Tag Archives: Jesus

Gospel Fluency

Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves…instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow up in every way into Him who is the head, that is, Christ.  Ephesians 4:13-15

JD Greear talked about growing in our knowledge of the gospel to become more intimate Gospel Fluencywith the Spirit in his book, Jesus Continued.  His intent is to call us to grow deeper in our knowledge of the gospel to experience the fullness of the Spirit.    Almost four years ago I watched a series of videos on Vimeo by Jeff Vanderstelt that takes JD Greear’s thoughts about growing in the knowledge of the gospel to another level.  Vanderstelt’s videos were on “Gospel Fluency.”  Finally in 2017 he put out a book with that title.  The videos are much better than the book.  I’ll put a link at the bottom of my post to his videos.

I’ve been thinking about Vanderstelt’s thoughts on ‘Gospel Fluency’ since I read the chapter about growing in the knowledge of the gospel to become more intimate and full in the Spirit.  I will summarize some of Vanderstelt’s thoughts because he puts things in ways I have not heard them before I watched his videos, or since:

  • Gospel fluency is speaking the truths of Jesus into the everyday stuff of life, so that we are changed in our marriages, relationships, spending and living because Jesus is in our life.
  • ‘Speaking the truth in love’ is more than just saying hard words to each other, like addressing character flaws or sin issues.  It is speaking the knowledge of the faith that builds people into maturity in Christ.
  • Ephesians 4: 21 tells us what the truth is that we’re supposed to be speaking: “the truth is in Jesus.”  Speak Jesus to one another.  Another way to say it is, ‘Speak the gospel, or the good news, to one another.’  You don’t just share the gospel to nonbelievers and then stop once they become Christians.  We should keep speaking the good news of Jesus to each other all the time to grow each other up to maturity.
  • Don’t ever drift away from Jesus to something else!  Jesus is what grows us up.  Don’t get to like our Bibles or our Bible studies better than Jesus.  Don’t lead people to church rather than leading them to Jesus.  Don’t just ask for prayer requests, ask for Jesus to work.   **Our prayer lives are about getting Jesus to live His life through us to empower us to live a new life.  The goal of our prayer time is that the Spirit would reveal the truths of God through Jesus and that we would cling to  Jesus as we pray.

**Make Jesus the solution, the everything!!  We lead people to Jesus and then we take them to something else.  We get to Jesus and then move on to something else.  Don’t do that.

So we must keep proclaiming Christ, the good news, the gospel.  We must be resolved to let nothing else be our good news.  We must become so versed in the gospel that we realize that it does answer everything in our existence.  This involves getting a bigger view of the gospel and letting it sink into more areas of our life.

How do you grow in gospel fluency?

  1.  Part of it has to do with making Jesus the center of everything in your life and the rest will fall into place.
  2. Being a part of a fellowship of believers where you are around others that live that out certainly helps.  It’s like getting better at bowling–it’s best worked out at a bowling alley and in a league.  Same thing with a church.
  3. For me, studying the Bible has been a big part of growing in learning more about this life of following Jesus.  But, as Vanderstelt so aptly put it: I can’t love studying the Bible, or my Bible, more than I love Jesus.  My quiet time has to lead me to Jesus each and every day.
  4. Sharing the good news with myself and those around me, applying it to the stuff of life, is the guts of growing up into maturity in Christ.   I need to ask myself “so what?” at the end of my quiet time, and let the Holy Spirit apply His convicting and probing work in my heart.  And then I need to do it.  As the Spirit leads, I also must share with those around me the good news of grace and freedom that applies to the everyday things of life.

Here is the link to Jeff Vanderstelt’s video’s:  Take the time to watch them.  They are well worth your time!

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/jeff-vanderstelt-on-gospel-fluency/

 


The Word Became Flesh

word-became-flesh.jpg

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.  1 Timothy 3:16

I was looking back in one of my old journals, and read this entry from July of 2015.  It captures the Christmas message in such a poignant way, that I thought it fitting to share it again today:

I was up at the County jail for a Bible study, which I host 2-3 times a month with whatever women will come.  Sometimes they come just to get out of their cell, but I’ll take that.  As long as they’re not disruptive, they get a chance to hear the Gospel.  Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Anyway, this particular evening in July brought out three Native American women.  Though they are from my community, they have a world view that is miles apart from my own.  I’ve learned that from the years of jail ministry.  I was to learn more this evening.  Two out of the three were women that I had known for years.  The third had come one other time, maybe a year before.  She seemed agitated from the start.  She sat flipping through another book until we got switched out of the library to another room.

My Bible study was on three different responses to Jesus–mad, sad and glad.  Mad, the people from Nazareth that tried to push Jesus off the cliff (furious); Sad, the rich young ruler in Luke 18; and I didn’t even get to glad and Zacchaeus in Luke 19.  I was still explaining what sin was.  I had already gone into a bit of detail about who Jesus was, that He was God himself who came from Heaven and took on human form as a baby and grew up and began His public ministry and then began His public ministry, doing miracles, announcing that He was the Promised One who came to save them from their sin.

I could see the one gal’s face get more and more angry, read to launch into an argument.  Wait for it, wait for it.  It was right around the sin explanation that she jumped in.  She said that Natives don’t have sin and Hell.  She said she knew a Catholic who just did what she wanted and then went to confessional and she thought that was lame.  I explained that that’s not repentance, which is turning from your sin.  “I get why you think that’s lame.”

I told her the Zacchaeus story was a good example of repentance.  We just started to read it when she yelled, “I would never place my trust in someone who put on a meat suit.”  I quietly said, “Come again?”  I wanted to make sure I heard that right.  She said firmly, “A dude that would take on a human form.  I would never let him be my God.”

I quickly answered, “That’s exactly what He had to do to pay the price for our sins, otherwise we would all face the death penalty and be sentenced an eternity in Hell.”  She countered, “We don’t have a Hell.”  I came back, “Oh yes, we all face that.”  I picked up my Bible and said, “This is the truth and Jesus declared, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life–no one comes to the Father, except through Me.’  One day we will all stand before this Jesus to give an account of what we have done.”

Her answer was, “That’s disrespectful.  That’s hateful.”  I answered, “Actually, in me telling you that, it’s the most loving thing I could do so you could have a chance to hear it and to ponder it.  The choice is then up to you.”  Then she backed down.

We both took a breath, and I said, “I like that ‘dude in a meat suit’ thing.  You’ve hit the nail on the head.  We went off on to a different point and kind of relaxed to move away from the intensity.  At the end of the night I said to her, “I hope I see you again some place, just not here.”  We both smiled in mutual respect.  I haven’t seen her since, but I still pray for her.

 


Extravagant generosity compels an extravagant response

I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.  So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome, for I am not ashamed of the gospel.  Romans 1:14-16

Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  John 12:3

I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.  2 Samuel 24:24

Paul realized that he owed a great debt to God.  He often called himself a servant, a slave, or a bondservant.  In the Greek, it is “doulos”: somebody who is forced to work for somebody else for no payment and is regarded as the property of that person.” (Encarta Dictionary)

If grace is free, why should we operate from the concept of owing God, or of being His slave?  There is a difference between a slave of God, and a bondservant.  A bondservant served out his or her time as a slave and could go free, but instead chose to stay with his or her master and to serve for the rest of his or her life.  It is done willingly.  So we are God’s bondservants.  We serve Him willingly.

As for sharing the gospel eagerly like Paul, we should do it out of obedience, out of love, and out  of understanding the gospel.  This involves grasping the depth of our own sin and the depth of the love of God displayed by Jesus on the cross.

perfumeSomehow the two women that washed Jesus’ feet with their hair, tears, and perfume got this while the onlookers didn’t.  In the Luke 7:36-50 account, it was the Pharisees who scoffed while the “sinner” poured out her extravagant response to Jesus.  In John 12:1-7 it was Judas who sneered at Mary that the expensive perfume could be used for the poor.  What catches me with Mary was that the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  Mary’s generous sacrifice wasn’t just a beautiful odor to Jesus, but to everyone there.

  • Am I willing to pour out my most expensive possession to wash Jesus’ feet because He washed me with His blood?
  • What is my most expensive possession that I need to hold on to more loosely to give to Jesus as a thank offering?

JD Greear: “God wants us to be consumed with His glory and filled with compassion, just as He is, moving instinctively to a world of need around us.” (Jesus Continued, pg. 89)

When Jesus said “Follow Me,” He bids us first to come and die, like in Romans 12:1-2 and John 12:24, Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone.  But if it dies, it bears much fruit.

No one wants to die.  They want their cake–

I want to be near my family…I want cute kids…I want a comfortable job…I want a nice husband…I want a 9-5 job…I want a good income with money to spare…I want good neighbors…I, I, I

It is the death of “I”: The Village of Me: Population 1    Welcome to ME

When I chop down that sign, then that’s when God really begins to work.  I surrender, God takes over and He moves my heart with gratitude just like the two women with hair and perfume.  I think gratitude triggers compassion

I sat across the table this week from a dad at school.  His hands were dirty from trying to start his car in almost below zero weather for two days and the car wouldn’t cooperate.  He was early for the meeting, so we had time to talk.  I made him coffee and we chatted.  I’ve known him for years.

His wife died at her own hands several years before, leaving him to raise three boys on his own.  He was severely burned in a welding accident since then, leaving him with just a knob of a nose and no eye lids.  He explained how he should have asked them to give him eyelids because when he goes out in the sun it’s like rivers of water, but he wasn’t complaining.

My heart wells up with compassion for him and his boys, thinking about Christmas, about what life looks like for them, telling him that I was sorry to hear that his dad died just a couple of weeks ago.  How can I bring Jesus into his world?  Oh God, tell me.

Use my life, Lord, to the greatest extent, to bring salvation to those around me.  You used great people to pour the gospel into me, so use me to pour the gospel into others.  I am obligated because of what You have done for me, I am eager because the great news of Jesus, and I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation for whoever hears it.

 

 

 


The Heart of Rebellion


Joseph Conrad wrote a book called,
The Heart of Darkness about going into the heart of Africa in the late 1800’s.  It was pretty much unexplored and treacherous to travel to the interior of Africa, hence a great darkness in many people’s eyes.

In the Bible, Jeremiah 17:9 describes the human heart as “deceitful above all things and desperately sick (wicked KJV); who can understand it?”  In Romans 3:10-18, Paul elaborates, saying that without God, no one seeks after Him.  We use our tongues to deceive, our lips have venom like asps, our mouths are full of curses and bitterness, our feet are swift to shed blood, and the way of peace we have not known.  In reading this passage at a jail Bible study, one gal said, “that pretty much describes everyone I know, myself included.”

Not a pretty picture.  It’s the heart of darkness.  But what grabbed me in reading through the New Testament, as I’m now into Acts, are the motives of the people that rejected Jesus.  They had a chance to accept Him, they heard the truth, but they flat out rejected it all for some base reasons that are common to all of us.  This is the heart of rebellion.  Let me highlight a few:

  • Mark 15:10.  Pilate perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priest had delivered Jesus up.  The chief priests were jealous of Jesus.  This jealousy theme is repeated again in Acts 5:17.
  • Mark 15:15.  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them for them Barabbas.  Pilate wanted the people to like him.
  • John 12:42.  Nevertheless, many of the authorities believed in Jesus, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.  They were vainglorious, or in today’s slang: a glory hound or a glory hog.  
  • John 19:38.  Joseph of Arimathea asked to bury Jesus secretly because he feared the Jews.  He was a follower of Jesus, had not consented to the council’s decisions (though a prominent member) and was himself waiting for the kingdom of God.  He was afraid so he acted secretly.  At least he acted.
  • Acts 7:25.  Stephen was preaching about how the Jews’ forefathers rejected Jesus, so it was no surprise that they did too.  Moses thought that the Jews would understand that he was to be their deliverer but they did not understand so they rejected him; Acts 7:35 saying, “Who made you a ruler and a judge?”  They didn’t get it but with an edge, like ‘go away.’
  • Acts 7:39 “So they refused to obey Moses, but thrust him aside and in their hearts they turned away saying to Aaron, ‘make us gods to go before us.’”  7:42  So God turned away and gave them over to worship the ‘host of heaven,’ the stars and images that they made.”  They made fake gods instead of obeying the One and only God.  So God gave them over to their fake gods.
  • Acts 7:51 “You stiff necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.”  Any time we are confronted with the truth and say no to it, we are resisting the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 1:21.  “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  When you know the truth but reject it, you become foolish.  It sends you down a dark path.
  • Romans 1:24.  “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”  Romans 1:25.  “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped the created things rather than the Creator.”  When you reject God and choose a lie, you live out the consequences of that lie.

The Great Turn Around

Isaiah 55:6-7  “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, And to our God for He will abundantly pardon.”

In the midst of our rebellion, of our turning away from God and going our own way, God still calls us back.  God  loves us, He wants a relationship with us and sent His Son Jesus to redeem us from our heart of rebellion.

Call upon God while He is near, return to the Lord and He will have compassion and  will abundantly pardon.

rebellion
*Image from Quotefancy


Come to Jesus, all you who are weary and are heavy laden

Jesus- the invitation

 

This was my jail study this last week, with seven women.  This is Jesus.  Really, to know Him is to love Him.  Some have heard this in different shapes and forms, but need to hear it again and again until it sinks in.  Others haven’t heard it before.  One gal was getting sentenced this last week to a possible 20 years (she got 25).  Jesus changed her in front of our eyes over these last three years of her being in and out, especially in the last six months.  God still works miracles, the biggest being in changing lives!

 John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that He sent His only son, Jesus, that whoever would believe Him will not perish but have everlasting life.  God loves us and Jesus gave His life for us so that we won’t have to spend eternity in Hell because of our sin.

John 11:5 and Luke 19:5.  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus…Jesus looked up at the tree and said, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down for I must stay at your house today.’  Jesus knows us by name, and He loves us.  He doesn’t just love the world generically, but specifically.  He knows us by name, even the number of hairs on our head.  Psalm 139:4 says that before a word is on our tongues He knows it completely.

John 8:1-8.  That’s the account of the woman caught in adultery.  When Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin be the one to throw the first stone,” and they left oldest to youngest, she looked up and saw just Jesus.  He asked, “Where are the ones who condemn you?  Who’s left?”  “No one,” was her response.  “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  Jesus doesn’t condemn them when they come to Him; He wants them to be set free from their bondages.

  •  One gal was caught up in an interesting thought about how Jesus was a part of       making the law, but yet let her break the law.  Jesus really was the fulfillment of the law.   He was the law.  He was loving, kind, merciful and just, which was what the law was really aimed at.  The Pharisees kept the law, but weren’t any of those things.  So they really didn’t keep the law.  Maybe that’s why Jesus kept healing on the Sabbath, to poke holes in their broken system.  In Romans 8:3-4 it says that God sent Jesus to do what the law couldn’t do in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.  Bottom line: Meet Jesus, look into His loving eyes and turn from your sin.

John 4.  The woman at the well.  Here’s the outcast of the outcasts at the well at noon.  And Jesus talks with her, asking for water and telling her about living water so she wouldn’t have to thirst anymore.  “I want that water!”  “Okay, go get your husband.”  “I don’t have one.”  “I know.  You’ve had five, and the guy you’re with now isn’t one of them.”  Jesus knows our backstory and He still likes us.  He knows what it is that we’re trying to fill the hole in our heart with.  Everyone has a hole in their heart that God put there so we would long for Him.  It has to filled with Him, otherwise it’s still a hole that needs to be filled.  Some people try to fill it with guys, others with drugs, others with shopping, others with food…

  • The other interesting discussion...What are you trying to fill your hole with?  Why don’t you fill it with Jesus?  We all have holes.  Andy Warhol is the guy that said “Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame.”  That’s why people will go on ‘American Idol’ even when they’re really bad, or do whatever do get noticed.  There’s a verse in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that says ‘that God has set eternity in our hearts.’  The Oscar Meyer Wiener song illustrates it: “Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener, everyone would be in love with me…”  Why would it matter for everyone would be in love with them?  Because God put that hole there for it to be filled by Him.

Final verses: Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

 


In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge

col 2-3.jpgThat’s what Colossians 2:3 says.  Have you ever really thought about that verse?  It’s come to my mind quite a bit lately, like when I’m really stumped.   What I think it means is that when we need wisdom and knowledge we can turn to the treasure chest of wisdom and knowledge–Jesus.

The more we delve into Him, the more wisdom and knowledge we find.  Colossians 2 as a whole talks about things that I’m not sure we really know what they mean.  I memorized the book of Colossians years ago and I review it occasionally on the way to work.  This week I’ve been on verses like the one above, as well as verse 9-10: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”  Teach me O God.

I’m am Elementary Principal by trade.  Quite often I face things more complicated than I prefer.  I don’t know if I’m looking to coast now that I’m in my late fifties, but things have gotten so much more complicated with broken down families, law suit hungry people and mental illness that’s maybe demonic affliction but disguised by diagnosis’s if all sorts.

This last week had some of those days where I really needed the treasure chest of Jesus’ wisdom and knowledge.   I guess I can’t really go into much detail, but I can say that as I tried to deal with a very disturbing situation, Colossians 2:3 was on my mind.  I bought some time by walking down the hall to get coffee and I walked and prayed that God would show me the answers I was looking for, because in Christ we have all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge—claiming that verse.

Slowly all parties involved worked through the situation, first with the boy and the school counselor, then his dad.  In the middle of that next night I felt God give me more insight into the boy’s psyche and how to approach the consequences and follow up.  My answers from God weren’t lightning bolts but I got through the day with about ten other side issues swirling simultaneously and can say  that this week was a “win.”

 


Jesus Wins!

white horse battle

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.  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God.  Revelation 19:11-13

This is a future battle scene that will take place at the end of Daniel’s seventieth week.  In Matthew 24, Jesus’ first appearance is in the clouds.  Once He appears, the intensity of events builds, with God’s wrath unleashed: “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,” Revelation 6:16-17.  There is a pouring out of a series of judgments via seven trumpets.  When each trumpet blows, things are unleashed like hail and fire, the sea turns to blood, and the rivers and water are poisoned by a star named Wormwood.  At one point, locusts are released that heads with crowns, faces like humans, hair like women’s hair, teeth like lions and stings like scorpions.  They torture people for five months.  

There are seven bowls that follow, which include more plagues and destruction.  The Euphrates River is dried up to prepare the way for the kings to come from the east, according to Revelation 16:12.  Demonic spirits are released to assemble the kings of the whole world for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.”   They assemble at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon, according to Revelation 16:13,16.  This is Megiddo, which is a city in Israel, in the Valley of Jezreel.  This is where the battle will take place.

In Revelation 17 John saw that the leaders from ten countries will hand over their power and authority over to the beast to make war on the Lamb.  ‘The beast’ is described in Rev. 13 as having ten horns and seven heads.  This beast is described more in Rev. 17:7-14.  It seems to be a body of nations and rulers who line up against Jesus.  As you read further in Rev. 13 there is a second beast, which appears to be the Antichrist.  He is the one who will perform great signs to deceive those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image of the first beast that everyone must worship.  He will also then cause everyone to take a mark to be able to buy or to sell.

Back to the battle, it will culminate in the Valley of Jezreel where Megiddo is, otherwise known as Armageddon.  In Revelation 19:11-21 there is a marvelous description of Jesus coming out of Heaven on a white horse, followed by the armies of Heaven who are arrayed in white  linen and riding on white horses.  The kings of the earth with armies will gather to make war and are then defeated.  The beast is captured along with the Antichrist and are thrown into the lake of fire.  The rest are slain in that valley.

As you continue to read, Revelation 20:1-3 tells how Satan the dragon is bound and thrown into a pit for a thousand years so that he might not deceive the nations any longer.  Jesus then sets up His kingdom where He sits on a throne in Jerusalem to rule and to reign for a thousand years.

1 Corinthians 15:25-26 tells us that Jesus “must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  So the good news is that evil does not win out, but Jesus does.  God has a plan that He has been working out and will work out.  That plan includes good things for the those who call upon Jesus to save them from their sins, admitting that they are a sinners, confessing with their mouths that Jesus is Lord and believing in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead, according to Romans 10:9-13.  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Daniel 7:22-23 prophesies, “Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole Heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High.  His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey Him.”


Is this the beginning of the end?

end-times

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

 


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.”

 


The Overcomers

overcomers

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.