We are happy to announce a NEW Bible reading plan for SeekGrowLove readers in 2022!
We are going to intentionally slow down and each day focus on just ONE Bible chapter. Through the year we will cover every chapter of the New Testament (reading one gospel in each season) and 105 chapters highlighting the best of the Old Testament, with at least one chapter from each of the books. Much thanks to Bob Jones, Old Testament instructor at Atlanta Bible College, for his invaluable help in selecting the Old Testament chapters we have included.
Print and share the printable reading plan attached below. Since we are intentionally slowing down and focusing on just one chapter a day it is a great time for new readers (individuals, families, youth groups, Sunday School classes, etc…). Readers will receive daily email devotions based on that day’s Bible chapter if they sign up as a subscriber at https://seekgrowlove.com/. Seek Grow Love can also be found and liked on facebook to read the devotions there.
An addition this year will be reflection and discussion questions at the end of every devotion which will help us further connect to God and His Scriptures on a personal level. Working through these questions can be very useful for personal contemplation or journaling. Also, they may be used within a mentor relationship or amongst accountability partners. Pray about who God may be prompting you to invite on a journey with you into His Word and His heart. And do you have kids at home – or church kids on your heart? With one chapter a day and discussion questions that can be used during family devotions or by a young person working through God’s word, this is a great opportunity to challenge yourself, your family, your youth class, your accountability partner to SeekGrowLove!
If you are reading this, you have officially made it to the end of 2021, like it or not. For many, whether they have faced greater hardships or substantial joy, they are ready to see what God has in store for their next year of life. For me, the calendar is one of the few things that I can say each year that I saw through to completion. I have successfully completed the calendar 36 or so times; however, one year, if the Lord tarries, I simply won’t. Poof. My dusty remains will most likely rest in some sentimental location in the earth’s crust to wait for the return of Jesus Christ, awaiting to receive his promise alongside all those who faithful have served Him (Hebrews 11:39-40).
Conversely, with about every other element in my life, I am a terrible finisher. Currently, I have several projects going on at my home: a mostly finished deck, one mostly finished fence, one mostly unfinished fence, and a horseshoe pit that I decided to begin work on a couple of days ago. I present this as evidence that I am a terrible finisher, and this is just a single outlet of my life. This is true in pretty much every aspect, from professional work to text messages, there is always something left undone. Thank you, God for not making the Christian walk a checklist that has to be completed before I bite the big one. No matter how many “tasks” I have performed, how many prophecies I have spoken, or how much love I have shown, if I wake up the next day still sucking air, I am not finished, and that is a feeling very familiar to me.
Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” – Revelation 22:10-11
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4: 6-8
God has us covered with grace. If He cared, like Kingdom of God-cared, about my fences, deck, or horseshoe pit, then they would already be made complete, and I could move onto the next project at hand. But we have an eternal God whose mind is set on eternal things. He doesn’t care about my home projects. Only my heart in pursuing them. He doesn’t care about my career, only my heart in pursuing it. He doesn’t care about my resolutions, text messages, or what I am leaving undone, only my heart when pursuing each of those things. His grace is already complete, so the thing He and I work on are the hearts that will find their way to the Kingdom of God, including, and most importantly to me, my own.
If 2021 is my last calendar year, I will leave behind much undone, which may resound with you because many of us are in the same boat. However, my heart is the one project that I have assuredly been working on and hope and pray that it is finished and made God complete through Christ Jesus (Col 2:10). Everything can be (and really will be) left undone, unfinished, and incomplete. I encourage us all to close out this year being finishers. Not by checking off the last couple of boxes of projects, resolutions, or bucket list items that remain, but by considering matters of the heart: your faith, your actions, and your pursuit of eternal things, so you can end this day, this year, and this life, strong.
“On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. – Malachi 3:17-18
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:4-6
As we finish off our 2021 Reading plan…we are excited about beginning a new plan for SeekGrowLove for 2022. Watch for more information coming today! Sneak peak – tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 1. We are glad to have you on this journey working on our hearts as we Seek Him, Grow Our Faith and Love Him and Others through another calendar year!
I think we all have flirted with the “best by” dates on food products. Some of us have done it out of necessity, others maybe more out of laziness, but there is no doubt that some are more sensitive to these subjective guidelines . I personally give it a sniff and stir test. Looking for foul odors or curious textures before giving it a taste. The level of craving or hunger often determines how much flexibility I will give. At work, I still haven’t lived down a tub full of moldy hummus I ate because I didn’t want to waste it. I should have just kept my mouth shut (well open really, I was eating), but alas, here I am telling another audience. Surely, the carrots, celery, and apple I was enjoying with the hummus offset any of the negative consequences. I am willing to eat leftovers, perform sniff tests, down some soft grapes, because when I do this, I give my family an opportunity to buy healthy fresh foods, and treat them to a pleasing sit-down meal from time to time. This Outback Dinner was brought to you by the goat cheese that sat on the bottom of the meat drawer for weeks and the awful cauliflower-something dish that no one else would eat. Nevertheless, it would seem a bit more detestable if I only treated myself alone and made my family eat the stuff growing hair in the back of the fridge.
When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty. – Malachi 1:8
Now to frame these choices into a different context. Is this the way we are treating our relationship with God? Are we giving him the leftovers, the surplus of our pantry, or the rejects of our storehouse? Is there an allotted time that you are giving God each day for prayer? Or do you pray when you have time. Or if you get up early. Or when you’re in the car alone. Are you only tithing what you have left after you pay your bills? And that is only if there is anything left. Or maybe not this month because things are tight. Are you filling the church with single-ply toilet paper when you have triple-ply at your house? Or bringing your recipe-gone-wrong to the potluck? Or going to church only when it’s convenient to your and your kids schedule? Or donating things because you didn’t like the style anyways? If you answered yes to any of these, what you are giving God is going to require a sniff and stir test; your offering may be lame. Your discipleship is growing mold and diseased. When we are talking about God, we give him the firstfruits. The unblemished. Simply the best we have (which still is the equivalent to nothing) but it is fragrant to God and His desires. He acknowledges the sacrifice when we bring it with a merciful heart. He sees the effort we are making to have a relationship with Him. Our offering is not animals or crops, it is our time, our effort, or energy, our money, and our stuff.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:32
God didn’t skimp on salvation. He didn’t provide someone who was expendable. He didn’t choose someone who was already terminally ill. He didn’t choose a criminal. He picked the firstfruits, or as Colossians 1 says the firstborn of all creation, meaning before it all, God had already set aside the sacrifice of His son for our sins. He picked the best. The only man unblemished by the disease of sin. This is our example of what sacrifice should look like. Even though we don’t live in the age of sacrifice, giving first, going without, but most importantly showcasing with our very best effort our desire for God is still a beautiful way to show our love for Him and our request to receive the magnificence of his mercies. He doesn’t require our sacrifice, but he desires our worship.
“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
On a final note, the best of God’s plan is yet to come. The richness in store for us is beyond anything we would do without now. Again and again, as you read the blueprints of the Kingdom in Revelation 21, you will be blown away by the preparations God has made. The God outside of time has taken all of His time to make something beyond all fathom, wealth, and existence. Wow! Consequently, when your sacrifice is from the healthiest choice, you are going to miss some fun. You will have to wake up early or stay up late. You will have to do without some luxuries, or even believed necessities. There is still a greater inherent blessing from knowing, serving, and honoring God in the reheated stuff that this life is made of in a corrupt, sinful world. But God…Oh, how God! He is pouring His very best into what is to come.
Sheep are notorious for two things. Being stupid and being easily spooked. It is no wonder the scriptures use the comparison of sheep to the followers of Christ. As a group, we have faith and access to God, yet it is often our last resort instead of our first instinct. Additionally, when things start getting tough and someone flexes in our direction, we often are reduced to a cower. We may make the excuse that we are acting in a spirit of gentleness or turning the other cheek, but the truth is most of the time we are wonted weenies. How many people stood against Goliath? How many men stood in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace? How many apostles were at the crucifixion of Jesus? If you’re keeping count, all the answers fit on to a single hand. We may have faith that triumphs over personal hardships, we may be able to pray for tough changes, or we may be able to move towards a difficult calling, but when a real, visible enemy comes, we often let out a bleat, tuck tail, and run with the flock.
Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the Lord Almighty. Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones. In the whole land,” declares the Lord, two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people, and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’” Zech 13:7-9
Zecheriah, Matthew, and John all allude that the tribulation will be a tough time to be on this planet, but even more so for those who call themselves a follower of Christ. There will not only be an uptick in geological and astronomical superevents, but Christian all over the world will be truly persecuted – no, not the butt of some late night TV joke – meaning it will be challenging to keep both your faith and your life at the same time. It is too easy to say that we will not fall away or forsake our beliefs in this ever-coming-closer moment in history. Peter said he never-ever would fall away; Jesus tells him he won’t even make it 24 hours from speaking these words (Matt 26:33-34). Fortunately, for Peter and for us, there is an opportunity to amend our mistakes, our denials, and our flight. According to church tradition, and alluded to in the prophecy of Jesus (John 21:18-19), Peter is crucified for sharing the Good News.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” – Matt 24:9
Like Peter, and so many others, we may have had weak moments and scattered the flock. We may have diminished our faith in front of others, so we could be more accepted or avoid a consequence. We are weak. We need to pump some iron with the Word of God. Let his Holy Spirit spot you (or really do the heavy lifting). We need to train harder because standing up for our faith WILL NOT get easier. We want to be like David, Esther, Stephen, Joseph, Mary, and so many more whose faith were purified with persecution. Our time to be refined in the fire is coming, whether or not we live long enough to see the Great Tribulation. How do we make sure we are prepared for this moment? Here is a small list of verses that can speak to us, to help us plant our feet and hold firm, today or any other, so when the fire comes and the dross is removed, there remains the precious things that we cling to with our faith: Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,”declares the Lord. – Isaiah 54:17
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. – Hebrew 11:7-10
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. – 2 Timothy 1:6-8
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? – Psalms 56:3-4
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:25-26
As someone in their mid 30’s who still lives the vast majority of their life like their 13, it’s kind of weird to think my wife and I have assets and savings. Banking. Bonds. Portfolios. Pensions. That’s all stuff for adults. I can’t even match my socks. Yet, here I am, meeting with a retirement counselor and occasionally checking in on the stock market. As much as both my wife and I love our work, we realize that we don’t want to do it forever. Each month, a chunk of pay goes into a couple different accounts meant for use a quarter century from now. Lord willing, if we both make it. Check with us in 25 years.
We are reminded in Proverbs that it is a fool who doesn’t think about the future (Prov: 6:6-8). Yay. Point for me. But should I, as a Christian, have money in my savings account when I could be giving it charitably? Do I really need to put aside money for the future if God is going to take care of me? Hmm. God gives all, and tells you to save for rainy days, so He will give you something to save for a rainy day. Honestly, I’m not sure. What I do know is saving is an important discipline, especially with the consideration of tithing, but we are reminded by Jesus that we can get carried away with accumulating things, hoarding our wealth, our assets, and collections (Matt 6:19-24; Mark 10:17-27) and be led down not only a distracting path, but a divisive contrast to the life that pursues God that leads to destruction. If you must err on a side as you pursue God’s answer for this, it would be to give more, and save less. See the sparrows and the rich young ruler.
Unfortunately, or honestly, more fortunately, you will not receive any long term financial advice from me because I can’t even be counted on to keep cash in my pocket without losing it. The virtuous woman in my house is responsible for all of our rainy day savings. Although still not fully qualified, I would like to take a moment to focus on the savings that occur in today’s reading. As we all know, weddings can be very expensive affairs and often are the culmination of many years worth of saving. Keep this in mind when you begin to read about the marriage supper of the Lamb. God has been “saving” for the wedding of Jesus and the Church since the foundations of the world. Imagine how elaborate this celebration will be, when God begins to tap into his reserves for sons and daughters. This is a nest egg far beyond our imagination.
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns! Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. – Revelation 19:6b-7
Investing in a single company, bond, or stock is a foolish idea, that’s Finance 101 and some wisdom for earthly investments. However, for treasures that await in heaven to become sight on earth, you can’t diversify. You must be sold out in your devotion to the Savior (Matt 16:24-26). That means you must begin reducing and selling off your other investments of your time, your mind, your energy, and your heart. If you must bank, first, bank of the hope of Jesus Christ. If you must save, first, let it be for others in the telling of the Gospel message. If you retire, first, let it be in the peace that comes from this saving knowledge. The pension that comes from a lifetime of devotion to God is far greater than we could ever imagine and earned through our faith in a single truth: Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God and Father, given as propitiation for our sin, and He is coming again to establish God’s kingdom. Wholly invest in this.
The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. – Zechariah 9:16
It was roughly two and a half years ago when I sat down at a Walmart because I wasn’t feeling particularly well. My seat – the automated blood pressure cuff, because I felt like I needed to get a reading. I felt tense, short of breath, and was sweating for no particular reason. My suspicions were confirmed when my blood pressure came up 160-something, over 100-something. Yikes! My wife was pregnant with twins at this point, and as a soon-to-be-dad, the mental, physical, and emotional stress hadn’t even really started. With a history of heart issues running through my family tree, I thought, if my blood pressure is this high now, how am I going to be able to play with my kids? I knew something had to change. I made a few changes to my diet, but mostly, I began to exercise to get rid of extra poundage that was contributing to the toll I was placing on my body.
The super-short version of the story is YAY! My blood pressure is normal, I play with my kids, and I’m down about 50 pounds. Running (a lot) is now part of my weekly routine. But now that I’m where I want to be with my health, I am finding that exercise can simply be exercise. A repeated motion, causing a bit of sweat, but sometimes to no real purpose. If I run 40 laps around the track, I will start and end in the same place. Nothing achieved. I can celebrate the fact that I can snag an extra donut on Teacher Appreciation Day, or score, a McDonalds breakfast (I didn’t say my blood pressure was great, just normal) without the guilt, or eat eight desserts at Thanksgiving (sad, but true), but I’m not really going anywhere. I am in maintenance mode, like those awaiting a second temple here in Zechariah.
“Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? – Zechariah 7:5-6
Now, before I move any further, it needs to be said I am healthier because I run. Spiritual disciplines are not unlike this. These routines are important, and even more, necessary. Prayer, worship, and reading God’s Word should be part of your to-dos every. single. day. BUT what those items shouldn’t be are chores sandwiched between taking the trash out to the curb and picking up the milk. Are you doing these things because you want to draw into a closer relationship with God? OR are you doing these things because you are doing these things. I mean, how did you get here to read this blog today? Is it part of your exercise or your routine? If so, is it because you desire more about your loving God and his calling on your life? Or do you use it as a means to build credit in the God bank so you can have the extra donut, or eighth desserts? It’s tough. Right? Live for a moment outside of the routine. Today, start exercising less and engaging more. Throw out the score card because God already has you beat. Enter into the purpose of what you are doing, seek Him, and draw nearer to His Spirit. Find a way to share His justice, His mercy, and His many compassions because you are compelled to show the love of God, not simply run to the next item on your list.
This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ – Zechariah 7:9-10
The eternal feasting from Thanksgiving to Christmas has begun to catch up with me (it’s not just you, promise). This pre-New Year’s week (and it’s bloating) is often cited by many as their week of revelation and insight into the preparations of what they might change in the upcoming year. While any time – month, day, or hour – is welcome to change, this week I will be focusing on some resolutions presented to us in the continued reading in the prophecy of Zecheriah, the Revelation of John, and the beginnings of Matthew. While many of the passages are filled with prophetic, symbolic, end-time images, I will try to remain focused on the big picture: the message or warning presented in the passages. Our eyes should be open, our ears listening, and our spirit attune to the world around us, not only because we become reflective as our year draws to an end, but because the drum roll quickens towards the end of this present evil age. We should hasten our efforts, not to simply shed a few holiday pounds, start a new hobby, or get organized, but to make changes and to carry on efforts that will make lasting impacts in the Kingdom of God.
Speaking of eternal things, did you know, Kool-Aid, when stored properly, really doesn’t expire? It is a seemingly innocent drink, yet there is a crushing idiom out there beckoning people not to partake in the consumption of this perpetual potion: You might hear an older generation say, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid ”. This expression actually means don’t believe everything you hear, especially because it presents a very real threat. It might seem that the origins of this phrase refer to the high sugar content, the unnatural color, or the artificial flavor of the name brand fruit drink of childhood and beyond. It is true, there isn’t much wholesome about this drink (sorry, grape. I still love you tho); however, this isn’t where our figurative turn of phrase is born. Instead, the origin is far more tragic than the attack on our blood-sugar. The notorious event is referred to as the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, where hundreds of innocent men, women, and children died by drinking, or being forcibly injected, with a combination of Flavor-Aid and poison. This presents a more tragic history behind the coinage, but draws a parallel to today’s reading in both Zechariah and Revelation. The words below remind me that there is a great coming (or even present) evil, or a more perilous and poisoned Kool-aid that is brewing and being passed as legitimate name-brand Gospel.
“I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.” – Revelation 17:6
The prostitute on the beast paints an ironically sobering picture, becoming intoxicated on the blood of saints and lying with the kings of the earth. Those who take part in this great debauchery against God, may do so willingly, but it seems many do so unwittingly, astonished and deceived by the spectacles of ungodly power (v.8) . There will be those who are not in the Lamb’s Book of Life who attend churches, have ministries, and even blog about Christ, but give-in to tinted truths, sweet lies, and god-like power, because it is a more “palatable” gospel, requiring less real change and more gratification. The love, justice, mercy that take root in another source other than our Heavenly Father, may look pretty, taste sweet, and have some of the same notes, but it is filled with poison. It will never quench your thirst. It is just empty calories leading you closer to death. Stop the endless following, swiping, and double-tapping – look up. Turn off the continuous bombardment of the news cycle – look up. Quit chasing after causes that don’t lead to the saving Gospel message of Christ – look up. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
Now, this begs the question, what then should we drink? Coffee! Wrong. Tea? Still wrong. Soda? Getting colder. Simply, water. No beans, no leaves, no syrup, no colors, no nonsense straight-from-the-tap water. It is what your body is craving, essential to every major function in your body, beginning at the cellular level. Among many other things, water aids in digestion, stabilizes the heart, regulates blood pressure, flushes away the toxins, and provides protection to the day-to-day function of our organs and joints. Such is true for our Living Water, the Gospel message and the Spirit of God present in our daily walk.
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14
“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” – John 7:37-39
While there is a metaphor to be drawn for each of these literal benefits, there is an inherent advantage, understood or not, from consuming water. Yes, we are trying to flush away perpetuated falsehoods, but drinking living water in and of itself is simply refreshing. Make time for God’s Word. Worship Him in your car. Honor Him with your time. Live out the Gospel through actions and bear the testimony of Jesus Christ. Resolve to fill your tumbler and carry it wherever you go because there are so many ready to make the switch from the Kool-Aid to the quenching Living Water.
If you’ve ever needed an incentive to remain obedient to God, read about the 7 bowls of God’s wrath as recorded in Revelation 16 – if a stick motivates you.
Bowl 1. Revelation 16:2, “The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.
This is a good reason not to worship the beast, better known as the antichrist. But it gets better…
Bowl 2. The sea turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.
Bowl 3. The rivers and springs of water turned to blood.
Bowl 4. People were seared by the intense heat of the sun, which grew very hot.
Bowl 5. Darkness, and men gnawed their tongues in agony.
Bowl 6. Demons gathered the kings of the earth for the war of Armageddon.
Bowl 7. An earthquake more devastating than any since man has been on the earth. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky, huge hailstones of about 100 pounds each fell upon men.
This should give us the incentive to remain faithful to God in the midst of persecution from the antichrist. But we can’t endure alone, we will need God’s help. This brings us to a promise in Zechariah 4:6, also in today’s reading, which says, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”
We need to be completely dedicated to living wholeheartedly for God. And when tough times come, He will give us the strength to endure, with the power of His Holy Spirit.
Personally, I’m more of a carrot kind of guy. So I look more at the promises of Revelation 21:4, which says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
So whether you’re motivated by a carrot or by a stick, the important thing is to be completely dedicated to living wholeheartedly for God today. Once the tough times come, it will be really hard to start serving Him then.
Even though Revelation 14 was part of yesterday’s reading, I waited to comment on it until today so we could contrast the fate of those who submit to the antichrist from Revelation 14 with the fate of those who resist the antichrist in Revelation 15.
Rev 14: 9-12 tells us, “…If anyone worships the beast [the antichrist] and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name. This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”
In a nutshell, no matter how bad it will get for Christians, including being martyred for their faithfulness to Jesus, the punishment for the wicked will be infinitely worse. This will call for patience and endurance on the part of Christians – when given the choice between “the good life” of following the antichrist, or torture and death for remaining faithful to Jesus.
By contrast, we read in Revelation 15:2-3, “And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.””
Every one of us has a choice to make. Usually these choices are in little things – would God approve of this or that that I’m doing? As we consistently choose to live for God, it gets easier to make the right choices. Eventually, making the right choices will be really tough. If we don’t develop the discipline now, we’ll never be able to endure when times get tough.
This reminds me of Moses’ challenge to the Israelites just before his death, as recorded in Deuteronomy 30:15, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”
The book of Haggai records events that took place in 520 B.C. The foundation of the temple had been laid in 536 B.C. (Ezra 3:8-13), but building stopped because of opposition. In Haggai 1:2, we see that people were making excuses, “The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.” The people themselves were living in fine houses, but just hadn’t gotten around to building God’s temple. Their priorities were wrong.
God pointed out that He had been undermining the people’s prosperity because they hadn’t made God a priority. Haggai 1:6 tells us, “You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
Once confronted with this, the people obeyed God and began to work on the temple. The word of the Lord came to Haggai again in chapter 2, where God told Haggai in 2:9, “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house, says the Lord Almighty…”
Interesting. When Solomon’s temple was dedicated, fire fell from heaven to consume the offering, and God’s shekinah glory appeared so the priests couldn’t enter the temple. The ark of the covenant, the representation of God on earth had been there. But in this new temple, there was no ark of the covenant, no urim or thumim, no fire from heaven, no shekinah glory. So how would this new temple have greater glory than Solomon’s magnificent temple, you may ask. Here’s how: Over 500 years later, Jesus taught in this new Temple.
Further, God promised that starting on that very day, God was going to bless them because of putting one stone on another. In Haggai 2:19, we read, “From this day on I will bless you.” Because they were finally putting God first in their lives.
How are things going for you? Does it seem that you’re working harder and harder, but getting farther and farther behind? Does it seem like your wages go into purses with holes in them? Could it be that you have prioritized enjoying the good life for yourself, but haven’t made serving God the priority you should? Only you can answer these questions.
If this is true for you, I challenge you to rededicate your life to serving God wholeheartedly. He will certainly bless your commitment to Him. Maybe even materially. But ultimately, you will gain a far greater reward – eternal life.
I’m reminded of Joshua 24:15, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”