Consider your ways: Part 3

“When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you.” Psalms 50:21

The fact is too plain to be denied, the fault is too bad to be excused. These things God knows; and our own heart knows the ill desires we have conceived in our minds. At times, it might seem that God is silent and ignorant about our sinful life, leaving us undisturbed. But in times like these is when we realize how perfect His patience is—especially as we take advantage of His ‘silence’ to continue wallowing in sin. Many a time, we have taken God’s silence for consent and His patience for connivance; and so the longer they are reprieved the more our hearts are hardened.

In Psalms 50:21, consider His message, which includes a warning, an exhortation and a promise. Because God did not punish them for their sins, they thought He overlooked their wrongs. They failed to understand that God’s silence is not an approval to turn their backs on him and continue sinning, rather a time given to confess and repent of their sins.

A sinner says to himself, “God will never notice; he covers his face and never sees.” (Psalms10:11) This is beautifully elaborated in Charles H Spurgeon’s book, The Treasury of David. Spurgeon explains that a sinner comforts himself with the idea that “God is blind, or at least forgetful: and fond and foolish fancy,” but warns that there is a witness, who is listening at the keyhole of the heart.

God is very patient with each one of us. Because he forbears punishing, we tend to forbear repenting. But remember, “The bee naturally gives honey, but stings only when it is angered.” (Thomas Watson) So, be careful, though the patience is lasting; it is not everlasting.

Consider this you who forget God and says to yourself that God will never notice it: “Before destruction, mercifully comes an opportunity for repentance.” The inference drawn from the Lord’s patience was misinterpreted. When sacrifices were offered, they thought God accepted it; and continued to sin. They thought to themselves that little did God considered of how they lived so long they brought offerings to His altar. They knew not that the Almighty God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent; and their human brains couldn’t fathom the mystery that is God.

There is still hope if you confess your sins, repent and return to the Lord. Asaph instructed the hypocrites to consider their ways before it is too late.

Two tourists in Ireland ask an Irishman for directions to Dublin. The Irishman replies, “Well sir, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here.”  That is often our answers to the sins and wrongdoings in our life. If you want to get somewhere, start from where you are today, irrespective of the situation, the challenges and the hurdles ahead of you. Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and man, and there is a way to God from any place. You don’t have to change a job or a church or blame a situation, family or parents, rather a change of heart and mind is the need of the hour.

Sin is essentially a departure from God (Martin Luther). Acknowledge your sin, confess and turn from it. Sin has four characteristics; self-sufficiency instead of faith, self-will instead of submission; self-seeking instead of benevolence; and self-righteousness instead of humility. Often we don’t want to hear from others about our folly and sins.

Here is a conversation between two sisters:

Lucy says to Charlie, “You know what the whole trouble with you is Charlie?”

“No; and I don’t want to know! Leave me alone!”

“The whole trouble with you is you won’t listen to what the whole trouble with you is”

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. There is a time for everything, therefore consider your ways. Arise and return to the Lord. Say to Him, “forgive all our sins and receive us graciously”. God will not despise a humble man who comes to Him with a broken and contrite heart. Bible gives this warning repeatedly; consider your ways. Better late than never!

C. M. John- Renew In Knowledge Core Team

9 Bible verses of comfort during death

All of us go through sorrow when our dear ones pass away from this world. It is very hard to be comforted during times of death except by the peace of God and His Word.

Here are 9 Bible verses to comfort during times of death.

1. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

I Thessalonians 4: 16- 18

2. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil,for you are with me;your rod and your staff,they comfort me.

Psalms 23:4

3. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

4. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

Psalms 116:15

5. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.

Psalms 34:18,19

6. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

8. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:3-7

9.For I know that my Redeemer lives,And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

Job 19: 25-27

 

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The Church of Philadelphia: Lessons on Love

One may say, with unquestionable justification, that the central theme of the Bible is love, the most salient aspect of which is God’s love for mankind, His special creation.   But the Bible is likewise profuse in instruction for God’s children to reflect His great love by loving others, both the saved as well as the unsaved.   In this regard, Jesus often told His listeners parables, such as that of the Good Samaritan, to illustrate what true love is and how it is shown.  Interestingly, Jesus also illustrates the many ramifications of love to us by means of an exemplary church, the Church of Philadelphia.  This, then, will be the focus of our continuing series in the Seven Churches of Revelation.

Before we can begin a proper study of Jesus’ message to the believers in Philadelphia, it is important to recognize the astounding relationships to be seen between the character and needs of the seven Asian churches to whom Jesus directs His letters and the cities in which the various churches are located.  Nowhere is this phenomenon as evident as it is in the Church of Philadelphia.

With this in mind, let us begin our penultimate study of the Churches of Revelation by examining the character and attitude of the Philadelphian believers and the historical background of the city in which they ministered.  In this way, we find not only valuable lessons for our Christian lives but encouraging and sustaining promises as well.

Background

Philadelphia was the youngest of the seven churches that Jesus Christ addressed, having been established in 189 BC by the King of Pergamum, Attalus II.  King Attalus was well-known for his devotion to his brother Eumenes, and subsequently acquired the name Philaldelphias, meaning “brotherly love.”   As is true with the other cities to which Jesus addresses His letters, the name Philadelphia has special significance with regard to the nature of the church there.

Philadelphia was located between two mountains, in a narrow pass, and lay along an important trade route between Sardis and Smyrna.  Most significantly, it was situated where the borders of Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia met.  This strategic location was chosen in order that the city could serve to promulgate a Hellenic culture and lifestyle to the tribes to the east.  In other words, Philadelphia was established to be a “missionary city.”

Unfortunately, the city was sited in a zone of considerable seismic activity.  Earthquakes were frequent and the people, who lived in fear of collapsing buildings and walls, would often flee from the city when temblors were felt.  According to the Greek geographer Strabo, many inhabitants chose to live in huts outside the city walls or in the open country to avoid being trapped or crushed in the event of an earthquake.

Interestingly, Philadelphia was the last of the seven cities of Revelation to lose its Christian testimony.  The Muslims eventually conquered the city around the year AD 1000.  The modern town of Alasehir is now located at the site of ancient ruins.

In summary, there are several important points to note as we continue our study:

  • Philadelphia was the city of brotherly love.
  • Philadelphia was established as a missionary city.
  • The inhabitants would often flee the city.
  • It was difficult for Christians because of Jewish opposition
  • The Church of Philadelphia represents the church age from 1750-1925 AD. This age saw the Great Awakenings as genuine revival spread across America and the British Isles. It was then that the great missionary movement began.

With this in mind, let us read the message which Jesus sent to the church:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens. I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:7-13 NKJV

Jesus’ Description of Himself

In His letters to the seven churches, the Lord generally begins with a description of Himself derived from John’s representation of Him in the first chapter of the book of Revelation.   To the Philadelphian Christians, however, Jesus deviates from this pattern and rather presents Himself as “He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.”  This is an allusion to an Old Testament reference (Isaiah 22:20-25) and is clearly a promise of Christ that He is sovereign over all matters, even those which seem impossible to us.

Scholars have proposed three interpretations of Christ’s words, each of which has a degree of biblical support:

  • Seemingly the most obvious interpretation is to regard the door as one of opportunity for evangelism. One is reminded, for example, of Paul’s experience in being forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach in Asia but rather directed toward the open door of Europe (Acts 16:6-10).  This interpretation enjoys the contextual support of the passage—Philadelphia was a missionary church and Christ, in His sovereignty, would open (or conversely, close) doors of opportunity to witness.
  • Another perspective is that the Christ is the door of salvation. This idea is supported by Jesus’ own words in John 6 (verse 9).  Christ offers the opportunity for salvation to all but repeated rejection can result in the door being closed, as in the moment in which God Himself closed the door of the ark in the days of Noah.
  • Finally, some believe that Jesus is referring to the blessings Jesus is able to abundantly bestow on His children. As seen in Malachi 3:10, service to God will result in an outpouring of His goodness.

While each of the above interpretations is scripturally correct, I believe that principally Jesus is assuring us that He will faithfully be with us in our service for His Name, in spite of all opposition.   Among Jesus’ final words while on earth were, “Go ye therefore…Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

As Jesus continues His message for the Philadelphian Christians His promises are seen to extend far beyond their present troubled situation.  He tells them (and remember, these promises are applicable to us as well!) that they will be kept from “the hour of trial,” undoubtedly a reference to the coming seven years of tribulation during which the earth will be judged.

Additionally, Jesus assures the Christians that they will be pillars in the temple of God.  This is reminiscent of the two pillars that Solomon constructed in the courtyard of the first temple.  These pillars were called “Jachin,” meaning “establish” and “Boaz,” meaning strength (1 Kings 7:13-21).  Although the Philadelphians had little strength at the time (verse 8) and lived in unsettled and transient circumstances, Jesus promises them that will be established in positions of strength and power as co-heirs of Christ’s millennial kingdom.  They need never worry again about oppression or persecution because Jesus will write His very Name on them.

Jesus tells the Christians that they “will no more go out” in reference to their security in the New Jerusalem.   Remember that the people of Philadelphia frequently fled the city when they sensed that another earthquake was imminent.  The New Jerusalem, however, will be a perfect place in which fear and flight are completely unknown.

Jesus ends His commentary to the Philadelphians by declaring, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  Of the promises given, this is perhaps the most precious.  Jesus proclaims that His words are not just for an isolated community in Asia Minor which existed two thousand years ago.  Those same promises enumerated to the Philadelphians are just as valid for Christians throughout the centuries and living in any part of the world.  The promises of Christ are to us!  He is with us always and we have the assurance of a glorious and secure future in His presence forevermore.

Jim Haesemeyer

 

 

Prepare to be enchanted

Many delights in life come in ways that are unexpected and unanticipated. This truism is applicable even to learning experiences including our understanding of the Bible. If we approach the Bible with an open-minded attitude we will surely end up finding new gems and precious truths bringing us tremendous delight in their discovery. However, if we want to be surprised we need to make space for it.

Think, for example, of the Jewish world at the time of Christ. They had expectations, including marvelous hopes for the coming of the Messiah.  The Jews were the recipients of the Scripture and they loved it and proclaimed it. They were expecting the Messiah in accordance with the prophecies of those Scriptures which they had diligently studied and scrutinized.  Incredibly, the advent of Messiah happened but the Jews missed the opportunity to welcome their expected king. Indeed, their eyes were closed when the Messiah walked in their very midst. How could this have happened? The answer is that they had developed their expectations according to their confined and selective knowledge of Holy Word.  They didn’t leave space to be surprised. In fact, they failed to see the full breadth of the prophecies and instead focused only on selective portions.

It is easy to examine things in hindsight and point out how Jews missed the opportunity to welcome their Savior. But what about us? I presume that we too are missing many opportunities to delight in learning Scripture. This happens when we approach the Bible with our pre-planned notions and perceptions. This is much more of a danger to those who approach the Bible with an I-already-know-all-this approach. If you let that happen it will result in a lost opportunity for Scripture to change your life.

How should we deal with this attitude? The best thing you can do is to approach God’s word with humility. Have your heart prepared to learn and be enchanted. No one can ever fully unearth the depths of insights Scripture is packed with. There will be always new gems to find. It takes time and effort but you will find them. The next time you get into the Scriptures prepare yourself to be enchanted by those treasures. Then you can resonate with what Psalmist meant by “I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure.”

Dijo John

 

Consider your ways: Part 2

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” Isaiah 55: 8. There is a difference in God’s way of thinking and our understanding of what God can do.

God is asking you—“What do you think of yourself?” A man should not judge God by his thoughts and ways. God thinks and acts in ways that transcend anything man could ever imagine, and it is beyond our understanding.

The ways of a man are clean in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. A man’s ways are his outward acts and attitudes, he judges himself by them and pronounces himself clean. But God sees the motives and intentions of his heart.

“Who can understand his errors,” (Psalms 19: 12). You may think that there is nothing wrong with your actions or thoughts. But God knows your heart, he knows your motives and intentions. You may be able to justify yourself. But God is the true evaluator of our thoughts and actions. Sin is a sin, even if we are ignorant of it. No matter how hard you try to hide the darkest and innermost sins of your heart —within yourself and from others— it is not hidden from the view of God.

God is greater than man. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts—they cannot be compared to His thoughts. Man’s thoughts are evil for evil; but God is gracious even when He has been hurt, dishonored and disobeyed by His own chosen people.

The people of Israel were foolish to act as though they knew what God was thinking and planning. Likewise, we are foolish to try to fit God into our mold, to make His plan and purposes conform to ours. Instead, what we ought to do is to strive to fit into His plans.

Trust God to teach, guide and instruct to walk in ways you are to go. But “do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle,” (Psalms 32:9). God is indispensable and there is no other way than His.

In Malaysia, during the second world war, a sympathetic native was helping an escaping prisoner of war make his way to the coast and from there to freedom. The two were stumbling through the virtually impenetrable jungle. There was no sign of human life and not even the slightest trace of a trail. Having  grown weary, the soldier turned to his guide and asked, “Are you sure this is the way?” The reply came in faltering English; “There is no way….I am the way.”

By prayer; in all thy ways acknowledge God. We must ask God His advice and seek earnestly directions from Him. “God shall direct thy path so that your way shall be safe and good. Repent, restore and return to the Lord with a plea to forgive all your sins. Receive graciously and acknowledge that God is the only way that leads to salvation (heaven) and all other ways end at perdition (hell)” (Proverbs 14: 12; 16: 25)

The Bible encourages complete dependence on God and His will in all decisions and actions of our life. As a result, God will help one to head straight towards the goal. There can be no wisdom, understanding or counsel without Him. Success comes from the Lord alone. Victory in life is not a result of actions through human strength and wisdom. By our own strength, we shall not prevail. There is no success without God’s will, and therefore victory belongs to God! Apart from God, we can do nothing. Neither wisdom nor might can fulfill its purpose if they are contrary to God’s will.

All the wisdom a person may acquire can never replace the need for full trust in God’s superior ways. Do not be wise in your own eyes. One should not rely on his own understanding, for human insights are never enough. God’s ways are incomprehensible, yet He is trustworthy.

In all our ways, we need more than just guidance. The rough paths must be made smooth and only God can prepare the way and remove the obstacles—to take us to the appointed goal. A life of communion with God will be of unspeakable advantage.

Dear readers, let’s consider our ways. Are we walking with the Lord in ways we should go?

C.M.John: Renew In Knowledge