Thursday
Jul302015

Redeeming judgment

Explore the Bible
August 16, 2014

Gerald Nash
Conway

Revelation 9:1-12

There are things you see and hear that immediately strike fear in the core of your being. I have witnessed firsthand horrific vehicle accidents, plane crashes and railroad accidents. As a health care worker, I have become a little desensitized to the initial shock. I still have a certain level of fear. What causes me the greatest fear are those words “unknown contagion.” Things like SARS and Ebola can create a great sense of fear.

Revelation 9:1–12 describes a very haunting scene. An angel comes down from heaven and opens the pit. Smoke rises from the pit and darkens the sky. A swarm of demonic locusts arises from the bottomless pit and inflicts judgment on the unrepentant. One of the first things I notice in the Book of Revelation is that man’s rebellion against God gets progressively worse and so do these judgments.

Notice the appearance of these locusts. John uses the word “like” to help his readers understand that he is making a comparison to things he knows. These creatures are so grotesque. They look like mighty warhorses decorated for battle with iron breastplates and teeth like a lion. They have long, flowing hair with gold crowns on their heads. The flapping of their wings causes a deafening noise.

They are sent with the power of scorpions to sting and inflict pain but not to kill. They cannot harm those whom God has sealed, nor harm nature. They will be active for only five months. They will cause such intense pain that people will want to die and cannot. It is usually our nature to want to live. The locusts attack and inflict pain on people whose hearts are so dark with sin that they would prefer death over repentance.     

This was just the first of three woes. Things are going to get worse. God offers mercy and forgiveness of sin. He desires to see people avoid His coming wrath.

This warning is an invitation to repent and trust in Christ now while there is time.

Thursday
Jul302015

Return to unity

Bible Studies for Life
August 16, 2014

Cindy James
Camden

Acts 4:31-37

The truest and deepest unity we can experience on this earth is the unity in Christ we share with other believers. The early Church in Acts was a great example of this unity.

We unite with others over the strangest things. Consider sports. People in the stands are strangers. But rallied around a favorite team they become family. Your one common interest unites you. The Church takes unity to a different level.

The Church is very diverse, but we come together because of our shared faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a unity grounded in who we are. In the Book of Acts, we see a group of believers who changed the world because they lived in unity.

In Acts 4:1-12, the religious authorities had Peter and John arrested for preaching about Jesus’ resurrection. They boldly spoke of Jesus as the only way to salvation. The rulers demanded that John and Peter never speak of Jesus’ resurrection again, but they could not keep their mouths shut (Acts 4:20).

Later Peter and John were released and told the Church what happened. The believers responded, saying, “Lord, consider their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your message with complete boldness” (Acts 4:29). The early Church faced much persecution, yet they never ran. Instead, they came together.

Acts 4:31-37 says they were “filled with the Holy Spirit,” “were one in heart and mind,” shared everything and testified to Christ’s resurrection.

What united them? Their faith in Christ and desire to spread the gospel. When God’s people unite together, extraordinary things happen. Their unity around the cause of Christ inspires Christians to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). Unity may happen in a moment, but the results last for eternity.

When strangers meet and discover they share a common interest, a quick bond can develop. We crave those kinds of connections. When Christians individually experience a renewed love and unity with Christ, they can’t help but experience a unity with each other.

Thursday
Jul302015

The worthy Lamb

Explore the Bible
August 9, 2014

Gerald Nash
Conway

Revelation 5:1-14

Revelation 5 continues John’s spectacular vision in heaven’s throne room. John’s attention is drawn to the throne where God Almighty sits with a scroll in His right hand. As a paleography and codicology student and enthusiast, I find this chapter so fascinating because John describes a scroll unlike any that I will ever get to view and study.

The scroll is in the right hand of God. The right hand is significant in that it symbolizes the place of authority.

This scroll contains God’s authority. The writing on both the front and back signifies that it is full and complete. Seals always symbolize the authenticity and authority behind the scroll. This scroll is exceptional with seven seals affixed to it, preventing the further unrolling of the scroll. The contents, which lie hidden beneath the seven seals, will be opened one-by-one as God has determined. This seven sealed scroll cannot be open by just anyone.

It is asked,“Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” (Rev. 5:2). There was no one in heaven or on earth who was worthy to open it. John is overcome with emotion and begins to weep (Rev. 5:4).

Perhaps John thought the righteous would not be vindicated and the wicked would go unpunished. As long as this scroll remained sealed there would be no hope for the churches in Asia Minor.

One of the elders told John to stop crying. Why? Because there is One who is worthy, “The Lion from the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5). When John looks to see the Lion, he sees “One like a slaughtered Lamb” (Rev. 5:6). The Lion and the Lamb converge. The Lamb became the conquering Lion through suffering and death (Rev. 5:9). John witnesses the Lamb taking the scroll from the hand of God the Father. The scene moves from agony to adoration as the worshippers in heaven sing a new song. The new song celebrates the redemptive work of the Son as the basis of His right to judge.

Thursday
Jul302015

Return to God’s Word

Bible Studies for Life
August 9, 2014

Cindy James
Camden

Nehemiah 8:1-8

It is not surprising that Nehemiah 8 opens with a manifestation of a great hunger for the Word among the people of Jerusalem. Notice that this seems to be a spontaneous gathering.  

People were hungry for answers to their problems and guidelines from the Word of God, and with one accord, they gathered in this great square before the Water Gate (Neh. 8:1). They asked Ezra, the priest, to read the Law of the Lord to them. They listened, while standing, from daybreak until noon (Neh. 8:3)!

Certainly, this long attention indicates how deeply they were aware of their ignorance about life and how much they needed answers from God. They were simply crying out for the Word. It would be accurate to call it a revival or a time of spiritual renewal. At the center of this revival was the exposition of Scripture.

Our text teaches us that a strong emphasis on God’s Word is a primary mark of spiritual renewal. Revival ensues when God’s Word is read and obeyed.

God could have communicated with us in some form other than writing, but He chose to put it in written from.

We live in a culture where almost all of us know how to read or can readily learn. We have multiple translations of the Bible in our language, and yet many of us find other things to do instead of reading and studying the words that God has given us in the Bible.

I’ve always wanted my boys to cherish God’s Word, to make sure they have a copy of this grand Book. Memories are flooding my mind of their small hands clutching their little blue New Testaments headed to the nursery. I want to have a desire to read and reread the Bible all the days of my life. If we want spiritual renewal, it will come through God’s Word. And it must be read daily and not find a permanent place on our nightstands.

“Lord, create in me a hunger for Your Word. Forgive me for so often taking it for granted.”

Thursday
Jul162015

Glimpse of the throne

Explore the Bible
August 2, 2014

Gerald Nash
Conway

Revelation 4:1-11

Recently, my brother-in-law David passed away. During the funeral message, the pastor explained David was a Christian and was now in heaven.

He made a statement: “If David could speak to you, he would say, ‘If you could see what I am seeing, you would not grieve for me.’”

While we were grieving, David was experiencing the splendor of heaven. I imagined him seeing what John was seeing in the Book of Revelation.

In Revelation 4:1-11, John describes a vision in which he is allowed to have a breathtaking glimpse of heaven’s throne room. This text tells us three things that John was privilege to see.

First, he saw God in all His glory (Rev. 4:1-6a). Man has always wanted to see the face of God (Psa. 27:8–9). The Apostle Paul was allowed to go to heaven but was forbidden to speak about it (2 Cor. 12:1–9). Moses wanted to look upon God but was only allowed to see His back as He passed by (Ex. 33:20–23). The disciples looked upon Jesus, but they were seeing His humanity. John is directly seeing God on His throne in His divine essence (Rev. 4:2).

John also saw God’s holiness. John saw four living creatures as they continuously proclaimed God’s holiness: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming” (Rev. 4:8). These creatures performed a continuous act of worship.

John also saw God’s power (Rev. 4:9–11). God has created everything, and by His will it all exists and is sustained. There was so much suffering and hardship from the Roman authorities. All earthly powers exist by the will of God, and one day they all will acknowledge His lordship (Phil. 2:10–11). In our Christian walk, we need to get a vision of God on the throne of our lives. Our lives need to bring glory to God. The way we live for God needs to be holy acts of worship. As Christians, we need to allow God through the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain us.