Reflections of 2018

The year 2018 is now behind us. Endings are always a good time for reflection. Looking back reminds one of where he has gone and what he has learned. Looking back offers hindsight and wisdom. New Year Resolutions have their place. However, looking back at promises kept and at places and people that intersected our lives might be more valuable than the time spent finding a promise or goal for the next year. Reflecting on lessons learned and on mistakes made and on the people with whom we shared stories offers insight for the New Year if one takes the time to ponder such things.

One of the benefits of living in a social media world is the shared stories. There is no need to wait until one is home to share the trip. Now with a few quick touches to a screen, an entire vacation or adventure can be seen by anyone who cares to look.  One can travel the world and share with others their favorite places. A young friend of mine from India completed her graduate work at Texas Tech University and is now working in Chicago. She posted in 2018 the many places in the United States she has visited with her friends and even family from India. She has seen places in America that many American citizens have yet to see. It is a joy to look at this amazing country through her eyes. There are so many places in this world to see.

Just as important as where 2018 has taken us is with whom did we make the journey? Whether one traveled across the world or across town, there is a story there. Perhaps the journey across town was for a graduation ceremony or a wedding ceremony. Perhaps the journey took you to a hospital to welcome a new life or to say goodbye to another life. Those we choose and those chosen for us on our journey make all the difference. No journey is too far when it is traveled with someone else. Our stories have a way of intersecting with one another.

2018 may have brought a new job or potential for a different position. It may have brought a move to a new home or a new city. It may have brought a new child or it may have ushered in a new chapter where the children are all grown and living somewhere else. The thing about stories is they are constantly being written. One chapter ends and another begins. What did we learn from the stories of 2018?

With years should come wisdom and maturity. This is not always the case but it is the desire. The wisest of kings was Solomon. He wrote near the end of his life there was nothing new under the sun. He had seen everything, and he was sure of it. Yet for all his wisdom, Solomon appears to have lost his first love. The subject of his story changed from honoring God to honoring Solomon. When he began his kingdom, we are told, he asked God for wisdom and God granted it to him. Solomon began well but he did not end well. His story has much to teach us.

It doesn’t matter how many places we go. It doesn’t matter how much money we earn or how many things we accumulate. What matters is that we seek God daily, understanding wisdom is not granted in a one-time act. Wisdom is given and wisdom is learned. Wisdom comes from taking the time to reflect. Wisdom comes when we seek God with all our heart and keep our eyes on Him. Wisdom is not reserved for those who have lived longer but for those who have lived learning, seeking and reflecting.

Learning from God, seeking His counsel and the truth found in His Word, reflecting on what He is teaching us makes us wise. At the closing of each year isn’t that the desire for all? To have learned much, to have lived well and to have made someone else’s story better because we were a part of it…Perhaps in reflecting on these things one might conclude they are a goal for the New Year as well.

Kimberly Kennedy 

Kimberly and her husband have four children, one of whom is already in his forever home. She teaches God’s Word through BSF International.

It’s our 1st Anniversary!

As the year is drawing to an end we are also celebrating the first anniversary of the Renew In Knowledge Ministry! On December 28th, 2017, we started this ministry with the mission to provide counsel and encouragement to transform life based on biblical insight.

God enabled us to do more than we could have asked for. We published a total of 39 original write-ups contributed by 16 different authors. Our website renewinknowledge.org alone has been accessed from 65 countries.

We thank you all for your support and prayers extended to us. Also, special thanks to all the contributing authors and reviewers for your excellent work.

In a time where even believers are feeling less motivated and disenchanted, we are seeking God’s guidance regarding how to position ourselves to be an instrument of His use. We would love to hear your suggestions. You can contact us by email: renewinknowledge@gmail.com

Have a blessed and purposeful new year 2019!!

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe. (Heb. 12:28 NAU)

Who is The Christ in Christmas?

Imagine celebrating a Thanksgiving without turkey or a Passover without lamb. Much worse than that, however, is a Christmas without Christ. Arguably, Christmas is the most decorated and celebrated holiday across the world.  Nevertheless, the joy of this season won’t be complete if Christ is unknown and remains uninvited. Who, then, is the Christ in Christmas?

The prophet Isaiah details the ministry of Christ in greater depth than that of any of the other Old Testament writers. Remarkably both Isaiah and Jesus means salvation which is exactly the purpose for which the Messiah (Hebrew for “Christ”) came.  Christ is seen in the Bible from the very first verse of Genesis although references to Him become clearer as time progresses.   The revelation which God gave to Isaiah about 2700 years ago is among the most precise and vivid prophesies of the life of Christ to be found in the Bible.  His book pre-records that Immanuel, literally meaning “God with us,” would be conceived and born by a virgin (7:14). The child to be born would be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (9:6).  Interspersed throughout the writings of Isaiah is the portrayal of the Messiah who would bear the sins of others and later establish His eternal government of peace and justice. The acclaimed Christmas classic Messiah by Handel is mostly based on the revelation of Isaiah along with the Psalms, two melodic books.

About 3000 years ago, a young boy tending a flock in the fields received an urgent message to return home. To everyone’s surprise that very day he was anointed the king of Israel.  No one could have anticipated that the Messiah would come from his lineage and occupy his throne forever. Music had always been an integral part of this boy’s life and his writings and songs would contribute a substantial portion to the largest book in the Bible, the Psalms. In the Psalms, David, the boy who had become king of Israel, refers to his much-anticipated descendant as Lord (110:1). How could He be David’s son and Lord at the same time? David’s declaration constitutes one of the clearest statements of the divinity of Christ in the Old Testament. In addition to asserting His deity, the aforementioned Psalms affirm that the Lord is the eternal priest of the order of Melchizedek. As an interceding priest, Christ is an unmatched friend. Is it worth it to be His enemy? There could be no worse path in life, yet it is one that is chosen by many who, sadly, will eventually realize its dreadfulness.

Melchizedek, whom we mentioned earlier, is mysterious and enigmatic and yet in many respects he is a prototype of Christ (if not Christ Himself). When Abraham had his encounter with Melchizedek, about 4000 years ago, the Jewish priestly class did not even exist. Interestingly, the account of the meeting of Melchizedek and Abraham marks the first occurrence of the word priest in the Bible. The whole world needed a blessing to free it from the curse and death brought forth by sin. In Genesis, Abraham received the promise from God that through your offspring all the nations on earth will be blessed (22:18). Who else could it be if that blessing is not Christ!

As we continue our journey through the Bible back through time we come to a point prior to Genesis 1:1 where time did not exist. Hard to imagine, right? Far beyond our dispensation there existed Christ, God the Son, in perfect harmony with God, the Father and God, the Holy Spirit. This is the same Christ of Christmas who brought the Universe into existence with His word and in His wisdom. And there began time.

Dijo John-Renew In Knowledge

 

The Church of Pergamos: Lessons on the Insidious Attacks of Satan

The messages of Jesus to the seven churches of Asia provide valuable insight into not only the divine perspective of life in His body but also to the dangers and perils which confront the church and individual Christians.  It is important to remember that Christ’s messages to the seven churches were intended not only for those Christians living at the time of John’s writing but for those throughout the current age as well.  Jesus repeatedly declares, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 

Let’s begin our study of the church in Pergamos with a consideration of the background of both the church and the city where it was located.   At the time of John’s writing, the city of Pergamos was the capital of Asia Minor.  Pergamos was located about 70 kilometers (45miles) north of Smyrna and about 35 kilometers (21 miles) from the Aegean Sea. The modern city of Bergama, Turkey (population about 60,000) now covers the ancient site.

Pergamos was famous for its temples.  In fact, it was the location of the first temple dedicated to the emperor worship cult (built in about 29 BC).   Once each year, every Roman citizen was required to enter the temple, offer incense and declare that “Caesar is god.” 

Another important temple in Pergamos was the one dedicated to Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. Individuals with infirmities or diseases would come to this temple and pass the night lying on the floor.  Non-venomous snakes would be released and it was believed that if a serpent touched the individual during the course of the night he would be healed. The touch of the serpent was thought to be the touch of Asclepius himself.   Perhaps this temple and the others found in Pergamos are what is meant by Jesus’ reference to the place of“Satan’s throne.”

The name of the city was most likely derived from an ancient word meaning “height” or “elevation” but interestingly the word has additional significance in Greek.  Just as the city of Smyrna (derived from the word myrrh, a burial spice) had a name which was indicative of the spiritual trials of those Christians, Pergamos has a literal meaning which casts light on the spiritual condition of the church located there. The name is a compound word consisting of “gamos” meaning “marriage” and the intensifying prefix “per” (huper=English hyper).   Thus implied significance of the name is “twice-married.”  To understand how a church could become doubly married, let us consider the text of Jesus’ message:

And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.  Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it. Revelation 2:12-17

Jesus begins His remarks to the church by describing Himself as the One “who has the sharp two-edged sword.” The terminology immediately brings to mind Hebrews 4:12 where the Word of God is described in precisely the same fashion.  The Bible is portrayed as being able to divide that which is seemingly indivisible (joints and marrow, and soul and spirit).  The church in Pergamos had been contaminated with an influx of worldliness from which it surely seemed impossible to separate.  But Christ and his Word are able! 

The Commendation

Jesus, who in His earthly ministry had been tested in an unparalleled manner by Satan, assures the Christians at Pergamos that He understands the trials which they endure. He describes Pergamos as the place “where Satan dwells.”  He further states that it is the location of“Satan’s throne.”  A throne symbolizes the very center of power.  Yet in spite of being in the crucible of satanic dominion, the Christians had held fast to Jesus’ name.  Their steadfastness was exemplary.

The Problem

Satan’s methods are not always overt and open.   In fact, he is the master of subtle deception.  The tactics used by Satan in Pergamos had gained him a solid foothold within the church.  It is to this insidious danger that Jesus gives warning in his words to those Christians—as well as to all of us.   

Of crucial importance to appreciating the message of Jesus is an understanding of the doctrine of Balaam and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.  The doctrines seem to be related, perhaps even identical.  Indeed the terms Balaam and Nicolaitan have similar meanings.   Balaam is derived from the Hebrew “baal”(meaning “lord”) and “ham” (meaning “people”) resulting in “Lord of the people,” while Nicolaitan comes from the Greek “nikao” (meaning “conquer”) and“laos” (meaning “people”) resulting in “conqueror of the people.”  

With this in mind we must consider the enigmatic story of Balaam as related in Numbers 22-25; 31:16.  Balaam was a prophet hired by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the nation of Israel. In this regard, Balaam sought to curse Israel four different times but each time the curse was turned into blessings.  Perceiving that he was unable to curse Israel Balaam suggested to Balak that Israel should be tempted through corruption from within, which would then result in God’s discipline.  This was accomplished through immorality and idolatry.  Balaam was a man able to use very religious and pious language.  He even seemed to know God or at least know about Him.  His heart, though, was thoroughly wicked and sold into greed and corruption. 

Sadly, the doctrine of Balaam had made inroads into the Church at Pergamos.  The church was tolerant and“broad-minded” toward those who claimed to be Christians but who lived like the world around them, holding their same carnal desires and pleasures.  The church was being slowly corrupted from within just as had occurred with Israel fifteen hundred years previously.   And just as with the Christians at Pergamos, Balaam’s doctrine has also infiltrated the modern church and the lives of many contemporaryChristians. 

The Remedy

The Lord calls upon the Christians of Pergamos to repent.  Repentance has several aspects:

1. Repentance involves a recognition that one’s actions and attitudes are displeasing to the Lord.

2. Repentance involves a desire to change (or be changed).

3. Repentance results in active steps to achieve that change. 

A very similar situation to that of Pergamos is found in 1Corinthians 5:1-9.  In Corinth, there was a man who had taken his father’s wife. Instead of putting the flagrantly immoral man out of the church indiscipline, the Corinthians boasted of their broadmindedness in tolerating him and his sin.  Paul rebuked theCorinthians sharply and they repented. In his second epistle to the Corinthians Paul commends their actions:

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted.   2 Corinthians 7:9-10

This same repentance is what Jesus calls upon the Pergamos church to display.  It is likewise what the immediate response of every Christian should be should he perceive the world’s values creeping into his life.  

The Promise

For those willing to hear His admonitions and to obey them, the Lord promises the hidden manna.   Manna was, of course, the daily provision of God for the children of Israel during their wilderness wanderings and so the application to the Christian’s present earthly sojourn is clear. 

However, the manna described here goes even beyond that.  Note that it is called the “hidden manna” which refers to the sample of manna that was placed in a golden bowl in the Ark of the Covenant.  Jewish tradition holds that Jeremiah hid this manna after Israel had been taken into captivity by the Babylonians.   When the Messiah returns, according to the tradition, God will abundantly provide for His people again. 

Thus the promise is that despite everything, be they trials and persecutions or even the believer’s own failures, God’s faithfulness is unchanging.  The Lord provides all that we need.  The hidden manna, though, speaks not only of God’s provision for needs but of a future abundance of blessing. 

There are several possible interpretations of the significance of the white stone, all of which are both appropriate and wonderful:

White and black stones were used by tribunals of ancient times to indicate guilt and condemnation (a black stone) or innocence (the white stone).  In similar fashion, the Christian has been declared guiltless before God.

A white stone was given to the champions of the ancient games.  In this case, the stone was called a tessera.  The tessera granted the possessor access to various forms of public entertainment.   In like manner, the Christian has been granted access to the glories and wonders of heaven.

Likewise, a white stone was often times used to grant admittance to the parties and banquets of the wealthy.  The Christian will be a participant in the greatest banquet of all, the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. 

Finally, the reference to a secret name is especially endearing.  Names are oftentimes indicative of the relationship between a person and the one who is addressing him.  For example, those who know nothing about me may refer to me simply as “mister” or “sir.”  Those who know that I am a missionary but nothing further sometimes call me “pastor.” Moving to an increasing level of fellowship and closeness, within the church itself many call me “brother Jim.” Even more intimately my children call me “dad.”  And of course, at the highest level of human intimacy, my wife may use one of several terms of endearment when speaking with me.  The name which I will receive from Jesus will be so personal that it will be known only to Him and me.  It speaks of an indescribable closeness and fellowship.  How truly remarkable that the Lord of all creation will speak to each one of us personally and lovingly.  

As we close this short study of the church at Pergamos we must make mention of the man to whom Jesus gave special commendation, Antipas.  As with the other names found in this chapter, the word seems to indicate something deeper than a mere name.   The name Antipas literally means “against all.” One can assume that Antipas died a martyrs death because he did indeed stand against all. He stood against not only corruption but he was willing to stand against the Roman system as well.  Tradition teaches that he was roasted to death inside a bronze bull idol under which was placed a blazing fire.   Although Antipas is unknown in the Bible apart from the brief mention in this passage, it is heartening to note that the God saw his faithful and took note.   So it is with each one of us.  God sees our dedication, service, and love for Him. May these qualities in our lives remain pure and unstained from the world and from all of the enemy’s assaults.   

Jim Haesemeyer                                                                (to be continued)

Zealous for God

Yesterday, I was at my daughter’s volleyball game. A man sat near me who was obviously for the other team. During the two-hour event, I repetitively heard him comment to one after another his sentiments about this “home-schooling” VB team: “Yeah, they are home-schooled. What do they do all day? They got more than enough time to practice their volleyball!” I could feel my emotional blood pressure reach new heights. I tried to distance myself from him, but no matter where I sat, my ears could hear his scornful and critical comments to other spectators. I thought of what I should or could say to such an arrogant person and level him to the rubble of a humiliated human being. Perhaps I could mention my “home-teached” medical student or hospice nurse! 

I wondered why I had the unique privilege to listen to such foolish and offensive retorts. It seemed none of my fellow home-schooling parents heard what I had heard. Finally, the next day, I realized something. I got more upset over comments about my daughter’s student life, than when someone might say: “So where is their God?!” (Psalms115:2). Why is it that my emotional blood pressure will soar over a volleyball game and not over a critical indictment against the Lord? Why would such a statement not even seem to faze me, but I lose sleep over the haughtiness of that father toward my daughter and her team? I craft rebuttals to destroy such derogatory words but would not even compose a paper thought in defense of the Lord Jesus. Perhaps, it is because I do not hold Him with such value anymore. Perhaps, I do not think His honor is worth defending any longer. Perhaps, I have not even spoken to the Lord about these words. Lord, is there not a cause to act and bring your name, your people and your presence back to the forefront of the unbelieving world and believing family of God?

Dr. Steve Price- Renew In Knowledge