In today’s Bible reading, three angels appear, proclaiming a different message.
“Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:7 CSB)
“It has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen. She made all the nations drink the wine of her sexual immorality, which brings wrath.” (Revelation 14:8 CSB)
“If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is poured full strength into the cup of his anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or anyone who receives the mark of its name. This calls for endurance from the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.” (Revelation 14:9-12 CSB)
Each message is different, but all convey the same essence: Glorify God, for His wrath is poured out on those who are not His own.
The Gospel is a very simple message. But we tend to complicate it. Unfortunately, in our complicating the simple message, we water down what the Gospel message actually is. “It’s social justice.” Or “It’s prosperity gospel.” Or “It’s God’s love for us”.
According to the angel who has the eternal Gospel to preach to the world’s inhabitants, (Revelation 14:6), it’s “Glorify God, for His wrath is poured out on those who are not His own.”
When you’re telling people about the Gospel — and when you preach it to yourself — don’t leave out the very important message of God’s wrath. The Gospel is good news (literally, that’s what the word means). The goodness of the good news is highlighted when it’s contrasted to the badness of the bad news. When you understand the reality of God’s wrath, the goodness of the Gospel message becomes even more attractive than imaginable.
The gospel message isn’t, “Clean up!”, but rather, “Repent!” and “Turn!”. Without turning to Jesus, there really is no cleaning up that any of us can do. Part of the bad news is that we don’t have the capacity to clean up! Lost people need Jesus to clean them up.
Don’t shy away from telling the bad news, so the good news can be heard for what it is: Good News!
In today’s Bible reading, we see more trumpets blown and more calamities sent to earth. Each is worse than the previous one. One-third of the people died. (Revelation 9:18)
And yet, those remaining two-thirds of the people do not repent.
If you’ve ever read 2 Chronicles 7:14, you’ll remember that God promises to hear from heaven, forgive sin, and heal the land if His people will simply humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their evil ways.
That’s a tremendous promise! But the promise comes in the context of a response to God bringing calamity on His people because of their wickedness. Before this verse, God promises to bless His people. But if they turn away from Him, He will bring hardship. If they respond with humble repentance, God promises to act.
In our reading, God brings calamity, but no one repents. (Revelation 9:20-21)
How incredibly sad.
Indeed, God’s promise to answer the prayers of His people, forgive their sin and bring restoration to their land is a tremendous promise.
As I type this on Tuesday Night, the US House of Representatives has handed down two Articles of Impeachment against the President of the United States. I’m not going to go into my feelings about this other than to say that the Articles — even if glaringly true — do not qualify as treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors, the only provisions in the US Constitution for impeaching the President.
The United States is in a crisis. It’s (past) time for God’s people to cry out to Him in humble repentance, to pray, to seek God’s face, and to turn from our wickedness.
Nothing short of this will restore civility to our beloved nation.
This is not a Left vs. Right political problem. This is a spiritual problem. And spiritual problems can only be remedied with spiritual solutions.
Spend a few minutes right now, asking God to bring conviction of your sin. As He reveals areas where you have sinned, confess those sins (“God, I am a sinner. I was wrong. I did ___.”) and repent (something like, “God, forgive me. Give me a renewed heart and fill me with your Holy Spirit that I might follow you.”) If God leads you to periods of extended prayer and/or fasting, don’t delay. Obey Him immediately!
Ask God to unite His people and draw us to Him. Ask God to raise up a mighty army of men and women who are committed to following God’s prescription in 2 Chronicles 7. Ask God to bring another Spiritual Awakening and revival to our country.
The big application here is to repent whenever God brings correction.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul says that those who are unwilling to work shouldn’t eat. In other words, Believers aren’t to be freeloaders. Now, is that a cut-and-dried statement? Or is it a principle?
I think Paul intended this to be a principle. It comes down to a person’s heart, his/her motivations. If a person is able to work, but chooses not to, that’s a problem. If a person goes around constantly mooching off others, that’s a problem.
But what about someone who is “called to do God’s work”? It’s no different! If someone is called to do God’s work he/she shouldn’t wait until a paycheck comes along before doing the work. If God has called someone to do ministry, they should do ministry! If someone is genuinely called to do God’s work of sharing the gospel, Paul says they should be paid for doing the work if they so choose. If they want to work voluntarily, that’s fine. But no one should be shamed for accepting money for doing ministry. In fact, elsewhere, Paul says that laborers are worthy of their hire. (1 Timothy 5:18)
Taking on a second job in order to put food on the table is commendable; it can open up ministry opportunities as well. And a missionary or pastor shouldn’t be shamed if he does take on a second job. Neither should he be shamed for asking for financial support as his income source. Depending on the ministry, sometimes taking on a second job is impractical or impossible. And oftentimes, the people receiving ministry are unable to cover the expenses of a pastor or missionary.
Airline tickets cost money. Visas cost money. Passport processing costs money. Insurance costs money. Gas costs money. Food costs money. Ministry costs money! Fortunately, many ministries are very lean and are very good stewards. Unfortunately, not all are. And not all of the “big name” ministries are the most efficient. Beware of wolves that fleece their flocks and siphon large salaries away from those in need.
In the past, I have mentioned uniting our church with a neighboring church. This is a good thing. This is a God thing. Combining our efforts under one roof and one fellowship body will bring down the operating costs of the two churches and will free up monies to do more of God’s work. This is good stewardship! And quite frankly, I wish more churches would prayerfully consider doing the same! With the changing face of society and the declining nickels and noses in local churches, it might be the best thing to close the doors on a few dead/plateaued churches and unite the members under a new body with a new vision and new energy.
Important note: I say this having closed the doors of the first church I pastored. God was in that and He brought new life to an old building. Now, a newer, younger church is absolutely flourishing where we once floundered. God is good!
Unfortunately, churches have turf wars and partnering with other churches is often difficult. It takes a lot of humility and repentance to set aside your own church and ministry preferences. We don’t like change. But oftentimes, God calls us to “suck it up” and follow Him, taking on His preferences in order to accomplish His work.
Doing God’s work requires God’s people to give. And those who work are worthy of the support of God’s people to accomplish the work.
In today’s Bible reading, John tells us that Jesus washes the Disciples’ feet. All Twelve Disciples. Including Judas.
This is an Inconvenient Truth about Jesus’ ministry. Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him. And yet, He served him. He washed Judas’ feet in the same way as He washed Simon Peter’s feet. And John the Beloved Disciple’s feet. Jesus knew their hearts completely. And yet, He served them all. Including Judas.
If Jesus knew His Disciples’ hearts completely, and yet washed their feet, then I — not knowing peoples’ hearts — don’t have a place to decide to whom I can/should minister.
And neither do you.
God doesn’t give me the choice of whom I minister to. When I said, “Yes” to Jesus’ call to discipleship, my answer was forever, “Yes”. My call to “The Ministry” is no different.
Jesus said that no student is greater than his master. (John 13:16) If Jesus had a Judas, how could I think that I am above having my own Judas(es)?
Jesus tells us to count the cost to be His disciple. And when I look at what Jesus’ death accomplished for me, what right could I possibly claim to exempt me from “having” to minister to anyone?
When it comes down to it, you really can never say, “No, Lord.” If Jesus is Lord, then the answer must be “Yes.” To answer, “No” is to deny Him as Lord.
Jesus is Lord of all or not Lord at all.
Peter closes his first letter in today’s Bible reading. He reminds the elders how they should lead their churches: with humility.
Humility goes a long way in leading people! Humility recognizes accountability to someone else.
In any organization, everyone is accountable to someone else. Unless you’re working for yourself, someone else has the ability to terminate your employment. And even then, if you’re working for yourself, you’re selling some kind of product or service, so you are accountable to your customers. The CEO/Chairman of the Board is accountable to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is accountable to the stockholders. Everyone is accountable to someone else.
It’s true in a church as well. Everyone is accountable to someone else. Everyone needs to clothe himself/herself in humility. What does that look like? It looks like living the Golden Rule with those under your care. It looks like recognizing my place and recognizing that for everything I do and say, I will give an account before God Himself. And that’s a heavy thought!
That’s what Peter was trying to convey to his elders in 1 Peter 5:1-5, with verse 5 echoing Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 5:21.
submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
Ephesians 5:21 (CSB)
John Donne famously said, “No man is an island.” Each of us is connected to all the others. If Peter were a Southerner, his command, verse 5 would sound something like, “Now all y’all need to look after each other! Don’t be all uppity. God’s watchin’ you.”
Everyone is accountable to someone else. If you’ve been given authority over someone, always remember that you’re accountable to someone else for how you lead those in your care. This applies to church elders. It also applies to parenting and employment situations as well as others.
To whom are you accountable? Live the Golden Rule with those under your care.