Scripture Reading: Ezra 7:11-8:14 / Revelation 13:1-18 / Psalm 145:13-21
A promise is a commitment by someone to do or not do something. Politicians make election promises assuring voters of a better future. Employers make promises to provide proper wages and a work environment for their employees. A man and a woman stand before witnesses on their wedding day promising to remain true and faithful to each other until death separates them.
But like they say….promises are made to be broken. Politicians at times have no intention of keeping their promises, employers find they may not be able to keep their promises and more than half of marriages fail to keep their promises. All of us have experienced the disappointment and pain of broken promises.
Broken promises can scar us for life and leave us skeptical of any type of vow, covenant, contract or promise. David makes a statement that the world wrestles with yet believers must embrace, “The Lord is faithful to all his promises, and loving toward all he has made.” (Psalm 145:13)
God, unlike man, keeps His promises because He has the power, ability and authority to fulfill everything that He has promised. The promise that He made in the Garden of Eden was fulfilled through Christ. God pursued sinful man with a loving plan of redemption. He graciously gave man what they did not deserve and mercifully did not give man what they did deserve.
God’s faithful promises were established and fulfilled to Abraham, Moses, Israel, David and a host of others. God proved Himself and fulfilled His promises with the supernatural and miraculous. He still keeps His Word and pursues sinful man with redemptive love. He is faithful to His children as He promises to never leave or forsake them.
Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1789, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” We must add another certainty to the list…God’s promises. The world may scoff at His promises and believers may wrestle with His promises but He remains faithful to keep all of His promises!
Like the song of old declares, “Standing on the promises I cannot fall, listening every moment to the Spirit’s call. Resting in my Savior as my all in all, standing on the promises of God.” Those words need to be dusted off and proclaimed because they are not simply words of a song… they are to be words of faith!
Scripture Reading: Ezra 6:1-7:10 / Revelation 12:1-13:1 / Psalm 145:8-13
“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Rev. 12:11) Dr. S.M. Lockridge’s sermon, The Indescribable Christ, makes this verse come to life….
“He’s entirely sincere, He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. He’s God’s Son. He’s a sinner’s savior. He’s the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s preeminent. He’s the loftiest idea in literature. He’s the highest idea in philosophy. He’s the fundamental truth in theology. He’s the miracle of the age. He’s the only one able to supply all of our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He guards and He guides. He heals the sick and He cleans the lepers.
He forgives sinners, He discharges debtors, He delivers captives, He defends the feeble, He blesses the young, He serves the unfortunate, He regards the aged, He rewards the diligent, He beautifies the meek. Do you know Him? Well, my king is the king of knowledge, He’s the well-spring of wisdom, He’s the doorway of deliverance, He’s the pathway of peace, He’s the roadway of righteousness, He’s the highway of holiness He’s the gateway of glory, He’s the master of the mighty, He’s the captain of the conquerors, He’s the head of the heroes, He’s the leader of the legislators, He’s the overseer of the overcomers, He’s the governor of governors, He’s the prince of princes, He’s the king of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
His life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Well. I wish I could describe Him to you. But He’s indescribable. Yes. He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible. He’s irresistible. I’m trying to tell you, the Heavens cannot contain Him, let alone a man explains Him. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him, and you can’t live without Him.
Well. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him. Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn’t handle Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him. That’s my king! He always has been, and He always will be. I’m talking about He [who] had no predecessor and He [who] has no successor. There was nobody before Him and there will be nobody after Him. You can’t impeach Him, and He’s not going to resign. We try to get prestige and honor and glory to ourselves, but the glory is all His. Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, and ever, and ever, and ever. How long is that? And ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and when you get through with all of the forever’s, then 'Amen'." We Overcome Because…He Overcame!
Scripture Reading: Ezra 4:6-5:17 / Revelation 11:1-19 / Psalm 145:1-7
There are only a few people who have had “great” added to the end of their name. One such person was Alexander The Great. After his father, Phillip II was assassinated; He became king of Macedonia at the age of 20. He was an impressive leader who led his armies into unknown lands and was always on point in every battle they fought. By the age of 33, he conquered most of the known world and is recognized as the most successful military commander of all time.
Riches, success, victories or leadership are often how we measure the “greatness” of a man. Inevitably, no matter how great a person may be, there are always manifestations of noticeable faults and weaknesses. For a definition of “Greatness”, we cannot look to man but must look a lot higher to the heavens… to an Almighty God.
David knew the depth of his weakness but also knew the height of God’s greatness! He writes, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” Nations have risen to only fall and great men have gained notoriety but eventually succumb to the presence and power of death. Only God is great!
He is a God of wondrous works and mighty acts. He spoke this universe into existence and holds it in perfect balance. His miracles not only fill the pages of His Word, they also accompany our lives from our beginning to our very end. He has overcome death, hell and the grave. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord!
The manifestations of God’s glory and majesty have left the most holy of men humbled and broken. When Isaiah saw the majesty of The Lord, he was woefully undone. John the Revelator fell to the ground like he was a dead man when he saw the glorified Christ. No man can stand before a holy God who sees into the depth of every mind, heart and spirit.
Man cannot understand His greatness either because His ways are incomprehensible. Paul exclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33) We can never fully understand what He knows, what He does and who He is. God is all-powerful, all knowing and always present.
As a child, my parents showed me how to pray and taught me my very first prayer. I still remember it today, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for this food. Amen” That very first prayer focused upon the greatness of God. Over the years, I have gained a greater awareness of God’s greatness but have discovered the more I know, the bigger His gets and the smaller I get. It may be a simple mealtime prayer but it’s message is eternal…the greatness of God!
Scripture Reading: Ezra 2:68-4:5 / Revelation 9:13-10:11 / Proverbs 30:24-33
Animals are very interesting and are a large part of our lives. In fact, God created animals before He created man. On the fourth day of creation, God created the animals of the water and sky. He then created land animals on the fifth day. God had a divine plan and purpose for every animal, some significant and others seemingly insignificant.
In reality, God had a divine plan and purpose for creating everything so there is nothing that is insignificant but there are parts of His creation that we classify as less significant. Man has favorite animals like Tigers, Wolves, Foxes, Polar Bears or Panthers and believes the most intelligent animals are Chimpanzees, Dolphins, Orangutans, Elephants and Pigs!
We can learn much from studying the animal kingdom and Solomon gives us some insight into, “Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise:” (Proverbs 30:24) He writes of ants, locusts, lizards and a fourth one, “Coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags.” (vs.26)
We aren’t real familiar with Coney’s, in fact; many people don’t even know that they are also referred to as a “Hyrax” or a “Rock Badger”. They are small fur ball animals, about a foot long and look like a rabbit but without a tail. The interesting thing about them is that they have sweat glands in their feet to moisten their foot when they run. This gland combined with special muscles in their feet, act like suction cups so they can climb up the rocks.
They are defenseless and small animals yet Solomon calls them extremely wise. They cannot defend themselves with sharp teeth or claws but they can run with speed and accuracy on the rocks and hide in the rock formations. They know where to hide and make their home…in the safe place, the cleft of the rock.
Wisdom simply knows what we are and what we are not, knowing our strengths and weaknesses. The Coney has the wisdom to use their strengths (suction cup feet and small bodies) to overcome their weakness (defenselessness). They know how to survive and thrive! They feed only at dawn and dusk and work together by posting sentries to alarm the group of approaching danger.
We are defenseless against the attacks of the enemy and of the world but we can take shelter and refuge in the cleft of God’s protection. We have a Rock to which we can run and hide…the grace and presence of an Almighty God who loves us! “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior - from violent people you save me. “I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies.” (2 Samuel 22:2-4)
Scripture Reading: Ezra 1:1-2:67 / Revelation 8:1-9:12 / Psalm 144:9-15
On April 26, 1986, a catastrophic nuclear accident took place in Chernobyl, USSR. An explosion and fire at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe. The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history and one of only two classified as a maximum level 7 disaster. The results: billions of dollars, numerous deaths as well as long-term diseases and deformities.
The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 cannot even begin to compare to the devastation and destruction of a future Chernobyl disaster found in Revelation 8. The Russian word for Chernobyl is translated “wormwood” and we read, “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs or water – the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” (Revelation 8:10,11)
This future disaster will affect the world, as a third of the worldwide natural waters will become bitter from the poison of the Wormwood star. Deaths will be numerous and common. This disaster is only part of God’s future judgment upon an unbelieving and evil world. Interestingly, the similarities we find between the future bitterness of Wormwood and the present bitterness of sin are significant.
Bitterness is an internal attitude and spirit that holds onto hurts, wrongs, abuses and offenses. Bitterness does not forget and does not let go. When others commit wrongs against us, say hurtful things to us or forcefully take things from us, bitterness presents itself as a comforting friend. Initially, it may strengthen us but we quickly discover it is a poison that destroys us from the inside out and leaves us resentful, cynical, harsh and cold. Bitterness is not always visible but conceals itself deep within our heart.
Bitterness has an intoxicating effect upon man. It clouds judgment, blurs focus and deadens or immunes it’s victims to reality. It is poisonous, defiles man from the inside out and eventually leads to certain death. Many relationships have been destroyed because of bitterness as it manifests itself in anger, rage, wrath and unforgiveness.
The future star of Wormwood will have worldwide repercussions in the future yet we cannot overlook the presence and destruction of bitterness in our world today. The repercussions of bitterness are far reaching and will destroy the embittered and their targets. The truth is, the consequences of bitterness are life long and eternal. Guard your heart…only allow exclusive access to the Spirit of God and be sure to remind bitterness of the “No Trespassing…Keep Out” sign.
Scripture Reading: Malachi 2:17-4:6 / Revelation 7:1-17 / Psalm 144:1-8
While driving in the first significant snowfall of the winter a few days ago, I noticed the brilliance and beauty of the snow. The trees were outlined in white, the sun reflected brightly off the snow and it was brilliantly white. It wouldn’t be long before the snowplows would salt, sand and push the snow. The clean and pure snow would then be spotted with dirt, grime and mud. Our spiritual lives take a similar journey as Christ makes us white as snow but then the world comes by and we find ourselves spotted and polluted by sin. Yet Christ can make us clean again!
Malachi writes, “For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” (Malachi 3:2,3) The prophet uses the analogy of laundry soap to illustrate how He cleanses our lives. Washing clothes is an ongoing and for many, an everyday task. Plants along the Mediterranean and Dead Sea had detergent like qualities because of their high concentration of alkaline salt. The soap didn’t appear to be potent but when agitated with the clothing fabric, it removed dirt and stains.
God’s forgiveness and delivering power is viewed by the world like an insignificant liquid or powder. Alone it looks ineffective but when it is added to the faith (water) of man, it’s power and results are miraculous. When we allow His grace and presence into our lives, He cleanses us of every sin and lifts the stain of guilt. The power, hold and bondage of sin are broken!
Washing clothes requires agitation. Historically, the agitation process was done by treading, beating or hammering clothes with a mallet whereas today, washing machines agitate our clothes. This process was necessary for the soap to become thoroughly mixed with the clothes. The cleansing power of Christ is seen when we allow Him to penetrate every area of our lives…it is challenging but so worthwhile!
Another analogy God uses is the refining process of gold and silver. Precious metals contain impurities and need to be refined. If the impurities are left mixed in the precious metals, they will ruin the metal. When the metal is heated, the impurities separate from the pure metal and the dross rises to the top where it is carefully removed. The difference in the soap and refining process is that the laundry soap works with strength while the refiner works with sensitivity.
Precious metal impurities are not extracted during one extreme and extended heating time. The impurities come out little by little and require a series of refining. Silver goes through the refinery process 7 times and the dross is carefully removed each time until the refiner can see his reflection in the metal. I am thankful God sees grains of gold below the impurities of our lives. He lovingly and patiently sits over the burning crucible of our lives until He sees His own face reflected in our lives… the process is complete as we are cleansed, purified and refined into His image!
Scripture Reading: Malachi 1:1 -2:16 / Revelation 6:1-17 / Psalm 143:1-12
“And now for the rest of the story…” Those words were made famous by radio icon Paul Harvey as he shared pointed and insightful stories. He shared a story about a call the Butterball Turkey Company received on their consumer telephone hotline. A woman called and asked about cooking a turkey that had been in her freezer for 23 years. The adviser told her the turkey would be safe to eat but would not have any flavor after all those years. The lady replied, “That’s what I thought. Okay, we’ll probably just give it to our church then.”
We chuckle at her response but sadly; there are those who have the same cheap and cheating attitude. God rebuked Israel for their contemptible sacrifices, “When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you” Would he accept you? Says the Lord Almighty.” (Malachi 1:8)
The priests and people of Israel were guilty of serving leftovers to God like the woman gave leftovers to her church. The amazing thing is that the woman as well as Israel felt no condemnation or conviction. They believed their sacrifice was honorable and acceptable. They had a form of religion but not a life of relationship with God.
Religion will make an offering but it will not be their best offering. When I have rung the Salvation Army Bell, there were those who gave a meaningful offering and then there were those who just tossed something in the bucket. The begrudging givers gave something yet it did not come from their hearts but from their duty and image to “look good”.
God required the sacrificial lambs to be the best of the flock without spot or blemish. Israel kept the best of their flocks and gave God the crippled and diseased lambs. They brought sacrificial lambs that were unproductive and unwanted at the marketplace. Their lambs were considered to be a liability and unwanted by others so they gave them to God while they kept the best and most profitable lambs.
Religion gives God seconds or whatever they have left. Religion gives God the same token offering every week believing heaven and their image is enhanced. We can get caught up in a form of giving without embracing the reason for giving. Why do we want to cheat God or pull a fast one over Him to “get a good deal” or a bargain?
A sacrifice is designed to cost us something but we want it to cost us nothing. Our giving to God should reflect His Lordship, not ours. After all, giving is not for our benefit but for the glory of God. May our giving reflect a relational heart of worship, thanksgiving and obedience. God requires and deserves our very best…He is not only worthy of our best but He is deserving of our all!
Scripture Reading: Esther 9:1-10:3 / Revelation 5:1-14 / Proverbs 30:11-23
The most expensive book ever sold was the Codex Leicester for $30.8 million in 1994 by Bill Gates. The book was written by Leonardo da Vinci and is a collection of scientific writings on astronomy, water, rock, air, the moon and the heavens. The Codex Leicester is expensive yet fails in comparison to the importance of The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States and The Bill of Rights which were written in 1776, 1787 and 1791.
These three documents mean nothing to the world but mean everything to us because they broke tyranny and established rights for every citizen of the United States. Only a few documents in history have impacted and changed the world, yet we read of a document in Revelation five that would unveil the future. “Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.” (Revelation 5:1)
Scrolls were made from 8x10” papyrus sheets, joined horizontally and written in narrow columns. They were written on one side but this particular scroll was written on both sides. Only one document was written this way – a Title Deed. Conditions were written on the outside and legal information on the inside. The scroll was sealed with wax and a signet ring was used to impress the wax. Only the owner or heir could open the seals and disclose the content and Roman law required a will to be sealed with seven seals.
The magnitude of this scroll is evident as no one in heaven on earth or under the earth was found worthy or qualified to break the seals and open the scroll. No one could read the content, the desire of the owner would go undiscovered and the future would not be unveiled. Man desperately searches for the unfolding of their lives. They desire purpose, insight, wisdom and clarity in life.
All creation in heaven and earth stood motionless and speechless when the cry went out for the heir to step forward and break the seals of the book. In the heaviness of the moment, John began to weep. This scroll was the title deed to creation and remained sealed by the bondage and hold of sin. No one was worthy or able until…a Lamb rose from the throne room of God. An elder identified the Lamb as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. (vs.5) This was the Christ who was the sacrificial Lamb for our sins and the triumphant resurrection Lion who defeated death, hell and the grave.
All of heaven bowed in reverence and honor to the Lamb. He was worthy…He took the book…He loosed the seals…He opened it…He began to unfold time and the future of all mankind. Our Savior not only holds eternity in His hands, He holds our lives in the security of His love, grace and power. Why should we weep when we can worship…He Is Worthy!
Scripture Reading: Esther 6:1-8:17 / Revelation 4:1-11 / Psalm 142:1-7
A sight that is becoming more common in professional sports today is when athletes acknowledge God after a victory, touchdown, home run or winning shot. Some get on one knee and bow their head, others point to the sky while some make the sign of the cross on their chest.
Quarterback Tim Tebow is recognized but also scrutinized and criticized for unashamedly giving praise to God for his accomplishments. He would kneel, place his elbow on his knee and rest his head on his closed hand. His giving of thanks has also been called “Tebowing”- when someone gets down on a knee and starts praying, even if everyone else around them is doing something completely different.
The world is uncomfortable with praising God yet heaven will be a place of continual praise and worship to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We find angelic beings, magnificent creatures and people of all walks of life giving praise and worship to God for all eternity.
John witnessed four living creatures continually giving praise to The Lord day and night saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4:8) As the creatures exalted The Lord Almighty, the twenty-four elders were overcome by the majesty and glory of the Lord. They were brought to their knees in humility and worship at the mention of God’s holiness.
“The twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne…” (4:10) As victory crowns were given to Roman athletes for their success, these elders were given crowns as a reward of their faithfulness and spiritual victories.
They were moved as they stood in the presence of The Almighty. The twenty-four elders bowed down to the supreme, eternal and worthy God and laid their crowns down before Him. They cast their crowns of achievement and reward back to the One who gave the crowns to them. Their crowns were only possible because of God’s grace, salvation and goodness.
We as well are given crowns that represent our accomplishments, achievements and life’s work - all that we have done for Christ. Those crowns do not rightfully belong to us because they’re graciously made possible by Christ. If it weren’t for Christ there would be no accomplishments or crowns. Our victory over sin and death was not secured by our strength but by the divine work of Christ on a cross and in a grave. We don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to cast our crowns at His feet…we can lay all of our accomplishments, rewards and giftings down at His throne of grace. Worship is not to be restricted to heaven…but rehearsed on earth!
Scripture Reading: Esther 2:19-5:14 / Revelation 3:7-22 / Psalm 141:1-10
We have heard hundreds of knock knock jokes in our lifetime like, “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Etch. Etch who? Bless you!” We find humor (maybe lame humor) in knock knock jokes but we have a serious reason and purpose when we knock on someone’s door. We want to get their attention and have them open the door to us.
The church in Laodicea had someone knock at the spiritual door of their hearts. Jesus was trying to get their attention, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
The angel had just rebuked the church for their lukewarm relationship with Christ and here Jesus calls upon them to open their lives to Him. The verb tense of this verse implies that Jesus stood for an extended length of time at the door, knocking continually and waiting for their response.
If they were truly zealous, they would have immediately opened the door but they were lukewarm. They were satisfied with their spiritual progress and in fact thought they were spiritually rich, wise and secure. Jesus knocked at the Laodicean door for a long time, waiting for them to open it but they were deaf to His request.
The Laodiceans were professing Christians but they lacked true fellowship with Christ. They were blinded to their lukewarm spiritual condition of poverty and nakedness. They didn’t realize that Jesus had “left the building”. He stood right outside their door, waiting for them to welcome Him back in where He belonged. Jesus could have walked away in judgment and not darken their door but He was driven by love and knocked continually, waiting for them to open.
Jesus called out to them and longed to eat with them. The meal Jesus is referring to was the main meal of the day that was an extended time of fellowship, not a hurried lunch. Guests would have lengthy conversations and visit as long as they desired. Jesus wanted to spend time with them to develop and deepen their relationship. He longed to be with them.
All of us have enjoyed the fellowship of Christ’s presence, grace and blessings. It is easy to get caught up with life and become too busy to sit at His table. We at times opt for the drive thru with an “eat on the run” lifestyle. We can be guilty of hardening our hearts and ears to His invitation.
English artist Holman Hunt painted the famous picture of Jesus standing at a closed door. In his rendition, he did not paint a handle on the door. When he was questioned about it he said, “The door is a picture of the human heart. The only handle in on the inside.” Jesus is knocking; open up your heart to Him…He’s waiting.
Pastor James Clark has pastored Calvary Assembly since 1985. He is blessed with his wife Yvonne, six children, two son-in-laws, a beautiful granddaughter and hopefully many more grandchildren to follow!