Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: keeping focus

A God-promised blessing

The angel has completed John’s tour of the New Jerusalem.  Additionally, the prophetic revelation Jesus has brought to John is coming to a close.

Revelation 22:6-7
Then he
[the angel] said to me, “These words are faithful and true.  The Lord, the God of the holy prophets, has sent His angel to show His servants what must soon take place.”

and then Jesus adds:

“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

In these statements, God’s purpose for giving the entire revelation to John is disclosed.  Do you see it? 

This dialogue must have had a profound effect on John, because he borrows these words to introduce the book of Revelation to his readers:

Revelation 1:1-3
The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave Him to show His servants what must soon take place.  He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, whatever he saw.  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it, because the time is near.

If God takes the time to communicate something to us – it’s worth our attention.

If God repeats himself – then the topic’s importance cannot be understated!

At both ends of Revelation is the encouragement of a blessing from God to those who take hold of the words in this book.  We shouldn’t let our own insecurities keep us from reading through and grabbing a hold of God’s truth found in Revelation.

Think about what we’ve seen from looking at the last two chapters – the many statements of encouragement, learning that justice prevails, learning that there is a reason for suffering, discovering the rewards from God for right-living now, seeing the beauty and grandeur of New Jerusalem, and we had a preview to our final destiny, of humanity partnering with God in eternity future…just to name a few.

If that’s what we’ve discovered in just two chapters, how many more great things await us in the first twenty chapters?

I highly encourage you to read through Revelation.  I doubt anyone has ever said that to you.  However, if I told you I knew of a sure-fire way for you to be blessed by God – I’m pretty sure you’d want to know what it was.  If God says there’s a way to be blessed by Him…will you take Him up on it?

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it…

I suggest that you read Revelation with a pen/paper nearby…and just write down what you learn about God and who He is as you go through the passages.  You don’t have to understand every symbol and every reference.  However, I firmly believe you’ll understand more than you think you will.  If you need to, find a mature Christian to talk through your questions.  If you feel like you’re getting bogged down, just keep looking for observations that reveal who God is in the passage you’re reading.

The book of Revelation contains the things that God wants us to think about now…because the time is near.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Your new family and your new name

Building on what he established last time…that Christ is superior in both name (identity) and message, the author tells his readers:

Hebrews 2:1-3
We must therefore pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away.  For if the [previous] message spoken through angels was legally binding, and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

Greater value requires greater care.  We know this from our own lives – when something is of great value to us, we handle it differently then something we consider common or of low value.

Since Christ’s message is superior to all previous messages, even the ones delivered by angels, we are encouraged to give it the elevated level of attention it deserves.  The previous covenant between God and Israel contained severe punishments for Israel whenever they deviated and disobeyed either individually (they were excluded from the community, some received the death penalty) or disobeyed as a nation (they were inflicted with plagues, experienced military defeat, and even mass deportation from their homeland).  How much more serious will God be when those within the new covenant drift away and treat Christ’s message as something common or of low value?

But Christ’s superior message is more than a contract between two different parties:

Hebrews 2:11
For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father.  That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers

When an adoption occurs, the child enters the family and receives a new last name.  Therefore you share a last name with the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of [God’s] being (Hebrews 1:3).

You now belong to the “Holy” family.  Your brother is Jesus Holy.  As an example, instead of being Ken Clouser, my name has become Ken Holy.

Put your name in there.  Let it sink in.  Try saying it out loud.

How did you feel saying that?

If we paid more careful attention to this, I don’t believe we would drift away.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The best reason for training

Who is the fastest man on the planet?

Depending on which Olympic sport you preferred to watch this past summer, you probably answered Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps.  Both men are incredible athletes and physical specimens that have pushed the limit of what the human body is capable of accomplishing.

Hours upon hours of training went into shaping and sculpting their bodies to bring them into top physical form so they could compete at the highest level.  They gave up many things so they would be physically and mentally prepared to win.

Now some Christian preachers and teachers might be tempted to knock these men for putting all their effort into “the here and now” as opposed to “eternal things”.  But have they really wasted their lives?  Paul gave us the answer in his letter to Timothy when he was warning his protégé about the dangers of false teaching:

1 Timothy 4:7-9
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness, for,

the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.

We’ve come to the third trustworthy saying Paul had for his protégé.  Each one of the pithy statements made a specific point that Timothy needed to remember and accept.

In this saying, Paul wants Timothy to keep in mind the ultimate end of where he spends his efforts during this lifetime.  I find it interesting that Paul doesn’t say that training of the body has “no benefit”; instead, he says it has a limited benefit.  There is a short-term profit to taking care of ourselves; we can make our 80ish years on earth a lot harder –  or a lot easier – depending on the amount of effort we’re willing to spend on training of the body.

I fully expect that how well we took care of our physical bodies to be a stewardship issue with God.  In fact, there are many verses that point out that God made our bodies and that we are responsible for what we do with them (see Psalm 100:3 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). 

However, physical training isn’t the only training we need – and it’s not the most important training we can have, either.  The most beneficial training we can put ourselves through has benefits that go beyond our current circumstances.  Even if I take my physical training to the max and become the next fastest man on the planet…age and/or injury will catch up with me, and I will only hold that title for a short time. 

Our spiritual growth here in the present life on earth carries over into the life to come.  That’s not just a “double benefit”, either.  Paul comparing our 80ish years to an eternity of years.  Realistically, there is no comparison when we’re talking about our return on investment for how we invest in training.

So, has Bolt and Phelps wasted their lives on physical training?  That’s hard to answer from my vantage point.  The answer to that question would boil down to two things – What is their motivation for all their hard work?, and What are they going to do with the platform their hard work created?

I can’t answer those questions for our current living versions of the fastest man on the planet.  However, do I need to be able to answer those questions for my own life.  When God asks me about stewardship of everything He gave me in this life, will I be able to say that I trained for the life to come?

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

How to handle counterfeit beliefs

Do you know how the best-trained money handlers are taught to identify counterfeits? 

Somewhat surprisingly, they do not spend time studying counterfeit money.  Mainly because there’s too many ways to make a fake.  With so many variations out there that are trying to pass off as the real thing, it would be impossible to keep up with all of them.

Instead, they are taught all the security features on real money.  They are quizzed about the features and practice handling the real thing.  The goal is to be so familiar with what is truly valuable that the fake will be easily seen for the worthless paper that it is.

Similarly, Paul wanted Timothy to have his training focused in the right place:

1 Timothy 4:6-8
If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished by the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 

But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths.  Rather train yourself in godliness

The word but always signals a contrast.  When studying God’s Word, if we come across it, then we need to stop and understand the difference being presented.  In our verses above, the word rather works in the same way.

When we step back and look at Paul’s structure here, we see he’s following a “concept-opposite-concept” pattern.  Paul is equating the words of the faith and good teaching Timothy is familiar with and training yourself in godliness.  Paul is also saying that in opposition to these things are irreverent and silly myths.

The myths around the first century church would have been fantasy stories passed off as special histories of Biblical characters.  The false teachers of Paul and Timothy’s day claimed that these stories led to deeper piety and special insights into the background of Bible characters.  But what, exactly, did Paul mean when he referred to them as irreverent and silly?

irreverent – combination of two Greek words that paint the picture of crossing a threshold and this term is repeatedly used in Paul’s letters to Timothy regarding people or subjects that are opposed to God.  Paul would say irreverent topics are those that “cross the line” and are rude or derogatory toward God and his people.

silly – Paul doesn’t mean “cute” silly here, instead he’s referring to what we would call an old wives’ tale – something that people generally believe because it’s comfortable or seems likely, but on closer inspection we find that it’s not really based on anything concrete.

So what are some modern-day irreverent and silly myths that can steal our focus away from the words of faith and good teaching?

Some people believe that dancing, in any form, is a sin.
There are those who say eating or drinking certain foods (like red meat or caffeinated drinks) is sinful.
Others teach that good health always means that God likes you and that you have “enough faith”.
A growing number of Christians prefer feel-good stories to what we find in the Bible.
Every few years, a new “gospel” is discovered and people chase after it, like “The gospel of Thomas” or “The gospel of Judas”
Many authors have taken Biblical names or settings and reinvented them into conspiracy stories or “modern myths”, like The Da Vinci Code or stories of Jesus as a young boy.
And there are many, many more…

How do we avoid being distracted by these irreverent and silly myths?  Paul says we should have nothing to do with them.  They can’t steal our focus if we’re not giving them attention.  Instead, we need to choose to train in godliness, and be nourished by the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.

Keep Pressing,
Ken