The Rapture

JESUS SPEAKING

            “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of man (Jesus Christ):  For they ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all […] even so will it be in the day that the Son of man (Jesus Christ) is revealed.  In that day, he who is on the housetop and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away.  And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife.  Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.  I tell you in that night there will be two men in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left.  Two women will be grinding together; the one will be taken and the other left.  Two men will be in the field; the one will be taken and the other left” (Luke 17: 26 – 27, 30 – 36.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            The event Jesus describes in this scripture has collectively become known as ‘the rapture.’  In a moment, in the blink of an eye, God will gather up his faithful believers from around the world before pouring out His wrath upon the earth.  Co-workers, relatives, friends, and complete strangers will vanish in an instant.  Those who are left behind will face God’s judgments.  How can we be prepared for the rapture?  By loving eternal rewards more than worldly possessions (wealth, homes, jobs, belongings, etc.)  Jesus asks us to consider Lot’s wife; a woman who was ill-prepared for God’s deliverance.  In the Old Testament, she and her family were lead out of the wicked city of Sodom and Gomorrah just prior to its destruction.  Sadly she disobeyed God’s command, by turning around and looking back upon the city with fondness and affection.  As a result she was turned in to a pillar of salt.

            Like Lot’s wife, many people throughout history have mistakenly loved worldly possessions more than their own lives.  One day as my dad and I were driving through the town where I grew up, we happened by a certain building.  He informed me that decades earlier the building had caught on fire.  The owner foolishly rushed in and went to the basement to collect some of his valuables.  Unfortunately he became trapped inside.  He desperately tried to crawl through a basement window; but it was too small for him to fit through.  Unable to help, onlookers could do nothing but watch as he perished in the flames.  He died because he valued his possessions more than his own life.

            Similarly, many value their belongings more than their eternal lives.  Those who have found great comfort in their worldly possessions are therefore ill-prepared for the coming kingdom.  As believers we must be ready for ‘the rapture;’ an event that could occur at any moment.  To be completely prepared is to love God more than anything else.  We must make truth more important than trust funds and make people more valuable than possessions.  As our values change we will come to embrace the rapture and look forward to it with great joy and overwhelming anticipation.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to value the things that are truly important.  Prepare our hearts and minds for the rapture; may our thoughts be continually focused upon Your coming Kingdom.  Strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit that we might accomplish your will and bring honor and glory to your Holy name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Opposing Evil

JESUS SPEAKING

                “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.  But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God.  Abraham did not do this […] You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you desire to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and he does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  And because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me” (John 8: 39, 44 – 45.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus opposed the religious leaders with great zeal; they claimed to be descendants of Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people.  However, Abraham was a righteous man; a man who looked forward to the coming of the messiah; yet as Jesus stood before them, they sought to kill him.  They did not know God; instead they served Satan (a fallen angel who continually opposes God.)  Lucifer influences and plays a part in every act of rape, murder, incest, theft, divorce, drunkenness, and dishonesty (to name just a few sins.)  God’s truth is a light that exposes Satan’s lies.  Those who serve the ‘son of perdition’ will stop at nothing to extinguish God’s divine illumination, so they can continue in sin without remorse.  Where ever God is not, evil exists in abundance. 

                Adolf Hitler orchestrated one of the largest mass murders in world history.  He rounded up and killed nearly 6 million Jews.  He rejected God and the bible.  He avidly believed in the evolutionary teachings of Charles Darwin (his teachings attempted to explain creation by means of naturalistic processes—if life could arise and evolve on its own, then a divine creator would no longer be necessary.)  To Adolf Hitler, human beings were nothing more than animals; animals that could be enhanced through proper breeding.  As a believer in ‘survival of the fittest’ (an evolutionary term), Hitler assumed some human beings were less advanced than others.  In turn, he sought to create a master race by systematically destroying the unfit; before his campaign of ethnic cleansing, he killed the elderly, the deformed, and the disabled.  When the Godly stood up to oppose him, he killed and imprisoned them as well.  After he invaded Poland he killed nearly 3 million Christians and Catholics.  He also killed 3,000 church clergy members; another 2,600 Catholic priests were murdered throughout Europe.  He didn’t stop there; his goal wasn’t to control the churches, but to destroy them.  Following his death, the truth about his design to obliterate Christianity after the war became known.  Jesus Christ stood in the way of his twisted ideology; many disciples stood up and spoke the truth; they testified of his evil deeds.  Hitler (much like the Pharisees who opposed the Lord) had to remove the light of Christ before he could practice his atrocities uninhibited.  [As believers, we are obligated to resist what is evil; to speak the truth and to oppose the wicked.

                Those who follow God oppose evil; no matter the cost.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit we boldly speak the truth (as Christ has taught us.)  Speaking the truth may not be popular; we may be excluded, hated, or even persecuted by those who seek to sin without conviction.  Satan will stop at nothing to see man disobey God.  Are you willing to stand up for what is right?  Are you able to be a light in the darkness?  Are you prepared to preach the truth in a world that prefers lies?  Speak the truth, and God will bless you.  Stand firm, and He will strengthen you.  Allow the light of Christ to shine through you, and you will “dwell in the house of the Lord, Forever.”

                “Lord Heavenly Father we desire to oppose what is evil and to expose the works of Satan.  Give us the strength and the courage to preach the truth in a world that prefers lies.  May we be a light in dark places.  May we not fear the reprisals of man; may we always seek to do Your will; no matter what the cost.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of the these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Why the Messiah needed to die

JESUS SPEAKING

       Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.  And they talked together of all these things which had happened.  So it was, while they conversed and reasoned that Jesus himself drew near and went with them.  But their eyes were restrained so that they did not know him.  And he said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”  Then the one whose name is Cleopas answered and said to him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have you not known the things which happened there in these days?”  And he said to them, “What things?”  So they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and crucified him.  But we were hoping that it was he who was going to redeem Israel […] Then he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter in to his glory?”  And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24: 13-27.) 

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

       After the annual Passover feast, millions of pilgrims were leaving Jerusalem to return to their homes.  Two of Christ’s followers joined in the mass exodus; their hearts were broken and their minds filled with confusion; they like many, had believed Jesus to be the messiah; their hopes were shattered at the foot of the cross, and buried with Christ in his tomb.  Supposing him to be dead, the two disciples debated the meaning of his brief existence.  Suddenly Jesus Christ himself drew near to them in the guise of another pilgrim traveling along the road.  The men could not comprehend why the messiah would need to suffer and die.  Quoting the Old Testament scriptures, Jesus cited prophesies that foreordained his punishment and affliction.  The cross was not an example of weakness, but rather, an illustration of strength; neither was his blood a symbol of death; for every drop that was shed, has come to represent God’s forgiveness.  Jesus Christ took the punishment for sin upon himself; he died so that others could live. 

       In 1943, a ship named the USS Dorchester was sailing to Greenland as a part of a World War 2 navy convoy.  The Dorchester was carrying 903 American soldiers and 4 chaplains.  One evening, as the ship slumbered through the icy waters of the North Atlantic, the men were abruptly awakened by a loud explosion.  A German U-boat torpedo had torn a hole in the bow of the vessel.  All of the men immediately appeared on deck.  The four chaplains began distributing the life vests to the soldiers as they abandoned the sinking ship.  Within a matter of minutes, they ran out of vests.  One of the chaplains bravely removed his vest and gave it to a soldier; the other three chaplains followed his example; these brave men then locked arms and began to sing and pray before drowning in the frigid waters.  They chose to die so that others could live.  

       The disciples did not initially understand why Jesus Christ had to die.  He died, because the punishment for sin had to be administered; and the punishment for sin is death.  He perished in our stead.  He embraced agony and suffering so that we could inherit eternal life.  He took our place because he loved us.  Return that love today by embracing him.  Thank him for his sacrifice and honor him for his courage; you are only alive today, because he was willing to die for you.

       “Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you and praise you for receiving our punishment.  We understand that it was necessary for you to have suffered for our sins.  You loved us when no one else could.  Because of your sacrifice we have eternal life.  May we never forget what You have done; may we always remain grateful; and may we continually serve You and worthily magnify Your Holy name.  We love You Jesus, we thank You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Gratitude and Humility

JESUS SPEAKING:

               “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 5: 3.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS:

                In this scripture, the phrase “poor in spirit” refers to the attribute of humility (a precious treasure that creates joy in the hearts of all those who possess it.)  Practicing humility means acknowledging that God is the giver of all good things.  The Lord provides us with our food, shelter, clothing, careers, relationships, and all of the other necessities of daily living.  He has complete power over all of creation; the very air we breathe is a gift from Him.  Although the humble offer God many praises, the prideful acknowledge only themselves; they mistakenly believe that everything they possess is the product of their own intelligence and hard work.

                Nebuchadnezzar was one of the mightiest kings who has ever lived.  He became ruler of the Babylonian empire in 605 B.C.  Like most powerful men, humility was not one of his greatest attributes; he demanded that his subjects worship him in the manner of a God.  One day as he strolled leisurely through his palace, he spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”  Before he was finished speaking, a voice came from heaven saying, “The kingdom has departed from you […] your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field.  They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven years shall pass over you, until you know that the most high rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4: 30 – 32.)  Indeed, because the Babylonian King had failed to give God the credit for his possessions, he slipped in to madness and began acting like an ox for seven years.

                As believers we must not make the same mistake as Nebuchadnezzar.  Instead, we must acknowledge that all good things come from God; that every possession is a blessing and a gift.  Those who desire to enter God’s kingdom would do well to continually honor Him.  Practically, Christian humility can be expressed through prayers of gratitude offered to God daily; we can also say grace before meals and praise the Lord in our private time and during worship services.  Tithing is another acknowledgement of God’s goodness.  Ultimately whatever form of thankfulness we choose to offer, it should come from the heart; and from a deep appreciation for everything that God has so graciously given us.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your many gifts and provisions; for our food, our clothes, and our homes (to name a few.)  We recognize that all good things come from You.  Help us to maintain a spirit of gratitude and humility.  Cleanse our hearts of pride, that in lowliness we might better serve You and our fellows.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Fearlessly Spreading the Gospel

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?  And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Mathew 10: 29-31.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus Christ commands every believer to boldly preach the gospel.  Some will be despised and rejected; many will be ridiculed and threatened; still others may even face death.    No matter the consequence, the faithful must never remain silent.  Those who fear man cannot obey God, for men may kill the body, but God has the power to condemn the soul for all eternity.  The ancient Israelites feared God and in turn suffered great hardship.  They were conquered by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Romans.  Each new conqueror imposed laws that made honoring God punishable by death.  At one time circumcision was outlawed; Jewish mothers caught circumcising their children were crucified.    Another law made it a requirement for the Jews to make sacrifices to pagan God’s; the many faithful followers who refused were immediately put to death.

                In the sixth century B.C., three young Jewish men feared God more than men.  A powerful King named Nebuchadnezzar resurrected a large golden statue in his own likeness.  On the day it was unveiled he called together the rulers of the provinces and the peoples of every nation; they were commanded to bow down and worship his image.  The multitudes were warned that anyone that refused would be burned alive.  Three faithful believers named, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego refused to obey (choosing to offend the king rather than to anger God.)  They were bound hand and foot and cast into a fiery furnace.  As the king watched he saw a fourth person with them in the flames; somone who protected them; a man who looked like the ‘Son of God.’  When the boys emerged from the furnace unharmed, the king pardoned them and proclaimed the awesome power of the one true and living God.  Much like Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, the apostles remained faithful.  Many were beaten, humiliated, imprisoned and tortured because they refused to remain silent.  Eventually, eleven of the twelve disciples were put to death for the sake of the gospel.  According to church history, Peter was crucified upside down in Rome.  Andrew, Simon, and Thaddeus were also crucified.  Bartholomew was crucified after having his skin cut off.  Philip was crucified and then stoned to death.  James was beheaded by King Herod.  Thomas was stabbed to death and Mathew was killed with an ax.  James the less was clubbed to death and Mathias was burned alive.  Although they perished for the faith, they are not dead; they are alive with Christ, in his eternal kingdom.

                Every disciple is called to boldly preach the gospel; to speak the truth in love no matter the consequence.  Today many are suffering persecution; in Muslim countries, Christians are being attacked and beheaded; in communist countries they are being imprisoned and tortured.  Yet in the United States, many professing Christians won’t even lean over and tell a stranger that Jesus loves them.  Won’t you reach out in love today?  Won’t you speak up and tell your friends and family about Jesus Christ?  Present the gospel to your neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances; for when you honor God, God will honor you; and you will walk in eternal fellowship with Him in His kingdom.

                “Heavenly Father, take away our fear of death and our fear of others; may we fear only You.  May Your words and Your message burn within our hearts and may the gospel freely flow from our mouths.  May we share eternal life with all those who have been persecuted and put to death for their faith in Your Son.  Provide us with opportunities to share the truth with others in love.  We thank You Father, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Christ’s Replacement

JESUS SPEAKING

            “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.  However, the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14: 25-26.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The Lord informed his disciples that he would soon be taken away from them.  In his absence, he promised to send them a replacement; a helper; someone to guide and direct them; a spiritual entity that would remind them of all of his teachings.  After the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus ascended in to heaven; having reached his eternal position, he sent the Holy Spirit in to the hearts and minds of every believer (on the day of Pentecost.)  The disciples began to speak in foreign languages; they were given the power and authority to forgive sins; to cast out demons; to raise the dead; and to heal the sick.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit was, and is, proof that Jesus Christ did reach his destination; the work of the Spirit today confirms that he is still seated at the right hand of God; a place of honor from which he continues to guide and direct his church.

                In the early 20th century a bold and daring explorer named Roald Amundsen set out to reach the remote poles of the earth.  He succeeded in reaching the South Pole in 1911, and the North Pole in 1926.  As the story goes, during his northern journey, he took along a homing pigeon (homing pigeons mate for life; in turn, when separated from their mates they have a unique ability to return to their nests from anywhere in the world.  Before leaving for the North Pole, Amundsen, not wanting his wife to worry, promised to release the pigeon when he reached his destination; when the bird arrived at its nest in Norway, his wife was elated.  The pigeon was a symbol; a message proclaiming that although the explorer had arrived in a distant land, he was very much alive.

                The Holy Spirit is also a symbol; it is a message and a reminder that Jesus Christ still lives.  Many have received the message, many have not.  Those who have opened their hearts to God’s messenger have acknowledged that Jesus is their Lord and master.  That he is a living God; that He currently guides and directs His church through the power of the Holy Spirit.  If you have never received His gift, go somewhere quiet, and ask God to provide you with the Spirit of truth.  The Lord never withholds this good thing from those who genuinely ask Him.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we believe that Jesus Christ is Your Son, and that he is seated at Your right hand.  Fill us with Your Holy Spirit; guide and direct us; teach us, and remind us of Your ways.  May we be faithful believers; may we never waiver; may we never grow weary, and may we never turn away from Your truth.  May You continue to use us to fulfill Your will in this place, until the time when we will see You, face to face.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Living in the moment

JESUS SPEAKING

            “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Mathew 6: 34.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

            Apprehension, fear, and anxiety are destructive emotions that cause turmoil in the hearts and minds of most human beings.  Although the majority of our worries revolve around some real (or imagined) future difficulty, they usually cause us distress in the present.  Such uncertainties can steal our joy and distract us from the work that God has currently called us to accomplish.  Therefore, Jesus commands every believer to live in the moment and to focus wholly and completely upon the blessings, cares, and concerns of today.

            In the Old Testament book of exodus we are given a wonderful illustration that emphasizes the importance of living in the moment.  After leaving Egypt and passing through the Red Sea the Jewish people wandered about in the wilderness for forty years.  Each day God miraculously fed them by causing a delicious bread to condense and accumulate on the desert floor.  No one was allowed to collect and store excess amounts of bread (except on the day prior to the Sabbath.)  Instead, they were only permitted to eat what was necessary to sustain them daily.  Violating this law meant focusing on tomorrow’s needs and concerns [When asked how one ought to pray Jesus reiterated this doctrine; we are told to ask God to, “give us this day our daily bread.”  Not our weekly, monthly, or yearly bread; but rather, “our daily bread.”]

            Fear of tomorrow serves only to distract us from the joys, blessings, and obligations of today.  When we focus on the present we are fully able to accomplish God’s will.  As we trust in the Lord we can begin to cherish every second, of every hour, of every day.  To live now is to live for God; knowing that His love is a present gift and not a future possibility.

            “Lord Heavenly Father, help us to live in the moment and to rely upon You for our daily needs.  May our concerns and our cares be firmly rooted in the present.  If our hearts possess fears and anxieties related to the future, remove them, that we may be joyful, loving, and better able to serve You today.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.