3 Minutes / 600 WordsRead More
Mary, Favored By God
Luke 1:28, 30
Mary, Favored By God
Luke 1:28, 30
3 Minutes / 600 WordsRead More
Ease Today, Pain Tomorrow
The wings strain. Push. Press. Push. The caterpillar has become a butterfly, but the struggle to extricate itself from the cocoon is violent. Force exerted. Energy expended. Pain, real and true. With all strength spent, the wings function. No more crawling along. A flier is born.
The proverb above communicates the idea well. Too much success, influence, or wealth without any struggle often leads to pain in the end. It is better, in the end, to fight, battle, and struggle your way to success.
I only want to work in my area of passion, says one. I want to find deep fulfillment in my work, says another. I want…I need…I wish…I hope. But I must die. You won't discover your passion if your life is not tested with hard work, devotion, and submission. We find fulfillment through sweat, struggle, and pain.
We must not forget that we are not our work, our influence, or our life’s successes. We are children of God, walking on the dust of the earth, surviving by grace. He walks with us through all we think mundane. But does he? Does he not love our work, our breaths, our perspiration? We ought not to think he is disinterested in the daily grind of life. He loves the process, the growth, the building up of strength.
If you are young — sure — find your passion. But also find work and labor. Find faithfulness and struggle. Find the joy which comes from paying the bill and feeding the belly. Sleep the slumber of the hardworking man or woman and you might discover passion isn't everything. Living out your dream is not everything. It can be hazardous to get it too early in life, the proverb says. Spill some blood. Shed some tears. Drip some sweat. And watch the living God make you fly.
Gleanings From Paul's Conversion Account
Each week, the Calvary Monterey church staff meets for Bible study, worship, and prayer. Right now, we are making our way through the books of Acts. Recently we inspected Paul’s conversion (Acts 9). We gleaned a handful of principles from his story which would help us in modern-day ministry work. What follows are those points… (9 Minutes / 1700 Words)Read More
One Way "Having A Peace About It" Could Mislead You
“I have no peace about it,” someone says. “So I will not do it.” With the right spirit, this is a prudent mechanism for discerning God’s will. But if what you mean is, “I will not have peace if I do it,” you might be in error.
You see, the Christian life follows Christ, the one who embraced affliction to win the church. He had a vision of what could be, but also the suffering required to get there, and endured that pain to reach his goal. We will never atone for anyone’s sin like Christ did, but once in Christ, he will further his kingdom by calling us to pockets of pain.
Our psalmist, one of the pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem, sang of the pain. The plowers had plowed upon his back. His suffering had been intense. It cost him to go to Jerusalem and worship. To follow God, to allow him his rightful place as king, the pilgrim paid the price. Some form of pain, we do not know what kind, came into the psalmist’s life. He felt his back was like a field, cut and plowed and churned up. The furrows his tormentors carved were long. The hurt was palpable and real.
Though painful, fruit comes from the long furrows of a field. Perhaps the suffering singer, pen in hand, writing the song, knew the plow would result in fruit. Maybe he realized all the suffering would produce.
Paul, after his conversion, learned all he would suffer for Christ’s sake (Acts 9:16). I don't know anyone who could handle such a revelation. But he knew, from the outset of his ministry, the hurt he would pay for the fruit of gospel advancement. The nations heard, but the hardship was great.
Paul was a Roman by citizenship and Jewish by race. He was a young Pharisee educated by the foremost rabbis but also experienced in Greek culture from childhood. He possessed a commanding intellect, adept in Scripture and society. He was an ideal candidate to bring the gospel to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16). But all those qualifications would have meant nothing had he been unwilling to suffer. Because he was willing, Christ’s message increased throughout the world.
Leadership, parenting, and sanctification require pain. Education, career, integrity, evangelism, disciple-making — all take hurt to accomplish. I recently overheard a mother talk to her friend about her early-elementary aged children. She complained about the childish attitudes of her children. She was flabbergasted they didn’t want to go to school, be responsible, or study hard. She was aghast she would have to work to help them learn to work. She seemed to have forgotten, perhaps just for a moment, I’ve been there, that anything worth doing is going to sting.
Theme: The church in Smyrna suffered immensely for their faith. Jesus comforts them with His resurrection and knowledge, commends them for their true wealth, exhorts them not to fear and to be faithful, while promising them a crown and ultimate victory.
8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
Created by Alexander the Great, 300 years before Christ.
Large, beautiful, and proud — they claimed to be the ‘glory of Asia.’ (Barclay).
Rich due to trade, with notable trade in wines.
They led the charge in Emperor worship.
The church in Smyrna: No record of its planting.Their eventual pastor was Polycarp, a likely disciple of John. His martyrdom is the first recorded outside of the New Testament.
v8: The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life: This description is taken from the first portion of the book (1:11, 17). “First and last” are titles that belong to God (Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, 48:12).
Jesus’ comfort: I have been to the extreme reaches of suffering and have come back from it!
Smyrna needed to hear this — the resurrection helps us stay sane in trial and persecution.
Jesus is the firstfruits: 1 Corinthians 15:20–21 (ESV)—20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
9 I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
v9: I know: Their suffering had not escaped His sight. Jesus’ comfort: I have intimate knowledge of all you’re enduring!
He saw three main things.
I know your tribulation: He knew about the pressure (of persecution). Like grinding wheat or crushing grapes, the church in Smyrna was under immense pressure. They were pressed.
I know…your poverty: He knew they had become financially poor, most likely due to economic persecution. Their lack of allegiance to the Emperor created a witch hunt.
I know…the slander: It seems the persecution in Smyrna had been spearheaded by the religious Jews in that town, who Christ calls a synagogue of Satan (His view of things).
9 …but you are rich…
They might have been the poorest, but they were the wealthiest.
Contrast to Laodicea: Revelation 3:17 (ESV)—17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. \
They had the true riches: no decay, no rust, no fading, no theft.
Jesus gave a parable of a rich man who stored up crops in order to eat, drink, and be merry (Luke 12:16-21).
Jesus makes a way for deeper meaning: “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:10, ESV)
10a Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.
v10: Do not fear what you are about to suffer:
What was this exhortation rooted in?
10b Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
v10: Be faithful unto death: Keep your strong conviction.
10b Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.
v10 Crown of life: This is the crown of a trophy, a winning athlete. Through tribulation the crown is extracted.
v11: Not be hurt by the second death: The second death is hell, the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14 and 21:8).
11 Let him hear what the Spirit says: We are thankful this letter has been written — persecuted believers of all time have benefited from it.