Signs of the Times

I’ve spent a lot of time studying lately on scripture that leads us up to the return of Christ…and something interesting that I came across recently got my attention…

In Matthew 24 we see Jesus answer his disciples when they ask what the signs of the end of the age will be, and Jesus lays out a number of things…but I find a few things interesting here that I wanted to share this week.

Verses 4-14 show us a very vivid answer to the question of what we can expect to happen…but he opens the statement with two very key instructions: 1-Pay attention that you are not deceived and 2-Do not be troubled or alarmed.

Why would Jesus instruct his disciples to pay attention about the deceptions that may happen around them? Why would he tell them not to be alarmed? Because, deception will pull you away from where you are supposed to be…almost like smoke and mirrors of the enemy to keep your attention away from what is really going on around you.  When you are alarmed and surprised by the things happening around you, you have a tendency to find yourself trying to fix what is happening….but Jesus says, these things must happen.

This leads me past the “beginning of sorrows” into the meat of what Jesus is saying…the troubles we see and hear about have to happen before the end…but in verse 10 we can see exactly where we may be…I found this verse intriguing given the climate around us in the world today…

“There will be many who are offended, many will betray one another, and many will hate one another.”

We need to stop joining in the battle of the offended, stop being surprised by what is going on around us, and start loving as Christ loved, knowing that the world will turn to their own ways…but a couple verses later we see the promise for those in Christ.

“He who endures to the end, he is the one that will be saved.” – Matthew 24:13

Endure to the end, and stop being distracted and alarmed by what is happening around you today….Jesus told us it would happen and that we would see things happen, but encouraged us to endure to the end…Stay strong and love one another, do not be deceived and do not be troubled.

Advertisements

Cover Songs

In the Music Business I have noticed lately that there are a number of songs out there that have been redone recently by different groups.  Some have a good quality to them, but we all know that it is hard to replace the original.

What I have realized in thinking about this is that there are many different versions of  the same song, but the original always seems to be the best copy because it has the artist’s original intentions for the song.  The original is the purest form of the song, it always seems to be the best and most preferred version for the listener…especially the listener that loves music.

That being said, there are often good cover songs out there, songs that remain pure to the artist intentions, and sometimes you will find a version that compares very closely to the original, but again, there is just something to be said about the original.

In thinking about this, however, I also realized that there is a preference for some to the first version of the song that they heard.  If a younger generation hears a song by a new artist that is a cover, but have never heard the original, sometimes they tend to prefer the version that they heard first.  Many times it tends to be the first version that is heard that becomes the one that is hard to overcome when hearing other versions….this leads me into a discussion that takes place within the church.

There are many versions of the scripture that have taken hold within the church today, and honestly, I understand the debate…but let me ask this question: Is the Word leading them to the One, True God?  This is not a debate about which scripture to use…in fact, what I want to discuss is that we are to be examples of Christ to the world…in essence, we are his cover song.

Is your life echoing the original, or have you messed with the tune and tried to make what was perfect better? Are you living a life that resembles Christ or are you trying to become a different version of Christ? There was only one version of Christ, and that version came to this earth and lived a perfect life, put it all behind him and endured a cross that was intended for you and I…and we are simply asked to live a life that resembles Him to the world.

Since we are the cover of the original, we may look and sound similar, but we are not the original…rather than trying to improve on the original, I would challenge you to try to look and sound as close to the original as you can, so that others can see the truth about who He is. The fact remains that the original was the purest form of what we are to be in this life we have on earth, and there is not a single one of us that can do it better than Him…so stop trying to form your own version of the Gospel, and live out the life that resembles the original artist. The Original was Jesus Christ Himself…do others see Christ at work in you? Or do they see you working to try and improve on Christ?

Just a thought.

“I Just Don’t Get it…Why Lord?”

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“Why did this person have to die?”

There are many questions that we sometimes ask; especially in times when we thought things should have been different.  We just don’t understand why things happen the way that they do in this life…that being said, we must look to the scripture for answers.

One of the best examples that we can find is the story of Job.  Job was a man who served God…he was a man that caught the devil’s attention and one that Satan wanted to cause to fall away.  Let me start by reminding you, if Satan is challenging your faith, you need to stay strong, you wouldn’t be on his radar if you were already living a life for him.

So why do bad things happen to God’s people?  Because Satan wants to try and make anything happen that will cause us to question our faith.  He took away Job’s family, his home, and all his belongings, but Job stayed strong through the testing and fire.  Are you staying strong in your trials today?  Scripture tells us in James 1:2-4:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The testing that comes from Satan will produce a sturdy faith that will stand firm no matter what storm we face if we will keep our focus on God.  Job stood firm, chose to continue following God, and when he became weak and questioned God, we see that God answered him, reminding him of who He (God) is and when all was said and done, Job was doubly blessed by the trial he faced.

Remember:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:26-28

God will help you through, don’t let these trials tear you down, but let them become a blessing; both for you and for someone else.

Life…Filtered

Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Instagram…

All of these apps for our smartphones have become a way for folks to put aside the reality of life and almost put on an alternate reality in many cases…

Before you get mad, let me explain. It all has to do with filters.

Each of these has a way to alter reality and make it more appealing to our audience…we can change the lighting of a landscape, we can remove blemishes from our faces and add a dog face if we so desire.

What it comes down to is that we can take what we feel is ugly and turn it into something that we think people will be drawn to…something that they will talk about…but are we being real? Or simply just trying to mask the ugliness of life?

We tend to try and do this with sin as well…we see the ugliness in our lives and we try to cover it up by “filtering” it.  We try to cover it with a story of how it’s ok for us to do this or that because “God wants us to be happy,” or “God didn’t design us to be boring.” But the truth is, he does want us to be happy, but not by covering up the world and hiding who we really are.  In fact, the best filter that we can put on is Christ.

Jesus is like a permanent Snapchat beauty filter. He removes the blemishes from our lives, takes away the dark and the sin and leaves us beautiful before God.  He has smoothed out our wrinkles and made us look brand new because of his sacrifice.  Stop trying to find things to cover your sin and allow the blood of Christ to wash them away.

Live life unfiltered by the world so that the savior can work with the beauty that is the real you…allow him to be your filter….there is nothing more beautiful than when others can see Christ in you.

What is your Goal?

Goals…we all have them, we set them daily. We strive to make things better by setting goals that we think we can attain.  Whether it is a goal to be married by a certain age, to have a certain number of kids, or even a career goal that we set out to achieve, many of us have a goal for where we would like to finish up in an area of our lives.

I’ve noticed recently, however, that when it comes to our Christian walk we have set goals that seem to get us off point when trying to move forward. Bear with me for a moment and I will explain, but I feel we need to be quite careful when setting ourselves goals in this area.

Let’s take a look at some goals that we may have:

“My goal is to get to heaven.”

“I have a goal to keep myself out of hell.”

“I want to be the best person I can be in this life.” Or maybe, “I want to be known as a good person.”

And while all of those are well and good, they miss the point of what our Christian life should look like.  Heaven is not a goal we should strive to attain…Heaven is a reward for living the life that we have been called to live.  Living just to stay out of Hell will certainly send you there if your focus is solely on that.  Being a good person doesn’t accomplish the goals that God has for us in life.

If these are your goals, you’re missing the point.  Our lone goal should be to establish a relationship with our Creator…to establish a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who thought that we were worth dying for…even when we weren’t worth dying for.

Romans 5:8 says, “God showed His love for us in this way, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were yet sinners…he didn’t wait until we got it right to die for us, and he doesn’t want us to wait until we accomplish our goals of getting it right before we accept his gift. Set a goal today to accept his sacrifice in your life….if your journey is based on getting to heaven you’re missing the road to get there.  Jesus said there is only one way to God and that is through him.  He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and the only way to get to heaven, stay out of hell, and become a good person in this world is to die to ourselves and develop a personal relationship with him by allowing the Holy Spirit to take hold of our hearts.

So…what is your goal today?

Forced Removal

This is not at all the planned article for this week, but given recent circumstances I felt that this is the article that needed to be written…

This is not political…this is not in favor one way or another of the situation given that I do not have all the facts, but it did lead me to a very deep thought process that truly has opened my eyes to something that maybe we have difficulty seeing sometimes.

By now, I’m sure that many of you have seen the video on the news of the passenger being forcefully removed from a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville…the story being shown is that the passenger refused to give up a seat on an “overbooked” flight to apparently open seats for pilots who needed to get to Louisville for another flight the following day.

What it spurred in my mind is this…that nothing is overbooked with God.  We will never be forced to leave His presence…we will never be pulled out of His grasp.  The airline asked for volunteers to leave, and then as one passenger put it, “United decided for them” who would be removed.  God welcomes all to come and will never ask us to give up our seat at the table to accommodate someone who is “more important.”

It is a truly sad video to watch, and honestly, as I said before, I do not know enough details about the situation to determine who was right or wrong, but as I watched it I was comforted in knowing that Christ died for all of us and not only for a few elect.  No one else can determine whether we are worthy of the sacrifice that he made for us because God has already determined that we are all worthy of His gift.  The fact is that none of us are worthy on our own, but because of God’s mercy and grace we have been accepted as rightful heirs to His kingdom.

We are God’s children, and no one can take that away from us. NO ONE can tell you that you’re not good enough, no matter what your past holds.  NO ONE can tell you that you are unworthy of Christ’s sacrifice, because it is not their place to judge for God.  NO ONE except for YOU can remove yourself from the benefits of God’s grace.  Only you can decide whether you accept His gift.

Today, I encourage you to accept the gift that God has so freely given…accept that Jesus came and died on a cross for your sins and was raised again, defeating death and hell, to give you a chance at life eternal with Him.  You are a child of God and it is your rightful place, not because you earned it, but because He gave it…so accept His grace and live a life guided by the Holy Spirit, showing others how to take their seat at the Table of God; after all, there are plenty of seats available.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23, HCSB

Living Outloud

Over the last few years…especially the past couple of weeks…I have found myself thinking about two words that in some cases may not make a lot of sense….”Live Outloud”.

What does it mean to live outloud? I think it means for us to live a life that speaks about Christ…a life that writes our funeral when death comes our way…a life that exemplifies Christ in such a way that there is no question where our faith is…a life that leads others to Christ just because they know you.

I thought about this when my mother passed away, when dad passed…and when saints of the faith pass on…even with some who are still with us…those who live life in such a way that you can just see something different about them.

Two lives that ended on this earth recently that have brought this fully around for me are the lives of Caleb Hayes and Rita Oakes…they both lived lives that were evident of the power of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

Both of their lives touched many, and one of the things that stuck with me from both cases was the words that Caleb and “Momma” Oakes “wrote their own funeral.”  These are words that are said when someone has lived out what they believe…when someone has lived OUTLOUD.

I can remember the impact that Mrs. Oakes had in my life over the years I had her as a teacher, and even more so as a part of my life over the past few years…always with a heart for God’s Children, always with a smile, and always with an encouraging word.  She wanted you to feel special, and you did, because she made sure you saw the love of God.

Caleb was much the same, although young, he knew the love of God and wanted to share it with anyone he came in contact with.  He had an infectious smile that just left you feeling the presence of God’s Spirit.  They both lived a life that led others to Christ because you left the conversation feeling as if you had been in contact with Jesus himself…They left you wanting more time with them.

The both embraced the scripture found in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith; There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.”

Today, I challenge you to live outloud.  Live each moment as if it were the last moment you might have, and live as if you’re the only light someone may see.  Lead others with your life…live life as loud as you possibly can!