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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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?

Who or What are you Voting for?

I have heard this question many times over the past couple of weeks, whether in the form of a question, or in the actual answers that some are giving, and it has broken my heart to see some of the things that are being said…Please continue reading before you write me off on this article.

First things first, I encourage everyone to vote. You do have a voice…do not let it be stifled because you feel that your vote will not count. One penny doesn’t equal a lot of money, but when a number of pennies are put together it can grow into a great amount of money…Second, I can think of no better way to state it than I already have in a Facebook post from earlier in the week:

“We are acting no better than the two candidates digging up and bickering about the past that had already happened and worrying about a future that has yet to happen. We have this moment that we can do something about….THIS MOMENT ALONE…and after this moment is gone we have another. At this point I am praying and even more undecided about who I should vote for based on all the talk and am earnestly praying about who to vote for…and I would urge each of you to put down your phones and push away your keyboards and do the same.

Vote with your conscience! Not with the media…not with your friends…vote for yourself and stop all the arguing. We are the UNITED STATES of America, yet right now we seem like the UNTIED States. Show our unity and not our division. We have allowed the media and politics to completely divide and dictate how we feel and how we act. They tell us that there is a problem, but the problem is the lies that are being passed off as truths. Please pray that we will wake up and see what is happening and pray for guidance in this election season. Stop buying into the lies that you have to vote for this or for that…and don’t buy the farce that a vote for a third party is a vote against a major candidate.

Do we even realize that people have lost homes and lives because of flooding? Or is all we care about these two egotistical candidates who are acting like preschool children and playing a game of “I know you are but what am I?”

God, have mercy on us! Pray for unity and pray for revival!!”

You DO have a voice! Let it be heard in November….let HIM be heard in November!

 

Patience: Dealing with a No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexanders Bad Day“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972)

You ever have one of those days where nothing seems to go right?  One of those days where even your best efforts don’t seem to be enough?  A day in which you feel that moving to another country might be the answer you are looking for?  A day that could only be described as a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”?

Some days life can get us down…some days life can throw us a curve ball…some days we want to move to Australia to get away from all of our troubles…Some days we feel like Alexander.  The 1972 children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day written by Judith Viorst is a book about a young man who wants to get away from it all by moving to Australia.  His logic?  That everything in Australia is upside-down, so it would have to flip his fortune…deserted by a friend, no dessert in his lunch bag, lima beans for dinner, kissing on TV…with many other little things thrown in the mix…all contributing to one of the worst days in his young life.

Many of us can relate to Alexander…dealing with the small things that can all pile up…forcing us to wonder, “can it get any worse?”  Life can cause us pain.  Life can get us down.  Life can defeat us on a daily basis…all working together to get us off our game.  Job had one of those days…lost his family…lost his belongings…lost everything that he could have ever wanted in life…all without reason…all without explanation.

Job was a man of God, giving God the praise in every situation in his life, earning God’s favor.  In the Book of Job we see many things that we can apply to our lives as Christians… First, we see that Satan doesn’t mess with those he already has.  Satan knew of Job because God knew of Job…we see this in the way that Satan was looking for someone to bully.  Satan had to go to God to ask permission to mess with Job’s life…which leads us to the second point…God will not give us more than we can handle at any given time.  God allows Satan to attack Job, but gives him guidelines each and every time that Satan asks.  Third, we see repentance and redemption as the book comes to a close…and we also see God establishing His authority.  As part of this we see Job brought down to size by the words and ways of God…as God explains what authority He has in a world that has forgotten Him.

First, Satan cannot mess with a child of God unless God allows it to happen.  Not only do we see this from the fact that Satan had to ask God for permission to even approach Job and his family.  God was looking out for Job, and also proving a point to Satan that a true believer will stand firm no matter what the test.  Over the first few chapters it looks like Satan is winning…he is attacking Job from every angle, but Job continues to stand strong through out the battles.  Satan may have seemingly won the first few battles, but when all is said and done we see that God won the war.

Job faced the storms in his life with a hope that endured…loss of virtually everything that contributed to the livelihood of his life.  Think about the economy we live in today…many losing their jobs, losing money, losing assets, houses, etc.  We are in a financially trying time.  That is what Job was facing, complete loss of a way of life…and on top of it all he lost his family and his health…and we think we have it bad?  Paul even echoed this in his life where in Philippians 3:9 he says, “I consider it all lost for the sake of knowing Christ.”  Paul echoes this in Galatians 2:20, stating, “I am crucified with Christ, yet I live…” as well as in Romans 8:28 – “For we know that God works all things together for good for those that love Him.”

Paul was on both ends of this; going from persecuting the church to being persecuted for being part of the church…Paul understood that no matter the struggle, no matter the situation, God would not allow him to be tested if he couldn’t have handled it…Paul had patience…the patience of Job.

Job’s patience was a part of the second point of God not allowing more than we can handle.  Our patience is needed for us to fully grasp the love that God has for us…if we can’t be patient and anticipate the good that will come from the bad, there is no way we can receive the blessings granted to a child of the Most High God.  Look back at Paul’s words in Romans 8…

18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that[i] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

— Romans 8:18-27 (NIV)

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Paul states that the sufferings that we face here on earth are no where near comparable to the glory that awaits us…in other words, the good greatly out weighs the bad.  He goes on to state that all creation is waiting for the children of God to step up and exemplify the love of God to the world…we do this through living a righteous life, be it through missions, ministries, or even how we handle that unruly neighbor…all of these show God’s glory to a suffering world.

In verse 24 Paul states, “For in this hope we were save.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?” Is Paul saying that we have no hope?  No, Paul is saying we must have faith.  He tells us here that the hope of our future is what we were saved for…the eternal hope that comes as a promise from a Father who loves deeper than the oceans, higher than the skies, and as far as east is from the west.  The instance of where hope is gone mentioned here by Paul is this – when hope is realized.  When we receive what we hope for, there is no reason to hope.  If we have received our hopes, it is pointless to hope any longer for that; we have it…why waste time hoping for what you have.  We redirect focus when hopes are realized.

Third, we see repentance and redemption through the story of Job.  Job had the counsel of his friends, four friends who offered their advice on Job’s situation…three of which told Job that it was his fault he was facing the sorrow and loss.  Job was already suffering, and his friends felt that they would share in his suffering by offering words of an earthly fix.  How many of us do this on a daily basis?  We sit with a friend who is suffering and offer our condolences by supplying a fix…but where is God?  We offer advice too many times based on an earthly feeling of recovery…does this mean we should not offer friendship and counsel in someone’s time of need?  Not at all…what it means is we should be like the fourth friend of Job…the friend that explains that God is in control, that God is working through the situation, that God should be the main focus.

Why do we feel that we have to have all the answers?  If we did, we’d have nothing to hope for…nothing to have faith in…nothing to look forward to.  Toward the end of the book, Job seems to have taken it upon himself to explain why he should not be suffering…something we do daily as well.  We’ve all had those days where the only way to explain something in our minds is to focus on our accomplishments, to focus on what we have going for us.  Job was being told by his friends that he had to have committed a great sin for God to allow this kind of suffering, and Job bought in.  Job explains that he is a righteous man, a man who has devoted his life to God and served diligently.  But, Job forgot one thing…to give God the credit…Job focused on what he had done to better his life, but where was God in Job’s response?

God responded, asking questions of Job, asking Job who he was to question God…establishing the authority that He has had from the beginning of time.  God allowed Job to suffer, because He knew Job could handle it…but when Job lost focus and was forced to repent and receive the redemption that only God could provide.  Job’s patience had run out, but the end of the story is that God’s grace was sufficient when Job’s hope was gone…which means for us…that God’s grace is there when our hope is gone.

This truth of God’s grace is evident to us in His promise in Jeremiah 31:13…

“I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”

— Jeremiah 31:13b (NIV)

God’s promise rings as true today as it did then…he offers happiness to those who have lost hope…he offers comfort and joy to those who have none…He offers life to those who believe.  God is God, and we are not…He is in control, we aren’t…He is always there, even when we feel alone…God is right there with us…God offered Job redemption…as He does each of us…

Let your prayer be the prayer of Job today:

“1 Then Job replied to the LORD:

2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.

3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’

5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.

6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

— Job 42:1-6

Brought to Your Knees

The most interesting thing about when people become Christians is the fire that is within them to share the Gospel to those around them.  The hardest part of the whole process is the ‘let-down’ that takes place when those who are around them start to reject the message they are sharing.  This can be demoralizing and even destructive for many new Christians.

I want to share a couple of words of encouragement to these people this week.  First, don’t lose hope…remember that you once were right where they are at now; rejecting the message that is being shared to you.  Many new Christians don’t remember what they came from, and that is good, because once you are there, God doesn’t remember where you came from either.

This can be discouraging however for many who are experiencing this new life.  They are so wrapped up in how great it feels to have a new life that they lose sight of what it took to get them to this point.  They become overzealous with the idea that everyone should want this in their life and at times do not remember what it took to get through their walls that first time.  We need to help each other through these moments (moments that will occur in an even greater scale for those closest to us).

Secondly, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.  When the world rejects us, we tend to sink back and lose hope…these are the moments where we can shine even brighter.  The world is content in self-service.  No one wants to be told that they are doing it wrong…no one wants to give up selfish ambition or pride; especially if that is what they have always known.

There are many in this world that only seek to please themselves, and in many cases, don’t even know they are doing it.  They always degrade those around them, pushing others down and using them as stepping stools to reach that next plateau.  These people are so self consumed that the good news of Christ is something they cannot even fathom because of their vanity and pride.

Remember this, when they push you to your knees…you are in the perfect position to pray for them.  I would venture to say that if you look back over your life, there are times when you were the same way.  In going back to the first point…I’m not saying remember your old life…I’m saying remember what you came from and how much more enjoyable and pleasing your life is now that you found the way out.

It may not be easy, but Jesus does give us a promise in Matthew 11:28-30:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Take time to show this to others…share the joy of the relationship…show them it is different…and hit the ground praying.

Prayer

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Prayer is simply put our conversations with God.  This is something that a lot of Christians miss on (including those who have been a Christian and even those who are in ministry).  Prayer is designed for us to keep in touch with our Heavenly Father and something that is essential to the life of a Christian for their spiritual wellbeing.

Let me describe it like this…many of us have email, cell phones, maybe even a networking page such as myspace or facebook…but do we use the same things that go into our keeping up with those to keep in touch with God?  There are a lot of us who couldn’t get through our everyday life without the email or cell phone, but we try to get through the day without calling Home.  By Home I don’t mean calling your parents or calling your family…what I mean is praying.

One thing that comes to mind is this…how many times have we forgotten our cell phone at home? On most occasions when this happens we turn around and go back to get the phone because we can’t bear to go 10 minutes without being able to call someone or text someone.  But on the same note, how many times have we turned around to get our Bibles, or because we forgot to read that morning, or even because we forgot to pray?  I would venture to say that that number is significantly lower for the Bible than the cell phone.  We have become so wrapped up in the instant connection that we have to the world around us that we can’t see ourselves ever getting by without these modern technologies.  We do this, but if we would apply those same principles to our lives when it comes to keeping in touch with our creator we would find that our lives can and will be much easier because we’ll have a feeling for what God is doing in our lives.  We have this desire to stay in touch with the world, but we have lost our desire to stay in touch with the Creator of the world…this is something that we as Christians have to right!

As Christians we are called to a personal, intimate relationship with God.  This relationship is one that should mimic the life of Christ Himself.  By looking at the life that Christ lived, we see that prayer was a major part of His life, no matter where He was or what He was doing.  He would take 2-3 extra days at times when traveling to get away from it all and spend time with His Father.  When faced with the biggest decision of His life, prayer was the first thing He looked to, not the last.  In the garden, Jesus got away, left the disciples, and spent time with God…not to change God’s mind, but to ensure His father that His will would be accomplished.  If prayer and scripture were not important in our lives, then why was it so important to Jesus?  If it weren’t so important in our lives, why would Paul tell us to “Pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17)?

Could you develop a relationship with a family member or a significant other without communication?  NO…and you can’t develop a relationship with God without it either!  So what we need to do as Christians is focus on prayer, devote ourselves to the reading of Scripture, and base our lives on pleasing the one who gave life to us.  Prayer is the first step to a lasting relationship with God.

These Things We Do…

As I write this I reflect on the week that I have just come off of…a week of serving, a week of love, a week that I honestly did not want to end. I had the honor of being able to join a group from Heaton Christian Church on a Mission Trip to New York City to work with the New York City Relief Bus. I wasn’t sure what to expect heading in, but I knew that God had opened the door for me to be able to experience Him on a different level, and I was definitely not disappointed.

The one thing that I took away from the week more than any other is a couple of things that I experienced that were unexpected. First, the battle cry, “These things we do, that others may live!” These eight words struck a chord in me that has echoed through my mind for days…words of truth that I realized was much more than just words being spoken out of habit. Every encounter that we have here on earth can be a spiritual battle, and this opened my eyes that the things that we do in life need to be done so that others may live.

It may not be that we want them to live in the physical sense all of the time; yes, when it came to the relief bus we were working with folks who had next to nothing. We were giving them food and necessities that many of us take for granted. But on a deeper level was the love with which it was given, a love that included a message…a message that God loves you, no matter what you have done, no matter what your circumstance, no matter where you are in your life; God sees and meets you where you are! A message that says, “I want you to have an abundant life in Christ.” This is something we all need to see and experience in life.

Second, was a statue. A statue of Jesus, seated with nail-scarred hand out reached, sitting under a sign that had Matthew 25:40, “What you did for the least of these you did for me.” It really struck me in a way that I can’t explain, but left me wishing I had even more time to spend talking and sharing with those who I encountered during the night. It was humbling to see the reaction to a simple gesture that we take for granted. Seeing someone cry because they have not felt loved for weeks or months, but just simply sitting down and listening to them and loving on them the way that Christ would opens a door to share the true Gospel message…a message of love, because God is love!

I can’t even begin to explain how NYC has changed me in how I view others…we could all be in that situation, hurting, needing to be loved on. We cannot just walk by someone who is hurting, Jesus didn’t, he met them where they are and shared love with them. Love isn’t always a word you say, it isn’t in the things you can buy, it is a natural thing that happens when you allow yourself to open up to what God is trying to do through you. He is love! He wants us to show Him to others through His love; He wants us to love others the way He loves them – He wants us to meet them where they are.

That doesn’t mean that you have to go to NYC, it might mean that you have a next door neighbor who is hurting and just needs a listening ear. It might be that someone has fallen on hard times and just needs to feel like someone cares…it may be that someone needs to be loved on because they are feeling beaten down and just need to know that there is hope beyond the struggle they are dealing with…maybe they just need to meet Jesus and they will see it in you.

“Dear Friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God because God is love” 1 John 4:7-8 (HCSB)image1