Category Archives: Bible

Daniel’s 70th week and the Abomination of Desolation

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Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to Him, we ask you, brothers…Let no one deceive you in any way.  For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.  2 Thessalonians 2:1-4

In order to understand the events of the time before Jesus returns, we need to know some key events that are mentioned in the book of Revelation, as well as 2 Thessalonians 2, and Matthew 24.  Two of those events that I mention today will be seven years of prophetic significance called “Daniel’s Seventieth Week,” and “The Abomination of Desolation.”

There is a period of time that is referred to related to the end times.  It is known as “Daniel’s Seventieth Week,” or “The Seven Years of Tribulation.”  In Daniel 9:24-27, Daniel was getting a prophetic lesson from the angel Gabriel about things to come.  He started by explaining that 70 weeks were decreed about the Jews and Jerusalem to “finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place (vs. 24).”

That’s a mouthful.  The idea is that 69 weeks are completed, but there is one more week yet to be fulfilled to finish everything listed in verse 24. A ‘seven’ represents a seven-year period, so seventy ‘7 year periods’ is equal to a total of 490 years.  That period of time is to finish the things mentioned in Daniel 9:24.  It’s more complicated than that, but for now, let’s just say that most people believe that there is one week, or seven years left,  where the rest of the prophetic events will take place surrounding Jesus’ return.

Those seven years begin with an agreement, which is mentioned in Daniel 9:27, “And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering.  And on the wing of abominations shall come who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

An covenant of some sort will be forged with the antichrist figure, the man of lawlessness as 2 Thessalonians 2:3 calls him, with the Jews in Israel.  Daniel 9:26 calls him ‘the prince.’  That will begin the seven years.  It could be a peace treaty, or a pact that enables the Jews to take control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where there are now two Muslim shrines.  Perhaps a quickly built Jewish temple will be built so that sacrifices would be resumed.  A temple of some sort will have to be rebuilt in order for it to be desecrated.  

In the middle of the seven years, there will an abrupt end to the Jewish sacrifices.  The antichrist, or man of lawlessness, will offer a sacrifice that is an abomination to Jews.  He will take his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.  According to Matthew 24:15-16, this is when everything busts loose: “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

According to Daniel 9:27, this happens in the middle of the seven, or week: “And he (the man of lawlessness or the prince) shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering.”  That means that this abomination of desolation will take place three and a half years into the seven years, the midway point of this seventieth week.

We may or may not know when this covenant is made between this man and the Jews.  We may know it if we hear that the Temple is being rebuilt.  There are a large number of Jews in Israel who have all of the articles for the Temple, as well as a governing body of Rabbis, waiting for this day.  We will know that something is up if the Temple Mount is no longer controlled by Muslims.  Some people interpret the ‘temple of God,’ referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 to mean something else symbolically.  But if you stick to the face value understanding of Scripture, comparing one passage with another, then when Paul refers to ‘the temple,’ it means the temple.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:32-33, “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see all these things, you know that He is near, at the very gates.”  Many quote Matthew 24:36, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of Heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”  

Jesus went on to say that it would be like the days of Noah when people were swept away unwittingly. But Noah knew that the flood was coming and once his ark was finished, he most likely knew that the rain would come at any time.  Although we can’t know when this seven year period is going to begin, we can read the signs of Matthew 24:15-28 to know that Jesus is near, at our very gates.

This is a lot to wrap your mind around if you have never sorted through any of the events of Revelation or other prophetic passages.  But hopefully you will have some explanations that make sense to you.  As we go on, maybe you can eventually piece together a framework that will help you to understand end time events.  

“But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  Luke 21:36

*Picture from Google images

 


The 144,000

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree.  Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.’  And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel.  Revelation 7:1-4

In walking through the book of Revelation, we encounter things like seals, trumpets, a group of people called “the 144,000,” two witnesses, and time periods of days that mean something.  If you understand these basic events, time periods, and groups of people, it may help you to understand what we can from the book of Revelation.  There is a certain mystery to prophecy that leaves the knowledge of what will really happen to the people that are alive at that time.  Maybe it will be us, maybe not.

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The 144,000 is an interesting group of people that will play a part in things just after the sixth seal.  Who are they?  Chapter 7 tells us that there are 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel (Jacob).  Between Revelation 7:1-8 and 14:1-5 we find these details:

  • They have Jesus and God’s name written on their foreheads as a seal
  • They will be redeemed (or purchased) from the earth
  • They are virgins and no lie was found in their mouth, they are blameless
  • They will follow the Lamb wherever He goes
  • The Day of the Lord doesn’t begin until they are sealed for protection
  • They are redeemed as firstfruits for God and the Lamb

Again, I am using a non symbolic, face value interpretation of the Bible.  To be redeemed or purchased from the earth indicates to me that they were dead and are brought back to life.  The next deduction that can be made is that in order to get 12,000 pure Israelites from each tribe, they would have to be brought back to life from before the time that the northern kingdom fell to Assyria in 722 B.C.  That was when the Israelites (northern kingdom) intermingled with the Assyrians and the tribal lines wouldn’t be pure after that.  

Ezekiel 37 tells the account about Ezekiel seeing a vision with a valley of dry bones and God tells him to prophesy so that they would come to life.  In verse 9-14 it says, Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God:  Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’

So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army…Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O My people.  And I will put My Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.  Then you shall know that I am the Lord.’

We have the same words used as Rev. 7 uses, with four angels holding back the four winds  so that the 144,000 can be sealed for protection.  Add to that Daniel 12:1-2, “And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time…And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”  

My view is this: God is going to bring back to life the Jewish people who lived before Jesus.  They never had a chance to accept or reject Him.  He will protect them in the wilderness to deal with them.  Isaiah 26:20 states, “Come, My people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.”  Zechariah 12:10-14 describes how God is going to deal with them “when they look on Me, on Him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only child (vs. 10).”  Rev. 12:6 adds, “And the woman (Israel) fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1260 days.”

To summarize, the 6th seal will be opened some length of time after the event of the Abomination of Desolation.  That will be a topic for another day.  There will be a flurry of intense persecution by Satan where, according to Rev. 12:13-17,  he will go after Israel and won’t be able to get to them because God is hiding them away.  He will then go after Christians.  We will get to Revelation 12 as well.  

Before the 7th seal, I believe that the 144,000 will be brought to life.  Also, an exceedingly great army of Jews will be brought back to life as well so God can deal with them and then bring a remnant of them into the restored land of Israel, as Zechariah 13 describes.  The events that take place once the seventh seal is opened will be a series of events that pours out God’s wrath on those who rejected Him.  It will culminate in a battle between Jesus and Satan, with Jesus winning.

That’s the good news for today!  Jesus wins and He will reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  1 Corinthians 15:25-26

 


The Sixth Seal

When He opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.  The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.  The the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountain, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?  Revelation 6:12-17

I always thought that the book of Revelation was something that no one could really make sense of.  I had been taught from a certain end times’ perspective growing up, but there were verses that I’d read that didn’t fit.  When I would ask why they didn’t fit, it was like I needed a decoder ring to get all of the special explanations.

Then I made it my goal to study Revelation all of one summer.  That turned into a study of all of the prophetic verses, especially in the Old Testament, and that lasted for at least two years.  One of the things that helped was using a “face value” approach to Scripture.  That means that you take a look at what is written and take it in its plain sense.  You don’t dig to find some hidden spiritual meaning of words and phrases.

That puts you, or the person that says, “This stands for…”  in the place the authority of the Biblical authors.  If another spot in the Bible tells you that’s what it means, then it’s okay.  As  you compare one passage against another, eventually a timeline will begin to emerge that makes sense.

The next few devotions will include passages, key events and details that might help you begin to piece together a timeline of things that are yet to come, whenever they are.  I recently was a part of a group where everyone at the table had a different view of the end times.  I joked that maybe the ones who are right will get preferential seating in Heaven.  I understand that others have different positions, but I am laying out mine, using a face value approach to Scripture.

red blood moonThe sixth seal has some parallel passages that will help you to understand when it will occur.  I talked about this day in my post, “The Day of the Lord,”  (from 2 Peter 3) and abbreviated it the DOTL.  The DOTL and the breaking open of the sixth seal are the same event.  We’ll take a look at two passages that describe this day.  The first passage is Matthew 24:3-31.  Here are verses 29-31:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days, ( after the Abomination of Desolation) of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from Heaven, and the powers of the Heavens will be shaken.  Then will appear in Heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory.  And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of Heaven to the other.

If you look at the “cosmic disturbances” of the sun, moon, stars and sky it matches up with Revelation 6 and the sixth seal.  The event that Matthew 24 includes the appearing of the Son of Man–Jesus.  Matt. 24 also tells us about our being gathered together to meet Jesus in the air.  This is before all of the bad things break loose.  

This is the point where God’s wrath is poured out on those who have rejected Him.  By the way, nothing before this point is called ‘God’s Wrath.’  There is a period of time where Satan will attack with a vengeance and in Revelation 12:12, referring to this time it says, “But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”  

When people quote 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” they are right.  We will not be around when His wrath is poured out on the earth.  But we could be around for the time just before this, when Satan fights with a vengeance because he knows his time is short.  We’ll see more about that when we get to Revelation 12.

To summarize, when you compare Rev. 6, Matthew 24, (and also Joel 2:30-31), you will see that they are speaking of the same event.  Matthew 24 tells us this is when believers will be gathered up to meet the Lord in the air.  Then the wrath of God, “the great and terrible day of the Lord,” occurs.  It will include signs that no one can miss and everyone will see.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”  2 Thessalonians 2:17-17

*Image from Thomas Taylor Ministries

 


Is this the beginning of the end?

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And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”  Revelation 5:9

The Apostle John was taken in the Spirit to Heaven to see what was going to happen in the future.  He was taken to the Throne of Jesus with all of His majesty.  This was complete with jewels of all kinds, 24 elders on thrones, seven torches of fire, four living creatures with eyes going in every direction who never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”  

All of the living things around the throne called out “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created (Rev. 4:11).”  I can’t wrap my mind around the sheer awesomeness of this scene.

John then saw Jesus holding a scroll and a strong angel called out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”  John began to weep because no one was found worthy to do that.  Then an elder said, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals (Rev. 5:2,5).”  Jesus is the only one worthy to do such a thing.  

Why was taking the scroll and breaking open the seals such a big deal?  Because, in doing so, this will begin the events that will usher in the end of the world as we know it.  Seal by seal it will usher in the very difficult events leading up to Jesus’ return to the earth as judge and  King.  It won’t be pretty.   The seven seals that will be opened are:

  1.  A white horse and rider with a bow,  released to conquer.
  2.  A bright red horse released, taking peace from the earth so that people would slay one another.                                                                                          
  3.  A black horse with a rider with a pair of scales, weighing out wheat and barley for a great price (scarcity of food).
  4.  A pale horse whose rider’s name was Death.  A fourth of the earth will be killed.
  5.  Those who have been slain for the Word of God will be given white robes.
  6.  Cosmic disturbances erupt, complete with red blood moon, stars falling from sky, sky rolled up like a scroll.
  7.  Silence first so the 144,000 can be sealed and a great multitude will appear before the throne.  Then there will be great  thunder, lightning and an earthquake.

Why should we know these things?  Matthew 24:32-33 states, “From the fig tree learn its lesson; as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see all these things, you know that He is near, at the very gates.”  You need to know what will take place that marks the period known as ‘the end times.’  And you need to know what to do.  I believe that we will be here up until the sixth scroll is opened.  Wrap your mind around what that would look like.

The political systems throughout the world are a tinder box.  As things become more and more unstable, you wonder if we could get hit with nuclear missiles, if the world economy will collapse and if anarchy will reign.  It is good to have a clear sense of how things will unfold.  Knowing that God is control and world leaders are controlled by Him helps to allay fear.  God holds our tomorrow, and that’s good news.  

If now could be ‘the end times,’ how should we live?

  • We need to be about spiritual things more than being preoccupied with hobbies, mindless TV shows, and things that don’t have an eternal value.
  • We need to be ready spiritually.  That means that you must not put off making things right between God and yourself.  If you need to drop a bad sin habit, do it.  If you need to spend more time each day and week reading the Bible, praying and seeking God’s will, do it now.
  • We need to help others to be ready spiritually.  If you don’t want your loved ones, friends or acquaintances die without knowing Jesus, tell them now.  
  • We need to be ready financially.  Things could get tough if this is the time that the scrolls could be opened.   We could lose our jobs because of our faith in Jesus.  Get your debts paid so that you can walk when that happens.  Be a part of a community of believers that you can share goods with and trust.  

“But watch yourselves let your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day will come upon you suddenly like a trap…But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things before the Son of Man.”  Luke 21:34,36

 

*Image from Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Katy, TX

 


You’ve lost that loving feeling

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I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent.  Revelation 2:3-6

Jesus gave John messages for seven churches in Revelation 2-3 when He appeared to John in a vision.  This message was for the church in Ephesus.  Paul helped to establish that church thirty or forty years before this, and he wrote the book of Ephesians as a letter to them.  Jesus was telling them things that they had that were commendable, and also some things they needed to repent of.  

Let’s take a look at the commendable things first.  They were enduring trials patiently for the sake of Jesus.  Secondly, they did not grow weary of standing firm, nor did they give up.  This tells me that God sees us when we labor on, doing the right thing, and  taking heat from others.  We might think that no one else notices, or wonder if it is worth it.  The resounding answer is that God sees and He will reward us for our endurance.  He sees both individuals and churches.

Lately I’ve been struck with the idea of doing things that are a secret between God and myself.  In Matthew 6:1-2 it says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in Heaven.  Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

 There are many awesome things that God has done in my life.  If I never get to tell anyone about them, it’s okay.  That can be our little secret.  I know God sees me and He knows what I am doing and enduring for the sake of His name.  My reward will come in the end from the One who sees me.

Now for the negative:  They had lost the love and zeal that they once had for God.  He didn’t say, “That’s okay, you did a lot of good things when you were younger.”  No, He called them to repent.  To repent means to admit that losing that intensity of devotion is sin, and then to return to the devotion that you had earlier on.  It means a change of heart and a change of actions.  

It could be tempting to live your Christian life in fits and starts.  That means you have good stretches and you have bad ones.  According to this, you need to repent of the bad ones and return to the first love that gave you the drive to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, serve others and be involved in things for the sake of His kingdom. Jesus told the Ephesians that if they did not repent, He would remove their lamp stand from its place.  That means that there were consequences for their dwindling love for Jesus, or just going through the motions.  It is the same for us today.

A friend was referring to someone else who was in a “spiritual funk.”  She said, “Maybe he’s just tired of trying to save the world.”  That could sound like a good excuse for allowing someone to continue in their funk, but according to this, it’s not okay.  We can’t have good sounding excuses before God.

It’s time for a gut check: Have you abandoned your love and passion for Jesus?  If so, repent and return.  Make choices to go in the opposite direction and do it today!


How do you like Me now?

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Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around His chest.  The hairs of His head were white, like white wool, like know.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the roar of many waters.  In His right hand He held seven stars, from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full strength.  Revelation 1:12-16

Most of the depictions that you see of Jesus are either of Him in a manger as a baby, the crucifix where He is still on the cross, or some characterization of Him as a human.  In those pictures, Jesus is usually holding little children on His lap, or teaching the crowds.  The Jesus that John encountered in his vision is the resurrected Lord.  He is not “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” (the title of a hymn by Charles Wesley), a baby, or the crucified one.  Oh no, He is the resurrected, ruling and reigning warrior King.  

Daniel encountered this same Jesus, which he described In Daniel 7:9-10: “While I was watching, thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat.  His attire was white like snow; the hair of His head was like lamb’s wool.  His throne was ablaze with fire and its wheels were all aflame.  A river of fire was streaming forth and proceeding from His presence.”  In Daniel 10:5-6, Daniel got another vision of the pre-incarnate Christ: “And I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen; around His waist was a belt made of gold from Ufaz.  His body resembled yellow jasper, and His face had an appearance like lightning.  His eyes were like blazing torches; His arms and feet had the gleam of polished bronze.  His voice thundered forth like the sound of a large crowd. (NET Bible)”

This is the Jesus who is now sitting on the throne, holding the universe together and interceding for us.  This is the same Jesus who will return one day in the clouds to take us home, and to then pour out His wrath on those who rejected Him.   John got to see this too, recorded in Rev. 19:11-16: “Then I saw Heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!  The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself..From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with an iron rod…”

I give you these descriptions of Jesus because this is the One that we place our trust in and pray to.  Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.   Jesus is holding the world together, and He holds us together.  He is not someone to be taken lightly.  Trust Jesus today and worship Him for who He really is!


The finish line

 

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Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time now and forever.  Amen.  Jude 24-25

 

These words were embedded into me at a camp I worked at in my twenties for several full summers.  We sang it as a benediction countless times when we met for chapel services at a point that jutted out into a huge lake.  We would canoe to get to it, and met up with two other camps around the lake.  When we sang, nature sang with us.  A thousand strong, we would sing:  “Now onto Him who is able to keep, able to keep  you from falling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy…”

They still echo in my heart some thirty years later.  It is a great promise of the faith.  God is the One who keeps me from falling and will bring me safely home to Heaven.  One day I will stand faultless before Him, with exceeding joy.  Philippians 1:6 reinforces this: “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  God started my faith, and God will finish it.  What great news as I muddle through most days.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, recorded in John 17, He said to the Father, “I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction (Judas), that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”  Add to that Luke 22:31-32 when Jesus speaks to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  

Jesus was guarding Peter’s faith, the other disciples’ faith walk, and he guards ours.  Hebrews 7:25 tells us, “Consequently, He (Jesus) is able to save to the uttermost (completely, for eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  In other words, Jesus is praying day and night before the throne to guard our faith.  We probably all get sifted like wheat because Satan is the enemy of our souls, but our faith will still stand.  That’s a promise.

This does not mean that we can live however we want and Jesus will pick up the pieces.  If you really belong to Jesus, God is at work changing your desires and giving you the power to live for Him.  Philippians 2:13 tells us, “It is God who at work in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure.”  If you see yourself not longing for holiness and obedience, pray and ask God to change your heart, to place His desires on your heart, and to give you the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to carry it out.    

When God does a work in you that you didn’t have the desire or power to accomplish on your own, then use that as a sign that your faith is driven by God and that you belong to Him.   God is able.  He is able to bring you safely home.  I cry out with David in Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of Your hands.”

 


Truth matters

 

 

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Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.  For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers and sisters came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  3 John 2-4

Pilate asked Jesus this question before he turned Him over to be crucified: ‘What is truth?’  That’s the question we must all answer.  The Bible contains absolute, objective and unchanging truth.  As Christians, we subject ourselves to the truths of the Bible such as: we are created by God; there is a Heaven and a Hell; not everyone goes to Heaven, but only those who place their trust in Jesus; there is such a thing as right and wrong; God wrote the Bible through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and the Bible is our authority for living.        

This is not popular or widely accepted in our culture.  There is a way of thinking that prevails called “Postmodernism.” Postmodernism affirms that there is no absolute truth: instead, the thought is that  truth is relative to the community in which we participate.  This mindset drives political correctness, tolerance, and an acceptance of any and every lifestyle as all being okay.   It used to be that people criticized Christianity because it was thought to be unscientific and untrue.  Now we get flack because we have the audacity to claim that Christianity is true. When Christians proclaim truth, we are called arrogant, bigoted, intolerant, offensive and haters.  

There were false teachers and prophets in John’s time, and there are false belief systems in our “post Christian” era.  To hear that people are walking in the truth was important to him and it is important to our time and culture.  We can’t shrink under the push back on our beliefs.  Jesus’ proclamation of John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me,”  is still what He would shout out today.  

Philippians 2:15-16 urges us to “do everything without complaining or arguing so that we would be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which we shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the world of life.”  As we hold out our torches against a dark backdrop, the challenge is to not be obnoxious, argumentative, or irrelevant.  In 2 Timothy 2:24-26 Paul told them that the Lord’s servant must not engage in foolish and ignorant disputes that produce quarrels, but to be gentle to everyone and to teach with love and patience in the hope that it would lead to repentance.

People need Jesus to give them the forgiveness of sins, hope, and eternal life.  Our culture needs people radically committed to loving not just in word, but in deed; to shine brightly without being abrasive; and to rely on the power and love of God to work through us as we proclaim truth.  We cannot water down the truth to fit in, or shut up to keep from being harassed.  May we walk in the truth boldly, love fearlessly, and live radically to reach this generation.

 


The Overcomers

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Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world…For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  1 John 4:4 and 1 John 5:4-5

John was writing about false prophets, lying spirits and antichrists that deny that Jesus lived in the flesh and rose from the dead.  That’s who he was saying that we have overcome.  Why?  Because we’re on the power side, the winning side.  The false prophets and lying spirits are from the world and the world listens to the lies.  But we are from God.  God is greater than Satan, greater than false notions and ideas about what is going on and what we need to do.  And He is in us, so that makes us overcomers.  To be an overcomer means to prevail, to conquer or to win the victory.  It also implies that we face a battle.

Do you feel like an overcomer?  Or are you weighed down by the many things from life and from ‘the world’ that pull at you?  We are overrun with ‘fake news’ that makes you wonder what is true and what isn’t, and who’s lying and if there is anyone out there that isn’t involved in deception.  In our daily lives we encounter mockers, haters, obstacles, and internal struggles of all kinds.

The good news  to anchor our souls in is the fact that God is on the throne.  And through faith in Him we can experience joy, freedom and victory.  Our faith isn’t just a random, fuzzy faith: “As long as you believe something sincerely, that’s all that matters,” or “Everything is all the same, just under a different name.  You just need a higher power of some sort.”  1 John 5:5 counters that with this truth:  Our faith must be in Jesus Christ who is the Son of God.

In Acts 4:12 it says that there is “No other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  That name is Jesus.  Don’t believe anything else, no matter how sincerely you think they are okay to blend into your life.  Everyone has to leave some belief system to follow Jesus.  Further, Colossians 2:9-11 declares, “For in Christ the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.’  (NIV)

Jesus is the top dog, with all of the power.  Don’t settle for anything less by doing what Colossians 2:8 tells us: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”  When you place all of your trust in Jesus, you will have the power to overcome whatever comes your way.  

You don’t have to fear, nor do you have to resort to your old way of getting things done.  Maybe you used to use anger or some sort of manipulation to get what you want.  Now, you commit your situation to God and let Him do His work.  You may have been consumed with worry, thinking that somehow through your fretting that things would change.  Now you pray.  Or, you might have taken things into your hands to control, taking charge over others to make them comply to get things done.  With Jesus in your life, now you only concern yourself with your matters and leave God to work in other people’s’ lives just like He has in yours.

You are from God, you have overcome and you will overcome future problems through faith.  You have placed your faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Through that you have a power to see God work in situations that look hopeless, and to use you for His glory in ways you could never have dreamt of on your own.

 


Where the rubber meets the road

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We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers and sisters.  Whoever does not love abides in death.  By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  1 John 3:14, 16-18

John makes several statements in his book that have to do with figuring out whether you really have passed from death to life, or that you have Jesus.  I have been in settings throughout my life that urge people to simply pray a prayer, commonly known as the sinner’s prayer, and that is the proof that you are now a Christian.  In 1 John, John never mentions a prayer.  Rather, he mentions keeping God’s commandments, not practicing sin, and having love for others as ways to know that Jesus is really at work in our life.

Today’s verses are tough ones.  I gulp as I read them because I have a letter sitting next to me from someone who habitually asks for money.  I have left the letter sit, not quite knowing how to proceed.  I struggle with the adage, “If you give a man a fish…”  I want her to learn to fish and not be dependent.  Yet, this says if I have the world’s goods, which I do, then I can’t close my heart against her.  I can’t say I love God and not be generous when and where I can.

John also says in chapter 3 that we can’t hate anyone if we are a Jesus follower.  Are there people that you change walking routes if you see them coming?  I must confess that I do that occasionally.  It is time to examine my heart.  John asks the question, “How does God’s love abide in us?”  That is a good question to let rattle around in our heads.

How does God’s love abide in us?   In my job I can get so jaded by the demands of people, which as a principal includes kids, teachers and parents.  I have many people manipulating, blaming, making excuses, calling me many expletives and even sueing.  I can sit stoically while someone on the other side of my desk cries, usually in an attempt to control me.  I get it when Jesus said we are “to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” in Matthew 10:16.

Yet I must find a way to keep God’s love in my heart.  And I must keep a passion for His kingdom and His glory to fuel me.  I’m guessing your workplace and living space encounters aren’t much different, though the details may vary.  There are some passion fuelers that we need to make a consistent part of our lives:

  • Have consistent time in God’s Word and in prayer.   It has to be complete with a “so what?” question, that leads to application.  Our love for God, and our ability to be equipped for every good work, comes through getting grounded and centered by Him.  Jesus had to go away and pray to the Father, and consistently went to the ‘lonely places’ to do so.  If He needed it, so do we.
  • Following the model of passionate saints.  I love biographies of missionaries and of people who have done great things for God.  I find that the writings of those who lived before the 1970’s (just a ballpark date) to have a stronger metal that we do now.  My all time favorites include biographies of Jim Ellliot and the other four men who gave their lives in Ecuador, Amy Carmichael, David Brainerd, Gladys Aylward and Dr. Helen Roseveare.  
  • Worship music.  You have to weed through some of the Christian music that is a little too ‘me’ centered, but there are great songs of the faith that can fuel your passion for God and passion for others.
  • Find people who need Jesus to minister to.  One time I was giving a talk on Matthew 22:29, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”  Someone asked how they could get their kids to not tune out to the Bible, Sunday School or church because they think they know all of those stories.  Ya da, ya da, ya da.  My quick response, so quick that I think it was from God, was to suggest that they go as a family to find people who haven’t heard about Jesus and minister to them.  Having the opportunity to tell women in jail about Jesus and the good news of forgiveness and peace with God fuels my passion.  Ask God to lead you to someone, and He will.

Back to our verses for today, “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  1 John 3:18.  May God’s love and your passion for Him fuel you today.

*Image from The Bear and the turtle – wordpress.com