Questions and Answers – Monday July 30, 2018

Yesterday morning I ended the service with a time of corporate prayer; asking for God’s help in our mission and in our finances.  I will return to the topic of prayer, but first, because of that prayer time I neglected the post-message Q&A on Revelation Chapter 7 (#truthwgrace).

Question #1: Why are the 144,000 relevant? Why are they mentioned? Why do they matter?

We can only speculate on why God chooses to seal 12 x 12,000 – He seems to hold “12” as a very significant number when it comes to people, but if scripture ever declares why He does so, I’m not aware of it.  As far as the Jews playing a significant role in the Tribulation; I would say that it’s because it really is all about them (Daniel 9:26-27; Jeremiah 30:7).  I would also submit that these 144,000 Jews are finally going to get to do what Israel was always supposed to do: “be a light for the whole world.”  Starting with God’s covenant with Abraham and ending with Paul’s plea in Romans 15 – Israel was always supposed to be instrumental in bringing the Gentiles into a relationship with God.  Finally, I would submit that God is keeping His covenant with Israel (Romans 11:28-36) by bringing them back into Gospel preaching prominence.

Question #2 Who are the Elders referenced in v. 11? And who are the four living creatures?

I believe the Elders are human – not angels; angels don’t wear crowns – and I believe that the 24 are made up of the 12 sons of Jacob and the 12 Apostles.  I believe that the four living creatures (described in much more detail in chapter 4) are the Seraphim of Isaiah 6 that Isaiah saw as God’s heavenly attendants.  I believe that they are so overwhelmingly super-human, that John could only call them “creatures.”

Getting back to prayer – maybe Peter said it best….

casting cares

The Refiner’s Fire

smithy3Last week my wife and I, along with several of our adult children, went to Arizona to witness the wedding of my niece.  While on that trip there were several occasions where references would come up that I thought were common knowledge, but had happened well before the time of the 20-somethings we were with (and we don’t even need to mention how often I was unaware of something that was common knowledge to them).  That got me thinking of old illustrations that I think everyone has heard, but that may not have ever been heard by the young adults among us.

Additionally, with regard to this particular illustration, it occurs to me that it means more to me now (having recently suffered physical illness and currently suffering some financial stresses) than it did to me when my own life seemed really rosy.  So take some time to read and mediate on Malachi 3:3 and on this illustration.  It will either serve as preparation or comfort; hopefully both!

There was a group of women in a Bible study on the book of Malachi.  As they were studying chapter three they came across verse three which says, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” This verse puzzled the women and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.

One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study. That week the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that, in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot – then she thought again about the verse, that He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. For if the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”  He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s the easy part — when I see my image reflected in it.”

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep His hand on you and watch over you until He sees His image in you.

Ears, Noses, & Knees – July 6, 2018

Thanks to WOGF for sending Kelly and me (along with 7 friends) to see John and Amber in Papua New Guinea!   My head is filled with great memories and lots of sermon illustrations.  I was struck over and over by the ceaseless imagination of our God in both His creation and in getting His redemptive message out!  I was especially struck by how many people it takes to get His written Word into the hands of an illiterate tribe with an unwritten language.    We met with one missionary couple who had been on the field for 27 years.  They hiked into the Sambari tribe in 1991 with small children and now their children are married and here in the states….  Lots of work and lots of help from people all over the world!

The Bible is almost complete in the Sambari Tribe – but how much longer would it have taken without pilots and planes; without printers and computers, without health care providers or school teachers, without administrators and financial people?  When we think of missionaries or any other Gospel ministry we think of the person on the front lines or the person with the microphone; but that Bible Translator, Church Planter, or gifted preacher can’t do what God has called them to do unless all of the other spokes in the wheel do what God has called them to do!

It’s the message of 1 Corinthians 12 – but it becomes especially clear when one considers a young woman called from South Dakota to be the High School secretary in a mission’s school at Lapilo, PNG or the young man from Bern Switzerland who keeps computers running in that same center where electricity is intermittent and phone lines are frequently sabotaged – all so that the translators and church planters can complete their work.

It was inspiring on many levels, but the most profound question it begs is;

“Am I wholeheartedly fulfilling the role to which God has called me, right now?”