Posts Tagged With: control

Revelation 20: The Inevitable End of Evil

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What an incredible chapter!  But do we see the amazing, hope-filled news of this chapter or do we , like too many Christians, miss the forest for the trees?

Too often people’s views on Revelation are grouped according to the position one takes on the thousand years (or millennium) mentioned in this passage.  That is a shame, because this is the only passage in the entire Bible where a thousand-year period of spiritual significance is mentioned.  We are doing great injustice to this great book to make a passage that is singular and unclear at best the keystone by which we interpret the entire book. I refuse to do that here.  I will not deny that this passage is enigmatic (I suspect this is a symbolic period of time as numbers in Revelation are rarely literal, and a special “resurrection” of some sort for the martyrs killed under Roman persecution, not an historical period coming to all who are alive at the time), but we need to keep the main point in view.

This is the big scene in the whole drama.  Everything has been building to this point.  Last chapter, we saw the beast and the false prophet (the physical manifestations of evil in the life of the first recipients of this book) cast almost effortlessly into the lake of never-ending fire.  Now all that stands in the way of God’s great kingdom is Satan and his henchmen Death and Hades.  Satan is bound then loosed, then a military build-up takes place against God’s people almost as if to heighten the tension.  But then, as quick as it started, judgment is over.  God simply decrees the destruction of Evil and it is so.

Then fire came down and burned them up. (20:9)

Maybe that is the point.  God is in control.  There is sound and fury, but it signifies nothing.  When God decides to bring all things to an end, it is over.  This is God’s world.

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I have to admit that much of the time that is not how I see it.  And I would imagine the original readers of Revelation struggled to see it that way too.  But that is the incredible good news of Revelation: Even when it is hard to believe it, God is truly in control of all things.  We are on the winning side.

What caught your attention?

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John 7: Law or Life?

“Look here,” replied Jesus.  “I did one single thing, and you all were amazed.  Moses commanded you to practice circumcision . . . and you circumcise a man on the sabbath.  Well, then, if a man receives circumcision on the sabbath, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, how can you be angry with me if I make an entire man healthy on the sabbath?” (7:21-23)

Let’s remember something: the Pharisees were the religious ones in Jesus’ world.  And, yet, they are the ones who had the hardest time accepting Jesus.  For them, everything came down to the Law.  There are ways to go about the work of God.  There are forms and patterns.  There are boundaries and limits.  All of these laws ensure that life happens in the most controlled manner, and order brings blessing.

Yet, one can become so controlled by Law that the point of the Law is missed.  Order becomes more important than blessing.  The point of Law is to bring Life, but this can easily be forgotten when we make Law the point itself.

This is where the Pharisees had allowed themselves to get to.  Their glorification of the Law was now the point.  All that matters in a legal conundrum like whether sabbath or circumcision trumps the other is which law is more important.

Jesus tells them they have missed the point entirely.  The point is Life.  It is always Life.  Law exists to bring Life, preserve Life, promote Life, and reward Life.  So when our applications of Law stand in the way of Life, we have missed the point.

What do you think?

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Philippians 4: Pray In All Situations

Contentment does not mean we do not have needs.  Of course, we will still be in need.  Later in chapter 4 Paul talks about being in need and how the Philippians provided for him at that time.  Contentment can remain even when we are not comfortable with what we have and the situation we are in.

Paul gives us one more secret for how that is possible:

Don’t worry about anything.  Rather, in every area of life let God know what you want, as you pray and make requests, and give thanks as well.  And God’s peace, which is greater than we can ever understand, will keep guard over our hearts and minds in King Jesus. (4:6-7)

Secret to Contentment #4:  Pray!  Pray fervently!  Pray all the time, in any situation!  Say what is on your mind.  Ask for what you need.  Thank Him for what He has already done.  Surrender to God’s will.  Express your willingness to trust Him.  As we remember what God has done for us in the past, prayer helps contentment to become real and solidifying our hearts.

What have we learned about contentment from Philippians?

There is a way past anxiety and on to contentment and joy in all situations.  It is not by eliminating need as if that were possible.  It is not by attaining all we want and fulfilling all we desire; when do we ever reach that point?  As we fix our focus past this present world and on to the rewards and reality of the world to come, as we face realistically our needs and give those to God in prayer, as we become oriented more towards serving others than ourselves, we can be rest assured that God is in control of all things and our futures will be okay.  Paul never promises a life without struggle or a life filled only with blessings — remember where he was when he was writing this letter — but Paul is sure of this:

I have strength for everything in the one who gives me power. (4:13)

What have YOU learned?

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Philippians 1: God Is in Control

Many of us live lives full of anxiety and insecurity.  This only leads to a loss of joy and contentment.  In 4:11 Paul claims to have learned how to be content no matter the circumstances.

There is much to consider in Philippians and any of it would be interesting and worthwhile.  However, as we read through each chapter, I have chosen each day to concentrate on Paul’s secrets to a life of contentment and joy.

 

Paul begins his book with great confidence in the future of the Philippians:

Of this I’m convinced: the one who began a good work in you will thoroughly complete it by the day of King Jesus. (1:6)

He has also been able to see how God has used his imprisonment to “help the gospel on it’s way” and to bring “new confidence to most of the Lord’s family” (1:12-14).

Though Paul desired for his own sake to go to be with God, he was able to be content with however long he lived because it meant he still had chances to benefit others in the Lord (1:21-27).

In the point that may be most astounding to me in this chapter, Paul is able to rejoice even in the preaching of false teachers seeking only power and money because at least the good news about Jesus is being spread (1:18).  That’s a new way to view the Jim Bakkers and Ted Haggards that make Christianity seem so corrupt.

Secret To Contentment #1:  Anchor your confidence in God’s ability to orchestrate the future in the way He knows is best rather than your own ability and foresight, and joy and peace can be much more constant.  God is in control and it’s going to be okay.

What did you learn today?

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Romans 9: Who Is The Potter and Who Is The Clay?

Control freak!

There are a lot of us out there.  We like things a certain way.  It’s not so much that we are selfish and must have it our way, it’s more so that we are more comfortable when things go our way.  Life is more predictable.  Control freaks don’t like surprises.

On the other hand, control freaks really like performance-based systems.  Do something and get a predictable result.  One can know how they will be judged, so there are no surprises.  Performance-based systems like religious laws and customs because they bring, well, control.

The problem, though, is that we are not in control of the big matters of life, things like salvation, election, destiny, and calling.  Nor were the Roman Christians.  This was not their church, it was Christ’s.  They were not the ones who call people out of darkness, God is.  They were not the gatekeepers of the Kingdom, Jesus is.


To say it a different way, Paul reminds them that they are only clay in the hands of the Potter.  He will do what He will.

Who can stand against his purpose?  Are you, a mere human being, going to answer God back?  Surely the clay won’t say to the potter, “Why did you make me like this?”  Doesn’t the potter have authority over the clay? (9:19b-21a)

So the Potter has chosen to include Gentiles with their different way of life in this previously homogeneously Jewish Church.  That is God’s right.  It is up to us to accept and adapt.

We today should probably ask ourselves who the Gentiles of our world are. Who is God bringing into our churches or at least into relationship with Him even though they don’t fit our mold?  Are we trying to tell the Potter He can’t do things like that?

What do you think?

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James 4: Give God Control

I am a recovering control freak, and sometimes the recovery is put on hold.  That is why this chapter really hit home with me today, and not always comfortably.

Where do wars come from?  Why do people among you fight?  It all comes from within, doesn’t it — from your desires for pleasure which make war in your members?  You want something and you haven’t got it, so you murder someone.  You long to possess something but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war. (4:1-2a)

James claims that the root of conflict is a desire to have something.  He mentions murder and maybe in his time that was more prevalent than it is today. We definitely do have people who will take others’ lives for money, a car, drugs, an inheritance, or even pleasure, but that is not the norm.

But are we willing to “kill” a person’s reputation, image or authority so as to advance our own?  Are we willing to take away a person’s freedom so as to get our own way?  These are much more real temptations in our culture, and what drives these?  Maybe a desire for control over our life?

James gives the answer in the next sentence:

The reason you don’t have it is because you don’t ask for it! (4:2b)

James encourages us to simply ask for what we truly need and trust God to supply what is best.  Of course, God has no interest in meeting our selfish desires (4:3), still we might find that some of the conflict in our life is removed if we are willing to trust God to provide for us instead of using our own force and control to make a way.  Trust is hard for a control freak, but it is the path to recovery.

Later in the chapter James returns to remind those of us who like to plan out every detail of our life that we simply do not have that much control.

Now look here, you people who say, “Today or tomorrow, we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, and trade, and make money.” You have no idea what the next day will bring. (4:13-14a)

The issue is certainly not planning or even an enterprising spirit.  Again, the issue is control and the pride that comes from it (4:16).  The ugly side of control is the temptation it brings to think we are our own gods.  And God loves us too much and longs too jealously for our souls to let us becomes His enemies (4:4-5).  Lord, help us to trust.

What verse spoke to you in this chapter?

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