Sunday, February 28, 2016

It Is Done!

Just as Jesus came into this world to live and minister to many people to bring them into relationship with Him through repentance of their sin, so Jesus will return to bring eternal life to those who have repented...and judgment upon those who have not, who have rejected Him and hardened their hearts to Him. (The Book of Revelation)

Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke‬ ‭23:44-46‬)

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew‬ ‭27:50-53‬)

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!”... (‭‭John‬ ‭19:30‬)

Similar words used upon His death will be used upon His return. Similar experiences will occur. In both instances, of death and His return, the glory of the Lord is seen. 

Darkness, an earthquake and supernatural events occurred at Jesus' death. When He returns there will be more darkness and an even greater earthquake along with thundering and lightning. How awesome His return will be. I think about the awesomeness of the veil of the temple being rent in two by the power of God to show and bring about the availability of the access between people and He, through His Son, through His death, through His Resurrection...and our decision to receive Him. Hallelujah!

When He returns another voice will proclaim encouraging words to all believers. It is done! Vengeance which is God's alone to administer will be brought about upon those who have rejected Him, who have persecuted God's children through all the ages, those who have waited a long time for this vengeance. 

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation‬ ‭6:9-10‬)

Jesus came to redeem mankind. He will return to exact judgment one final time. Those who received Christ for the redemption of their sins will watch as God brings vengeance upon those who did not. 

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. ‭‭(Romans‬ ‭12:19‬)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Is God's Grace Fair?

Colossians‬ ‭4:2-6‬ ‭- Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

I don't know how we got from this scripture to the discussion we had! But that's the way it is in Sunday school. There are two parables we discussed as asides and interpretations of God's in our natural man's mind it doesn't always seem fair. But...God's grace is always fair. It just is. It is we who often want things done in our natural man's mind and in our way because we think we know better.

One parable is of laborers in a vineyard. (Matthew 20:1-16) An owner hires men to work in his vineyard. He offers the first men a denarius for their work. They were hired early in the morning. Later he offers work to a second group around noon, and the third group later in the day, suggesting he will offer them what is right. So each worked different hours. At the end of the day the owner gives all the men a denarius. Of course the those who worked all day were a bit miffed that they received the same as the men who worked less time. Seem fair?

Then there's the well known story of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32) A man has two sons. One works diligently for his father. The other decides to gather up his inheritance, leave his father's house and ends up squandering it all in a despicable lifestyle until he has spent all his inheritance and has to crawl back to his father to ask for forgiveness. As the delinquent son returns, the father, who has never stopped looking for his son's return, spies him in the distance and runs excitedly out to meet him and bring him home. The father has his servants begin to put together a welcome home party, much to his other son's anger...I've worked hard and faithfully all these years but you treat my brother, your wayward son, with all this respect although he squandered all he had on useless living. Seem fair?

The answer is: God will give whatever He believes is right. We have nothing to say about it. Seem fair? You better believe it is. God has offered His grace to all who desire it. It is His decision to offer it. 

These parables point us to the meaning of salvation. The vineyard owner and the prodigal son's father both symbolize God the Father. The parables are salvation messages for us. His grace is sufficient for any circumstance or any person. 

So the discussion came up...a person has received Christ's forgiveness for his sins. He has known the Lord for years and lived for Him, never backed down, strayed, or gotten lost. He lived for Him. This man would surely go to heaven one day. The Lord surely loved Him as His child. (Like the men who worked all day.)

Then you have someone else. The example, although there are thousands upon thousands like this, was of Jeffrey Dahmer. A man who did unthinkable acts of disgusting cruelty. It is said, though we don't know this for fact, that he gave his life to the Lord in prison. Only God knows if this truly happened. Suppose it was a heartfelt confession and he did accept Christ. Jeffrey Dahmer may also be in heaven. Seem fair? (Like the men who only worked a little time.)

And the prodigal son? Anyone who has received Christ, turned away but realizes the error in this and returns to God, is received graciously once again by the Father. 

There's also the account in Luke 23:39-43 of the thief on one of the crosses alongside Jesus. While one cursed Jesus, the other realized his sin as well as the other thief's, and knew they both deserved this punishment. He affirmed that Jesus did nothing to receive this punishment and asked that he be remembered in His kingdom...for which Jesus pardoned that man's sin immediately. Seem fair? Last minute reprieve? 

It was also suggested that we may think giving a pardon to someone at the last minute of life because we have walked with the Lord for so long. How can someone who has lived their life doing as they pleased with no love or respect for God, no remorse for his sins, receive Christ on their deathbed? Or,     conversely, we think how much better a person's life might be if they would receive Christ and enjoy the peace and comfort now

To God it is all fair. In His way. In a way we cannot understand other than: His ways are perfect. God's ways can seem mysterious. It's all about His timing. 
As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. (Psalms‬ 18:30‬)
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. ‭‭(Isaiah‬ ‭55:8-9‬)
And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”‭‭ (Acts‬ ‭1:7‬)

I'm in no way suggesting anyone wait till their deathbed to receive Christ. Oh, what a person can have today in Christ. The richness of His forgiveness, the fullness of righteousness, the hope of a life in heaven, the peace, comfort and joy of life in Christ. Priceless. He IS our priceless treasure! 

I will leave it at that. Other things were brought up regarding God's purpose for what He does. Basically, the answer is, because He can. Our finite, natural minds cannot ever know His mind and His thoughts. That's okay. We must be okay with that or we will frustrate the daylights out of ourselves. The whole idea gives us pause for thought and reflection...perhaps even a better understanding of God. 

According to the scripture at the beginning, though, we are still to be salt and light in this world for unbelievers to see. We each have a role to play, mainly planting the seed. Sowing the seed of life that another life might one day be be reaped into the kingdom. It is by God's grace, however, that it is ultimately accomplished. Amen!

1Corinthians‬ ‭3:6-7‬ ‭- I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

God Has Never Stopped Moving!

Genesis 1:1-2 - In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

I'm listening to a series of CDs by an evangelist who spoke at our church recently. The first message was When God Moves. As usual, this is part the preacher's message, partly paraphrased, and partly my thoughts. It even fits right in to our study in Revelation. I'm certain there is a reason for all this. Any italicizes words are his.

Sometimes our lives as believers can seem to be in a funk. Maybe we have become our lives or in our churches. As Jeremy Prochazka stated, we might proclaim, We need a move of God. Then he followed that statement with this nugget of truth: It's not that we need God to move; He is always ready to move. It is we who have moved on, on our own, in our own way. 

I think about God giving Israel a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night to guide them as they left Egypt for their long trek to the Promised Land. As long as they followed they were well protected and cared for. These pillars were always out in front for guidance, although when they crossed the Red Sea with the enemy behind them, the pillar of cloud went behind while the pillar of fire stayed in at one end, guidance at the other. 

God has always been moving. Since the day He began to create, He through His Spirit, moved. Jesus hasn't stopped. If He had there would be no continuation of Christianity. There would be no continuation of persecution, for His name's sake. There would be no evangelists, pastors, and us as disciples to carry on God's Word! His Spirit keeps us going. 

Brother Jeremy went on to say that we who have received Christ are called followers. Why? Because He is moving! If He's standing still we aren't following. If we follow we will know we are in the will of God. Can you honestly say you following Him?

I'd forgotten some of this message. Or had I, because just before he would say more I was forming thoughts to write that were similar. As followers of Christ we are called to share the Gospel like Jesus shared. If you like or love something, you will want to tell others about it, right? Why is it that sharing Christ is so unappealing to so many hearing it? What nerves does it touch? Does it bring up guilt, knowing we have made a lot of mistakes in our past? 

Or maybe we like who we are without Christ and are determined to believe life without Him is okay. What nerves does it touch? 

I have said this before, and Jeremy said it too: Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8) Give Him a chance.

Jeremy started out his message with the story of Jesus when He was 12. The family had gone to Jerusalem for the annual Passover celebration. On their way home Joseph and Mary realized they'd not seen their Son for awhile. He had lingered at the temple. They returned to find Him there...learning and asking questions, to the amazement of the others...and His parents when they arrived. Always about His Father's business, always in His will. Always following His Father's guidance. As we should.

It is pointed out in the scripture for this account that every year they went to Jerusalem. Jeremy points out how mundane that could become, a routine. Every year... After awhile, what happens? It becomes the same old thing. We may leave church after we have fulfilled our religious obligations, but Jesus may linger there and we won't recognize itIt's losing our sensitivity to the Lord. That's dangerous. We lose sight of Him. We've moved on but He has lingered. We are no longer following Him...we're off doing our own thing 
while He's about His Father's business. We're not in His will anymore.

But...He will organize your circumstances so you can find Him again. That is a wonderful, encouraging thought. I'm so thankful He loves us so much that He would provide another way...even through suffering, which was yesterday's blog. Amazed at how things are so tied together these days. 

If we follow Christ, we are in His will. Brother Jeremy added just as Jesus grew from a Child to a Man, we as believers need to grow in our walk, our faith in Him, following Him. newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1Peter‬ ‭2:2-3‬) We start out our walk slowly, taking small steps, feeling stupid, listening and learning, taking it all in, making mistakes. Then suddenly confidence happens. It's like "we get it." But we still do not stop growing. We never do. In time we will be ready for the meat of His Word. Just keep following. And know that God loves you so much that He WILL organize your circumstances to bring you back to Him. 

Maybe our country and churches need to turn back to seeking Him. He longs to move in our midst. But you know what, we have sought our own desires and ways, not His. It's all about me! It's all about us. It's all about how big we can build it or the success we can have. It's no longer all about Him. So we may very well be recognizing it with world circumstances, without really knowing it's God we are missing. He's been pushed aside for too long. He's not in this anymore.

Oh my...then Jeremy ends with the question Jesus' mother asked when they found Him in the temple. It about sums up the world circumstances and the questions people are beginning to ask about where God is in all that is happening, the violence, evil, disasters: So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? ... (Luke‬ ‭2:48‬) Is that what people are asking, Why, God, have You done this? Why will You not do something? (Like the friend and his email to me.) His answer: He was about His Father's business...while everyone else was about their own.

He is always moving, doing His Father's business. It's where we are supposed to be. Why have we sometimes stopped paying attention? Has He or Christianity become a routine? Linger with Him awhile. Follow Him more closely. 

John‬ ‭12:26‬ ‭- If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Followers Will Suffer

1Peter 1:18-19 - ... knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

Wow, it's been awhile since I've had time to post. Still in the midst of my study in Revelation, having learned about suffering and what it means and how to get through it, how it should draw us closer to God and rely on His strength to endure knowing that in the end we will be victorious.

Suffering will always be a part of this world. It comes from sin, plain and simple. No one is immune. Good and not-so-good people will suffer, believers and non-believers. But those who know the Lord, believers, need not ask, Why, Lord, do You allow all the suffering and evil? 

Awhile back I mentioned an email I received from a friend who asked that question. After giving him a somewhat detailed answer, I realize he still does not understand and also I cannot force the issue. But, oh, the answers I am getting to those questions through our Revelation study. It's amazing confirmation of what I have heard, the questions I am being asked (by others, too...same questions). 

The answers to all the questions a person might have all starts with knowing Christ, receiving Him, following Him and learning through study of His Word, the one thing this friend commended me on. But you could see it was not for him. It could be for him or anyone if that relationship is developed first. It can only happen that way. We must have His desire to know His truth.

So, in the lesson I am working on the above scripture was brought up to help answer the question: What does it mean the followers of the Lamb "were purchased from among mankind?"  Anyone who receives Christ becomes part of those called followers. We have received Christ, been redeemed (purchased) by His blood and made His children. Only through the blood of Christ can this happen. Only through His blood. His blood covers our sins, makes us whole, redeems us.

How this happens is our acceptance of Christ, our admission that we are as guilty of sin as the next, believing that we are born into sin. We realize a need for His forgiveness of that sin and then submit knowing only He can save us. We cannot work harder or be better givers, or better people. Only He can change us and create in us new hearts, new minds, new spirits. We realize only He can get us through our suffering, too.

I can't imagine someone having to go through some horrendous trial without God by their side. He's the only hope in any situation. No matter what the outcome we can know He has us in His hands...if we have received Christ. I'm glad I became a follower. I'm glad I received Christ on April 18, 1999. I'm thankful more for my spiritual birthday than my physical. The spiritual is eternal, the physical is not. 

Through the blood of the Lamb. It is the only way. As Jesus Himself says: ...I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6) The Lamb that was slain for the sin of the world. The blood that is applied upon our conversion to our heart to show we belong to Him.  

Like sheep follow their shepherd, I will follow the Good Shepherd, the way to life. Search for His truth. The truth about sin, evil, goodness, righteousness, life...and death. Not everyone will go to heaven just because they were basically good people. They must receive Christ and be redeemed by His blood and become His follower.

Becoming His follower, again, does not take away suffering for if we follow Christ, know Christ, we also share in His sufferings. He is familiar with any and all suffering. He carried His own cross to His death. He was willing to die. He died partly because of the rejection of the truth He spoke. He couldn't convince everyone, not with His words or His miracles of healing, that He was the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world. He lost His life...but He regained it. The same with those who follow Him. So part of my suffering stems from my adherence to His truth, His Gospel message that needs to be spread since it is a command for every follower! So suffer I will if I have to. 

Matthew‬ ‭10:38-39‬ ‭- And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.