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God’s Will

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Yesterday, I teased that I would explain today why we no longer need to cast lots to determine God’s will. Today’s Bible reading answers that question. On the Day of Pentecost, God fulfilled His promise to pour out His Spirit on all kinds of people, not just special people.

Way back in Joel 2:28-29, God promised that one day He would pour out His Spirit on ordinary people. No longer would only prophets, priests, and kings be able to speak for God. Ordinary men and women, young and old — even servants — would hear God speak. When Peter stood up on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, he said, this is what Joel told us about! (Acts 2:16-18) It’s happened!

No longer would ordinary people have to look to ordained people to hear God speak!

Application

Believer, regardless of your station in life, regardless of your theological training — or lack thereof — God’s Holy Spirit lives in you! You don’t have to go to a priest or a prophet to hear God’s voice. Because the Holy Spirit lives in you, you can learn to hear God speak to you!

Most times and most clearly, God’s Spirit will speak through the Bible. But He will also occasionally speak through other Believers, circumstances, and even a “still small voice”.

Spend some time today thanking God for the awesome gift of His Spirit. Know that it may take a while to tune your ear to His voice, but know that the God Who created you wants to talk with you. And He wants to talk through you to other Believers, as well as to lost friends and family members. Listen to Him. Say what He tells you to say. And do what He tells you to do.

Spend some time today reading God’s Word. Ask God to speak through the words on the page and for His indwelling Spirit to enlighten you to what He’s saying. Remember, He will never tell you anything that’s out of line with what He has already said in the Bible.

Know that hearing God’s voice is never just about you. It’s always about Him and what brings Him the most credit, honor, and glory. It’s also about using what you hear to encourage other Believers in their faith and telling lost people about the God Who saves!

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A roll of the dice, a casting of lots

Fifteen years ago, I was between jobs and thought I’d “cast a fleece” similar to what Gideon did. (Judges 6:36–40)

I had been out of vocational ministry for several years and wondered if I should pursue a “secular” job or a “church” job. I had just begun the preparation for a retreat I would attend in a month and part of our prep was to read through the book of Acts. I read today’s Bible reading and thought, why not just “cast lots” to see what God would say through the dice? After all, Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” (ESV)

At the time, we had a lot of family games in a game table in our den. I grabbed a handful of dice. As I shook the dice, I voiced a quick prayer, “If more odd than even dice, then God’s telling me I’m supposed to go back into the ministry. If more even than odd dice, then I’m supposed to look for a “secular” job.

The results blew my mind. Now, this isn’t a preacher’s story. This is the truth!

Of the fourteen dice I had thrown, seven were even and seven were odd! Dumbfounded, I followed Gideon’s plan and reversed the test. “If more even than odd dice, then I’m supposed to look for a church position. If more odd than even dice, then I’m supposed to look for a “secular” job. Again, I threw out the dice. Again, there were seven even and seven odd dice.

As I considered the enormous odds of fourteen dice — thrown twice — coming up half odd and half even, I felt God was asking me why I thought no one cast lots after Acts Chapter One.

The answer is: Because Acts Chapter Two follows. So what happens in Acts Chapter Two? We’ll see tomorrow! Check back then!

Application

Casting lots or throwing dice was a common practice for determining God’s will in the Old Testament days. But we don’t read of anyone determining God’s will with lots after Matthias was chosen to replace Judas as one of the Twelve.

If you have a serious decision to make, how do you go about determining God’s will? Do you roll the dice? Do you toss coins? Do you cast a fleece as Gideon did?

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 ESV)

Are you one of Jesus’ sheep? If you are, you can hear Him speak. It may take some time, but you can actually learn to listen to His voice. Yes, really!

Spend a few minutes today asking God to tune your ears to His voice. Then spend time in God’s Word. That’s where you will hear Him speak most clearly. So plan to read a lot in order to hear His voice.

Trust Him to speak. And ask Him to connect you with someone a little further down the road in their walk with Christ to help you to hear His voice more clearly each day.

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Image source GNPI

I’m sure they meant well, but Jesus has some choice words for His Disciples in today’s Bible reading. Parents bring their children to Jesus and the Disciples try to turn them away. Jesus responds in a way we wouldn’t expect — at least those who see Jesus as only a mild-mannered only-loving Savior.

Mark says that Jesus was indignant, a “strong word of deep emotion”. (Mark 10:14) AT Robertson adds, “Surely it ought to be a joy to parents to bring their children to Jesus, certainly to allow them to come, but to hinder their coming is a crime. There are parents who will have to give answer to God for keeping their children away from Jesus.”[1]

In fact, Jesus said that if someone does not receive the Kingdom of God as a child, they will not enter it. The word Mark uses for child means a child under school-age. There is an innocence in that age group. An innocence that is so trusting, so vulnerable and there’s no pretention.

Children are a big deal to God. In the Bible, children are seen as blessings from God. (Psalm 127:3) The concept of Gentiles as being adopted children of God is central to the Gospel Message. (Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) Yes, as Robertson points out, parents will give an answer to God for keeping their children away from Jesus.

In contrast, in Western Civilization in the Twenty-First Century, children are merely commodities. Look at the way children are abused and trafficked. Look no further than Hollywood’s Michelle Williams. Last week as she clutched her “Best Actress” Golden Globe trophy, she said “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose. To choose when to have my children and with whom. … I know my choices might look different but thank God or whomever you pray to that we live in a country founded on the principle that I am free to live by my faith and you are free to live by yours.”

Application

Yes, children are a big deal to God. We will give an answer to God for keeping children from coming to Jesus. We will give an answer to God for putting up obstacles in our own lives that would prevent our own children from coming to Him. And we will give an answer to God for the way we have treated children as pawns in our lives.

Everyone who comes into a relationship with Jesus Christ has to do so by laying aside agendas. Laying aside pretentions. Laying aside themselves. Coming into a relationship with Jesus Christ requires that we come on His terms, not ours. (Mark 8:34-36)

Yes, the Gospel Message is about forgiveness. The Gospel Message is about grace. The Gospel Message is about mercy. But forgiveness, grace, and mercy are only available as we come to terms with our guilt as sinners. As sinners, we deserve punishment. We deserve death. We owe a debt we cannot pay. But Jesus has paid a debt He didn’t owe.

Have you laid aside your pretentions? Have you come to God, simply trusting Him at His Word?

[1] Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933. Print.

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perfect

In today’s Bible reading, we read of the coming of the perfect new heavens and new earth. The perfectly-adorned bride of Christ is revealed. There’s no more sin or anything associated with it. There’s no more crying. There’s no more death. God dwells with His people. An angel measures heaven with a gold-standard. Everything is perfect. There’s no need for a sun or moon, for God Himself is the light. There’s no need for a temple because God Himself and the Lamb (Jesus) are the temple. Even the people there are perfect:

Nothing unclean will ever enter it,
nor anyone who does what is detestable or false,
but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Revelation 21:27 (CSB)

The central idea behind Revelation 21 is, “Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.'” Revelation 21:6 (CSB)

When God says, “It is done” He uses the perfect tense, meaning that it has already been done. There is nothing left to continue doing in the present or to do in the future. It’s complete. It’s perfect.

Application

One of the hallmarks of the Gospel message is the completion of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection accomplished everything necessary for us to be right with God. It is so complete that we can’t add anything to our salvation (as if we had anything to contribute anyway!).

And that’s great news!

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1000 years

In today’s Bible reading, John uses the term “a thousand years” to describe several things. This is the only place in the Bible that mentions “a thousand years” with regards to the End Times.

One of the most important things to do in reading, studying, interpreting, and ultimately applying the Bible is to read it in its context, including its literary genre. We can easily run into problems when we apply one genre to another. For instance, when we read the book of Acts in the history genre, we need to realize that Dr. Luke describes what happened in the early church. Paul, on the other hand, prescribes how things are supposed to be done.

For example, when reading Acts 28:3 and see Paul shaking off a viper that attached to his hand, some people see that as prescriptive. There are churches in backwoods Appalachia that actually round up venomous snakes to handle in their church services in order to prove that they are “spiritual”. Just because Luke describes what Paul did doesn’t mean that Believers are supposed to do the same. Can God protect Believers today from succumbing to snake venom? Absolutely! God can do whatever He wants. He’s God! But usually, we should follow the prescription to not put God to a test. (Deuteronomy 6:16)

Why go into this here? Given the fact that The Revelation is in the apocalyptic genre — which uses figurative language and lots of word pictures — when we read “a thousand years”, we shouldn’t expect to start a stopwatch the moment the thousand years begins and know when it will end. Instead, we should realize that God is outside the confines of time and to Him, there’s no difference between a day and a thousand years. (2 Peter 3:8) The point of John’s using the term is to say that this will happen over a long period of time, but this time will end; it isn’t eternity.

Application

We must be careful when reading books and commentaries on Biblical prophecy, especially those whose authors try to explain everything in Daniel and Revelation. Some of what Daniel and John recorded may not have a one-to-one correspondence with what we want it to be.

And realize that not all godly people understand these books the same way. Some godly people believe that most of Revelation has yet to begin. Other godly people believe that the entire book has already been completed. Eschatology (the study of the End Times) is not a primary theological issue so we should extend agree-to-disagree grace to all Believers, regardless of how they understand these things. These books are not in the didactic genre where teachings are spelled out. Read Daniel and Revelation with the thought of apocalyptic genre.

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