Praise

Revelation 15:3-4
“Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!
Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.”

While the tribulation continues on earth, John’s attention is drawn once again to the scene in heaven. The contrast alone should be enough to persuade us to surrender to Christ. Earth is experiencing the wrath of God, while heaven is being filled with sweet and continuous praise. Those who have been rescued from the tyrannical reign of the Antichrist stand before the throne and worship.

One of the evidences that a person has met Christ and been set free from sin is a desire for worship. While it is not required to fall on our knees, lift our hands, or even sing loudly, it is hard to imagine a person who has been impacted by the love and mercy of God who will not offer the loudest praise. Just the other night in our worship service, I noticed one young lady who humbly turned, faced her chair and knelt in worship. She has been growing so much in her relationship with Jesus of late that she could not resist the desire to bow in worship. I think we can learn a lot from the praise song of the redeemed found here in a Revelation 15.

““Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!”

Their praise stemmed from focusing upon the works of God. As they stood before the Lord, they recalled the way in which they had been redeemed. Since these are tribulation saints, we know they had neglected the things of God for most of their lives and ignored the gospel. Still, the persistent love of God hunted them down and won them over. They, like we, could look back to the cross, where the love of God was poured out to redeem them from sin and give eternal life. Reflecting upon the work God has done is vital to a life of praise.

“Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy.”

As important as it is to look back upon the works of God, it is also vital that we look up to the person of God. He is worthy of the highest praise for what He has done, and also for who He is. Their praise stems from remembering three things about the nature of God. First, He is just; second, He is the king; and third, He is holy. All of the judgments of God are just. We often accuse Him of being unfair, however when His judgment is finally meted out upon a Christ-rejecting world, we will see how mercy and truth have met one another, and how righteousness and peace have kissed.

For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”

Finally, their worship includes an understanding of the promises of God. The judgments that the Word of God has warned about are finally coming to pass. Peter speaks of those who mock God because He waits so long execute judgment; failing to recognize it is His mercy which holds back His judgment. One of the best ways to increase a heart of praise is to focus upon the promises of God. Too often, in dire circumstances, we look only to our surroundings, instead of looking into the promises of God. The saint who trusts the promise over the circumstances he faces, or the emotions they stir up, is the saint whose life will be filled with the loudest praise.

Pastor Jim

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A Safe Place

A Safe Place
Revelation 14:1 “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty- four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.”

The tribulation years will be the most difficult time period the earth has ever known. Any hardship we have ever experienced, will pale by compariso to the least of the trials during those few years. It is prudent that we each do everything we can to avoid being left here when the these events begin to transpire. The way out is to trust in, and surrender to, Christ as Lord and Savior. If you have not yet made the decision to receive Christ, stop reading and pray. Invite Him to forgive your sins and be your Lord.

That being said, Chapter 14 gives a glimpse into the life of 144,000 believers,  living and serving God through these dark times. It is particularly striking to me, that these individuals have the seal of God on their lives which, among other things, is certainly a seal of protection. With all the opposition to Christ and His followers, these believers remain untouchable as long as they “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” (Rrevelation 14:4) Their lives serve as a great example that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.

I am reminded of David as he walked into the valley to face Goliath. Unarmed and untrained for battle, there was no safer place for Him to be than face to face with the giant. I think also of Gideon, with only 300 men at his side, and facing an army too large to number, he was both protected and victorious in battle. Conversely, I also think of Jonah. He was a man who knew the danger an Israelite would be in if he walked into the city of Nineveh. Unwilling to yield to the way of the Lord, he found himself in even graver danger.

While we are not to live foolishly, seeking adventure for adventure sake, we must not let the fear of the unknown or the threat of the “what if” keep us out of the center of God’s will for our lives. Just as these men were marked by God, and protected until it was time to call them home, so is the child of God who is walking in the will of God. We need never fear as long as we are following the Lamb wherever He goes.

Pastor Jim

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Ruins

Ezekiel 40

Ezekiel lived in Babylon as a prisoner of war. The nation of Judah had rebelled against Babylonian occupation and this rebellion cost them dearly. In 587 B.C. the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of God were burned to the ground. What had once been a glorious structure representing the majesty of God, was now nothing more than a pile of rubble.

One can only imagine the joy Ezekiel must have experienced when he was taken in a vision, back to the Promised Land where he watched as a new, even more glorious Temple was erected, to replace the one that had been leveled. This vision provided hope against hope of the future plans God had for His children.

After Ezekiel’s time had passed, a man named Zerubbabel would lead thousands of Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. The basic structure they built would still be standing five hundred years later when Christ arrived. As amazing as this was, the promise Ezekiel received was of yet a future Temple, one that would be erected after Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth.

What a blessing it is to know, no matter how dark things may appear, we can trust that the purposes of God will be completed.

Pastor Jim

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The Mark

Revelation 13:1 “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.”

Keep in mind as you read through Revelation, John is seeing the events on earth from a heavenly vantage point. Instead of the glamour of wealth and power, John sees what God sees, a hideous beast filled with blaspheme, violence and hatred. It seems as though the entire world is enamored with this ruler. Like Haman of old, in the book of Esther, the world has found a common scapegoat in the believers, and their hatred streams forth in persecution. As a means of both coercion and identification, the beast requires a mark to be given to every person. Without this mark, survival will be difficult, and persecution guaranteed. This mark is later identified as being a series of numbers.

Revelation 13:18 “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.

In light of Biblical prophecy, we are living in very interesting times. This is particularly true as it relates to this identification mark that will be used for commerce. Up until recent times, all trade was done either through bartering goods for services, the use of coinage or currency backed by the nation, or in certain cases, a credit system based upon personal recognition and collateral. We have, in recent times, moved into an entirely new way of commerce; it is a credit system based on a series of numbers that identify the individual. I have found, over the years, as I travel, I have become more and more comfortable with this system, I rarely ever have cash. I have even traveled outside of the country without cash, relying entirely on the credit system.

That being said, I want to be clear, the current numbering system we use, is in no way the mark of the beast. I would even go so far as to say, an imbedded chip, under current conditions, would not be the fulfillment of this prophetic picture. This is pointing to a time during the tribulation, when the Antichrist has come to power and demands, in addition to whatever else is worshipped, he be worshipped as god. Those who will bow to him (like the Romans of ancient times bowed to worship Caesar) will be given a mark that allows them to buy and sell. Any who refuse will be persecuted and martyred.

After the last hundred years of human history, with all its violence, persecution, inhumanity and leader worship, it is not hard to imagine a time when a ruler will come to power with such charisma he will be able to woo the hearts of mankind to bow before him as more than a man, but a human savior. While these things are fascinating to examine, they are really written as a means of warning, so we might escape these events. The secret to avoiding such a hellish calamity is to put trust in Christ, and be delivered from the tribulation that will be poured out upon the earth.

If you have not yet trusted Christ for salvation, do so now. Pray in faith,”Lord Jesus I ask you to forgive my sin, enter into my life and help me to follow after you.” If we can be of any help contact us at church@ccvb.net

Pastor Jim

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Dem Bones

Ezekiel 37:11
“Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’””

Ezekiel was taken in the Spirit to a valley full of skeletons. I am sure the sight itself was quite shocking, but what happened next must have been truly overwhelming. The angel asked Ezekiel if these bones could live. The obvious answer is no. When a person has been under water too long and their heartbeat has stopped there remains a slight chance of resuscitation. When a person has been dead so long that all that remains is a pile of bones, they are way past ‘mostly dead’, and no hope remains of them coming back to life. I am sure my answer would have been “No Way!” Ezekiel, however, had seen God do some pretty amazing things, so he did not discount even the possibility of these bones coming back to life. Sure enough, as he stood by, the bones came together; muscle, organs, skin and finally life was added. What had been a graveyard was now a valley filled with life.

This is a graphic picture of the work God alone can do. This passage has often been used to illustrate the work of salvation. When a person comes to Christ a miracle no less amazing than adding life to dead bones takes place. While there are many similarities between conversion and this event, the real meaning behind it is God’s promise to restore the nation of Israel; it had been divided, conquered and scattered. While this event transpired, Israel remained captive in Babylon. However, in a few short decades Cyrus, King of Persian, would issue a decree allowing the Jews to return to their homeland. In a minor way, that event fulfilled this prophecy, but the promises looked way beyond ancient times into the future. God promised the nation would be restored and the Messiah would sit on the throne of Israel and reign. He promise these would be end times events.

After two thousand years without a homeland, Israel returned to occupy the Promised Land. This event was the precursor to Ezekiel’s promise. Soon, Jesus Christ will return to set up His kingdom. The fact that Israel occupies the land today should stir our hearts to live in expectancy of His return.

Pastor Jim

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Symbols

The book of Revelation is filled with symbolism. Some of the symbols are easy to understand because they are explained in the text itself. For instance, in Chapter 1 we see Jesus in the midst of the lamp stands, then we are told the lamp stands represent the churches. Here in Chapter 12, the imagery is a bit harder to deduce. We are told of a woman clothed with the sun, who gives birth to a male child. Next, a red dragon, with seven heads, who draws a third of the stars from heaven, and awaits the birth of the child, that he might devour him. If we take a few minutes to unwrap the text, we will find that most of the imagery is, in fact, explained for us. Verse nine reveals the dragon is Satan, which makes the stars he drags, a reference to his angels. Verse five disclosess the male Child would rule the nations, making this a clear reference to Jesus. We are told He ascended to the throne of heaven. In verse 17, Satan makes war with the remnant of her seed. It would seem then, this reference represents Israel and the further offspring of the woman, and the Gentiles, who come to faith during the tribulation.

Instead of becoming overly distracted by the symbolism, I think it is critical to catch what is happening here. Satan is seeking to oppose the work of Christ, and in response, the angelic forces are sent forth to withstand him. Here we read Satan is cast out of heaven, and will soon be caged in the bottomless pit. Realizing his time is short, he begins an all out attack upon the inhabitants of the earth. In the midst of this battle, we are given one of the great insights in how to overcome temptations and live godly in Christ Jesus.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Revelation 12:11

The blood of Christ was shed to provide forgiveness for all our sins. No charge brought against the Christian will stand in the court of heaven. Satan’s charges have already been answered at the cross. Instead of living in guilt and fear, we can live in confidence, knowing Christ has covered our sin.

The “word of their testimony” refers to the things that Christ has accomplished in their lives. One of the greatest weapons in our battle, is to look back at what Christ has already accomplished for us. Remembering yesterday’s victory can create confidence for tomorrow.

“They did not love their lives to the death.” The one who has surrendered all to Christ is indestructible until Christ calls him home. Fear often keeps us from accomplishing what Christ has called us to. The cure for fear is trust. I was sitting with a friend recently in a quite volatile situation, when he remarked, “If you have to fear something, you might as well fear God.”

We have a great promise that one day the enemy of our souls will be bound up and cast into a pit. Until that time we must fight. Trusting in the blood of Christ, the testimony of His Word and the commitment we made to follow Him.

Pastor Jim

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What’s In It For Me?

Ezekiel 36:25-27
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”

Often, when someone is attempting to convince us to do something we are not sure we want to do, a little voice softly speaks in the back of our mind asking simply, “What’s in it for me?” We want to know if we make a commitment, what we will get in return. If you are struggling to make a decision to commit to Christ, perhaps it would help if you took a few minutes to consider what you will get out of the deal. Ezekiel promises three benefits that will not be found anywhere else.

First, he promises we will be made clean. Sin is uncleanness, and when we practice it, we know we are guilty. That guilt haunts us and we exert great effort trying to remove it. Some try to convince themselves that sin is not bad, others drown themselves deeper in vices, while many use drugs, alcohol, or counseling to try to make the guilt go away. What we are forgetting, when we try to remove guilt this way, is that sin carries not only an emotional guilt, but a judicial guilt as well. When we sin, we violate the law of God, which carries a penalty. It is possible to remove the feelings of guilt with these and other measures, but there is only one way to remove the judicial penalty associated with our sins, that is, through the shed blood of Christ. Ezekiel promises, converting to Christ will make us clean.

Second, we are promised a new heart. This is necessary because our hearts are sinful. It is possible to fall in love with things that will destroy us. Many have given themselves over to the longings of their heart only to be destroyed by them. Our hearts often beat for things that are destructive. We are promised that coming to Christ will result in a new heart, which will long for those things which are pleasing to the Lord and beneficial to us.

Finally, we are promised the Spirit of God. The work of the Spirit is to enable us to live out the Christian life. Being washed makes us not want to go back into uncleanness, a new heart makes us want to please the Lord, but the Holy Spirit is who gives us the power to leave sin and live for the Lord. Ezekiel states, the spirit will cause us to walk in His statues and keep His commands. The New Testament reveals that the believer needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and this filling is a reoccurring act. If you have come to Christ, but you find you are constantly falling into the temptations of the flesh, it is time you make it a daily prayer to be filled with the Spirit. Take the time right now to drop to your knees and ask for a fresh work of the Spirit of God in your life.

Pastor Jim

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