Revelation 14:6-13 Seven Messages of Hope for Today

Revelation 14:6-13 Seven Messages of Hope for Today

Revelation 14:6-13 Seven Messages of Hope for Today

When we look around the world today, we might not see much hope for us. What we see in Revelation 14 can speak to us today. Just as then, we need to hear about hope. This chapter presents seven messages of hope for us today.

THE ETERNAL GOSPEL

Then I saw another angel flying high overhead, having the eternal gospel to announce to the inhabitants of the earth—to every nation, tribe, language, and people.” (Revelation 14:6, HCSB)

First, we need to make a distinction between the Good News of Jesus Christ, and the “eternal gospel.”

This is the only place in the Book of Revelation where the word “gospel” appears, and its use here is decisive.1 The angel’s message is called “the eternal gospel.” It is not the gospel of God’s redeeming grace in Christ Jesus but, as the following verse shows, a summons to fear, honor, and worship the Creator. It is an eternal gospel in that it sets forth the eternal purpose of God for people. It relates to judgment and salvation in the coming eternal age. Those who dwell on the earth are further specified as every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.2

It probably does not imply spreading the saving gospel to all the nations before the end. That is the work of the church (Matthew 24:14; Revelation 6:9–11). Another sense of “gospel” is perhaps more likely here, however. In context, this angel announces impending judgment (14:7).3

The first part of the message is: ‘Recognize God as Creator and Judge, the Beginning and End of your existence, and all will be well.’4

While there will come a day when no one else will be able to respond to the gospel even in the eternal state, the good news of salvation in Christ will be a perpetual reminder of the love of God in the hearts of those who live with him in the eternal city. The universality of the availability of the gospel is here stated and is to be proclaimed to all who live on the earth irrespective of national entity, tribe, language, or people group.

However, the eternal gospel of Revelation 14:6 must be understood in light of Revelation 14:7. The urgency of this final appeal of the eternal gospel is based on the need for men to fear God and give him the glory, and that is particularly true because the hour of God’s judgment has come.5

The reason why this is important is that the people who hear this message in Revelation 14 will not listen to the messengers. They will ignore the message of hope at that time. There will be a time of repentance. However, they will refuse to believe it. For us today, these seven messages are messages of hope. Even in the midst of the difficulties which you and I will encounter, we can receive hope from God.

SEVEN MESSAGES OF HOPE FOR TODAY

1. Give God glory (Revelation 14:7)

He spoke with a loud voice: “Fear God and give Him glory…” (Revelation 14:7, HCSB)

We need to give God the glory due to Him. We “fear” God when we respect Him. The best way to respect God is to give Him glory about everything He has done in my life.

2. Judgment has come (Revelation 14:7)

“…because the hour of His judgment has come…” (Revelation 14:7, HCSB)

During the present age, the angels are not privileged to preach the Gospel. That responsibility has been given to God’s people. While the nations will fear “the beast” and give honor to him, this heavenly messenger will summon them to fear and honor God alone. It is a reminder that God is the Creator and He alone deserves worship. It is what theologians call “natural theology.”

All creation bears witness to God’s existence as well as to His power and wisdom. Nonetheless, “the beast” will convince men that he is in charge of the world, and that their destinies are in his hands. The message of the angel calls men back to basics: God is Creator—worship and serve Him. The fear of the Lord, not the fear of “the beast,” is the source of wisdom.6

3. Babylon has fallen (Revelation 14:8)

A second angel followed, saying: “It has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, who made all nations drink the wine of her sexual immorality, which brings wrath.”” (Revelation 14:8, HCSB)

This is the first mention of Babylon in Revelation7 Two Babylons are spoken of in Revelation: religious Babylon and commercial Babylon—the false religious system and the oppressive economic system. The second angel declares both are powerless.8 God’s gospel announces not only the end of evil’s reign, but the renewal of Israel’s worship of God through the exalted Christ9

4. Escape God’s wrath (Revelation 14:9-11)

And a third angel followed them and spoke with a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is mixed full strength in 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 his image, or anyone who receives the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:9–11, HCSB)

The third message is directed especially to those who are deciding about following “the beast.” It is a warning that “the easy way” is really the hard way, that to “go along with the world” means to go away from God. The Greek text reads, “If any man continues to worship the beast,” suggesting that there is still opportunity for repentance and salvation.10 The third angel says, “Don’t take the mark of the beast.” But the world, by and large, will buy into Antichrist’s diabolical plan.11

In the ancient world, wine was usually diluted with two or three parts water to one part wine. The only reason not to dilute the wine was to get drunk. Here God will make those who worship the beast drink the wine of his wrath undiluted. In other words, they will face the full force of God’s judgment.12

The wrath of God will be the judgment that these people will receive for following Antichrist. Because they have followed the wrong Christ, and not Jesus Christ, God will pour out judgment. This judgment is based on their own decision and commitment.

FOR FOLLOWING THE ANTICHRIST, YOU GET:13

  1. Torment will be painful, with fire and brimstone.
  2. The torment will be in the presence of everyone, including Christ.
  3. The torment will be eternal.

This is the Book of Revelation’s description of Hell.

5. Keep the faith (Revelation 14:12)

This demands the perseverance of the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.”” (Revelation 14:12, HCSB)

Be patient” is the word given to those who become Christians during the Tribulation—to those who respond to the evangelism of the 144,000, the message of the angels, the powerful testimony of the two witnesses in Jerusalem.14 Again, these Christians are defined as saints, which suggests that the followers of Jesus will exist in a different form of community than it does today.

6. Death does not have a hold on you (Revelation 14:13)

…“Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.”… (Revelation 14:13, HCSB)

The exhortation to endure earthly suffering gives way to a promise of a future heavenly reward. The second of seven beatitudes in Revelation spells out what God has in store for his faithful people. To “die in the Lord” doesn’t necessitate martyrdom, but depicts dying as a faithful follower of Christ and applies to any Christ follower, from the first century on.15

Dietrich Bonhoeffer defines the importance of those who are blessed at death:

but not all the dead are blessed—only those “who die in the Lord”—those who at the proper time learned how to die, those who kept faith, those who held fast to Jesus even into that final hour whether amid the sufferings of public martyrdom or of the martyrdom of a quiet solitude of enduring life.”16

Yet, even if a Christian does die, it is the not the end of the existence of a Christian. In contrast to the end result for those who follow Antichrist (Revelation 14:9-11), the saints will experience happiness.

7. Your good works are worth the effort (Revelation 14:13)

…“Yes,” says the Spirit, “let them rest from their labors, for their works follow them!”” (Revelation 14:13, HCSB)

If Revelation 14:12 was negative encouragement, Revelation 14:13 is positive.17 Our works will follow our faith. As we continue in the faith, we work in sharing the Gospel. We have the assurance that everything that we do for Jesus is worth the effort. Jesus will reward us for our work for His Kingdom. Just as He reminds people in Matthew 25, we will be rewarded as He says: “Well done, faithful servant.”

1 Earl F. Palmer and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, 1, 2 & 3 John / Revelation, vol. 35, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982), 200–201.

2 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 270–271.

3 Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 372.

4 Michael Wilcock, The Message of Revelation: I Saw Heaven Opened, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 134.

5 Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 290.

6 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 607.

7 Robert W. Wall, Revelation, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 184.

8 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1746.

9 Robert W. Wall, Revelation, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 185.

10 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 608.

11 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1746.

12 J. Scott Duvall, Revelation, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 197–198.

13 Jim Erwin, “Revelation 14:6-12 Messages of Hope” sermon, 11 June 2013. http://jimerwin.com/2013/06/11/revelation-146-12-messages-of-hope/, accessed on 10 August 2016.

14 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1746.

15 J. Scott Duvall, Revelation, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 198.

16 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Theological Education at Finkenwalde: 1935–1937, ed. Victoria J. Barnett and Barbara Wojhoski, trans. Douglas W. Stott, vol. 14, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013), 905.

17 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 275.

Genesis 14:17-24 Giving and God’s Blessing

Genesis 14:17-24 Giving and God’s Blessing

We live in a nation known for the freedom that it offers. We have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and others.

However, the one freedom that very few Americans are experiencing today is the freedom from debt. Americans are drowning in a sea of debt. Many have become slaves to the lenders in today’s economy. As we read in Proverbs, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Proverbs 22:7). For these people, the familiar credit card name, Visa, can be translated as “Volunteering for Institutional Slavery Always.”

Too many consumers are like the Seven Dwarfs who lived with Snow White. We leave for work every morning singing a similar song, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” Someone once said, “Money talks, and it regularly says ‘Good-bye!’”

Here is a startling fact that I discovered on CNN Money, a financial website: In 2012, the average American household with at least one credit card now has close to $15,950 in credit card debt alone.1 That’s not counting automobile loans, student loans, and home mortgages. Sadly, for most wage earners, debt has become a way of life. There are now three groups of people in our nation: The Haves, the Have-Nots, and the Have-Not-Paid-For-What-They-Have. Instead of living for the future, people are now paying for the past. Debt has become the new addiction.

Whatever debt rules, debt ruins. Marriages have ended in divorce over fighting about bills and money. Dreams have been sidelined because some people must focus their time and attention on trying to stay afloat in a sea of debt. Homes have been lost, businesses have gone bankrupt, and families have been destroyed over this nemesis called debt.

While there is a lot of bad news about debt, there is some good news as well. That is, you don’t have to be a slave to debt. There is a way out. God has given you a way to completely pay off all of the debt that you have, if you will simply follow His principles.2

The first simple principle is to give back to God what He has given you. When it comes to giving to God, people have their opinions. Many state that it was a practice that derives from the Mosaic law. Therefore, Christians don’t need to give ten percent to the church. The fact is that giving God ten percent (known as the tithe) originated with Abraham, and not Moses.

GIVING THE TENTH

What we learn from this first description about giving ten percent is that if you want to see God’s blessing, you need to give to Him His ten percent. Unless and until you get this part of your financial stewardship right, you will not experience the fullness of the financial blessings that God has in store for you. This principle is the foundation upon which all else is built.

Unfortunately in Christian circles today, we are experiencing a condition that I call “Cirrhosis of the Giver.” While American Christians control over 70% of the world’s Christian wealth, the average American only gives 2.6% of his or her income.3 Furthermore, only 5–7% of all Christians actually tithe.4 And we wonder why we are experiencing so much by way of financial struggles, strain, and defeat. When we fail to live out God’s principles with regard to stewardship—beginning with giving—we fail to reap God’s blessings with regard to reward and provision.

The Hebrew word that we translate as our word “tithe” in the Bible is ma’as5 which simply means “tenth part” or “a payment of a tenth.” In the book of Deuteronomy, God gives us the reason behind the tithe.6

““Each year you are to set aside a tenth of all the produce grown in your fields. You are to eat a tenth of your grain, new wine, and oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, in the presence of Yahweh your God at the place where He chooses to have His name dwell, so that you will always learn to fear the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 14:22–23, HCSB)

Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest; then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9–10, HCSB)

GIVE GOD THE FIRST TENTH

God says give Me the first part back and I’ll bless all the rest. God has said that money is the number one test of your priorities. We spend most of our lives trying to earn it. God says that your checkbook reveals what’s really important to you.

CHECKBOOK ILLUSTRATION: If I were to ask all of you to get out your checkbook right now and pass it to the person to the right of you and let them examine it, what would it reveal about the priorities in your life? By simply looking at how you spend your money a person who may or may not even know you could be able to tell a lot about your life. The way you spend your money says what’s first in your life.

What’s tithing? God says that the first 10% of all I make goes back to Him. Why 10%? That’s just what He said. The purpose is simply to teach you to put God first.

Why is tithing so important? God says that if I’m not tithing God is not really first in my life. If He’s not first in your finances He’s really not first in your life.

When should I do it? “On the first day of every week…” I give Him the first 10% of my money on the first day of the week to show that He’s first in my life. “If you put Me first, I’ll direct you and crown your efforts with success.”7

The first day of the week is Sunday. Why does He say tithe on Sunday? Because tithing is an act of worship and that’s the day you worship. You ought to give to other charities in generosity and charity, but that’s not tithing. Tithing is an act of worship and you do it when you worship. I want to share with you how tithing can happen in worship and what God can do for you as a result. It’s a process I learn.

THE PROCESS OF GIVING AND GOD’S BLESSING

1. I make money.

In this account, we see that Abraham made money when his army defeated a group of people in battle.

After Abram returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley ).” (Genesis 14:17, HCSB)

It doesn’t matter the source of your money. One can make money by working. A person can make money by investing. You make money by winning. You take the money you receive and you bring at least ten percent of it to worship.

2. I meet God for worship.

The King of Salem (later known as Jerusalem), Melchizedek – who also happened to be a priest to God, came out to meet Abram.

Then Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest to God Most High.” (Genesis 14:18, HCSB)

Abram is also met by a mysterious, marvelous monarch named Melchizedek, King of Salem. Melchizedek meaning “King of Righteousness,” and Salem meaning “Peace,” this is most likely a Christophany—an Old Testament appearance of Christ. Two thousand years before Christ came to die for our sin, Melchizedek brings a symbol of His death—bread and wine, the elements of Communion. Just as we are saved by looking back to Christ’s death on the Cross, Old Testament saints were saved by looking ahead to Christ’s death on the Cross—of which their sacrifices were a picture. When we partake of Communion it is in remembrance of Jesus. Abram partook of Melchizedek’s bread and wine in anticipation of Jesus.8

In essence, Abram participated in a predictive form of the Lord’s Supper. Abram met the priest to participate in worship.

3. God reminds me that He has blessed me.

This special Priest-King Melchizedek blessed Abram.

He blessed him and said: Abram is blessed by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth,” (Genesis 14:19, HCSB)

Whenever God is referred to as the Most High, it emphasizes God as the possessor of the heavens and the earth.9 So when this priest blessed Abram, he was reminding Abram that God owns everything on earth. When we come here, we are reminded that God owns everything. He owns my possessions. He owns them, even it if have worked hard for them.

4. I give back to God a portion of what He has given me.

and I give praise to God Most High who has handed over your enemies to you. And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14:20, HCSB)

The giving to God comes out of my recognition of the blessing from God. God had blessed Abram and therefore Abram gave back to God. Abram learned that the source of his possessions was God. The priest pronounced a blessing that God would continue to provide for Abram. Abram didn’t pay the priest back for the blessing. Abram recognized that the source of his wealth and his blessing was God.

After Abram returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley ).” (Genesis 14:17, HCSB)

5. I recognize God as my only Source.

Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people, but take the possessions for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand in an oath to Yahweh, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or sandal strap or anything that belongs to you, so you can never say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing except what the servants have eaten. But as for the share of the men who came with me—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre—they can take their share.”” (Genesis 14:21–24, HCSB)

This is the reason that Abram would not take money from other people. He knew that the ONLY source of His blessing was God. Abram looked forward to more blessings from God as Abram learned to depend more on God. Abram anticipated that God would continue to provide for his needs. The reason we know this is because he declined money from other sources. Abram showed a dependence upon God that comes from giving God His share.10 You can learn that same dependence and see how giving to God ten percent in worship reminds you of God’s blessing in your life.

1 Money 101, Lesson 9: Controlling Debt. Online article, CNN Money website, http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/
lesson9/index.htm

2 Tony Evans, Living in Financial Victory (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013).

3 Quote from Randy Alcorn taken from a sermon based on the author’s book The Treasure Principle that he shared at a Crown Financial Ministries pastors’ conference a few years ago.

4 The Barna Group, “The Economy’s Impact (part 3 of 3): Donors Reduce Giving, Brace for the Long Haul,” http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/18-congregations/341-the-economys-impact-part-3-of-3-donors-reduce-giving-brace-for-the-long-haul?q=tithe

5 James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries, #H4643.

6 Tony Evans, Living in Financial Victory (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013).

7 Rick Warren, “The Foundation for a Strong Family – Ten Values That Build Strong Values Part 1” Exodus 20:2, sermon, 30 August 1992, Saddleback Valley Community Church, Mission Viejo, California. You can download a free copy of this sermon at: http://store.pastors.com/collections/ten-values-that-build-strong-families.

8 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume One: Genesis–Job (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 64.

9 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah : A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events, Rev. ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 551.

10 Jim Erwin, “The Blessing That Comes From Giving God His Share,” Genesis 14:17-24, Lectionary Reflections (2015-2016) Year C, Logos Bible Software Notes, 19 February 2016, also on Internet, http://jimerwin.com/2016/02/19/the-blessing-that-comes-from-giving-god-his-share/, accessed on 10 August 2016.

Unchurching by Richard Jacobson

Unchurching by Richard Jacobson

Unchurching by Richard Jacobson

Unchurching by Richard Jacobson defines the purpose of the book with the subtitle: “Christianity without Churchanity.” He opens with the appropriate quote from Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the United States Senate (10):

In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America, where it became an enterprise.

Jacobson, a self-described church anarchist, used an animated blog to help him on his journey of faith. He had a self-described crisis of faith, which caused him to re-evaluate the meaning of church. In Part One, Jacobson describes the theological reasons why the church should be as a spiritual community. He came to the conclusion that the church is not a building, not a tradition, but a people of faith, a community. He bases his belief of a church as community on the community of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in eternity. Like the Trinity, the church should be a redemptive community, sharing resources and roles, and reflect unity in the world.

In Part Two, Jacobson reveals the importance of Christians in the church community as spiritual parents (45). In his argument about church leadership, Jacobson insists that the gender of the leader of the church does not matter. He says that the original Greek contains no article to suggest male leaders. He insists that modern translations reflect a gender bias based upon tradition (49). Even if the masculine pronoun is not in the Greek in 1 Timothy 3:1, the word used for husband in 1 Timothy 3:2 (andra, meaning “married man” used in a majority of cases as the man or male in the New Testament) clearly defines the gender of the pastor. Jacobson counters with the following argument (49):

The only requirement for overseers that is specifically directed toward men is the requirement for overseers to be faithful to their wives. Because of this, translators often assumed this entire passage is specifically directed toward men. But it is equally possible this one requirement was specifically directed to the male overseers and the rest of the requirements were directed toward both men and women.

Frankly, I consider this explanation weak. The translators did not “assume” the entire passage. They used the rules of context to guide their translation. The argument lays with someone like Jacobson to prove his argument is true, than to assume that the original argument used by translators is false. This brings me to my concern with a book like this. I agree, the culture of church is restrictive and difficult at times. Yet, Jacobson’s argument is internally consistent. In Part Two, he performs eisigesis (he inserts his beliefs into the Biblical text). He does not spend time arguing the same point about gender with other verses such as Hebrews 13:7 or 1 Peter 5:2-3 (51-52). I would agree with his modern assessment about the role of church leaders (52):

Based on the requirements we find in scripture, we now know the original overseers were not church administrators who held some kind of office but spiritual parents who lived day-by-day alongside their spiritual children like shepherds, not unlike Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

Jacobson promotes the idea of a plurality of elders. He wants to suggest that it would bring back the purest form of Biblical community. The problem is that we don’t live in a perfect world, much less perfect churches. Contextualization dictates that smaller churches may not be able to be led by a plurality of elders. He continues in his analysis of the Greek about the role of leadership of the church. Throughout, he inserts the potential for female leadership. He uses the Old Testament prophecy in Joel 2:28-29 as a prescription for female leadership. While I agree that church pastors should function as “spiritual parents” (56), and if these roles are a “reflection of the Father,” then the argument’s logical conclusion should be that pastors are male.

Jacobson continues his gender-neutral argument for deacons, where he makes a more logically consistent, Biblical position. There is the possibility for deacons to be female. The case can be made for female deacons (based on Romans 16:1) One could conclude that Paul’s instruction for the deacon also includes requirements for a deacon’s wife (1 Timothy 3:11). One could further conclude based on the Greek word that the wife could be a deacon. Yet, I maintain that one should not perform Biblical gymnastics to try to prove a point that the Bible never teaches. Instead, one must maintain that perhaps the role of the women (whether it is the pastor’s wife or the deacon’s wife) is to support the husband.

Jacobson continues his gender-neutral argument for deacons, where he makes a more logically consistent, Biblical position. There is the possibility for deacons to be female. The case can be made for female deacons (based on Romans 16:1) One could conclude that Paul’s instruction for the deacon also includes requirements for a deacon’s wife (1 Timothy 3:11). One could further conclude based on the Greek word that the wife could be a deacon. Yet, I maintain that one should not perform Biblical gymnastics to try to prove a point that the Bible never teaches. Instead, one must maintain that perhaps the role of the women (whether it is the pastor’s wife or the deacon’s wife) is to support the husband.

Jacobson correctly identifies the roles of certain ministers in Ephesians 4:11-13 as people who equip other members of the church to maturity (64-65). He explores the dangers of organizational hierarchy in the church. He states a valid critique of the current church management system (69):

Such a church model is designed to produce many life-long learners but very few teachers. Or to put it another way: Sunday School is the only school from which no one ever graduates. But Christ wants us to graduate and become a true priesthood of all believers, empowered to exercise genuine spiritual authority.

Jacobson does a great job explaining the importance of spiritual authority in the church (71). He wisely warns the church about adopting corporate structures as the primary way of organizing in the church. This leads us to Part Three: Church Incorporated.

Jacobson begins by comparing our present church worship structure to the time of Ezra in Nehemiah 8:2-4, Nehemiah 8:6, Nehemiah 8:8, and Nehemiah 8:12 (76-77). He warns that the New Testament church does not contain the same elements. He explains his reasoning in the following way (78):

The reason why we cannot find any examples of our current church model in the New Testament is the same reason we cannot find any details about early church programs, policies or procedures. The fact that these details are noticeably lacking is actually one of the biggest clues about the way the early church functioned.

Jacobson insists that the early New Testament churches were just communities made up of families. He insists that the church is a family (Galatians 6:10). It functions like a family (1 Timothy 5:1-2). He warns the reader that the church as a congregation (a family) should not give up their true identity with an Americanized one: the corporation. A Corporation is designed as a legal entity to protect people. The corporation as a legal entity should never replace the church as a faith community (82).

Jacobson addresses organizational hierarchy in the Old Testament and compares it with what Jesus instituted. He compares the command and control structure presented by Jethro in Exodus 18:21-22 (90) to the alternative presented by Jesus (Matthew 18:15-17). Jesus suggested that people resolve their differences in circles of community. Jethro urged Moses to use higher forms of hierarchy. Jesus urges us to reach outward to the wider community.

Jacobson extends this idea to gender roles in the church. He believes in egalitarianism. He believes that Paul was egalitarian, even though there are Bible verses that seem to show otherwise. Slaves and freemen have equal status and standing in the church. In the same way, men and women have equal standing in the church. Jacobson tries to deal with the difficult passage that speaks against his claim (like 1 Corinthians 14:35 where women are told be silent in church.) Jacobson explains rightly that God’s ultimate goal is to restore all things. God is a God of reconciliation. Jacobson states that gender inequality came as a result of sin. God’s plan would be gender equality in the church (101). He states that Joel 2 prophesies that there would soon be no gender inequality. His point is one to consider (101):

If the subjugation of women was not part of God’s original plan for creation, then how can it be part of his ultimate plan for the church? His ultimate plan was to create a priesthood of all believers. How is that even possible if 50% of the church is ineligible to truly function as fellow priests because of their gender? It seems somewhat paradoxical that the early church was counter-culture precisely because they embraced gender equality yet many of today’s churches are becoming counter-culture precisely because they oppose it.

Jacobson compares the ministry of the megachurch and the house church (104). He states that the house church ministry models the work of Jesus – going from a few to the crowds. Books like The Purpose-Driven Church by Rick Warren (which I reviewed) seem to prove his point. However, I believe that a church can work through both directions, because I believe Jesus addressed three different groups: (1) the disciples, (2) the congregation, and (3) the crowd.

Jacobson confronts the modern “storefront” model for church growth and effectively argues that the family illustrates the natural growth of the church. He uses the illustration of the family to show important characteristics of the church (106). Jacobson advocates for the complete participation of all of the people in the church. He compares to the lack of this participation to raising veal. In his illustration, he shows that the veal (and by extension the people in the church) die when they are overfed but not given a chance to exercise (114).

In Part Four: Church Outside the Box, Jacobson encourages a paradigm shift. Again, he strongly suggests that churches pursue community (122), experience worship (124), and share power (126). He strongly believes in the idea of the “priesthood of believers” that breaks down barriers and hierarchy in the church. Jacobson shares a brief defense of the questions he raises (135). He reminds us that there are many people who are leaving the church. Jacobson explains that (138):

This book wasn’t written to try to convince anyone to leave the institutional church; it was simply written to validate and empower those who already have a growing conviction to do so.

With this statement, he joins other postmodern church leaders like David Hayward. I can appreciate the frustration that Jacobson feels, even if I am a pastor of a church. He gives statistics to defend his position (139):

According to a recent survey by The Barna Group, over the past 10 years, the number of non-churchgoers in America has grown by 38 million which is an increase of more than 30%. To put this in perspective, that is more people than the entire population of Australia (24 million) or the entire population of Canada (36 million).

Jacobson states that these statistics are bad if you want to maintain the status quo, because membership is declining. These stats are good news if you believe that the organized church model needs to be discarded (139). Jacobson doesn’t advocate isolation. Instead, he suggests that church community as we know it must change (141). While Jacobson encourages Christians to make an exodus away from the organized church, he hands off the journey to the Promised Land to Milt Rodriguez, author of Starting Organic Churches.

Jacobson never promises how to operate the new church community he proposes (143). One reads of some vague characteristics of gender equality, and an equal playing field where everyone gets to participate. He says that we need to be followers of Jesus. In the end, the question of leadership in this church community is never addressed. Jacobson has grand ideas, but without a discussion of leadership, he will never show how to get these great ideas set in motion. As John Maxwell once said: “Everything rises and falls with leadership.”

Jacobson ends the book with a challenge to spread the word. He shares the Unchurching website, as well as his contact information. He has produced videos which complement this book. I was impressed how the videos explained his views in a simple and understanding way. I would recommend the book for people who want to see opportunities to learn how to return to how church should really be. Viewing his lessons on the website would be helpful as well. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Genesis 12:1-9 Faith and God’s Blessing

Genesis 12:1-9 Faith and God's Blessing

Genesis 12:1-9 Faith and God’s Blessing

A man took his girlfriend out for dinner and when they sat down, he laid an elaborate box on the table for her birthday. All the while they were eating dinner, she just kept thinking about this box, because it was a big box, and she wanted to know what was inside. She could hardly eat. The waiting to open the gift was killing her, but her boyfriend told her to open the gift after dinner. All she could think about was what was in the box.

Finally dinner was over. “Can I open the box now?”

“Yeah, you can open the box.”

She opened the box and pulled out a pillow. “Oh, wow, I mean, this is a nice pillow … but it’s a pillow.”

She turned the pillow over, thinking that something was taped to the backside. There was nothing.

Well, thank you.” It was obvious she was disappointed that she got a pillow.

Her boyfriend got up, took the pillow from her, and laid the pillow on the floor. He got down on one knee, took her by the hand, and said, “Will you marry me?”

She forgot about the pillow. The one who gave her the pillow now became a lot more important.1

Don’t you want God’s favor? That’s the definition of blessing. God’s blessing is His acceptance, approval, and help than brings happiness. God is the only one who can provide happiness in your life. He is the only One who can truly provide help when you need it. This is all part of God’s blessing. Like the pillow in the story, we have to trust the Giver more than the gift. During this month, we are going to look at God’s blessing. We will see how faith, giving, conflict, and prayer in the life of Abraham were all tied to the happiness that God gave Him. Today, we want to look at the role of faith (or trust) and God’s blessing. When we look at this passage, there is a question that pops up. It is a human question, but it is contrary to God’s blessing.

Our first question is to ask HOW. How is God going to get Abraham to the country? How will He make Abraham a great nation? How will God make Abraham’s name great? How will God make Abraham a blessing?

Many times we want to ask how. But that is often not how God works. God teaches us through faith. When we want to learn from God, it is through faith.

Look, his ego is inflated; he is without integrity. But the righteous one will live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4, HCSB)

So when a person accepts Jesus, the have to learn to follow God in faith. Yet, many times, when we look at our situation, our challenge, our difficulties, we often ask HOW. We want to know now how will God make the impossible possible. How will He bring things to pass. Yet when you look at what the Bible says, and specifically at the example of Abraham – who did live by faith – you see a process. You find that rarely did God answer the question HOW at first. As a matter of fact, God is answering other questions as we follow Him.

The reason God does not answer the HOW question is because He wants us to trust Him.

PROCESS OF FAITH2

1. God will first tell you the WHAT (12:1-2)

The WHAT is an issue of REPUTATION.

The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:1–2, HCSB)

God is going to do something or some things in the life of His child. What God does, will change with other people think about you. God is going to build His name through your name. That makes life special.

2. God will then tell you the WHERE (12:1, 7)

The WHERE is an issue of POSSESSION.

“To a land that I will show you”

Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your offspring.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:7, HCSB)

Abraham is still asking how. After God shows Abram in Genesis 15 that God will give him an inheritance, Abram asks for confirmation. God gives Abram a vision.

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “I give this land to your offspring, from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates River: the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”” (Genesis 15:18–21, HCSB)

God never denies that the land belonged to someone else. But God claimed the land for His people Israel. God never denied that the land belonged to Ham’s descendants through Canaan’s family.

God told Abram that He would give Ham’s descendants’ inheritance to Abram as his inheritance. Why did God decide to give the land to Abram through Shem and not Ham? Because Ham – the father of Canaan – looked upon the nakedness of his father. “So what?” you may say. Ham was engaging in pornography and starting to place his faith in what he thought was right instead of God and His promises. (By the way, Ham was not cursed because he was black. Canaan was cursed because his parents – specifically his father was not living a life that God expected.) God calls Christians to a higher standard. God wants to give His best to us, but we got to quit looking somewhere else for what we think is best. We have to quit thinking that what society says is best for us is true. It ain’t true. As a matter of fact, what society says about you most of the time hurts you. You think its good, but it is not nearly as good as what God has for you. But for God to do the impossible best for you, you have to look to Him, and not something or someone else.

Promises are made in relationships and locations. People make promises. Here, God made a promise to Abram. The promise was simple. The land which Abram is on would later belong to his children. This promise is based on a previous promise in Genesis 12:1-3. There, God said to go to a land He would Abram. God would make Abram into a great name and bless him. Now that promise has a place. The promise has a location from which the previous promise could take place.

When God makes promises, He makes them to certain people in certain places. There is a time and space to His work. We also learn more about God when these promises are made. Because these promises are made, a relationship develops between the receiver and the giver. God gives promises. We learn about Him when these promise come true.

This is why Abram worshiped God when God spoke a second promise. God had fulfilled the first promise in Genesis 12:1. God had shown Abram the location. So Abram believes that God will fulfill the second promise. That is why Abram calls on the name of God as Yahweh. Yahweh is the personal name of God. Because promises are made by people in places.3

God continually calls Christians to pay attention to Him. God wants us to seek Him and what God wants for our lives. When we do, when we trust Him in faith, then God does more than we can possibly imagine. God sets the vision for His children. He tells them, you will possess something great. God makes a promise about the where, about the ENTIRE where. God sets the boundaries of his vision for Abram.

3. God tells you the WHEN (Genesis 17:1)

The WHEN is an issue of PREPARATION

When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1, HCSB)

When God gets ready to do the HOW, He expects you to get yourself ready. That is why the WHEN comes before the HOW. God expects you to have a level of spiritual maturity to handle what God is going to give you. God wants to give you a blessing, a possession, but you have to be mature to handle it. One of the reasons why some of us don’t have it is because we are not spiritually prepared for it. It is like when a son wants to drive a nice new car, but the son is 8 years old. He can’t handle the car until he can handle the bicycle. He can watch and learn, but he certainly can’t drive. Of course he could drive, but not safely. He can’t even see over the hood to safely drive the car. So he has to grow some more physically and emotionally to handle the task. The same is true with what God gives His children. But God says: “walk before Me and be blameless.” He says: Mature yourself. Get yourself ready. I am going to do something and I need you ready for it.

What is that something? God gives more detail about the blessing.

Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, (WHAT)and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. (Genesis 17:19 NKJV)

But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” (Genesis 17:21 NKJV)

God says that Sarah will get pregnant. But never says HOW Sarah will get pregnant. This is still the WHAT and WHERE of the faith journey. But God does say WHEN – next year.

Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time (WHEN) I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. (WHAT)” (Genesis 18:14 NKJV)

Abraham sees that the way God is going to help Abraham fulfill the promise is through the son Isaac. God has shown Abraham the way that God will give what He promised.

4. Then God tells you the HOW (Genesis 21:1-3)

The HOW is an issue of EXPECTATION

The Lord came to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time God had told him. Abraham named his son who was born to him—the one Sarah bore to him—Isaac.” (Genesis 21:1–3, HCSB)

The way God was going to make Abraham a great nation was through the birth of a son. Not the son that was born because Abraham got impatient (Ishmael). Abraham went and tried to do the HOW before God showed him the HOW. God said HOW. But He never showed HOW.

What seemed like a biological impossibility became possible for Abraham. Abraham had to trust God even when it did not make normal sense. 99-year old women do not have children. This just does not happen. But God made it possible.

And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken. (Genesis 21:1 NKJV)

The Bible never says HOW Sarah was able to conceive. We might just think it was God changing Sarah so that she could have children. The Bible never tells you completely how. But God said how. He said He would visit Sarah and that Sarah would have a son.

We live in a rational, scientific world, where all things are expected to be calculated, explained, and solved. We like to approach problems with solutions – solutions that are have a logical, rational, explanation. God can live in this rational world. But He is not defined by our rational world. When God says that Sarah will have a son, it may not take a logical, rational form or conclusion. God can make Sarah pregnant, and it may be unexplainable. This is important to know. It is important because when God says something will happen (WHAT), and He shows us the place and time (WHERE and WHEN), then He already has a plan for the HOW. We don’t have to worry about the HOW. Especially when it comes to things that seem so impossible, so big, so – more than what we can do alone – so God-sized. When it comes to things like that, all we can do is live by faith. You are going to have to let God visit you for Him to share with you how He is going to accomplish something in your life.

5. You learn to see the WHY (Genesis 12:2,7-9)

The WHY is an issue of PERCEPTION

But at each step of the way, God will continue to reveal Himself to you as you take you journey. The only reason why God did it was to bless Abraham. This is the only WHY we hear, see, and read throughout the entire journey.

God wants to bless Abram. So Abram worships God in return.

I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2, HCSB)

Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your offspring.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. He built an altar to Yahweh there, and he called on the name of Yahweh. Then Abram journeyed by stages to the Negev.” (Genesis 12:7–9, HCSB)

This pattern of God wanting to bless Abram and Abram’s response repeats itself throughout Abram’s life. God will bless Abram with descendants. All Abram has to do is have faith that God will do what He says.

He took him outside and said, “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then He said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.” Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5–6, HCSB)

God wants to bless Abram. He makes a promise about that blessing.

I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell facedown and God spoke with him:” (Genesis 17:2–3, HCSB)

God wants to bless Abraham. He blesses Sarah with a son. So Abraham obeys.

The Lord came to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time God had told him. Abraham named his son who was born to him—the one Sarah bore to him—Isaac. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded him.” (Genesis 21:1–4, HCSB)

God wants to bless you. The blessings for you may be different than it is for anyone else. The blessings for Abraham was different than for David or Jeremiah or Isaiah or Daniel. Like Abraham, you may not see the purpose of those blessings for quite some time. The only requirement is to follow God in faith. Trust in God unlocks the blessings. I’m not talking about being wealthy. I’m talking about being used by God. Whether it is through your children or grandchildren, through your place at work, through your activity or opportunities that God gives you, He wants to bless you.

But in order for God to bless you, you are going to have to follow Him. You are going to have to trust Him.

One of the reasons that we don’t recognize the goodness of God is that we confuse the means of delivery with the source. Many times we think that unless a blessing falls miraculously from heaven into our laps that it didn’t come from God. We mix up medium and source.

When we listen to the radio, we can do so only because the radio is a method of delivery. There are no drums in the radio. No horns and no guitars reside inside the equipment. The radio is only a conduit—a point of contact. Even when your radio stops working, there’s music in the air. All the radio does is receive a signal that comes from another source and deliver it to you. If you lose sight of that fact, you’ll give the radio more credit than a radio ought to have. If you place too much weight on the medium, you’ll forget the source.4

You have to say: God knows better than me in this situation, now I need to listen to Him. When He shows you what to do, then you need to obey. You need to respond to God’s leadership and blessings. When you trust God in faith, your life will never be the same. Your journey will never end. God will do more in your life when you stay with Him. Start your journey today. Don’t walk this life alone. Ask God to take you on a trip and then follow what He wants to show you.

1 Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 27.

2 Jim Erwin, “Genesis 12:1-3 When You Take a Trip with God in Faith – Making the Impossible a Reality Part 3,” sermon, http://jimerwin.com/2007/01/04/genesis-121-3-when-you-take-a-trip-with-god-in-faith-making-the-impossible-a-reality-part-3/, 4 January 2007, accessed on 5 August 2016.

3 Jim Erwin, “Promises Are Made in Relationships and Locations,” Simple Thoughts 2016, Logos Bible Software Note, http://jimerwin.com/2016/01/06/promises-are-made-in-relationships-and-locations/, 6 January 2016, accessed on 5 August 2016.

4 Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 26–27.

Revelation 14:1-5 Jesus and His 144,000

Jesus and His 144,000

Revelation 14:1-5 Jesus and His 144,000

Earlier, in Revelation 7, the Bible showed us who the 144,000 were and their purpose. When we look at the 144,000 in these verses in Revelation 14, we see that the Bible is describing their character and behavior.

As we have said in Revelation 7, there are two main views. The first is a literal view – that these are 144,000 Jewish evangelists. As Warren Wiersbe notes: This special group of Jewish men was sealed by God before the seventh seal was opened (Rev. 7), and now they are seen on Mount Zion with the Lord Jesus Christ. Contrast this picture to the one described in Revelation 13: the followers of “the beast” whose mark is on their foreheads (Rev. 13:16). God always has His faithful people, no matter how wicked the world may become.1

The other main view is that the number is probably symbolic of the vast and complete number of God’s people.2 Other scholars like Michael Wilcock note that they are the followers, or disciples, of Christ, and the first fruits of his harvest. Those who follow the Lamb form the civitas Dei, the city (or state) of God, as opposed to those who worship the beast from the sea, and form Satan’s perversion of the state.3

SEVEN CHARACTERISTICS OF THE 144,000

1. They identify with Jesus (Revelation 14:1)

Then I looked, and there on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with Him were 144,000 who had His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1, HCSB)

The scene is in obvious contrast to the beast of chapter 13, whose followers are stamped with his mark (666) on the right hand or forehead (vv. 16–17).4 These believers identify with Jesus, not the Antichrist. They have the name of God and Jesus on their foreheads.

2. They have been protected from the persecution of the Antichrist (Revelation 14:1)

Then I looked, and there on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with Him were 144,000 who had His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1, HCSB)

In chapter 7, we read of twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes of Israel who will go throughout the world preaching the gospel. Although they will be targets of Antichrist’s persecution, here in the middle of the Tribulation, we still see 144,000 witnesses. In other words, they all make it through.5 Despite the intense persecution, they are now standing with Jesus.

As we will later see in this chapter, God will use other ways to get His message out. He will increase the opportunity for people to hear about Jesus.

3. They sense glory of God (Revelation 14:2)

I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of cascading waters and like the rumbling of loud thunder. The sound I heard was also like harpists playing on their harps.” (Revelation 14:2, HCSB)

In the book of Revelation, God’s glory and voice are compared to loud thunder. It is literally music to the ears of the 144,000. They listen forward to God’s glory and sense it.
4. They sing a new song of victory (Revelation 14:3)

They sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders, but no one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:3, HCSB)

It is the “new song” of 5:9, but now it is sung by the very ones who have been purchased by the blood of the Lamb and made a kingdom of priests before the heavenly throne. As in so many of the “new songs” spoken of in the Psalms (96:1; 98:1; 144:9; etc.), the theme is deliverance. Only those who have paid the full price of endurance in the faith are equipped by experience to give voice to the subsequent anthem of victory.6

Dietrich Bonhoeffer sheds light on the identity of the song:

What do we know of that new song and the harps of God? Our new song is an earthly song, a song of pilgrims and sojourners on whom the Word of God has dawned to light their way. Our earthly song is bound to God’s Word of revelation in Jesus Christ. It is the simple song of the children of this earth who have been called to be God’s children, not ecstatic, not enraptured, but soberly, gratefully, devoutly focused on God’s revealed Word.7

5. They are pure. (Revelation 14:4)

These are the ones not defiled with women, for they have kept their virginity…” (Revelation 14:4, HCSB)

On the surface it appears that John is condemning both women and marriage, but he is speaking figuratively about spiritual truths. Given the symbolic understanding of the 144,000, the contrast in Revelation between godly women and evil women (e.g., the great prostitute Babylon/Rome vs. the bride of Christ), and the enormous problems associated with a literal reading, the term “virgins” should be understood as a metaphor for all genuine believers who have refused to compromise with the world.89

The point of the purity is not to recognize that these men have not had sex. The virginity points to their devotion to Jesus. This is why it is connected to the idea they follow Jesus. Their devotion to Him is pure. In contrast to the spiritually and sexually impure world of the Antichrist, the 144,000 show us that following Jesus means taking spirituality seriously.

6. They show us a true picture of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus (Revelation 14:4)

“…These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They were redeemed from the human race as the firstfruits for God and the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:4, HCSB)

They are the firstfruits, a term that indicates the first of much more to come later. The very fact that the 144,000 are merely the firstfruits of many more Jewish believers to come further points to the failure of the program of the counterfeit trinity.10 The glorious fate of these disciples contrasts starkly with the fate of those who took the beast’s mark and thereby opted to be damned (14:9–11). The warning against compromise is clear.11

7. They are an example of true Christian character (Revelation 14:5)

No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.” (Revelation 14:5, HCSB)

The literary structure of this passage is carefully crafted to develop the theme of Christian discipleship: John first describes what he sees and hears (14:1–3) and then interprets his vision for his audience (14:4–5). Every single item of John’s account of his vision is a deliberate contrast to what he has just described as the reign of evil in chapter 13: the oppression has been exchanged for liberation, evil for good, suffering for celebration.12

The theme of discipleship goes throughout this chapter. In contrast to Revelation 13, Revelation 14 points to our to follow Jesus. These disciples are internally and sexually pure, they follow Jesus intently and as a result reveal to the world Christian character. This section of Revelation reminds us that the way we live our Christian life matters.

1 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 607.

2 Earl F. Palmer and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, 1, 2 & 3 John / Revelation, vol. 35, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982), 200.

3 Michael Wilcock, The Message of Revelation: I Saw Heaven Opened, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 132.

4 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 264.

5 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1744.

6 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 266.

7 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, ed. Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Albrecht Schönherr, and Geffrey B. Kelly, trans. Daniel W. Bloesch and James H. Burtness, vol. 5, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 65–66.

8 For a lengthy discussion of the problems associated with interpreting 14:4 literally and why the figurative reading is much preferred, see Beale, Revelation, 737–41. In addition, unfaithfulness in the Old Testament is often described as adultery (e.g., Jer. 3:1–10; 13:27; Ezek. 16:15–58; 23:1–49; Hosea 5:4; 6:10).

9 J. Scott Duvall, Revelation, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 191–192.

10 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah : A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events, Rev. ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 265–266.

11 Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 368.

12 Robert W. Wall, Revelation, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 178.

Joshua 24:15 The Ride of Your Life

LSW4C

Joshua 24:15 The Ride of Your Life

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”” (Joshua 24:15, ESV)

Welcome everybody to SonWorld Adventure Park VBS—a place to learn about Jesus. All this week, our kids will discover how great it is to choose Jesus and follow Him. When you choose Jesus as your Savior and guide for life, he takes you on an amazing adventure—a thrilling ride—just like a rollercoaster. Riding with Jesus is the ride of your life.

In a world that’s full of options, at SonWorld Adventure Park VBS we will be encouraged to make five good choices that honor God and make life a great adventure and full of purpose. Now, come and join us. Let’s go to SonWorld Adventure Park VBS and see all the fun we will have this week. Right now, let’s review those five choices.1

  1. Choose to believe.

On day #1, our students will enjoy a funny story from the Bible in John chapter 9. Here, Jesus meets a man who had been blind all his life. To heal the man, Jesus spit on the ground, made a mud paste, put it on the man’s eyes, and then told him to wash off the mud. When the man did, his eyes were opened. He could see! Jesus healed him! In a similar way, Jesus takes those who are spiritually blind—who cannot see God—and Jesus gives them the ability to see God. Will you choose to believe?

A blind man was given sight by Jesus. Afterwards, the man went and told people that Jesus is God’s promised Savior. Will you choose to believe?

  1. Choose to act.

On day # 2, our students walked with Jesus in Luke 17, where Jesus heard the cries of ten men who had a terrible skin disease called leprosy. When the men called out for help, Jesus healed them all. In a similar way, Jesus takes the spiritually sick and makes them whole. Will you choose to act? When you do, people are changed.

Ten men with the disease of leprosy were healed by Jesus. Many people around us need God’s love. Will you choose to act?

3. Choose to forgive.

On day # 3, our students sat in a crowded room in Mark 2, listening to Jesus talk. All of the sudden, some people dug a hole in the roof above our heads. A paralyzed man was lowered down on a mat by his friends—right in front of Jesus. Jesus told the lame man, “Your sins are forgiven” and then he told the man, “Rise up, take up your mat, and walk.” And immediately, the lame man was healed. He stood up and walked! In a similar way, Jesus takes the spiritually lame and paralyzed—whose efforts cannot earn God’s favor—and Jesus gives them the ability to walk with God. Jesus forgives your sins. Will you choose to forgive? That lame man sure had some good friends. They didn’t let a big crowd keep stop them from getting their lame friend to Jesus. They just decided to tear the roof off.

When a paralyzed man was first forgiven of his sins and then healed by Jesus, people saw that Jesus has the power to forgive sin. Will you choose to forgive?

  1. Choose to obey.

On day # 4, our students were witnesses to a discussion in Luke 18 between Jesus and a rich young ruler. The ruler asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said, “What must you do? What you must do is keep all the commandments.” The ruler said, “Jesus, I’ve kept them all.” Then Jesus said, “Oh, there’s one more.” Sell all your possessions, give them to the poor, and then come and follow me.” When the rich young ruler heard that, he turned and walked away. Jesus wants us to obey Him in all our choices, not just when it’s easy. Will you choose to obey?

A rich young ruler met Jesus, seeking eternal life. When he learned what he needed to give up in order to follow Jesus, he walked away sadly. Will you choose to obey?

  1. Choose to believe.

On day #5, we also heard the Bible’s most thrilling story. But it starts off sad. Jesus was arrested by enemies and killed on a cross. He was buried in a cave. And he laid there for three days. But on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. He defeated sin and death. He truly can forgive sins and grant eternal life to all who believe. Mary and the disciples saw the risen Lord with their very own eyes. But Thomas did not. He said, “Unless I see Jesus for myself, I will not believe.” A whole week went by. And then, Jesus came and appeared to his disciples. This time, Thomas was there. Jesus said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe.” And Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” Will you choose Jesus? Will you choose to believe in Him? If you will, you can be sure of this—Jesus will lead you all the way.

The disciple Thomas doubted that Jesus had actually risen from the dead. But when Thomas saw Jesus alive with his very own eyes, he believed. Will you choose Jesus?

Now let’s introduce our team leaders who will be lead our VBS. [HAVE THE LEADERS COME FORWARD]

Vacation Bible School is this church’s biggest outreach in the year. We reach out to more families in one week than we reach out to at any time of the rest of the year. We can all be involved. Whether it is leading the music, helping with crafts, telling a story, sharing the mission, or serving, everyone here can make a contribution to letting people who need Jesus choose Him.

Tonight, we will meet to pray for the Vacation Bible School. Khalib Jordan and Brandon Beeson will lead the prayer walk that we will have. We will walk all over this church and the Activity Center to pray for this Vacation Bible School. I am encouraging you to come out tonight and pray that God will draw people here. We can pray that people will come out for the ride. We can pray that people will choose Jesus. You can be part of that prayer movement tonight. So come out and join us. Let’s go to SonWorld Adventure Park VBS and see all the fun we will have this week.

1Ted Weis, “SonWorld Adventure Park VBS Rally,” 1 June 2008, Internet, http://livingthebiblios.blogspot.com/2008/06/sonworld-adventure-park-vbs-rally.html. Accessed on 22 July 2016. The points of this sermon were used from this blogpost.

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren is a 40-day devotional which takes the reader on a personal spiritual journey. The book presents what Warren says are God’s five purposes for human life on Earth. The book describes itself as a “blueprint for Christian living in the 21st Century.”

This book is intended to be read on a daily basis. There are 40 short chapters to be read on consecutive days. Each chapter contains a personal application section at the end with a “Point to Ponder,” a “Verse to Remember,” and a “Question to Consider” over the course of the day. The forty chapters are divided into six major sections, with the following titles:

What on Earth am I Here For?

Purpose #1: You Were Planned for God’s Pleasure (Worship)

Purpose #2: You Were Formed for God’s Family (Fellowship)

Purpose #3: You Were Created to Become Life Christ (Discipleship)

Purpose #4: You Were Shaped for Serving God (Ministry)

Purpose #5: You Were Made for a Mission (Mission)

THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE AND THE PURPOSE DRIVEN CHURCH

The book takes the same five purposes which Rick Warren applied to the church in another book, The Purpose Driven Church (which I reviewed), and shows how they make a personal application to every Christian. I believe this book is well written. The book progresses nicely and moves the reader through greater commitments each day through the 40 days. An observer of Rick Warren’s ministry will notice that the daily devotionals recycle many of his sermons he has preached through the years.

Some have criticized Warren’s use of different translations for the verses he quotes throughout the book. They point to his use of eisegesis, selectively using verses that support his thesis. Warren was aware of that criticism and explained his reasoning in an appendix to the book. I use different translations and see no problem with that, per se. However, the fact that the book contains footnotes to these verses and doesn’t quote them in the text prevents the reader from making his or her own determination about how the verses are used. One has to flip to the back of the book to find out which verse Warren has used. This is extremely frustrating and gives support to the argument of Warren’s critics.

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THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE, EXTENDED EDITION

The book has since been expanded. In 2012, The Purpose Driven Life was expanded for a new digital generation. Each chapter contains a QR Code which links to videos online. This new edition includes all the wisdom of the original book, plus new insights Warren has gleaned since he first wrote The Purpose Driven Life.

The subtitle What On Earth Am I Here For? is the new title for this expanded edition, containing two new chapters. Forty days is almost six weeks. Adding two more chapters makes the book easier to organize in a church campaign, which Warren uses often. I personally believe that this book can be used to enhance church health. Using this book in a church-wide campaign helps the church to grow together.

Despite the criticisms, this book provides a way for Christians to see that their life has purpose and meaning. The book challenges Christians to increase their commitments, and that is always a great thing for a book to do. Allowing the reader to see the Bible through the lens of the five purposes is helpful because it simplifies the Bible purpose. If this book helps more people to read the Bible for their daily encouragement and to increase their commitment to God in the church, then it serves its purpose indeed.

I have also reviewed Warren’s books The Purpose Driven Church here, and The Daniel Plan here.