Click on image for larger pic
Friday, September 13, 2013
I’ve been thinking the last several hours on the following verse by the psalmist; this particular psalm being attributed to Moses. It actually ties in with the thoughts from the last couple of blog posts.
Psalms 90:12 “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
It’s the phrase “teach us to number our days” that has my attention. When I looked at the Hebrew for “number,” it was the ideas of “to weigh out” and “prepare” that caught my eye. Those ideas connected in my mind to the thoughts of another truth shared by the brother of Jesus.
James 4:14 “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
I wonder how many of us actually live in light of the truth presented in these verses. It doesn't matter how old we are or how healthy we are; we are none of us promised tomorrow. My pastor posed the questions recently, “What if you knew you only had one more day to live? What would you do?” Frankly, according to the teaching of scripture as revealed in the above verses, we should be living every day as if it were our last.
That thought should cause no fear in the heart of the child of God, but it should give us pause as we consider how to invest our time and energy each day. Are we doing things that will honor the Savior? Are we acting so as to share His love and truth with others? Would we be pleased to invite the Lord in to share in our activities if He showed up at our door? The truth is—His indwelling Spirit is with the believer in everything we do.
It was significant to note that being careful to weigh out and prepare our days is connected to applying our hearts to wisdom. So, how do we obtain wisdom? The psalmist tells us that the fear of the LORD and obedience to His word is where we start.
Psalms 111:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments….”
Obedience to God’s word is also the evidence that reveals whether or not we truly love God.
1 John 2:3–5 “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.”
It’s pretty obvious to me from the prophecies recorded in scripture that we are living in the final days before Jesus returns both to take His family home to the Father (the rapture) and then again at least seven years later to reign as King of kings on planet earth from the throne of David in Jerusalem. The extent of those final days we cannot know—but we are definitely in the season, and I think the Lord holds us accountable to recognize that fact in light of His words to the religious leaders of His day.
Matthew 16:1–3 “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
I hope that considering these scriptures, you will join me in taking time each and every day to give yourself to the Lord anew and ask Him to help you honor Him with all you do and say that day. Make sure that you are ready to meet the Savior today—whether in the rapture or in passing from this life to the next.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
In the previous post we identified the times in which we live as ripe for judgment and that set the stage for expecting the rapture to happen soon. In this post we will focus more on how to “occupy” until the Lord comes to take His followers home. I have heard the section of scripture known as “The Sermon on the Mount” described as the constitution for “God’s Kingdom,” a term that describes those of us who by faith have accepted the gift of salvation made possible through the willing sacrifice and resurrection of His Son Jesus and serve Him as Lord. It is from this scripture that we learn how best to “occupy” our time as we patiently await His return.
This sermon begins by pronouncing a blessing on those whose lives reflect attitudes that should characterize the life of every believer. It begins with a blessing on the poor in spirit. Only those who are poor in spirit are willing to humble themselves before God as sinners in need of a Savior. Recognizing that you are poor in spirit leads naturally into developing the character traits that follow: mourning over sin, meekness, a hunger for righteousness, showing mercy, having a pure heart, being a peacemaker and being willing to suffer for faith in Christ. Once we recognize the great sacrifice that was required to provide for the forgiveness of sin, it should not only make us grieve and mourn over our own sin, but also over the sins of others.
Blessing is also pronounced on those who are meek. The Greek for “meek” defines it as being humble; Webster defines it as “Mild of temper; not easily provoked or irritated; patient under injuries; not vain, or haughty, or resentful.” One can only hope to have such an attitude toward others when one realizes one’s own sins and weaknesses before God and how God has responded to him/her with love, forgiveness and patience. I often have to remind myself when horrified at the actions of others that but for the grace of God it could be me.
Blessing is also promised to those that hunger and thirst after righteousness. This characteristic is evidenced in our lives when the desires of our heart are centered in His desires for us as revealed in the scripture. God promises that those with such a hunger and thirst will be filled—abundantly supplied and satisfied.
Those who have been filled with righteousness will find themselves showing mercy to others in like manner that God has shown Himself merciful to them. I believe that showing mercy leads to one being pure in heart, the next attitude listed. To be pure is to be clean and free from moral defilement, to be innocent and genuine. This speaks to me of our motives. It’s ministry or service without expectation. It’s kindness for the sake of being kind and sacrifice from a heart of love.
The next blessing is pronounced upon those who are peacemakers. A peacemaker is one who seeks to bring about reconciliation where there is division and promotes unity in hopes of preventing division to begin with. It’s interesting that this trait follows that of having a pure heart, because I think only those with pure hearts can really bring about peace. Their interest is other-centered rather than self-centered. In context with the rest of the passage, I would think that the focus of these efforts would be toward bringing about reconciliation between sinful man and his Savior.
The last two characteristics the Lord Jesus extols are very thought-provoking in light of the times in which we live.
Matthew 5:10–12 “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
As the morals of the world continue on a downward spiritual spiral to reflect the wicked desires of man in rejection of the will of God as revealed in His word, it is becoming ever more apparent that those who are true followers of Jesus are being categorized as intolerant and haters. Bible-believing Christians are being pushed to compromise their beliefs and accept the laws of men even when they contradict the truth of God’s word. Scripture is clear in teaching that when we are put in the position of choosing to obey the laws of men or of God, there is only one right choice.
Acts 5:29 “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Though the government in America today still allows freedom of worship, evidence is emerging revealing that the privilege of living according to a biblical mandate is in great jeopardy. The ball started rolling when the law was passed forbidding prayer in the public school system in the early 1960s. The attack continued to gain momentum with the 1973 ruling on Roe vs. Wade that resulted in the legalization of the murder of millions of innocent humans. It has gotten to the point that just recently a Christian couple from New Mexico was convicted by the state supreme court of violating the human rights law for refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. The Obamacare law is framed to penalize Christian business owners such as Hobby Lobby for refusing to participate because it includes a provision that supports abortion. The Governor of Virginia recently forced five State Police Chaplains to resign for praying in the name of Jesus. Military chaplains face being charged with a hate crime if they teach the scriptural position on homosexuality. The Army recently classified Evangelical Christians and Catholics as religious extremists. A man in Phoenix, Arizona, spent 60 days in jail for holding home bible studies; they have determined that homes and barns do not comply with the construction codes required for such use and that home bible studies are a violation of zoning ordinances. A couple in Marietta Georgia was forbidden to hold a bible study consisting of 6-8 people in their home since that constituted a church and violated zoning laws. College professors have lost their jobs for not fully supporting evolution. San Antonio recently passed an ordinance that in essence prohibits Christians from being active in city government or being eligible for city contracts.
Christians, though grieved by the increasing restriction of our liberties and the thought of coming persecution, should not be surprised at how events are unfolding. All is happening as foretold in God’s word. Paul stated it most clearly in his letters to Timothy.
1 Timothy 4:1–2 “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;”
2 Timothy 3:1–5 “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent [without self-control], fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
2 Timothy 3:12–13 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”
It is true that since the inception of the church, there have been many Christians who have suffered persecution at the hands of evil men—many of whom claimed to be acting in the name of God. It is the truth declared in verse 13 that stands out—“evil men and seducers will become worse and worse.” The goal of these wicked people is to keep people from the truth through the use of deception. I think it is very interesting to note that many of those working deception are doing so because they are themselves deceived.
True followers of God are going to face persecution not only from unbelievers, but also by those claiming to be part of the church that are really impostors and deceivers. These impostors and deceivers have themselves been deceived because they have chosen to reject the truth of God’s word. They have succumbed to perverting the truth of the word of God to present a message that appeals to the “itching ears” of their listeners and pads their bank accounts.
2 Timothy 4:2–4 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
2 Peter 2:1–3 “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you….”
It will eventually get so bad that family members will betray one another to the governing authorities.
Luke 21:16–17 “And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.”
Every child of God should take great comfort from the words of Jesus as He taught about the signs of His second coming.
Luke 21:28 “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
I pray earnestly for His soon return, for there to be peace in Jerusalem and that His will be done on earth as in heaven. Until that time I will continue to pray that my family will stand strong in their faith in God and in His word. I pray that we will be servants that will honor and glorify Him by how we live—how we “occupy” until Jesus returns to take us home to the Father. I will also continue to pray for all that need to come to Jesus in faith and repentance—especially those I love.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
When I woke up one morning recently, the following section of scripture from Luke captured my thoughts.
Luke 19:11–13 “And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.”
It was the phrase “Occupy till I come” that was the focus of my thoughts. The Greek explains that to “occupy” is to busy oneself with the task at hand—in context, fulfilling the will of the master.
I am among those followers of Jesus Christ that are looking for His soon return. As His follower, I believe that return to be in reference to the rapture—the time when He comes to take us home to the Father as promised in John 14.
John 14:1–3 “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Scripture is clear to differentiate between the Lord’s return to take believer’s home to the Father and His return to establish His kingdom on earth from the throne of David in Jerusalem.
1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
Revelation 19:11–16 “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Revelation 20:4 “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”
According to the prophecies of Daniel and the Apostle John, there will be a seven-year period preceding the return of Jesus to earth as King of kings during which Israel will finally recognize Him as their Messiah and during which those who choose to reject Him as Lord and Savior will suffer the great wrath of His judgment.
Those who choose to place their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior have His promise that they will not suffer the judgment of that wrath.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ….”
The words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew describe the time before Jesus returns to take His followers home to heaven to escape the coming judgment of His wrath against all who have rejected Him. It describes a time when life is going on as usual.
Matthew 24:37–42 “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”
That just won’t be the case during that final seven years before Jesus returns to establish His kingdom. The events described by the Apostle John in Revelation that will characterize that period will be full of chaos and evil causing great fear and suffering that will result in the deaths of millions; life will be anything but normal. We know that the times of Noah were filled with great wickedness…
Genesis 6:5 “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
…but the people continued as usual in their wicked lifestyles until the flood suddenly became a reality. They chose to ignore the preaching of Noah.
2 Peter 2:4–5 “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly….”
Once again, the prevalent lifestyle on planet earth is full of wickedness and appears to mirror the times of Noah. This time, however, it will be the rapture that becomes a reality; and many people, true followers of Jesus, will disappear without warning when Jesus comes to take them home to the Father. Just as in the days of Noah, multitudes of unbelievers are ignoring the message of the saints of God that preach of the need to repent and accept God’s gift of salvation in Jesus and escape the coming judgment.
I believe that we are living in the times just preceding the events detailed in the above scripture. The directive in Luke 19 applies to us just as surely as it did to the believers in Jesus’ day. We are to “occupy” until He comes to take us home; we are to be busy serving Him according to His will as revealed in scripture. In light of current world events and conditions that mirror prophetic revelations in God’s word that flash as neon signs warning us that His return is near, I think those of us who follow Jesus as Lord should be diligently focused on doing His will and laying up treasure in heaven. It is when our lives testify to our faith in, love for and dependence upon Jesus that the gospel we share is most fruitful—and time is short.
(to be continued)