Archive for December, 2016

TRUST: Open Your Box to Give all You Have

December 31, 2016

Okay, Christmas has officially passed. You don’t see lights, Santa, reindeer, or ribbon bows on boxes, but the same ills that plagued you still make you nauseous. You swallowed the world’s Christmas without Christ pill. Now, it’s back to the real without being healed and you walking with death but you trying to chill. I am not rapper, but that kinda explains how Christmas is presented in the world – a house without a foundation.  Now, we are at the eve of a new year. Life circumstances remain the same. Many are still lost and hopeless. The key is not to get, but to give. TRUST: Open Your Box to Give all You Have.

On this New Year’s Eve, I don’t offer you resolution, but I offer you a solution – Jesus, The Christ. I will let God’s Word speak for Himself. TRUST: Open Your Box to Give all You Have

Mark 14

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

We can dissect this text and the main supporting character, a woman with an alabaster jar. The bigger picture is not necessarily what she had done in the past, but who she is now and that was prophesied that it would be included wherever the gospel is preached. Do you want your act of worship to live on? If so, TRUST: Open Your Box to Give all You Have. 

This woman was criticized and commended. The commendation came from Jesus. As such, we need to focus our minds on that matter. Jesus said,”She has done a beautiful thing to me…She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.” Are you doing what you can for Jesus? TRUST: Open Your Box to Give all You Have. The woman opened her box and poured an expensive oil on Jesus. She gave all she had. Jesus says as much “She did what she could.” Jesus knew He was going to die for the sins of man. He focused on how this lady attended to or comforted Him. She reminded Him of what God has said about His comfort in Psalm 71 and Isaiah 49. She stands as a model of what Jesus said in John 12:26 – “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”TRUST: Open Your Box to Give all You Have. 

We know in Matthew 25 that oil refers to being equipped, prepared and ready for the Bridegroom i.e. Jesus. The oil is reflective of the Spirit of God. Are we opening the box of our hearts to allow the oil of the Spirit to anoint us for service for Christ? In Mark 12:30 Jesus tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Again, I encourage us to TRUST: Open Your Box to Give all You Have. 

Be resolved in 2017 to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. To do less than that is to not do what you could. Remember, this is what Jesus commended the woman. She, supposedly a person of ill repute, is reflective of a friend of Jesus whereas Judas, supposedly a person of repute, is reflective of a foe of Jesus. Look how the two are contrasted. Judas looked at the waste of the expensive nard or perfume. Jesus saw it as a beautiful thing, an act of worship. Jesus does not require us to give expensive perfume, but He expects us to TRUST: Open Your Box to Give all You Have. 

Open your heart and give it to Jesus.

TRUST: A Fear of God vs A Fear of Man

December 27, 2016

As we know, words have multiple meanings. It is imperative that we are aware of those differences. For if we have the wrong meaning in mind, we could make a poor decision with results that we did not anticipate nor intend. For brevity sake, I will not go into a long list of words with multiple meanings. I will just use the operative word in the title of this post today – fear. TRUST: A Fear of God vs A Fear of Man

In the bible, fear generally is understood to be a reverential awe and respect of the person and power of God or to be afraid of someone or something. Jesus makes it clear what our priority should be in Luke 12:4-5.

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

In the New Testament, the Greek word used most often for fear is phobeō (fo-be’-ō). It is translated as fear (62x), be afraid (23x), be afraid of (5x), reverence (1x), miscellaneous (2x). Phobeō seen in scripture means for someone to be alarmed, flee or scared away, hesitate or to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience. We see both in this passage. TRUST: A Fear of God vs A Fear of Man

In the post TRUST: IF, it was submitted that Jesus serves as the model and models for us how we should respond in moments of challenge, hardships, suffering and trials, but Lord knows, it is hard to respond as He did – continued in obedience. He never responded with fear that caused Him to be alarmed, flee or scared away, hesitate. Jesus was always showed deference. When one fails to put God first, obedience is the sacrifice. Concern for self causes one to act to preserve himself despite us knowing that Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35). This knowledge should empower us to not revert to TRUST IF. Jesus knew that He came to save through His death, burial and resurrection. He never lost sight of that purpose. TRUST: A Fear of God vs A Fear of Man

Conversely, the chief priest and teachers of the law never responded with reverential obedience. They were fearful or afraid of man not God. Listen to

Mark 14 

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

They were scheming to arrest and kill Jesus, but they were afraid to do this during the festival because the people may have rioted. The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were celebrations of God’s deliverance from bondage out of Egypt. Subsequently, the people were expecting or anticipating this same deliverance from the Messiah out of the suppression of the Romans. The chief priest and teachers of the law were not looking to lead the people as they should have. They were looking to see how they could maintain their positions. They saw Jesus as threat to their roles and positions. Their pride fed their fear of man culminating in their rejecting their true roles of spiritual leaders of the people. They were more fearful of man than God. TRUST: A Fear of God vs A Fear of Man

Where are you? Are you enduring a challenge, hardship or trial? Who is the focus of your strength and/or deliverance in that circumstance, God or man? If you choose man, you will disobey God because rarely is what man wants what God wills. Your acts will lead you away because man looks out for himself rather than what God wants. When one has a healthy respect and fear for God, he is obedient. He chooses God over man just as Jesus evidences in the passage. He went to Jerusalem knowing that He was going to die, but that was the will of God. He came to reconcile man to God through His sacrificial death and divine resurrection. What has God called you to do? Inevitably, it will cause you to experience trepidation or fear, but you must stand in faith knowing that God will empower, enable, equip and emancipate you to serve Him faithfully. TRUST: A Fear of God vs A Fear of Man – which will it be?

TRUST: IF

December 26, 2016

There is a big IF in the premise of this text. The  TRUST IF has nothing conditional to trusting in God. I would never tell anyone to place that condition on their faith. God calls us to have faith in Him. We do a good enough job of vacillating in our trust of God. It wanes all day on a daily basis. Here, TRUST: IF refers to some conditions that we can count on IF we are trusting God. In Mark 14 , we see it almost as an afterthought; however, we know from previous verses and other text in the bible that trusting in Christ will bring challenge to your life if not danger like Christ and the disciples. TRUST IF

Mark 14 

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

Jesus serves as the model and models for us how we should respond, but Lord knows, it is hard to respond as He did – continued in obedience. He never responded with  TRUST IF. When one fails to put God first, obedience is the sacrifice. Concern for self causes one to act to preserve himself despite us knowing that Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35). This knowledge should empower us to not revert to TRUST IF.

Jesus knew that He came to save through His death, burial and resurrection. He never lost sight of that purpose. Consequently, the schemes to arrest and to kill him did not alarm Him. He did not run away from the suffering – both physical and spiritual. Why? 1 Peter 2:23 tells us that “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” Jesus knew who the true judge is. In fact, He knew that God had entrusted judgement to Him. Those who appeared to make judgements on His life were not aware that Jesus laid down His life. They did not take it, so we see TRUST IF was not a part of Jesus’ way.

He knew they were after Him. The chief priest and teachers of the law were “secretly” scheming. Hebrews 4:13 tells us that “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.” In fact, He knew that Judas had gone to the chief priest to betray Him. We learn that “ While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”” (Mark 14:18)  TRUST IF  is not the way of Jesus. He obeyed God despite the inconvenient, the disrespectful, the disloyal and painful experiences He would have.

For those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ, we must rise to the level of Jesus where TRUST IF is not our means of following GodWe have no excuse to uncouple ourselves from following Jesus to make our own decisions for our lives. In Galatians 2:20, Paul tells us “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Christ requires us to give our lives too. We are to live our lives for Him and not for ourselves even in the face of hardship, harm or death (1 John 4). Consequently, spend the day throwing away the TRUST IF mentality.

TRUST: The Prophet, Promise and Power of Christmas

December 25, 2016

Man’s existence on Earth is full of times where he has turned his back on God and where God continued to pursue man to renew relationship with us as He created us to experience. We see Him reach out to us in the post TRUST: The Lamb of God and The Bread of Life. Christ is Messiah. Christ is Lord. Christ is King. Christmas is named so because of Jesus Christ, the Messiah Savior and Lord. The Messiah’s birth is God’s final intervention in providing the “Way” for man to be forgiven of his sins and to have relationship with God. As such, we should TRUST: The Prophet, Promise and Power of Christmas. 

We explored God/Jesus as prophet in the post TRUST: You Can Believe the Prophet. We know He fulfills that role both in what He said and what He did. Jesus, as Creator, made and fulfilled prophecy.

Genesis 12:1-3

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
      I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.m
3    I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Malachi 3:1

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant,whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

Luke 2:1-6

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Micah 5:2

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
   though you are small among the clans of Judah,
   out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,
   whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

2 Peter 3:9

9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

God has kept His promise to Abraham to bless all nations through him. Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise to Abraham and to all others whom God had promised renewal and restoration. The prophecy for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem was fulfilled despite being in a manner that none of us would have thought. God used a worldly ruler,Caesar Augustus, to make a decree to bring about a fulfillment of where the Messiah would be born. However, God incarnate, the King of kings, the Lord of lord was born not in a mansion, or a fine and fancy inn but in a place for animals; yet, He was born. As such, Jesus became the ruler over Israel and in fact of all mankind. Nevertheless, TRUST: The Prophet, Promise and Power of Christmas. 

God has kept His promises to Abraham, to Daniel, to Hezekiah, to Asa, to Isaiah, to Mary and to me. God called me 32 years ago to Himself. He promised me eternal life if I would surrender and follow Him which He says in John 3:15 – that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. Jesus promised to give us the power to live the life God requires – John 14:16 – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever”;  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8.

Jesus was born, died and was raised to live. 1 Corinthians 6:14 “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. His resurrection displays and demonstrates the His power and the power of God.” The Holy Spirit powers us to live in victory over sin. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. Romans 1:16. Christmas is about the greatest gift ever given – Jesus. The benefit of the gift of Jesus is to provide man an opportunity to escape the wrath of God for the sin he commits against God. With the dawning of another day, God is offering eternal life to anyone who is willing to surrender his/her life and to follow Him. Are you willing to follow Jesus today? TRUST: The Prophet, Promise and Power of Christmas. 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

TRUST: The Lamb of God and The Bread of Life

December 24, 2016

In our world, we encounter so much symbolism. We see it in art, poetry and a variety of other mediums. An action, person, place, word, or object can all have a symbolic meaning. For example, my middle name is symbolic of my maternal grandfather. In literary terms, symbolism is the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense. Symbolism can take different forms. Generally, it is an object representing another to give it an entirely different meaning that is much deeper and more significant. Whether with symbols or metaphors, the bible is full of symbolic representations, but I am sure there is not a great example of that than of God Himself. It is the basis for TRUST: The Lamb of God and The Bread of Life.

TRUST: The Lamb of God and The Bread of Life is symbolic of how Jesus fulfills many Old Testament accounts of grace, mercy, forgiveness and salvation. As Jesus was about to be crucified, we see many of those symbols and their connection with Jesus come into focus.

Mark 14 

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

I am sure that you are aware of a reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God. John the Baptist, in John 1:29, testifies about Jesus when he said, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The lamb being used in substitutionary death goes all the way back to Genesis. The crescendo of the lamb in the Old Testament is in Exodus 12.  That passage is the past link to Christ’s symbolic representation as the Lamb of God. Just as the lamb’s blood spared all whose door frames were covered with a lamb’s blood, all who trust in the shed blood of Jesus for forgiveness of sins will be spared God’s wrath for their sins. It all culminates with Christ being honored for His sacrifice. Revelation  5:12 which says, “Worthy is the Lamb,who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” TRUST: The Lamb of God and The Bread of Life.

Likewise, the Festival of Unleavened Bread has its origin in Exodus 12. We see the Festival of Unleavened Bread practiced in Israelite history. Of the the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread, God told the Israelites

14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. 15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do. 17 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.” Exodus 12

In John 6:35, Jesus records one of the seven I Am statements in which He symbolically, yet truthfully, declares His deity. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” We recall in Exodus 3:14 that 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” Jesus uses the  truth and symbolism of “I Am” to declare who He is. The analogy of the Festival of Unleavened Bread with the Bread of Life illustrates more symbolism. As you will recall in Exodus 3, God tells the Israelites “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.” Similarly, Jesus tells His followers that we are to celebrate Him by eating of His body, the Bread of Life, as we reflect during communion. Jesus reminds us to TRUST: The Lamb of God and The Bread of Life.

Have you trust Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away your sins? Have you trusted Christ as the Bread of Life in that His body was broken for as punishment for your sins? Once again, I am reminded of another I Am statement that confirms it is through Christ and Christ alone that man’s sins are forgiven. John 14:6 says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

It was ironic, another symbolic image, that the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. They wanted to kill the only one who could cover us from the wrath of God and whose body would grant us life. Unlike them, I praise God who has helped me to TRUST: The Lamb of God and The Bread of Life.

TRUST: The Tribulation Is Great

December 21, 2016

In the post TRUST: The Second Coming, the primary message was that Jesus’ second coming was imminent but not known. As a consequence, Jesus told the disciples not to spend time trying to figure out the day of His return, but to be perceptive about the looming deception, to prepare for harsh treatment on account of Christ and to preach the gospel. Jesus has given them more prophecy from verse 14 through the end of the chapter. Again, none of which they have any control. He foretells of the coming events. He tells the disciples to TRUST: The Tribulation Is Great.

 

Mark 13 (NIV)

14 “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world,until now—and never to be equaled again.

20 “If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.

24 “But in those days, following that distress,

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert!You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Jesus says TRUST: The Tribulation Is Great; yet, the message is the same for the disciples and all followers of Christ: be on guard/alert, watch and pray. The word watch or agrypneō (ä-grüp-ne’-ō) in the Greek means:

  1. to be sleepless, keep awake, watch

  2. to be circumspect, attentive, ready

Agrypneō (ä-grüp-ne’-ō) expresses more than a mere wakefulness, but the “watchfulness” of those who are intent upon a thing. While much of the world is waiting and watching for Santa Claus, Jesus tells the true followers of Christ that, in our anticipation, we should keep watch out for the return of Christ. There will be great tribulation; there will be great hardship, but He will return. Jesus assures of that when He says, “30 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” We don’t know the day nor hour of His return, but we know He is coming again. Jesus pretty much says I issue my Word as a guarantee. As such, we should watch because TRUST: The Tribulation Is Great.

TRUST: The Second Coming

December 17, 2016

In the post TRUST: You Can Believe the Prophet, I shared with you that Jesus is the greatest of all prophets who ever claimed to speak on God’s behalf. The reason that Jesus is the greatest prophet is that Jesus Himself is God. At a minimum, He claimed that He was God. I shared a couple of those in the post TRUST: You Can Believe the Prophet. The point of the matter is that in Mark 13  (crf) Jesus uttered some prophetic statements in which His disciples were intrigued. The first of which was the destruction of the temple which 40 something years later happened. He goes on to warn the disciples about their lives and tells them several things that will transpire as a result of giving testimony about Him. This led to a series of prophecies that Jesus reveals about the End Times. In doing so, Jesus is telling us to TRUST: The Second Coming.

There are a myriad, some say 19, of imperatives that Jesus speaks of in the passage below. He issues a number of signs before He returns; however, the emphasis on what His followers should be engaged until that time. All relate to following Him and testifying about who He is. There is nothing there to tell us to predict it. Because He is the greatest prophet, Jesus is telling us to TRUST: The Second Coming. If we TRUST what He has said, we will prepare as He asks us to.  Read the passage below to identify what Jesus asks us to do in preparation of His Second Coming.

Mark 13

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

14 “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world,until now—and never to be equaled again.

20 “If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.

24 “But in those days, following that distress,

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert!You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

The last thing He says is to “keep watch” for His return. We can spend countless of hours studying trying to predict when He will return, but verse 32 tell us that no one knows, so why spend the time trying to predict. We simply need to TRUST: The Second Coming. After trusting, we should work on living out the imperatives Jesus speaks of in the passage. That is the more important task than trying to predict or being caught up when it all will happen.

If we TRUST: The Second Coming, we will take correct actions. Likewise, when we TRUST Jesus, we will obey. Our focus should be on TRUSTING and OBEYING.

TRUST: The Holy Spirit to Proclaim the Gospel

December 15, 2016

Many people have a fear of public speaking. I see it all the time. Whether 25 years ago or this week, I see students struggle at speaking to groups or crowds of people. I also see adults uneasy about being “put on the spot”. It is a natural consequence to have a little trepidation about speaking. It is that way because people feel the responsibility to develop what to say and how to say it. They want to do a good job and perhaps more than anything they want to be well received or accepted. This was the message God taught me in college days before I had a presentation. He told me that I was anxious and afraid because I was concerned with what people thought about me. If I wanted to fix that, I had to alter my focus. No longer should people whom I barely knew or related affect me emotionally. For those who did know and care for me, they had already accepted me, so my fear was off base as the Triune God is the only one who I should have such concern.

How much more should the followers of Jesus Christ have a keen sense of commitment to preach the Word. 2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” Timothy was being told by Paul how to preach the Word; however, Jesus issued the first mandate to the disciples. Jesus said, TRUST: The Holy Spirit to Proclaim the Gospel.

Jesus was not concern about how the disciples were received because He had already told them that they would face difficulties as they preached the gospel. In the midst of teaching the disciples about “End Times“, Jesus tells them what they must be about until He returns.

“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

As the disciples were told, we too are told by Jesus not to be concerned with ourselves or what we will say or how we will say it. We are told TRUST: The Holy Spirit to Proclaim the Gospel. Jesus is clear in His explanation to the disciples. He tells us all “do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” While that is true, we have a responsibility to read, listen, study, memorize and meditate on the Word of God. As we sow the Word into our hearts and minds, the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Jesus told the disciples just that – It would be the Spirit who would give them the Words to say. Simply, TRUST: The Holy Spirit to Proclaim the Gospel.

Are you concerned about how to talk to people about Jesus’ ministry in your life? Does fear invade your heart at the thought of telling people about Christ? Is your mind consumed with coming up with the right words to say? Jesus says do not worry about that, I got you. He says that because we can TRUST: The Holy Spirit to Proclaim the Gospel. Just let the Spirit lead you as you proclaim Jesus in season and out of season – all the time.

TRUST: You Must Be on Your Guard

December 12, 2016

Safety is a paramount matter in our world. In the U.S., OSHA is the federal agency that sets and oversees matters that relate to workplace safety. There are safety issues related to vehicles, food, products and other areas. For example, there is lane keeping assist that warns you when you are veering out of your land. There is also adaptive cruise control. Then, there is the matter of personal safety involving our local law enforcement officers and security systems that people install in their homes and monitored through their cell phones in some cases. No matter where we turn, people are thinking TRUST: You Must Be on Your Guard.

Long before all of those technical devices and systems, Jesus told the disciples TRUST: You Must Be on Your Guard. While certainly it related to personal safety, the larger issue was related to spiritual safety. As Jesus made prophecies, He also made calls for the disciples to maintain the right perspective because the stakes were greater than for personal safety. The gospel was the matter at hand.

Mark 13 (NIV)

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.

The New King James translates verse nine as “ “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them.” Luke 21:12 reads “12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me.” TRUST: You Must Be on Your Guard.

Clearly, Jesus put the emphasis not on their personal safety but on caring for the testimony of the saints about Him. Jesus told the disciples that they would have hard times because of Him. They would be called before authorities on account of Him for the sole purpose of testifying about Him. TRUST: You Must Be on Your Guard.

Like you, I have insurance on my car. I have taken some security measures at my home. I share things with my wife and kids about being safe, but Jesus is saying to us all that the most important matter to be on our guard or to watch out for is the furtherance of the gospel. We must be ready and willing to endure for the sake of the gospel. While we are not presently experiencing the hardships that the disciples and followers of Jesus during that era, we too are being told TRUST: You Must Be on Your Guard.

Today, ask God to open your eyes and ears for the opportunity to share about Him. Ask God to make the gospel our priority not our safety or the safety of our families. I am not saying that we should ignore that, but I am saying Christ put a premium on sharing our faith or at least giving a testimony about Him before whomever He put us. TRUST: You Must Be on Your Guard.

 

 

 

TRUST: Not in Wars and Rumors of Wars

December 9, 2016

When ominous clouds fill the sky, it is natural for people to assume that a bad storm is certain to follow. This is especially true when rain has been absent for over 60 days like it was here in Atlanta several weeks ago. We tend to look as such things and draw conclusions, but ominous clouds don’t always tell the story of what is about to come. Likewise, Jesus tells His disciples to TRUST: Not in Wars and Rumors of Wars. 

TRUST: Not in Wars and Rumors of Wars was Jesus’ admonition to the disciples after He began a series of prophecies. As you will recall in Mark 13, Jesus first gives a prophecy about the destruction of the temple as indicated in the post TRUST: God Destroys Our Idols. Now, Jesus moves from not only of the temple in Jerusalem to prophecy about the end times to alert His followers of what is to come before He returns.

Mark 13

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

Jesus said to them: Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

TRUST: Not in Wars and Rumors of Wars is Jesus’ statement to the twelve. First, he tells them to watch out or to take heed which is from the Greek word blepō  which means to to see, discern, of the bodily eye or metaphorically to see with the mind’s eye as to:

  1. to discern mentally, observe, perceive, discover, understand

  2. to turn the thoughts or direct the mind to a thing, to consider, contemplate, to look at, to weigh carefully, examine

What are they to be on the look out for? Deception. Jesus is telling the disciples to be on the look out for not just one, but many, claiming to be Him. He does not want the disciples to be deceived about people coming claiming to be Him. Jesus does not want us to be deceived about people claiming to be Him either. In fact, He says many will be deceived, but I offer this to help us identify who will be deceived. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10 I am encouraged by Paul who said “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Next, Jesus told the twelve to TRUST: Not in Wars and Rumors of Wars. He did not want them nor us to be alarmed when you hear of wars and rumors of wars. Those are things that are destined to happen, but they are not the signs of the end of time. They are like those ominous clouds that have no rain in them.
Jesus said, “such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.” Again, we are told to TRUST: Not in Wars and Rumors of Wars. The reality is scripture reveals how the end and when the end will come. We don’t all perceive it, but it is not really up to us. All we must do is believe as Jesus says in John 6:29 that “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” We know that in John 14 Jesus said, ““Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

In saying TRUST: Not in Wars and Rumors of Wars, Jesus is saying, TRUST me. TRUST my Word.  Jesus help me to TRUST you because you are trustworthy and not what I see, think or feel. Hallelujah that you are my help and shield. TRUST: Not in Wars and Rumors of Wars!