Trusting God – IV

October 30, 2013
Malachi 3:10

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

We have talked about Trusting God for our material needs, and how He promises to supply those needs.  But that supply will be given to bless us, not to hurt us.  In the last blog we learned about The Bank of Heaven, where God stores our riches for our eternal enjoyment.  Because to give us access to all the riches Jesus promised us – a hundredfold in Mark 10:29 and 30 – it might destroy us!  Such riches have destroyed others.

I think Saint Paul is a good example.  You see, he confessed in Romans 7:7, “…I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ ”  Paul was showing here the purpose of the Old Testament law.  I suppose he could have picked any one of the Ten Commandments for this example, but he chose number ten – “You shall not covet…”   Why?  Because it applied to him personally.  Paul had a problem with coveting!  And the apostle further defined covetousness in Colossians 3:5 as idolatry!  He plainly said, “…covetousness…is idolatry.”  It was because of the perceived sin of idolatry that Saul of Tarsus (before he became Paul the apostle) led the persecution against the followers of Jesus.  In the minds of the Jewish leaders – of whom Paul was their chief persecutor point man – Christians were worshiping a false god, Jesus the Nazarene.  To worship a false god is, or course, idolatry. Coveting is desiring something so much that it takes priority in your life.  And the priority of your life should be God – loving Him “…with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind…” (Luke 10:27).  So then, “…covetousness…is idolatry.”  Saul – because he was covetous – was guilty of the very crime for which he was persecuting Christians!

In Philippians 4:12 Paul wrote: “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Every-where and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”  If you examine in the scriptures the apostle’s life carefully, I think you will find that he suffered need more than he abounded!  Why?  Because if God had bestowed abundance upon His beloved child, covetousness would have kicked in, and Paul would have reverted to his old sin of “…coveting which is idolatry.”  So to make full use of Paul, God, for the most part, kept him poor!

But, oh, the riches this man of God has stored up in The Bank of Heaven!  In heaven, Paul is perfect!  And no sin – coveting, or anything else that afflicts God’s children down below – would corrupt the enjoyment of the Lord and His riches!  So God can lavish all those stored-up riches upon His faithful children in heaven!

But there are still great promises to us here concerning our material needs.  One such promise is Malachi 3:10:

    “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house,
    and prove Me now in this”, says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you
    the windows of heaven, and pour out for you such blessing that there will not
    be room enough to receive it.”

God wants to bless His children!  But He will not ‘bless’ them to their destruction!  If we learn to Trust God in this matter of tithing, it will show Him that we are not hanging on too tightly to material things!  And God will trust us with more riches!  As Jesus said in Luke 16:10 (NIV), “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much….

It is really a careful balance here.  We are not to give just to get!  We are to give because God has given so much to us through His Son Jesus Christ.  He gave it all on the cross to take away our sins and give us eternal life.  We should simply give back our life to Him as a “Thank you” for all He has given us.  As I quoted from I Corinthians 8:5 in last Friday’s blog, the Macedonian Christians “…first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.”  All giving should come from a heart – a life – given to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Then the gift is acceptable to God!  But when we give – whatever we give, even if it be cup of water – we will not lose our reward! (Mark 9:41).

So do you want to experience the outpouring of God’s blessing?  Then…

    “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house,
    and prove Me now in this”, says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you
    the windows of heaven, and pour out for you such blessing that there will not
    be room enough to receive it.”

Trusting God – III

October 28, 2013
Mark 10:29, 30

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

I preached a sermon one Sunday some years ago on tithing – giving to God and His work 10% of your income.  I shared how scripture encourages believers to tithe – one of the major scriptures being Leviticus 27:32, which says, “And concerning the tithe of the herd or of the flock, or whatever passes under the rod [for the purpose of counting], the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD.”  I also told my congregation how my wife and I had tithed since we were first married, and God had never let us down as far as providing for our needs.  After the sermon, one couple said they were convicted about this principle of tithing and gave their last $5 they had with them as a start.  Later Bob told me, “Before we left the church, someone walked up to us and gave us $50!”  They have been tithers ever since!

About this matter of which we have been considering in these last three blogs – Trusting God:  our wallets and purses are good indicators of how much trust for our material needs we place in our heavenly Father.  My mother was an example of not quite trusting the Lord in this matter.  I had the privilege of leading her to accept Jesus Christ as her Savior when she was in her 60’s.  Being in poor health, she was not able to regularly attend church and grow in her Christian faith by listening to good teaching.  My wife and I could not help much in that area since we lived over a hundred miles away.  One day, when we were visiting, my mother announced that she was going to begin to tithe her Social Security income of about $200 a month.  “I’ll give $2!” she proudly said.  I should have complimented her on a good start, but instead I remarked, “Mom, that’s not a tithe!  That’s only 1%!  You need to give $20!”  “Oh, I can’t afford to do that!” she answered.  And so she gave nothing!

I can’t afford to tithe!” is too often the reaction to that challenge.  But listen carefully to what Jesus told His disciples in Mark 10:29 and 30:

    Assuredly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters
    or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s,
    who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers
    and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the
    age to come eternal life.

Jesus is saying here, that if you give up anything for Him and His kingdom, then the payback will be 100 times the amount sacrificed!  He was also a realist, by the way, and knew persecutions would come to His loyal followers.  But in promising a hundredfold return, I also know the Lord will not give us so much that it will destroy us!  It is like a parent out shopping with his or her child, two hours before dinner.  Suddenly, the child runs up holding a whole bag of miniature Milky Way bars.  “Can I have these?  I’m hungry!”  What would the wise parent do?  Perhaps mom or dad would say, “You can have a candy bar after we eat, but not now.”  Why?  All that candy would not be good for the child before dinner – or generally!

God knows our needs, and according to Philippians 4:19, “…my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Not all your wants but all your need!  And there certainly is a difference!  There are examples out there – and you have probably heard of one or two – where someone wins the lottery for millions of dollars – and all those riches destroy them!  God will only give His children in this life what they can handle – what they need to live on and bless others.  And like any good parent, He will often give us, as a treat, what we want – but nothing that would destroy us!

What about the hundredfold?  Jesus promised “…a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands….”  I call it “The Bank of Heaven”!  We will never lose out in giving to the Lord.  If He promised a hundredfold return, a hundredfold return is what He will give us!  But some of what God will give us will be delayed until we get to heaven.  You see, then we will not be subject to any flaw in our makeup that will allow such riches to destroy us!  And we will enjoy forever the riches God has given us for our faithfulness upon earth!

Trusting God: Can you trust Him enough to give Him a tithe of all your earnings?  I have – and so have many others, including Bob! – and God has never let us down!

Trusting God – II

October 25, 2013
II Corinthians 9:6-8

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Alright, we discussed the five areas of our need in the last blog, and I promised an emphasis today on our material needs.  As I said on Wednesday, one of the most prominent indicators of our trust in God is how we use our money.  Paul has a lot to say about this matter, and one of the most important passages is II Corinthians 9:6 through 8:

    …this I say:  He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows
    bountifully will also reap bountifully.  So let each one give as he purposes in
    his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.  And
    God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all
    sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

You see, Paul is reminding the Corinthian Christians that they promised a gift to help the suffering saints at Jerusalem (see Romans 15:25).  Believers in Palestine were experiencing persecution, famine and generally hard times.  And the apostle told these Corinthian followers of Christ that the Macedonians (northern Greece) – who were also experiencing persecution – had already given a sizable gift to the cause, and that gift was motivated by the promise made the year before of the believers in Corinth (southern Greece) to do the same.

Paul uses the example of the Macedonian churches to motivate the same generosity in Corinth – II Corinthians 8:1 though 5:

    Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the
    churches of Macedonia:  that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of
    their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.  For
    I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability they
    were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the
    gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.  And this they did, not
    as we had hoped, but first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the
    will of God.

Do you see the order of the gift here?  They “…first gave themselves to the Lord….”  Then, and only then, did they give their monetary gift!  Why?  The middle verse of our featured scripture  – II Corinthians 9:7 – says it all:  “…let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

It starts in the heart!  That’s where – in common spiritual language – Christ dwells by the Holy Spirit when you accept the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior.  And when you understand what He did for you – shedding His own blood on the cross so your sins can be wiped away, and you can possess eternal life – that great gift from God  is to motivate our giving back to Him – first ourselves, and then all our other gifts!

Giving then becomes easy.  We give because He gave!  And every gift I give to the Lord – whether it be time and service such as writing this blog, or sending off a check to further the work of His kingdom – is simply a “Thank you” to Jesus Christ for all He has done for me!

Now one of the great things about Biblical giving is that we have many promises from God about what He will do in return when we give.  We featured two in today’s blog from II Corinthians 9, verses 6 and 8:

•    He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
•    And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always…[will have] all sufficiency in all things….

And two more in Wednesday’s blog from Philippians 4:19 and Matthew 6:33:

•    But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
•    But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

We will concentrate on a couple more in the next blog.  Until then – and from now on – Give yourself first to the Lord, then cheerfully to His work!

Trusting God – I

October 23, 2013
Philippians 4:19; Matthew 6:24-33

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Do you trust God?  Do you really?  I have discovered one of the most prominent indicators of our trust is our wallet – or our purse, as the case may be!  What is it about Trusting God in this matter that holds us back?  After all, we have a very specific promise concerning such things in Philippians 4:19:  “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  How many of our needs will be supplied?  “all your need…”!  And where lie the resources for meeting those needs?  God’s “…riches in glory…”!  And how rich is God?  Psalm 50:10 through 12 tells us:

    For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.  I
    know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. 
    If I were hungry, I would not tell you: for the world is Mine, and its fulness.

We could expand this last thought to say, “…for the universe is Mine, and its fulness!”  And by what means are these riches made available to meet our needs?  “…by Christ Jesus.”  Now Paul uses a logical argument in Romans 8:32 to show us God’s willingness to meet our needs:  “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  In other words, He has already given us the most costly gift He would ever give – His own Son dying on the cross for our sins.  So anything else is a lesser gift!

There are five general areas where we have needs:

•    Physical needs – our health, both maintaining it and restoring it if we are sick.
•    Spiritual needs – our relationship to God and how we then relate with Him to life.
•    Mental/Emotional needs – how we deal with life internally in our minds and emotions.
•    Relational needs – relating to others in our family and wider social circles.
•    Material needs – our needs materially/financially to live a decent quality of life.

The last area may be the toughest to conquer in our lives.  And yet, there are so many promises in the Bible concerning trusting God for our material needs.  For instance, one of my favorites is Matthew 6:24 through 33:

    No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the
    other; or else he will be loyal to the one, and despise the other. You cannot
    serve God and mammon.  Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life,
    what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will
    put on.  Is not the life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look
    at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet
    your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of much more value than they? 
    Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  So why do you
    worry about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they
    neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, that even Solomon in all his glory
    was not arrayed like one of these.  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field,
    which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more
    clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall
    we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or What shall we wear?   For after all
    these things the Gentiles [unbelievers] seek.  For your heavenly Father knows
    that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His
    righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

What do both of these scriptures – Philippians 4 and Matthew 6 – say to us about Trusting God?  If we really believe what His Word plainly says, would we be so concerned with our material needs?

It is a matter of priorities.  The world says we should focus our lives on material things – education, job, investments, retirement.  Jesus told us in the scripture above what should be number one in our pursuit:  “…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness….”  What will God then do?  He will see to it that “…all these things shall be added to you.

Look over again those five areas of need in our lives.  Get your focus right, and you can quit worrying in all five catagories!  “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Start Trusting God!

I know, I started this blog by alluding to our use of money.  Although the passage in Matthew 6 mentions that, it’s going to be addressed more fully in the next blog.

Jesus Christ Revealed – III

October 21, 2013
Romans 10:14, 15

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

The third way that Jesus Christ is Revealed is closely related to the first two.  Remember, the first two are specific and general revelation:

•    Special revelation is when God gave His Word to man – the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  From the first intimation in Genesis of God being One in Trinity – “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2 with Genesis 1:26) “Let us make man in our image….” – to the specific revelation of John 1:1 and 14, “…and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….” – Jesus Christ is Revealed!  And He is revealed in such a way as man could not ever conceive Him to be.  Only God could have given such information to us!

•    General revelation is that which is given in creation.  The mark of the Creator is on everything He has made!  And in the last blog we saw that such revelation is so specific that all creation shouts out, “Jesus Christ is the risen Lord!

So what is the third way that Jesus Christ is Revealed?  It is shown in our scripture of Romans 10:14 and 15:

    How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how
    shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they
    hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach, unless they are sent?

Now the first two ways of Jesus Christ Revealed is by God’s initiative.  Man had nothing to do with it.  The only obligation man has in the first two is to receive what God has given!  But the third – while the command comes from the Son of God Himself – involves man to a great degree!  And it is not mankind generally that is held responsible to fulfill this command, it is Christians!  Believers in and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are commanded to go and preach the gospel!

You can find that command in a number of scriptures, such as Psalm 71:18; Isaiah 43:10 and 11; Matthew 4:19; Matthew 28:19 and 20; Mark 16:15 and 16; John 14:12.  But perhaps the clearest presentation of the command given by Jesus to His followers is in Acts 1:8:

    …you shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you
    shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to
    the end of the earth.

So you and me – are to go in the power of the Holy Spirit and tell others about Jesus – how He died and rose again for our salvation.  We are to start where we are – in our Jerusalem – then in wider circles, to take the gospel “…to the end of the earth.

Some might say, “But I’m not the missionary type!  I’m not even good at talking with other people!  How am I going to go to the ends of the earth to share the gospel?”  Did you notice that in Romans 10:14 and 15, not everyone goes out?  It also says, “And how shall they preach, unless they are sent? ” Some have to stay home and send others out!

But that does not mean you are off the hook.  You are still a missionary – a gospel preacher – to your family, neighbors, co-workers, schoolmates, etc.  As the old saying goes, “Bloom where you are planted!

This is the third way God has planned to have Jesus Christ Revealed.  We must make use of the first two – specific and general revelation, and tell others about Jesus.  So walk close to Him.  Study His Word.  Be in prayer, especially to whom God would send you.  Since you will do this in the power of the Holy Spirit, let Him direct you in this adventure.

Remember God’s three ways of Jesus Christ Revealed:
•    Specific revelation
•    General revelation
•    Preach the gospel 

Jesus Christ Revealed – II

October 18, 2013
Psalm 19:1-4

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

In Wednesday’s blog, we saw how God has clearly revealed Jesus Christ in scripture.  In the Old Testament there are over 300 distinct prophecies about the coming of the Messiah.  Jesus fulfilled most of them, as recorded in the New Testament.  But there are still some yet to be fulfilled.  These will come true as the last days wind to and end, and the Lord returns to judge the world and set up His kingdom.

Those of us who have access to the Bible – especially in the western world – will certainly be held accountable concerning what we did – or did not do – with the Son of God.  As Paul says in Romans 1:20, “…they are without excuse.

Put your faith in Jesus Christ as YOUR Savior and Lord NOW!

But what about the heathen in the middle of the jungle who has never even heard of Jesus?  Is he held responsible?  God addresses that issue in Psalm 19:1 through 4:

    The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handi-
    work.  Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. 
    There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.  Their line
    has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

This is called General Revelation.  All creation shows forth God’s glory and that He is Creator.  Furthermore, Romans 1:18 through 20, Paul writes,

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
    unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because
    what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has showed it to
    them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly
    seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power
    and Godhead, so that they are without excuse….

So besides God’s glory and Creativity, nature also reveals His wrath, eternal power and  Godhead (His three-in-one existence and much more!)

But is that all that is revealed by creation?  If it is, it seems like a pretty general revelation.  But Romans 10:9 through 18 shows that God has gotten very specific in His general revelation.  Here are verses 9, 13 through 15 and 17 & 18:

    …that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart
    that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved….For whoever calls
    upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  How then shall they call on Him
    in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom
    they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how
    shall they preach, unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are
    the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of
    good things!”…So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of
    God.  But I say, Have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out
    to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

What is Paul saying?  He is very specific when he tells us that to be saved you must “…confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead….”  But in verse 18 he asks, “Have they not heard?”  Yes they have!  And then he quotes part of our scripture of Psalm 19, verse 4:  “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” So general revelation has gotten very specific in that it is proclaiming,Jesus Christ is risen Lord!”  Closely compare verse 9 with verse 18.

If we would hear it, all creation – every leaf, every blade of grass, every lowly animal crawling on the ground, every bird flying through the air – is proclaiming, “Jesus Christ is risen Lord!”  If this is true – and this is what Paul is saying – is it any wonder that even the heathen in the jungle is “…without excuse”?

But there is still one more way that God reveals Jesus Christ.  And that one more way is closely related to the first two – specific and general revelation.  This will be the subject of our next blog.

Jesus Christ Revealed – I

October 16, 2013
John 5:39

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

The most well-known scripture in the Bible is perhaps John 3:16:

    For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever
    believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

If “…God so loved the world that He gave…” Jesus Christ to the world, to what extent is He revealed to the people of this world?  And if – as Jesus said in John 14:6:  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father, except through Me.” – does God give a clear invitation to everyone to come to Him through faith in Jesus?  There are three ways God has revealed His Son to everyone in the world:

•    By specific revelation through the scriptures.
•    Through general revelation by means of creation.
•    By sending out His followers to be witnesses unto Him.

And all of these methods are energized by the ministry of the Holy Spirit drawing people to the Savior.

Consider our scripture for this blog, John 5:39:

    You search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life; and
    these are they which testify of Me.

The Jews generally believed in eternal existence after physical death.  The Pharisees especially believed the righteous would be resurrected to eternal happiness.  And so they held tenaciously to the scriptures which, in Jesus’ day, consisted of our Old Testament.  They searched the scriptures, studying, memorizing and commenting on all God had revealed.  But they missed the greatest revelation – the coming of the Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ.  The website – – lists 315 Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.  These include:

•    Exodus 12:5 – a lamb without blemish, whose blood saves from death – fulfilled in I Peter 1:19.
•    Exodus 12:46 – none of the lamb’s bones broken  –  fulfilled in John 19:31-36.
•    I Chronicles 7:12, 13 – He will reign on David’s throne forever – fulfilled in Luke 1:32, 33.
•    Psalm 16:9-11 – He would rise from the dead – fulfilled in John 20:9.
•    Psalm 22:1-31 – many prophecies concerning Jesus’ crucifixion – fulfilled in the gospel accounts and other scriptures.
•    Isaiah 7:14 – born of a virgin – fulfilled in Luke 1:35 .
•    Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – many prophecies concerning the crucifixion and Jesus’ substitutionary death – fulfilled in many New Testament scriptures.

Two highly trained and respected mathmaticians – Peter W. Stoner and Robert C. Newman –

    …took only eight of the more than 300 prophecies fulfilled by Christ and
    determined the odds of one person fulfilling just those eight.  The results
    were astounding! They calculated the odds at 1 in 10 to the 17th power or
    1 in 100, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000.  Dr. Stoner calculated that many silver
    dollars would cover the entire state of Texas, two feet deep!

The point is the Bible shouts out the message that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord!   As Jesus testified in John 5:39, “…the scriptures…are they which testify of Me.

The question for thinking people – especially in this western world – is not primarily “What about the heathen who has never heard of Jesus?”  It is “What will I do with Jesus Christ?”  To end up in hell, eternally lost, a person would have to trip over the open Bible available just about everywhere in this part of the world, abundant numbers of churches with open doors, radio and TV preachers, gospel music and many other avenues of the proclamation of Jesus Christ! 

He has been clearly revealed!  What have you done with Him?  What will you do with Jesus Christ?


October 14, 2013
Ephesians 5:21-33

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

In 42 years of being a pastor, I have counseled a lot of men and women in their relationships with one another.  When I mention Ephesians 5:22, almost always, the woman cringes.  “That can’t be true, and I will never do that!”  Paul writes in that verse, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

But understanding the context of this verse brings to light its wisdom.  And the wisdom contained here will do much to foster a full and happy relationship, especially in marriage.  Since the passage of Ephesians 5:21 through 33 is long, I will here reproduce part of it – leaving out verses 26 through 32 – without losing the general meaning of the whole:

    …submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God.  Wives, submit to
    your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is head of the wife, as
    also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the savior of the body.  There-
    fore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own
    husbands in every thing.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved
    the church, and gave Himself for it….Nevertheless let each one of you in
    particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects
    her husband.

So the wife is supposed to submit to the husband in everything, right?  But that is only half of what is said here.  Consider again what husbands are told to do:  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.”  How do we know that Jesus Christ loved the Church?  He “…gave Himself for it.”  How did He give Himself for it?  He died to establish the Church, and to bless it and grow Christians into God’s full purpose and blessing He has planned for them!  (See Ephesians 4:11 through 16).

Now then, husbands – if you are to take this command seriously – are you to be willing to lay down your life for your wife?  And if you are willing to give that ultimate sacrifice, then it is no big thing to take out the garbage, is it?!  You see, if you are willing to lay down your life for your wife, then everything else you can do for her is a lesser sacrifice!

This is love!  It says in I John 3:16 (NIV), “This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers [and sisters].”  And our closest ‘sister’ in a Christian marriage?  It’s our wife!   What is the goal of such sacrificial love?  “…let us speak the truth in love; so shall we fully grow up into Christ.”  (Ephesians 4:15 – New English Bible).  In helping your wife to grow up into Christ, that is to become more and more like Jesus, you will yourself be formed more and more into His image.

If a husband is willing to lay down his life before his mate, but she does not submit to him – she will walk all over him!  But if the wife submits to her husband, and he is not willing to lay down his life for her – she will walk all over him!  So submission by the wife, and the husband loving his wife as Christ loved the Church – both of them will be lifted up in their relationship, and both of them will grow as Christians!  This is summed up in the first verse of our scripture, Ephesians 5:21:  “…submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God.

If you want to bless your marriage, and if you want to become more and more like Jesus, follow what Paul writes in Ephesians 5:21 through 33.  You will be amazed at the results!

Two Thrones – II

October 11, 2013
II Corinthians 5:10

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

In Wednesday’s blog, we saw that Christians will never have to face the great white throne judgment.  Thank God and praise His name that this is true!  For all those who stand before the Lord at that judgment will be condemned, according to Revelation 20:11 though 15.

But that does not mean we, as Christians, will not face judgment!  As it is written in II Corinthians 5:10:

    For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may
    receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether
    good or bad.

Paul expands on this theme in I Corinthians 3:11 though 15:

    For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is
    Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver,
    precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become manifest;
    for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire
    shall test each one’s work, of what sort it is.  If anyone’s work which he has
    built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he
    will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

The foundation is laid by accepting Jesus into your heart and life – how we then live our lives as Christians will determine our rewards or loss of rewards.  The “…gold, silver, precious stones…” are the works following salvation that glorify the Lord and advance His kingdom.  The “…wood, hay, straw…” are things in our lives that we do for just ourselves with little thought of Him and His purpose.  And it stands to reason that the dedicated follower of Christ will be given more rewards in heaven for his or her sacrificial life than the one who just accepts Jesus as Savior but does not grow up and produce fruit in lives that glorifies Him.

What is the fire that will be the determining factor if our works will be accepted or rejected at this judgment?  John saw a vision of Christ in His glorified state in Revelation 1.  In verse 14 (NIV) the apostle wrote, “…His eyes were like blazing fire.”  All He will have to do at that judgment is look at what we have done with our Christian lives, and He – and we – will know if what is being considered is for His glory or ours!

It is called the Bema Seat judgment.  The term bema is found twelve times in the New Testament in the original language.  In ancient Rome it was a raised dias, often in a public place, where a judge would sit to hear a legal case and decide its outcome.  In Greece – and I saw the ruins of a bema seat in Corinth – it was from such a seat the judges of athletic games would determine winners and awards.  So the Greek term was chosen to identify “…the judgment seat of Christ….

The victors in athletic games were awarded a crown of a laurel wreath.  Paul equates that with what the victorious believer will receive in I Corinthians 9:24 through 27:

    Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the
    prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes
    for the prize is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a perishable
    crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus:  not with
    uncertainly.  Thus I fight:  not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my
    body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I
    myself should become disqualified.

The rewards for living the Christian life for God’s glory are called crowns.  Several are named in Scripture:

•    Imperishable (or incorruptible) crown – here in I Corinthians 9:25.
•    Crown of righteousness – II Timothy 4:8.
•    Crown of life – James 1:12; Revelation 2:10.
•    Crown of glory – I Peter 5:4.

There are many more rewards for faithful followers of Jesus Christ, and we will not understand them fully until we receive them from the Lord’s hand.

In the meantime, Christian – realize that we will be judged before Jesus Christ.  Our lives will be reviewed by Him as to how we have lived out our faith.  We will never face the great white throne, but we will stand before Him as He is seated on the bema throne. 

Live accordingly!

Two Thrones – I

October 9, 2013
Revelation 20:11-15

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Thank God I never have to stand before the Lord and be judged!”  That’s what a lot of Christians think.  And there is a great scriptural basis for this.  We will never have to face God’s pronouncement of condemnation described in Revelation 20:11-15:

    And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the
    earth and the heaven fled away.  And there was found no place for them. 
    And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the books
    were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. 
    And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which
    were written in the books.  The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and
    Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.  And they were
    judged each one according to his works.  Then Death and Hades were cast
    into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  And anyone not found written
    in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

This judgment – called the great white throne judgment – is reserved for those who reject Jesus Christ as Savior.  And, yes, they have had the opportunity to hear the good news of the Son of God dying for their sins and rising from the dead!  Read carefully Romans 1:18 through 32. Then consider what it says in Psalm 19:1 through 4 and compare it with what Paul wrote in Romans 10:9 through 18.  All creation broadcasts that Jesus Christ is the risen Lord!  And Paul sums up what it means for mankind in Romans 1:20, “…they are without excuse.”  But this discussion is for another blog or two.

All those who stand before the great white throne will be condemned to eternity in hell!  But thank God Jesus said what He did in John 5:24:

    Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes in Him who
    sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed
    from death into life.

They who have accepted by faith the Lord Jesus and His work on the cross to take away their sins, have – as a present possession – eternal life!  They never have to fear coming under God’s eternal condemnation!

What will it be like to stand before God as Judge at the great white throne?  It will be a terrifying experience!  For that one will know without a doubt that they are headed for a hot, eternal hell – separated from God, heaven and believing loved ones – forever!

More than that, they will realize that what they treated in a light manner – God, the cross, the Bible, church and the witness of Christians – was and is very real!  And now – at the great white throne judgment – it will be too late!

And one more humiliating thing they will have to face – it says in Philippians 2:9 through 11:

    Therefore God also has highly exalted Him [Jesus], and given Him the name
    which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and
    that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God
    the Father.

Unbelievers would not bow the knee before Jesus and confess His name upon the earth, but they will do it then!  They will be on their knees before the Lord even if an angel has to knock them to their knees!  And they will confess that Jesus is Lord even if an angel has to grab their tongue and make them confess!  And then they will hear the words from the Savior that should send a shudder into our very souls – “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels…” (Matthew 25:41).

Praise His name that He has given us the opportunity now to bow before Him and confess His name voluntarily!  If we do it now, we will never stand before the great white throne judgment!