Tag Archives: Jesus

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

 

finish line.jpg

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.

 


Sin and the Blood of Jesus

Jesus blood.jpgIf we walk in the light in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  1 John 1:7,9; 2:1-2

If you asked 100 people what they think our biggest problem is, you might get quite a broad range of answers.  Some might say something about politics, others about countries who want to attack, others may talk about the environment.  God tells us in the Bible that our biggest problem is sin.  When Adam fell in the Garden of Eden, we fell, separating us from God and alienating us from Him, ourselves, others and nature.

God sent Jesus as a perfect sin offering to save us from the His wrath and the penalty of sin.  This is the heart of the Gospel, the good news of salvation because of Jesus.  When we repent of our sins, asking God to forgive us and to give us a new heart, we receive the righteousness of Christ.  When God looks at us, He sees Jesus.

But after this glorious transformation, we still sin.  We still need the blood of Jesus to cleanse us of the guilty stain that sin leaves so that we can stand clean before God.  The good news of our verses for today is that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness–if we confess our sins.  It doesn’t just happen automatically.  We can’t just do things that are offensive to God and everything to be okay because “it’s all under the blood.”  It is all under Jesus’ blood once you confess that sin and turn from it.

The other error that we might be prone to is to fall apart because of our sin.  It’s like falling down and not getting up again.  The good news is that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us,” as Psalm 103:12 declares.  He wants us to come and repair our broken relationship with Him, the sooner the better.  There is no sin too dark or too big that God can’t or won’t forgive.

When we sin, we have a defense attorney–Jesus Christ the righteous one.  Picture a courtroom scene.  When the judge asks “How do you plead?”  We say, “Guilty.”  The Judge delivers his sentence and then offers for his Son to pay it for us.  Though that would be preposterous in real life, that is exactly what happens when we confess our sin.  Jesus, our advocate, stands in our place.

This is made possible by the blood of Jesus.  Throughout the Bible, from the very beginning, blood had to be shed.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig  leaves after they sinned.  God stepped in and covered them with animal skins.  In doing so, blood had to be shed.  All of the way through the Old Testament, the people brought animal sacrifices and their blood spilled out on the altar to show that their sin was covered by blood.  It was a down payment until Jesus came and shed His blood once and for all on the cross.  

There is power in the blood of Jesus.  In Revelation 12:10-11 it says that the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…  Satan accuses us day and night, trying to get us to wallow in guilt and shame.   But if we stand in the blood of the Lamb, bringing those sins that Satan is accusing us of to God and confessing them, then Satan has no dirt to dig up on us.

If Satan is badgering you about certain events and sins of the past, confess them to God out loud, announcing to yourself, to God and to Satan that the debt is paid.  If there is something you need to do to make something right, do it.  Then you can stand free before God and before everyone else.  

Finally, Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  He will use any open door to torment and to taunt us.  If you have been abused or wounded in spirit, that puts a hole in your heart that Satan can use to mess with you.  Perhaps you have held bitterness against the offender, against yourself or against God.  Bring that incident, or string of incidents, to God in prayer, asking Him to cover those holes by the blood of Jesus.  He will set you free from that bondage and from the torments of Satan.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our tresspasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.  Ephesians 1:7-8

*Image from speakthewordonly63.wordpress.com


The Day of the Lord

cosmic disturbances.jpg

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed… But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.                                2 Peter 3:10, 13

 

This is a big topic that many people have of a lot of different views on.  It is the topic of Jesus’ return and the events surrounding it.  I could call this “The Day of the Lord for Dummies” as I don’t get technical, but offer a simple explanation of end times events using a face value interpretation of prophetic passages.  This is just dipping our toes into the water on all there is to say about Jesus’ return.  Peter spent most of chapter 3 telling us about this day of the Lord.   Let’s check out some of the things that he describes.

Four things about the Day of the Lord from 2 Peter 3:

The Day of the Lord  (DOTL) will come like a thief .   Peter describes the coming of this day being like a thief.  Paul used the same description in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-5, For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  For you are all children of light.  

The day of Jesus’ return will surprise those who do not know Jesus, the children of the night.  Like a thief, it will sneak up of them and catch them ill prepared.  But not us, for we are children of the light.  This means that there are signs that we can look to for a heads up.  Those signs are detailed in Matthew 24.  Matthew 24:15 says, 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.  That is one definitive sign with a sequence of events to follow, listed in Matthew 24:21-31.

The heavens and the earth will be burned up.  2 Peter 3:7 tells us, By the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.  That means that the earth, as we know it, isn’t going to be around for another million years or so.  While we still need to be good stewards of its resources, the day of the Lord includes the earth being burned by fire.   A non Christian friend asked me to read the book, The Road.  It is a post nuclear world with a few scavengers left fighting to survive.  I told him I knew that wouldn’t happen because that’s not the way the Bible says it will happen.  

As you read the book of Revelation, you will find what God says really will happen.  This DOTL is one continuous chain of events that includes plagues and destruction of all sorts.  Revelation 6:12-17 describes the beginning of the DOTL, with the sun becoming black as sackcloth, the moon turning blood red and the stars falling to the earth.  It culminates with a battle between Jesus and Satan, and (spoiler alert) Jesus wins.

When Jesus appears on this DOTL, believers will be taken to Heaven.  This isn’t explicitly talked about in 2 Peter 3, but 2 Peter 3:7 describes the DOTL as “the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”  That’s not us.  Matthew 24:29-31 describes the cosmic disturbances of Rev. 6 and 2 Peter 3, but includes the fact that “the angels will gather His elect from the four winds.”  The word ‘rapture’ has been used to describe this event.  I prefer to call it ‘the gathering.’  Others refer to this event as ‘parousia’ which is a Greek word used for Jesus’ appearing.

There will be a new earth after the DOTL.  The heavens (sun, moon and stars) have passed away with a roar, burned up and dissolved.  The earth will have been trashed with locusts on steroids that eat everything up, the waters having been turned to blood, 100 pound hailstones pounding the earth and the battle of Armageddon piling up dead bodies everywhere.  Before Jesus sets up His millennial kingdom centered out of Jerusalem, there will be this new habitable planet, along with the heavenly bodies  (see also Isaiah 66:22).  

Again, many different Christians have a variety of views of how things will transpire surrounding  Jesus’ return.  My attempt is to take prophetic Scriptures at face value, matching up both Old and New Testaments passages up against each other and laying out a sequential scenario.  When we get to the book of Revelation, there will be more to chew on!

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  2 Peter 3:14

*Image by Crossriver

 

 


The Bible: Written by men moved by the Spirit

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Spirit.  2 Peter 1:20-21

writing Bible.jpgAs Peter is writing this book,  he is about to die (2 Peter 1:14)  so this is his final words from a life of following Jesus.  If you remember from the Gospels, Peter was this bold bumbler that was brought in as a disciple early on by Jesus.  After the shame of denying Jesus, Jesus restored Peter and gave him a prominent position as an evangelist in the early church.  Peter said in 2 Peter 1:16 that he did not follow cleverly devised myths, which is exactly what some people view the Bible as being.  He was an eye witness of Jesus and His majesty.  In 2 Peter 2:1 Peter warned of false prophets and false teachers that would  secretly bring in destructive heresies.  And in 2 Peter 3:15 he talked of how they twist Scripture, to their own destruction.  

What was written in the Bible is not cleverly devised myths, nor should it be twisted or interpreted according to one’s own personal whims.  That means we cannot take and twist the words of the Bible to conveniently suit whatever personal theology or position on God that we want.

The books of the Bible were written by 40 different men, over a span of almost 1500 years.  Many of the writers did not know each other, but yet what they wrote about does not contradict or negate each other.  Peter here is talking about words of prophecy, which are words about what Jesus was going to come and do from the Old Testament, what He did, as written in the New Testament, and what He is going to do when He returns, which is woven throughout the Bible.

God used these men’s personalities, but He told them what to write through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Peter wrote in his writing style and from his own vantage point in history, but God told him what to write.  2 Timothy 3:16 informs us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God…”  The Bible is God’s breath, His words, His authoritative commands.  

With that in mind, here are some principles in approaching the Bible:

  • There is a true meaning to the words of the Bible, and there are false meanings.  We must submit our minds to the discipline of finding out what the true meaning is, rather than presuming that whatever pops into our minds or suits our lifestyle is the true meaning.  
  • The Bible is not our story, but it is God’s story.  God is telling us a complete story of who He is, who we are, what sin is and how, in His perfect plan, He prepared a people (Israel/the Jews) to produce a Savior.  That Savior is Jesus, who is perfect God come down in the form of a man to die on the cross for our sins.  One day He will return and establish His kingdom, and only those who put their trust in Him will be there.  Get to know that story by reading the Bible from beginning to end over and over.  Don’t just look for random verses that produce a good feeling for today.  We fit into God’s story and plan, not the other way around.  So often people want their own “personal” God that helps them to find good parking spots or to get them out of jams.
  • God’s words are authoritative for our lives.  That means we can’t pick or choose, taking only the promises and leaving out the commands.  His words are difficult and radical, and sometimes hard to understand.  Don’t water them down, or skip parts.  So often I hear people say, “My God isn’t like that.”  If the Bible says that God is a jealous God, for instance, then that’s what He is and we ought not to put anything ahead of Him in our heart’s passions.
  • The Bible demands our obedience and humility.  Since it is the very words of God, we must obey God’s directives.  In order to submit to the Lordship of Jesus and the authority of His words, we need a humble spirit that causes us to say “no” to our flesh and its desires and to say “yes” to God’s leading in our lives.
  • Don’t be like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, who He rebuked in John 5:39-40: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life.”  Some people can be experts in the Bible, but yet they refuse to come to Jesus.  The Bible is about Jesus, and eternal life is found in Him.

There are many more principles to approaching the Bible, but this is a start.  May you grow in your love of the Bible and of the God who wrote it.  And may its very words get under your skin and change your life!

*image from Christianity.com