God Will Provide a Lamb

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Thoughts in Worship
Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, October 16, 2014
Based Upon Genesis 22:8

“And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.”

Abraham was accustomed to hearing the voice of God. It was this familiar voice that made the promise of the son though nature seemed to say otherwise. Although Abraham and Sarah had a temporary lapse of faith, God kept His word. When the son of promise was a young lad, the Lord brought upon Abraham the most severe test imaginable. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice His promised son, the one through whom Messiah would come. Surely God must be mistaken, right? Abraham, fully armed with faith did not flinch at the command, though the road was a difficult one. Abraham demonstrated that he believed that by some miracle God would bring Isaac back to life. “And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you,” Genesis 22:5. The last phrase is instructive, although he fully intended to sacrifice his son, he told his servants that they both would worship and return. This is a model of great faith.

At a critical point in their journey, the strong young man realized that all that was necessary for the sacrifice was present besides except sacrifice itself. A double meaning burst into my thoughts when Abraham responded by saying, “The Lord will provide himself a ram.” On one hand God Himself (the Father) would provide the ram. On the other hand, God (the Son) would provide himself as the ram. The first interpretation is preferable, although the second is also glorious. Whatever the case, when the moment came for Abraham to lower the knife, God revealed the ram of provision (Genesis 22:13).

Isn’t it curious that the story of the sacrifice is about a loving father and a strong, yet submissive son? Isn’t it interesting that the ram was caught in a thicket? Isn’t it also interesting that the ram was sacrificed instead of the boy?

Our heavenly Father loved us so much that he provided Jesus, the only Lamb, which takes away the sins of the world. God the Son, who could have decided not to be sacrificed just as Isaac could have refused, decided to submit to the will of His father. Jesus wore a crown of thorns, just as the ram had its horns caught in a thicket. The Lord stopped the sacrifice of a mere human, signifying the insufficiency of such a sacrifice. God provided, in Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice for our sins. The Lord will provide!–L. David Harris

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Wisdom is Christ

Thoughts in Worship
Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Based Upon Proverbs 8:23-26, 30

“I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;”

King Solomon had a particularly strong grasp on wisdom. When he was in the beginning stages of his role as king, he spoke to the Lord humbly and openly. He admitted that he was but a small child and lacked what was necessary to rule over God’s people. The Lord asked him what He should do for Him, and Solomon requested wisdom. The Lord granted his prayer and beyond. His first test as king revealed that the Lord’s wisdom had become a part of his life.


Proverbs chapter eight, it seems, is a letter from wisdom to all who would listen. Wisdom said, “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things. For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.” Proverbs 8:4-8. These are strong words. They point to a wonderful truth that many may not realize. Wisdom, even as depicted in the Old Testament, must be none other than Jesus Christ.


When you come to the closing verses, it becomes even clearer. “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.” Proverbs 8:22, 35.

Are not these words spoken of Christ? Does not the Bible also say that those who have Christ have life (I John 5:12)? Is it not true that those who have Christ have favor with the Father as well?

Notice the way Paul describes Jesus Christ. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” I Corinthians 1:30, 31. Jesus is, indeed, wisdom.

What does understanding that Jesus is wisdom mean for us today? Whenever the Lord gives wisdom, that is, the ability to resist evil and use the truths God has revealed unto salvation, Christ is present. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5. He is the perfect gift of wisdom that we all need. As we listen to Him, as we welcome His counsel, we are brought into closer relationship with Him. This is Christ’s purpose. He cries aloud in order to draw us closer to Himself. If I had to say something about wisdom, I would agree with David when he said, “LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” Psalms 90:1, 2. Praise the Lord for giving us His Son Jesus Christ. He is made unto us wisdom. Amen.–L. David Harris




Joy

Shoulders bent, she sat slumped on the couch, drowning in her tears and the turbulent tide of meeting the needs of family, the demands of the job, the unending struggle of going on in the face of chronic pain and staying in a marriage that was more pain than pleasure. And then the chirpingly cheerful voice of the fit, flexible, energetic exercise leader rang out from the television accentuating the rhythm of her movements as she sang out amidst other encouraging things. “Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say rejoice.” Somehow the words then sounded like some shallow slogan, a rah rah cheer or a wishful exhortation to hang in there. Hang in there! Do the best you can!

Is that what this scripture found in Philippians 4:4 amounts to? Is Paul, in these words, beating the bass drum of encouragement, trying to invigorate the energies and boost the spirits of the saints: “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice… .” Was this a kind of sanctified whistling past the graveyard of reality? After all, Paul is increasingly feeble and slow in movement, advanced in years, showing signs of physical weakness, in prison writing during the last years of his life, as he faced impending execution for his stand for Jesus. And yet Paul forcefully exclaims, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.”

Since it is difficult to understand this “rejoice always” in the context of the every day, nitty-gritty struggle to survive the living of life, clearly certain points need to be clarified. One is, rejoice is a variant form of the word “joy”. While joy is the Christian virtue, happiness is the virtue of the world. The difference is, happiness is external, circumstantial depending on the things we have or can acquire, things like money, power, fame, a cosmetic make over. All external and when they go happiness goes. Joy is independent of your environment and will persist through any and all circumstances. As Jeanie Burton quips, “Joy has a much longer shelf life than happiness.” While happiness relates to the physical world, joy relates to both the physical world and the spiritual world.

Another clarification is the joy Paul witnesses to and calls us to is joy because of, “Rejoice in the Lord” The secret to joy is not to look at the circumstances of your own life. Rather, look to Christ and what he has done for you and in you and to you. Our joy, our rejoicing, is to be “in the Lord.” To “rejoice in the Lord” is to rejoice that we are the Lord’s. And “in the Lord” we enjoy: peace with God, help in temptation, the assurance of God’s companionship in time of trial. And we also rejoice in the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus.

Joy because of, “rejoice in the Lord,” but also joy in spite of, “rejoice always.”

The word always is emphatic, an active imperative, which in Greek suggests that the action should be continuous. “Rejoice, and keep on rejoicing,” would be an apt paraphrase. But would it be a sensible one when it seems future hopes and dreams have crashed and burned, when catastrophic illness turns everything upside down?

Perhaps your life is filled with tragedy and hardship—and there is plenty to go around. Heaping supplies for those mourning the loss of loved ones, parents agonizing over wayward children. More than enough for those who have gone or are going through the heartache of divorce. For those families with children disabled with physical, emotional, or mental disorders. For those who find themselves struck with a debilitating illness. It’s tough in such situations to feel any joy. In such circumstances does the Lord really expect us to “rejoice in the Lord?” Yes, because “joy in spite of…” always rests on “joy because of… in the Lord.

Now, make no mistake and let me hasten to add that even Paul did not rejoice in the Lord for all circumstances. Rather, we are to rejoice or give thanks in all circumstances. For instance, we don’t rejoice for death or for pain or for divorce or for cancer. But, by the grace of God, it is given us to rejoice in or during or after these difficult and painful circumstances. This does not mean blindness to or denial of the harsh realities of life rather it does mean one does not let the dark realities of life blind him or her to the radiance of joy to be found in the Lord!

Joy like that of the devoted Christian undergoing chemotherapy who was told by a friend, “Under the circumstances, I don’t see how you can be so cheerful.” The patient responded not in pious bravado but in personal conviction. “I’m not under any circumstances. Because of Jesus, I’m on top of the circumstances!”

Joy because of, joy in spite of.




Is the Husband the Boss?

When following the biblical mandate and two individuals become one flesh, who’s the boss?
For many Christians this question, fueled by custom and tradition, has a very simple and straightforward answer.  Some accept that heaven has always viewed the husband as the boss of the family. To them, the wife’s marital role is subordinate or secondary to that of her husband.  Indeed, doesn’t the Bible say as much?  Specifically, doesn’t Paul tell the Ephesians, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church” (Ephesians 5: 22, 23)?
Surely such biblical clarity removes any doubt as to whether the husband may rightly be considered the “boss” of the family?  But is that true? If we’ve learned anything through studying God’s Word, what appears to be obvious may appear so only in the absence of biblical context.
We know that marriage is ordained of God.  We find in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (NASB).1 There is no ambiguity as to how the marital relationship came into being. It is a union designed by God.
In Matthew 19, confronted by the Pharisees on the question of marriage and divorce, Jesus reiterates God’s view of the marital relationship. “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So then, they are no longer two but one flesh” (verses 4-6).
So the origins of marriage are clear enough. Is it not likewise clear that the husband is the boss in the family?  Isn’t that what Paul means in Ephesians 5:23 when he writes that “the husband is head of the wife”?
The apostle Paul does say that the husband is the head of the wife.  However, may I suggest that often we magnify that part of the Word that confirms our thoughts and feelings, while attempting to diminish surrounding context. The headship Paul speaks of is not to be viewed as the husband having a dominating role.
True, God has given clear areas of responsibility for both husband and wife.  However, never does He offer endorsement of the husband as the “big chief.”  A correct understanding of Ephesians 5:23 would be that the husband’s headship is to be modeled after the headship of Christ with His church.  Nowhere in the Bible do we find Jesus dominating the church simply because He is the head.  Study His example, and you will find His approach to headship was through offering love, self-sacrificing love.  Likewise, a husband is to present the same model of headship to his wife. He is to offer his wife love, self-sacrificing love.

The key to busting this myth is found in the context of mutual submission.

2014-MythBusters2
So then what about Paul’s admonition for the wife to submit to her husband?  I like the way Jeffrey and Pattiejean Brown approach the concept of submission in their book The Total Marriage.2 They point out that submission is not synonymous with subservience.  And while the husband’s role is one of headship, it is anchored in agape love that is selfless and self-sacrificing.  Thus, a wife’s choosing to submit to her husband is her free-willed response to his Christlike love.  As a result, the wife’s submission is not to her husband’s commands, demands, or wishes, but rather to her husband’s love. Additionally, the authors offer that many times the Ephesians 5:23 counsel for wives to submit is emphasized, while the admonition found in Ephesians 5:21 is overlooked. In that passage Paul writes, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (KJV).  The Browns point out that here the apostle Paul is highlighting the concept of mutual submission.  “Mutual submission requires that Christians . . . ‘through love be servants of one another.’  If a partner is to submit as Christ’s church is to submit, then the biblical definition of submission is a free response, an uncoerced surrender to the self-sacrificing, unconditional love of a compassionate and committed spouse.”
The Bible leaves no room in marriage for a boss. That’s because God views marriage as a partnership. We find that understanding repeatedly in His Word—for example,
1 Corinthians 7:3, 4: “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” This partnership originated in the heart of God. He announced its role in our lives when He declared, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, be joined to his wife; and they shall become one” (NASB). This partnership recognizes the headship of the husband as a self-sacrificing gift to his wife, the wife’s submission to her husband as a gift-in-kind, and mutual submission one to another out of reverence for God as a total gift exchange.
No need for a boss in a Christian’s marriage. That’s because God is at the center of their partnership. And their joint prayer is “Your [God’s] will be done.”

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1 Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
2 Jeffrey Brown and Pattiejean Brown, The Total Marriage, pp. 55, 56. (Granthan, Engl.: Autumn House, 1999).




Invited Yet Unwelcome

Our country has been arguing about gay marriage for some time now. At the time of this writing 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. Yet polls indicate a split down the middle on the issue.


Our country has been arguing about gay marriage for some time now. At the time of this writing 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. Yet polls indicate a split down the middle on the issue. So here is the question: If you got invited to the wedding and reception of a gay couple, would you go? Would you feel comfortable sitting at the wedding reception table for the celebratory meal?
It is probably the most unsettling feeling to eat in the presence of people you are uncomfortable around, or people that you do not like. Mealtimes are probably the times we are the most relaxed and at ease. It is hard to be at ease when you are in the presence of people you do not respect or like.
In ancient Hebrew culture mealtimes were even more special and intimate. As a matter of fact, Jews held hospitality as a very sacred virtue. The Jewish Shema states, “The Lord our God . . . is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). They understood that to mean that the ultimate goal for society was to become one in community and relationship. Thus, when entertaining guests, it was absolutely essential to ensure that their needs were met, especially during mealtime. On one occasion Jesus chided Simon, the Pharisee, for not providing water for foot washing to Him and the other dinner guests (Luke 7:44).

 

However, despite their values of hospitality, there were certain people that Jews would never entertain, much less invite into their homes for a meal.

The Jews believed that if a perso2014 The Experience homelessn was sick or suffered some misfortune, it was evidence of God’s disapproval and judgment. They believed that those who were paralyzed, blind, or leprous were cursed by God because of their sins. Furthermore, there were certain groups with whom the Jews would not even socialize. They were chosen by God to represent His will and character in the world. Yet they misunderstood His favor to mean favoritism. But Jesus’ ministry would change all of that.
In this parable Jesus tells the story of a man who prepares a “great banquet” for some special guests. However, when he extends the invitation, they excused themselves. One had just recently bought a piece of land, and probably wanted to go and survey the property. Another had just bought some new oxen to help him plow his fields, and he wanted to go and try them out. Still another had just been married, and maybe wanted to go directly to his honeymoon.
When the host learned that they had rejected his hospitality, he decided in an angry huff that he would extend his invitation to anyone who would come. He ordered his servant to go out into the city streets and alleyways “and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (Luke 14:21, NIV).1 Anyone he can find is now welcome. The servant did as he was told, and before the owner’s anger could subside, the hall was furnished with grateful guests. But with space for more guests still, the owner ordered his servant to expand the invite to the countryside and county roads.
The story ends abruptly with a fairly dark saying of the obviously still upset owner:  “I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet” (verse 24, NIV).
Ironically, Jesus told this story while at a banquet of a prominent religious leader. He was surrounded by the very important and powerful, the very group that believes that poor people, sick people, and foreigners are all cursed by God. They could not possibly be invited into the intimate proximity of the chosen ones. They are cursed, and that is why they were not invited to this particular banquet with all the “important” people.
But Jesus’ story reverses that notion. In His story it
is those who are poor, lame, or blind that receive the favor of the master. And it is the privileged ones who are shut out. The owner determines to make sure that the hall is full, so that even if they change their mind they won’t be allowed in. They had their chance and they rejected it, and now their seat has been taken. Now the favored ones are cursed, and the cursed ones are favored.
Could it be that this parable still vividly describes churches today? Are we angry at the dinner table because we do not like being around them? If so, maybe we are the ones who the owner promises will not be allowed to enter the great banquet.
You can take your pick of outcasts and undesirables, and ask yourself: Would I feel comfortable breaking bread with them? We may have started this discussion in the context of members of the LGBT community, and that is a reality-based example, but there may be so much more. What about a drug dealer, a drug addict, a Wall Street CEO, a crooked politician, a prostitute, or an undocumented immigrant? Would they be welcome guests at your table? Maybe you are the one who feels like an outcast.
If you feel as though church is not for you because you do not fit in, or because the people there are cold and snobbish, then the words of Jesus are especially for you. He wants you to know that God’s kingdom is established on the foundation of grace, love, and acceptance. He proclaimed that His “house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7, ESV).2 He welcomes you to His house.
I hope you’re hungry, because the table is set and the food is ready.

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Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
2Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

christopher c. thompson has written three books on spiritual growth, and blogs regularly at www.thegrowthnetwork.org. He is also a doctoral candidate at United Theological Seminary.


If you were to take a personal inventory of some of your best days, you would realize that there were some truly joyous days that you have experienced. Maybe it is a golden moment from your childhood, or the moment you met the one you were to be with the rest of your life, or even some academic or occupational accomplishment that you longed for. Whatever it may be, we find in Scripture a very sobering lesson from the one called Jesus Christ.


Day 1 - Read Luke 14:1

Luke 14:1

It may sound simple, and maybe even trivial, but have you ever tried to literally list the blessing and fortune you are currently experiencing in your life? How much “good” is really around you at this present time? I challenge you to take an inventory of what you are blessed with, or fortunate to have at this particular time. Write it out. If you’re comfortable enough, share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 2 - Read Luke 14:12 - 14

Luke 14:12 – 14

The words of Jesus are a practical challenge. How natural is it to want to do nice things for those who have been nice to us? How much easier is it to show kindness to those who we know will have our back if we ever needed them? It seems that Jesus is downplaying the merit of showing kindness to those who are close to you, or have ability and means to return it. Look over your list of blessings and things that you see as fortunate, and see who they benefit. Is it you? Is it family or friends? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 3 - Read John 15:13

John 15:13

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” John 15:13 (KJV). The extent of love a person can exhibit is dying for a friend. But Jesus didn’t die for only those He called friend—He died for the whole world. I want you to make another list. This list will take serious introspection and honesty. Make a list of people it would be hard to die for. Who is it that rubs you the wrong way? Is there anyone whose presence causes negative feelings to arise in you? Write the names out, and I ask you to pray for them. Read Matthew 5:43-45.

Day 4 - Read Luke 14:15 - 17

Luke 14:15 – 17

With this mind-set I invite you to read the lyrics to the hymn “Jesus Saves.”
We have heard a joyful sound,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Spread the gladness all around;
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Bear the news to every land,
Climb the steeps and cross the waves,
Onward, ’tis our Lord’s command,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

Waft it on the rolling tide,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Tell to sinners, far and wide,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Sing, ye islands of the sea.
Echo back, ye ocean caves,
Earth shall keep her jubilee,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

Sing above the battle’s strife,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
By His death and endless life,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Sing it softly through the gloom,
When the heart for mercy craves,
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.

Give the winds a mighty voice,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Let the nations now rejoice,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves;
Shout salvation full and free,
Highest hills and deepest caves,
This our song of victory,
Jesus saves, Jesus saves.
Isn’t it interesting who the songwriter says Jesus saves, and who we should tell that Jesus saves?


Day 5 - Read Luke 14:18 - 20

Luke 14:18 – 20

We find in this passage that the ones invited
are all fortunate. There’s nothing that indicates that these are “bad” people who are being invited. In fact, it seems they are all well-to-do members of their society. One has managed their money well and acquired real estate to further their net worth. Another has purchased some necessary upgrades to be more efficient in doing his or her work, and wants to make sure all is in working order. The last has just started the crown jewel of human relationships, and married the love of their life. All of these are blessings, correct? Why then does the Bible call them excuses? What do you think? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
roundedtwitterbird Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.


Day 6 - Read Luke 14:21-24

Luke 14:21-24

The next order of the master is radical. He commands his servants to go and get anyone. When the banquet still isn’t full, he then says, in his own way, “Really! Go get absolutely anyone who will come.” The portion that seems harsh is verse 24, where he says, “I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet” (NIV).* This is in reference to those in the previous verses. What does this say about God? What does this say about the kingdom of heaven and those who make it?

Day 7 - Wrap Up

It’s been said that you should not exalt the gift over the giver, the blessing over the blesser. So many of us see ourselves as good, fortunate, and blessed people, but we fall short of the people that make it into the banquet with the Master. We do only for those who are good to us. We take very little thought for those who have no help. Instead of seeing the things in our lives as an opportunity to enrich the life of those less fortunate, we conclude it is nothing more than our own fortune and enrichment. I hope that this study has led you to realize that some of us are too fortunate, and that will be the reason we excuse ourselves from the A List of the banquet of heaven.


 

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*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Rashad Burden is an associate pastor for youth at the Buckhead Fellowship chruch in Buckhead, Georgia.

 


 




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).



Builders of the Last Temple

Since the beginning of 2014 an intriguing appeal has been made by evangelists on television programs for believers to aid Israel as money is raised to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. According to these speakers, Christians have an obligation to help in the reconstruction of the Temple on the same spot where the first two Temples stood so majestically.

But do Christians have an obligation to help rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem? It’s a question that generates more than a few questions in response. For example, what purpose does the Temple serve? Why does the Temple need rebuilding? Does the Bible promise the Temple will be rebuilt? And finally, if these are the last days, what significance does the Temple hold for believers?

The role of the Temple in Judaism was well known to all Jews. Sinners received God’s forgiveness at the Temple when they presented themselves and their sin offering there. The shedding of innocent blood at the Temple had a three-fold purpose: (1) it taught that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), (2) it taught that without the shedding of blood there could be no forgiveness for sin (Hebrews 9:22), and (3) it pointed forward to the blood the Lamb of God would shed at some future point to take away the sin of the world (Isaiah 53:5).
God initiated the sanctuary service in Eden as a primer on salvation (see Genesis 3:21). For Israel, the lessons of God’s redemption plan were learned first in the mobile sanctuary and later in the Temple. The lesson was simple yet profound. A sinner brought a sin offering in the form of an innocent, clean animal to the priest at the sanctuary. There the innocent blood was spilled for the guilty, symbolically showing what God’s Lamb would do for humanity on Calvary.

Jewish tradition declared the Temple as the only place of blood sacrifices. During the Exodus, sinners would bring their sacrifices, without spot or blemish, to the priest at the mobile sanctuary. However, once Solomon’s Temple was constructed in Jerusalem, the sanctuary of the Temple became the only location sanctified for sacrificial purposes. So although the Jews could worship at their local synagogues, they considered the Temple in Jerusalem the only appropriate place for sacrifices.

This fact explains why Jews offer no animal sacrifices today. There is no Temple in Jerusalem. Twice built, the Temple has been twice destroyed. The Babylonians destroyed the first Temple, built by Solomon, in 586 B.C. Titus and the Roman legions demolished the second Temple in A.D. 70. With the second Temple’s destruction, Judaism had nowhere to sacrifice sin offerings. That’s why there are no sacrifices today. There is no Temple.
For more than 1,900 years the absence of the Temple has precluded animal sacrifices among the Jews. But now the plans are being made for a new temple in Jerusalem, and some Christian leaders view collaboration in the reconstruction of the Temple as ordained in heaven. But is it?

There is no promise in God’s Word of a third temple. Indeed, we’re reminded in Hebrews 9:8-11, 23, 24 that the Temple on earth was a type and shadow of the true temple in heaven. In fact, the earthly Temple was never meant to be a permanent structure. Its purposes were to exist only until Jesus, the Lamb of God, satisfied all of the spiritual realities and requirements of the Messiah. John the revelator was given a glorious snapshot of the earth made new, and of the Holy City, New Jerusalem, in Revelation 21:22. John reports he saw no temple there. Instead, he declared that God and Christ are the temple there.

And does the earthly Temple play a role in the lives of the redeemed in these “last days”? The answer is a simple no. Jesus speaking in John 2:19-21 calls His body the temple. Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17 reminds us that the Holy Spirit dwells within believers, because we are the temple of God. The Temple in Jerusalem ceased to be relevant in the lives of God’s people once the Lamb, Jesus, had been sacrificed on the altar of the cross on Calvary. The point of the sanctuary service had been to point God’s people to the ultimate sacrifice, the life of God’s Son for the redemption of humanity, so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish” (John 3:16). Once the true Lamb had been slain, there was no longer need of either the sanctuary service or the Temple.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Christians assisting Israel in the reconstruction of the Temple, however, is their failure to recognize that their acceptance of the call to help rebuild the Temple is in essence a rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. The Temple is needed only so long as sacrifices are necessary. The only reason for continuing animal sacrifices would be because we don’t believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and we yet await the true Messiah’s arrival. But we know our Redeemer lives and He is returning soon to gather His people.
And we do want to help those in Israel, and elsewhere, to be ready to meet Him in peace. That is a responsibility we gladly shoulder.




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!




Who’s Who? And Why You Don’t Have to Worry About It

This month’s Experience is an excerpt from the book Christ’s Object Lessons, written more than 100 years ago. The chapter entitled “Tares” presented this parable of Jesus in a fresh light. It’s still fresh.


“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’  He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’  But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn” ’ ” (Matthew 13:24-30).

Christ’s servants are grieved as they see true and false believers mingled in the church. They long to do something to cleanse the church. Like the servants of the householder, they are ready to uproot the tares. But Christ says to them, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.”

Christ has plainly taught that those who persist in open sin must be separated from the church, but He has not committed to us the work of judging character and motive. He knows our nature too well to entrust this work to us. Should we try to uproot from the church those whom we suppose to be spurious Christians, we should be sure to make mistakes. Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. Were we to deal with these souls according to our imperfect judgment, it would perhaps extinguish their last hope. Many who think themselves Christians will at last be found wanting. Many will be in heaven who their neighbors supposed would never enter there. Man judges from appearance, but God judges the heart. The tares and the wheat are to grow together until the harvest; and the harvest is the end of probationary time.

There is in the Savior’s words another lesson, a lesson of wonderful forbearance and tender love. As the tares have their roots closely intertwined with those of the good grain, so false brethren in the church may be closely linked with true disciples. The real character of these pretended believers is not fully manifested. Were they to be separated from the church, others might be caused to stumble, who but for this would have remained steadfast.

The teaching of this parable is illustrated in God’s own dealing with men and angels. Satan is a deceiver. When he sinned in heaven, even the loyal angels did not fully discern his character. This was why God did not at once destroy Satan. Had He done so, the holy angels would not have perceived the justice and love of God. A doubt of God’s goodness would have been as evil seed that would yield the bitter fruit of sin and woe. Therefore the author of evil was spared,  to fully develop his character. Through long ages God has borne the anguish of beholding the work of evil, He has given the infinite Gift of Calvary, rather than leave any to be deceived by the misrepresentations of the wicked one; for the tares could not be plucked up without danger of uprooting the precious grain. And shall we not be as forbearing toward our fellow men as the Lord of heaven and earth is toward Satan?

The world has no right to doubt the truth of Christianity because there are unworthy members in the church, nor should Christians become disheartened because of these false brethren. How was it with the early church? Ananias and Sapphira joined themselves to the disciples. Simon Magus was baptized. Demas, who forsook Paul, had been counted a believer. Judas Iscariot was numbered with the apostles. The Redeemer does not want to lose one soul; His experience with Judas is recorded to show His long patience with perverse human nature; and He bids us bear with it as He has borne. He has said that false brethren will be found in the church until the close of time.

Notwithstanding Christ’s warning, men have sought to uproot the tares. To punish those who were supposed to be evildoers, the church has had recourse to the civil power. Those who differed from the established doctrines have been imprisoned, put to torture and to death, at the instigation of men who claimed to be acting under the sanction of Christ. But it is the spirit of Satan, not the Spirit of Christ, that inspires such acts. This is Satan’s own method of bringing the world under his dominion. God has been misrepresented through the church by this way of dealing with those supposed to be heretics.

Not judgment and condemnation of others, but humility and distrust of self, is the teaching of Christ’s parable. Not all that is sown in the field is good grain. The fact that men are in the church does not prove them Christians.

The tares closely resembled the wheat while the blades were green; but when the field was white for the harvest, the worthless weeds bore no likeness to the wheat that bowed under the weight of its full, ripe heads. Sinners who make a pretension of piety mingle for a time with the true followers of Christ, and the semblance of Christianity is calculated to deceive many; but in the harvest of the world there will be no likeness between good and evil. Then those who have joined the church, but who have not joined Christ, will be manifest.

The tares are permitted to grow among the wheat, to have all the advantage of sun and shower; but in the time of harvest ye shall “return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:18, KJV). Christ Himself will decide who are worthy to dwell with the family of heaven. He will judge every man according to his words and his works. Profession is as nothing in the scale. It is character that decides destiny.

The Savior does not point forward to a time when all the tares become wheat. The wheat and tares grow together until the harvest, the end of the world. Then the tares are bound in bundles to be burned, and the wheat is gathered into the garner of God. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

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Why do good things happen to bad people? Why do bad things happen to good people? What is a “good” person? What makes a person “bad”? It is natural to have either a high or low opinion of someone based on personal interaction. Jesus calls His followers to use the same standard of good and bad as He does. In the parable of the sower Jesus makes some very powerful and relevant assertions about who is good and bad. I invite you to join us in seeking the mind of God in this study entitled “Till the End.”


Day 1 -Read Matthew 13:24-30

In the Bible, in the book of Matthew, Jesus routinely starts His parables with “The kingdom of heaven is like. . .” In preparation for this study it would be helpful to get to a place where we are mindful of the kingdom of heaven. Go to YouTube and search for “Will You Be Ready?” by Commissioned, or input the link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=U93vR8R3qFI. While the song plays, read Matthew 6:33 and meditate on what the kingdom of heaven is. Take note of the various similes Jesus uses for the kingdom of heaven in the book of Matthew. Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 2 -Read Matthew 13:24-30

The parable of the wheat and the tares is among a number of stories that assume an understanding of agriculture. Very few people in technologically developed places know the ins and outs of farming. Before going further it would be profitable to research wheat and tares. Search for a picture of a comparison of wheat and tares. What do you see? What does it reveal? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 3

Have you ever been misjudged? Has your gender, race, or status ever caused you to be treated a certain way? I would suggest that one of the methods that God uses to teach us to be gracious is to allow us to go through situations in which we yearn for grace. In his book A Love Worth Giving, Max Lucado explores “The 7:47 principle.” You can learn about the 7:47 principle by reading Luke 7:36-48. What does verse 47 teach you about love and grace? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 4

Did you notice when you looked at the pictures of wheat and tares that they look exactly the same? Jesus implied that those who are good and bad are almost identical. Think about this implication, that those who are good and bad in the present are nearly identical. What makes a person good or bad? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 5 -Read Matthew 13:30

My church recently had a conversation about what a person can do to make them hard to be around. The answers ranged from someone who steals to someone who is a pedophile. Some talked passionately about how they couldn’t stomach being around people who have been involved in certain activities. The reason this is significant in the context of this study is because of the treatment the Master tells His servants to give the tares until the harvest. He does not tell them to sort and segregate them. He does not order them to be harsh or decisive. Instead He orders that they receive the same treatment that the wheat gets. It’s amazing to think about the fact that the tares received the same attention and care that the wheat did. How should this revelation affect how we treat people? What does this mean when it comes to those who sin openly? Should we change how we view those around us? Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook, 

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Day 6

Now, you are wondering what the determining factor or difference is with wheat and tares. The only way to know the difference between wheat and tares is that at harvest, wheat bares a light brown kernel, tares bare a black kernel, and you can barely tell the difference until the plant has fully matured. Is it possible that when it comes to people that we do not know if they are good or bad until they have fully matured? If we determine that someone is a tare before they have fully matured, do we not run the risk of stunting growth, and pulling up something that was meant to be in the Master’s barn? Is it possible to truly look at everyone we come in contact with as a potential kingdom dweller? Tell about it if this is something that is feasible in your mind. Share it with us at Message via roundedinstagram Instagram, roundedfacebook Facebook,
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Day 7 Wrap Up

Sometimes it is not “till the end” that we know if even we are wheat or tares. How then can we go about our lives looking at people as such if we don’t know what we are ourselves? I want to encourage you to go about life dispensing grace, love, and mercy, for that is what God has given to you and will continue “till the end.”  


 

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RASHAD BURDEN is a youth and young adult pastor for the Buckhead Fellowship in Atlanta, Georgia.


 




Don’t Call Me Reverend

It goes without saying that no member of the clergy should ever deliberately take God’s name as their title of office. Over the years, however, a seed thought planted by well-meaning Christians has germinated into the belief that for centuries clerics have done just that. As a result, when some Christians hear a religious leader called “reverend,” they view it as an act of ignorance, or arrogance at the presumption of assuming one of God’s names as a title of church leadership. Believers holding to this teaching categorically reject the idea of calling any church official “reverend.” The basis for that misinformed position is traceable to Psalm 111:9, which declares: “Holy and reverend is his name” (KJV).

A surface reading of the text does appear to suggest “reverend,” like “El Shaddai” or “Jehovah Shalom,” is one of God’s many names. However, upon closer inspection, the text itself casts a very different light upon the meaning behind David’s word choices. Contrary to the misunderstanding embraced by some Christians, the Bible does not suggest “Reverend” as one of the names for God. In fact, the words “holy” and “reverend” are used adjectively in the text. Thus, they describe the nature of God’s name. So Psalm 111:9 is not a declaration of names for God, but rather expressions of the qualities of God’s name. Therefore, a correct reading of the passage could be “the name of God is a holy name,” “the name of God is to be revered.” So calling a religious leader “reverend” is not problematic because “reverend” is a name for God.

Why then are we correct in not referring to clergy members as “reverend”?
By definition, the word “reverend” according to Webster is an adjective meaning “worthy of being revered or entitled to reverence.” Let’s be honest. This definition presents a new set of problems when we try to apply it to an individual’s name. Is any servant of God worthy of being revered or entitled to reverence? Of course not. However, over time, by use and custom, reverend has found acceptance as a noun, and has become the customary title or form of address for clergy in many Christian churches. (See The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition [Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000]).

Certainly, respect is due every child of God, even clergy. However, for some men and women in the ranks of the clergy there is no faster means of terminating a conversation than by addressing them as merely “brother” or “sister,” rather than by their honorific title “Reverend.” Within the fraternity of clergy there are those who view omission of “Reverend” from their title when they are being addressed as insulting and disrespectful. All of which might be somewhat understandable if there happened to be even the slightest biblical support for the practice of using “Reverend.” However, such support does not exist in the Bible.

It was not the practice of the early Christian church to refer to church leaders by the title “Reverend.” Instead, taking their cues from Scripture, those of the faith employed biblical titles, such as “Elder,” “Pastor,” “Evangelist,” “Deacon.” A thorough search of the Scriptures fails to produce even one instance of anyone being called “Reverend.”
The honorific title “Reverend” did not surface and gain acceptance as a means of respectful address to members of the clergy class until nearly 1,400 years after Calvary, in the fifteenth century. Then in the seventeenth century “Reverend” became widely used as a prefix before the names of church leaders. During the same century, clergy in the Catholic Church, seeking an expansion of public respect for their positions, helped craft the titles “Very Reverend” for clergy serving as deans of universities and “Right Reverend” for bishops. Meanwhile, archbishops and cardinals became “Most Reverend” (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, (third edition revised).
Does the Bible support the teaching that church leaders may rightly bear titles that seem to suggest their worthiness of reverential treatment? The short answer is no.

There are many reasons for neither using nor accepting the title “Reverend.” A few of them are: 1. There is no biblical authority for it. God’s Word speaks of prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (see Ephesians 4:11), but never mentions reverends. 2. God alone is entitled to reverence. Revelation 4:11 shares, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power.” No matter how good they are, even the best church leaders fall far short of the divine benchmark. Therefore, they are unqualified to be reverenced. 3. Jesus cautions against assigning religious titles that may cause egos to puff up. “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’. . . do not call anyone on earth your father” (Matthew 23:8, 9). 4. The very real danger of leaders feeling exalted over those they lead, rather than viewing their roles as that of servant-leaders. Paul counsels in Romans 12:3 “not to think . . . more highly than [one] ought to think.”
Are those who serve the flock of God worthy of respect, courtesy, and perhaps even honor? Absolutely. However, please don’t call me “Reverend.” Save your reverence for God. No one else is entitled to receive reverence from humanity. There’s no other Reverend in the church.