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.

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What are We Standing For?

All this talk about standing for the anthem got me thinking about the circumstances surrounding it and what we truly need to be thinking about today…and I’m here to tell you….I’m not so sure that it’s the flag or whether we stand or sit that we should be paying attention to.

In fact, while I do believe that we should respect the country we are in as Jesus told those who asked about taxes, to “Rend Caesar what is Caesar’s”, but he also added that we should give to God what is His also.  That means we owe God our lives…we are His, created in His Image…we bear HIS likeness, just like the coin bore the likeness of Caesar.

However, here is what we are missing while this is going on around us…that division has always been around…we have always been told that, “if we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything.” While that may be true in some cases, I think that we are choosing to stand for the wrong things. Christians, why are we not standing for the WORD OF GOD? If we showed half the passion for the scripture that we have shown for the flag or for social issues this country would be a different place than it is.  If we stand for God’s Word, we will see love take precedence over hate…we would see unity rather than division…we would see things in a much happier and better light.

We have gotten so wrapped up in the idea of battle, that we have forgotten that Jesus has already fought and won the battle…but instead, we feel that we need to fight it…we feel we need to “guess” what Jesus would say today because, “Times are different…it’s just not the same today as it was then culturally.” We don’t need to guess anything….it is high time we realize this today: GOD’S WORD is the same yesterday, today, and forever….it is timeless…it is boundless…it is His bond to His people.

I challenge you to stop the hate…stop the bickering….stop the arguments…who cares if someone doesn’t agree with you…is it the Christlike attitude to attack personally or fight back in a way that destroys your witness? NO! It is our duty to be the example…why is the country in a battle today like we have never seen? Because the Church is fighting the same battles…don’t believe me? Which Version of the Bible to you use? Is there a fight about it? Are you in the midst of a church split because someone got upset with someone else?

I challenge each of us to look at the circumstances surrounding our lives…are you living in bitterness toward someone because they don’t share your opinion? Are you constantly upset because something didn’t go your way? It doesn’t matter what side of an issue you’re on, it is something that we have seen for decades in this country…we are broken…

Love like Jesus loved, who didn’t come to divide, but unite…through love. The greatest division ever recorded on earth was caused by sin, but Jesus came to unite us back to God through his blood…so let’s let the blood of Jesus continue to work today! Show love to one another today and stop with the hateful speech and bickering that only feeds division…because we are dividing the church and pushing people away from Jesus rather than winning them to Him…What are you standing for?

Living in the Shadows

Let’s face it…all of us struggle with something similar to what Leah dealt with in Genesis 29…we all struggle with living in the shadow of someone else.  Whether we work with them, go to church with them, maybe they live in our home…whatever the case might be, we find ourselves struggling to get by in life because we see others who seem to have success that we think should be ours.

In Genesis 29 we see the story of Rachel and Leah, where Jacob is lobbying for a wife, and the scripture there even tells us that Rachel was more attractive than Leah in some ways. “Leah had nice eyes, but Rachel was astonishingly beautiful. (v. 17)”

Leah had to learn a lesson we all tend to need to learn, that is how to deal with being in someone else’s shadow…unfortunately in the world today, no one seems to deal with that well.  We all think we should be the star…with YouTube, Facebook, and the like, we see folks more worried about destroying the other stars with their political jargon, with rants and raves, tearing others down to the point that they are made out to be the worst of the worst around us, when in reality they are simply trying to deal with some of the same struggles we all face.

Leah appears to have been gracious in her struggle, because God saw her where she was and blessed her. Look at Genesis 29:31-35: ”31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. 32 So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, “The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.” 33 Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. 34 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi.35 And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah.  Then she stopped bearing.”

God saw her where she was…dealing with her struggles, and he met her there and blessed her.  When we shine as we can, whether we are the brightest start or not, we will be seen by God because we are bringing glory to HIS name, not our own.  Are you striving to simply shine the way God intended? Or, are you trying to become the next star? How are you dealing with the shadows?

Look at the words of Jesus to Nathaniel in John 1:

“47Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” 48Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.””

He sees us….He knows us…He always has and always will.  Strive to shine for Him today…you were created to be you…no one else…just you.

Have Mercy

Mercy is something that has long been a key element to living the Christian life. From the scripture we see that mercy, along with grace, were afforded us on the cross when Jesus gave His life for our sins.

We, however, have lost sight of what Christ did for us today. Too many times we neglect to offer the same to others when it comes to our own lives. Many of us are quick to judge others based on circumstances and situations, but are also quick to justify our own actions if facing the same judgement from others.

Why is it that we want to be offered mercy from others but have such a hard time granting the same? Truth is, if we look at the cross, we should all be willing to have mercy on each other. Christ cleared our debt mercifully on the cross, taking our place in so we could have eternal life.

John 3:16-17 tell us of this mercy in that Christ didn’t come to condemn but to save the world. Paul tells us of mercy and grace, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” (Ephesians 2:4, 5 KJV).

Another verse that tells us how we should be freely giving with our mercy is found in Luke:

“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36 KJV)

So we see how God showed us mercy, and we also see that we are asked by Christ to also show mercy to others.

Today, I encourage you to exercise mercy to one another. Take the opportunity to look at controversy as a chance to exhibit the love and mercy that was shown to us on the cross. Let’s not be quick to judge, but quick to mercy, we may find that our merciful attitude is contagious.

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.

Death at the Door

Death is one thing that I’ve been faced with a lot lately…in reality, we have all faced it in one way or another.  In fact, we have heard the statement that, “Life is tough, no one gets out alive.”

This has been a thought that I have considered over the past few days and have begun to really think through some parts of it…and I honestly do not agree with the statement like I used to.  What I have realized is that we have been promised something that we have forgotten, that is that we have been promised is that life will not end for us when we are centered in Christ.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we find a promise that we can rest assured in…this is where I have found my comfort recently in these difficult times we face…that is that when someone close to us passes away, we are forced to deal with the reality of death….we are forced to face our own mortality at times…we are forced to take inventory of our own lives and realize what might happen should we also pass on…are we ready to take that final step to LIFE?

The scripture reads: “13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout , with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (NASB)”

We have a promise of a life to come…so that leads me to know, through faith in Christ, that death is not the end of life, but the beginning…death is simply our entering the door to the eternal promise that Christ has prepared us a place and we go there to be with Him…we enter into LIFE.  This tells me that if you are in Christ, not only do you get out Alive, but better than ever….you achieve what you live your life to achieve.  You reach your final goal…a LIFE with Christ Himself for eternity.

I believe it is high time for us to stop thinking that death is the end all, be all for those who are in Christ…but we must also realize that if we are not in Christ then we will find that death is the end of our opportunity to know Christ as He desires to be known…

Do you know Christ? Do you have a personal relationship? If the answer to either of these questions is no…I urge you today to find a relationship with the one who died for you on a cross…a death to defeat death and offer life…a death that offered salvation…a death that leaves us with this statement about our lives…

“For me to live is Christ…and to die is gain!” Galatians 2:20

The Savior wants to know you today…do you want to know Him?

“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.