Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Revelation 21:9-27 - The New Jerusalem

by Katrina

LINK: Revelation 21:9-27

John describes the new city of Jerusalem. The city is called both the wife and the bride. Israel was often referred to as the "wife of God," and the "bride of Christ" refers to the church. The twelve tribes of Israel are inscribed on her gates, representing Israel, and the twelve apostles are on the foundation stones, representing the church. The city is described as shining brilliantly of the glory of God. The inhabitants will come from all nations, but they will be only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. Only those who belong to God will be present.

One of the best things about the city is that it will not need sun, moon, or any other light. The glory of God will be present to illumine it. Jesus himself will be the light. There will be no need for a temple in this city, because God's presence will be everywhere all the time.

There will be no sin in the city. There will be nothing unclean. Only what demonstrates the glory of God and His holiness will be there.

Imagine yourself walking down that golden street made of such pure gold that it looks like transparent glass. You are surrounded by precious stones - jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst. (I don't even know what some of those are, but I bet they're gorgeous!) The twelve gates are each made of one huge pearl. The names of the twelve tribes of Israel are inscribed on them. The foundation stones have the names of the twelve apostles (I'm guessing Paul's name replaces Judas's). Jesus Himself shines his glorious light everywhere. Believers from all over the world are there. There is no sin, no sorrow, no sadness, no death, no crying, no pain. There is only perfection surrounding you. There is nothing between you and the very presence of God! Just imagine!!

Is your name written in the Lamb's book of life? Rejoice!

We praise you, God, that one day you will wipe out the world as we know it with all its sin and suffering, and you will make a new place free of all sin and suffering. You will call out your own people from nations all over the world. You will shine your glory for all to see. And we will be in your presence! What an exciting day to look forward to! Amen!

This is my final post for BBC. It has been a wonderful journey through the Bible for the past (almost) three years. I appreciate Carol letting Becky and me participate on a regular basis. It has been richly rewarding both to write and to read the posts here. And it has been invaluable time with the Lord in his word. It has been an exciting three years with Jesus! ~ Katrina

Monday, November 8, 2010

Revelation 21:1-8 - A New Heaven and Earth

by Katrina

LINK: Revelation 21:1-8

God will make a new heaven and earth after the destruction of the old. There will be a new holy city of Jerusalem. The city is compared to a beautiful bride. In this city, God will dwell among men. He will wipe away their tears, remove all death, crying, pain, and mourning. He will make everything new and overflowing with life. The citizens of this beautiful city will be those who have overcome sin. While those who are overcome by sin will experience a second death in the lake of fire.

What began in Genesis, God brings to completion at the end of Revelation.

  • heavens and earth created (Gen 1:1) . . . . new heavens and earth (Rev 21:1)
  • sun was created (Gen 1:16) . . . . no sun will be needed (Rev 21:23)
  • night established (Gen 1:5) . . . . there will be no night (Rev 22:5)
  • seas created (Gen 1:10) . . . . there will be no sea (Rev 21:1)
  • man sinned (Gen 3) . . . . man overcomes sin (Rev 21:7)
  • curse established (Gen 3:14-17) . . . . curse removed (Rev 22:3)
  • sorrow and pain began (Gen 3:17) . . . . no more tears or pain (Rev 21:4)
  • death enters (Gen 3:19) . . . . no more death (Rev 21:4)
  • man blocked from tree of life (Gen 3:24) . . . . access to the tree of life (Rev 22:14)

All believers are "overcomers" and will inherit eternal life in the eternal city. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5). "And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (1 John 5:11-12).

As believers, we have been given a new life, one that is not enslaved to sin. Our old self was crucified so that our body of sin might be done away with and that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For anyone who has died to self is freed from sin (Rom 6:6-7). We ought to consider ourselves dead to sin, no longer being drawn by its attraction. Instead, we ought to live for God in Jesus. Sin should not rule over us anymore (Rom 6:11-13). Once we are saved from sin, we must live out our freedom from sin. Let's live our lives as overcomers!

Praise God today for the ability to overcome sin. If your life is overcome by sin rather than having sin conquered, seek God's help. Spend some time in Romans 6-8 and take an honest look at both your sin and what Jesus has done to free you from your sin. Spend much time in prayer about it, and seek out a godly person who will hold you accountable to growing. Let's become true overcomers who are not ruled by sin.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Revelation 20 - Victory and Judgment

by Becky

LINK: Revelation 20

This is my last post for Bible Book Club and what a journey it has been! Thanks Carol, for having the vision for this and then implementing it. It's been a joy, both the reading and the writing. I am going to miss doing this with you and Katrina!

I have learned SO much. I am more in awe of our God and His Word than ever before. How miraculous that this Book of many books, written over centuries, is so unified. From beginning to end it tells the same story and echoes the same theme. God is in charge! Jesus is our Redeemer. There is conflict and climax, and best of all a happy ending and it's all true!


Satan, that ancient serpent, is bound and cast into a bottomless pit for 1000 years. Remember that this is symbolic! The point is that God places restrictions on Satan's ability to do harm for a long, but limited, period of time. Then believers are seen on thrones, judging and reigning. Thoughts on just when all this happens depends on the millennial view a person holds. (In fact, interpretation of this whole chapter depends on which view of the 1,000 years we hold.) Some believe it will happen in the future in a physical sense, or in the future in a kind of "golden" age, while others believe that Satan, though still active, is limited and bound by God now. Jesus' death on the cross has limited Satan's ability to deceive. We as believers are reigning now as a spiritual kingdom of priests because Jesus reigns in our hearts.

Satan is released to deceive the nations. He gathers a huge force and attacks God's people and God's city. Fire come from heaven and consumes the attacking armies. Then Satan, the great betrayer, is thrown into a lake of fire, with the beast and the false prophet, where they are tormented forever and ever.

Next comes a judgment before a great white throne. All the dead, no matter their status in life, are judged there, judged by what is written in all the books. Those whose names are not found in the Book of Life are thrown into the lake of fire, along with death and the grave.


I don't begin to pretend that I understand all of this chapter! There are many mysteries, which God will make clear in His time. One thing I do know is that God is in charge! We shouldn't let different interpretations of this chapter and views of the millennium, divide us. Christ will unite those of us who are believers, no matter when the millennium is! We can all agree on that.

Satan IS defeated. It's just a matter of time.

Judgment will come. Those whose names are not written in the Book of Life are found "guilty." Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6)


Is your name in the Book of Life? Have you trusted in Jesus' death and resurrection for your eternal life? The deeds we do don't save us. They are only the evidence that we have life through the Lord Jesus.

This chapter gives me hope and strength. I think that may be a strange thing to say, but it's reassuring to me that God is directing history toward a sure and certain conclusion. We don't go through endless cycle after cycle. The great conflict will reach a climax and be resolved. Satan is defeated! All those who rally behind him are defeated. Death is defeated. There is no more need for the grave.

Read on. It gets better!


Help us to live victoriously today, Father, since we know how history ends. We know the whole story, maybe only snatches and hints of it, but you make very clear that you are in charge and you have a plan. We want to serve you now. We want to trust you and obey you. Thank you that Jesus came and died so that we can have life, so that our names are written in that Book of Life. We love you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Revelation 16 - The Seven Bowls

by Katrina

LINK: Revelation 16

In this chapter, the seven bowls of God's wrath are poured out.

first bowl - loathsome and malignant sores upon those who had the mark of the beast and worshiped the image

second bowl - waters turn to blood and all living creatures of the sea died

third bowl - freshwater turned to blood

fourth bowl - the heat of the sun increased so as to scorch man on the earth

fifth bowl - darkness on the kingdom of the beast

sixth bowl - the Euphrates River dried up

seventh bowl - natural disasters cause widespread destruction

Along with the sixth bowl, there is a gathering of forces for a great war. They gather in a place called Har-Magedon in Hebrew. This is where we get the word "Armageddon." "Har-Magedon" or "har Megiddo" means the hill of Megiddo. Megiddo means "place of troops." This particular place is also known as the Plain of Esdraelon and the Valley of Jezreel. The area is about fourteen miles wide and twenty miles long. Napoleon called it "the most natural battlefield of the whole earth."

Once again, man's response to these cataclysmic events is to blaspheme God. When confronted with God's magnificent power, they do not fear him. When given repeated opportunity to repent, they do not. What a sad end.

This makes me want to help people understand their condition in sin and their position before a holy God! Our God is one of compassion, waiting and giving many opportunities for man to repent.

Pray for those you know who are unsaved and ask God to lead you in sharing the good news of Jesus with them!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Revelation 15 - Worship Scene in Heaven

by Katrina

LINK: Revelation 15

Now John sees a scene in heaven. He sees those who had been victorious over the beast praising and worshiping God. They sang the song of Moses and of the Lamb. A song of Moses recorded in scripture (and likely referred to here) is in Exodus 15:2-18 and was sung right after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. This song in Revelation is similar.

Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy;
For all the nations will come and worship before You,
For Your righteous acts have been revealed.

Then John saw seven angels who were each given a bowl of plagues, or wrath. These seven bowls are God's final wrath. This is the third woe. The angels emerged from the holy place of God's temple -- from the very presence of God. Once they came out of the temple, the temple was filled with smoke and no one could enter it again. The smoke is an indication of God's holiness, glory, and power. No one would be able to enter the temple again until all seven bowls of God's wrath would be poured out.

The scene at the beginning gives comforting assurance to all believers, but especially to those who face tribulation and persecution. It's always good to be reminded of who God really is. He is the holy one, the only one we need fear, the righteous one, the powerful one, and the only one worthy of our worship.

Everyone will one day worship the Lord. We have the opportunity to worship him now! Let's do so today. Meditate on the passage in this chapter or in Exodus 15. Make it your praise to God today.

Make your prayers today be mostly worship of our great God. If you aren't sure where to start, make a list of God's attributes and begin praising him for who he is.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Revelation 14 - A Song, Some Warnings, and a Harvest

by Becky

LINK: Revelation 14


This chapter concludes John's vision of the conflict between the Church and the world - which is really a deeper conflict - between Christ (the seed of the woman) and Satan (the dragon).

John heard of 144,000 in Revelation 7, which we discussed last week. Now, once again, we meet the 144,000 - and see them. I see no reason to think that this is a different group or to think that this is a literal number, when almost everything else in the book is symbolic.

Before John focuses on the group, he hears a voice! "And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harp and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth."(Revelation 14:2,3 ESV) The voice was mighty (like a mighty waterfall or thunder) and also melodic and peaceful, like many harps. Notice the unity - one voice. The redeemed are singing with one voice.

It seems to me that these 144,000 represent all believers from all places and through all time. Look at what characterizes them: they are redeemed (v 3); they have kept themselves pure (v 4). (I believe this means they remained faithful to Christ - spiritually pure. I'm sure there are other thoughts out there, which is fine. But 2 Cor 11: 2 says, "For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ."). They follow the Lamb wherever He goes (v4). They are first fruits from mankind to God. Humanity is headed for the final judgment, which is referred to as a harvest in the gospels (Mt. 9:37; 13:30; Lk. 10:2; Jn. 4:35). Believers are the first fruits, set aside to God, of that harvest of mankind. In contrast to those who are marked with the beast's name on their foreheads or hands (see the end of Rev. 13), these people's foreheads are sealed with the names of the Lamb and the Father. Finally, they resemble that Lamb. They live in truth and are blameless (because of that Lamb!).

Remember, they are singing! We see singing again in the beginning of chapter 15, but between the songs are some angels. As my ESV Study Bible puts it,"Between these anthems John sees three angels who announce impending judgment (14:6–13) and three who order and execute harvests (14:15–20). At the center, between the three announcing angels and the three harvesting angels, John sees a seventh figure, one like a son of man, gathering his grain from the earth (14:14). Despite the beast's cruel persecution (ch. 13), these visions (like those in chs. 7 and 10–11) provide reassurance that God and the Lamb rule..." and that the Church is victorious in the end.

The first of the first three angels proclaims the eternal gospel and the coming judgment while he gives a clear call to all the peoples of the earth to worship God. The second angel announces judgment on Babylon, which represents the seduction of living for pleasure. The third angel announces that those who worship the beast will experience God's wrath and eternal unrest and torment.

There is a parenthesis then, a kind of benediction. "Here is the call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God, and their faith in Jesus... Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." (Revelation 14: 12-13, ESV)

The chapter returns to the narrative, to a scene of a harvest, overseen by "one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand." (Revelation 14: 14, ESV) Two more angels appear to aid in the harvest of the earth. It is finally time for the harvest that had been promised.


One thought that has hit me as I've read this chapter and puzzled over it, is that what God says will happen will happen. All those parables in the gospels about the harvest are echoed here. In the gospels the farmer is told to leave the tares with the wheat until the harvest. Jesus came first as a gospel sower, but now it's clear that He's the one with the sickle.

We are either God's or we're not. There's no in between. We are either sealed with the name of the Father and the Lamb or we're marked by the beast.

God gives warning! Over and over again He makes clear His gospel. He makes clear that we can't live in Babylon (serve our own desires)or live for Satan (the beast) and have no consequences. There will come a judgment.

I will end with a happy thought! Look at the beginning of the chapter again and how the song is described... like mighty water and the sound of harps. The voices sang in unity! No more factions and disagreements. I do look forward to that!


If you are living for yourself and fighting against Christ, please reconsider. Judgment will come. God gives clear warning.

If you are struggling as a believer, take heart! This story has a joyous ending.


Father, this chapter (this book) is hard to understand. Help us to glean from it what you intend. Help us to live for you - to keep on keeping on in faithfulness. We look forward to the day when we will know complete joy and unity in worship of you!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Revelation 9 - Two More Trumpets

by Katrina

LINK: Revelation 9

The first four trumpets brought destruction of 1/3 of the heavens and earth. Today we will look at the 5th and 6th trumpets.

5th trumpet - Demons are permitted to torment unbelievers for five months

6th trumpet - Destruction of 1/3 of mankind on the earth, probably by demonic forces

If the events described in the last few chapters are chronological, then half the human population is now dead. (Chapter 6 told of 1/4 of humanity dying.)

It was expected that when one-third of mankind died in these horrible plagues that the other two-thirds would repent and turn to God. But they did not repent. They continued in their idolatry, demon worship, sorceries, murders, immorality, and thievery.

God gives mankind plenty of opportunity to repent, but man refuses to do so! You might remember what Peter said when referring to the fact that Jesus had not yet returned as the early church expected Him to. "The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). God has been extremely patient, but one day that patience will end and His wrath will pour out.

Read and meditate on Psalm 115, and worship the Lord!

The Lord is mindful of those who fear Him. Our God is in the heavens, and He does whatever He pleases. As for us, we will bless the Lord from this time forward and forever. Praise the Lord!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Revelation 8 - Silence and Trumpets

by Katrina

LINK: Revelation 8

Imagine . . . The throne is surrounded by worshipers crying out, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb" and "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen." There are souls from every nation and all tribes of peoples and tongues standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They are clothed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They came out of great tribulation but have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb. Now they are before the throne of God day and night, serving Him. . . It's a scene of joy bubbling over and constant praise to God.

Then the seventh seal is opened . . . and suddenly all goes silent. For thirty minutes there is no sound of worship, or anything else, in heaven. One half hour of absolute silence.

The seven angels receive seven trumpets. Another angel receives a great deal of incense to add to the prayers of all the saints. The smoke of the incense mixed with the prayers of the saints goes up to God. God hears the prayers of all believers, especially those suffering at the hands of unbelievers. For centuries, believers have prayed, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." David prayed in the imprecatory psalms for God to vindicate His people and serve justice to His enemies. Now these prayers are about to be answered.

The angel threw fire/coals from the altar to the earth, and there were great peals of thunder and flashes of lightning and an earthquake. This represents the judgment of God on the earth. The silence is over, and the seven trumpets begin.

1st trumpet - destruction of 1/3 of the earth
2nd trumpet - destruction of 1/3 of the sea and its creatures
3rd trumpet - destruction of1/3 of the rivers and springs (fresh water)
4th trumpet - destruction of 1/3 of the heavens (sky)

So far, the judgment has been "natural" in that it affects the natural creation of the heavens and earth. But great woe is predicted with the next three trumpets. We'll see the 5th and 6th trumpets tomorrow.

The incense reminds me of the Law that God established with the temple/tabernacle. There was an altar of incense that the high priest was to tend to every morning and evening. This golden altar was near the ark of the covenant, close to the presence of God (Exodus 30). On the annual Day of Atonement, the high priest would offer sacrifices for his own sin. Then the priest would enter the Holy of Holies into the presence of God. When he entered this area, he was to bring incense along with the blood from the sacrifice and allow its smoke to cover the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant. If the priest failed to bring the burning incense, he would be struck dead when he entered God's presence (Leviticus 16). The burning incense is linked to man's ability to commune with God.

Here, in Revelation 8, the prayers of believers are mixed with the incense. This golden altar is before the throne, just like the Old Testament golden altar was before the ark of the covenant. The prayers of believers really do ascend to God's presence. God hears our prayers. He is not deaf to His children. Somehow, some of those prayers are involved in the judgment at the end. He is waiting for the time of judgment to complete the answer, but God will carry out what He has promised. The purpose of prayer, then, is to get God's will (not man's) accomplished on earth. Prayer is serious business! And we would be wise to keep the altar of our prayers close to the throne of God where it belongs!

Lord, we don't understand all the things you will do in the end. But we do know that you tell us to pray, and you tell us to pray for your will, your work to be done. May we draw so close to you that our prayers truly reflect your will. May our prayers be a sweet aroma to you. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Revelation 7 - Faith Becomes Sight

by Becky

LINK: Revelation 7

The stage is set for final judgment. The sixth seal has been broken and unleashed on the earth. Even mighty rulers hide,"calling to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?'" (Revelation 6:16-17 ESV)

We see who can stand in Chapter 7! Four angels are ready to let loose the winds of destruction when a fifth angel ascends with the "seal of the living God." He calls to the other angels to do no harm to the earth or sea or trees until God's servants are sealed on their foreheads. Those who are sealed are the only ones who will stand.

John hears that 144,000 are sealed, from every tribe. Then a list of some of the tribes of Israel is given, with 12,000 from each tribe. Not every tribe is listed. The tribe of Dan is left off, as is Ephraim. Joseph (from which the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh came) is included. Judah, the tribe that Jesus came from, is listed first. Because of all this, and because of the number 144,000 and the exact numbers of 12,000 from each of the tribes, I believe that this is a symbolic number that represents completeness. (The number 12 often represents completeness in Scripture, as does 10 cubed. 12 x 12 =144; 10 x 10 x 10 = 1000; 144 x 1000 = 144, 000.) ALL believers, through all history, are sealed. Only God knows how many. Not one is left out. (There are quite a few Christians who do not see that number as symbolic - just thought I should let you know that! I am simply explaining as it makes sense to me; I am not the last word on the topic, for sure.)

Then John sees. "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Revelation 7:9-10 ESV) I think this multitude is those who were sealed.

They are experiencing what they had only hoped for on earth. The salvation they know now is from God and the Lamb, not from their own goodness or wisdom. They have been a church in tribulation - all the tribulations of all God's saints through all the history of the world is surely great - and now they are the church triumphant - giving glory to God. They placed their trust in the shed blood of the Lamb; they wear clean garments, garments of righteousness, made clean through Jesus' death.


It hit me as I read this that first John heard and then he saw. When I read that I thought of these verses, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17 ESV) And "now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1 ESV) And "for we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7 ESV)

We do not see now. Just as John heard of those sealed, and then saw the fulfillment; so it is for us. We who are sealed by our faith in the Lamb do not see yet, but someday we will. Right now we operate on the basis of what we are told, what we hear in God's Word; but someday we will SEE!

This will be true of us (!):

“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:15-17 ESV)

Here's what William Hendriksen says:

"Therefore are they before the throne of God. Only those who have placed their confidence in Christ and His atonement appear before the throne. They worship Him; that is, they render to Him the spontaneous, glad, and thorough devotion of the heart. It is unceasing worship. These redeemed saints in glory, moreover, experience the sweetest, fullest, and most intimate fellowship with God through Christ; they worship Him in His sanctuary, that is in His immediate presence. The One who sits on the throne treats them as His own dear children, for such by grace they are; He spreads His presence like a tent over them. Negatively, their salvation consists in this, that they are delivered from every care and hardship, from every form of trial and persecution; no more hunger, thirst, or heat. Positively, their salvation means this, that they enjoy the most perfect bliss; the Lamb is now their shepherd (cf. Ps. 23; Jn. 10: 11, 14). Thin of it, a Lamb being a shepherd! This Lamb leads His flock to life's springs of water. Water symbolizes eternal life and salvation (Is. 55:1; Jn. 7: 38,39). The springs of water indicate the source of life, for throught the Lamb the redeemed have eternal and uninterrupted fellowship with the Father.

Finally, the sweetest touch of all: 'And God shall wipe away every tear out of their eyes.' Not merely are the tears wiped or even wiped away; they are wiped out of the eyes so that nothing but perfect joy, bliss, glory, sweetest fellowship and most abundant life, remains. And God Himself is the Author of this perfect salvation." (from More than Conquerors, 114)

Read verses 9-17 out loud and worship our God!


Help us to take to heart the words of this wonderful book, dear Lord. You alone deserve our worship. Help us to worship you now and to continue to walk by faith, believing you, even in the midst of trial and for some, persecution. Give us hope. We look forward so much to the time when our faith will be sight and we will join believers from every people group and time and language in worshiping you. In the name of the Lamb who has washed our rags and made them gloriously spotless, Amen.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rev 2:18-29 - Thyatira

by Katrina

LINK: Revelation 2:18-29

THYATIRA - Thyatira was a military town as well as another commercial center in Asia Minor. It was home to many trade guilds, which were usually accompanied by much idolatry and immorality. It was the location of a special temple to Apollo, the "sun god," which may explain why this is the only time in Revelation Jesus is referred to as the "Son of God."

Jezebel - This name is symbolic of one who leads people into idolatry like Jezebel enticed Israel into Baal worship (1 Kings 16-19).

Add Thyatira to your chart of the seven churches. How is Jesus described? What are they commended for? What did Jesus have against them? What are they exhorted to do? What promise are they given?

Lord, may we increase our works of faith, love, and patience toward others. Let us not confuse love with tolerance of sin. And may we hold fast to our faith until Jesus returns. Amen.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rev 2:1-17 - Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum

by Katrina

LINK: Revelation 2:1-17

Chapters two and three contain the letters to the seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. These were seven cities where Christianity was established at the time John wrote. The letters are messages from Jesus Himself. Only Jesus could know the condition of the hearts of the people, and this is primarily what He addressed in these letters. Most of the letters contain a commendation praising the people for their faith and/or deeds. And most of the letters also contain a charge against the church. They also contain an exhortation and a promise. It is helpful while studying these letters to make a chart identifying the praise, rebuke, exhortation, and promise to each church.

Although these letters were written to specific churches, they are meant to be taken to heart by all churches and all believers individually. The letters close with "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." All local assemblies will do well to listen to what God says to the churches here in Revelation. And, remember, that all churches are made up of individuals, and whatever the people do is what the church does.

The city of Ephesus probably first heard the gospel through Priscilla and Aquila when Paul stopped there on his second missionary journey. On Paul's third journey, he stayed in Ephesus for about three years, making it his home base while he took the gospel all over Asia Minor. He left Timothy to pastor the church as well. Later, John lived there for a time before his exile.

The city of Ephesus was a major business, political, and religious center. It was the home of the temple of Artemis (Diana). It was located on a major trade route and ranked with Alexandria and Antioch as a major business city. Under Caesar Augustus, Ephesus became the capital of the Roman province called Asia (now western Turkey).

The early church fathers spoke of the Nicolaitans as "lovers of pleasure" and "given to calumnious speech." Ignatius defined a Nicolaitan as "a corrupter of his own flesh," indicating immorality.

Smyrna (today known as Izmir) was a seaport city about 35 miles north of Ephesus. It was a center of the imperial cult of Rome, and Christians were greatly persecuted for not following the religion of Rome.

The city of Pergamum was about 45 miles north of Smyrna. It had one of the finest libraries of ancient times and was the place where parchment was first used. At one time, it had been the capital of the Roman province of Asia. The first temple dedicated to Caesar was in this city, and the city very actively promoted the cult of Roman religion. In this city was also a temple dedicated to Aesculapius, the god of healing. The serpent entwined on a staff was its symbol and is still used as a medical symbol today.

Find the praise, rebuke, exhortation, and promise in each letter and consider how they might apply to your own life as a believer.

Begin a chart with the following sections for each church: description of Jesus, praise for the church, rebuke, exhortation, promise. Fill it in as we go through the seven letters over the next few days.

Lord, give us ears to hear what you are saying to us about our lives in you. May we be sensitive to your Holy Spirit and have the humility to repent where we have sinned, correct our path where we have strayed, and seek to follow your teachings in all areas of our lives. Amen.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Revelation 1 - The "Man" in the Midst of the Lampstands

by Becky

LINK: Revelation 1


Let me tell you (oh no, Carol has already done that!) writing about Revelation is quite intimidating. I guess the best way to do it is simply to jump into this blog post and begin writing!

I think the best approach to Revelation is to read it to get the big picture. Ask what the book has to say about God, about the Lord Jesus Christ, about history. Don't begin by trying to analyze the symbols or details.

Revelation was written to encourage believers. The first century church was undergoing tremendous persecution. John wrote down his vision to reveal the reality that God is in charge. Good does triumph over evil! This is a book of hope.

There are seven divisions, or visions, in this book. Almost everything I've read agrees about that!

  1. Christ in the midst of the seven golden lampstands (1-3)
  2. The book with seven seals (4-7)
  3. The seven trumpets of judgment (8-11)
  4. The woman and the Man-child persecuted by the dragon and his helpers (the beast and the harlot) (12-14)
  5. The seven bowls of wrath (15,16)
  6. The fall of the great harlot and of the beasts(17-19)
  7. The judgment upon the dragon (Satan) followed by the new heaven and earth, new Jerusalem (20-22)
I have used the divisions outlined by William Hendriksen in his very readable book More than Conquerors. Others will probably mark the divisions slightly differently.

It is Mr.Hendriksen's view that Revelation is an organic unity, with an easy transition from vision to vision. Each of the visions spans the era from Jesus' first coming to the time He returns again in judgment. So the message is for us if we are part of the universal Church! We live in that era.


There is much to reflect on in this first chapter. This is a revelation of Jesus Christ to John, so that John could communicate it to the believers alive at that time and to all of us who have come since then. It says we are blessed if we read the book and blessed if we hear it - especially if we take to heart what it says. So get ready to receive a blessing!

Try to lay aside any preconceptions you have of the book. Read this chapter and worship the LORD.

Look at what is said about Jesus:

  • He loves us.
  • He's freed us from our sins by His blood.
  • He has made us a kingdom and priests to serve God.
  • He is coming back in the clouds and everyone will recognize him.
  • He is the Alpha and Omega. (The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet)
  • He is the one who is , who was, and who is to come. (The I Am.)
  • He is the Almighty.
  • He is the First and the Last
  • He is the Living One.
  • He was dead and now he's alive for ever and ever!
  • He holds the keys of death and Hades.
How can we not fall down and worship him?

We meet someone "like the son of man" in the middle of seven lampstands. This is the Lord Jesus in power! Look at the similes used to describe Him:

  • His head and hair - like wool, as white as snow
  • His eyes - like blazing fire
  • His feet - like bronze glowing in a furnace
  • His voice - like the sound of rushing waters (Have you ever heard a huge waterfall or waves?)
  • His face - like the brilliant sun (Can you look at the sun?)
Do you see him? This man, clearly the Lord Jesus because He'd been called "son of man" when he lived and walked on earth, holds seven stars in his right hand and out of his mouth comes a double-edged sword.

In short, He is frightening. John fell down in fear as if dead. I think we will, too, when we see Him in His power and glory. But the man reassures him, "Don't be afraid."

The man himself tells John what some of the objects represent: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. (I don't begin to understand that, but isn't that cool?) The seven lampstands are the seven churches. (How fitting is that? We, the church, are the bearers of God's light.)


Read this chapter again and then bow low and worship our Lord Jesus.

Thank-you for this book, Lord. Help us to read it and heed it. Help us to worship you and trust you more through what we read. You are in charge. You are directing history to the end you have in mind. We praise you that you love us and that you have freed us from our sin through your death on the cross, through your shed blood. We are your servants. Give us eyes to hear and ears to hear.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

3 John - Walking in Truth

by Katrina

LINK: 3 John

In this brief letter, John wrote to his friend Gaius, a leader in the church. In this letter, John mentioned three men: Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius. This chapter lends itself to three very short character studies.

Read this chapter very carefully. What character traits do you see in each of the three men John mentioned? What can you learn about their behavior? What about their attitudes? Their mindset?

Which man would you like to strive to be more like? What can you do to grow in the good traits of this chapter? Which traits should you work on avoiding in your own life?

Lord, teach us to not only know the truth, but also to walk in the truth. May our lives overflow with the love that demonstrates that we belong to Jesus. And may we live as fellow workers worthy of being called by Your name. Amen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

2 John - Walk in Truth

by Katrina

LINK: 2 John

The apostle John wrote this letter around the year 90. He addressed it to "the chosen lady," which may be an individual or may be a church. If it's a church then the greeting from "your chosen sister" would refer to the church where John was at the time of writing (probably Ephesus).

John's primary purpose is to warn his readers of false teachings and to exhort them to remain firm in the truth. The teachings of Christ are truth, and anyone who does not accept them does not belong to Him. They need to guard against anyone who brings any teaching that does not align with Christ.

One specific false teaching at that time was that of gnosticism. Gnostics taught that Jesus was not God in the flesh. (I posted more on the teachings of gnosticism here.) John warned against this particular teaching and those who taught it (verse 7).

The best way to avoid the trap of false teaching is to really know the truth and to live the truth. It's not an easy task; it requires reading, thought, discussion, and study. It's much easier to be complacent, but it's also very dangerous to be complacent. Our world is full of false teaching, and much of it is packaged in a way that sounds biblical.

The key is to examine the core of any "new" teaching. When it's boiled down, what does it say about Jesus? It doesn't have a leg to stand on unless it teaches that Jesus came as God in the flesh, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross as payment for man's sin, was buried, raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will one day return to claim those who belong to Him for eternity. In the meantime, He left us the command to love God with all our being and to love others. Those who belong to Him will keep His commandments.

Father, may we be more aware of the falsehoods of the many various teachings of our day. Teach us through Your word and Your Holy Spirit to know the truth and to recognize what does not align with the truth. May we grow in our understanding of Your word and seek to walk in truth, keeping Your commands. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

1 John 5 - Jesus Is the True God

by Becky

LINK: 1 John 5

When I think of this letter of John certain shorthand phrases pop into my mind. This letter is more devotional than Paul's and less linear. John uses simple language here, and yet writes with consistency and insight. So over and over the same themes are repeated: we love Him because He first loved us, belief in God=love for Him, abiding in Him, obedience to Him, loving other believers, Jesus=God=life. Love and obedience go hand in hand.

Chapter 5 continues many of the themes established earlier in the book. In fact the main theme of the book is reiterated here at the end: " And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life." (ESV)

If ever you wondered if the Bible says that Jesus is God, wonder no more! It says it right here. Jesus is the true God and eternal life.

Earlier in the chapter, John cites the evidence that Jesus is God (vv 6-12). The Holy Spirit (like a dove from heaven), Jesus' baptism (water)which includes God's voice from heaven (Mark 1: 10-11), and Jesus' death (blood). We ourselves have the evidence in us! We have evidence as Christians of Jesus being God/Man! Our faith is based on evidence; it's not superstition.


If we know that Jesus is God that will change what we focus on, the way we live. If He is true, then the way He tells us to live is true. We will pray, wanting his will. His will is revealed in the Word. It's not some mystery, but is stated clearly. What we pray for should be in accordance with His revealed will, what He tells us in the Bible.

Our prayers matter. We are here to pray for each other, especially when we see our brothers and sisters sinning. God is the judge, not us.


The chapter closes with this sentence, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." Most of us don't bow down to little statues, but that doesn't mean we don't have idols.

Near the end of a sermon that I found online, Kenny Stokes laid out thirteen questions, adapted from an old Puritan sermon, to help us identify the idols of our hearts. I think they reveal a lot.
  1. What do you most highly value?
  2. What do you think about by default?
  3. What is your highest goal?
  4. To what or whom are you most committed?
  5. Who or what do you love the most?
  6. Who or what do you trust or depend upon the most?
  7. Who or what do you fear the most?
  8. Who or what do you hope in and hope for most?
  9. Who or what do you desire the most? Or, what desire makes you most angry or makes you despair when it is not satisfied?
  10. Who or what do you most delight in or hold as your greatest joy and treasure?
  11. Who or what captures your greatest zeal?
  12. To whom or for what are you most thankful?
  13. For whom or what great purpose do you work?
Think about these. The whole sermon is here.


We thank you, Lord for clearly stating that Jesus is the true God. Help us to follow your truth. Give us hearts of love to pray for each other. You alone are worthy of worship. Open our eyes to see if we worship something other than you.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

1 John 1 - Walk in Light

by Katrina

LINK: 1 John 1

The author of these three epistles is the same John who wrote the gospel account by his name. The same John also wrote the book of Revelation which we will soon be reading.

One reason John wrote this letter was to counter the false teaching of gnosticism that was spreading in the early church. This was a teaching that the immaterial was superior to the material. Because of this, Gnostics denied the incarnation of Jesus, because God could not unite with a material body. Along the same lines, they also denied the resurrection of the body. They taught that knowledge was superior to virtue and therefore generally had low moral standards. The Gnostic explanation for evil in the world is that God is not the only creator, but another creator made evil. They taught that only a select few were capable of understanding Scripture.

Throughout this letter, John clearly expressed his affection for the recipients as well as his concern for their spiritual welfare.

John begins with the "realness" of Jesus and the gospel message that had been proclaimed. Next he contrasts the light of God with the darkness of the world. And then, he urges the readers to stay in the light and be continually cleansed from sin through confession.

If we walk in the light with Jesus, we have fellowship with one another.
If we confess our sins, we are cleansed from them.
On the other hand, if we deny that we sin, we accuse God of lying.

I have a black t-shirt with the white words, "I am walking in the light" printed on the front, and "How about you?" on the back from 1 John 1:7. Only I can't read the shirt because it's written in Khmer (Cambodian language). It was the theme of a youth camp in Cambodia that a team from our church helped with a few years ago. We encouraged the young believers there to walk in the light while at camp and to continue to walk in the light when they returned to their villages. Some of these young people are the only believers in their village, surrounded by animism and Buddhism. They shine as bright lights in a very dark world.

What does it mean to walk in the light? It means to live a life of obedience to the Lord. In doing so, we stand out as different from the dark world around us that lives in disobedience to God. It doesn't mean we will be sinless. But it does mean we will notice our sin and confess it before God. If we try to hide our sin, we participate in darkness. Jesus Himself is in the light; let's join Him there and avoid sinful ways.

Are you walking in the light?

Lord, we want to walk with Jesus in His light and shine like lights in this dark world. May we be honest about our sinfulness and confess our sin. You promise to cleanse us when we do. May our lives shine the light of Jesus to those around us. Amen.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2 Peter 1 - Diligent Growth

by Katrina

LINK: 2 Peter 1
About 2-3 years after writing his first letter, Peter wrote this second letter encouraging the believers.

In the first half of this chapter, Peter exhorts believers to be diligent in their growth. God has provided salvation, but the believer has a responsibility to practice godliness.

The second half of the chapter is a reminder of the validity of the gospel message they (we) received as well as the validity of all scripture available up to that point.

So what are these steps of growth Peter talks about?

faith = > moral excellence => knowledge => self-control => perseverance => godliness => brotherly kindness => love

None of these is a one-time activity or accomplishment. They aren't things that we must conquer sequentially. Faith is the starting point. While keeping the faith, we add moral excellence to our lives. While keeping faith and moral excellence, we add knowledge. We continue in faith, moral excellence, and knowledge and add self-control. And so on. These are things we can come back to on a daily basis. We should occasionally evaluate ourselves on our progress in all of these areas of life. This is a very tall order, and will take an entire lifetime of work. No one will reach perfection in this life, but everyone can be growing throughout this life.

And what is the result of this kind of growth? Peter says that if we have these qualities and they are increasing in our lives, then we are neither useless nor unfruitful. In other words, God will use us! We will bear fruit for Him. How's that for exciting!!!

On the other hand, if we lack these qualities, we are blind or short-sighted. We won't see God's work. We won't reap the benefit of having been purified from our sins, because we'll still be living in those sins.

I think it is definitely worth all the effort it takes to grow in order to be useful to God and produce fruit for Him!!

Lord, help us to be diligent in our growth, seeking to have more faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love in our lives. Thus may we be used by You and produce fruit for You until Jesus returns. Amen.

Monday, September 27, 2010

1 Peter 5 - Final exhortations

by Katrina

LINK: 1 Peter 5

Peter wraps up his letter with an exhortation for the leaders of the church to shepherd the flock of God well and for the flock to humbly submit to their leadership. Then he closes with a few last general instructions to all, reminding them that any suffering is only temporary while their salvation is eternal, and sends greetings to them.

Do I have a submissive attitude toward the leaders of the church?

Do I clothe myself with humility in my attitude toward others?

Do I turn my concerns over to God, or do I waste my energy worrying about them?

Am I alert to the attacks of the devil? And do I resist him?

Am I building my faith, investing time and energy into it, so I can stand firm against opposition?

Lord, you say you will perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish me. May you continue to do your work in me, amen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

1 Peter 4 - Attitude Matters

by Becky

LINK: 1 Peter 4

Continuing the theme at the end of 1 Peter 3, this chapter gives instructions to Christians, using Jesus as an example, on how to live in a world that is often hostile.


The Lord Jesus came and lived and died and rose again for us. This has practical bearing on me (and you, if you have trusted in Him). He died not only a physical death, but He died to His own human desires and will. Instead of living the way those around Him lived, He lived for the will of the Father. Those of us who have trusted in His death and resurrection for wholeness, for forgiveness, for life. are to "arm ourselves with the same way of thinking"(v 1) - that we are done living for our own desires and passions, and that we now have a new passion - to live for God. Instead of living for myself, I live "by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. ... (1 Peter 4:11 ESV)

Having this mindset changes the way we view life, the way we live life.

Matthew Henry put it this way: " ... True Christians make the will of God, not their own lust or desires, the rule of their lives and actions. And true conversion makes a marvelous change in the heart and life. It alters the mind, judgment, affections, and conversation."

Whatever we do, we are to have the attitude of Jesus, that we live and exist for God's glory, not our own. That's how we can offer hospitality without grumbling and love others even when they sin against us. Our actions for others, our lives in this world are motivated by a desire to live for God's pleasure. As He forgave us, we forgive others. As He loves us, so we are to love others. He gave us our gifts for His glory, not our own.

Living in that mindset will help us when we do suffer for doing right, when we face trials because we follow Jesus. We shouldn't be surprised at suffering! Jesus suffered, and we are His. The end of the chapter points out, though, that there is a difference between suffering for doing what is right and suffering for doing what is wrong. This chapter speaks about our attitude when we suffer while doing what pleases the LORD, not when we suffer for our own wrongdoing.

"Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good." (1 Peter 4:19 ESV)


What is my reason for doing good? Is it so that I will look good and be liked? Or is it because I love God and want to give Him pleasure?

When I suffer, when trials come and life gets tough, do I pout because I'm not getting my way? Do I blame God and quit living for Him? Do I give up doing what is good or do I trust myself to my faithful Creator and keep on keeping on - continue trying to please Him?

These are the questions I'm asking myself after reading this passage. What are you asking yourself? Is this Word of God affecting how we live?


May you be glorified, Lord, as we live in and through Jesus. Help us to live for your pleasure, not our own. Please strengthen us to continue to do keep doing what is good even as we entrust ourselves to you, our faithful Creator.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

1 Peter 1 - A Great Salvation Outweighs Persecution

by Katrina

LINK: 1 Peter 1

Peter wrote this epistle around A.D. 63 from Rome to Gentile believers scattered around Asia. At that time in the Roman Empire, Christians lived with suffering and trials because of their faith.  Peter wrote this letter before the Empire-wide persecution broke out under Nero in A.D. 64, so he isn't referring to the persecution brought about by the ban on Christianity. Nevertheless, believers were harassed, slandered, accused of starting riots, and ostracized by their pagan neighbors.

This first chapter is a call to holy living among the pagans and the persecution of the surrounding culture. Peter reminds his readers of the value of their salvation and contrasts it with the suffering they endure. The value of salvation greatly overshadows the expense of suffering for their faith.

Peter sets before them the example of the prophets. Those men understood that the salvation God spoke of through them would not come about during their lifetimes. Yet they believed God and obeyed Him, trusting Him to do as He promised in His own time.

Likewise, Peter's readers (as well as readers today) had received salvation, but they still awaited the complete salvation that will come when Christ returns. So, Peter encouraged them (and us) to be obedient to God in all behavior.

Carefully read this chapter and make a list of all the information about our salvation. I'll help you get started.

  • I am chosen by God for salvation (vs 1)
  • the Holy Spirit sanctifies (purifies, makes holy) me (vs 2)
  • the purpose of my salvation is for me to obey Jesus Christ (vs 2)
  • I am sprinkled with the blood of Jesus (vs 2)
  • salvation brings me a living hope (vs 3)
  • I am getting an imperishable inheritance (vs 4)

Father, as we see the greatness of the salvation that You have given us freely, we are amazed! Your provision of salvation is more valuable than anything else we can even imagine. It far outweighs whatever sufferings or persecution we may encounter because of our faith in You. Help us to remember that when we face persecution. And may we grow in our understanding of the greatness of our salvation in Jesus. Amen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

James 5 - God's patience, mercy, and compassion

by Katrina

LINK: James 5

James begins this chapter with very strong condemnation for the wealthy who oppress the poor. This passage is very much reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets who spoke against the rich Israelites who oppressed the poor. It is wrong to use one's wealth selfishly and even worse to use it to take advantage of those who are poor and harm them.

Those who are oppressed or persecuted are instructed to be patient. James gives three examples of patience.
  1. The farmer must wait patiently for his crop to yield fruit. He plants and waters and tends his fields, but must wait months for the harvest.
  2. The prophets of God spoke God's word to people who refused to listen. They were often ridiculed, mistreated, abused, and even put to death for the messages they brought. Yet they endured and waited for God to fulfill His word
  3. Job endured a great deal of suffering before the Lord brought blessings back to him. In the end God showed great compassion on Job and gave him even more than he had lost.
There's one verse (12) instructing us to say what we mean and mean what we say. Our words should always be honest such that others don't ever question the validity of what we say. If everyone knows we always speak the truth, there is no reason to punctuate what we say with oaths of validity.

The last section deals with those believers who are sick because of sin in their lives. If they will repent and confess their sins, the leaders of the church can pray with them and they will be healed. The sinner will be restored. The church leaders are involved here, because Christians are not to be isolated islands. Our lives have to be intertwined to be effective and to accomplish the ministry God gives us to do. (more on this in the reflection section)

We see the character of God here as being full of compassion and merciful. He waits and waits for sinners to repent, giving plenty of opportunity to them. He sends His message as well as blessings to people everywhere. None of us deserve His mercy or His compassion. We only deserve His wrath! But He is holding back His wrath to give plenty of opportunity for repentance.

We also see the ministry we should have among other believers of keeping each other from straying. We tend to hide our weaknesses from each other in the church. It would be better to have a friend or two to confide in. If we share our weaknesses with each other, we could be praying for each other in those specific areas. This kind of prayer and accountability encourages great growth.

Do you think of God as compassionate and merciful? This is something I think our culture tells us otherwise. Many people think of God as sitting up in heaven judging everyone all the time. He isn't being a judge right now. He is holding back His wrath and giving opportunity for repentance. One day His patience will end, and there will be judgment and no more opportunity for repentance. Then God's wrath will be poured out. But for now, God is being patient and compassionate by waiting and holding back His wrath.

As believers we should be working with God's patience and sharing His compassion and mercy with others. This is practical in being compassionate and helping those in need, but it's also done by communicating God's message of salvation to others.

We should also be talking among other believers about the truths in God's word. We need to hold each other accountable, share our weaknesses as well as our victories with each other, and pray for each other. Let's really pray for one another that we don't fall into sin and stray away from the faith.

God, we thank You that You are a patient God, showing mercy to us by waiting for us to repent. Thank you for giving me that opportunity to know of Your message of salvation. Help me to share that with others so they may know of Your mercy and compassion. May I be open enough with fellow believers to admit what I struggle with and be held accountable to them. Teach us to pray for one another, sincerely lifting our weaknesses to You and receiving Your strength. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

James 4 - The Attitudes of Faith (or Not)

by Becky

LINK: James 4


Remember that there were no chapter and verse markings in the original epistle. Chapter 4 continues to flesh out the thoughts of Chapter 3 where the characteristics of the wisdom from God are listed, contrasted with the characteristics of earthly wisdom. Scroll down to Carol's post yesterday for a list that shows the contrasts.

James 4 would feel right at home in the book of Proverbs, because like Proverbs it is a collection of proverbs or aphorisms (concise, pithy statements of truth). It begins with a diatribe, a kind of rhetorical question/answer form, directed toward those believers who damage the community by their self-centered ambition. This diatribe uses war as a metaphor, pointing out the devastation that bickering prompted by selfish desires can cause in a church.


This chapter counsels humility and dependence on the LORD. We are to live counter culturally in our attitudes.

What are some specific ways, according to this chapter, that we are to live counter culturally? What should our attitudes be? Make a list.

The last verse of this chapter is one we would do well to remember. We often think of sin as doing what we shouldn't. But we are told here, "... Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it." (New Living Translation)

So sin is not simply doing wrong things, sin is also the failure to do what we should. If that doesn't keep us humble, I don't know what will. No wonder we need Jesus' death!


Help me to live humbly before you in faith, LORD, realizing how very much I need you. I am so limited; I don't even know what tomorrow holds. I want to know you, to live for you and not for myself. Thank you for your promise of grace.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

James 1:1-18 - Trials and Temptations

by Katrina

The book of James is part of the collection called "The General Epistles," which includes James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude. These letters were written to Christians in general, rather than to those in a particular location.

Two men named James have been proposed as having enough authority to have been the author of this book -- (1) the apostle James, the brother of John, son of Zebedee, and (2) James the half-brother of Jesus. It is very unlikely that the son of Zebedee wrote this epistle before he was martyred in A.D. 44. The letter is thought to have been written sometime between 45 and 49. On the other hand, James, the half-brother of Jesus became the leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18). The language used in this book is also similar in style to James' speech at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). So, James the half-brother of Jesus is generally accepted as the author of this book.

James wrote concerning practical aspects of the Christian life and conduct. There are some theological statements in this book, but much more instruction is given in ethical behavior. James is concerned that his readers apply what they know and not just listen to God's word. Some key subjects James discusses are: a proper response to trials and temptations, the problem of partiality toward the wealthy, the relationship between faith and works, the use of the tongue, worldliness, and the importance of prayer.

LINK: James 1:1-18

Everyone encounters difficulties in this life. We all face various trials and temptations. The thing that makes one person stand out from the others is the response to those trials. James instructs believers to welcome trials in life. They are the training ground for our faith. When we respond properly, we grow toward maturity.

So, what is the proper response to trials?
  • ask God for wisdom in handling the trial - He promises to give it
  • don't waffle in our faith in God, but stand firm - God does not promise anything to the "waffler." We must believe Him (remember Hebrews 11:6 - "And Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.")
  • keep our focus on the eternal rather than the temporal - Riches and the men who chase them will pass away, but the man who stays strong in his faith will be rewarded by God.
James makes a distinction between trials and temptations. Trials are the difficult things of life. Temptation is the lure to sin. God never tempts us to sin. Most of the time, our own human heart is the source of temptation. When we encounter temptation to sin, it is imperative that we not entertain the temptation. When we entertain it, we allow it to carry us with it. The next step is to do whatever it is, and the sin is done.

In contrast, God is the giver of all good things. He never changes or hides in the dark shadows (where sin lurks). Quite the contrary - He is the source of light.

God's purpose in the early church was for these believers to be the "first fruits" followed by many generations of believers.

What challenge are you facing right now in your life? Have you asked God for wisdom in how to handle it? Have you searched His Word for answers? Have you sought wise godly counsel? God always wants us to grow through trials. Talk to Him about it. Be solid in your faith, believing that God wants the best for you and will help you grow through your current situation. Keep your focus on God and what He's doing, rather than seeking material solutions. And don't give in to temptations to sin as a way of escape from your difficulties. Our goal should not be to escape, but to endure and grow.

Father, thank you for assuring us that you are a loving father to us and that you want us to grow through the difficulties of this life. Sometimes that is very difficult for us to grasp! Help us to focus on You and to rely on You for help in our trials. Let us endure and grow, making our faith stronger in the end. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hebrews 11:17-40 - Faith Demonstrated, Part 2

by Katrina

LINK: Hebrews 11:17-40

Continuing with the great "Hall of Faith," the author of Hebrews recounting examples of those who lived by faith - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua (walls of Jericho), Rahab, and many more.

Abraham's faith was severely tested when God told him to offer up Isaac. But Abraham was confident that God would somehow fulfill His promise to make Isaac the heir, and he obeyed God. He passed the test! (Gen 22)

When Joseph died in Egypt, he was confident that God would fulfill His promise to take His people out of Egypt. So Joseph gave instructions to his relatives to carry his bones with them whenever God led them out and bury them in the Promised Land. (Gen 50:25, Ex 13:19)

Moses obeyed God through many difficult situations, as did many others listed here. Some were tortured and killed for their faith. Some of these events probably occurred during the time between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The author concludes with this thought - All of these people demonstrated faith in God, but none of them received the ultimate promise. They did not see the promised Messiah. Nor did they experience the resurrection. One day, the "men of old" will join together with the currently living believers in the resurrection, and all the redeemed will receive the inheritance together. God will complete our salvation!

Our faith, or lack of faith, does not determine whether we suffer or prosper in this life. Many with faith have suffered greatly, while many others of faith have not suffered so much. Also, there is no direct correlation between our faith and our prosperity. There is, however, a direct correlation between our faith and our obedience to God. And there is also a promise that our faith will be rewarded. We will join in that resurrection and receive the inheritance! Our salvation will be complete!

So, let's not focus on what we can gain in this life. Rather, let's focus on living a life of faith now so we can be richly rewarded at the resurrection. "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

Thank You, Lord, for so  many examples of those who lived by faith. May our faith in You continue to grow as we look forward to the day when Jesus returns. Thank You for the promised resurrection and eternity with You! May we live our lives focused on You and this great salvation You give us! Amen.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hebrews 11:1-16 - Faith Demonstrated, Part 1

by Katrina

LINK: Hebrews 11:1-16

Hebrews chapter 11 is often referred to as the "Faith Chapter" of the Bible. It's also called the "Hall of Faith." This chapter is a powerful illustration of what faith is like and what it means to live by faith.

The author begins with a description of faith. It is being assured of things that have not happened yet and cannot be seen -- sure that they will happen and do exist. It is by faith that we are approved by God, and without faith we can not please Him (vs 1, 2, 6, 39).

The creation of the world is described in the first two chapters of Genesis. Nobody saw God create everything by speaking it into existence. It is by faith that we understand that God made it all out of nothing.

Abel's faith was demonstrated by his obedience to God. As far as we know, he was the first one to die because he did what was right in God's eyes (Genesis 4).

Then there's Enoch, the first man not to die because of his righteousness (Gen 5:21-24).

Noah acted on faith when he listened to God and built an ark on dry land where there had probably never been any rain (Gen 6). He followed the directions God gave him and saved his family and many animals because of his faith.

Abraham left his homeland, not knowing where he was going, when God called him (Gen 12). Out of faith in God, he obeyed God and lived as a foreigner in a strange land. Sarah is credited with faith for her conception of a son long after her child-bearing years had ended (Gen 21).

All of these people knew God's promise to send a redeemer and that they would one day live in a heavenly place. But they all died before the promised redeemer arrived. They lived as aliens on this earth, waiting for the city prepared by God for them. They weren't always patient while waiting on God (Abraham's son Ishmael is a result of that), but they did believe He would come through on His promise. As a result, God is not ashamed to be called their God!

I want God not to be ashamed that I call Him my God!

Lord, thank You for these great examples of faith in You. May we grow in our faith until we never doubt Your word and fully trust You to do all that You say You will do! May we not bring shame to You by living lives that don't line up with our profession of our faith. Rather, let us bring honor and glory to Your Holy Name! In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hebrews 10: 19-39 - Faith and Endurance

by Becky

Hebrews 10 (scroll down for our passage)


Our passage for today begins with "therefore." "Therefore" links what is to come with what has gone before. It means "because of what has just been said... "

What has just been said? We have been learning just how Jesus is better. Jesus is a better high priest. Jesus is a better sacrifice. He exceeds the requirements for a sacrifice; His sacrifice was once for all. There is no need for any more sacrifice for sin. And He lives now and is our Advocate. He is on our side! He has removed the power of sin forever through His death! If we trust in His death our sin is forgiven once for all! He perfected us through His death, and He now works in us to make us holy (10: 14). If we don't firmly grasp that, we will have difficulty with what we are about to be told. It is human nature to want to return to what is familiar.

One other thought I've had as I've thought about this passage and what we've read in Hebrews: We don't talk much about sin these days. In fact, I've met quite a few people who really don't think they're sinners at all. If we don't think we sin, then how can we understand grace? Sin is anytime we don't measure up to God's standard. If we know something good to do and don't do it, that's sin, just as much as if we do something that violates one of God's standards. And sin is much more, too, than what we "do." Sin is at the heart of who we are. We want what we want. We want to be the at the center. Self is all important. Well, that's sin. That is self worship. The Hebrews had ongoing rituals and sacrifices to remind them of their sin, but those sacrifices couldn't finally take care of the sin problem. They had to be repeated over and over again. That's why Jesus came. He is the reality that those shadows pointed to.

So we have the "therefore." Therefore what? The rest of the chapter tells us how we are to respond to this truth, this reality. And just in case we've forgotten what has been said, it is summed up for us here.

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,..."(Hebrews 10:19-21 ESV)


"... Let us..." What? What is our response in the light of Jesus' death and the confidence we have that He is working now in us and for us?

  • Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22 ESV) We are to draw near in truthfulness - not pretense. If we are in Christ we are clean!
  • Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 ESV) I love this one! God, the one who promises us so much, is trustworthy. Because of Him we can hold fast to what we believe; we are able to continue to have unwavering faith.
  • Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV) We help each endure in our faith. We are to encourage each other!
Then the writer of Hebrews uses both a negative example and a positive example to encourage us to continue in faith. The negative example compares breaking of the law of Moses to trampling what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Deliberate sin is dangerous. It can lead to rejection of Jesus' sacrifice. God is not tame! He should be feared. Apart from Christ "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." We don't want to play around and see how close we can get to the edge of faith. At some point we might fall off.

The positive example reminds the Hebrews of their early days, when they first heard of Jesus. They remained faithful, then, in spite of terrible suffering. They continued to have faith in the Lord even when they were ridiculed, when their goods were taken from them, when they were put in jail. It says that they accepted all that with JOY! They looked forward to God's promise. They (and we) are encouraged to continue to confidently trust in the Lord,

When I titled this post, I wrote at first "Faith Requires Endurance." But then I thought that, really, to have spiritual endurance we need faith. Faith and endurance go hand in hand. That's the point of these verses in a sentence. So I've simply put that little conjunction "and" up there!


Evaluate yourself by the three "let us" exhortations above. Are you drawing near to the Lord with full assurance of faith? Are you holding fast your confession because you trust that God is faithful to keep His word? Are you helping others - encouraging them to love and do good. Are you where you can be encouraged (with other believers)?

Consider ways to encourage other believers to love and do good. That is one that I need to work on.

Don't be surprised at suffering. Keep on trusting - looking at the Lord Jesus. (More on that in the next two chapters...)

Through him [Jesus Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5 ESV)

Stay tuned for Chapter 11! We are going to see some snapshots of people who had faith. For more of their stories, turn to the Old Testament.


Thank you, Lord, for coming in the flesh to take care of our sin problem once for all. Give us truthful hearts as we come to you. Help us to continue to trust in you no matter what. Help us to encourage each other.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hebrews 5:11-6:20 - Let's Get Growing!

by Katrina

LINK: Hebrews 5:11 - 6:20

The author recognizes that the Hebrews have gotten off to a good start by showing great love and ministering to the saints. However, they seem to have stalled in their growth and are not reaching their full potential.

Their first problem is that they have become "dull of hearing." They are rehearsing the basics of salvation but not going beyond those basics. They are still relying on milk for their sustenance and need to start eating solid foods. They need to move on in order to mature.

Their second problem is that they are "sluggish." They are not exercising their faith. Faith is like a muscle; it needs to be used in order to grow. Abraham is given as an example of one whose faith did grow. God made a covenant with Abraham, but it didn't all come to fruition in a short amount of time. Abraham had to wait and hope in God to come through on His promises. In this, Abraham's faith grew.

As for you, reader of this Bible Book Club, if you are following along here, you are well beyond drinking milk for babies. Most of these posts would certainly qualify as spiritual "meat" rather than "milk." And we will soon complete the entire Bible!!

We must not be lazy or sluggish in our faith. Like Abraham, we have promises from God. We should exercise faith by claiming those promises and putting our hope in God to fulfill what He has promised.

Let's take stock today. How are you growing? In what areas of life is God teaching you? What is He teaching you? How can you exercise your faith muscles? In what things are you stepping out in faith, trusting God to do as He has promised?

I find it very encouraging to write these things down. It's encouraging to see what God is doing now, and it's encouraging to look back on it later (like when I'm getting discouraged).

If you are strong in your faith and growing well, is there someone you could encourage to grow in their faith?

Thank you so much for giving us your word! Lord, you teach us so much through it. May we be diligent to learn and grow, not becoming lazy or sluggish in our faith. Amen.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hebrews 5:1-10 - Christ, the Source of Eternal Salvation

by Katrina

LINK: Hebrews 5:1-10

I decided to split this chapter up and include verses 11-14 with chapter 6 tomorrow.

The author of Hebrews starts this chapter off with some important points about a good high priest.
  • He was human. God determined that a man (not another being, such as an angel) would be the liaison between God and man.
  • He was appointed by God, not taking it upon himself to take that position. This was not a position to be taken lightly!
  • His responsibility was to offer both the offerings (gifts) and the sacrifices for sin to God on behalf of men. Thus, he provided a way for man to access God. Through offerings, man could express thanks and praise to God. Through sacrifices, he could have his sin covered over in God's sight. The priest was the liaison who brought a man before his God.
  • He could relate to the issues of the human condition since he himself was weak. He was to be gentle with those who were struggling, not condemning them for their struggles. As priest, he would be very aware of his own sin and need for forgiveness and could direct people toward repentance and a right heart before God without beating them over the head.
  • He had to offer sacrifices to take care of his own sins, not just the sins of other people. This would keep him aware of his own sin, keeping him humble rather than becoming arrogant in his position.
Then, the author of Hebrews continues by identifying Christ as high priest. He was a priest appointed by God and subject to God's commands. But he was not a temporary priest for the span of a human lifetime. He was an eternal priest, one whose priesthood would never end. As high priest, He would offer the ultimate sacrifice for sins - Himself! And because He is an eternal high priest, offering the perfect sacrifice, He is the source of eternal salvation for mankind!!

So, who can receive this eternal salvation? All those who obey Him. Obedience is pretty much synonymous with belief in this context. (See Heb 4:2-6.) One who truly believes who God is, will obey Him. In John 3, Jesus said, "the Son of Man must be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, the He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him" (John 3:14-17).

Wow!! What a great salvation we have!! It will never, ever end!

(We will learn more about Mechizedek when we get to chapter 7.)

There's another thing I noticed in today's passage that I would like to touch on here. Read verses 7-8 very carefully: "In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered."

What does this teach us about prayer and how God answers it? Jesus prayed that He would not have to suffer physical death on the cross. He didn't just quietly ask, either. He cried out with tears, begging God to remove this requirement or to give Him the strength to carry it out. The Father was perfectly capable of sparing Him that death if He so chose. This passage tells us that the Father heard Jesus's prayers. Yet, God did still required Jesus to die on the cross.

Even the prayers of Jesus, the pleading and supplication of Jesus before God, was subject to the higher will of God. How much more are our prayers and pleadings subject to God's will? Never make the mistake of thinking that God has to answer  your prayers a certain way! But even more than that, just because God doesn't do what you want, doesn't mean He isn't listening.

Jesus knew that He came to earth to die on that cross. He knew God wasn't going to remove that suffering. But He also knew that He Himself had the power to stop it, as did the Father. Satan would tempt Him to stop the whole thing. His human side needed strength from God to go through with it. By doing God's will and dying on the cross, Jesus suffered greatly! And through that suffering, He learned obedience. The only way to learn obedience is by obeying! And obedience is what God expects of us. And helping us obey is one thing God is ready to do at a moment's notice!

Sometimes the way we learn to obey and the way to perfection is through suffering. Don't underestimate the power of God through your suffering!

Spend some time today reflecting on the sacrifice of Jesus and the eternal salvation He provided for you.

Think about your prayer life. Do you recognize that your requests are subject to the will of God? We cannot demand things of God but must be willing to fully submit to His will.

If you are suffering today, it's not wrong to plead before God. Just remember that it's His will, not your own, that must be done. Carol talked in this post about developing a "theology of suffering." If you haven't done it yet, it's an excellent exercise! And you may find it very helpful.

Father, thank You for providing eternal salvation through Jesus, the perfect high priest. It's His sacrifice, His suffering, His obedience that has provided a way for my forgiveness. May I learn to obey You, my source of eternal life, always, in times of ease as well as in times of suffering. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hebrews 4 - The Struggle to Rest

by Becky

LINK: Hebrews 4


Hebrews is one of my very favorite books of the Bible! It links the Old and New Testament together and opened my eyes to their unity. People have sometimes told me that they don't think God is like the God of the Old Testament. This is a common view today - that somehow the God Christians worship is more loving and kind than the God we read of in the Old Testament. Well, the God of the New Testament is the God of the Old Testament. Hebrews has helped me understand that, as well as the importance of the Old Testament as the foundational layer of our faith in Jesus Christ. I will say this, too: as we get better acquainted with the Old Testament, the book of Hebrews becomes more meaningful.

I went to a Christian high school and we picked verses to put with our photo in the yearbook. I put two verses together, one from this chapter and one from 1 Thessalonians 5. " There remains, therefore, a Sabbath rest for the people of God. ... Rejoice always!"

This chapter alludes to several Old Testament passages (and events) to make its point about rest. It speaks of God resting on the seventh day - something that is mentioned in Genesis. It speaks of the Israelites who didn't have faith to believe that God would get them into Canaan, and so disobeyed God - something that is recounted in Numbers 13-14. It quotes Psalm 95.

"As C.S. Lewis once observed, 'one of the rewards of reading the Old Testament regularly' is that 'you keep on discovering more and more what a tissue of quotations from it the New Testament is." (from ESV article "How the New Testament Quotes and Interprets the Old Testament")

What is rest? Rest is the freedom from work. It also connotes peace and gladness. God Himself rested on the seventh day when He had finished the work of creation. The first part of this chapter builds argument from Scripture to show us that this rest is more than entering the land of Canaan, though it is similar. The Hebrew people had to trust God - a kind of trust or faith that resulted in obeying Him - in order to have enter the rest of the promised land. Because, though, rest is referred to in Psalm 95 (after the nation of Israel entered Canaan), it is clear that that the rest we are told to enter is something different, something that we can enter "today."

So just what is this rest the passage speaks of? I think that it is two-fold. First, we have rest in the Lord as believers. We have rest from our own work and effort. We are given rest in Christ. "Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Mt. 11:28) Just as God rested because His work of creation was completed, so now, we who are believers can rest in Christ's completed work on the cross. This is really and truly mind boggling! We don't work to earn any part of the rest of salvation. Our salvation isn't about success or failure - about karma or doing it all right - it's about trust, about believing God. Secondly, we look forward to the final fruition of rest - Heaven!


Three things stand out to me as I read this chapter.

There's a kind of paradox in vv 10-11: "...whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works .... Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience." We strive to rest. In some sense, it takes struggle to rely on God rather than myself. Because we are egocentric, we so want to believe that it depends on us. That is tiring! That egocentricity, that self-sufficiency, is in itself sin. If I trust myself, then I'm not trusting God. Lack of trust in God results in the sin of unbelief - disobeying God - relying on my own perspective and sight.

How do I know if I'm relying on myself and not trusting the LORD? "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (ESV) God uses His word, this book we are reading together, to show us our hearts and motives. He sees us completely and He pierces us with His word. If we belong to Him we can be comforted with this. He knows us better than we know ourselves and He will reveal our own thoughts and intents to us through Scripture.

Finally, this chapter encourages us to turn to our Lord Jesus when we need help. He offers grace and mercy to His children. Jesus is our great high priest, something that is spoken of more in the next chapter. The Hebrew high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. Jesus, our high priest, understands and sympathizes with just how weak we are. He became human. He was subjected to our temptations - the temptation to serve self, to quit trusting God - only (unlike us) He didn't sin. So he understands the battles that rage in us.


There is so much in this chapter!

Are you resting in Jesus' finished work on the cross? Or are you somehow living as if you are the one in charge? That is the struggle. Who do you trust in? It takes some work to trust in the Lord - and to continue to believe Him. But basing our actions on our own set of rules - on our own vision - is endlessly tiring - a never ending need to live up to what we define as good. Who do you trust?

If you ever wondered why we need to dwell in God's word, your answer is in this chapter! God's word acts as God in our lives. It is not a dead, ancient book, but something living and active - able to convict and comfort. Spend time meditating on it.

Jesus came and lived and died for us. He offered Himself for us. He lived as one of us, so knows us; He understands what it is to be human and sympathizes. We can run to Him for help, and we know that He is there with open arms full of grace and mercy - not judgment. If you are trying to live life apart from Him, if you are running from Him - turn around! Find rest.


Help us as we struggle to trust you. Give us hearts to believe you so that we can have rest.