Agape Love: Professed or Practiced?

Four Greek words describe what we refer to as love:

1) eros or romantic love;

2) phileo, brotherly love between friends;

3) storge depicts familial love; and

4) agape illustrates unconditional, selfless love.

Of these four terms, agape is considered the highest form of love. God Himself manifested it when He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us (John 3:16).
Agape love is of and from God, whose very nature is love itself (1 John 4:8). It is the kind of love we are commanded to have for one another (1 John 4:7). While we profess it through preaching, teaching, and speaking, it is often hard to practice.
When I learned of the tragic shooting of the nine individuals in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, anger and grief, as opposed to agape love, were some of the emotions that I felt on that fateful night. A pastor, just like me, was engaged in a Wednesday evening prayer meeting in his local church with parishioners. The believers came together to study the Bible. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old White young man who appeared to be a typical visitor seeking a relationship with God, entered the church, enjoyed the camaraderie of the members, and after an hour or so, opened fire on the gathering, killing the pastor and eight other individuals. He left two survivors; a five-year-old child and an adult woman, whom he wanted to bear witness to what she saw. When asked why he performed this dreadful deed, he replied, “I wanted to start a race war.”*

A Hard Thing
Perhaps you read about this tragedy and then read in the Bible, “Beloved, let us love one another” (1 John 4:7); “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9); and “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). All of these biblical statements typify agape love, but if we are honest with ourselves, it is hard to reconcile feelings of anger with agape. Retaliation? Maybe. Retribution? Perhaps. Revenge? Possibly. But agape love? That is hard.

At Roof’s bond hearing, the victims’ family members uttered some of the greatest sermons I have ever heard in my life. Despite the loss of their loved ones, one by one shooting survivors, and family members of slain, spoke to Roof.
“I forgive you,” they said time and again, leaving a stunned nation to witness the scene.
In his book, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis used agape to describe what he believed was the highest level of love known to humanity—a selfless love that was passionately committed to the well-being of another. This is what we are called upon to do—because of our love for God. We are challenged to love one another. Perhaps the family members of the slain knew this. Maybe they did not. But one thing is for sure, they practiced it.
Who is your Dylann Roof? Whom can’t you forgive? Perhaps you can profess agape love, but can you practice it?
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

………………………………………….

*(Source: Payne, Ed, and Botelho, Greg. “Charleston Church Shooting: Suspect Confesses, says he sought Race War.” CNN.com, June 19, 2015.)




Attack On The Family – Home construction, and improvement in the eyes of the Creator.

When God our Creator established the first home in the Garden of Eden, the first family consisted of Adam and Eve, man and woman, husband and wife.

It was Adam who said of his wife Eve, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:23, 24). It was from this marital union that the family expanded to include children, beginning with two sons, Cain and Abel.

Yet, because of sin and its devastating effects since the initial institution of the family, the basic social unit that God created has been constantly under attack.

Satan, the leader of the attack, hates the family, and has intensified his rage with this God-ordained institution as evidenced by soaring divorce rates, alternative marital unions to the ideal that God established in the Garden of Eden, growing societal acceptance of these familial alternatives, teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, and the list could go on and on. The family is under attack!

With the first family, Satan managed to inject poison between spouses, poison between siblings, and poison in all human relationships. He has known from the very beginning what many Christians are just now grasping is that the family is the key in God’s program. When life at home is miserable, parents are unhappy and kids grow up wounded, and often rebellious. A constantly feuding family fails to minister or be a blessing to anyone else. So if the devil can succeed in destroying a family, he can count on weakening church as well!

“One well-ordered, well-disciplined family tells more on behalf of Christianity than all the sermons that can be preached,” wrote Ellen G. White in the book, The Adventist Home (p. 32). Put simply, our churches are only as strong as the families that attend. If we build strong families, then we can build a strong church. If we build a strong church, then we can build strong communities.

What is a family?

Typical definitions for the family, from Merriam Webster, include: “A group of individuals living under one roof, and usually under one head; a group of persons of common ancestry; a household.” The Bible defines family in the following ways:

• A husband (male), a wife (female), and their children.

• A single parent (male or female) with children.

• A single male or female living alone.

Whether it is a husband, wife, children, or a single person, however, be assured that the family is being attacked.

How can we withstand this attack? Two scriptural texts provide the answer. First, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor UnHappy Couplein vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Here, the Psalmist acknowledged that God is the “Master Home Builder.” As the “Master Home Builder,” God is an expert in “home construction.” If we are going to stop the satanic attacks on the family, we must let God be God, and let God build our homes, let God build our families. God created the family. And if God created the family, then God knows what is best for the family.

Second, do not forget that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world!” (1 John 4:4). God, the “Master Home Builder,” is still on the throne! If there is a family problem, under the almighty hand of God, it can be solved! God specializes in “home construction” and “home improvement.” The sting of sin painfully affects some families, but the good news is families can go to God for guidance and direction in “home improvement.” Remember these four things, however, that govern all “home improvement” projects:

1. It takes longer than you projected.

2. It costs more than you figured.

3. It is messier than you anticipated.

4. It requires greater determination, and more patience than you expected.

Yes, the family is under attack, but with the help of the Master Builder, “home construction,” and “home improvement” can be realized!




Greater than a Presidential Pardon

 

The Simonian Farm in Fresno, California is one of the most renowned family-run produce farms in the United States. Founded in 1901 by Armenian immigrant, Baghdasar Simonian, ownership of the farm has passed through three generations of family leadership to its current owners, Dennis and Bonnie Simonian. Situated on 80 acres in the San Joaquin Valley of California, the Simonian Farm produces more than 180 crops, and seasonal fruits including cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, apples, pomegranates, blackberries, grapes, boysenberries, and figs.
One September day in 1995 the Simonians learned that they would receive a visit from the president of the United States, Bill Clinton. They received a telephone call regarding this special visit less than an hour before Clinton was to arrive. So what began as a normal day of vocational routine turned into an emotional frenzy bordering on pandemonium in preparation for the president’s visit.
Given all that had to be done, and the honor of meeting the president, the Simonians decided that their daughter, Ashley, should miss school. Because meeting the President was such a rare opportunity, they further believed no teacher would refuse to grant an excused absence for their daughter.
Just as they said they would, President Clinton and his entourage arrived at the Simonian Farm, and marveled at the operations, and products of the farm. The president also signed several autographs. While he was signing Ashley’s memory book, an onlooker mentioned that Ashley had skipped school to meet him. Without hesitation, and in the middle of the farm produce store, the president invoked his full authority and wrote an excuse for Ashley’s absence from school that day. In essence, she had a Presidential Pardon!
“Presidential pardons have been issued for murderers, thieves, embezzlers, and derelict soldiers. But I imagine Ashley’s pardon was a first in American history: a presidential pardon for absence from school. Regardless of his or her politics, it would be a rare teacher who would refuse to accept an excuse from one of the most powerful authorities on earth”.
obamalettertopsealCan you imagine how this written pardon by the president would be cherished, and for generations to come, it would be the centerpiece for the momentous events of that day? From the frantic scramble to prepare for the president’s arrival, to his actual presence, and signing of the excuse, this presidential pardon would forever be etched in the minds of the Simonian family.
Yet, you and I have a pardon, which is of greater value than any excuse note written by a government official including the President of the United States. We have a pardon written by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! More than any excuse, we have a pardon for our sins, written with the precious blood of Jesus Christ! When we read 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” we read our pardon! Praise God for Jesus’ blood! Praise God for Jesus’ sacrifice! Praise God for this pardon! And because of this pardon, we can joyously look forward to Jesus’ soon return!
………………………………………….

1www.wikipedia.org and www.simonianfarms.com
2Henry, Jim. In Remembrance of Me. Nashville, TN: Broadman &
Holman Publishers, p. 162.

 




The Sabbath As A Memorial of Creation

The Psalmist declares, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (Psalm 33:6). In a mere six days, the creative power of God changed what was without form and void to a beautiful planet sprawling with living creatures and verdant vegetation. Beginning with light on the first day, God spoke a life-sustaining world into existence, and it was good. He divided the waters of the atmosphere on the second day, created the seas and dry land on the third day, and covered the land with vegetation. On the fourth day the Creator brought into existence the sun, moon, and stars. On the fifth day, He fashioned the birds that filled the air and marine life that inhabited the seas. On the sixth day, God made the animals, and then He made man, the crowning act of creation. God made man in His own image, male and female God created them, and God saw everything He had created was indeed “very good.” (Genesis 1.)

On the seventh-day, God ended His work of creation and rested. After which, God blessed the seventh-day and sanctified it meaning He “set it aside,” which makes the Sabbath, the memorial of God’s creation. (Genesis 2: 1-3). Given this designation, this weekly 24-hour period is a time for us to reflect on nature, and the Creator of the universe. When I consider the magnificence of our Creator God, additional words from the Psalmist David come to mind,“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun” (Psalm 19:1-4).

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All of nature functions as a witness for God. When we observe the majesty of lofty mountains, we cannot help but be moved by the splendor and power of God. When we plumb the depths of the ocean, we cannot but marvel at God’s amazing grace and forgiveness, for He buries our sins in the depths of the sea! When in nature we see the grace with which an eagle rides invisible thermal columns of air and soars effortlessly to great heights, or see the elegant grace with which a twenty foot tall giraffe languidly walks and then starts running in a style which can truly be described as “poetry in motion,” our hearts cannot but confess that our Creator is an awesome God! Again we echo, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

Because nature functions as a witness for God and His glory, no one can miss this unmistakable message from nature. Paul says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

God has ordained that beside work, life should include communion with the Creator, rest, and celebration of God’s marvelous creative works. That is why He declares, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your  stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).

Praise God for this endless injunction in the heart of the moral law as an everlasting sign and symbol of Creation! Praise God for the Creator! Praise God for Creation! Praise God for the memorial of Creation, the Sabbath.




Ebola’s Last Hope

Before the news headlines of the past two or three months, the majority of us had never heard of Ebola. Cable news networks, local television networks, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, and social media sites alike have all informed us about Ebola. For a period of time it seemed like every day we heard something about Ebola. Not AIDS, not cancer, not tuberculosis, not high blood pressure, but Ebola.

While many Americans have been alarmed by this illness (given the media coverage it has received), three West African nations, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, have been the hardest hit. As of this writing, more than 8,000 individuals have died from Ebola globally. Yet according to the World Health Organization the Ebola epidemic is probably much worse than the world realizes, with health centers on the front lines warning that the actual numbers of deaths and illnesses are significantly higher than the official estimates.

One health worker for Doctors Without Borders cited on the World Health Organization Web site said, “The Ebola outbreak has turned parts of western Africa into a ‘medical war zone,’ with response teams not even able to document all
the cases erupting.”

Medical scientists working to develop a vaccine as significant research is being conducted note that the disease has a high mortality rate, killing 50 to 90 percent of those Ebola’s Last Hope pestilences? Is this the beginning of the end? After all, it was Jesus who said in Matthew 24:7, 8 that in the last days such calamities would occur, for “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”*

Despite the frequency and emerging regularity of major catastrophes and calamities, we must be careful to avoid assertions or pass judgment regarding the source or reasons for such deadly infected. So to those who are infected, it is almost like a death sentence. Hence, Ebola patients, coupled with persons suspected to have been in the company of Ebola patients, have to be quarantined.

Quarantine

The worldwide fears, the rising death toll, the lack of effective treatment, and the highly contagious nature of Ebola have led some to wonder whether there’s a spiritual angle to this scourge. Could this be a modern-day plague? Is this an example of God’s wrath being poured out in the final days of earth’s history? Is this one of earth’s eschatological scourges as Ebola. Advanced science notwithstanding, expert biblical knowledge notwithstanding, our limited discernment cannot sort through the loss of innocent lives or the specific spiritual implications tied to these dramatic events.

One thing is certain, however: as with many other illnesses, Ebola is a consequence of the overall dreadful pestilence of sin. Ebola is in this world because of sin. We are
therefore vulnerable, because we are in this world. As a result, sin left unchecked, has brought a death sentence to every human being.

Fortunately, sin is not unchecked. Humanity has received an opportunity for reprieve from the deadly scourge of sin and all of its fearful symptoms. Despite the hysteria that
Ebola has caused, and while we should take precaution, let us be reminded that it is not time to be afraid. Followers of Christ have been called not to timidity or fearfulness, but to vigilance. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). This power, as manifested through God’s Spirit, should be expressed by telling a dying world that Jesus saves! (Matthew
28:18-20; John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Ebola, and every other pestilence of this dying world, has an antidote. We do have a vaccine. This vaccine was not developed in a laboratory, research center, or hospital, but it was procured 2,000 years ago on a hill called Calvary! So for every death sentence that has been carried out by sin, the precious blood of Jesus Christ is the vaccine that can eradicate it (John 1:29; 1 John 1:9)!

The day is fast approaching when Jesus will return to this earth, and He will save us from sin and its effects, including Ebola! “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).




The Sabbath in Bible Prophecy

In six literal days our Creator spoke this world into existence. Established as a celebration of God’s creative power, the weekly Sabbath was instituted on the seventh day of Creation week as a memorial to His creation (Genesis 2:1-3):  a literal 24-hour period of rest, reflection, and renewal with our Creator, coupled with our worship to Him. The importance of weekly Sabbath observance is underscored in God’s irreversible ten– commandment law in the fourth commandment, where God’s creation is reminded to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).

The very nature of the word “remember” accentuates the verity that this blissful observance is everlasting and eternal in practice (Exodus 31:12-17; Isaiah 58:13, 14), as even Jesus Himself and the apostles participated in this sacred celebration (Luke 4:16-20; Acts 13:42-44), and in the new heavens and earth this adherence will continue (Isaiah 66:22, 23).

Our omniscient Creator’s use of the word “remember” also adeptly intimates that He was aware that an antagonistic authority would seek to change or alter His law. None of the other Ten Commandments begin with this reminder. Rather they declare: “Thou shalt not” or “Honor” (Exodus 20:3-7, 12-17, KJV). 

This specific reminder clues us into the Sabbath’s central role in the culmination of eschatological prophecy.  The Sabbath command is the predominant issue about which every human being that is living just before Jesus’ second advent will make a decision. That Sabbath decision is directly related to the acceptance or rejection of its observance in response to divine instruction.  According to prophecy there will be only two camps: (1) Those who keep the commandments of God, including the fourth, and have the faith of Jesus (Revelation 12:17), and (2) Those who worship the beast and his image and receive his mark (Revelation 14:9-11).  There is no middle ground. As Jesus says: “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30).

it’s not a “law” thing, but a “love” thing

Through the prophecies of Daniel 7 God revealed His foreknowledge of the attempted change of His law with Daniel’s vision depicting an attack on God’s people and His law.  The attacking power, represented by a little horn, brings about the great apostasy within the Christian church.  Arising from the fourth beast and becoming a major persecuting power after the fall of Rome, the little horn attempts to “change [God’s] times and laws” (Daniel 7:25, KJV).

The Lord, however, declares, “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples” (Isaiah 8:16).  The seal of God’s law is found in God’s fourth commandment.  This commandment, distinct from the other nine, brings to view the three necessary components of a seal: (1) name: the Lord, your God; (2) title: Creator; and (3) territory: heavens, earth, seas, and all that is in them.  Additionally, in this commandment our Creator claims our reverence and worship.  With the attempted change of God’s law, inclusive of the Sabbath, the enemies of God seek to remove God’s seal from His law.  Yet the disciples of Christ are called upon to restore the fourth commandment by exalting the Sabbath to its rightful position as the Creator’s memorial and sign of His authority just prior to the Second Advent.

As prophecies are being fulfilled every day, “wars and rumors of wars, . . . famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:6-8), which clearly point to Jesus’ second advent, let us take heed to God’s eschatological call in Revelation 14:7: “Fear God and give glory to Him,” for the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”  The Sabbath must be restored to its rightful position as a memorial to the Creator’s power and the sign of His authority.  Let us not forget the promised blessing of eternal life when obeying God’s commandments (Revelation 22:14), and be reminded, it’s not a “law” thing, but a “love” thing, for it was Jesus who said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). 




Christ’s True Bride

Almost everyone thinks about getting married at some point in time. The wedding may be simple, with just two people and a magistrate, or elaborate, with an entire village celebrating over several days. It may involve ancient customs or follow new fashions.  The couple may jump over a broom or wear “something old and something new, something borrowed and something blue.”  The couple may repeat vows suggested by the pastor or marriage officer, or recite vows unique and specific that they have composed themselves.

In the annals of biblical history, one of the most romantic and idyllic love stories captures the experience of Isaac and Rebekah.  In Genesis 24 we learn how Isaac obtained a wife.  Eliezer, Abraham’s intelligent, obedient, and praying servant, journeyed to find a wife for Abraham’s son. Eliezer sought a sign from God to direct his choice, and this signal was confirmed in Rebekah, who came to draw water, affording Eliezer with the answer to his prayer and request.

Genesis 24:16 describes Rebekah as “fair to look upon” (KJV).  There was no trace of depravity in her. Her best qualities came out in the simple yet heartwarming narrative describing her interaction with Eliezer, her service to him, and her willingness to believe and act upon all he had told her. She proved to be modest, meek, transparent, open, kind, energetic, faithful, gracious, and physically charming. When the gifts and the good things Eliezer said of his master secured the favor of Rebekah’s family, they gave their consent to the proposed marriage. And Rebekah responded to the question Christ's True Bride“Wilt thou go with this man?” with a firm and prompt “I will go” (Genesis 24:58, KJV).

Rebekah’s eager reply to meet her future bridegroom with “I will go” serves as a beneficial example for each of us today. When our Lord and Savior, Jesus, extends the invitation “Will you follow Me?” and when our hearts respond to such an appeal, “Yes, Lord I will go.  I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest,” we receive a rich blessing indeed.

God’s true church is described as a woman, a pure woman, the bride of Christ (see Jeremiah 6:2; Ephesians 5:22-35).  Just as Isaac desired to unite with his bride, Rebekah, God desires to unite with His bride, His true church.  Like Rebekah, our response should be “Yes, I will go.”

When you said “I do” to Him, Bride did you really mean it? Seven question s to ask yourself.

Yet with so many diverse churches and denominations today, who is God’s true bride (church) in these final days of earth’s history?  The Bible outlines seven characteristics of God’s true bride, His church, and they are as follows:

1. Its teachings are in full harmony with the Bible. (Isaiah 8:20).

2. It came into existence after 1798 and began to form in the early 1840s (Revelation 12:6, 14).

3. It keeps the Ten Commandments, including the fourth—God’s holy seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) (Revelation 12:17).

4. It has the testimony of Jesus, which is the Spirit of prophecy  (Revelation 12:17; 19:10).

5. It is a worldwide missionary church, taking the gospel to the entire world  (Mark 16:15).

6. It teaches Jesus’ final three-point message of Revelation 14:6-12: (1) “fear God and worship Him”; (2) Babylon is fallen”; and (3) do not receive the mark of the beast.

7. It teaches that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ  (Acts 4:12).

With so many diverse churches and denominations today, who is God’s true bride (church) in these final days of earth’s history?

When the aforementioned characteristics are met in a church, Christ’s true followers should unite with Him through His church (bride).  We become a member of Christ’s true church (bride) through baptism.  “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13, KJV).

Ultimately, God desires to be in covenant relationship with His people here on earth, and in the coming “earth made new.”  In fact, God uses the model of a bride adorned for her husband to describe the beauty and joy of the imminent endless relationship between God and His people (Revelation 21:1-4).  May we all be a part of this grand union receiving abundant blessings throughout eternity. 




Blessings That Flow From Family

Traditional folklore tells the story of a Vacation Bible School teacher, who, after having shared the biblical Creation account, asked her class to draw pictures from the Creation story.  She received pictures of the sun, moon, stars, rivers, trees, animals, and a serpent with an apple in its mouth.  Because the learners were young and had drawing skills appropriate for their age, the teacher was not expecting perfection, but one picture completely baffled her. She wondered at the picture of a long, modern limousine with massive blazing flames coming from the vehicle exhaust system, two passengers in the back seat, and the driver wearing a cap with a halo over his head.
When gently prodded to explain his picture, the young boy said emphatically, “Teacher said God drove out Adam and Eve from the garden!”
While we smile at the interpretation of this child’s limited understanding of Adam and Eve being driven out of Eden, we can only imagine the pain it must have caused our loving God to remove them from their home. After creating this earth in six literal days, our Creator established marriage, one of the greatest blessings of God to humanity, only for sin to progressively mar this divine institution.
Nevertheless, from the Edenic narrative several foundational principles for the marital structure have been laid. For one, Adam had vocational responsibility before he had a wife, according to Genesis 2:15. The ability and willingness to provide for his family became two integral parts of his existence after Creation. Hence, having employment was not foreign to the experience of men from the very beginning.
Second, we learn that God took a rib from Adam to use as He created Eve (Genesis 2:21). The choice of a rib from which to create Eve provided an important lesson for us. God chose a rib from Adam’s side, because the woman was to be neither above nor beneath the man, but to stand by his side.  The rib was taken from under his arm, which symbolically suggests that the woman was to enjoy the man’s protection and support. Also, the rib was located near his heart, indicating that the woman was to be the object of his affections and love.
God then brought Eve to Adam as a complete woman so Adam would know that he was neither the Creator nor the cause of woman coming into existence. God created both Adam and Eve, and intended this sacred union between a man and a woman to be indissoluble.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.  And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:23-25, KJV).

Stepping-Out
Despite the devastating effects of sin on marriage, when husbands and wives apply these general principles of responsibility, respect, protection, support, and love to their marriage coupled with committing themselves not only to one another but also to God in a saving relationship, the beauty and blessings of marriage are plenteous.

 

The prophetic positioning of your family

  • Parents obey, and teach their children to honor, obey, and respect God. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8).
  • “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19, KJV).
  • Watch for the tendency to conduct family affairs lightly,
    or even enter into the decision to start a family as if nothing eternal were at stake, and as if there were no God to whom we are accountable. “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark” (Matthew 24:37-39).
  • Make the home the symbol of God’s heavenly home, rooting out the key indicators of selfishness common today. “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).



Super-Man to the Rescue

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!” As a child these words were etched in my mind every time I would eagerly watch The Adventures of Superman.

Eyes glued to the television, I watched Superman battle crooked businessmen and politicians, take on injustices and inequalities by fighting and standing for social justice, and use X-ray vision to see through walls, doors, and buildings. And Superman always came to the rescue of people in trouble. Superman was my hero. He was stronger than anybody; He could do no wrong. Yet Superman wasn’t real. Superman was an actor on television.

The reality of our universal drama, however, yearns for superpower. Humanity had sinned, and God was faced with a dilemma to either excuse sin or destroy it all and start over. He chose to send the real Super-Man, Jesus Christ, to save His people from sin (Matthew 1:21). In His earthly ministry Jesus restored sight to the blind, defeated demon possession, calmed boisterous sea waters, raised the dead, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and sacrificed His life on Calvary, enabling us to obtain eternal salvation (John 3:15; Acts 4:12).

Jesus, He’s the real Super-Man!

Fast-forward nearly 2,000 years to our day, and God’s people are once again distressed and distraught. They need rescue and redemption from this sinful world. The solution once again is Jesus.

Jesus has promised that He is coming back, but this time He’s coming to get His people. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

While the promise of Christ’s coming is sure, the date of His coming is unsure.

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36). However, Jesus detailed signs, including wars, famines, earthquakes, natural disasters, and massive religious deception that foretells His coming is soon (Matthew 24:6-12). Because these events have already taken place, it is incumbent upon us to be ready for His imminent return.

And when Jesus does return, what a glorious day that will be! Every living eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7), and He will return in the clouds of heaven with the angelic hosts (Acts 1:9-11). There will be a union with Jesus, and a reunion of loved ones who died in Jesus, along with the righteous who are alive at His second coming! 

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, KJV).

May we be encouraged in knowing that “troubles don’t last always,” and Jesus, the real Super-Man, is soon to come. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!




The End to Prophecy

One of the dreadful side effects of sin was an end to face-to-face dialogue between God and His people (see Isaiah 59:2). However, in spite of sin, God maintained communication with humanity, but used other means to communicate to His people, including sending messages to encourage, correct, or warn using His prophets. So it seems strange that the Bible declares that this will come to an end.

To understand this prospect, we must understand the nature of prophecy and what prophets do.

The Prophet

A prophet “receives communications from God and transmits their intent to His people” (Frank B. Holbrook, “The Biblical Basis for a Modern Prophet”). While the biblical prophet spoke for God, prophets did not prophesy whatever they wanted, “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).  These messages from God through His prophets benefited adherents, as was promised: “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20).

The Prophetic Gift

In the New Testament the apostle Paul outlines several gifts from the Holy Spirit that were given to the church for its edification. Of the gifts, he preferred love the most, but he also mentioned the gift of prophecy and its importance. Even though prophecy is a spiritual gift to the church, Paul indicated that there will come a day that prophecy will cease. “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away” (1 Corinthians 13:8; see also 1 Corinthians 12:1-4 and Ephesians 4:10-13).

Herein lies the conundrum: if prophecy is a gift from God to the church, and it is extremely valuable to God’s people, why would it end?

To answer this, we remember that spiritual gifts bring believers into “the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). When Jesus Christ returns to this earth to redeem His people, the need for such prophetic guidance will no longer exist. When God’s people reach their heavenly home, prophecies will cease!

Nevertheless, until this glorious day, prophecy is critical to preparing God’s people for His soon return.

What to Do With Prophecy Now?

Just as God gave the gift of prophecy to His people to announce His first coming (see Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23), God has given the gift of prophecy in earth’s final days to announce His second coming (see Matthew 24).

Among many strong prophetic passages in the Bible announcing the Second Coming, God reveals both warning and great hope to be embraced by His people. For example, John the revelator warned that just prior to Jesus’ second coming Satan will wage war against God’s remnant people.

“And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17). Revelation 19:10 defined the testimony of Jesus as the “spirit of prophecy.”  Hence, God’s remnant people—those who are commandment keepers and have the spirit of prophecy—will be persecuted by Satan, but Revelation 12:11 assures us that they will overcome him “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony”!

When God redeems His remnant from this earth, and secures their future for eternity, and all prophecy culminates, when the loud voice from heaven that John heard declaring, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Revelation 21:3, KJV), is sounded across the earth, that is when all prophecy shall cease!