Monday, October 29, 2012

"Be My witnesses ... Make disciples ... GO!"

"God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believers in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).  "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31).  "He who has the Son has life; He who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (I John 5:12).  "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching (proclaiming) to them?  And how can they preach (proclaim) unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:13-15).

People need to hear the Gospel in order to be saved.  They need to be born again by the Spirit, hear the Word and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be delivered from God's wrath that is to come.  Without hearing the Gospel, repenting and believing, people will spend eternity separated from God, from life and from anything and everything good and holy and righteous.  This is what the Bible teaches.  While there are those who claim that the blood of Jesus somehow brings forgiveness and life to all, this is not the message of the Bible.  Throughout the Old and the New Testaments the necessity of faith in God's promised Savior is clear.  Faith requires knowledge of the truth, and those who believe are called and sent by Jesus to proclaim that truth to the world.

How much of the effort put forth by the Church today goes toward making disciples and so fulfilling the Great Commission?  It is clear that Jesus sends believers into the world to be "disciple-makers."  Not every believer has the same gifts, but the goal of every believer, and the Church at large, must be to see people come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and to commit their lives to following Him as Lord.  Jesus encouraged His disciples by telling them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to ME, therefore, GO, and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:18-19).  That covers virtually everything we do.  We are called to make disciples, to train and equip disciples and to make more disciples.

In Acts 1, Jesus told His disciples that they would be His witnesses, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world.  Jesus also told His disciples that He would make them "fishers of men."  If there is one thing the Church of Jesus Christ should be focused on in order to glorify God and to advance His kingdom it would be this:  lead people to Christ to find new life - eternal life.  While there are other things God's people are called to do, in their personal lives and in our life together as a body, as congregations, this is the goal toward which we should be putting our greatest efforts and towards which everything else should point.

We must not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe (Romans 1:16-17).  Sharing the Gospel is the responsibility of every believer, directly or indirectly.  Sometimes God gives us the opportunity to speak directly with another person.  If you don't feel equipped to do that, you need to GET equipped!  If you are not part of a congregation that will equip you to share the Gospel, perhaps you need to ask yourself, "Why?"  At other times, you are called to work with others to reach out in your community and area of the world with the Gospel.  Perhaps it will require helping others with a physical need, building a relationship where you can then share the Gospel with them.  You may be led to go on a mission trip, or even to become a missionary in another country.  But always, we must share the Gospel!

As Peter speaks of the coming judgment and the destruction of all things in II Peter 3, he writes, "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming"  (II Peter 3:11-12).  The only way to "speed the coming" of the day of God's judgment and the day of ultimate salvation for those who believe is to finish the work God has called us to do and that Jesus sent us to do.  This is the focus of the Church's mission:  making disciples of Jesus Christ!  We will often tell people to "FOCUS" on what is important.  In all that God has called us to do, we need to FOCUS on proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples of Jesus!!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Can Christians be angry?"

"In your anger do not sin; and do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."  - Ephesians 4:26-27

There is a building just down the street from where I am sitting at this moment where the congregation of Lighthouse Community Church served the Lord together for many years.  Actually, the congregation from which Lighthouse was born existed on that corner for 95 years.  That's a long time.  But almost two years ago we began a process of prayer and procedures to make one last attempt to be an instrument in God's hands to open the eyes of many in the denomination of which we were a part to the reality that the Word of God was being ignored and that there were false teachers in our midst.  The amazing thing was that most leaders and people in the denomination said they agreed with us, but were not willing to do anything about it.  Some of them, maybe most of them, would disagree with my assessment of what happened, but nothing has changed and the false teaching not only continues, but is spreading.

The leaders and people at Lighthouse had to make a decision:  stay and keep fighting, or leave the denomination and lose the building we had worked hard to erect in order to faithfully serve the Lord in our community.  Some have said it must have been a difficult choice, but once we were convinced that "saving the denomination" was not God's number one priority, but rather, being "the pillar and foundation of truth" (I Timothy 3:15), the decision was an easy one.  Our mission and vision statement gave us our answer:  We exist to proclaim the reign of Jesus Christ over all things; glorifying and enjoying God forever!  We had no choice but to do that which honored the Lord and did not water down His truth or twist it to accommodate modern social immorality of any kind.  For us, it really came down to Acts 5:29:  "We must obey God rather than men."

So we left the building and began worshiping in a school cafeteria on June 10th of this year.   We had been worshiping with about 350-400 people total between two services while in the building.  In the cafeteria we set up 390 chairs, understanding that our attendance may go down for a while.  However, within a few weeks, we could see that this was not going to work long-term.  We were running out of room!  So on August 12th we moved again, this time to another school and a larger gymnasium.  Now we are setting up almost 500 chairs and we are worshiping with 400-425 people in one service.  We praise God for His faithfulness to us.

So what does all this have to do with anger?  Well, all I can say is that people who are focused on a manmade agenda do things that appear good to some but which ultimately dishonor God.  Many people are deceived by nice-sounding words from smiling faces.  Leaders in the visible church do things "behind the scenes" without talking with their brothers and sisters in Christ in the congregation, using the excuse that they are called to lead and the people "don't need to know everything."  It happens all the time.  And when it does, it is a disgrace to Christ and His Church, and THAT makes me angry!!  It should make everyone who loves Christ and His body angry.  Leadership in the Church must be transparent and humble, seeking first the wisdom of God's Word and Spirit and then the counsel of God's people.

We can be angry at what angers God!  But because God knows our sinful tendency to make it all about US, and to become bitter and vengeful, He warns us not to carry our anger over to the next day, but rather, to come to Him and find peace.  How do you do that?  You go back to the passage that Paul is quoting in Ephesians 4:26, when he says, "In your anger do not sin" ... Psalm 4 ...

The Psalmist begins by crying out to God:  "Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God.  Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.  How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?  How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?" (vss. 1-2).  With David, who wrote this Psalm, I wonder how long men will delude themselves and those around them, bringing dishonor to the cause of Christ.  Then he goes on:

"Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for Himself; the LORD will hear when I call to Him" (vs. 3).  We can have confidence that God sees what is happening, that He knows the hearts of all men, and that He takes the side of those who stand for Him.  Know that and trusting in the God who never fails, David writes, "In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent" (vs. 4).  I need to be sure that my anger does not become sinful, self-centered and dishonoring to God.  I need to search my own heart and be silent before the LORD, not complaining or murmuring, or allowing bitterness and resentment to fill my mind as though I am the one being offended.  Those who are causing my anger are sinning against God and He will deal with their deceit in His own time and in His own way.  I must confess my own sin and draw near to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing and set my heart on pleasing God.

In doing so, I must "offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD" (vs. 5).  He is at work, even when I don't understand why things are happening as they are; even when it seems sometimes like those who are doing evil are "winning."  I must continue to offer the sacrifice of praise and serve Him with the zeal and passion He deserves from those who are in Christ's army.

Now here's where the good part is and this is what I and all the people of Lighthouse Community Church, Non-Denominational have experienced:  "Many are asking, 'Who can show us any good?'  Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.  You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.  I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety" (vss. 6-8).  Isn't that wonderful??  God has shown His mercy, His goodness and His kindness to us over these past few months in ways we could not have possibly imagined!  He has provided for all our needs and He is bringing brothers and sisters in Christ whom we have not previously known to join with us in our labor for the Lord.  Those who are seeking truth and answers to life's deepest questions are being drawn by the Lord into our midst and the Spirit continues to send us out into our community and beyond.  Our God is able and He is with us!  Whatever He calls us to endure for His glory, He will give us strength and peace to overcome, if we are willing to lay aside our anger and replace it with praise!!

Thank You, Father, for loving us, for guiding us, for watching over and protecting us, and for always, always giving us all we NEED as we seek first your kingdom and your righteousness!!  To YOU be the glory, now and forever!  Amen!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"When you can't trust 'brothers' ..."

What happens when those who claim to be "brothers in Christ" don't act like it?  I'm not talking about those moments in each of our lives when we fail to live up to our calling.  Though we are new creations in Christ and have been saved by grace, we are still in the process of "putting off the old man and putting on the new" (Ephesians 4:22-24).  All of us stumble and fall occasionally and are convicted by the Holy Spirit of our sin, moving us to confess our sin and to repent - turning from sin toward righteousness.

But that's not what I'm talking about.  There are times when those who claim to be brothers live in persistent, unrepentant sin.  At times like that, what is our responsibility as Christians?  God's Word teaches us to be accountable to each other, speaking the truth in love and calling one another to repentance.  In those instances when a brother sins against us, Matthew 18 tells us that we are to confront them and if they do not repent we are to bring two or three witnesses, and if they still do not repent, we are to call the church, and if they refuse to listen even to them, we are to consider them as unbelievers.

Most people today think that anyone who CLAIMS to be a Christian IS a Christian.  So what's wrong with that?  Just this, when those who live in unrepentant sin continue to be called, "brothers" or "sisters," and they are not disciplined or removed from the body of the visible church, the name of Christ is dishonored and others are encouraged to continue in their sin.  It is even worse when those who are unrepentant are visible leaders in the church.  As a pastor, I know the heartache of watching people throw stones at the church because of the behavior of its leaders.  All people, but especially the leaders of the church, must be held accountable, and if, when confronted with their sin, they refuse to confess and repent, they are to be treated as unbelievers.

If this sounds harsh, think of the damage done to the church by those who are wolves in sheep's clothing.  The sheep are scattered and led astray and devoured by their deception.  There is a way to expose such leaders:  examine their words and their teaching to see if it matches the Word of God.  If a leader denies that the Bible is the very Word of God, beware, for such a leader is not sent from God, even if they say some "good" or "right" things.  I read on a local church website recently that the church believes the Bible is a good book, but does not believe it is the very Word of God.  They believe that modern psychology is equally profitable in helping people to live the "Christian" life.  Such teaching is heresy.

Other leaders in the church declare that the church must be "ordered" by man-made rules.  "Process and procedure" are placed above the authority of God's Word.  There are leaders in the church structures of congregations and denominations who abuse power given to them and who justify their actions by appealing to a book of church order written by men to take away the rightful authority of the biblical leaders of the local congregation.  I've had a front-row seat to see these things happen and I want to warn people to be aware of such deceitfulness within the visible church today.

Judge everything by the Word of God.  Paul commended the Berean believers because when he preached they checked what he had to say against the only part of the Bible they had at the time, the Old Testament.  How much more should we today judge everything that is being taught and practiced in the church by the unchanging Word of God.  All is not well in the church today, even here in Western Michigan, because people are not examining the teaching they are receiving.  If your leaders do not want to be held accountable to the Word, you and others need to sound the alarm.  There's a wolf among the sheep!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"If one part suffers, every part suffers with it ..."

My heart is heavy as my brother in Christ in Pakistan suffered a heart attack on Sunday.  He is a pastor - a humble, yet powerful servant of God!  He spoke just last week to over 7,000 people at an evangelistic meeting.  He has helped nine other congregations get started.  He began a Bible institute.  He opened a home for orphans.  He has a heart larger than his country and is nearly ten years younger than I am ... and he is gravely ill in a hospital in Pakistan, where the necessary medical treatment is not readily available, especially to Christians who live in extreme poverty.  What can I do?  What can God's people do?

This man of God is not the only believer around the world who is suffering.  Many are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.  Others, like him, live in poverty and do not have access to medical care.  We all know this is true, but it is easier to overlook if you do not have a personal connection with the people.  As I have had the opportunity and privilege to travel to places like Cambodia and Haiti and Guatemala, I have witnessed sincere Christians, followers of Jesus, enduring suffering of various kinds.  It is happening in many places around the world, and has been so for centuries.  So how do we respond to the suffering of others - especially those who are brothers and sisters in Christ?

As Paul writes to the Corinthians, he uses the body as an illustration of the oneness of the body of Christ.  He explains that we all need each other and that one part of the body cannot say to another part, "I don't need you."  The parts of the body are inter-dependent.  We depend on each other in times of need.  But there is more than that:  there is sympathy, empathy, caring, compassion.  Paul writes, "There should be no division in the body, but its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it" (I Corinthians 12:25-26).  As strange as it may sound, in a very intimate way, I am suffering because of the heart attack of my dear brother in Pakistan.  And it's not the first time.

It is hard to watch people suffering, but it is equally difficult to know that people are suffering.  When we are suffering, whether it is our health, our finances or in some other way, we want people to know it.  But when others suffer it often makes us uncomfortable.  We feel helpless and perhaps vulnerable ourselves because we know that suffering in this life is really just one moment away from any one of us.  It's easier to ignore suffering whenever you can and pretend that all is well.  But it's not what God wants you to do.  Being part of the body of Christ means having the mind and heart of Christ - the very Spirit of Christ, and that means that you will have compassion and a desire to show mercy and love to those who are suffering.  It comes with the territory.

Sometimes there is little we can do ... or so it seems.  The power of prayer cannot be measured.  Because God is sovereign, He guides His people to pray and promises to hear.  The answers to our prayers are sometimes miraculous.  Other times, God gives insight and wisdom through out prayers to move us to help in other ways - to care for people directly by going to other countries - or across the street, by investing our time and energy, and even our financial resources, to help our brothers and sisters in Christ and others with whom we want to share the good news of salvation in Christ.  However God moves us and however He uses us, those in the body of Christ cannot and will not choose to ignore the plight of others around them.

We can't do it all ... and so sometimes our hearts will be heavy.  "If one part suffers, every part suffer with it." Sometimes (perhaps often) we will not understand God's plan and we will wonder why God allows certain things to happen - especially persecution, suffering and death.  But God is not only sovereign, He is also loving, merciful and faithful to all who call upon His name.  I know that my brother in Pakistan is a faithful servant of Christ.  I know that he loves his Savior and Lord.  And I know that God loves Him.  So I rest in the knowledge that my God is with him at this moment, and I pray that God will do what seems impossible ... that He will restore him to health and strength and provide the financial resources for him and his family and his congregation.  It seems like a mountain - but our God moves mountains!!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"OK people - there is only ONE Church!"

"I will build My CHURCH, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it!" - Matthew 16:18

We all know that the visible church is divided into pieces - some large and some small, and that it seems impossible to get these "pieces" to acknowledge each other, let alone work together to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I once served a congregation in a small rural community in northern South Dakota where the older people in the congregation still spoke German.  When their fathers and grandfathers settled there, they formed their own church largely because of the language barrier that existed.  That was understandable then, but as time passed, other things divided those who believed in Jesus Christ from each other.  Some were Baptist, some Reformed, some Lutheran ... each had their own brand name and their own distinctive doctrines.  This small town had six different congregations.  One day out of the year they pretended to be "one" by getting together for a community service, but this supposed "oneness" simply confused those who didn't know Christ.  If you are all one, why are there six separate congregations?  Actually, only a few asked that question; most simply accepted the fact that Christians can't agree on much of anything, so they just stay separated.  So it seems to be true today.

There is only ONE true Church.  While it is true that the Spirit spoke to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, these churches were in different cities.  They were all part of the one true Church, the body of Christ.  In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said that He was building His Church - ONE Church.  For quite a few centuries it appeared that there was only one Church.  It was called "catholic," which means, "universal."  The early church leaders met together and the Spirit led them to determine which of the writings being circulated were written by the apostles, including Paul.  They had one creed:  the Word of God.  It was their only authority and all of life was directed by what God said in His Word.  The Church was one, as much as is possible where people are involved!  Then men messed it up.  They misunderstood, or intentionally twisted Jesus' words in Matthew 16:18 and claimed that Peter, rather than His confession that Jesus was the Christ, was the ROCK upon which the Church would be built.  They gave power to one man, the bishop of Rome, and recognized his authority and his word above the Word of God.  So began more than a thousand years of the church being deceived and distracted:  deceived because the church was "selling" salvation; distracted, because the pope became involved in political and secular pursuits for his own power and wealth.

Praise God, He called men and women to return to His Word and brought about the Reformation; a small movement of the Spirit at first, but then an ever-expanding circle of truth grounded in the unchanging Word of God.  The Reformers, as they came to be called, never intended to start different churches or to break from the ONE TRUE CHURCH.  Rather, they desired to REFORM it!  What followed was a century or more of the church seeking to return to its foundation:  the Word alone, salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, for the glory of God alone.  The one true Church stands today on these truths.  The authority of the true Church is the Word of God, which points to Christ as the only Savior and to grace as the only door into God's presence.  Faith is the gift of God and the Church exists for the glory of God.

Today, in every city, the one true Church exists, but it is well-hidden by the reluctance or refusal of those who are brothers and sisters to acknowledge each other or to work together for the kingdom.  Each works on their own, unaware of the power that is available should they determine to put aside those things that have brought division and to share in the work of making Christ known.  Sadly, some have forgotten what the main task of the Church is:  to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all creatures.  Many forget, if indeed they ever knew, that we are not going to save this world.  We must be salt and light, but the hope of this world is the return of Jesus Christ.  Until then, we must preach the one message that has the power to rescue people from the dominion of darkness and bring them into the kingdom of light.

What if people would actually sit down and study God's Word together?  What if we would listen to God's Word and grow and learn and trust, serving together for one purpose:  to glorify the God who sent His Son to save us.  I am not promoting a big merger of all churches, but I believe God calls us to begin by acknowledging for all to hear that there is ONE Church, and that every person who trusts completely in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross for forgiveness and life is part of Christ's body.  From there we can go to God's Word, confessing that it is quite literally true, cover to cover, and that it is our only rule of faith and practice.  As we do that and examine the heresies of the past, returning to the Word, God will unite our hearts and minds and those around us will see something they have never seen before:  the ONE Church of Jesus Christ ... and they will praise and glorify the God who made it so.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Who do you say that I am?"

Jesus had been preaching and teaching about the kingdom of God and doing miracles for some time when He asked His disciples a question:  "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (Matthew 16:13).  The title, "Son of Man," was one Jesus used for Himself frequently.  It actually comes from Daniel 7:13-14 where Daniel describes Jesus' ascension into heaven hundreds of years later:

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14).

Jesus was at the point of His ministry where He was beginning to be opposed by the religious leaders of the Jews.  He knew that if His disciples were going to stand firm and be His instruments to build His Church, they needed to be able to answer one very important question:  "Who was Jesus?!"  So He first asked them, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  This was at the same time a question and a hint.  They replied that some were saying He was Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets, come back from the dead.  Jesus then asked them, "But what about you?  Who do YOU say I am?"

Peter answered Jesus:  "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" (Matthew 16:16).  Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it"  (verse 17-18).  Some have wrongly understood this to mean that Peter, himself, was the "rock" upon which the Church would be built.  The entire papacy has been built around this erroneous misunderstanding.

Jesus was talking about Peter's confession: "You are the CHRIST, the Son of the living God!"  This confession is the core of the Gospel and the foundation upon which the Church is built.  Jesus is the "Christ," the Messiah, the Anointed One.  He is the Son of Man spoken of in Daniel 7:13.  No one else qualifies as fulfilling all the requirements of the Messiah, the coming King that the entire Old Testament points to.  Jesus came to be King, and even Pilate unintentionally declared that He was the "King of the Jews."

As the Christ, Jesus endured God's wrath on the cross to pay the penalty for sin.  The cross is not just some symbol of Christianity.  It was there that Jesus made a public spectacle of Satan and the powers of darkness, the "accuser of the brethren."  Paul writes to believers in Colossians 2:13-15:  "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."

Because Jesus was and is the Christ, He opened the door to heaven, to life, to God's presence, for all who believe in Him.  Every person will one day have to answer Jesus' question:  "Who do you say I am?"  Have you answered that question?  The Bible says that this is "the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2).  God is offering forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus to all who believe, but judgment will come to all who give the wrong answer to Jesus' question.  On Peter's confession:  "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus is still building His Church - the "called-out ones." 

If you are one of those who have believed, give thanks to God, for even as Jesus said to Peter, "flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven."  Only by being born again by the Spirit of God will you come to Jesus for forgiveness and trust in His sacrifice on the cross for eternal life.  Then you will be a Christian - a Christ-follower, and you will be able to take this good news to others.  "On THIS rock I will build my Church!"  Praise the Lord!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought ..."

"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you" (Romans 12:3).

Every day, inside the visible church, there are those who reject this warning from the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans.  They don't mean to do it, but they give in to the temptation to elevate themselves above their brothers and sisters in Christ, and the result is that they separate themselves from the wise counsel of others and miss the joy of true Christian fellowship that comes along with accountability.  Let me explain ...

In the twelfth chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul begins to apply the truth of the Gospel to the way we live together as the body of Christ.  He begins in the first two verses by reminding us of the mercy of God in saving us from our sins, and then calls believers to offer themselves as living sacrifices of thanksgiving, no longer conforming to the patterns of this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we know God's will and do it.  Then he immediately turns to the relationship we have with each other as members of the one body of Christ.

The greatest hindrance to Christ-like love is pride in oneself.  Paul certainly could have boasted, as he explains in other places.  But he continually knows his own sin and his own weakness.  As the Spirit works in us, these should be obvious to each of us.  Apart from God, we are nothing.  So Paul tells the believers not to think of themselves more highly than they ought, but rather, to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith God has given them.  Any gift or ability that you or I or any believer has that glorifies God and builds up His body is a gift from God.  How can you boast or brag about possessing a particular gift or ability when it comes from God?  Yet, people seem to do that all the time!

Paul's illustration in verses 3-8 make the point that the body of Christ is like our physical body.  He explains this further in I Corinthians 12.  We NEED each other, so why do we tear each other down?  Not everyone does the same thing, but each part is needed nonetheless.  Jesus made it clear that in His body, the Church, the greatest ones would be the servants of all the others.  Even those who are called to lead must do so by serving the body in love.  When that happens, it a a beautiful picture painted by the very Spirit of God at work in His children.  In families and churches where people have their minds on pleasing God and serving Jesus, pride is not an issue.  It's not about US, it's about Jesus Christ!  It's not about making a name for ourselves, but about making a name for our God!

When a congregation or individuals lose sight of that goal, SELF rears its ugly head and grace and mercy and forgiveness are left far behind.  People become critical and are never happy with anything or anyone.  Soon they become bitter and angry, and then gossip and slander are not far behind.  Once in that frame of mind, they raise themselves up as judges of all things, claiming to do so because "God told me this," or "the Spirit spoke to me about that," or by using language that makes them appear more spiritual than those who are earnestly trying to live by God's Word and follow His commands.

The result is that relationships are broken, congregations are torn apart, and sheep are scattered because they have been thrown into confusion.  "I thought the church was supposed to be a place where people loved each other and where there is patience and kindness."  This doesn't mean that truth is not to be spoken.  We can never sacrifice truth on the altar of "getting along."  But Paul says it best when he says, "speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Ephesians 4:15-16).

There is no perfect congregation, and no perfect leaders and no perfect people!  Each of us needs to show others the grace that we ourselves have received, and then use our gifts to build the body up, not tear it down.  In doing so, God will be glorified and people will be drawn to the light!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

"A day is like a thousand years ..."

"Do not forget this one thing dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day" (II Peter 3:8).

As he writes to the Church in the first century, Peter encourages believers to persevere in facing trials and in waiting for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He assures them that God's judgment will come upon those who do not believe when Christ returns, and that believers will inherit what has been promised:  "a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (II Peter 3:13).  He tells them that God's timetable is different than ours.  To the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

Today is Monday.  Many people here in this country tend to dislike Mondays.  Because many of us have the blessing of having one or two days to rest on the weekend, Monday is the day when people go back to work.  Some people think they would be happy if they could work two days and be off five days.  Of course, that wouldn't work financially.  More importantly, it seems that people forget that God told us to work six days and rest on the seventh day.  Work is an important part of our stewardship of what God has given us as His people.  We are to carry out God's rule over all things and working for our daily bread brings glory to God.  As He provides, we have enough to meet our own needs, and to share with others.  That's what God intends.  So, Mondays are a day ... one day ... but an important day because it is GOD's day.  EVERY day is God's day!

But there's more to that than just a few words.  Every day is God's day because God is at work in every day!  I shared in my message on Sunday that I have read this verse many times and have usually focused on the part that says "a thousand years are like a day."  That is an amazing truth.  God sees everything in His time and what seems like a long time to us is like a day to God.  He is not in a hurry.  In fact, Peter says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance"  (II Peter 3:9).  God's purpose is wrapped up in salvation, in bringing those who are His sheep safely into the fold.  Jesus promised that not one of His sheep would be lost.

With that in mind, that God is being patient and His timing is always right, it is important to understand the other part of verse 8:  "... a day is like a thousand years."  This also, is an amazing statement.  Think about this, a day, one twenty-four period, is like a THOUSAND YEARS to God!!  How many things go on in a thousand years?  How many changes take place in a thousand years?  How many details are there in a thousand years??  That's how God sees each day.  He sees your life and mine and every person in every place around the world.  He sees YOU, and He knows what is going on in your life.  He CARES what is going on in your life, and He is walking with you through every minute of the day.

Remember that, when you feel as though one day doesn't matter, or that one day is overlooked by God.  "One day is like a thousand years!"  Use it for the Lord, and know that He is at work in every moment.  Find joy in each day as you live it with Him and for Him!  And the next time you tell someone to "Have a great day!" ... have one yourself!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem ..."

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." - Matthew 23:37-39

During the recent presidential debate and this week's vice presidential debate the topic of the relationship between Israel and the United States came up.  As usual, the conversation centered around Israel's defense and protection against her neighbors, specifically, Iran, who have vowed to destroy Israel.  Iran is not alone in expressing their hatred of Israel, yet few ask, "Why?"  Just as a youtube video was blamed for the anti-American hatred expressed by thousands of Muslims in various countries, Israel's existence as a nation on land claimed by Arab countries is the reason given for the hatred of the Jews.

God gives us the true reason in His Word, the Bible.  God chose Abraham, and He passed on His promises through Isaac (not Ishmael), and then Jacob, whose name was changed by God to Israel.  The miraculous existence of the nation of Israel is a thorn in the side not only of the Muslim nations, but to other nations in the world who are pawns in a larger battle of which they are totally and utterly ignorant - the battle between God and Satan.  Only by reading and understanding this battle as God reveals it in the Bible can you understand the struggle in the Middle East and what it has to do with every human being alive on planet earth!

In the verses above, Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders of the Jews.  These men should have recognized who Jesus was and received His teaching, but instead, they wanted to kill Him.  In Matthew 23 Jesus confronted them with their sin against God, but they didn't want to hear it.  So Jesus spoke of the future destruction that would come upon them - UNTIL His return.  The very city of Jerusalem has been the center of fighting and war for centuries.  It continues to be a stumbling block for any Mideast peace today.  Muslims claim it as their holy city, as do Jews and Christians.  But God has a plan for Jerusalem.

Zechariah gives two pictures of future battles surrounding Jerusalem.  In Chapter 12 God says that He will make Jerusalem an immovable obstacle to all who come against her, and He will bring salvation to Judah and Jerusalem and all living there.  But in Chapter 14 Zechariah describes a gathering of the nations against Jerusalem and a horrible siege of the city that will bring death and destruction to many, until the Lord Jesus Himself intervenes.  Both of these will happen.  The Bible describes two times when Jerusalem will be surrounded by the armies of the nations.  Chapter 12 may describe the battle at the end of the millennium, the thousand-year reign of Jesus over all the earth (see Revelation 20:7-10), while Chapter 14 may describe the battle of Armageddon, mentioned in Revelation 16:16 and 19:11-21.

However we understand these prophecies, Jerusalem WILL BE DELIVERED from her enemies and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will finally acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10).  At that time, all who have believed in Him will be enter His kingdom together and will live and reign with Christ for a thousand years.  Then all people who have ever lived will be gathered before the throne of God (Revelation 20:11-15), and the books will be opened, and those who have believed in Jesus will live forever in the presence of God in a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21-22), while the rest will face eternal judgment in hell.

As we watch world events today, these things are unfolding just as God has promised.  The rest is soon to occur.  The only safety from the coming wrath of God is faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, "Do not be afraid of those who can destroy the body but who cannot kill the soul, but rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).  Praise God that He has provided an escape through the cross of Jesus Christ and that those who trust in Jesus are forgiven and have received the gift of eternal life.  If you believe, you need not fear as you watch these things unfold.  There will be difficult times and many trials.  Some, even today, are being put to death for their faith in Jesus, and that persecution will increase in future days.  Be ready.  Stand firm.  Trust in the Lord Jesus and He will strengthen you by His Word and Spirit.  His Word will come to pass - ALL of it!  But in the end - Jesus will reign!

Let these words be your comfort today:  "Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory"  (Romans 8:17).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"A close election ..."

"The LORD will be king over the whole earth.  On that day there will be one LORD, and His name the only name"  - Zechariah 14:9

It appears that we are going to have another close election in the United States, unless something changes in the next few weeks.  It's not unexpected.  The United States is, in many ways, a divided country, with some wanting more government involvement and others wanting less.  There are arguments on both sides.  Those who know the God "who sets the rulers in place" (Acts 17:26), are called to be good citizens and to exercise the freedom to vote.  We do so, however, knowing that we already have a King who is ruling over all the nations of the world:  Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, our Savior.

Far too many people forget this truth as they get all excited about the coming election in the United States, or see what is going on in other nations around the world.  I have shared before that the word translated, "church," literally means, "called-out ones."  Those who believe in Jesus Christ have been made part of God's people, chosen by Him before the world began (Ephesians 1:4), born again by the Spirit of God (John 1:13), and sent into the world as ambassadors of His kingdom (II Corinthians 5:20).  Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ God is calling out some "from every people, tribe, nation and tongue" to be followers of Jesus Christ.

There is only one true religion in the world today because there is only one true God.  He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He is the God who has revealed Himself in His Word: ONE God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jesus explains the "oneness" of the Father and the Son in John 17:21-24 and promises to send His Spirit to make His children "one" in Him.  This is what the true Church is about.  God has determined who will rule over the earth, and it is He, Himself who will rule.  There was no election, no decision made by sinful men who live in open rebellion against Him.  God's vote is the only one that counts.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:24-28 about the present reign of Jesus Christ from His throne in heaven and what will happen in the future when He "hands over the kingdom to God the Father."  While our knowledge of all these things is limited to what God reveals to us, He has told us clearly that HE is in control, that He is sovereign, "reigns over" all the rulers and nations of the world.  God already knows the outcome of the election and so He tells His people to vote, based on the information HE gives us in His Word, in order that the outcome will be what He has determined.  We are part of His plan to bring to pass the events that lead to His final conclusion.  We are not to vote based on what WE want, but on what GOD wants.  Some have said they don't like our choices, but as Christians we know that God is not surprised by our choices.  There is no perfect candidate - except Jesus ... and thank God, HE is already ruling at the Father's right hand!

There will come a time, as Zechariah writes, that "The LORD will be king over the whole earth!"  The God who created this world by the power of His Word, who called Abraham and made His covenant of grace with him, and who promised to send the Savior, always keeps His promises.  As He sent Jesus once to die on a cross to pay the penalty for our sin, so Jesus is coming again to gather His elect and then to bring judgment on those who reject His reign.  You have a choice - but it's not who is going to rule!  Your choice is whether you will acknowledge the reign of Jesus Christ and come to the Father through faith in Him to find forgiveness and to receive the promise of eternal life in His kingdom ... OR, whether you will reject Him and face His judgment, only to spend eternity in the realm of spiritual darkness and death.

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!" (Acts 16:31)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Passion ..."

"Passion" ... I have been looking at that word on a church sign down the road for the past few weeks (the sign on the building we used to be in).  Actually, the sign says, PASSION.  So, I read that as saying, "Passion" - period.  But passion for what?  Maybe you have to go inside to find out.  But what does it mean to have passion - a passion that honors God?

What do you do when you have a day when your "passion," your zeal for life seems to have run out?  As a pastor, that's not supposed to happen to me - so people think.  But it does; and it usually happens when I'm dealing with people!  That may like a dangerous admission, but it's true.  People have a way of draining the life out of you.  It happens at home, it happens at work, it happens at church ... Everybody has their struggles, everybody has their frustrations, everybody has their disappointments.  It's called "LIFE!"

Still, God gives us some much needed instruction for days and times when our passion for HIM and for serving others seems to have run out.  It's found in Romans 12:9-21.  I won't quote the whole passage, but I encourage you to read it - more than once, and to make these verses part of your foundation for living.

Paul writes, "Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."  Love for God and for others comes from the work of God's Spirit when we focus on serving Christ.  One of my grandchildren didn't want to pick up some things at our house recently, and their reasoning went like this:  "I didn't get it out."  My immediate response was:  "Jesus didn't sin, but He went to the cross for you."  Now, that may have been more direct than I needed to be at that moment, but it made the point.  We are servants of Jesus Christ.  When people seem hard to love or even to tolerate, we need to remember God's grace to us and we need to be "grace-givers."

True "passion" must arise out of our desire to please God, loving Him because He first loved us.  Anything less is selfishness.  At the end of these verses, in verse 21, Paul writes, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  There is a lot of evil in the world and it is easy to get drawn into the devil's scheme to make us angry at others and even to hate (strongly dislike) others.  If our zeal for God is lacking, our zeal for loving others will be lacking, too.  We can't afford to let that happen.  We are called to be the "light of the world," and if we don't shine Christ's light, the rest of the world will remain in the darkness.

When you feel like your passion for pleasing God is at low tide, read these words, be encouraged by Jesus' example, who loved you and gave Himself for you.  As His disciple, you are called to do likewise!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Stop the complaining!!!"

My grandchildren have been told that they should not say the words, but I have to confess that there are moments when I want to shout the words ... they are two little words that mean, "Close your mouth!"  You know the words I mean.  There is a saying that goes like this, "It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."  Sometimes people just don't know when to be quiet, and it is often when they are complaining.  People who complain often complain about the smallest of things in their own lives, while totally ignoring the larger trials others face.  It is like the man who complained that he had no shoes, until he met a man who had no feet.

Complaining is an annoying habit for some, and a destructive symptom of a deeper unhappiness for others.  It arises from a heart that is overwhelmed by life or depressed by present circumstances, and a mind that is set on the things of this world and self-centered living.  The instant response to anything that doesn't happen the way you want it ... complain!  A trial comes your way ... complain!  Someone does something you don't like ... complain!  For some reason, people seem to think that life should be easy, that there should be no problems.  Where do people get these ideas?

People get these ideas because they have too much or because they want too much.  Incredibly, the more people have, the more they complain.  Such is the nature of man controlled by the sinful nature.  The sinful nature wants its way and will not rest until it gets it.  But that is NOT how those who know God, who have been born again by His Spirit and who rest in Christ are called to live!  As he writes to the believers in Philippi, Paul explains that "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).  He presents Jesus as the example of "selflessness" in chapter 2, verses 1-11.  Jesus "made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, ... and He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" (verses 7-8).

Paul then encourages the Philippians to obey God's Word, living as saved people because God is at work IN them (verses 12-13).  After saying all this, Paul concludes by saying, "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life" (Philippians 2:14-16).  When you know God and you understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in this world, there is no place for complaining.  "To live is Christ and to die is gain."  You and I are temporarily here on the earth to SERVE, not to be served.  This life is not all about YOU!  I know the world wants you to believe it is, but it isn't.  It's about GOD, and you are HERE for HIM!!

Complaining makes your God look small.  When you claim to be a Christian and you complain, you are really questioning God, who promises "to work all things together for good to those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).  God calls us to be His witnesses, and sometimes the best way to be His witnesses is to BE QUIET and to stop before you give in to the temptation to complain.  When something doesn't go your way, when someone does something you don't like, when you are called to face suffering or you are just having a bad day ... replace the desire to complain with REJOICING.  That's what the whole letter to the Philippians is about.

Paul says in verses 17-18:  "Even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you, too, should be glad and rejoice with me."  Paul was IN PRISON!  But he didn't want the Philippians to be ashamed of him or to question God's faithfulness. Rather, what had happened to him had really served to advance the gospel because through his testimony the whole palace guard had come to know Christ, and because of his chains, most of his brothers in the Lord were encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly (Philippians 1:12-14).   PAUL was the one in prison, but he was telling the Philippians that THEY should not complain, but rather, be glad and rejoice with him!!

That's how you deal with the temptation to complain - you entrust yourself to the God who loves you and to the Savior who gave His life for you and you rejoice in Him, testifying to the world that your God is able and He is with you.  The next time you feel like complaining, just ........... .......!  God IS good - ALL the time!  Shine like a star amidst the darkness of this world and let YOUR life be poured out as a living sacrifice for the One who gave His all for you!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

"For God's glory!!"

For the past few days I've been writing about end times and the details of God's Word regarding the return of Jesus and the events leading up to it.  There is so much more to say.  But I am looking at the recent posts and how many people are reading which posts, and I am finding that more people are reading certain posts than others.  My goal is not just to write, but to have people read these posts - not because I am writing them, but because they help you to understand what God says and how it applies to your lives and to the world around us.  While a long discussion of end times may do that in some ways, I have decided to take a break and to try to make this more of a daily devotional.  My goal is God's glory, and that should be your goal, too.  Someone has said, "God is most glorified by us when we are most satisfied in Him."  So how satisfied ARE you in God?

A verse that comes to my mind often is Psalm 73:25:  "Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you."  Who of us can say that with complete honesty?  "Earth has nothing I desire besides YOU, O God!"  We desire a lot things, don't we?  And most of them have to do with "earth," with things in this world.  Is that wrong?  Can't you desire/want things?  The question is, WHY do you want things?  Why do you want the things you want?  What do you want to do with them?  The answer will determine your goals - the reason you live.  And that's where the Bible is clear about what SHOULD be the goal of those who know the true God.  Your goal and mine should be the same as GOD's goal for us!  If you desire God more than anything else, then living to please Him will be your number one priority.  

And God tells us how to please Him:  by fulfilling the purpose for which He made us and for which He saved us in Christ, and for which He gave us His Spirit, so that we could think as He thinks.  Why then, did God create us?  For what purpose did He send Jesus to suffer and die in our place to redeem us and to make us His adopted children?  Why did God come to live in us by His Spirit?  For His glory!!  The entire Bible points to God's glory as the reason for creation in the first place.  "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1).  If God made the heavens to glorify Him, surely He also made man to glorify Him!  

Because of sin, however, all people live for self in one way or another.  Even when people do things for others, it is often for self-centered reasons such as wanting to feel good or for others to see or even to earn some "points" with God.  Sin makes it impossible to glorify God.  God is glorified only when you and I recognize Him for who He is, in ALL His glory, and proclaim His greatness and majesty to the world.  We do that only when we live our lives for HIM and not for ourselves.  One passage of Scripture points this out in the clearest possible way - pointing to God's purpose in creation and in redemption through Christ.  The passage is Ephesians 1:3-14.

I want to encourage you to read these verses ... then read them again and then pray, and then read them again!  Let God's Word soak in; even memorize some of these verses, or the whole passage.  Pay close attention to verses 6, 12 and 14.  Verses 4-5 explain, "For He chose us in Him (Jesus Christ) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.  In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will - (verse 6):  to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves."  

Again in verses 11-12:  "In Him (Jesus) we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might BE for the praise of His glory!"  Did you hear that?  "In order that we might BE for the praise of His glory!"  God made us to EXIST for His glory, and in Christ, He restores us to His original purpose.  If you believe in Jesus and are born again by His Spirit, you must have this as the goal of your life; no longer living for self, but for the God who created you for His glory in the first place!

And finally, verses 13-14:  "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of His glory." 

Are you living for His glory?  I'll talk tomorrow about some specific areas of life where people seem to have a hard time living for God's glory in our culture and throughout the world today.  For now, read Psalm 73:25 and the surrounding verses, and Ephesians 1:3-14.  Let God speak to you and then DO it - for HIS glory!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"Why talk about the end of the world?"

In the last few days we have talked about "scoffers"  - those who will deliberately forget that God created the world and who do not believe His judgment lies ahead.  These people pursue their evil schemes and self-centered agendas, thinking only of this world and this life.  In the end, they will regret their decision to ignore God's Word.  But there are also those within the body of the church who do virtually the same thing.  Ignoring God's Word, they make up their own scenario for the future.  They come up with their own plans and enlist the rest of the body of the church to do what they want - even dialoguing with other religions, all in the name of love and tolerance ...  in the name of "God."

It's time for the truth:  this world, this planet, is "reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (II Peter 3:7).  The only reason the end has not already come is that God"is being patient," and is calling people to repentance through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Those who stand upon the Word of God are often ridiculed as old-fashioned and out-of-touch with the culture of our nation and of the world today.  Those who believe the Bible should be taken literally and that it is the very Word of God are ridiculed, even by those who are teaching in seminaries.  Surely, we must know better today than to think the Bible can be taken literally, that it is really God's inspired Word.  Instead, these "scholars" and "theologians" tell us we must discover the "kernel of truth" contained in Jesus' teaching and learn to live in this world with love for all people.

Sounds good, doesn't it?  Hardly how the Apostle Paul addressed those who opposed his teaching.  In II Corinthians 11 he says, "Such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.  Their end will be what their actions deserve" (II Corinthians 11:13-15).  I thank God for those who stand upon the Word and who preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, preaching God's Word and calling people to repent.  But as thankful as I am for these brothers, I come against those who deceive and who lead many astray.  Their end is destruction, and rightly so.  They fail to preach the cross and leave people searching in an endless journey for truth, declaring all the while that there IS NO TRUTH!

Believing God's Word is true brings hope because it gives to those who believe a foundation for life.  Peter concludes his second letter to the church by making the connection between the coming judgment and life today:  "Since everything WILL BE DESTROYED in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives ... as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.  That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heart.  BUT, in keeping with His promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness"  (II Peter 3:11-13).

Whether or not you or any other person believes God's judgment is coming on the earth, it is true and it will happen.  Millions have been deceived by false religions to believe that they will return to life after they die, that they will be reincarnated.  Others simply believe in some kind of pleasant afterlife in a place where we are free from our problems - a utopian state.  How foolish to believe such a thing that has absolutely no evidence of existing.  People laugh at children for believing fairytales, but that is what such things are.  On the contrary, the Bible explains the plan and purpose of God from before the world began, some six thousand years ago.  Peter's words are an encouragement that to believe in God's judgment is to find hope in God's promise:  there is a new heaven and a new earth coming - a new beginning.

God invites sinners into this new world through His Son Jesus Christ.  Only by His sacrifice on the cross could Jesus, true God and true man, make a way for people like you and me to enter God's eternal kingdom.  This gives a sure and certain hope to believers, to those who are true Christians, and calls us to live as children of God, in holiness and godliness, as we look forward to what God has promised.  The greatest incentive to live as godly people is the return of Jesus Christ.  Knowing that we will live forever, either in the new heaven and earth, or facing God's judgment in hell, makes the choice an easy one - unless your mind and heart are still deceived and you are still living in the darkness of spiritual death.  May these words awaken you and move you to believe God's Word as He reveals these things to those who have been given ears to hear, minds to understand and hearts to obey.  By His grace, you can KNOW that you are safe from His judgment.

What is yet to come?  We are only just beginning to uncover all that God has revealed!!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"The deliberately forget ..."

Why would anyone deliberately forget something?  Because they DON'T WANT to remember it!  Yesterday we read in II Peter 3:3-4 that "in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.  They will say 'Where is this COMING he (God) promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.'"  Peter describes these scoffers as people who want to pursue their own evil desires - desires that are contrary to God's will, to His law, to His righteousness.

In the late 1900's people in the church began to talk more about the return of Jesus to earth.  This was the birth of what some today call "Zionism," the belief that God had a plan for Israel and that the Jews would return to the land God gave to Israel before Jesus returned.  Satan knows that God has predicted and ordained his final judgment and defeat.  In the Garden of Eden God promised that the "Seed of the woman would crush Satan's head" (Genesis 3:15).  Satan tried to destroy the Jews before God's plan could be fulfilled.  As he had done in the days of Esther, he plotted to destroy the entire race of Jews.  World War II and the horrible holocaust where millions of Jews were killed was pure evil, but in the end it backfired.  The result was the world allowing the Jews to return to the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - forever!

Following the return of many Jews to Israel, the establishment of Israel as a nation and all the events since have made the discussion of end times a popular topic - and rightly so.  There are those in the church who believe that the Church has replaced Israel in God's plans.  But can God forget His promises to Israel?  We will talk about that in future posts.  For now we need to understand that the reason there are so many "scoffers" today is because of the teaching of many concerning the prophecies regarding Jesus' return, spurred on by the events surrounding the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.  This is the time Peter was talking about.  We are in the last days.  The words Peter wrote were written for those in his day, yet even more-so for us today.

The scoffers deliberately forget something that people, especially in the church, should know.  "They deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water.  By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed" (II Peter 3:5-6).  Peter says that people deliberately forget, deny, push aside the truth of God's Word concerning the creation of the earth and the destruction of the earth with the flood in the days of Noah.  Many even in the church today believe the flood is a fairytale, that the earth and everything in it "evolved," that God is love and would never judge people.  They deliberately forget that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and that we all deserve God's judgment.  They deliberately forget that God judged the earth with the flood and saved only Noah and his family.  They deliberately forget the TRUTH!!  And so they scoff and they make fun of those of us who believe that the Bible is literal, God-breathed truth.

So Peter goes on to explain what will happen in these last days:  "By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (II Peter 3:7).  The present heavens and earth, the world WE live in, is reserved for fire, for God's just judgment. God created the world by His Word:  "Let it be!"  And God will destroy the world by His Word.  We will not destroy ourselves.  As certainly as God sent fire and brimstone down to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, His judgment is going to come upon this planet.  Those who do not know the true God, who do not confess their sin and believe in Jesus Christ will perish.  That is why we proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  Preaching the Gospel is God's chosen means to save those who believe.

"God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son (the eternal Word of God - John 1:1 - in the flesh - John 1:14), that whoever believes in Him would NOT perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).  To those who believe Peter writes in verses 8-9:  "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

God's desire is that ALL would turn from sin and find forgiveness and life in Jesus, but He knows that no one will come to Him unless He Himself draws them to Him.  Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44).  God is using His Word today to draw people to Himself.  He is sending out people who know Him to proclaim His truth, found only in the Bible, and He is changing hearts and minds by His Spirit.  If you know Him today, it is because God Himself opened your mind and changed your heart and moved you to put your faith in Jesus Christ.  If you have not yet done that, but are reading these words, perhaps God will at this moment help you to understand these things and confess your sin and your need for forgiveness - moving you to believe in Jesus Christ.

Don't scoff and deliberately push away the truth.  These things have been revealed by God so that you might believe in Jesus Christ and be saved.  Come to Him today!!

Friday, October 5, 2012

"In the last days scoffers will come ..."

Are we in the "last days?"  When will we know?  HOW will we know? ..... WILL we know??  When we talk about the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ, most people know only what they have heard, and most of it is not from the Bible!  If asked, "Where can you read about end times?", most Christians would probably respond with one word:  "Revelations!"  (By the way, it's not "Revelations," it's "Revelation" - which means, "uncovering").

The truth is, the Bible is full of information about the end of this age and the return of Jesus Christ.  But before we get to some of those passages, we need to talk about the idea of there even being a "last days."  To do that, I want to start with II Peter 3:1-13.  We'll look at this passage over the next few days.

To begin, Peter gives to his readers the reason behind his writing:  "Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you.  I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking" (vs. 1). Peter very clearly addresses his letters to a particular audience.  In I Peter 1:1-2, he writes, "To God's elect, strangers in the world ... who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit."  In II Peter 1:1, he writes, "To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours."  Peter is writing to believers, to those who have been born again by God's Spirit, and who have confessed Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  It is these that he desires to "stimulate to wholesome thinking."

In order for that to happen, Peter continues in chapter 3, verse 2:  "I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles."  The mistake many young believers, or even Unbelievers, make is that they want to talk about "end times" or "the last days" without having any previous knowledge of the Word of God.  It's like trying to read the last chapter of a book and thinking that you will understand it all.  It just doesn't work that way!  The Word of God is one book with one message and one story.  It goes from beginning to end.  You can't understand the end if you don't have some grasp of the beginning and the middle.  So as we talk about end times and the return of Jesus we will have to refer to things that were written before the apostle John's revelation and we will need to understand God's plan from the beginning.

Peter goes on, then, in verses 3-7, to explain why it is important to know God's plan and to believe that all of history is moving towards an appointed end.  "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.  They will say, 'Where is this coming He promised?  Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.'" (vss. 3-4).  I'm going to stop there for today because the fact that people are even talking about the end of the world is evidence that we are in the last days.  It has not always been so.  In one sense, we have been in the last days since the first coming of Jesus.  The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus ushered in a new stage in God's plan.  From His throne in heaven, Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit and brought Jews and Gentiles together in the Church.  But the "last days" Peter is talking about is a period of time prior to the return of Jesus that will be marked by certain signs.  One of them is "scoffers."

These "scoffers" will question whether there is even going to BE a time when this world will end.  People today live as though this world will last forever - unless, of course, we "blow ourselves up."  But God says otherwise.  While in our current political debates the two "sides" try to draw a contrast between each other, they are both pursuing a course designed by men.  One may be more in line with the principles of God's Word, but the real issues - spiritual issues - are largely ignored.  We are living in the most uncertain time in the history of the world.  People feel it; people are nervous and they are grasping at straws, desperately looking for a leader.  The one they will eventually find will be a deceiver - the anti-christ.

In the midst of this, God says to His people, "scoffers will come," but do not be deceived.  Look at what God has done before.  Listen to what God has said before.  Stand firm!  For everything will unfold exactly as He has revealed.  How important is it, then, to KNOW what God has said in His Word.  It is to His Word that you must commit yourself to listening and from which you must learn of the last days.  For more than a century people have been speaking about the end of the world at an ever-increasing level.  In the past thirty to forty years people all over the world have been discussing what the Bible says about "end times."  Is this a self-fulfilling prophecy, or is this the time Peter was talking about?  Only if people are talking about these things can scoffers ask their question, "Where is this 'coming" He promised?"  And they ARE asking!!  As people talk about the "rapture" and declare that Jesus could come any day, people are asking, "When? When?? When???"

Begin here.  Read II Peter 3 and ask God for wisdom.  He will give it to you and you will begin a journey of preparation that will bring hope and courage to you and to all with whom you share GOD's truth!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"Not appointed to suffer wrath ..."

"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ!"   (I Thessalonians 5:9).

What a wonderful promise!  And yet, it is this very promise, in this very verse that has led to perhaps the greatest misunderstanding concerning the timing of the events leading up to and surrounding Jesus' return.  We must remember that Paul is saying in this chapter that there is a difference between the knowledge and understanding of those who are in Christ and those who are not.  Just prior to Jesus' return there will be some who are saying, "Peace and safety," and destruction will come upon them suddenly.  As in the days of Noah, they will not escape as God pours out His wrath.

But there are others - those who believe, for whom this day and this time of God's appointed wrath cannot come soon enough.  We will see why at a later time.  Paul writes, "But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.  You are all sons of the light and sons of the day.  We do not belong to the night or to the darkness" (I Thessalonians 5:4-5).  He then explains how believers should live, not carousing around in the darkness, but living as children of the light, with self-control and faith and love and hope.  Then he comes to verse 9:  "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."

When God pours out His wrath upon the earth, believers will not be on the earth.  In the verses immediately preceding I Thessalonians 5, Paul speaks of the Lord's return at the sounding of the trumpet:  "For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever" (I Thessalonians 4:13-17).

The event described in these verses has been called the "rapture," the "catching up," or "gathering together" of God's people, those known by God and chosen by Him to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  "No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:3).  All who believe have been delivered from God's wrath by the blood of Christ shed once for all on the cross.  God cannot and will not punish those who believe for the sins that Jesus paid for on the cross.  Indeed, the only unforgivable sin is unbelief.  Through ignorance and by an act of the sinful will, all people lie under the curse of sin, and there is but one escape:  repentance and faith in Jesus Christ - the evidence of the new birth, which is itself the gift of God through His Word and Spirit (John 1:12-13).

Many believe that the next prophetic event to take place in God's end-time scenario is the rapture.  These have been taught and have believed that the rapture will come just prior to the appearance of the anti-christ.  They believe that following the rapture of believers there will be a terrible time of tribulation (God's wrath), upon the earth.  But while it is true that God's wrath will come upon the earth, there are events that precede His wrath being poured out and so also, events that precede the rapture.  Jesus cannot and will not rapture His Church today, or even tomorrow, or even next week, or even next year.  To do so would be to deny His Word.  God's Word is truth from beginning to end and as we saw yesterday, we must read and study all of God's Word in its context - the entire Bible - and believe all that it teaches us.

The rapture WILL, indeed, precede the pouring out of God's wrath, for believers are not appointed to suffer the Father's wrath.  As Paul says in verses 9-10, "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, BUT to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.  He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep (alive or dead - physically), we may live together with Him."  The question is not whether the rapture will occur before God's wrath comes upon the earth, but rather, what IS God's wrath and WHEN does God send His wrath upon unbelieving mankind?  These are important questions and God gives us the answers!

As all these things unfold around us, there has never been a time in human history when it has been more important to study God's Word and to know what God says - for ourselves and for others.  Life is filled with uncertainties that could bring fear and doubt and anxiety, but knowing what lies ahead and standing on God's promises brings the "hope of salvation as a helmet" that guards our minds from being deceived and misled.  With good reason Paul tells believers,  "Therefore encourage each other with these words" (I Thessalonians 4:18); and, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (I Thessalonians 5:11).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"But you, brothers, are not in the darkness!"

What do YOU know about the return of Jesus Christ?  Where would you go to learn more?  The first place would be to Jesus, right?  So we need to go to the Gospels.  And then we need to go to the writers of the Bible, the Word of God.  Jesus said that He revealed only what the Father told Him, and it is His Spirit that inspired the writers of the Old and New Testaments to write what they did.  So whether it is the prophets of the Old Testament or the apostles in the New Testament, the same Spirit spoke through them and through Jesus.  If we study what they say and listen to what they say, we will not be in the darkness of ignorance, a spiritual darkness that leads to judgment and eternal death!

Paul assured the Thessalonians that even though the day of God's judgment and the return of Jesus would come suddenly, as a thief in the night, that THEY were NOT in the darkness so that this day should surprise THEM (I Thessalonians 5:4).  He goes on to say in verse 5, "You are all sons of the light and sons of the day.  We do not belong to the night or to the darkness." 

I find that most people in the church today think very little of the return of Jesus.  I have heard people say, "We can't do anything about it anyway, so why worry about it?"  We shouldn't worry about it, but if we are "sons of the light and sons of the day," we must be warning others of the judgment to come when Jesus returns!  As we saw yesterday, Jesus said that as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be when He returns.  As Noah built the ark, the Bible says that he preached to the people, warning them of the judgment God told him was about to come.  They didn't listen, but Noah did what God told him to do.  We need to do the same, and God has promised that some WILL listen and be saved - those whom He has chosen.

Most people, even in the church, have been taught very little, if anything, about what the Bible says about the events leading up to the return of Jesus, or about the return itself.  I have had pastors tell me that the Church has replaced Israel in God's plans and all we need to know is that Jesus is coming again.  They say that we need to be concerned about the present and leave the rest to God.  That sounds good and it is certainly true that we should be busy doing God's work until Jesus comes.  But what IS God's work?  Didn't Jesus tell us to make disciples and to teach them EVERYTHING He had taught the disciples and that His Holy Spirit would teach the apostles?  If the Bible teaches us about Jesus' return and gives us many details to watch for, shouldn't we learn what God says and use His words to warn others and to impress upon people the importance of coming to God through faith in Jesus Christ and to use their lives NOW for His glory, to help others learn the truth??

I don't understand how people who claim to believe and teach the Bible ignore and leave out what almost every book of the Bible talks about:  the return of the King and the establishment of His kingdom on the earth!  Instead, people today talk about changing the world and helping people to live like Jesus.  What's wrong with that?  It ignores the reality that only by confessing our sin, repenting (turning from sin) and believing in Jesus Christ can we know that we are forgiven and that we are children of the light - GOD's children!  We are not going to change this world - in fact, Jesus never told us to change this world.  HE is going to do that when He returns.  We are to live as light amidst the darkness.  It's not going to be easy; it's not easy now!

Paul goes on in I Thessalonians 5:6-8:  "So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.  But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet."  God wants us to be alert and to see the dangers all around us and to warn others.  Ezekiel 33 says that we are watchmen and we are responsible to warn those who are in danger of the coming judgment.  This is the main task of the Church, of Christians, of the children of the light!

We'll look at the rest of this section in I Thessalonians 5 tomorrow.  We need to understand that God wants His children to read His Word - ALL of it, and to understand it, as His Spirit is our teacher.  The Word is clear.  It was not given to be ignored, in ANY age, but especially in THIS age!  Things are changing very quickly all around the world.  Nations are in an uproar.  Leaders of nations are talking about World War III as though it is being considered.  Where do we turn for hope?  Can a presidential election bring hope?  No, our hope is in the Lord and in His promises to us who believe in Jesus Christ.  If you have that hope, if you are "in the light," give thanks to God for His grace and warn others of the coming events that God's Word reveals to those who have ears to hear.  Pray that He will use YOU to bring someone else into the light, that they, too, might KNOW that no matter what happens today or tomorrow, we HAVE eternal life in Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The end of this world as we know it ...

Jesus is coming back to this earth.  Everyone who truly believes in Jesus believes that He will return to this earth.  Some people have been talking about it for centuries - but not many.  The discussion of the end of the world began in earnest in the years leading up to and the years after World War I.  Prior to that time, many believed that the preaching of the Gospel was going to bring about a "Golden Age" on the earth; a time of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world, where most people, or at least a majority, would be Christians, and there would be a rise in morality and righteous living.  The Gospel would transform the world!

World War I caused many to begin to lose hope that such a worldwide transformation would take place, and World War II reduced the optimism of more who had hoped that Christianity and godly living would produce "heaven on earth."  If people had studied the Scriptures more thoroughly, they would have realized that God did not promise such an earthly utopia where everybody loved each other and the great majority would become disciples of Jesus.  The Bible predicts that there will be wars and rumors of wars until the end, and that many will leave "the faith" and turn away from Christ.  Jesus even asks the question, "When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).

Jesus is coming back to earth to bring judgment on those who do not believe, and to gather His people from the corners of the earth.  He will raise the dead and all who have believed in Him throughout the history of the human race will be taken up ("raptured") to meet Him in the air, to go with Him into heaven as God pours out His wrath upon the earth and those still living upon it.  In the coming weeks, and perhaps months, I will be sharing some of what God says about these days that are coming on our world.  Why?  Because only by considering these things, by understanding what the Bible says about them, by believing God's promises and knowing His plan can you live in this world with hope and live for the right reason:  to glorify God and to spread the good news that in spite of what is going on in the world, "our God reigns!"

If you are to find hope and if you are to share it with others, you need to know that Jesus is coming back to earth, but you also need to know that He is NOT coming back TODAY!  Jesus said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matthew 24:36).  I don't know exactly what day Jesus is going to return.  God does not want people making specific predictions about when Jesus is going to return ... yet.  The time will come when it will be obvious to those who are believers, who are alive on the earth, that the return of Jesus is imminent ... that it is a matter of days or weeks or months.  Those who believe will be able to know, not because of some feeling or because they have received a special message from the Spirit of God - except that which the Spirit has already revealed in God's Word, the Bible.

Many people know a few verses from the Bible and like to quote the verses they know.  This makes other people think they know what they are talking about.  But all too often people quote verses out of context and therefore say things the Bible never says.  They distort and twist the Scriptures, "to their own destruction" (II Peter 3:16).  Two of these verses are I Thessalonians 5:2-3.  You have probably heard these verses quoted before.  They say:  "... you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape."

There you have it, some would say ... Jesus will come like a thief in the night and nobody knows the day or the hour.  But listen to the very next verse, I Thessalonians 5:4:  "BUT YOU, BROTHERS, are NOT in darkness so that this day should surpass YOU like a thief."  Those who believe are no longer living in spiritual darkness.  By the Spirit of God we can understand all that God has revealed to us in His Word.  God calls us to be students of His Word so that we can know the truth that sets us free from fear and anxiety, as well as from the temptations facing all of us to get caught up in pursuing the things of this world rather than the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33; I John 2:15-17).  Paul then goes on in verses 5-11 to explain the benefit of thinking about these things and KNOWING what the Word of God says about the events leading up to the return of Jesus, as well as His coming.  That's where we'll begin tomorrow.

Monday, October 1, 2012

"The END is coming!!"

"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.  Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions" (Matthew 24:45-47).

Matthew 24 and 25 record Jesus speaking to His disciples about the coming of the end.  As they were admiring the temple and remarking about its magnificence, Jesus told them that the temple would be destroyed and one stone would not be left on another.  The disciples were shocked and asked Jesus when this would happen and what would be the signs of the end of the age.  Surely, they thought, if the temple is destroyed it means the end has come!  Jesus went on to explain in great detail how the end would come.  There is so much more detail in God's Word concerning these events than most imagine. Many speculate and come up with their own ideas, but God tells us what we need to know in His Word.

I am getting ready to begin to share on this blog what will be the foundation for the book I have been promising to write and to finish.  Maybe it will never get into book form ... perhaps this is the only place I will ever share what I believe God is revealing in this day through His Word.  That is up to God.  Most of what I will share in coming days and weeks I have already shared in a ten-part series of messages on the return of Jesus.  I pray that it will be enlightening to all who read it, and that it will challenge you to "search the Scriptures to see if these things are so."  Since I will continue to try to do daily posts, you will receive these things in "bite-size" pieces.  If you become a "follower" (I don't like to use that word for myself, because I don't want anyone to follow me, but rather, Jesus Christ!) ... but if you become a "follower" of this blog, you can comment or ask questions as we go along.  All the posts will be available, so you will be able to "catch up" if you miss a day or a few days.

But what I want to share with you today is this, based on Matthew 24:45-47 ...  the END is coming!  Of course, we know that the end of the age will come, according to God's plan and in His time.  As you will see as we look at what the Bible says about these things, the time is drawing near, BUT it is not going to happen today.  Some things need to happen first, before the return of Jesus.  I know that even saying that will disturb some because many are being taught that Jesus could return and rapture believers any day.  We will talk about that at length to see if that is really what the Bible teaches.  The important thing for you TODAY is this:  the end of THIS day is coming soon!

As I write this, it is Monday afternoon, October 1st, 2012.  It is 4:33 Eastern Daylight Time.  In less than seven hours and 27 minutes, this day will come to an end.  During these seven+ hours, people all around this world will find that their lives have ended.  As the old saying goes, "Time waits for no man."  Jesus asked the question, "Which of you by worrying can add the smallest amount of time to your life?"  The answer:  Not one of us!!!  So should we be fatalistic and just live however we want, for our own pleasure, knowing that the end of the day, the end of the week, the end of the month or year or decade - or even the end of our own lives is just around the corner?

And what of the end of the world?  If it is drawing near, then what is the point of living the way we are living ... storing up things for the future and planning for tomorrow?  Of course, God tells us in His Word that planning is important and that it is wise to store up SOME things ... but at the same time, God says that we should LIVE today!  "THIS is the day the LORD has made" refers first of all to this twenty-four hour period, but also to the present age.  II Corinthians 6:2 says that this is the "day of salvation."  God has opened the door of salvation, of eternal life, through faith in Jesus Christ, since the Day of Pentecost until today and until Jesus' return.  In the verses preceding those quoted above Jesus says that His return will come like the days of Noah ... people who do not know the true God will be taken by surprise.  The door of the ark will be closed and they will cry out, but it will be too late!!

So we come to our verses for today, "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.  Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions" (Matthew 24:45-47).

Those who know Jesus Christ as Savior also know Him as Lord.  We are servants of the Master and have been sent into the world.  We enter the mission field from the moment we open our eyes in the morning.  And as we fall asleep praying for others, we are doing battle for His kingdom.  Our calling, our job, our task, our mission is not to sit and wait for Jesus to return, but to be working as His servants in the world.  Too many today are continually asking God to do things for them, but are offering God nothing.  The Apostle Paul would write, "I have been crucified with Christ and now I no longer live, but Christ lives IN me.  The life I live in the flesh (NOW), I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

God has His people in many different places around the world.  You are called to serve God by serving others right where you are.  He may call you and send you somewhere else, but today you are called to serve Him where you are.  Today, your life could end.  Today, you could meet Jesus face to face.  I thank God that we are saved by grace, that our works do not earn us anything, that we do not have to wonder if we have done enough to please God and to enter into heaven.  The blood of Jesus covers those who trust in Him.  Our sins are forgiven; the debt has been paid.  Hallelujah!!  Now we are freed from the need to please ourselves so that we can live for our King!

"It will be good for that servant whose mater finds him" serving HIM by serving others - by caring for them, loving them and sharing the Gospel with them, when He sends His angels to carry them home.  Be about your Father's business today.  Pray without ceasing ... put your mind on "speaker" and listen for His voice, even as you share your heart and mind with Him.  Do what He lays on your heart to do, and at the end of the day ... every day ... and your last day ... and when He returns ... the King will say to you, and to all whom He finds so doing, "Well done, good and faithful servant.  Enter the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the earth."