Archive for November, 2010

Are you ready?


                “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you unexpectedly.  For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” (Luke 21: 34-36.)


                Jesus gave his followers a warning to be ready for his return (second coming.)  The focus was to remain on him and on the future kingdom.  He recognized that human beings tended to get distracted, and he addressed those distractions here.  He had commanded his followers to give their excess wealth away; to refrain from sexual immorality; to desire being servants rather than masters; to deny their own wants, needs, and desires, and to place others ahead of themselves.  To follow these commands sounded like non-sense to those who did not believe in a future eternity with God.  Whenever a person loses site of the eternal, they inevitably begin to live for themselves; they desire wealth, material possessions, beauty, and control; they indulge in their own wants and desires, often without restriction (they lay down the future to take hold of the present; whereas believers set aside present distraction for their future hope.)  Jesus identified three symptoms of a distracted follower; first, carousing: which is identified as the habitual use of alcohol (excessively celebrating every night of the week.)  A second symptom of distraction is drunkenness: which is alcohol consumption in excess (the typical Jewish wine was a mixture of 4 cups of water with one cup of wine; hard to get drunk from this type of combination, unlike today where it is commonly 4 parts liquor to no part of anything else.)  A third distraction would be the ‘cares of this life:’ these cares are anything that distracts a person from focusing on the life to come; which could include money, alcohol, house, cars, kids, career, health, beauty, children’s education, 401 k plans, recreation, a woman or a man, a home, free time, etc.  These distractions cause a person to not be prepared for the return of the Lord.  He likens the day of his return to a snare (a snare is a hidden trap that catches unsuspecting prey in the wilderness.)  That day is completely hidden, and many people who aren’t prepared will be caught by surprise and destroyed by it.  Jesus is warning us that each day we should be expecting him to return, and behaving accordingly.  Distractions can be very deadly.

                Text messaging is a relatively new term in the American language; it is usually used in describing communication between people, and is often described positively.  But recently, text messaging has been associated with tragedy.  All over the country people are more regularly text messaging while driving motor vehicles.  The results have been disastrous.  One case involved a very prominent plastic surgeon who was apparently text messaging when he drove off of a cliff and tumbled to his death.  You might ask, “What could have been so important that it was worth dying over?”  Sadly, Dr. Frank Ryan was twittering a message about his dog that was with him in the car when he drove off the cliff; he died and his dog was badly injured.  Dr. Ryan set out on a journey, but got distracted, and as a result he never reached his destination.  So many people who believe in Jesus Christ start out on a journey toward an eternal destination, but never make it, because they get distracted by some meaningless worldly pleasure or concern.  Something that seems so harmless can lead to destruction; something meaningless can rob a person of an eternity with God.  This doctor was not thinking that death would arrive at his doorstep when he was eating breakfast; he never thought that would be his final car ride; he didn’t wake up in the morning and savor the sunrise knowing it would be his last.  Yet, death came for him quickly, and without sounding an alarm.  Jesus as well, will come for each of us in like manner.

                Today, are you expecting Jesus to return, or are we expecting him to come at time that is more convenient for you?  Are you focusing on the cares of this world?  Have you allowed distractions to take your eyes off of Christ?  How can you keep your eyes on Jesus and not get distracted?  Firstly, the word of God is a road map that helps you to continue heading in the right direction.  Reading the bible daily is essential for reaching your destination.  Praying is another tool that allows god to guide and direct your life.  There are so many opportunities to pray; in the shower, in the car while driving (eyes open please); silently while in line at the grocery store; perhaps while you are on a nightly walk.  The key is, to connect with God in your heart.  Also, fellowshipping with other believers is essential, as is ministering to the non-believers.  You can talk to others about your faith, and you needn’t be ashamed of the God you call your own.  Also, any time that you do what God has commanded, you are moving forward and keeping your eyes on the eternal things in life; giving money to those in need; listening to someone without talking; showing love to a stranger; visiting the sick; returning grocery carts; picking trash up off of the ground when we see it; smiling at people; complimenting others when you see them doing something worthy of praise; sharing scripture with others, etc.  There are so many possible ways to do Christ’s will, but they are all acts of love.  The best way to not do the wrong thing is to continually being the right thing.  Give your whole life to the Lord, make him the central figure in your heart and life, and on the day that he returns, you will not be surprised, or frightened; but rather you will be filled with joy at the knowledge that an eternity with Jesus Christ awaits you.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and lift You up; You are worthy of praise and honor and glory.  Father we ask that You would please remove the distractions from our lives, and help us to focus on the return of Your Son.  By the power of Your Holy Spirit speak to us and give us conviction and knowledge of Your will for us; give us also opportunities to serve You and to serve others.  Help us to recognize moments when we can connect with You Father.  May we always be ready Lord for the conclusion of Your plan, and for the life to come.  We love You Father, we love You Lord, and we love You Holy Spirit, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Strangers and Foreigners


                Then he said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted within his own country.  But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zaraphath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”  So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust him out of the city; and they led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built that they might throw him down over the cliff.  Then passing through the midst of them he went his way (Luke 4: 24-30.)


                Jesus was speaking to a town full of people who had seen him grow from a boy into a man. Before all of his miracles he probably worked as a carpenter.  Those people knew of him, and knew his family quite well.  In Mathew 13: 55-56, the towns people say, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary?  And his brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?  And his sisters, are they not all with us?”  Jesus was a real live person, with brothers and sisters; he interacted with others; he didn’t live in a monastery; he ate, slept, went to the bathroom, worked, played, laughed, and cried; he attended the festivals and wore the robes (but never once did he sin; never once was he displeasing to God.  (In fact, we read in other scriptures that his brothers disliked him; living beside Jesus was probably a very humbling experience for them.)  Jesus addressed two prophets in this scripture who had been rejected by their own countrymen.  Elijah and Elisha were explosive characters in the Old Testament who performed all sorts of miracles.  Elijah caused a drought to last for three years in Israel because of the wickedness of King Ahab.  During that time, he went to a foreign land and stayed with a widow who was near to starvation; God provided them with enough food to survive the three years while all Israel went hungry.  Elisha was Elijah’s protégé who took over after Elijah was taken up in to heaven.  Naaman was a commander in the Syrian army; an army that was continually at war with the nation of Israel.  He so desperately wanted to be healed that he reached out to the enemy’s prophet for help.  God used Elisha to heal Naaman, an adversary of his people, and not one leprous Israelite was healed by Elisha during this time.

                I grew up in a little town in the middle of nowhere?  I moved away and found California more interesting than Michigan; it was new, and fun.  The place where I grew up was something I had taken for granted; I was so familiar with it, I had a hard time seeing its beauty and majesty.  These men and woman Jesus was speaking too had grown up with him; they had known him from his childhood, but they made the mistake of believing he was less worthy of being praised because of it.  God and human beings are not equal; God is in heaven, and human beings are beneath Him; God is all powerful, and human beings are weak.  God is pure and holy, and human beings are impure and unholy.  The Jewish people had been taught to reverence God, which was a good thing; many had gone too far, and saw very little of God in humanity; yet God had made human beings in his likeness and image; so man is shaped like God; man feels similar emotions to God; man thinks similar thoughts (this is why people desire to design and build things; God is a designer and builder; this is why human beings desire to master their environment; because God is the master over the entire universe.) So, because they saw God as distant and unfamiliar; they felt anger toward a man claiming to be God because they were familiar with him.  The concept challenged everything that they had wrongly come to believe.  Had they known nothing about Jesus; if he was from a distant country or foreign land, they would have been more open to receiving the message; instead they allowed their knowledge of him to blind them from seeing his true identity.  In the nation of Israel today there are very few Jews who profess a faith in Jesus Christ, or a faith in God period (There are many messianic Jews around the world who have accepted Christ and call him ‘Teacher,’ and ‘Master,’ but not in Israel.)  The people of God have been blinded.  Jesus delivered a message to them, and because of their disbelief, the message went out from Jerusalem to a world full of strangers and foreigners.  Non-Jews have been healed by the millions and whole countries have converted to Christianity. 

Often we share the message we have received with those we expect will be most receptive to it; our family, and friends, co-workers and acquaintances.  We will often find the opposition from these individuals is great.  Many times the person you’d least expect to receive the message will be the one who receives it.  When others have rejected the message, move forward; God wants you to bring his love to any who will listen (this does not mean you stop loving everyone; it means you are called to produce fruit, and when a certain person isn’t fruitful you focus on someone who will be.)  Reach out to the strangers, to the foreigners, to those you’ve never met, and God will show you a harvest you could never have imagined.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You guide us in spreading the gospel to whomever You desire.  Help us Lord to let go of ministering to those who are not going to receive You, that we might go on to reach those who will.  Give us courage and boldness to stretch out to those we don’t know; to those who are strangers and foreigners.  Guide us by the power of Your Holy Spirit to be Your messengers.  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.

God’s Truth


                At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for it seemed good in Your sight.  All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father.  Nor does anyone know the Father except the son, and the one to whom the son wills to reveal him” (Mathew 11: 25-27.)


                Jesus thanked God the Father for hiding the truth from the wise and prudent.  Instead, it pleased God to make the truth known to the simple minded.  The hidden truth was the identity of Jesus, and his relationship to God.  All that God had made and all that existed had been given to Jesus.  Youth was something that the Jews equated with stupidity and weakness.  In fact, in a group of Jewish men, they often spoke in order of age; the oldest spoke first and the youngest spoke last.  The very old were held up as more honorable than the youth.  Here Jesus was flipping Jewish culture on its head.  They believed that with age came wisdom; wisdom was seen as something that could be attained, discovered, sought after and grasped.  Jesus made it clear that true wisdom could not be attained, but rather, it could only be received from God.  God was truth; a person’s closeness to God indicated how much truth they had attained.  The only one who had ever truly known God was him, and so, the knowledge of God could only be revealed to others through Him.  Sin separated a person from the knowledge of God, because God’s spirit did not fellowship with evil; Jesus, being sinless and the son of God had perfect knowledge of his Father, and he delighted in revealing that knowledge to those who were simple.  The truth was given to the ignorant and unintelligent.

                Young children are often better at recognizing evil than are adults.  As a child, we once had a teen age baby sitter come over to watch my sister and brother and I.  He got in to the liquor cabinet.  He began to drink; I was curious and so he handed me a shot glass full of liquor.  As soon as I tasted it, I spit it out.  The liquor tasted so horrible, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would drink it.  Children are often far better at discovering who a person is by what they do, not by what they say.  Adults are often blinded enough to trust a person’s words without seeing congruent actions.  [Words turn in to lies when they don’t match up with actions; actions are always the true, and kids know it.]  Children can often identify the sin in other people’s lives without needing to see it, or understand its nature; they intuitively know things, because God’s spirit is a voice they hear from within.  Growing up there was a local child molester that made my friends and I uncomfortable; each of us intuitively new that there was something strange about him, and later our suspicions were confirmed; yet the adults in the community were more than happy to trust him with their children; after all, he was a lawyer and a prominent citizen.  As many children grow, they stop hearing that voice.  When a person receives the Holy Spirit, that internal voice returns; they again become able to sense good and evil with ever greater accuracy.  I believe this was what Jesus was talking about when he said, ‘You must become as a little child.’  Physical age is no longer the indicator of purity, goodness, and an understanding of God’s simple truths; a 50 year old can again be as a little child, on the inside.  God’s truth returns, and the simple are restored [but immediately God’s truth is at war with the intelligence of this world.]  Intellectualism is man’s attempt to master knowledge without God.  Intellectuals look down upon those who believe God is the answer for ‘how’ and ‘why’ instead of their beliefs in ‘time’ and ‘chance.’  They laugh when a person without a high school diploma seeks to tell them about the truth.  They live in their minds and their hearts are completely empty.  They search the stars for an answer they cannot know with their minds, but must comprehend in the deepest parts of themselves.  They look under every rock for an understanding that doesn’t include God, and when they observe something new, they believe they are getting closer to an answer; but they have only discovered new questions [They never arrive at any true meaning or purpose.]  Those who have found Jesus Christ don’t need to search any longer; those who have looked to him, now know the truth; they have received the truth from God, and have come to understand that no one can ever discover the answer unless God himself gives it to them.

                Today, intellectualism, and rationalism are duking it out with ‘faithfulism.’  Our truth comes from God, and apart from Him, understanding is dark and deceitful.  When we read an author, we have to ask ourselves the question, “Are they a believer?”  If they are not, then we must read carefully and critically [the same is true of television programs.]  We must begin our day upon the unchanging truth we have in Jesus Christ, and if, in order to learn something new we need to depart from the teachings of the Lord, it isn’t worth learning.  The truth is not in some text-book, it isn’t expressed in an equation, but it resides in our hearts, as God himself lives within the believer.  This knowledge cannot be acquired or attained; you cannot earn a PHD in truth; it comes from a growing relationship with God.  As you move closer to Him, your vision will become clearer, and clearer.  Reading the bible is a very good way to continue your journey with God.  Prayer is another way; pray for wisdom and knowledge specifically.  Most importantly, doing what God has asked you to do, will bring you closer to Him.  Lastly, you never have to be afraid of the truth; never be embarrassed that you believe in something the intellectuals of the world thinks is archaic and narrow minded, but rather rejoice, knowing that you have truly found the answer that has, and will continually allude them unless they give themselves over to the creator of all things.  If you don’t know the truth, ask God to give you the truth; ask him for his Holy Spirit in prayer in His Son’s name, and you will receive what you ask for.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You and we ask and pray that You would give us more of Your truth, and more of Your goodness, and help us desire to be simple and reliant upon Your word.  We pray for those who are lost, those who are intelligent in their own thinking, and those who trust in the achievements of men.  Help us to be as little children, to look to You in all that we do, and to desire the knowledge of Your Holy Spirit.  We love You Father, we thank You, we praise You, and we love You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you. 

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