Earth, why would we even want Heaven?  All of Heaven will be filled with people whose chief desire is to please God for eternity, only we won’t be encumbered with the snares of death, temptation, flesh, and evil.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful!  Doesn’t that make you desperate for home!

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John 3:22-36 Rejoice Greatly

In verse 29, John the Baptist said that friends of Jesus rejoice greatly at His voice.  This is why I read my Bible every day, I long to hear from Jesus.  Sometimes what I “hear,” doesn’t cause rejoicing right away–sometimes it causes brokenness.  When I am obedient to what I “hear” there is definitely great rejoicing.  Our eternal joy can be found in nothing else.  Jesus is above all!  Believing His Words seals our hearts that God is true and fills us with the Holy Spirit Whom the Father gives “without measure.”

When we hear and obey the words of Jesus, if we believe, we have joy and eternal life.  When we hear and disobey, we are under the wrath of God.  That’s the part that is hard to think about.  If you are not a “friend of Jesus,” you are an enemy under God’s wrath.  But even His wrath is a way to turn you to His grace.  Jesus took God’s wrath on your behalf at the cross, so that you can have a life filled with perfect peace.  If the truth of Jesus doesn’t cause you to rejoice, go to God and ask Him to change that.

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Matthew 10:1-31-Possessions

There was one noticeable contrast in the verses about the little children coming to Christ followed by the rich man who wanted to know how to get to heaven–possessions!  Jesus says in verse 15, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  Children have no possessions of their own–nothing to come between them and heaven.  They come with pure, undivided hearts.  Not so the wealthy man.  In verse 21b-22 Jesus declares, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  Jesus discussed this further with His disciples, referring to them as “children” in verse. 24.  Children–like those who come to Him with nothing of their own.  The disciples had left behind all their possessions to come to Christ.

All this is followed up with a great promise–anyone who leaves family, possessions, locations for His sake and the gospel will receive it back a hundredfold and ETERNAL LIFE!  There is no greater reward; no greater gift; no greater possession than the promise of eternal life with Jesus in Heaven!

Jesus + Nothing = Everything!

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