God still commands the chaos

Scripture Notes on Revelation 13

And the [first] beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months… Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them… and by the signs that [the second beast] is allowed to work in the presence of the [first] beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.  (Revelation 13:5, 7a, 14-15)

Ungodly authority, violence and conflict, deception and false miracles, persecution, state-sanctioned murder: this is chaos.

As the book of Revelation continues to unfold the unraveling of human society in the end times, it seems like things get darker and darker, worse and worse, and it seems like for the people of God, everything is falling apart.

Does your life ever feel like that?

Yet, even in the midst of such hardship and trial, note the common thread that runs through this entire chapter: “it was allowed.”

We may never understand in this life just why God allows certain things.  We may feel we would do it differently, or wish there would have been an easier way.  As we try to process the hard circumstances of our lives, this is a normal reaction and a natural place to start.  However, it doesn’t have to be the place we finish.

Know this.  No matter how crazy things look down here, God is still in control, watching over your destiny from above.  No matter how dark things appear from your perspective, God is still overseeing and working all things together for your good in Christ.  In the midst of whatever turmoil you may be facing, this is God’s word of hope to you, sent by the Holy Spirit through the prophetic pen of John.

God still commands the chaos.

-Pastor Phillip

Your accuser has no power over you

Scripture Notes on Revelation 12

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.  (Revelation 12:10-11)

War in heaven, the angels of God against the demons of the dragon: different scholars believe different things about when these events will take place and what exactly the images mean.  Yet, nestled in the midst of these descriptions of battle is a word of hope for every believer in Christ.

When Jesus died, His blood was shed on your behalf.  Like a sacrificial Lamb, His death was offered as payment to God the Father for all of your sin.  When Jesus rose, His victory was validated, His triumph secured and His Kingdom authority confirmed.

Now, look at the result of Jesus’ triumphant work on the cross…

“The accuser…has been thrown down…and they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives unto death.”

This means that if you’re in Christ, your sin can no longer be used against you because the prosecutor has been kicked out of court!

If you’re in Christ, your failures have no impact on your membership in God’s family, because your accuser has been thrown down!

If you’re in Christ, then you have no need to wallow or worry, because your guilt and shame now have no effect on your standing before God!

So, stand strong and free today as you trust the finished work of Christ on your behalf.  Don’t let your past sins or present struggles have any power over you, because they have no legal claim to you anymore.

Christian, if you feel the weight of failure and condemnation today, push it aside and be released as you walk in this powerful truth.

Your accuser has no power over you.

-Pastor Phillip

The King and His Kingdom are coming

Scripture Notes on Revelation 11

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”  (Revelation 11:15)

As we look around at our world, we see brokenness and pain.  We see evil and injustice.  We see suffering and sin.

But all these things will soon pass away.

We live in “the time between the times,” when the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated, but not consummated.  The kingdom of this world, of darkness and death, that kingdom is still very much alive and strong… but not forever.

The deepest hope of God’s people is not that somehow humanity will all finally wake up and be nice to each other, but that Jesus will come and complete His Kingdom on earth.

We look to a day that is not yet here, but that is certain.  We look to a coming reality, and it is one that is sure to happen because it has been promised by the only One who has never, ever broken a promise.

No matter how strong the darkness may appear, take heart.  No matter how bad the world seems to get, stand strong!  If you’re in Christ, then you can live boldly and confidently because of this hope-inspiring truth.

The King and His Kingdom are coming.

-Pastor Phillip

Some things are not for us to know

Scripture Notes on Revelation 10

And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.”  (Revelation 10:4)

We could speculate as to what the seven thunders said, but it would be fruitless, because some things are not for us to know.

We could theorize as to why God would reveal so much to us through John yet hold this knowledge back, but it would be pointless, because some things are not for us to know.

We could worry about what we missed and wish we had more answers, but such worry is really worthless, because some things are not for us to know.

What we can do—what we must do—is cultivate the heart and art of humble trust in our heavenly Father.  When we train our hearts to rest in the reality that in Christ, God loves us deeply and will look out for us eternally, we position ourselves for peace.

Why is this so important?  Because life is so complex, and our capacity to understand is so limited. Yet, when we learn to let go of our constant demand for complete explanations, we will be able to truly rest in the goodness of God and the reality of this truth.

Some things are not for us to know.

-Pastor Phillip

God wants to keep His people from true harm

Scripture Notes on Revelation 9

Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.  They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.  (Revelation 9:3-4)

As the world receives an end-times judgment of demonic attack, God gives the order that the only ones who may be harmed are those who are not His children.  So, what happens to those who are His children?

They are protected from the judgment.

Times and seasons of pain are inevitable for all of us, saints and sinners alike.  However, there is a crucial difference between the two.  For sinners, those who haven’t come to Jesus for salvation and forgiveness, their pain is harmful, serving as punishment for their sins in the end.  Yes, often God allows pain to wake us up to our need for salvation, but for those who don’t respond, pain in this life is a reminder that all that awaits them is eternal harm.

Believers, on the other hand, have a much different lot.  Pain in this life is our Refiner’s fire, cleansing and purifying us and drawing us closer to Him.  Not only that, but because a heavenly eternity with Jesus awaits us, we can have hope because we know it will get better.

How can we know this?  Because again and again in Scripture, we see this truth.

God wants to keep His people from true harm.

-Pastor Phillip

Bitterness will kill your soul

Scripture Notes on Revelation 8

The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter. (Revelation 8:10-11)

The imagery of Revelation is powerful and complex, and also multilayered in its application.  Is this a passage about a cataclysmic event that will take place at the time of the end?  Yes.  But can we also find in it a principal for how we live our lives now? Absolutely.

Jesus said that all who come and receive His life will find within them “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)  So, what happens when that spring becomes sour?  What happens when our inner life becomes poisoned with bitterness, unforgiveness, and all their friends?

We die inside.

If Jesus wants to give us water of life, then the enemy of our souls wants to deceive us into letting that source grow bitter.  Don’t give in to him!  Don’t give ground to it!

No matter what steps you need to take or how hard it seems to be, look to Christ and draw on His strength to help you forgive.  Let go of your bitterness and give it to Jesus.  Let go of your hurt and give it to God.  Release them today and receive the fresh water of life instead, because if you don’t, you can be sure of this.

Bitterness will kill your soul.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus is a Savior for all people

(More) Scripture Notes on Revelation 7

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)

God is not an old, gray-haired white man with a beard.  Jesus did not speak to the masses in English.  Yet, if we’re not careful, when we look around at the diversity of the world around us it’s easy to drift into feelings of racial or cultural superiority.

However, the Gospel is not good news just for some people, but for all people.  Forgiveness is not offered only to particular countries, cultures or backgrounds, but to everyone.

This means that nobody is beyond the reach of the Gospel!  Nobody has a background too divergent or a life story to dark for the power of Christ to redeem.

Make no mistake.  God does indeed lovingly choose His children, but we are a diverse family, and everyone everywhere must have the opportunity to hear and respond to the Good News.

So, as you have opportunity to share the message of Christ with others, may you be emboldened by this truth.

Jesus is a Savior for all people.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus is your everlasting comfort

Scripture Notes on Revelation 7

“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  (Revelation 7:17)

Revelation is a book of powerful truth cloaked in mysterious imagery.  Some of its deepest treasures are revealed in a series of contrasts.

For instance, in chapter seven, the panicked reaction of God’s enemies when they see Jesus is “calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Revelation 7:16-17)

Then, after this picture of devastation on those outside of God’s family, the writer John gives us a description of a wonderfully different destiny for all who are in Christ.

After all of the chaos and upheaval of life in the end of days, this is the reward for God’s children.  “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

You see, if you are not in Christ, it doesn’t matter how good your life is now, because Jesus is a wrathful judge.  But, if you are in Christ, then no matter how bad your life may seem here on earth, hang in there, because this is God’s promise to you.

Jesus is your everlasting comfort.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus doesn’t change on you

Scripture Notes on Hebrews 13

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

So often in life, we start a journey of relationship with someone, only to see them change in ways we never expected.

Other times, we put our faith in people to be faithful to us, only to have them change their minds down the line.

Here’s good news, though. Jesus isn’t like that!

When you trust Jesus, you can have confidence because He is perfectly trustworthy. When you put your faith in Him, you can rest easy because He is perfectly faithful.

When Jesus says He loves you, He means it, and that is never going to change! So, let this truth give you greater stability as you trust and follow Him.

Jesus doesn’t change on you.

-Pastor Phillip

God is the avenger of injustice

Scripture Notes on Revelation 6

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.  They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.  (Revelation 6:9-11)

For those who live in comfort, it is hard to imagine what true persecution is like.  A hurtful word or an unkind action from an unbeliever is usually all Christians in the West might suffer for their faith, but it is quite different in much of the rest of the world.

All throughout history and even in modern times, people have been beaten, imprisoned and killed because of their stand for Christ.

Some may ask, “If God is so loving, why does He allow His children to suffer? If God is so good, why does He let His children die? If God is so righteous, why does He ignore injustice?”

He has not forgotten. He is waiting for the fullness of time.

Make no mistake. All sin, all evil, and all injustice will be punished. God has a cup filled with holy and righteous wrath, and it is prepared for all who violate His law and all who harm His people. The only question is, who will drink it?

Do not forget that the glorious truth of the gospel is that Jesus Christ, the only one with no sin of His own to pay for, has offered to drink the cup for all who trust and follow Him!

This means two things. First, if you are in Christ, then the full measure of God’s wrath against your sin has been received by Jesus Christ, and there is no more left for you! Second, when you see or experience injustice and persecution in this life, know that either it will be paid for in full as God’s wrath is poured out on the guilty, or it will have been paid in full upon the cross of Christ.

Either way, when your soul cries out for justice as you see all the evil in the world, you can find peace in this truth.

God is the avenger of injustice.

-Pastor Phillip

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