It’s All About Love

Luke Chapter 10

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The chapter begins by Jesus sending out seventy-two disciples with the order to spread the news of the Kingdom, and giving them specific instructions.  It is noteworthy that people that heard the message and rejected will be judged more harshly than people that did not.  

 

Later, starting in verse 25, “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

 

Those are basic concepts that we can share with others when we have an opportunity to evangelize.  Add to that the knowledge and acceptance of Jesus, and then maybe sharing the Gospel doesn’t seem so hard after all.  We want people to be saved. We want that because that is what God wants as well. As we follow the two tenants of loving God and loving our neighbor, we should naturally want our neighbors to be in a saving relationship with their Lord and Savior.  

 

Not many of us are going to evangelists on the scale of Billy Graham, but we can certainly each do some small (or medium) part.  If you are worried about failing, and so hesitate to get started, I am sorry to tell you that you are guaranteed failure by doing nothing.  Doing SOMETHING greatly increases your odds for success. And remember, God wants you to be successful? He will help, and then you just have to hope that at least some of the seed landed in fertile areas. 

 

Greg Landry

 

Finally Home

 Revelation 21

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I was blessed to bring you this part of Revelation because this chapter means so much to me.
Go back to Revelation 21:3-4 and read it again. And again. And again. 
I don’t want you to read another sentence of this devotion until you dwell on the glorious truth of Revelation 21:3-4. 
 
 
God will be with us. 
 
That’s the goal. I don’t mean the goal of Revelation. The goal of EVERYTHING, everything collectively and every thing individually, is to be connected to the God who created it, who sustains it, who loves it. Everything God did was so that he could be among those who accepted him, so he could be their God. He would have every right to sit in the middle of the city, demanding we come and bow to him and confess our sins and honor and adore him without his speaking to us.
 
But the old order of things has passed. He comes to us. Instead of an unreachable, untouchable King far away and distant, He walks up to us.
 
He walks up to you
He walks up to me
and He wipes away our tears. 
 
 
Think of all the tears you’ve cried. I’ve cried so many. Relationships I’ve hurt. Trust I’ve broken. Loved ones who have been lost. Pain seen in the eyes of my wife and daughter. 
God will not remain distant. He will walk up to me, and he will say “My Son, the old

things are gone, the new have come. Cry no more.” God Himself, the creator of all things, will wipe away my tears.

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God Himself will wipe away your tears.
God will be among us and be our God.

 

 
Everything else, the grand city, the streets of gold and the walls of precious stones, all these images of the glorified future, everything is icing on the cake. Without God it wouldn’t mean anything. Because God is there among us, it means everything.
 
My brothers and sisters, I can’t wait until your tears are wiped away. I can’t wait until the old is gone and the new has come.
May the Lord Jesus come quickly, prepare the way for his Father, and may God come and be our God. 
Jake Ballard
 
(Jake Ballard is Pastor at Timberland Bible Church in South Bend, IN. He lives in the Michiana Area with his wife and daughter. If you’d like to say hi you can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336  You can also hear more teachings at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs_awyI1LyPZ4QEZVN7HqKQ Otherwise, he is available on all hailing frequencies, by using the Palantir, and via carrier pigeon, though it’s getting colder in South Bend. God bless you all!)

The Second Coming

Revelation 19

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We’ve had some really heavy topics, and we are not quite out of the woods yet. We are coming to the point in the reading where there is just joy and happiness and peace, but we are not there yet. It takes someone showing up on the scene to make that happen. We have the coming of a rider on a white horse. The images that John uses only highlights that he is speaking about Jesus.
I love Christmas; the songs, the snow, the presents, the expectations. I even love the time leading up to it. In the wider Christian tradition, this time is called Advent, which is Latin for “to come”. We recognize in Advent the first coming of Jesus. And in Revelation 19, we are shown a picture of the second coming of Jesus. Those two images could not be more different. 
Jesus came as a peaceful prince riding on a donkey. Jesus will come as a conquering rider on a white horse.
When he came, many called him a liar and a demoniac. He will come and be known as “Faithful and True.”
He came to bring salvation. He will come to bring judgment.
He came with eyes full of tenderness and sorrow. He will come with eyes of fiery flame.
He came and bore a crown of thorns. He will come crowned with many crowns. 
He came and was wrapped in tattered cloths. He will come in a blood stained robe.
He came and was known as Jesus. He will come and be known as Word of God.
He came and refused the help of the legions of angels. He will come and be accompanied by the armies of heaven. 
He came preaching words of truth. He will come and his words will be a sword coming from his mouth. 
He came and only a small number knew who we was. 
He will come, and his name, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, will be emblazoned on his thigh.
 
This is the Messiah we serve. He is not weak; he is not a push over; he is not a doting parent or Santa Claus. 
He is the conquering king, coming to claim the world that is rightfully his, to avenge his servants who have been oppressed, and to drive out those who did not honor him. 
 
Let this image of Jesus wash over you, and praise God that the King is coming. 
Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.
Jake Ballard

The Choice is Yours

Revelation 16

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Yesterday, angels were sent out with plagues and bowls were prepared for pouring. Today, we get to see the dramatic moments when the bowls are poured. Each plague is horrific, especially when we recognize the wholeworld is experiencing each plague. Everyone, from everywhere, will be affected by these plagues.
(As a quick aside, that means all people who have chosen to turn their backs on God. Remember these plagues and bowls are the wrath of God upon those who chose to reject Him [see Rev. 15]. God has promised that we will not taste his wrath but his salvation, as we chose to follow him. [1 Thess. 5:9])
First, Sores cover those who worship the beast. Then, the sea becomes blood and all life dies. Rivers and streams turn to blood, so blood is the water over the whole earth. Then the sun begins to burn people, followed by the Kingdom of the Beast being plunged into darkness. Penultimately, Euphrates is dried up.
The reason we will stop at six is because I think the important part for John, what SHOULD shock his readers then and now, are the parts where he talks about the reaction to the plagues, what the people chose to do because of the plagues.
In verse 9, we see the sad and shocking reaction of those who are being effected by the plagues. Even as they have experienced the plagues and they know the plagues are coming from God, they choose to blaspheme His name and do not repent or give Him glory. Those who suffer the plagues are continuously, with full knowledge, rejecting the God of heaven after the plagues and bowls. They are not accidentally rejecting Him, or acting in ignorance. They are choosing to reject the God they KNOW is sending these plagues. They reject Him after the fourth bowl (9), and the fifth bowl (11). After the sixth bowl, demons round up the people of the world in their final rejection of God. The seventh bowl, poured out at the Mountain of Megiddo (Har Megiddo or Armageddon), is upon all those who have blasphemed God and continued to blaspheme Him.
Earlier I said it is sad and shocking that this is the reaction of those who choose not to follow God. But the truth we must see is that God is giving everyone a choice. He shows us that even with clear evidence that YHWH is the God of heaven and Earth, some will still refuse to repent and follow Him. The question for the original recipients of Revelation, and for you and I, is this : are we among those who refuse to repent and acknowledge God, or do we give Him the glory he deserves, and choose to do his will?
The choice is yours.
Jake Ballard

The Home-stretch Begins

Revelation 15

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In our reading of Revelation we have come across so much : scrolls, and seals, and Lambs that are Lions, and Beasts and Dragons. I can understand if your head is spinning and you just want a moment to rest in a short, easy chapter. Though Revelation 15 is short, it is not easy. However, we are in the home stretch. We are closer to the end of this great revelation given by Jesus Christ to his servants.
 
In this chapter, the main action is that God is sending out seven angels with seven plagues. Those who have won victory over the beast recognize that God is holy, and in the end, all the nations will worship Him. (Rev. 15:4) Then the angels head out from the tabernacle, and smoke comes and fills the sanctuary. Smoke coming down represents God’s glory filling this “tabernacle of testimony.” (Compare Exodus 19:18, 20:18) This opens up an interesting insight for us as the people of God. When some see the plagues and the wrath of God, they see a violent deity of a violent people, demanding something to which He is not entitled. For Christians, we see the wrath of God as an act of the glory of God. The greatest joy a person can know is to experience connection to God. In Revelation 15 God, in His glory, is doing this final act of plagues and bowls of wrath to bring the whole world to worship him. While it is harsh, it is God’s love and not hatred that drives his wrath over a world that rejects him. He wants the world to turn to him, and even THIS will not work, as our study of the previous chapters have shown.
 
Praise God that you stand among the company of the saved. 
Pray for the mercy of God upon those who have not yet believed, that they might come to believe. 
Pray that it will not take the plagues of the seven angels and the bowls of God’s wrath. 
Jake Ballard

Dragon at War

Revelation 12

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If the story through Revelation wasn’t strange enough, it gets even stranger in chapter twelve. Here we see a cosmic woman giving birth to a child, who are then attacked by a great, fiery dragon, but then is ultimately defeated by an angel army… What in the world is going on now? Once again, it is important to read the Scriptures for yourself and to discuss with other Christian teachers around you in order to gain deeper insights into the text. Never assume that I know what I’m talking about, or anyone else for that matter; always question and look up the answers for yourself to see if what is being said is true.

 

I assume that these descriptions are further insights into the contents of the Scroll that was eaten in chapter ten; however, I am not 100% sure on that, but will be going ahead with that interpretation for this discussion. We do gain information about the cosmic battle that is happening around the person of Jesus at his death and resurrection, as Satan (depicted as a dragon) is at war with the angels of heaven during this time. Satan is unable to conquer the cosmic woman that produces Jesus (whoever/whatever that is), Jesus himself, or the angels; Satan doesn’t have as much power as we think he does.

 

Through frustration, Satan begins to attack the rest of the woman’s children, which are those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus”. In other words, since Satan can’t beat anyone else, he is going to attack the Christians next. We definitely experience this today still, as Satan hasn’t been fully destroyed, although he has already been defeated through the cross. We are weaker than Jesus and the angels, and are susceptible to sin; is there any hope of beating Satan, or are we as doomed as he is?

 

Perhaps the most practical verse for us in the whole letter of Revelation is found in this chapter. In 12:11, we are given a description about how Christians can conquer Satan. The description is three-fold; we are able to conquer Satan through the blood of Jesus, the preaching of the gospel, and not loving our lives. This should give us great hope and encouragement! We have the power to conquer Satan when he rears his ugly head, if we would only trust in these three things; the blood/sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, the power of our gospel preaching, and the power of looking beyond this life to the eternal life that God has promised us.

 

I encourage you today to spend some time meditating on these three questions: Do I trust that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to pay for my sins? Am I faithfully spreading the good news to others around me? Am I truly looking forward to the life that God is bringing me in the future more than this life?

 

Talon Paul

The Witnesses

Revelation 11

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Following our strange detail about John eating the Scroll that God gave to him, we are finally going to learn about what the Scroll says through what John tells us! Unfortunately, it is very detailed, also strange in some ways, and has been the cause of many interpretations over the past 2,000 years. However, we are going to do our best to humbly try and understand what John says in this passage, while focusing on his main point. I don’t assume that my interpretation is 100% correct, so I invite all of you to critique it by looking at the text itself and speaking with other Christian teachers that you trust.

 

We are introduced to two Witnesses, or two Martyrs, who are proclaiming to people “their testimony”. Now, throughout Revelation, we see that John testified to “the testimony of Jesus Christ” (1:2, 9) and that the Christian martyrs from chapter six also had a “testimony” that they proclaimed (6:9). We will learn later that Christians are able to overcome Satan using “their testimony” as well (12:11). Narratively speaking, it is likely that these two Witnesses have the same testimony as John and the Christians. That testimony is the gospel message about Jesus’ death, resurrection and eventual return to establish God’s kingdom, as can be seen throughout the whole letter. In other words, the two Witnesses are two individuals that are faithfully preaching the gospel to those around them.

 

There has been speculation as to whether these are literally two individual people that are to come in the future, or whether they represent what the churches are supposed to be doing, since they are described as lampstands like the churches (compare 1:20 and 11:4). I assume that these are representatives for what the churches, and us, are supposed to be doing, but also don’t believe that John’s main point is in their identity; John’s main point to this vision is what is produced by their faithful preaching of the gospel.

 

After the two Witnesses are killed, resurrected, and exalted to God’s space, the people actually repent of their evils! In 11:13, it states that people “gave glory to the God of heaven”, which is repentance language. As we saw in the previous seven seals and seven trumpets, and will see in the later seven bowls, God’s judgment actions are not enough to bring about repentance; but the faithful preaching of the gospel message is enough, even if Christians die for it!

 

My encouragement to you today is to behave like these two Witnesses; faithfully preach the gospel, even at the expense of your own life. Whatever the cost may be for you, the reward is going to be more than you ever imagined! And just like the story of Revelation states, that reward is coming soon, after the Church does her job of faithfully preaching to the nations. Are you ready for that day to come?

 

Talon Paul