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Sacrifice

golden gavel

Things continue escalating in today’s Bible reading. Seven angels pour out seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.

First Bowl: Painful Sores
Second Bowl: The sea turned to blood and all sea life died
Third Bowl: Rivers and springs became blood
Fourth Bowl: People are scorched by the sun. They blaspheme the One who has power over the plagues. They do not repent.
Fifth Bowl: The Beast’s kingdom is plunged into darkness. The people are in intense pain and blaspheme God and do not repent.
Sixth Bowl: The Euphrates River dries up, paving the way for the eastern kings to march to Armageddon.
Seventh Bowl: The greatest earthquake ever occurs. God pours out His wrath on Babylon the Great. One hundred pound hailstones fall and people blaspheme.

Once again, we see people refuse to repent of their sin when they’re face-to-face with God’s wrath. They don’t cry out for mercy. Instead, they blaspheme. They curse God.

Application

We’ve seen this before. God brings hardships in order to call people to repent. And yet they don’t. Their hearts have grown so hard, they don’t see a need to ask for God’s help. Instead, they call down curses on God, the only One Who can stop or give any relief from the plagues.

So what does this say about God? It says that God is holy. God is righteous. God is just. And God is justified in pouring out His wrath on sinful, rebellious humanity. God is patient. But a Day is coming when He will no longer hold back His wrath. He will pour out His wrath and punish sin. He will punish those who pursue their sin. And that Day will be the worst day ever.

Are you ready for that Day? If you repent of your sin, God will credit the righteousness of Jesus to your account and His wrath will be satisfied in the punishment Jesus bore on a cross almost two thousand years ago.

You can face God’s wrath on your own. Or you can have Jesus to deal with God’s wrath for you. Turn to Jesus and repent of your sin today!

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scroll

In today’s Bible reading, John describes a dilemma. The One sitting on the throne holds a sealed scroll. An angel calls out, asking for someone who is worthy to open the scroll and break the seals. John says he was grieved because no one was worthy to read it or to even look in it. John wept. (Revelation 5:4)

But then, someone resembling a slaughtered lamb steps forward. And heaven erupts in praise: The slaughtered Lamb is worthy!

Don’t miss this. Don’t be distracted with the creatures. Don’t be distracted with the description of the creatures. Don’t be distracted by any of it because the main idea behind what’s going on is that Jesus is worthy to read God’s scroll. He is worthy to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing. (Revelation 5:12) John can’t count how many angels cried out in praise. He only says “countless thousands plus thousands of thousands”. (Revelation 5:11)

Application

If you want to go to heaven, but don’t like the idea of worshiping God, you’re going to be miserable in heaven.

When the Lamb opens the scroll, the angels sing a new song. (Revelation 5:9) Imagine an eternity of new songs.

I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say, Blessing and honor and glory and power be to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever! Revelation 5:13 (CSB)

Imagine the sound of every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them praising God. Simultaneously. Awesome!

Then worship begets worship as the four living creatures approve with a hearty, “Amen” and the twenty-four elders bow in worship. (Revelation 5:14)

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kickboxing

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen Paul and Peter warn against false teachers. In today’s Bible reading, Jude takes his turn. Who was Jude? There are a couple of possibilities. Jude could have been the Apostle Judas who was sent to Antioch with Paul, Barnabas, and Silas in Acts 15:22. Another, and more likely was the brother of James and half-brother of Jesus; he refers to himself as James’ brother in Jude 1.

Like Paul and Peter, Jude is concerned about false teachers who are leading God’s people astray. Jude says, “Dear friends … I found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.” (Jude 3 CSB)

I think that most Believers in the Twenty-First Century don’t understand the struggles that First Century Christians were forced to deal with. In addition to the Romans and the Judaizers, Believers had rogue believers to deal with. These were people who may have claimed to have come to faith in Christ and departed, turning to false doctrine, or to extra-biblical myths. They were bad news to the young church. Thus, we find several New Testament writers addressing the problems of these false teachers and telling their readers to be on their guard. Jude says that Believers should fight for their faith. And that’s exactly what they had to do.

Application

But fighting for one’s faith isn’t limited to First Century believers. Even now, we must fight for our faith which is constantly under attack from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Peter says that our faith is more precious than gold. (1 Peter 1:7) If that is so, it is worth fighting for.

If you’re going to fight for your faith, it’s not only important to know that your faith is worth fighting for, but you have to know your enemy. Again, your faith is under constant assault from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Attacks can — and will — come from all sides. And 1960s comedian Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine was wrong. The devil can’t make you do anything. You will fail the test of faith because you choose to fail the test. That’s why Paul told the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) The more you work at it, the better you get!

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Ministry costs money

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!

Application

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.

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The crowds call for Jesus' crucifixion
Image source: LumoProject

In today’s Bible reading, John records Jesus’ appearing before Pontius Pilate. The Jewish leaders urge Pilate to sentence Jesus to death. They tell the Roman ruler that he is no friend of Caesar if he doesn’t sentence Jesus to death.

But Pilate doesn’t think Jesus is guilty of anything, especially of Roman laws. He tells the Jewish leaders that if they want to crucify Jesus, they are free to do so. (John 19:6) True, the Jews could stone Jesus for breaking their laws, but they didn’t have authority to crucify Jesus. Death by crucifixion was a Roman death sentence. Both the Jewish leaders and Pilate tried to avoid the responsibility for Jesus’ death. But when it came down to it, Pilate simply did what the Jewish leaders wanted him to do. He wanted peace from the Jews and it appears he feared a revolt if he didn’t grant a simple request to crucify a lone Jew.

In most portrayals of this pivotal scene, the same people who lauded Jesus’ arrival on Palm Sunday cry out for His crucifixion on the early hours of Good Friday Morning. But that isn’t how John describes the scene. The only people involved in demanding Jesus’ crucifixion are the Jewish leaders and the Temple servants. (John 19:6) It seems there were only a few people calling for Jesus’ crucifixion. But these popular Jewish leaders had very loud voices. John and the other Gospel writers are quick to point out that Pilate didn’t think Jesus was guilty and deserving of the death penalty.

Application

While the Jewish leaders demanded Jesus’ execution, Pilate defended Jesus’ innocence, but eventually gave in. Both the Jews and Pilate were responsible for Jesus’ death.

So am I. And so are you.

No, we didn’t flog His innocent flesh. No, we didn’t hammer the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. But we are very much responsible for Jesus’ death. If we weren’t guilty of sin, His death wouldn’t have been necessary. But it was necessary because we are guilty.

Jesus’ payment for our sin was sufficient to fully absorb the wrath of God. No further accusation against us can stand because Jesus’ atonement bore all of our sin debt.

If you have turned from your sin and accepted Jesus’ payment for your sin debt, spend a few minutes today thanking Jesus for dying, that you might live. Thank Him for being the perfect example and the perfect sacrifice.

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