#9 Do You Know Much about the First part of Revelation and the 7 Churches of Revelation?

 

How about a quiz?  Here are the churches:  Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea.

 

1.      Which two churches received no negatives from Christ?

2.      Which one church received no positives from Christ?

3.      In Revelation 2:1, what does Christ hold in His right hand?  Theologians believe these items represent what?

4.      In the midst of what does Christ walk?  Theologians believe these represent what?

5.      In Rev. 1:8, Christ says He is the Alpha and Omega.   Do you know how to write these 2 Greek letters?

6.      A few in Sardis are worthy; they shall walk with Jesus in garments of what color?

7.      The church of Philadelphia has kept His Word, and has not denied Him; Jesus sets before them an_____ _____.

8.      Many names are given to Christ Jesus in these verses; at the end of the Thyatira rebuke, Jesus says He will give the faithful few what heavenly body?  One of His names refers to this.  At one conference, it was suggested that we pick one of the attributes of God and focus on that as part of our worship.  I picked “Light.”  Well, my name means light.  The church in which I grew up had a stained glass window of the “Light of the World” by Holman.  I was able later to see the original oil painting in Oxford at Keble College.  Jesus is standing, holding a lantern, knocking on a closed door.

9.      What is one problem the early churches had that churches today do not have?

10.  Which of these 7 churches is your own church most like?  Are there areas in which you personally need to improve?

 

10  Do You Know?  Do You Know I didn’t give answers to the last blog about the churches in Revelation?  So, here are the answers.  Additionally, we are trying to find a way you can reply to the blogs; I’d love to hear from you.                                                                                           

            1. Smyrna and Philadelphia  2. Laodicea   3. Stars, pastors   4. Lampstands, churches    5. Alpha, Omega    6. White      7. Open door   8. Morning star (Jesus)  What characteristic of God did you choose?   9. Several answers but one might be very little N. T. Scripture in written form  10. Your own answers

 

Do You Know what three types of writing are used in Revelation? 

A. Letters (to the churches)  B.  Prophecy, God given revelation, and   C. Apocalyptic writing which uses symbols, word pictures, and describes a cosmic struggle.

 

 

Do You Know to Whom All (That’s grammatically correct Alabama-speak.) Jesus Appeared After His Resurrection?

 In somewhat chronological order, within a forty-day time span, Jesus appeared to:     Mary Magdalene, the other women, the two on the Emmaus Road, Peter, the disciples minus Thomas, a week later the disciples plus Thomas, seven of the fishermen disciples on the beach, the disciples on the Galilean mountaintop, the 500 on the mountaintop, James His half-brother, the disciples, and again the disciples.

            How would you react if you had seen someone die and be buried, and then you saw that person a few days later, alive and talking with you?  Let’s consider a couple of these people. 

            Mary Magdalene, the greater the sin, the greater the forgiveness.  That was Mary the former prostitute.  Though when, at first, she saw the resurrected Christ, she thought He was the gardener, when He spoke her name, she knew Him and wanted to grasp His feet in worship. He wasn’t trying to be rude when He said “Do not cling to me.”  Rather, as my friend, Pastor Shockey explained, “…I return to the Father.  Your idea of relationship with Me has previously been physical (Note: not sexual); henceforth it must become Spiritual.”  Believers now relate to Christ through the Holy Spirit.

            What about the two on the Emmaus Road?  Luke 24:18 names one of the disciples as Cleopas.  We always assumed the other disciple was also a man, but from the Internet at Jesus.org, James Boice suggests that the second disciple was the wife of Cleopas; humm, a woman!  In John 19:25 we’re told that one of the women at the foot of the cross was “Mary the wife of Clopas (different spellings were not unusual.)  This idea suggests that the husband and wife were returning home by way of the Emmaus Road.  But, if they were Jesus’ followers, why did they not recognize Him while walking.  They did finally realize who He was when He broke the bread (His Body) and poured the wine (His Blood.)  Sometimes it takes a hint of something from the past, a souvenir, to bring back to memory a previous event.  (The five senses play an important part in remembering former occurrences.)  Think back to when you realized Who Jesus really is?  A salvation experience, a time you believed, and you knew you knew Him. If you are someone who hasn’t yet come to this recognition, we who have encourage you to embrace by trust, by faith, by His grace, the most amazing event of your life.

            We’ve all heard the expression, “Seeing is believing.” And we’ve probably said, “I’ll believe that when I see it.”  Imagine Thomas.  It was a week between the first meeting with the disciples when Thomas was not present, and when he was with the others.  I wonder what he was doing that first week.  Can you even imagine the emotion he must have experienced touching the wounds in Christ’s hands and side.  He believed.  2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “…walk by faith not by sight.”  We all could take a lesson from Thomas.

            Can you imagine a Mom yelling upstairs to her children, “John 21:12.”  Well, I used to do that, and the kids would come down to breakfast before going off to school.  Scripture describes a picnic breakfast of fish cooked over an open fire on the beach.  The most prominent of the disciples in this event is Peter.  Christ asked three times if Peter loves Him, and Peter always answered “Yes.”  If you love me feed my sheep, my lambs.  Sometimes, even we need to have a person look us straight in the eye and repeat something three times before it really sinks in.  Peter was to be the human leader of the flock, the shepherd of the Jewish believers who were left behind.  What about you?  Maybe you are helping to care for our flock, or maybe God wants you to use your spiritual giftedness for some other service to Him.  Are you listening to and hearing what Christ is asking you to do?  And, then doing it?

            James the half-brother of Jesus (not the disciple James brother of John, the sons of Zebedee) was not a believer until after the resurrection.  This James later became one of the key leaders in the Jerusalem church.  He was martyred for his faith.  Is it possible to grow up in a Christian home and not become a Christian?  Of course.  Keep praying for friends and relatives who have not yet come to the Lord, especially the children of pastors and deacons.  Our faithful prayers “avail much.” 

            So then, what would you do if you literally met Jesus?  Me?  He and I would run towards each other, across a field of yellow wild flowers, and then hug with joy. 

Do You Know the Path to Take?  Loving on the Way Toward Easter

 

            Traditionally, la via Dolorosa is the route Jesus walked across the city of Jerusalem from the Antonia Fortress, the place of his condemnation, to Calvary, the Hill Golgotha, (John 19:17, *other gospels relate similar information) where He was crucified.  There are not a lot of verses in Scripture describing this journey, but we’ll look at a few.                                                                    Have you ever been wrongly accused?  It’s hard when even family and close friends, condemn you publicly without knowing the whole truth about the situation.  The Antonia Fortress was built prior to 31 BC and named after Mark Anthony, defeated at the sea Battle of Actium. [A Final Jeopardy question last night.]  It was a barracks for Roman guards, and it was also where the robes of the high priests were kept since it was next to the Temple Mount.  Part of this area became the Praetorium (John 18:33, 19:13 19:16) where Pilate interview Jesus.  Washing his hands of the innocence of Jesus, (Matthew 27:24) and releasing Barabbas to the crowd, (John 18:40.)  Pilate allowed Jesus to be crucified.                                                                                     Have you ever had to do something difficult that you weren’t planning, on simply because you were there at the time someone was needed?  Jesus had been so beaten (John 19:1) that, along the way, another was compelled to carry the cross for Him.  Simon of Cyrene, (Matthew 27:32) now called Libya in North Africa, was one of the oldest Jewish settlements.  He was the father of Alexander and Rufus. (Mark 15:21, Note the song: Behold the Lamb.)  He is referred to as Simon called Niger, and it is probable that he was black skinned because of this name and his geographic home.  He had come in from the country to Jerusalem, and he had to have been strong.  Remember, Roman soldiers could make any Jew do what was commanded. Matthew 5:40-41)                                                                                                                              Several years ago, a pastor used the example of some mean boys taking a puppy and nailing its four paws, spread eagle, to a tree.  What would your emotional reaction be to that illustration?  And, Jesus was nailed to the cross by Roman soldiers.  Supposedly, this was the most horrific means of punishment.  Who killed Jesus?  For centuries the Jews have been blamed.  But, Jesus “gave” his life as a ransom (Matthew 20:28) for our sakes according to God’s plan. His blood washes away a believer’s sin.  (Romans 5:9 and 3:23-25)

                                                      Jesus died.  (John 19:30)

            Jesus was taken down from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea and laid in his private tomb.  (John 19:38 41-42)

            Is this the end of the story?  It is the end of the journey along la via Dolorosa.  But, wait, there is the stop near the tomb.  As He predicted, Jesus rose from the dead.  (Matthew 28:5-6)  He met with people over a period of 40 days. (Acts 1:3)  He ascended into Heaven   (Acts 1:9-11) to be with His Father.  Can you imagine ascending into Heaven??  For years, my father was an Deist.  Shortly before his death, God gave me a dream:  my Dad ascending into Heaven, amongst pink clouds, into the arms of Jesus.  If you have trouble with these last steps on la via Dolorosa, I encourage you to return; walk back half way and comprehend the sacrifice that was made on the cross for you.  Then, as a believer, thank Him for the precious gift of His blood, and celebrate Easter:  Christ arose from the dead.   And, then He ascended into Heaven.  We look forward to being with Him forever. 

Do You Know if You are Praying in the Will of God?

           Prayer is an honor and privilege; we can communicate with God the Father, in the Name of Jesus the Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  In the At Home in Mitford series, popular several years ago, Pastor Tim and his wife have a “prayer than never fails,” which they say when they don’t know how to pray:  “Thy will be done…”  We may not know His Divine will in a certain situation.  But, we can know the basics.                                                                                      First of all, what hinders prayer?  Sin.  Prayers of non-believers, other than the prayer of repentance, need not be answered even though God knows all about the unbeliever.  John 9:31 and Prov. 15:29. “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”  How are we righteous? We are made righteous by Christ’s shed blood and by believing in Him.              Christians are righteous, but we still sin, so we need to ask for forgiveness.   We need to confess and pray for our own forgiveness, and we need to pray that we will forgive others.   Unconfessed sin, inhibits answered prayer.  James 4:3 tells us, to consider our motive in asking; if it is selfish, God need not answer.  We are not to doubt, James 1:6. Honor your marriage so your prayers are not hindered.  I Peter 3:7. 

                                       Pray the Word of God back to Him. 

            One of the greatest prayers we can offer is that the Holy Spirit will draw people to Himself.  We can always pray for the salvation of family and friends.  It may take 30 years, but I believe God will answer in the positive.  “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  2 Peter 3:6.                                                                                                  We may pray for healing, but we don’t know what God has in mind.  (Why did the baby die?  Why didn’t God heal her?)  Our former church had quarterly healing services; the pastor would anoint the forehead of the petitioner with oil, and the deacons would pray for healing.  We saw several people healed.  “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16 KJV                                                                                                                                  We are also instructed to pray as Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13; and we are to pray for: our enemies, Matt. 5:44;  missionaries,  Luke 10:2;  ministers, Col. 4:3;  and our government leaders, 1 Tim. 2:1-3.

             In many cases, the Holy Spirit takes our struggling attempts and presents them perfectly to God.  Romans 8:26-28.  Even so, we may pray with boldness.  The curtain is torn giving us access to the Father.  Finally, as has been said, it’s not about you or me, it’s about God’s will.  Lord, Thy will be done.  Amen.

 

Do You Know Much About Saint Patrick?

             You probably know that March 17th is Saint Patrick’s Day.  He is the patron saint of Ireland.  But, do you know where and when he was born?  He was actually born near the west coast of England in what is now Scotland, in the late 300’s, during the time Rome ruled Britain. His family was well-to-do and Christian, but he was rebellious as a young teen.  (Proverbs 22:6, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.)  At age 16, Patrick was captured by Irish marauders, taken to Ireland, and sold into slavery to a Druid chieftain.  (Eph. 6:5, Slaves be obedient to those who are your earthly masters…as to Christ…doing the will of God from the heart….)  For six years Patrick lived in poverty, tending sheep on the hillsides. There he had the opportunity to learn the Irish customs, language, and culture, and time to think about the Lord he had rejected at home.  He asked Christ for forgiveness and was filled with the Spirit.  (Romans 10:9-10, …believe…and confess…)(Acts 13:52, …filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.)  He was told in a dream to flee to the coast and escape by boat; he returned to England.

            Patrick dedicated his life to God, to being holy, and doing God’s will.  (John 4:34, Jesus said…my food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.)  He studied in France under the Bishop of Tours and became a priest.  (2 Tim. 2:15, Study to show thyself approved, a workman who need not be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of Truth.)  In a dream, Patrick heard God’s call to go back to Ireland as a missionary.  (Similar to Acts 16:9-10, A vision appeared …in the night…beseeching him, saying ‘Come over…and help us’….and we sought to go…concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.) He was made a Bishop and returned to Ireland around 433; he went about preaching the Word of God, though always in danger of persecution.   

            Legend says that Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leaf clover, as an illustration to teach the concept of the Trinity. (Matt. 6:28, ...consider the lilies of the field.) (John 15:26, ...whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me…)(See also Gen. 1:1-2 and John 1:1.)  Patrick preached for 30 years.  As time went on, much of the whole country was converted, and the people’s faith grew.  He died, supposedly on March 17th. 

            Though Patrick is usually associated with Catholicism, the story of his repentance and conversion, his missionary endeavor, and zeal, is an inspiration to all believers.

           

Do You Know?   Is God sovereign in our world right now?

  This is the third and last blog on the topic of “Sovereignty.”  I heard an old hymn today; I know I’ve said be careful about getting your theology from hymns and choruses, but this seemed right on for the sovereignty of God: “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” (Martin Luther, Ein Feste Burg,1529.)

            Do You Know what a “bulwark” is…as in verse one, “never failing”?  An “above ground defensive structure that forms part of a fortification…a bastion, parapet, citadel, stronghold.” (The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus. Pocket Books, Simon and Schuster, N.Y., 1978.)  The rest of verse one describes our battle against Satan, but God is …“Our helper, He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe doth seek to do us woe; his craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.”  This suggests that Satan is supreme on earth. But, he cannot stand against the God.

            Verse two tells us that we can’t trust in our own strength, and that God’s chosen, Jesus, is on our side.  He is the “same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8. Christ must win.  We know in the end, He does. 

            Verse 3 continues, “And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us: The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him, his rage we can endure; for lo, his doom is sure, one little word shall fell him.”

            Verse four says that, the word stands strong, in spite of earthly evil powers.  God has given us the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, and Christ is on our side.  Even if we die, God’s truth remains, and God’s kingdom is forever.  We can take courage from this truth.  God is ultimately in control.  Satan gets involved as much as possible to mess things up.  People make choices, hopefully within the will of God.  But, mistakes have consequences.  Though we struggle, we can prevail with Christ.

            Let’s look at the beginning and the end.  Do You Know the first four words in the Bible?  “In the beginning God….”  Genesis 1:1 God existed before the beginning.  If you add the 5th word, “created,” God is the author of all things.  Now, turn to Revelation 20:1-2 and 10; Satan ends up in the Pit.  “…be of good cheer; I (Christ) have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Further encouragement in the sovereignty of God:  Isaiah 33:22; Isaiah 43:13; I Chronicles 29:11-13; Psalm 103:19; Proverbs 16:1-4 and 9.  Luke 18:27; Acts 17:26-28; Romans 11:36; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 4:6; Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:13-20; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rev. 1:17-18; Rev. 22:17 and 20.

Do You Know? Is Satan at all Sovereign?

Satan, Lucifer, the fallen angel and his hoard, who is he or it? Does he have any control over what we do or what happens to us? Be careful as you learn about the devil, that you don’t get so involved and fearful that you forget “how great a salvation” we have in Christ our Lord.

First, let’s look at what Jesus said and saw. Luke 10:18, “And he (Jesus) said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’”

Isaiah 14:12 gives a description of what happened. Lucifer/Satan, an angel, wanted to be like God. Less familiar, Ezekiel 28:12, describes Lucifer’s created beauty and his ultimate pride. Sounds like “Pride goeth before the fall.” (Prov. 16:18) Some scholars think these verses apply to the earthly kings of Babylon and Tyre, but they certainly apply to Satan’s fall.

Satan is the ruler of this evil world. (John 14:30) The whole world is in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19) He is the prince of the power of the air. (Eph. 2:2), and he tempts (Luke 4:5). He is our adversary, and prowls around seeking someone to devour/destroy (1 Peter 5:8). Satan blinds and veils the eyes of non-believers (2 Cor. 4:4).

But as Rev. Pink mentions, “…the created cannot thwart the Creator.” There is hope. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” 1 John 4:4b, “..He who is in you is greater that he who is in the world.” In 2 Chronicles 20:5 and following, Jehoshaphat’s prayer pleads with ”..the God in heaven.. (who) rules over all the kingdoms of the nations..in Thy hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee.”

So where does that leave us? Who is in control of the world? We need to look further into the Sovereignty of  God.  

The Mercy Speech

Do You Know?   Do you know by heart the “Mercy” speech from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice?  Food for thought.

               

                                                         The ‘mercy’ speech from

The Merchant of Venice.

The quality of mercy is not strained.  It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven on the place beneath.  It is twice blessed;  It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

It is mightiest in the mightiest.  It becomes the throned monarch better than his crown; His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, The attribute to awe and majesty, Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings. 

But, mercy is above the sceptred sway; It is enthrone in the hearts of kings.  It is an attribute to God himself; and earthly power doth then show likest God’s When mercy seasons justice.           Act IV, Scene 2.

 

Mercy is one of the attributes of God which we may demonstrate.

What does the Bible say about mercy? 

Matt 5:7  “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” Mercy here can be defined as one showing “active pity.”  We can be merciful to others as the good Samaritan did in Luke 10:37.

Psalm 51:1 tells us it is because of God’s mercy that our sins are forgiven. 

In Luke 1:50 God’s mercy is bestowed upon those who fear (awe) Him.

Mark 5:19b.  shows that we should proclaim Christ’s mercy toward us.

Because of God’s mercy, He allows us to serve others (2 Cor. 4:1) through our various gifts. And, by His mercy we can remain faithful.  Mercy is one of the spiritual gifts, Romans 12:8.  It is showing kindness and caring for someone who is having physical, emotional or spiritual difficulties.  (It is different from exhortation which is more like kick you in the seat of your pants and get you doing what you know you should be doing.)  Mercy has been defined as “not getting what you should deserve.”  Because Christ has shown us mercy, we should show mercy to others. 

Food for Thought

How did you react to the mercy speech from The Merchant of Venice?                                         Have you shown mercy to someone recently?                                                                            What are your Spiritual gifts?  (There are several published Spiritual Gifts tests; if you do not know how God has gifted you, ask a staff member for a copy of a test, or check out the Internet.)

Some Characteristics of God

Do You Know?   Let’s start the New Year with a couple of items for pondering.   Do you know, or have you ever heard of, the two brothers Joseph and Richard Alleine?  The following thoughts are theirs. 

Some Characteristics of God

--from Heaven Opened, by Joseph Alleine and Richard Alleine

pp. 106-108 No Publication Information

(Joseph Alleine, the more prominent, lived for only 34 years in the mid-1600s in England.)

1.      My eternity shall be the date of your happiness. I am the eternal God, and while I am, I will be life and blessedness to you.

2.       My unchangeableness shall be the rock of your rest. When all the world is like the tumbling ocean round about you, here you may fix and settle.

3.      My omnipotence shall be your guard. I am God Almighty, your Protector and your Benefactor.

4.      My faithfulness shall be your security. My truth you will (never come off losers by Me.) reworded

5.      My mercies shall be your store. I am the Father of mercies, and such a Father I will be to you.

6.      My omniscience shall be your overseer. My eyes shall be ever open, observing your wants to relieve them and your wrongs to avenge them.

7.      My wisdom shall be your counsellor. If any lack wisdom, let him ask of Me, and it shall be given him. I will be your deliverer and a light to you.

8.      My justice shall be your avenger and rewarder. Fear not to approach; fury is not in Me.

9.      My omnipresence shall be company for you. Surely, I will be with you, to bless you.

10.  My holiness shall be a fountain of grace to you. I am the God of hope, the God of love, the God of patience, the author and finisher of faith, the God of all grace, and I will be grace to you.

11.  My sovereignty shall be commanded by you. You shall be My favorites…all My attributes shall be at the command of your prayers.

Do You Know the Seven Things God Hates?     Proverbs 6:16-19.

Haughty eyes  (aloof, indifferent, egotistic, contemptuous)

A lying tongue

Hands that shed blood

A heart that devises wicked plans

Feet that make haste to run to evil

A false witness who breathes out lies

A man (woman) who sows discord among brothers.                                                         

Are you guilty of any of these?  

Which of these as demonstrated during Christ’s arrest and trials?                                                                                                                                                                

While we’re in Proverbs, let’s look at a few other verses and add one more thing which somehow I thought was in the original list.

            Proverbs 8:13 adds, “…Pride and arrogance…I hate.

Proverbs 3:7 “Be not wise in your own eyes….”  Then, Romans 12:3 re-iterates this same pride problem, “…I bid everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think…”

            Have you found one of these areas you’d ask God to help you conquer?

#18 Did you Know?  Epiphany, January 6th is Kings’ Day:  Do You Know how many Magi came to visit Jesus? 

            Is it Scriptural or tradition that lets us believe there were three Wise Men?  There’s that song about “We three Kings of Orient are… traveling…”  But, as far as I know, there is nothing in the Bible that says there are three or that says how many Magi actually came.  Surely, they had an entourage, so there would have been more than three men in their caravan:  servants, cameleers, baggage handlers.

            The kings, called magi, also referred to as magicians, astrologers, or astronomers, were likely followers of Zoroastrianism, a monotheistic belief with an uncreated Creator called the Illuminated Wisdom. It was this supreme being who fought evil, with the help of men leading a family- oriented, good life through good works and deeds.

            Isaiah 60:3 says, “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” KJV.    “Kings….shall offer gifts.  Yea, all kings shall fall down before him…”       Ps. 72:10b-11a  KJV.

            What about the kings is legend?  That there were three; their races (black, white, yellow); their names (Melchior, Balthasar, Gaspar); their ages (young, middle-aged, old).  We tend to place the wise men and the shepherds all together in the manger creche, but it is calculated from Scripture and history that the wise men arrived about two years after Christ’s birth. 

            Other than being expensive gifts, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh have interesting and important meanings.  Gold honors kings.  Frankincense is incense used by priests.  Myrrh was used as a burial spice for anointing.  Jesus Christ is King of kings; He is our high priest; He offered His life an atonement for our sin, was buried, and rose from the dead.  All of the gifts were symbolic and prophetic of Christ’s life and death.

            What shall we give Jesus for His birthday?   Often, we ask Jesus what He wants each of us to give Him for His birthday.  He could tell us through His Holy Spirit.  Would you ask Him, this year, what He wants you to give?  

Further references of interest: I Kings 10:1-2 and 14-21.  Daniel 3:1-5.  Isaiah 60:6b.   Song of Solomon 4: 13-14.  Exodus 30:23-25.  John 19:39.  Mark 15:23.

Did you know? Christmas, Do you “ponder?” Mary did.

               Each Advent season we receive a devotional booklet in the mail from the president of a college which we support. The cover painting was “The Annunciation.” There are thousands of paintings of the Annunciation: the announcement to Mary that she would bare God’s Son. This painting was different: Mary sits on a rumpled bed; she looks askance at someone outside of the painting. She is quiet, but skeptical; surely, she is pondering.

                Luke 2:19 says that Mary, after Jesus’ birth, kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then again in 2:51, after his parents find Jesus in the temple, Mary kept all these things in her heart. Let’s define “ponder:” consider, examine attentively or deliberately, appraise, evaluate, meditate on, brood over, reflect upon. (Merriam-Webster Thesaurus)

                We’re always thinking about something. Advent is a time to think more about God’s gift. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As he (a man) thinketh in his heart, so is he…” KJV What are we supposed to think about? Whatever is: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8) “Do these things, and “the peace of God will be with you.” (4:9) We need to make time to ponder, especially now.

                Might we hear from God? In a “still small voice,” (1 Kings 9:12) Be still and wait patiently…” (Psalm 37:7a) “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

                The idea of “I Ponder as I Wander” obviously came from the song title: “I Wonder as I Wander.” I know we wander. What about wandering and wondering? The shepherds returned and told all the townspeople they met along the way about the new born Christ, and the people wondered, (Luke 2:17-18) Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when God does miracles. (Acts 3:6, 12) Or (Mark 15:4-5), (Isaiah 53:7), (James 4:3) you don’t receive answers because you ask with wrong motive.

                Some of the most moving words upon which to ponder, come from the recent song “Mary, Did I Know.” Mary,… “When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.”

                The mysteries, the miracles, there is much to ponder this season. Be still, be blessed.

#16 Jude, Conclusion 

 

            We conclude our 4-section study of Jude with verses 14-26.  V. 14, Who was Enoch?  He was the great-grandfather of * ____________  (See end for answer.)  There is a Book of Enoch written in the Ge’ez language of Ethiopia.  Verses 14-16 are paraphrased from that non-canonical book.  Enoch’s genealogy is mentioned in Genesis 4:18 and 5:18. The most we know of his spiritual life is in v. 24, “Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him.”  In this miraculous translation of Enoch, he never died, but was taken alive to Heaven.  (See 2 Kings 2:11.)  Verses 14-16, Enoch’s prophecy, are paraphrased from that non-canonical book.  And, 17-19 parallel these warnings in Jude’s words.  We often shame the worldly, but which of these descriptions best fits you?  How about grumbling or boasting?

            Verse 20, and onward, addresses the second theme of the book, Keeping the Faith.  Believers are called beloved.  We are encouraged to grow in holy faith, to pray in the Spirit, to wait for God’s mercy in the end, and to evangelize the lost and those “slipping” away.

            Finally, a well-beloved benediction (See also Numbers 6:24-26.)  Jesus keeps us and presents us faultless to God.  To Christ be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority forever.  This benediction is worth memorizing and worthy of our pondering.                                   *Noah

#15 Jude Content con’t

 

            We continue in Jude with verses 8-10.  Much of what Jude writes comes from other original sources used at that time, but not included in the Canon.  In a Jewish apocryphal book, “The Assumption of Moses,” now lost, Satan argues with the archangel Michael, wanting to claim Moses’ body, saying his body was matter and he, Satan, ruled matter.  However, God created matter.  Secondly, he reminds the archangel that Moses was a murderer, so therefore Satan should have Moses’ body.  Michael left the decision up to God.  (Other references regarding Satan and angels:  Dan. 10:13 and Zech. 3:1-3.)

            Verse 11; Cain, Balaam, Korah.  In Gen. 4:8 ff; Cain murders his brother Abel and is cursed to be a fugitive, v. 11 ff; Cain became the father of Enoch, v. 17.  As for Balaam, there are a couple of different accounts.  He was asked to curse the Israelites, and though he tried to refuse, reward lured him, and while riding with the princes of Moab, his donkey saw an angel and the donkey spoke.  Num. Chapters 22-24. Do you know who Korah is?   Numbers 16:1 ff, Korah and others rose up against Moses and Aaron v. 30 ff.  God opened the earth and swallowed them up.  (Also see Num. 26:9-10.)

            Are you beginning to see what Jude is trying to tell us with all of these examples?  OBEY God.

            Now we turn to a bit of poetry.  In verses 12-13, why do these examples have no value?  Referring again to false prophets and teachers, here is another test in identifying such.  They are like:  clouds without water; trees with withered fruit; raging waves; wandering stars.  Ponder on these.

Do you know what is discussed in Jude? Part 2

Not often is there a sermon or Bible study lesson on Jude which was written about 125 A.D.  Some of the content is difficult.  But let’s look at the greeting.  As we mentioned before, if Jude is the brother of James who is the brother of Jesus, then Jude would also be the brother of Jesus.  Imagine, we as believers, are beloved of God, and we are kept in his care.  God provides mercy, peace, and love.  How much we need those qualities. 

            In verse 3 we find that Jude changed his mind about what to write, or God impressed upon him to deal with another issue.  Rather than our common salvation, Jude writes about apostate persons coming into the congregations.   Some people distort doctrine to fit their own desires.  Skip down to verse 8, these pagans “defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones.” Could you recognize a false teacher today?  I’d probably call them a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”  (Also read Matthew 7:15-20.)  What are some false beliefs?  For example:  There is no hell.  If there were a hell, God is a loving God, and He wouldn’t send anyone to hell. What happens to false teachers as in Galatians 1:8-9, they are to be accursed.                            

            In verses 5, 6, and 7, Jude discusses three different past events.  In verse 5 Jude tells of God saving His people from Egypt, though they later disobeyed Him.  Remember, the blood on the doorposts is foreshadowing Christ’s shed blood for us. Verse 6 says some of the angels fell into sin and were punished.  (More on this topic later.)  In verse 7, the sin of the flesh is avenged and punished.  Genesis 19:1-2 says Lot’s guests in Sodom were angels.  (Here is another difficult topic of discussion for later.)  At any rate, these three examples are reminders to us to OBEY God. 

How much do you know about the book of Jude?  (In series)

 

Part I

Jude?  Jude Who? 

This small book is found right before the Revelation, and it is so small it doesn’t have chapters. 

Introduction

How did Jude get put into the “Canon?”   What’s a “canon?”  Canon is Greek for ‘measuring stick.’  Canonicity was actually delivered by God not man, and the act of being chosen to be in the New Testament was done over a period of time.  In the 300’s several bishops from all around Christendom met on various occasions to deliberate about which writings should be included. 

Choice depended on:   the importance of the issue addressed; how the writing was accepted by the various churches; if it was sound doctrinally and morally—reflecting the orthodoxy of the early church; if it was prophetic; if it was dynamic and powerful; if it was written by an apostle or someone close to the event?

            Jude is the same name as Judas, a very common name then.  Supposedly, Jude was the brother of James, who was the first Bishop of Jerusalem, and who also was the brother of Jesus; therefore, (one option) Jude was the brother of Jesus.  Some of this writing is taken from the Book of Enoch, part of the Apocrypha. What’s “apocrypha?” It is part of the Septuagint (Jewish writings,) accepted by Catholics as Scripture, but not accepted as Scripture by Protestants; it is the writings found in between the OT and the NT.  Some of Jude is similar to II Peter.  For instance, II Peter 2:1, and Jude verse 18.  See also, 2:4, v 6; 2:6, v 7; 2:9, v 6; 2:10, v 8; 2:11, v 9; 2:12, v 10; 2:13, v 12; 2:14, v 11; 2:15, v 11; 2:17, v 12-13; 2:18, v 16; 2:21, v 3; and, II Peter 3:3, Jude 18.   

            Jude was written to Greek speaking churches, to believers--the called, the beloved, the kept.  It was written about 125 AD.  Originally the author wrote of “our mutual faith” but then addressed the main problem of the day, “false teachers.”  So, the themes of the book are:  1. Evil doers will be punished, and 2. Keep strong in the faith.

            Come back next time and we’ll look at what is written in the book.  Blessings.

 

 

Do you know how William Shakespeare defined “mercy?  

                                                                             

                                                         The ‘mercy’ speech from

The Merchant of Venice.

The quality of mercy is not strained.  It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven on the place beneath.  It is twice blessed;  It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

It is mightiest in the mightiest.  It becomes the throned monarch better than his crown; His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, The attribute to awe and majesty, Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings. 

But, mercy is above the sceptred sway; It is enthrone in the hearts of kings.  It is an attribute to God himself; and earthly power doth then show likest God’s When mercy seasons justice.           Act IV, Scene 2.

 

Mercy is one of the attributes of God which we may demonstrate.

What does the Bible say about mercy? 

Matt 5:7  “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” Mercy here can be defined as one showing “active pity.”  We can be merciful to others as the good Samaritan did in Luke 10:37.

Psalm 51:1 tells us it is because of God’s mercy that our sins are forgiven. 

In Luke 1:50 God’s mercy is bestowed upon those who fear (awe) Him.

Mark 5:19b.  shows that we should proclaim Christ’s mercy toward us.

Because of God’s mercy, He allows us to serve others (2 Cor. 4:1) through our various gifts. And, by His mercy we can remain faithful.  Mercy is one of the spiritual gifts, Romans 12:8.  It is showing kindness and caring for someone who is having physical, emotional or spiritual difficulties.  (It is different from exhortation which is more like kick you in the seat of your pants and get you doing what you know you should be doing.)  Mercy has been defined as “not getting what you should deserve.”  Because Christ has shown us mercy, we should show mercy to others. 

Food for Thought

How did you react to the mercy speech from The Merchant of Venice?                                         Have you shown mercy to someone recently?                                                                            What are your Spiritual gifts?  (There are several published Spiritual Gifts tests; if you do not know how God has gifted you, ask a staff member for a copy of a test, or check out the Internet.)

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!!!! 

Do you know which of the above animals is not mentioned in the Bible?*  Zoo-ology!  There are lots of animals in the Bible, not counting Noah’s Ark.  (Oh, by the way, do you know the name of Noah’s wife?)**

Lions: Let’s start with Jesus as the Lion of Judah, Rev. 5:5, “Weep not, lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered…”  Dan. 6:16-24 is probably the most famous scene with lions; because Daniel had prayed to his God, he was thrown into the lions’ den; but “Did You Know” the den was covered with a large stone and the king’s signet was put on the stone so that nothing could change Daniel’s fate?

Tigers:  ‘Tiger’ in very few translations, seems to be used only where most translations use lion or leopard.  Job 4:11; James 3:7; Jeremiah 5:6; Habakkuk 1:8.

and Bears: Oh my!  I Samuel 1:34, David had protected his father’s flocks from lions and bears, surely he could deal with Goliath.  In Daniel 7:5, he shares his vision with the king, including lions and bears; the bear probably represents the Medes and Persians who were voracious and cruel.  (silver, see Daniel 2.3) 

Horses: “Did you Know” that in Job 39:19-25 there is a detailed description of a horse?        Exodus 15:1-3 and 21 Miriam’s song of the horse and rider into the sea; James 3:3 says, we can bridle a horse, but not our tongue; 2 Chron. 9:25, describes Solomon’s wealth in horses and chariots, and stables; Rev. 6 The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse:  white horse and rider, to conquer; red horse, to remove peace; black horse, famine; pale horse, Death.

Dogs:  dogs are always bad when they appear in the Bible; not the cuddly furry pets we love.   One vivid description is I Kings 21:19 and 23-26, dogs lick the blood and eat Jezebel.  In the rich man and Lazarus, he begged only crumbs, and the dogs licked his sores, Luke 16:20. Also see Matt. 15:25-28.  In Judges 7:4-5, God had Gideon test the soldiers to find who lapped the water as a dog, and therefore did not keep watch.   Isaiah 26:10-11 gives a good description of dogs.     Here’s a good Proverb to end with in 26:17, “He who meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.”                        

And more…There are ravens, storks, and roosters; there’s even a gnat (Matt. 23:23-24) and a leech (Prov. 30:15-16.)  Then, there are the donkey, ass, colt; wolf and fox; swine and pigs, etc.

Lamb, sheep, ram:  Genesis 22:13, the ram caught in the thicket, an offering rather than Isaac. Luke 2:8 the shepherds and sheep at the annunciation of Christ’s birth. John 10:27 Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice, He knows them, and they follow Him;    John 21:16 Jesus tells Peter to feed His sheep.                                                                             

But, best of all is the Lamb!  John 1:29 and 36, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  2 Peter 1:19 the Lamb without blemish….Who … lay down His life for His sheep. John 10:15                                                                                                                     

Readers, “Behold the Lamb.”                                       

 *Answer:  tigers;    ** Answer: “Joan of Arc”  Ha, ha.

                                          

 

 

Which Witch?

 

Do you know where the best Halloween story in the Bible is found?

            Now don’t get upset; think back to when we were kids—it was a fun time.  Nowadays it has changed a lot, and adults have evolved the holiday into one more evil in nature.  Originally, Halloween or Hallowed Evening was religious, the evening before All Saints’ Day, November 1st.  But, let’s get back to the witch. 

            Look up I Samuel 28: starting in verse 3; it’s the story of the Witch of Endor.  Main characters are:  the witch, King Saul, and God’s prophet Samuel, but he’s dead.  Saul had outlawed witches and wizards; Samuel had died; the Philistines had gathered to make war against Israel; and the Lord had not answer Saul’s prayers.  So, under the circumstances, King Saul took things into his own hands and asked his servant to find him a medium--a witch!  Saul disguised himself and went to the witch of Endor, but she hesitated, knowing the law, and fearing for her life if she were to conjure up a dead soul.  Saul assured her no harm would come to her.  He requested Samuel. When the witch saw Samuel coming to her, she then recognized King Saul.  And, he recognized Samuel.

            Of course, Samuel was upset that he had been disturbed, but Saul explains his problems and asks for advice.  Samuel tells him in so many words, ‘Well, … if you had obeyed God in the first place…..’  Then Samuel shares the facts.  Saul gets more than he bargained for:  God has turned away from you; He is going to give your kingdom to David; the Lord will give Israel into the hands of the Philistines.  Then, the final blow, and tomorrow you and your sons will be dead!

            Saul was so terrified, he fell to the ground.  Even so, the witch showed hospitality to the King and made food for him to strengthen him on his return trip.  Now, if you read down in Ch. 31:1-7, you’ll find all that Samuel had predicted came true.  To make matters worse, in verses 8 to the end, Saul is beheaded by his enemies, and his body is nailed to the city wall.

            What lessons can we learn from this “witch” story?  Obey God.  Obey the laws.  Do not even dabble in witchcraft.  But, do continue to show hospitality.  The Scripture doesn’t say, but I think the witch packed up her tent and moved on out of the area. 

            Use this Halloween time to share this story with family and emphasize to your listeners the importance of obeying God.  Enjoy the candy.

Do you know how many Heavens there are according to the Bible?

     When most people think about heaven, they think of going to be with Jesus upon death.   But, the Bible describes three heavens.   Closest to the earth is the atmosphere:  the air we breathe, where birds and airplanes fly, where clouds hang out, etc.  The second heaven we might call the universe:  the location of the sun and planets and other galaxies, the cosmos.  The third heaven is the holy home of God and His throne, where we go to be with Christ, it’s the realm of the angels.  I would almost add a final heaven, because we are also told that when Christ returns, we will reign with Him forever in a new heaven and a new earth. 

First.  At creation, God separated the “waters which were under the firmament (the arch of the sky) from the waters that were above the firmament….and He called the firmament Heaven.  Genesis 1:7-8.  A favorite verse is Deuteronomy 32:2; Moses is speaking to the people, “Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.”

Second.  Genesis 1:15 says, “…let there be lights in the firmament of Heaven…the greater to rule the day and the lesser to rule the night, and he made the stars also.”  Psalm 19:1 says that, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.”  Have you seen some of the photos from NASA?  Awesome!  How could anyone not believe in the Creator?

Third.   Scripture tells us a lot about the 3rd Heaven.  It is the abode of God.  Christ came from Heaven; Christ ascended into Heaven; the angels are in Heaven; the saints will go to Heaven, and are rewarded in Heaven.  In 2 Corinthians 12:2, Paul tells of a man, possibly himself, who was ‘caught up into the third heaven’.

            As for the new heaven, I Thessalonians 4 and 5 tell us that both those who have already died, and those who are alive at the time of Christ’s return, will “rise….and be caught up together …in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”  I Corinthians 15 speaks of our resurrected body, immortal and imperishable.  And, Revelation 21:1 ff describes the new heaven and the new earth.  God comes down to dwell with His people.

                                                            *          *          *

            A question came up the other day in our Ladies’ Bible Study about Ephesians 6:12; it (RSV) says, “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.”  (KJV says “high places.”)  With a new understanding of the three heavens mentioned, theologians say that here, “heavenly” refers to the first heaven.  Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air,” Eph. 2:2.  Satan watches for opportunities to attack even the most spiritual of believers.  Satan also “prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may destroy.” I Peter 5:8   Satan tries to obstruct our communion with God by attempting to attack us as we contemplate heavenly things.  (Heavenly things may also be considered our blessings. {Benson})  But, remember, Satan is fallen.  Isaiah 14:12 calls Satan by his name Lucifer which means Light, vv 13 ff, tell of his desire to be above God and of his fall “to the depths of the Pit.”  In Luke 10:18 Jesus says that He “saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” Though Satan is ultimate evil, we know that in the end, Almighty God wins the war.