buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

The Underlying Issue

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about some of the deception that has crept into the church body. It generated a few comments on my Facebook page. I don’t claim to know all the answers to the questions that have been raised concerning church issues. It’s an imperfect world that is ruled by our sin nature.

We don’t like to talk much about our sin nature or our sins in general. I have things I deal with on a daily basis that I don’t really like talking (or write) about. It’s only by God’s grace that I survived my past and live to confess I am saved by the grace of God, not by my works or by my “good” nature. Nothing in me is worth saving, but Jesus sought me and caught me and transformed my thinking.

I couldn’t change my nature on my own. It goes against who I am as a human being. I have proclivities that are natural to me and my nature doesn’t want to change. Yet, I changed. Not because of who I am, but because of whose I am. Jesus bought me at a huge price. It was a very slow process to change the way I think and the way I act. It’s because of Jesus that I live differently today. I’m not perfect. I still fail to live as I should as His follower. When I wake up in the morning, I am given a new day. The old has passed away and a new day has dawned. I can start over with a clean slate. That’s God’s mercy at work.

We have a big problem in this world today. We are all sinful people. The things that hinder my relationship with Jesus are probably different from the ones that hinder you. But we all suffer from our sin nature. In God’s mercy, He sent Jesus – not to condemn the world, but to save us (John 3:16-17).

God could not and will not look upon sin. Sin was introduced to the perfect world and the world has been forever changed. We are condemned to live a life less than what God intended. Sin does that. God cannot overlook our sins. Our sin nature condemns us to live without a relationship with God. Today, the world is going further away from God. It’s like a vortex pulling us down into the abyss. But we don’t have to go as the world goes. Jesus breaks the pull of the abyss and sets us free. Jesus loved us enough to pull us out by His death and resurrection – death was defeated by the blood of Jesus!

If you remember from my previous post, my friend thought God changed with the times. I countered with I didn’t believe God changes with culture. First God is love. True – He is but He also does not love sin. He never has and He never will. Second, sin has always been sin. Sin never changes. Culture just changes what we call sin; it deceives us into thinking we are right when God says it’s wrong.

Jesus loved everyone He met. But He did not tolerate their sin. He told the adulteress woman, to go and sin no more. He told the rich young man to sell all his possessions and come follow me. After spending the day with Jesus, the tax collector recognized his sins and changed the way he conducted business. Jesus told the Pharisees to repent. He cried over Jerusalem because of their unbelief. Jesus grieved over those who were hard-hearted and would not repent.

Some of the folks listened to His teaching and chose to walk with Him; but many turned away because His teaching was hard to live out. His teaching goes against our nature. Jesus’ teaching still tells us to live differently. He calls us to repentance – to turn away from the life of sin and to walk with Him. When we walk with Him, we change. It’s a transforming life, a process to become more like Him.

God does not change and His love endures forever. That knowledge is the foundation of my hope. If He changed, how firm would be my foundation? He doesn’t change like shifting sand. We are told to build our lives upon a rock – one that is unmovable – a sure foundation.

Culture is constantly changing. What’s good today will be old and outdated tomorrow. I can’t live that way. I need something more secure. I have found the answer in Jesus. For this I am truly grateful. My sins of the past have been removed and I have been redeemed for the new life in Jesus. Everyone has the opportunity to follow Him, but not everyone will. My prayer is that you are walking with Him today. If not, then I hope you will be one of the few who find Him today and let Him transform you too.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:18-21

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Hard Truth

All day, I have been avoiding this post. When I woke up this morning, a conversation I had yesterday was on my mind. When I had my quiet time, the conversation was still there – even more so after praying about it. After my quiet time, I went to the gym. I came home for lunch; it was still there. After lunch, I worked out in the yard. The longer I put it off the more it burned in my heart. So I guess I need to convey what was said and what’s troubling me about it.

For the last few weeks (months?), I have been praying for opportunities to talk with a friend about her beliefs. I have had a couple of occasions where I got bits and pieces and the picture is getting a bit clearer. It is as I suspected which makes me pray even more so. However, what I didn’t really pray about was another friend’s beliefs. I thought I knew what she believed and was not as concerned about her.

A couple of weeks ago, the latter friend and I started a conversation about the decision handed down from the governing board of the United Methodist Church. She’s a member of the UMC. I thought I knew her position and didn’t want to debate her about the decision. The decision the board revealed at that time was the decision to stay with the traditional views of the church doctrine. She was upset with their decision. The conversation was interrupted and we never got back to it until yesterday.

She received an email from her local church concerning this traditional plan and their denouncement of the board’s decision. She wanted me to read the email, which I did. Then she wanted my opinion. I told her I disagreed with the principles they were laying out for their church to follow. She was floored by my views, but I knew she would not understand. She started questioning me about what I believed about the Bible. She said she believed that it was not to be taken literally. But the kicker for me was that she said that God had to change with culture. I was floored. Why would God change on the fickleness of human thinking? It made no sense to me.

I don’t know everything about the Bible; there is still room to grow in my knowledge. However, I feel confident that what I know to be true is true – God does not change. The Bible is God’s Word and I believe every word of it. I didn’t know how to respond any further to her. If we can’t agree on the foundation of the Bible, there wasn’t anything more I could say that would change her mind. The conversation has left me with feeling a bit perplexed.

Many years ago, my viewpoint was totally different. I was very liberal, just like my friend. But I was living a lifestyle that was against God’s teaching. I wanted my beliefs to line up with my thinking. I was discounting the verses that didn’t line up with my thinking. The Bible cannot be bent to please my ears. After I left that lifestyle and started listening to sound teaching and reading the Bible daily, I began to see how deceived I had been in those early years.

What I find so disconcerting right now is the spiritual battle being waged in the church body today. I think some of the funk that I have been in for the last few months is the darkness that is being revealed in the church body. I feel the oppression like a weight bearing down on my soul. I don’t know everything about spiritual battles, but I know enough to see how the war is being fought hard for the church to survive in America today.

The Scripture tells us Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Jesus said that the Way to heaven is narrow and few will find it (Matthew 7:13-14). One other Scripture comes to mind, Jesus said that the one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13). In the verse before this, He said sin will be rampant everywhere. How true it is today – even in the church. But to the ones who stand firm on His teachings will be saved – it’s His promise. The others? The future isn’t that promising.

I turn to Revelation and see the last church mentioned before the end of the church age – the church in Laodicea. The church is lukewarm – neither hot nor cold. The church thought they were rich; but by Jesus’ standards, they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:18). Jesus said to be earnest and repent. He stands at the door knocking, waiting on us to open the door and let Him in. In the church. In our hearts. When we give Him access, we change, He doesn’t.

The one who is victorious will have the right to sit with Jesus on His throne. Stand firm on God’s Word. Don’t let culture deceive you into thinking that God’s word is outdated. God’s Word stands forever. God does not change and He will not be mocked. I truly believe this. Do you?

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8

“The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8

Spring Forward

It’s a new season – so the calendar says. The clock was moved forward just a couple of weeks ago. The sun as moved into its new position. Birds are chirping away; flowers are blooming and the pollen is pooling at the edges of puddles. Yes, it’s spring. And maybe it’s a new season for me as well. At least, I hope so.

Ever since my Dad died last September, I have been in a funk. I can’t really say it’s a product of grief. I just have been out of sorts. Did it have anything to do with my Dad’s death? I don’t know. My grieving for him has been quite different from the way I grieved over my Mom’s passing. I don’t understand the difference. Maybe it was because Mom’s death was quite sudden (two months of sickness) versus Dad’s which was a slow descent to death’s door (over two or three years). Nevertheless, I am ready to move forward into a new season. I’m done with the funk!

A couple of months ago, the natural healthcare doctor I work for bought her own place; and we moved to the new space within a matter of days. It’s a very small practice with just three of us running the show. The doc, an office administrator and me. You could ask me what I do at the practice, and I might give you a bit of a pause before answering. I wear many hats there.

Ever since we moved, I have been the IT person, the phone person, the financial person, the maintenance person and even the cleaning person. I really enjoy the many hats. I never know what I will be called to do when I walk through the door. I actually like that kind of variety. Oh, the thing that I really get paid to do is be the assistant to the doctor. I work with her and her patients as we help them on their healing journey. That’s pretty cool! I feel like this is my calling and I am totally stoked that I get to do this and get paid for it!

But something’s missing. For the last few months, I just feel off. I have had my own healing journey over the last few years and I feel like that too is almost done. So what’s next? What am I prepared for in God’s perfect timing?

Waiting. It’s a hard thing to do. It feels like I have been waiting for something all my life. I am free to move forward in everything God calls me to. For eight years, I have been preparing for something else. I moved into the role at the doctor’s office three years ago. It’s been a constant learning process. We learn new things all the time. Researchers are discovering new things all the time. And we learn from their due diligence. The work environment is a learning environment. That too is a good thing. We need to stay hungry for new ideas and approaches to enrich our lives.

The patients who come through our doors are seeking answers. Sometimes it’s hard to help them find those answers when so many things are wrong in their approach to healing. Sometimes, it takes a gentle rebuke to get them to think differently and to move into a new lifestyle that will be conducive to healing.

Each individual comes in with different expectations. Some are expecting a miracle cure from the doctor that really doesn’t exist for what really ails them. And it’s sad to witness their lack of understanding and their lack of follow through. They usually just walk away.

But then there are others who come through the door and embrace change. They realize what they’ve done in the past hasn’t helped, so it’s time for a change. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. In order to have a different outcome, it means change. Change is a good thing. A new season is a good thing. But it comes with a cost.

Change. It means moving out of our comfort zones. It may mean moving to a new area. It may mean leaving something behind we love in order to embrace something new. But if God calls us to it, there will be something better with embracing the new.

We are called to listen and respond to what the Holy Spirit is nudging us to do. The nudge could change our whole world, but most likely it will change someone else’s. One thing we might need to change is our attitude about change. God may be calling us to something new. Are you prepared for it? I think I am. Let’s move forward in embracing the new season and see what God will do in us and through us while we jump into His will with joy!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.

Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

Then you will have healing for your body
and strength for your bones.

Proverbs 3:5-8 (NLT)

Worship Night Reflections

Last night, there was a gathering of the church for worship. It was a night of praise music, somber reflection and communion then celebration of what God has done for us. Whenever we take communion, we are told to examine ourselves before we receive the cup and the bread. It’s in the moments before receiving communion when we come clean with God. We confess our wrongdoing before Him. In those moments we are to repent of those sins that keep us from our full relationship with Him.

I confess to you today, I am a sinner. I fall short of God’s standards. I will never get it right on my own. I can’t be good enough to win God’s favor. It’s just not within me. My flesh wants what it wants. It’s only by the grace of God and His mercy every day that I can live in right standing with Him. It’s only through Jesus and His righteousness that gives me freedom in the knowledge that I am right with God. I have forsaken my desires for His. At least, that’s the goal. I don’t succeed all the time.

One of the big themes I hear quite often is repent. It’s what Jesus called all the religious leaders to do whenever they were in ear shot of Him. John the Baptist spoke of this as his calling was to clear the way for the Lord. Repent. It was the theme for Jesus’ day as it is for ours. But we have fallen away from that message.

As I consider the times we live in, I believe we are near the end of the church age. I believe the church will be removed soon. I don’t know if I will see it in my lifetime or not, but times are moving closer and closer to that day. Just as John‘s message was to clear the way for the Lord, I believe we are in need of that same message for the church to be ready for Jesus to return.

The church is always top priority when it comes to God’s judgment. The church is His light. He will always clean house with the church first before He judges the unbelievers. Jesus cleaned the temple courts twice to get rid of the idolatry infested within those holy walls. I see a cleansing happening today. We may not understand what’s really going on in the church world right now, but I do believe Jesus is cleaning house.

We’ve seen it in the news time and again about the Catholic priests and sexual immorality. Southern Baptists are having a time of it as well. Leaders are falling and losing their “lamp stands.” The Methodists are determining their future too. This is the time to repent and come clean. It’s what we’re called to do before it’s too late. Repent before the coming of the Lord.

I know it’s not a popular word. It’s never really spoken about these days. The fire and brimstone preaching is a thing of the past. Now it’s the feel good messages – everything will be alright. But it won’t be right unless we make changes to get right before God. By God’s grace and His mercy, we confess and repent – change our mind about our sins. We agree with God on our sins – they are wrong and not the best way to live and keeps us from a full fellowship with Him.

God’s standards are our boundary lines. When we live in God’s boundaries, we have more freedom. Sin keeps us enslaved and in a debt we cannot remove unless we have the power of the blood of Jesus. It’s through Him we are given freedom. It’s by His blood we are cleansed. It’s by His body that was broken for us that we are given life everlasting. It’s His Spirit who seals us for that Day when He returns for us.

Following our flesh and our own desires is nothing in comparison to the life He gives to us. It’s the future life that is beyond words – beyond our imaginations. The flesh is nothing. Its temporary pleasures. What good is it to have the whole world and forfeit eternity? Why would we cling to this life of destruction when God gave us so much more? Because we don’t know what the future looks like walking in God’s way.

Where will He take us? What would He have us do? It might be uncomfortable. It might take us away from all that we know and love. Or it could be the best thing ever. It could be a life so full and overwhelming that we could actually regret not doing it sooner.

This is the time for examination before communion with Him. Jesus said to count the cost and then follow Him. To the churches He said, to those who have ears, let them hear.

Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:2-6

Trying Message for a Trying Time

Seven years ago when I started writing on this blog site, the world seemed less chaotic. I thought I would help encourage the Body of Christ along their journey by the things I learn along mine. It started out that way. But over the last year, things have spiraled into a downward trend in the world around me which has taken me off course. I have been more reflective on the things I see and hear than what God is doing in me or through me.

I have been fascinated by the events happening around the world which correspond to prophetic times written about in God’s Holy Word. I believe we are watching God at work setting things up for the end. I know. I have written about this often in the past year or so. It just amazes me more and more.

Two things come to mind that happened this past week. Two messages I heard from two speakers who spoke of different topics; but were connected in a way which I think need to be addressed as we consider the times we’re in.

The first speaker was Francis Chan who spoke at Liberty University Convocation this past week. He spoke about the Holy Spirit in the American Body of the Church. His message was on the Holy Spirit and the Church Body. His message was very convicting to me and here are a few points I took away from this message.

  1. We fail to realize the power of the Holy Spirit in our prayer life.
  2. We fail to recognize Almighty God in awe and reverence as the Body used to do.
  3. We have a lack of power in our prayers because we don’t come to God in reverence of our Holy and Awesome God.

We should be in awe that this Creator God – with one breath created everything – would have anything to do with us. We should be in awe that we could have a relationship with Him and we could come to Him in prayer.

So often, I come to God with a casualness that lacks respect. I start out with thanksgiving, but then jump into my list of needs or desires without fully devoting time to worship this awesome God. I forget that the words I say are being poured out on His altar. I envision the altar burning with fire. These few words poured out on the altar are burned up because they are frivolous and have no eternal worth. The smoke of the fire is supposed to be pleasing to Him. The incense of those prayers should fill the throne room.

The second message was from Jack Hibbs from Calvary Church at Chino Hills, California. Pastor Jack message was taken from 1 Peter 4: 1-6. Pastor Jack spoke about sin – in the Church. It too was convicting. Again, the messages were not the same, but they are related.

Our sin keeps us from the right relationship with God our Father. Yes, we have been forgiven for our sins – past, present and future. However, when we still sin, we have a broken fellowship with Him. We are supposed to confess our sins when we come to Him – first and foremost. He cannot look upon sin as it stands – it has to be confessed in order to have our fellowship restored.

When we sin, the Holy Spirit is grieved in us. He cannot work in us and through us when the relationship is broken. Sin keeps the Church from being effective. Too many pastors are succumbing to sins of the flesh. I heard from one speaker in a different interview about the Jezebel spirit taken root in this time. The Church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) had a problem with the Jezebel spirit which they did not expel from their midst. They tolerated her instead of casting her out. God admonished the Church at Thyatira with these words (Rev 2:21-23)

I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

The American Church Body has to find that spirit and cast it out. It is ruining our effectiveness. We have tolerated it too long. And we will suffer the consequences of our tolerance.

With all that being said, we live in a very trying time. The Church has much to consider in response to cultures actions. It’s not a time to draw back but a time to move forward into the fray and fight the good fight. This is our time. Yes, we will be hated by the world – Jesus was too. However, we are to be seen as loving and caring for our own as well as for those outside the Family – just like Jesus.

It’s a fine line to walk, but walk it we must. There’s no going back to the way it used to be. The Church of Acts shows us the way the Church is supposed to be. The Churches in Revelation are the Church as it has come to be throughout history. The times will grow darker still, but we have the light of life in us. We are His reflection. Let’s act like we know who God is and what He’s capable of through us.

First, we have to get right before God. Confess. Worship. Praise. Thanksgiving. And remember others before ourselves. That’s the focus of our prayer life. It’s not too late to turn the Church into the force God intended it to be – for the good of the world and to bring the Good News to a dark time.

Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God. 1 John 3:7-10 (NLT)

Five Hundred

Are you a numbers person? I am. When I hear numbers, I perk up – so to speak. It happened the other Sunday while I listened to my Pastor speak about getting our act together – well, he didn’t actually call the message that… but that’s the jest of this message series.

The number 500 came to my attention when Pastor Jimmy spoke about the last message Jesus gave to those gathered. The message was to go out and tell the Good News. Pastor Jimmy said the crowd hearing that message was less than the ones sitting in the warehouse that morning hearing Pastor Jimmy’s message.

Five hundred. That’s all it took to get the message to us today. Isn’t that amazing?

Five hundred men and women were called to tell the Good News to the ends of the earth. They heard the proclamation to go and tell in Jerusalem (city), in Judea and Samaria (region) and to the ends of the earth (world). But it took persecution to get the message to go beyond the borders of Jerusalem. When those believers felt the heat, they took off to parts unknown. But as they went, they told the stories of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Five hundred.

The small crowd of followers listened intently to the message that day. These were the ones who stayed when others had left because of Jesus’ hard teaching. Their eyes were focused on the Risen Lord. I can imagine them sitting with their gaze – eyes wide; ears attentive and tuned in to His voice. They would hang on His every word. After all, this One was dead then He was alive. Who wouldn’t believe after that? Well, besides the religious leaders.

The last thing Jesus said would be the thing that would be engraved on their hearts. “Write it down; we need to remember this – it’s important.” The Gospel writers did so we could be there with them to hear the message they heard. The message changed their lives. It could change ours too – if we listened and tuned in to His voice.

Five hundred.

Peter helped increase the number with his first message. The followers numbered three thousand five hundred on Pentecost. Jesus said those assembled would increase with the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come. And they did. The Holy Spirit came like a rushing wind. Tongues of fire lit something within them and they were never the same. Jesus said the assembly – Ecclesia (Greek) or Church (English) – would be built upon the foundation of Jesus’ message – His Truth – He is the Son of the Living God who died for our sins and was raised to life so that we could be in relationship with God the Father as was the Plan from the beginning.

This message was passed down from generation to generation. For centuries, it endured because of the testimony from those who had been changed by its message. Throughout the world and across generations, lives have been changed because of the first five hundred. The five hundred didn’t have an easy road to travel. They endured many hardships. Persecution kept them going. And the message spread because of it.

What would it take today to get us motivated to tell others about this Good News? The message hasn’t changed. The Holy Spirit is still at work today as He was when the Church was first formed. Jesus said the Church would never be destroyed. And it hasn’t been, although it’s not because of the enemy’s lack of trying. One day, the Church will be snatched away and the world will fall into a great darkness.

The only thing keeping the darkness at bay is the power of the Holy Spirit working through His Church. It may not be apparent today in the US as it was in the past, but the Church is still a guiding force by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is still looking for those willing to risk it all, just as the first five hundred did for the message of Christ. The first five hundred experienced persecution for the Church to grow.

Today, the Church is growing in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, they experience great persecution as well. The decline of the church in the US may be caused by our “freedoms” and lack of persecution. What’s it going to take to wake up the church in the US today? Is it going to take persecution in the US to bring about a renewed interest in this old message? Will the church dwindle down to 500 faithful believers who will risk it all for the sake of the Good News? Time will tell… the church is still here – are we awake?

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:8-10 (NLT)

God is Good Like That

Eight years ago this weekend, I made the decision to quit my full-time job. It was a hard decision, but I did it not knowing how it would all turn out. I just knew it would turn out okay. I thought God was directing me to something new. I thought my health coaching career would take off. But it never turns out exactly as expected, right? Since I quit my full-time job, writing has been my thing.

Seven years ago this month, I started writing this blog. Hundreds of posts have been published. Writing has been a way for me to process what God is doing in me, around me and through me. I published two books during this time as well. Not sure if there will be another book in the future, but right now, it’s not happening. Who knows what the future will hold?

These last eight years have been a blessing, but it’s also been stressful. I have used all the money I saved while working in corporate America for twenty-five years. Three and a half years ago, I started working a part-time job in the natural health world that I truly love, but it doesn’t pay much. The financial stress hasn’t eased much. However, God has used these last eight years to teach me about trusting Him. I never know from one year to the next how I will manage to meet all the bills from month to month, but somehow God provides just enough to get by. God is good like that.

My corporate job was a financial budget analyst. Finance is one of my strengths but also one of my weaknesses. It has been a major stumbling block at times. I can worry about finances when things are looking a little grim. Sometimes, I believe I have provided for myself when things are going well. My security can be found in my savings account or my stock portfolio instead of my true security in Him. When it is all stripped away, I can rest assured in the fact that God is my rock and my refuge. I can trust in Him alone.

It’s taken all these years to believe it in my heart because I have trusted in Him to see me through the lean years. God provided the means in the “fat” years so that I could be sustained in the early part of the lean years. He prepared me for these lean years. I didn’t know it at the time, but God was working out a plan that I didn’t know I was following. God is good like that.

Throughout the Bible, we see God take people through some stuff in order to be useful to Him in the future. Joseph comes to mind. Joseph had a dream that eventually came true. But the years from seventeen to thirty were difficult for him. Abused by his brothers, sold into slavery, sent to prison; but it was nothing like the dream. Yet, God was working the plan to make the dream come true.

Moses too had a bright future. It would take eighty years for the plan to unfold for him. He must have needed more time to “season” than Joseph. Yet God was working His plan in Moses’ life. At eighty years old, walking in the desert one day – God calls him into his purpose. “Go and set my people free.” Joseph saw this day before his death. Joseph instructed his people to take his bones with them when they left Egypt (Genesis 50:25) because God will come to their aid. And just as Joseph predicted, 430 years later, God sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt with Joseph’s bones in his possession (Exodus 13:19).

God may also have a hard place for us to endure for a time to season us for His purpose. We may not understand it at the time, but it’s a time of patient endurance that will bring us the greatest blessing if we just hold on to the hope we possess in Christ Jesus. Jesus said He would complete the work He started in us so hold on for that day. I am still holding on. I am still waiting for the dream to come true (hopefully it won’t take another twenty years to see it happen). How about you?

God said He would do it – trust Him. He is faithful and true. His Word shows us in the smallest of details, His plan is still unfolding and we’re a part of it. We just need to let God work it all together for our good and for His glory because He will do what He said He would do. God is good like that.

My prayers for you are full of praise to God as I give him thanks for you with great joy! I’m so grateful for our union and our enduring partnership that began the first time I presented to you the gospel. I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ! Philippians 1:3-6 (TPT)

New Year, Old Message

Since the New Year began ten days ago, I have been listening to many speakers talk about the future. Most spoke about how to stay focused on the goals and plans to have a better year. A few have talked about the prophetic times we are in right now. They are not foretelling when Jesus will return, but they are saying He is coming soon. The term “soon” is a relative term. It could mean today. It could mean ten years from now or one hundred.

For the last two thousand years, Jesus’ people have been waiting on His return for the church – His bride. But the signs of the times are showing His return is very soon. Yes, we have always had certain signs – turmoil in the world. Wars and rumors of wars. Earthquakes in various places. Famines and pestilence. The signs have always been there.

However, this time is different. The intensity is greater on the various attributes of the “labor pains” we are experiencing today. We see more damaging hurricanes than ever before. Earthquakes are in the 7.0 range more frequently than ever before. But the telling sign is Israel. The fig tree – Israel – is blooming. They are prospering in their land. They are relatively peaceful and safe in their land. Yes, they have enemies trying to destroy them. But most citizens of that country live in peace.

The Bible speaks of a time when Jerusalem will be a sore subject to most countries. In Zechariah 12:3, God said He will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all nations. Don’t we see that today? Has there been a time when more strife over Jerusalem than now when nations are moving their embassies to Israel’s capital? I think not. Israel has never had the prosperity as they do today. They have found natural gas and oil in their land in the last ten years. They are leaders in innovation. There has never been a time when other nations want what they have. And nations are foaming at the mouth to get Israel’s resources.

God said He would put a hook in the jaw to bring those northern nations to Israel’s door. Never has there been a time when Russia, Iran and Turkey have been in agreement as they are today. And they are poised on Israel’s northern border. They are just waiting for the time to invade. Russia needs the resources Israel has – gas and oil. Turkey wants the territory for their caliphate. Iran just wants Israel gone. Period. The Palestinians are just a thorn in Israel’s flesh – a distraction from Iran.

God is setting the stage. And there are a few players out-of-place. The US in the Middle East? Maybe we need to be out of the area in order for the play to begin. There might be more things to set in motion in the Middle East before Jesus’ return, but we are closer today than ever before. Everything is coming together just as the prophets from the Old Testament said it would.

Another sign of the times is the church today. False teachers are more common today. The church seeker movement has taken a step away from sound doctrine. Feel good messages are a sign of the times. Itching ears want to hear the good and not the wrath of God. The culture has moved into the church.

“Selfies” are still another example of the times we live in. Delusion is running rampant. Choosing a baby’s gender instead of biology dictating gender? Crazy. Gender is fluid? What? I am sure it has been like this at other points in history. Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind. The time before the flood has been mentioned in the Bible as well. “As it was in the days of Noah so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37 and Luke 17:26). The door closed on all those outside – only eight were saved.

2019 could be the year when we see Jesus’ return. But I’m not writing about that. This is a time when we should be filled with urgency. If 2019 is the time – and I’m not saying it is – then we should be preaching the Gospel message to all who need to hear. John the Baptist was the voice in the desert to clear the way for the Lord. His message was “repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” The religious folks in his day missed the signs of the times. I don’t know what type of signs was for the first coming of Jesus; but whatever they did have, they missed it.

One sign given was the star over Bethlehem. The wise men came from afar to worship the newborn king, but they didn’t know which direction to turn. They went to the leader of the area, Herod, to inquire about the location of the birth. The priests were summoned to give the answer. The wise men took off for Bethlehem without a single priest following them. The religious elite missed the sign. Shepherds heard the angels proclaiming the news and they went to see. But the religious ones were not present.

For followers of Jesus, we need to keep watch and be ready. The priests had thirty years to get ready for Jesus’ ministry and they didn’t. I don’t know how much longer we have, but the bridegroom is on His way – do we have enough “oil” in our lamps? The foolish ones didn’t have enough oil and were left outside the party (parable found in Matthew 25).

The message of John the Baptist needs to be preached again. The way needs to be made clear for the Kingdom of God is near. It begins with me repenting of my sins and being made clean. You too. Now is the time to get ready. Those who have ears let them hear.

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Luke 12:38-40

Anno Domini

Good riddance A.D. 2018. It’s been a tough year; well, at least since September. I was reminded last night, September was the beginning of the Hebrew year 5779. The teacher described this year as one of weariness. My Dad died soon after the Hebrew year started and it just seems to be more weariness heaped on than I can ever remember.

The teacher referenced Jeremy 12:5 “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” As I contemplated this passage, it reminded me of Jesus’ words of comfort from Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” And also Paul’s encouraging word found in Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

If this is the year where the enemy will try to wear us out, we have to find strength in our Lord Jesus Christ so that we do not give up in the fight. This is about a spiritual battle being fought over us. It plays out in the flesh, but we are truly in a battle for the spiritual health of our families, our communities, our nation and our world. We will be bombarded with everything the enemy can muster against us because time is growing short. If 2019 is just a continuing deluge of weariness, then we have to muster our strength and our courage from our leader – Jesus. We can’t handle it on our own. We need greater resources from our Lord in order to hold this ground.

My pastor’s Christmas message was to choose joy. Even if the world continues to spin out of control, choose joy. Even if the enemy hits us where it hurts most, choose joy. How can this be? Because of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has given us everything we need. Paul encouraged us in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God. My Pastor also reminded us that anything that comes to us has to go through our Father’s hands first. He has designed it or allowed it to happen for our good and His glory.

But how can the bad things in life become good? It’s one of His promises found in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I don’t know how bad things are worked to the good; however, I will believe His word is true. I have seen some bad things in my life turn to good, so I know His word is still relevant for this day.

I heard a message a couple of weeks ago from Passion City about loving enemies. I first thought I didn’t have any enemies, but Pastor Ben Stewart mentioned a few personal grievances that could be seen as our enemies. There was a name that came to mind as he listed the grievances against us. He also mentioned how we are to love those who are against us. First and foremost – pray for them. Pray for their welfare and ask God to help them in whatever area that is problematic for them.

Second, for our part, we are to mend any barrier that is our own fault in the matter. We are to live at peace with one another. If someone has offended us, we need to bring it before the Lord. If we are at fault, then the Lord will correct us and help us mend the situation. If it’s the other person’s fault, we take the first step to open the lines of communication. If they do not respond, that’s not our responsibility. We do what we’re called to do and let God do the rest.

We are told to remember His word and to encourage those on this path. This is the time to do it with greater fervor. Some of us have been on the path longer and we need to encourage those behind us. We are to stay true to His Word during this next year. We are to be His church – His people and to love well.

Choose joy. Choose to do good. Choose to love even if the situation is difficult. I know it’s going to be hard, but it’s who we are. We are still in the year of the Lord’s favor (until His return). Let God bless it according to His will and direct our steps to the most fruitful year yet. Happy New Year 2019 Anno Domini (Latin for in the year of the Lord)!

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

Puzzle Pieces

Since Thanksgiving, I have been working on a jigsaw puzzle. My sister started one when I went to visit for the holiday. So naturally when I got home, I had to start one of my own. I finished it last night. It took the longest time to see the picture come together, but the last thirty minutes all the pieces fell into place quickly. I could see the big picture by then and the crazy-looking pieces could be easily placed in the right holes quickly.

As I looked over the final picture, I realized God was doing the same thing in the world today. Since the beginning of time – let’s say the edge of the puzzle was put together. It was fairly easy in the beginning. God breathed and it was done. The edge of time was born. Then slowly, each piece was put in place around the outer edges. Throughout the centuries another part of the picture would be made clearer as each piece of the puzzle was put in place. Then Jesus Christ was born.

The puzzle piece of Jesus didn’t make sense to the religious folks. They failed to look at the big picture which was given on the “box top.” They didn’t see Jesus as the main theme of the picture. They thought they knew what the box top revealed only they didn’t actually look to see if it was true. Their thoughts didn’t match up with the true picture. They were also missing some of the pieces of the puzzle. They didn’t connect the right pieces in the right places.

In the first week of working my puzzle, I didn’t have a clue how all those pieces in the box were going to reveal the picture that was on the box top. I just trusted the box top was true and the pieces would come together eventually. Each piece was examined closely to see if it would match the hole. I looked for the distinct shape and color to match the picture that was forming slowly before my eyes.

God has given us the “box top” for to see the true picture. It’s God’s puzzle although it’s not a puzzle to Him. He had the picture in mind from the beginning. He just places the pieces at the right time in the right order. We just get to watch it take place over time. Sometimes we miss the event that places the piece on the table. It just looks strange to us. But God is faithful to reveal the big picture one piece at a time in His own way.

We celebrate Jesus’ birth next week. Jesus’ life was a major piece of the puzzle that helps us make sense of the big picture. For the last two thousand years, the puzzle is coming together. The pieces in the box are becoming less and the bigger picture is being revealed. We may think this world has gone crazy; but in reality, it’s just one more piece of the puzzle being put into place. The closer we get to the missing pieces being put in place, the quicker the puzzle will be complete and the picture will be revealed. It will happen just as the “box top” has shown us. One piece at a time.

There was a quote I read the other day by William Penn. “For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.” After losing my Dad this year, the quote resonated with me. Dad is not gone, but was turned over to eternity. We will all go from time to eternity. One day our individual puzzle will be complete. Every piece will be put in place and then it will all make sense. Of course, it will be hindsight that reveals God’s work on our puzzle – but it will make sense (hopefully).

Right now, it might be a jumbled mess with pieces still in the box and the picture on the table incomplete. But one day, a piece will fit into place that will bring a bit more revelation of what God is doing in our lives. We just have to trust His picture of us that He is putting together. It is always about our character – one piece at a time. It’s His purpose to get us to the place of completeness in Him. One piece at a time. Trust Him. It’s the only way to live in this jumbled mess when the pieces are still in the box and nothing makes sense.

God started time when He breathed the sun and moon into existence. There will be an end to time – when the last piece of the puzzle is put into place – when we will be turned over to eternity. One day, it will happen just as God revealed it. If we don’t see the complete picture yet, we need to look more closely at God’s Word. The Word is true. If you need proof, look to Jesus. Jesus was God’s biggest move of a puzzle piece put into place. Trust Him. In this time and through eternity. It’s all His. One piece at a time.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And his will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12 (ESV)

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