Here’s the final four verses of Christ’s message to the Laodicean church. (See the first four here.)
The wise Preacher once observed a heavy and hideous scene.
“There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil.” (Ecclesiastes 6:1–2, ESV)
Here is an illustration I’ve always appreciated. “God is the One who gives things, and God is the one who gives the power to enjoy things. These are distinct gifts…just as a can of peaches and a can-opener are distinct gifts” (Wilson, Joy at the End of the Tether). God could give a man a warehouse full of canned peaches, and get that man on the talk show circuit about his terrific warehouse management techniques, and it wouldn’t be enough.
Who knows how many things he has to be thankful for? Sounds, Scripture, salvation; food, family, friendship; life, liturgy, literature; ice cream, the Internet, ibuprofen; butter, bread, beauty; kids, congratulations, compassion; potatoes, promises, pies. These are all wondrous gifts, with whip cream on top, to mankind.
But there is one more gift that puts all of those gifts in place. One other gift that keeps us from serving the gifts as gods or from fearing that we will. The great gift is the power to give thanks. Gratitude itself is a grace. Not letting us think that we have gotten all these things by our own power (see Deuteronomy 8:17), but turning us to the God of generosity and abundant blessings is His own work in our hearts.
Give thanks to God who works and wills thankfulness in your hearts.
by Dante Alighieri
2019: I am still impressed by a couple things after my second trip through the poetic Purgatory. Penance is no fun, while also not being biblical, so, whew. That Dante mixes literature, history, and imagination into such an extended poetic form really does make one give thanks to God for His common grace in sub-creators.
2016: I’m sure I would have enjoyed this even more if I knew Italian history, and if I believed in Purgatory. As it is, I’m glad to be through it and heading into Paradise.
Back again with a diagram of the first half of The Amen’s message to the lukewarm Laodiceans in Revelation 3:14-18. Verses 19-22 will come soon, as in next week, Deo volente.
The New Testament is full of things to do because Jesus is coming. Building bunkers to stay low and stay out of the fray is not one of them.
“Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8). “The Lord is at and, do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:5-6). We ought to be people of holiness and godliness waiting for and hastening the day (2 Peter 3:11-12). With the end of all things at hand we should be self-controlled in order to pray, to love one another, to show hospitality, and to use our giftedness (1 Peter 4:7-11).
In short we ought to steward the minutes and talents He’s given us so that when he returns He we can given Him a return on His gifts to us (see Matthew 25:14-30). He is coming, so we just conquer.
Also, we commune. The regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper as His Body on the Lord’s Day is an act of eschatology. He will reign forever and we will reign with Him, because He rose from the dead. Our sharing of communion now is a witness to our sharing of the kingdom them.
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 15:26)
Believer, fellowship with your people at this table, eat and drink in witness to His death, His resurrection, and His return.
I am not the first to register it, but I definitely want to repeat it: being a victim is a bad identity.
There are genuine victims. Some victims have been treated brutally. This is a world of sin, and sinners sin against others in wicked ways, and not always because the other person brought it on himself. Decisions are made that are unfair, contracts are broken, payments extorted, acts committed that really do damage others.
There are also bogus victims. Some victims have never been a situation that they couldn’t twist to find themselves into the victim’s role. It could have started with a small misperception turned into a federal case, it could be a complete misrepresentation of reality, a lie to cover your own conduct with a story that keeps throwing the bucket in the sympathy well. There are micro-aggression chasers, how-have-you-hurt-me-today journal keepers, and these demean real victims while doing no good for themselves.
Christians will be tested, reviled, beaten, lied about, discriminated against, and even killed. They will suffer, unjustly, and Jesus said: Don’t be surprised (1 Peter 4:12). Jesus also said: Rejoice (1 Peter 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; Philippians 4:4).
Jesus also became the ultimate sacrificial victim in order to give you a new name, a new identity. He laid down His life so that you could have life, not so that you could more accurately complain, with Bible references and everything.
If you are a true target of another’s sin, trust God. Repent from your sin, and obey. If you are tempted to blame your bad feelings on others, if you always see yourself as the Oppressed, if you find it easier to live by complaint than by faith with thanks, repent. Your identity is Whose you are, not what has been done to you.
I started diagramming Christ’s message to the church in Philadelphia last week (Revelation 3:7-9), and here are the final four verses of the paragraph (verses 10-13).
When Jesus instituted what we call the Lord’s Supper, He pointed to the cup that points to His covenant.
After telling His disciples to eat the bread representing His body, “he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins'” (Matthew 26:27-28). Luke recorded it also, “Likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood'” (Luke 22:20).
The “new covenant” is named as such in Jeremiah 31:31, and related descriptions are paralleled in Ezekiel 36. This new covenant is not like the Mosaic covenant given to Israel when they came out of Egypt. In this one, the Lord promised to put His law directly within them, to write it not on stone tablets but on their hearts. This covenant wouldn’t just point out why they needed forgiveness, it would purchase and apply it.
In its original setting the new covenant was for “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). The Lord compared the likelihood that He would fulfill this promise to the fixed order of the sun and moon. “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation forever” (Jeremiah 31:35-36).
And it is the Lord who has opened the door for us who were not Jews to enjoy the good news of forgiveness and new hearts. He has opened the way for us, He will finish His promise to save a coming generation of Israel by His Spirit (Romans 11:25-26), and His Word is as good as it has ever been.
We’ve been talking at our house about how no one could have predicted that the two people doing the most for Christianity on a national level in our day are Donald Trump and Kanye West. They are not having influence for Christianity the same way; to talk about how the President’s influence works is another discussion. I’m also not bringing them up in a belief that influence must be national in order to be God-honoring and important. But this definitely seems to be an example of God drawing straight lines with crooked sticks.
Do you know who Kanye West is? Some don’t want anything to do with him, others attach to him for reasons that aren’t great, others reading this maybe really don’t recognize his name. He’s an A-list celebrity hip-hop artist, married to an A-list celebrity Kardashian. In his rap music Kayne used to celebrate all the sins that unbelievers exalt. But he’s changed his tune. A few months ago he professed that he became a Christian. His new album came out a couple weeks ago titled, “Jesus Is King,” and all ten songs made the Billboard top 100 list last week.
I wasn’t in to hip-hop, or Kayne before his profession of faith. If I was a single man I probably wouldn’t have heard any of his new album. But I keep seeing videos where Kanye keeps doing things that aren’t cool for no apparently good reason except for Christ.
He’s spoken out against abortion. He’s lamented the damaging effects of pornography. He’s described new convictions about how he wants his wife to dress more modestly. He’s explained that he loves his wife and kids, that he hopes to have more kids, that he thinks having kids is the greatest treasure. And when asked directly about the difference between his current life and not that long ago, he said that Jesus has caused him to wake up (also part of the previous video). He even wrote an ode to Chick-fil-A.
What should we do with all of that? We must give thanks, because God says to (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and it’s not actually that hard to find reasons. We can also pray for Kanye and his life as a new professing believer. But also, we should pray to be that sort of not ashamed of the gospel. Jesus is King. Kayne has been giving true, clear, and honoring testimony to Jesus. Even if, in the unlikely but possible worst case scenario, this gospel seed is on rocky soil or among thorns, and only grows for a short season, it’s still a challenge to those of us in good soil to bear the fruit of bold witness for our King.
by C.R. Wiley
The title is provocative, and I am thankful for Wiley’s guided meditation on the significance of what it means to live in an ordered cosmos and also on the thickness of household (with its productive property and patriarchal) piety compared to the thin individualism causing our culture’s current foolish fruitlessness.
Should you read it? If you want to please your Father in heaven, then queue this one up.