11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11–12, NKJV)
John, a witness of the light who came into the world, identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jno. 1:6-8, 29). In the heavenly vision of another John, the Lamb who was slain is alive and executing the redemption purposes of God (Rev. 5:4-10). For His extraordinary service, the Son of God is extolled by the heavenly host as worthy to receive every divine blessing, power and recognition of praise and honor. This glorious scene of worship and adoration of the Son calls our attention to the reverent worship we give Him. Worship must be focused on God, not on ourselves. In true worship we join these heavenly voices to adore the Lamb and He who sits on the throne (Rev. 5:13-14).
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:19–20, NKJV)
We live in an age when rebuking sin is viewed as unloving, judgmental treatment of others. Yet, with clarity and force, with lovely urgency, Jesus rebuked the Christians in Laodicea for their spiritual arrogance and apathy (Rev. 3:14-22). Sin destroys the soul! It must not be comforted; it must be rooted out of the heart. Only then will Jesus enter the heart and abide with us. You see, sin separates people from God, including Christians. We must accept the chastening of our sins that Jesus gives us in His word, and make the correction that must occur for Christ’s fellowship to truly exist. Remember, this is a passage spoken to Christians. Our hearts can become apathetic toward Christ, preventing Christ from abiding with us. We can turn away from Christ and close the door we once opened to Jesus. But the door of your heart does not have to remain closed. Fellow Christian, if you have turned away from Christ, then start listening to Him. He is calling you to repent. Open your heart to Him and do His will. He will come in, forgive you and bless you with His saving presence (Jno. 14:21, 23).
5 Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. 6 The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground… 10 He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. 11 The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” (Psalm 147:5–6, 10–11, NKJV)
God’s power and wisdom is unbounded. He does not act as we humans. What He values and exalts is very different from the estimations given by men. He raises up and magnifies the humble of heart, while He crushes wickedness under the strength of His mighty hand. Unlike men, who put confidence in the strength of their military might and prowess, our Lord delights in those who reverence Him and trust His mercy as their salvation in time of trouble. Let us never doubt the robust power and unlimited understanding of the Lord God to provide for and protect those who humbly serve Him and faithfully trust His mercy.
1 Then Job answered and said: 2 “I have heard many such things; Miserable comforters are you all! 3 Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? 4 I also could speak as you do, if your soul were in my soul’s place. I could heap up words against you, and shake my head at you; 5 But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief.” (Job 16:1–5, NKJV)
Job’s friends not only gave him terrible counsel about the cause of his suffering, they spoke without comfort or compassion. Most of us long for the reassurance of comforting words when faced with the loss of a loved one, the pain of a disease or the uncertainties of life. Let us develop an ability to be sympathetic toward others, or even empathetic, when we have faced trials we see in others. Like us, others need a word of comfort and encouragement to strengthen them in moments of weakness (Matt. 7:12). We can increase our compassion toward others by living outside of ourselves, by actually pausing from our own hectic lives to see and respond to the needs of others. We will all face trials in life. Too bad all will not respond to those trials with words of consolation and actions that soothe the aching soul.
17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. (John 19:17–18, NKJV)
“December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy—.” So began the address by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the United States Congress after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in which 2,403 Americans were killed, and another 1,178 wounded. Seventy-five years later, we still shudder at that unmerciful disruption of lives and peace. An even greater day of evil was the day the sinless Son of God was murdered – crucified like a criminal. Yet, God turned that day of darkness into the magnificent day of triumph over sin (Isa. 53:10-12; Rom. 5:6-11). Victory over Japanese aggression came at a great cost of American blood and treasure. Victory over sin’s aggression against humanity came at an even greater cost, the blood of the Son of God. As we honor the price paid to defend freedom, may we also and especially remember to honor the One who paid the price that frees us from sin’s oppression and death (Matt. 20:28).
47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:47–48, NKJV)
Knowledge brings increased responsibility. At the same time, a person cannot plead ignorance to escape his or her personal responsibility to God. The master tells his servants what is expected of them, therefore, a servant ought to know his master’s will. So, even when the servant who failed to know his master’s will “committed things deserving of stripes,” he did not escape punishment. The “faithful and wise steward” is watchful and careful to do his master’s will (Lk. 12:37-46). Similarly, Christians are responsible for knowing the Lord’s will and being watchful to carefully do His will. We are warned, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Sins of ignorance are still sin against the Master’s will which call for repentance and conversion (Acts 3:17, 19; 8:18-24). Disciples of Christ have great spiritual blessings, and along with them, great responsibilities. The Lord expects us to faithfully do His will, especially since we know His will and have His blessings. To do otherwise brings upon us punishment with unbelievers (Lk. 12:46).
It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel. (Proverbs 20:3, NKJV)
Why do we start quarrels? I suspect, if the truth be told, we usually think someone else started the quarrel that exists – “it wasn’t us who started it!” Rarely do we take credit for being the fool who started the argument. Yet, that is the problem, isn’t it? When we are unwilling to admit our part in a quarrel we are not inclined to end it speedily. Instead, we feel justified in “defending ourselves” or otherwise “not giving in” (after all, “we aren’t the one with the problem!”). Quarrels exist where the things of the flesh prevail over the things of the Spirit (Jas. 4:1-4; Rom. 8:5). Fools start quarrels, and sometimes, that fool is the person looking back at us in the mirror. Better that we admit our part in the quarrel, repent of our sin, seek forgiveness and correct the damage we have done, rather than foolheartedly continue sinful strife. Honor comes from ending quarrels, not beginning them.
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:15, NKJV)
A tradition is an instruction, narrative, precept, etc. that is given over or handed down from one to another (see Thayer, 481). Traditions serve important roles in our lives. They connect us to former times, places and people. They reassure our hearts with dependability instead of confusion and chaos. In the case of today’s verse, the teachings given to Christians by the apostles of Christ formed the traditions they were to “stand fast and hold.” The apostolic traditions were first spoken, then written. By their words and letters, the apostles transmitted heavenly traditions from one generation to the next. The inspired Scriptures form the traditions in which we must stand fast and to which we must hold. Far from suggesting the Bible is outdated and irrelevant today, the apostles of Christ knew their teachings set enduring traditions by which every generation must live in order to please God.
28 …And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:28–31, NKJV)
Do you understand the Bible when you read it? If not, you are not alone. We are not suggesting the Bible is impossible to understand; just the opposite, in fact. Jesus said we can know the truth (Jno. 8:32). We are commanded to understand the will of the Lord (Eph. 5:17). To do so, we must be willing to be taught. One way God helps us understand the Scriptures is through the work of teachers. Just as we need teachers to guide us through our academic training, we need teachers to guide us in understanding the word of God. Jesus “gave some to be…teachers” in order to equip us to serve Him and His people (Eph. 4:11-12). We should never let pride or any other obstacle keep us from humbly admitting that we need to learn God’s word, and to ask for help to do so. The Ethiopian knew he needed someone to guide him in understanding the prophet Isaiah. God knew it, too, so He sent the man a teacher, who taught him about Jesus and salvation (Acts 8:34-39). God is willing to teach you today, if you are will to be taught by those who teach the truth (Jno. 6:45).
Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles. (Proverbs 21:23, NKJV)
Our words are the expressions of our soul. The deepest recesses of the heart are exposed by the words of our mouth. Truly, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). For example, guard your mouth against speaking corrupt words. There is no place in the Christian’s life for profanity, for it exposes a profane heart. Guard your mouth against speaking lies. Half-truths, misdirection and other forms of deception are not a trait of the pure in heart. “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” defines the followers of Jesus (Eph. 4:25). Guard your mouth against angry words. These flow out of a heart that is bitter, resentful and unforgiving. Guard your mouth against speaking false doctrine. The Spirit of truth has spoken truth to us through Christ’s apostles (Jno. 16:13). Therefore, speak “as the oracles of God,” not with the wisdom and will of men (1 Pet. 4:11; Col. 2:8). By cleansing your heart of profanity, deceit, anger and error, your soul will be protected from trouble. That’s what repentance is; changing your heart. Rather than opening wide your mouth to pour out evil things, guard your soul from the troublesome results of an uncontrolled tongue. May we recall and live what the children sing, “Be careful little mouths what you say.”