Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"Stand firm!"

"Therefore, my beloved brothers (and sisters), be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain!"  - I Corinthians 15:58

I have been thinking for a while that I need to revive my blogposts as we continue to see the world around us spiraling out-of-control ... out of OUR control ... and as people move farther and farther away from the truth of God's Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Today is the day!!

The verse above speaks a word of encouragement to those who are being faced with the daily struggles of life and especially to those who are engaged in the spiritual battle for truth, for hope, for peace, for joy, for LIFE!!  This is not a game we are playing or something you and I can do "part-time."  As soldiers in Christ's army we wage war every day against the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realms and we must put on all the armor God puts at our disposal (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Discouragement is a temptation that must be met with faith based upon the truth.  Yesterday morning I sent the verse above to my two grandsons who are serving at camp this week.  I encouraged them to memorize it.  By the end of the day I needed to read and trust these words for myself.  Receiving some news that disturbed my soul, my spirit was down and I thought of how so many people say they are "depressed."  But while I let myself go there for a moment, I realized that what I am really feeling is more anger ... an anger that arises out of a deep sadness when relationships are severed that I was counting on being solid and steadfast.

Then I remembered these words, spoken to those who are "beloved" by God Himself.  Paul had just finished speaking about the resurrection of the body and our victory over the grave.  He says in verse 57:  "But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"  I have that victory, and if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ you have that victory!  Nothing can take that away.

It is in that context that Paul writes, "Therefore, my beloved brothers (and sisters ... in Christ), be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

Why does he say that?  Because sometimes it is going to FEEL like it is in vain, and during those moments, those periods of time, you and I who know the KING who is seated at the Father's right hand must remember that He is at work in us and through us for His glory.  It is the LORD whom we serve!

There is a hymn that asks, "Who is on the Lord's side?"  So long as God gives me breath I will say, "I am!!"  I pray that you will join me!!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

"It's all about GOD!"

Day #328

Scripture Reading:  II Corinthians 9 - 10 ...

Paul commends the believers at Corinth for their “eagerness to help” (9:2) as he encourages them to get prepared to give an offering for their fellow believers who are in need.  Sadly, some have taken the words of Paul in Chapter 9 and developed an entire "theology" around the idea that if you "sow seed into the kingdom," meaning, MONEY, God will give you more MONEY back.  There are so many things wrong with that interpretation that it's hard to know where to begin, but what is important is this:  Your life and mine were intended to be about God and His glory.  Anything that makes people look at US must cause us to point out that it is NOT us, it is GOD who is the Giver.  This is the intention of Paul's words, inspired by the Spirit of God, in these chapters.

It is true that Paul was strongly encouraging them to be generous; and it is also true that God was speaking through Paul when he wrote, "whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously" (9:6).  Obviously, he was speaking about giving an offering, but it was not ONLY money that he was talking about.  Remember what he said in chapter 8, verse 12:  "For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one HAS, not according to what he does NOT have."  Thus the instruction that "each man should give what he has decided in his HEART to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (9:7-8).

God doesn't NEED your gifts and mine.  WE need to give more than God needs to receive.  We need to learn that all we have is God's and if we don't use it for Him we are missing an opportunity to testify that we are assured that HE will provide what WE need.  If we hold back, we are trusting in ourselves, in our things, and by doing so we are missing GOD!!  So Paul adds, "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (9:9). God wants you to see Him as your Provider so that you will live by faith, whether you have plenty or little.

He goes on in verse 10:  "He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God!" (9:10-11).  Did you hear that??  Your giving will result in thanksgiving to GOD!  He says the same again in verse 12 and again in verse 13 and again in verse 15.  People will give thanks to God, they will praise God, and they will give thanks WITH us for God's "indescribable gift" (9:15).  God's indescribable gift is His constant and amazing grace ... grace that opens our eyes and opens our hearts and opens our hands ... grace that brings freedom from the bondage that enslaves so many.  It's called HOARDING and it KILLS people, from the inside out.

God gave His SON that we might live in His presence and enjoy His goodness now and forever.  He wants us to share in the joy of giving.  Our "harvest of righteousness" is being what God calls us to be and doing what God calls us to do!  In Acts 3 Peter and John see a beggar who wants money from them.  Peter says, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.  In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!" (Acts 3:6).  Sometimes giving people money is the appropriate thing to do.  At other times helping them get on their feet, get a job, and change their lives is better.  But at all times pointing them to the God from whom every good and perfect gift comes is essential.  Everybody needs Christ!  This is why Paul goes on in Chapter 10 to boldly defend his ministry.

There were those who were speaking against Paul and his companions, questioning the fruitfulness of their ministry.  What were they looking for?  Were they counting numbers, there weren't that many.  Did they think the lives of the people were not being improved?  That wasn't the most important thing.  Some today proclaim a message of prosperity and promise physical healing and a better life.  God has promised to be with us, yet He has told us that life will not always be easy.  Paul boldly declares that we do not live by the standards of the world (10:3).  We don't measure "success" with the same yardstick.  It is our goal to set people FREE from the spiritual bondage of sin!

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (10:3-4).

This ministry, this life ... your life and mine, is about knowing Christ, loving Christ and serving Christ, for the glory of God.  It’s not about an easy life or about possessions.  Paul was not concerned about what other people said about him ... only what GOD said about him.  "For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (10:18).  You may be able to convince yourself that you are doing what you should and others may come along and boast about you and make you feel good, but all of that may actually lead you away from God. Any time you or I seek glory for ourselves, we are stealing from God.  "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord" (10:17).

Life, REAL life, is all about God.  I am here to serve Him.   He took upon Himself a human nature, going to the cross to save me from myself.  I need Him and by the power of His Spirit I am born again and through faith in Jesus Christ I have a new life!!  And now my new life ... is all about God!!

"My Father in heaven, all that I have is a gift from you.  Lord, help me to use my life to glorify You.  I thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Son and for Your amazing grace that brings me into Your presence and gives me LIFE, eternal life with You in the glory of the new heaven and earth.  Tear my heart away from anything in this world that pulls me away from You, so that I may find my joy in GIVING, as YOU have given to me.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"It all comes down to THIS!"

Day #365

Scripture Reading:  Revelation 18 - 22 ...

Jesus IS coming again, but first, evil and everything associated with Satan and his kingdom must be utterly and totally destroyed.  "Babylon the Great" may be a literal city, but it also represents all the evil in the world that opposes God and His kingdom. It is the opposite of the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, that will come to earth.  Chapter 18, verse 2 is actually a quote from Isaiah 21:9: “Babylon has fallen, has fallen!  All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!"  So now John writes, "Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great! ... the kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries" (18:2-3).

The economic systems at work in our world today have become interdependent and may “crash” at any moment.  “Babylon’s fall” will be orchestrated by God Himself. The Antichrist and those who follow him will attempt to hold on, to endure, in spite of the Rapture of the Church and the worldwide effect of God's judgments, but now they fall.  "In one day her plagues will overtake her; death, mourning and famine.  She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her" (18:8).  So John announces, "Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power!  In one hour your doom has come!" (18:10).

What brings great sorrow to those who do not know God brings great joy to those who by His grace have been delivered from His judgment through faith in Christ.  "After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting, 'Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments!'" (19:1).  In heaven the wedding supper of the Lamb is celebrated as the saints and angels gather around the throne in worship!  

Now the time has come for Jesus to return to the earth with His angelic army to defeat the Antichrist and the False Prophet and all who follow them.  Chapter 19:11-21 gives us some of the details, and then it begins ... the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ upon the earth that the prophets spoke about ... the time when Jesus, the Christ, God's Anointed (Psalm 2) will reign over all the nations (Zechariah 14) with an iron scepter (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27, 12:5, 19:15).  Those who were put to death by the Antichrist now reign with Christ as Satan is bound.  

At the end of the thousand years Satan is released to deceive the nations once more (those who have lived under Christ's reign and yet have not believed in Him), but God sends fire down from heaven (literally) to destroy them and Satan himself is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur where he will be tormented forever and ever.  The final declaration of God's judgment is made public (20:11-15) and then it happens:  the holy city, the new Jerusalem, comes down from heaven and "now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (21:3-5).

Political and religious rulers today speak of a "new world order," but it is not THIS new order they are talking about ... it is Babylon!  Only GOD will bring in this new world order by the power of His Word.  As John sees the city of God he writes, "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp" (21:22-23).  And notice something else:  "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (21:27).

For these, for you who have trusted in Christ Jesus, who have been born again by His Spirit, who have believed in Him for forgiveness and eternal life, THIS is our future!!  "No longer will there be any curse.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him.  They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.  And they will reign forever and ever!" (22:3-5).

As John sees these visions, Jesus says, "Behold, I am coming soon!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book. ...  Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what He has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life" (22:12-13).  Can there be any other response for those who know the Lord Jesus other than, "COME!"?

"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the FREE gift of the water of life. ...  AMEN!  Come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people.  Amen!" (22:17-21).  

Everything that is going on in your life and in the world today comes down to this:  do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord?  Have you put your trust in Him?  Have you repented of sin and are you living for Him today, seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness?  This life is temporary, but what lies ahead is eternal ... either eternal life or eternal death.  May the Spirit of God confirm in your heart and your mind that you are His, or may He call you today to lay down your life at His feet and come to know that your name is written in His book of life.

To GOD be the glory, now and forever!!

"O Lord, my God, my Father in heaven, it is with the sure and certain hope of salvation that I come to You, praising You for who You are and thanking You for Your gift of salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ!  Your Word is alive and Your Spirit has given me understanding so that with all who believe in Jesus I KNOW that I have eternal life, a gift received because of Your wonderful grace to me.  Father, in the midst of all that is happening today and all that will happen tomorrow and in the future, I place my trust in You, my Savior and my God, in Jesus' name, Amen"

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"The battle rages on, but VICTORY is assured!"

Day #364

Scripture Reading:  Revelation 12 - 17 …

Throughout John’s “Revelation” God gives a picture of the battle between Jesus Christ and Satan, the "great dragon" ... "the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray" (12:9).  Only faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that leads to "patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints" (13:10; 14:12), provides believers hope that is sure and certain and an escape from God's judgment as we rely on our Father in heaven for protection and ultimately, VICTORY!!

As the seals of the scroll of God's judgment are removed in Chapter 6, the Antichrist sets out to conquer those who would oppose him and to establish HIS rule (Satan's rule) on the earth.  Chapter 7 reveals the "sealing" of 144,000 Jews or descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from the tribes of Israel, and then the Rapture of the Church, that great multitude from every people, tribe, nation and tongue.  Then God begins to pour out HIS judgment on the Antichrist and those who follow him (Chapters 8-9).  As the angels sound the trumpets, God's judgment begins.

To understand the sequence of events you must take into account Matthew 24:1-33 and other Scriptures that speak of these things.  A significant event in Daniel's account (Daniel 9:25-27), the breaking of a covenant with Israel and others, is repeated by Jesus in Matthew 24:15-28.  It is AFTER this, which takes place in the middle of Daniel’s “70th week,” the final seven years, that the Great Tribulation begins, and it is this period that is being described in Revelation 12-13.  

The "woman" described in the first few verses of Chapter 12 is beyond question, Israel, as she "gives birth to a son, a male child, who will rule the nations with an iron scepter" (12:5).  God protects the woman for 1,260 days or 42 months (12:6; 13:5).  God's supernatural protection of a remnant from Israel during this time fulfills His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  All these events center around Israel and Jerusalem.  To understand these things figuratively, only as symbols, is to miss the very purpose of God to glorify Himself by keeping His covenant with Abraham and his descendants.

Chapters 12-14 are an interlude where John goes back to the birth of Jesus and then gives details of some of the events that will take place as the seals of Chapter 6 are opened, before and during the trumpet judgments of Chapters 8 and 9.  John pictures the war in heaven when Satan is cast down to earth (12:7-9) and then fast forwards to the climactic battle that will be waged at the end of time.  As he has done for centuries, Satan "pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child" (12:13), but when he sees that God is protecting her, "the dragon … went off to make war against the rest of her offspring - those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (12:17).  That's Christians!!  It is impossible to see how Satan, through the Antichrist, can persecute Christians if we have been “raptured” before any of this takes place.

The "beast" of Chapter 13 is the Antichrist, who becomes possessed by Satan.  He arises out of the governments of the world and is given authority for 42 months (1260 days - 13:5).  "He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them" (13:7 … the 5th seal - 6:9-11).  "All the inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast - all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain …" (13:8).  God will protect a remnant of Israel and He will give strength to Christians to endure the most severe persecution the world has ever seen.  And along with the beast will be a second "beast" (13:11-17), later called the "false prophet" (16:13).  While the Antichrist is a political ruler, the false prophet is a religious leader.  They will form an unholy alliance and will deceive all those whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb (13:8).  People will be forced to receive a mark in order to buy or sell.

For the first time in history, the things spoken of in the book of Revelation are not only possible, but close to happening.  Already today millions are being deceived by voices that cry out for the uniting of all religions and all governments through the United Nations and other organizations and even the visible church!!  This will happen under the direction of the Antichrist.

Chapter 14 gives a second picture of the 144,000, who had been sealed with the Father's name and the name of the Lamb, as they worship God, and then more pictures of God's wrath falling on the Antichrist and those who follow him as they are thrown into "the great winepress of God's wrath" (14:19).  As
Chapter 15 begins John picks up the sequence of events which began in Chapters 8-9.  
With the Church raptured, the trumpet judgments have brought devastation on the earth.  Now John writes, "I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign:  seven angels with the seven last plagues - last, because with them God's wrath is completed" (15:1).  As with the trumpet judgments, the events of Chapter 16 take place through the direct actions of the angels whom God sent to carry them out.  In spite of the horrible judgments that are almost beyond description, the remainder of mankind "refused to repent" (16:9, 11).  And so the "unholy trinity," Satan, the Beast and the False Prophet (16:13), "go out to the kings of the whole world to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty" (16:14).

This is battle of Armageddon (16:16).  It is then that Jesus will return from heaven with His heavenly army (19:11-21).  More details are given in Chapters 17-18, as John speaks of "the woman on the beast" and the Antichrist, "the beast who once was, and now is not," who "is going to his destruction”  (17:11). GOD is in control … the Lamb reigns.  "God has put it into their hearts to accomplish His purpose (JUDGMENT) by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, UNTIL God's words are fulfilled" (17:17).

Evil exists and God's judgment against evil is assured, but "everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God ... This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (I John 5:1,4).  The battle rages on, but the victory belongs to US, to those who are united to Christ by faith!  

"Lord God Almighty, in Your strength and for Your glory I will stand firm in my faith, trusting Your Spirit to equip me to persevere.  I thank You for revealing Your plan to destroy evil and to bring judgment upon those who stand opposed to Jesus and His kingdom.  By faith, I declare victory, in Jesus' name, Amen"

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"God's wrath ... and our only hope!"

Day #363

Scripture Reading:  Revelation 8 - 11 …

The prophet Zephaniah writes, "Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near" (Zephaniah 1:7).  He then goes on to describe that "day" as a day of judgment unparalleled in the history of mankind.  "That day will be a day of wrath … " (Zephaniah 1:15).  "He will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth" (Zephaniah 1:18).  God's wrath begins in Chapter 8 of John's Revelation, as there is "silence in heaven for about half an hour" (8:1).  Notice the difference between the actions of the Antichrist in Chapter 6, as the Lamb opens the seals to the scroll, and what happens in Chapters 8-9, where it is now God's angels who carry out His wrath upon the earth.  One-by-one they sound their trumpets and God sends judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth.  The result:  "A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths … the rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands …" (9:18,20).

Such will be the wrath of God that will be poured out on the earth prior to Jesus' return in glory!  Paul writes in Romans 1:18, "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness," but the fullness of God's wrath is being stored up "for the day of God's wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed" (Romans 2:5).  God's wrath is not a pleasant topic and many in the church today choose not to consider it or to talk about it, but His wrath will come!  

God offers an escape from His wrath through faith in Jesus Christ.  That IS the Gospel!!  Jesus controls the events of Revelation, from beginning to end.  That is a great comfort for those of us who know Him, who have believed in Him, who love Him, but for all who have not heard or believed, only wrath and judgment lies ahead.  If eternal life has any meaning, the opposite must exist:  eternal death.  And the Bible says it does.  JESUS says it does!  Revelation is the "uncovering," the revealing of God's plan for the deliverance of the final generation of believers and the pouring out of His wrath on the rest of mankind.  Jesus promises that those who ENDURE, who persevere to the end will receive the result of their faith:  eternal life in the new heaven and the new earth!

Chapter 10 is an interesting message that at once reveals both God's power and the specific nature of His plan.  He could carry out His judgment in a million different ways.  There are thousands of scenarios that could be played out on the stage of planet earth.  The "seven thunders" gives us a glimpse of another possible scenario, but God says, "Enough!"  "There will be no more delay!  But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound His trumpet the mystery of God will be accomplished just as He announced to His servants the prophets" (10:6-7).  The "mystery" of God is the establishment of His kingdom on the earth and that will be accomplished as the seventh trumpet sounds and the final bowls of God's wrath are poured out (Chapters 15-16 through Chapter 19).

John is given a vision of the last "42 months," "1,260 days" through the revelation of the "two witnesses" (11:3-14).  In Chapter 8, verse 13, the last three trumpets are described as three "woes."  Chapter 9, verse 12, says the first woe (the fifth trumpet) is passed, and Chapter 11, verse 14 says the second woe (the sixth trumpet) is passed.  Chapter 10:1 through Chapter 11:13 is an interlude that gives additional information.  Verse 14 would be better understood taken with verse 15 as John writes, "The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.  The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven which said, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever'" (11:14-15).

Note what the twenty-four elders then say as they fall on their faces and worship God:  "We give thanks to You, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because You have taken your great power and have begun to reign.  The nations were angry; and Your wrath has come.  The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding Your servants the prophets and Your saints and those who reverence Your name, both small and great - AND for destroying those who destroy the earth" (11:15). At the sounding of the seventh trumpet the final scenes unfold, culminating in the return of Jesus Christ, described in Chapter 19:11-21.  No doubt is left concerning the outcome of all that has happened on the earth up to this time.  Jesus Christ shall reign!!

You and I can see the ongoing struggle between good and evil, between God and Satan, between those who know the true God through faith in Jesus Christ and those who do not.  The Bible, God’s Word spoken to God’s people, stands against all the other philosophies and religions of man and points to the ONE Who declared Himself to be King, and gave testimony to His power by rising from the grave.  No one else … no one else has done so.  The Antichrist will attempt to imitate Christ's resurrection and God will allow the people on earth at the time to be deceived, but we who believe will know the truth because we have the unchanging, infallible Word of the living God!!  Pray that His Spirit gives you wisdom to read and to understand these things.  Some of the details are difficult to understand, but with certainty we have the outline of the events to come.  

Stand firm in your faith in Jesus Christ.  Watch and wait, as Jesus told His disciples to do, and prepare for His coming by serving Him and proclaiming the Gospel at every opportunity.  Then when Jesus comes in glory you will hear Him say, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).  AMEN!  Come Lord Jesus!!

"Heavenly Father, I come to You with joy and peace and hope, trusting in Your unfailing love and the promise of eternal life that is mine through faith in Your Son Jesus Christ.  Reading of Your coming judgment stirs within me the urgency to proclaim the Gospel, offering forgiveness and deliverance from Your wrath through Jesus' blood, shed on the cross so long ago for sinners like me.  Give me strength to stand on Your Word, believing all that it says, and give me grace to endure the temporary trials of this life, knowing that I will live forever in Your perfect presence.  To You be glory and honor and praise, in Jesus' name, Amen"