The End is Near

September 22

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars… Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places… many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other… Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…For there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now… But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Jesus – from Matthew 24)

TheEndIsNear

This world, as we know it, will not go on forever.

I know this is not the most cheerful of topics… but it is on the mind of so many these days. Never in the history of mankind have we been so close to the brink. You can just feel it… the world is becoming a strange and fearful place. People are angry. Agitated. Frustrated. Fearful. Anxious. Filled with a sense of dread… of hopelessness. Surging into our streets, filling them with unrest and violence.

unrest

Add to this… all the natural disasters that seem to dominate the headlines every day. Massive hurricanes pummeling and destroying property and lives. Terrible earthquakes toppling entire cities. Unbelievable floods turning communities into cesspools. Droughts in other places wiping out all the crops, leaving starvation in their relentless wake. It is an ugly, foreboding picture. It is reality.

Jesus told us it would be this way. He warned us to be aware that a terrible darkness would descend upon the whole earth – before the dawn of a new hope.

While so many are seeing and despairing, God is calling His people to look up and see that “our redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28) Most of us Christians are sensing it: Jesus’ return is very close! We need to hold on to our faith and live our lives in the fact that our Hero is just about to burst onto the scene. Like the best of Hollywood movies… just when it seems all is lost, He is coming to save the day!

the-second-coming.jpg

And that may be our best testimony yet… In the midst of all the unrest and hopelessness, we are the people at peace and full of hope. In times where the masses are pushed around by the winds of trouble and dread – we are standing firm on the promise of our Savior. Heads lifted high, living in the blessing of God’s Presence and comfort – eagerly awaiting the one thing for which we have all been longing. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 21:20)

But we have work to do. These signs are meant to capture our attention. To renew our resolve to live as Light in the darkness. Serving people in need. Offering joy in the midst of sadness. Extending hope to quell the despair. Pointing all those we meet to the One Who is our comfort and our rescue.

serve

Dickens was right. These ARE the worst of times… and the best of times.

Jesus is calling us to see the finish line and renew our love for humanity, to stoke up the flame of our passion to see God glorified in the hearts and minds of so many who need Him.

The hope for the world is Jesus.

We are the carriers of that hope.

Prayer Focus: God, I seek to live as hope in the world through the hope You placed in my heart. Lead me to serve and to love as Jesus served and loved.

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What Do You See?

September 21

“I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have set in place…” (Psalm 8:3)

moon and stars

Those who are critical of people of faith, return time and again to a common theme… “We have reason, you have faith – and our reason has concluded that your faith is nothing more than make-believe. Things just like the easter bunny or the tooth fairy – fine for children, but real grown-ups have moved beyond such childish things…”

My response is that faith in God is eminently reasonable. And we, as Christians, should not only know what we believe but why. There are good reasons for faith!

We need to be constantly reminded that for all their bold and “intelligent” talk, they don’t have any real proof to validate their “non-faith” in God.

People who reject faith in God have only faith in themselves – and in their ability to figure things out. But, the human mind is so limited. They cannot know all things. It is unreasonable to say, or hint, that they do. In the end, their rejection of faith is also faith-based! It seems to me that the whole point is: which is a better faith?!

That is why our faith begins with a belief in One Who does know all things. We don’t have to know everything when we know Someone Who does!

God is all knowing

For those who don’t believe, this is a foreign concept. They openly wonder: “Why have faith in an all-powerful being that gives no evidence of his existence?”

For us who believe, THAT is a foreign concept! We merely look around us and marvel at the beauty and complexity of creation. The magnitude of the rolling ocean. The majesty of a mountain range. The glorious painting of the sky at sunset. The wonder of the constellations in the night sky. And we can’t help but think of One Who could do all this.

ocean wave  Morning-Glow  sunset

The Bible tells us that this is exactly what we were hardwired to do. God put within us the ability to “see” Him in the glory of creation all around us. We read: For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So men have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:20) And the Psalmist announces: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

stars at night

The Bible declares that the evidence of God’s existence is all around us… IF we are willing to see it.

But that is the problem for those who choose not to believe. They do not see what is so obvious to the rest of us. They unwittingly affirm another verse of Scripture: “The god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.” (2Cor. 4:4)

Sometimes the most difficult thing to see is what is right in front of you. 

Prayer Focus: God, thank You for showing Yourself in the wonders of this creation… Help me to appreciate Your Presence in all I do.

isaac-newton-intelligent-design

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Honest to God

Spetember 20

“I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD I pour out my complaint before Him; and tell Him all my troubles.” (from Psalm 142:1-2)

If you have been a believer for any duration of time, I am quite certain that you have found yourself in times when everything seems to be coming undone all around you. One moment you are basking in the sunshine of God’s love – and the next moment you find yourself in the midst of a raging storm! What happened?! Did God take a nap? Did He forget about you? Did He have better things to do?

Sleepy-God

All you know for sure is trouble has surrounded you… and you feel all alone.

I don’t really know why we expect our Christian lives to be all “sunshine and lollipops” but it always seems to catch us off guard when life takes a turn for the worse. But it really shouldn’t. Jesus told us it would be this way: “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) And Peter warned us: “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you…” (1 Peter 4:12) And James offers this nugget: “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”

coming storm

Well, it sure doesn’t seem that way! It seems more like a trainwreck than a triumph. More like a great time to panic than to proclaim God’s praises.

So, what’s the point? Why in the world do we have trouble when we are supposed to be IN the Hands of God, and under His Personal care?

I could give you several good reasons. Logical reasons. Truth to apply. Steps to take. Lessons to be learned…

But, today, I want to offer something that sometimes we forget… even though the Psalms offer us a lot of insight.

Sometimes, we forget that God wants our honesty. He wants us to express how we really feel. He wants us to take our pain and bring it straight to Him. Warts and all.

angry-with-god

That is what we see so often in the Psalms. Complaints to God. Doubts expressed to God. Fears to God. Anger to God. Disappointment to God.

Honest to God!

It is entirely possible that we go through tough circumstances because we need an honesty check. Is God really the center of our attention? The focus of our hopes?

I have noticed (in my own life) that when the troubles come, I tend to complain to everyone around me. I express my doubts to other people. My fears. My anger. My disappointment – always to other people. Seldom, if ever, to God.

Shouldn’t He be the first Person we approach in our times of trouble? The Psalmist thought so. He openly let God “have it.” He expressed his raw emotions to The One Who knew they were there already. He opened his heart and let the cesspool flow.

But here’s the cool thing… Once the drain became “unclogged” the Psalmist began to see things afresh… from God’s perspective. With all the “nasty” expelled, the hope and the truth could flow back into his heart.

In tough times, I think God is inviting us to be the One to Whom we express all our darkest thoughts and feelings. He is big enough to take it. And He is big enough to honor our honesty with His abiding Presence.

And oftentimes, we find, that is really ALL we need to get us through.

Prayer Focus: In tough times, Lord, let me be honest enough with You to receive what You desire to give in return. Let me see You as the Source for all that I need.

honest with God

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Doubting

September 19

“Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” (Jesus – John 20:27)

doubtsIf we are honest, there are moments in our lives when we all struggle with our faith. There are times when some doubts dominate our thoughts – and we are left to wrestle with our issues and concerns.

This is a normal Christian experience. It is not a bad thing. There are times when we need our faith challenged – where we need to “dig in” to what we believe and come up with a substantial basis for our faith. Sometimes we need to see that our faith is based upon proof and reality – not fairy tales or make-believe.

I think about Thomas, who was the disciple noted for one thing… his doubt.

Consider his position… Thomas witnessed, with his own eyes, the fact that Jesus died on the cross, and was buried in a tomb – those are the facts with which he was left to wrestle. How would you feel if you were in his sandals?

You had followed this guy for a long time, you came to believe that He was the promised Messiah, you trusted Him with your life, your future, your whole person… Now, He was gone. Dream over. Reality bites… and bites hard. Everything in which you once believed is now open to question. Can you blame Thomas for doubting?

Jesus didn’t. Jesus certainly understood Thomas’ struggles. Even after, Jesus was dead and buried, Thomas still came around, from time to time, to hang out with “the guys.” Share some stories of the good times together. Share some bread together. Talk about life, now that everything had changed so drastically.

Imagine his surprise, when in one of those visits, the “guys” reported actually seeing the real Jesus again. Imagine his frustration. Imagine how hard it must have been for Thomas to shake the visions of Jesus’ demise. So Thomas took the stance: Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (Jn. 20:25) I can’t blame him. Our faith can only be as good as the Object of that faith.

But then… Jesus shows up. Right there in front of him. We would think that Jesus would rebuke or chastise him. But He doesn’t. Jesus simply offers the proof that he needed. Jesus met Thomas’ doubt with two things: Himself… and evidence.

Doubting Thomas

The same is true for us. Jesus’ solution to our times of doubt is Himself, and evidence. Our faith is not just baseless hopes founded upon myths and legends. We are connected to a REAL Person, Who came and walked this earth – Who faced all the things we have to go through and became the Source of Life for all who will place their trust in Him.

AND our faith is based upon actual evidence… in a Divine Creator, Whose eternal plans included the likes of each of us – and Who seeks to fill our lives with purpose and meaning. All the things He created us to need.

rick warren meaning of life

We must not be fooled by the voices out there that claim wisdom or “facts” to discredit faith in a Creator or in the Living Christ. Their “facts” are spurious, at best.

God meets us at our place of need. Evidence of God and of Jesus abound. We need only seek, to find. Even in our doubt, He will come to us – if we will remain open to Him.

Our very lives are based on the work and the promise of God to which His Apostles testified… and recorded as evidence for a true faith. As John has said: 

John-20 31

Prayer Focus: In moments of doubt, turn my mind and my heart towards You, Oh God… may I have a fresh awareness of Your Presence and of Your truth.

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Shipwrecked Faith

September 18

“Hold on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and thereby shipwrecked their faith.” (1 Timothy 1:19)

shipwreck

I just read something that made me… Sad… Angry… Frustrated… All of the above.

It was the story of a man who became a believer in Christ (at a young age), and had spent over thirty years in ministry… only to step away from faith in Christ.

His story goes into the details of WHY he rejected faith in Christ, but one particular detail stood out from all the others. He recounted how, in the midst of having some doubts, he found some “secret information” online (and we all know that everything we see online is true!) that compelled him to the conclusion that God was make-believe, Jesus never existed, and all of Christianity was just an elaborate scam.

Now he seeks to proclaim the “illusion of Christian faith” – and acclaim the benefits of this “secret knowledge,” now revealed…

RH-EveTemptation2What makes me angry and frustrated is that this is nothing new. Right from the very beginning of all things, there was the accusation that God was “holding out on us” – that there was “truth” that God wanted to keep us from knowing (Genesis 3:1-5).

The attack upon God, and His trustworthiness, is the oldest trick in The Book.

Throughout human history, the same ploy is seen time and again. Even in the history of the people of God – the credibility of God has always been “the go-to play” in the devil’s “playbook.”

Even when Christ came and established the New Covenant.

A good portion of the New Testament was written to combat the teaching of a group of people called the “gnostics” (meaning: those “who know”). They were a group that came proclaiming “secret knowledge” – truth that God didn’t want us to know. Truth revealed by obtaining “hidden information” that made the claims of Christianity look like a religion for frauds and fools.

Sound familiar?

What was a battle then, is still the battle now. There is always someone who comes along to tell us that God is “holding out on us” – that He delights in keeping us in the dark. That true “enlightenment” is found in rejecting Christian values and teachings and embracing what God doesn’t want us to discover. All the cults are founded upon this dogma. All the “secret societies” are based upon this practicum. Modern humanism thrives on the perpetuation of this “truth.”

Jesus told us this would happen. He called the devil the “father of lies” and that lies were his native tongue (Jn. 8:44). And the Apostle Paul told us that “angels of light” would come and try and deceive God’s people (2Cor. 11:13-15). And the Apostle reminded us that the enemy of God thrives on “blinding the minds of the unbelieving.” (2Cor. 4:4)

2 Cor 4 4

Why is it easier to believe a lie than accept the words of God? That He Who created us, and loves us, and came to this earth to die for us, and Who seeks only to pour out His love in, and through, us – just wants us to know Him and love Him in return. I think maybe it’s easier to believe a lie because the message of the gospel is just too simple – perhaps, just too good to be true. It “sounds like” foolishness in the ears of those who would rather believe something else.

The truth is: God has displayed His “knowledge” openly – for all of us to see, and know, and experience. He is not holding out on us. He is calling us all to simply hold on to what He has told us is true.

Even if some do not…

Prayer Focus: God, let me trust in You completely… knowing that You have told me everything I need to know about life and godliness in You.

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As the Pendulum Swings

I apologize… this is not a devotional post. Just some thoughts on a topic that has grabbed my attention in the past few days…

stockley-verdict-lead

As you may have heard, St. Louis has become quite the hotbed of activity. Thousands of “protestors” have taken to the streets to show their displeasure with a court decision that exonerated a white policeman for killing a black man. As issues of race, inequality, and injustice continue to make their way to the forefront in the arena of social concerns, these “protests” have added an exclamation point to an already intense discussion.

I have purposely placed the words “protests” and “protesters” in quotation marks because that is how the media outlets have described and defined their activities. But that is not what I see. When I watch all the property destruction, stores looted, buildings burned, people injured, people threatened, and people fearing for their lives… I do not see protest, I see tantrum.

tantrum-in-grocery-storeI see the little child who throws himself on the grocery store floor because his mother won’t buy him his favorite sugary snack. I see people who have lost touch with the value of their cause and crossed over a line into entitlement. I see mob rule trying to assert their own will into the very heart of a culture. I see destruction and fear tarnishing legitimate concerns.

Any cause that loses balance in its expression weakens its own position – and, in fact, becomes a threat to that cause’s position. It’s as simple as people who are pushed, will naturally push back. So those who set out to push their cause into people’s faces will meet resistance – and that resistance self-defeats their cause.

That is the problem with all these “protests.” Legitimate issues are taken out of the spotlight, replaced with the vivid pictures of people who are more intent upon stirring up chaos and fear, than in addressing the problems.

A QuikTrip convenience store burns during a night of rioting in Ferguson, Missouri

Are there injustices in police activity? Sure. Are there some “bad” cops who want to abuse their authority? Certainly. Are there white people who hate black people? Undoubtedly. Should these facts concern all of us? Absolutely.

To protest injustice is a good thing. It is a right thing. But when the pendulum swings over into destruction and into activities that promote chaos and fear, it is no longer a good or right thing. That which is intended to throw light on the subject, becomes a purveyor of more darkness.

I contrast what I see in all these “protests” with what I saw in the aftermath of the hurricanes in Texas and Florida. There, you saw people of every race working together to help one another. You saw people who realized the value of being color-blind and setting aside all manners of personal “feelings” just to help one another in a common cause. You saw humanity at its best – and compassion for one another at its highest. You get a snapshot of what the God-imprint can do in all of us.

harvey help

I think the lesson to be learned, for us all, is that we cannot maginalize someone else to elevate the awareness of our own sense of maginalizaton. Ultimately, every cause has to appeal to the “better nature” of others to become an effective means of change. People need to see the need before the need can be met. And if all they see deepens their resolve to ignore the issue (or turn away in anger or disgust) we have done nothing more than to deepen the divide.

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Forgiving Ourselves; part 2

September 17

Yesterday, we talked about the significant challenge of forgiving ourselves for all our past failures and colossal mistakes. About how it is essential for each of us to find peace in the area of our regrettable personal history.

forgive yourself

Along with the strength and encouragement, we can draw from our brothers and sisters in Christ (when we truly open up our hearts to one another and carry each other’s burdens), there is another personal application that we need to take to heart. This is the focus of today’s post…

It is as simple as this: “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

When we really understand that “the old life is gone” we can truly embrace the fact that we are “a new person.” This means that everything that is connected with what we did, what we were, what we hated about ourselves… are all GONE! The work of Jesus to free us from our sins ALSO freed us from everything in our past.

grace and forgiveness

But that is not all… The work of Jesus to liberate us from our sins, and free us from the chains of our past, has an even greater component…

God makes us new. Did you notice the tenses… we are NOT becoming a new person, the Apostle declares authoritatively that anyone who belongs to Christ HAS BECOME a new person.

That means that today, this day, you are new. You are not what you were. You are not defined by your failures. You are not indelibly connected to your past. You are completely free. You are completely new. And each day you can live your life in the fullness of what Jesus has done for you.

Freedom-From-the-Past1

Think about what this means for us… We are not a work in progress. We are not awaiting some miraculous intervention of God to change us. We are not gradually becoming what He wants us to be – His work has already made us what He wants us to be.

Our whole job, as believers in Christ, is to apply Jesus’ work to our lives, each moment of our lives, by faith. It might seem strange. It may seem too good to be true. It may seem more like make-believe than reality. But this is the whole point of coming into relationship with the Almighty Creator of all that there is. He brings His quality of work into our lives – and He is a God of perfection. Everything He does for us is the best it could possibly be.

We just have to do the only thing that God requires of us… and that is to believe in Him (and His work) with our whole hearts.

believe

When God declares us new, we have no right to contradict Him. Our past has no bearing upon our life now. THAT is what God has declared.

And when our past tries to rear its ugly head, we just need to speak the truth of God over our lives: “’The old life is gone… the new life has begun’ in ME. I choose to live in the new.”

We are the living testimonies of the power of God’s grace… let’s make it a bold one!

Prayer Focus: God, open the eyes of my heart to truly understand that I AM NEW, because of all You have done for me. The old life is GONE… the new life has come!

Posted in Daily devotional, forgiveness, New creation, our identity in Christ, Peace in Christ, the new you, True Christianity | Tagged , , | Leave a comment