buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

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)

Many Rooms

One of my Mom’s favorite scriptures was John 14:1-3 – in my Father’s house are many rooms – He’s going to the Father’s house to prepare the rooms for His people. If He goes to prepare the rooms, He will come back. It was the assurance that Mom held onto until her last breath. I was reading the passage this morning in my quiet time and I recalled the past – my Mom, my Dad and my sisters and me – in our childhood home.

I remembered all the Christmases when we waited in anticipation to see what goodness we would receive because of our “goodness.” We would count down the days. The night before, it was a struggle to go to sleep. I was so hyped up; it took me forever to sleep. My parents waited patiently for sleep to claim me so the magic could begin. I was the youngest so that meant I was the first to bed, but bed didn’t always mean sleep until the lights were completely out.

As I read the Scripture this morning, I saw the words Jesus promised. Go to prepare the room so that He would return to receive us as His bride. It was the Jewish custom. The bridegroom would go prepare the place where he would take his bride to live. He went back to his father’s house and made room for his new bride. When the room was finished, the bridegroom went to get his bride. When the disciples heard the promise, they understood the meaning.

Sometimes when we hear the stories from the Bible, we lose the significance because we don’t know the traditions or the settings involved. They become words on a page instead of the true importance of the passage. I glance over many a story and miss the impact it should have, but this passage I finally get. Maybe because it was so significant for my Mom or maybe I just understand the context now. I do believe what Jesus promised – He’s coming back to get His bride, the church.

The bride always had to be ready to receive the bridegroom. She never knew when the room would be complete and he would make the journey. She eagerly anticipated that day when they would be together. It feels like the anticipation of a child waiting for Christmas to come. I don’t have that same anticipation for Christmas as I once did. The magic is gone. Things change. However, as a future bride, I should have that same anticipation for the coming of my bridegroom. Jesus is coming back one day. We just don’t know when.

As I contemplate this Christmas season, celebrating His first appearance, it reminds me to be like a small child in anticipation for the next appearance. He is preparing many rooms. I told my Mom when she was leaving this earthly home if she had any say so on my future room, please don’t suggest pink. I don’t know if she heard me or not, I guess I will find out when I get there.

My childhood home had three bed rooms. My Mom’s favorite color was pink – two of the bedrooms were pink and mine was green. I don’t remember requesting green, but I shared the room with one of my sisters, maybe it was her choice. I was just glad I didn’t have the pink room. It was truly PINK.

One Christmas morning, I was surprised to find a “banana” bike next to the Christmas tree. I was so excited to see it with the bright lights of the tree sparkling against the frame. To my dismay, when the light of day hit that frame, it was a pink bike. I guess girls’ bikes didn’t come in another color. It still was a bike though and I ignored the bright pink as much as I could. I rode that bike until I out grew it. I had many adventures on that bike, at times to my Mom’s dismay.

Even if my Mom didn’t understand my disdain for pink, Jesus knows how to prepare my room. Maybe I should be more concerned about the treasures I am sending rather than the color of the room. Jesus promised many things throughout His time on earth. The Old Testament foretold many times of Jesus’ first appearance – we celebrate it – but the Old Testament gives many more indications of His second coming.

If the first was fulfilled (and it was), how much more should we be anticipating the second? Like a child at Christmas – expecting, anticipating, eagerly, breathlessly – waiting for that day. The rooms are about complete. The timing is just a blink away. Do you anticipate it like you should? Is your room being prepared?

Believe the promise as a child of your good Father in heaven. Anticipate all He has prepared. Continue doing the good work until that Day. Keep looking up; the time is getting close!

“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. John 14:1-3

Just a Hair Cut

The other day, I had a haircut. Nothing unusual about having my hair cut; I do it every five weeks. However, I usually tell my stylist to continue doing the same thing every time. It’s been styled this way for a long time. But when I went in the other day, I wanted something different. I wanted some layers. She asked how many layers? “No idea, so do what you think is best” was my reply. She proceeded to cut. As we normally do, we chatted all the while she chopped away. I glanced at the mirror when she was done, thanked her, paid her and left for the gym.

After I got home and showered, I finally took a look at my new haircut. This may sound strange, but I finally looked like myself. I felt like myself. My new haircut was really the old me coming back to life. Strange, I know. A haircut is just a haircut. Right?

There are many things we use to cover ourselves besides clothes. I don’t think I was using my previous haircut to cover anything, but it’s just strange how different I felt with the new do. However, I do realize now that I had let others tell me how they thought I should wear my hair. Have it this length, no bangs, let it fall around my face, etc. I realized now, that’s not me. I need to be authentic to who I am – who God created me to be.

I know, it’s just hair. But it says a lot about my personality. I want to please others more than I want to please myself (or God). I let others tell me how to act, what to wear, how to walk. But that’s not me. It may have been for the best of intentions, but I have to be who God created me to be.

I have not given myself over to doing anything outside of God’s will. That’s really not who God created me to be. But I do want to be authentic to my true self. What’s that look like for me? I don’t know. I need to discover who I am without input from others – only God gets to be the voice defining me. God says quite a bit in His Word about our characters. But He gives us leeway on how that looks for us based on our gifts, talents, abilities, experiences, etc. What really matters is that we love God more than anything else and love others as much as we love ourselves – everything else is gray matter.

Danielle Strickland said recently “love brings us back to ourselves.” It’s a sobering, reclaiming, waking moment when God plants His love on us, like a kiss from heaven. He demonstrated His love for us by His Son Jesus. These are the weeks when we focus on Jesus’ birth. This is the time we can demonstrate more love for others to tell them this mysterious love that changes things.

Danielle mentioned in her talk about how the brain responds when we are in love. There are three areas that “light up” when we’re in love – pleasure (joy), risk and attachment. In Hebrews 12:12 it says it was for Jesus’ joy, He endured the cross for us. He loved us so much that He put everything on the line for us. God risked His Son for us. Jesus endured the shame for us. Our response to Him? We are to love Him like that.

For our greatest pleasure, we are to risk everything for Him. We are to abide in Him as Jesus abides in His Father. We are to be in love with Jesus. This type of love brings us back to ourselves – this love makes us who we are supposed to be. It’s an enveloping, mind-bending, arm-wrapping love that transcends understanding that brings us back to ourselves. It’s who we are meant to be and can change everything. It’s more than a haircut that can make us see ourselves differently. Love is the missing link to who we are to become. It’s the joy of our heart to risk it all for Jesus – is it true for you? How’s your love life?

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:10-12

Feeling Overwhelmed?

For the last few months, I have been struggling with writing. You may have noticed my lack of posting consistently over the last couple of months. I’m not sure what is stopping the words from flowing. God has been good to give me words to write for the last ten years – the newsletters and the blog postings. But for some reason, the words are not there or maybe my lack of desire to sit down and write is not there. Maybe it’s the season I’m in; things are a bit overwhelming – political chaos, disasters, and grief – are a bad combination for creativity.

Typically, I read quite a bit each day. From my quiet time to dinner time, I read – news articles, health articles, and of course God’s Word. It’s all important to stay connected with what’s going on around me. But sometimes (or most of the time), the news can be bad. It’s hard not to get sucked into the negativity. God’s word grounds me for the things I read going on in this world. Every disaster – flooding, fires, and earthquakes – just seems to get worse. But God’s word is constant. God’s word is life-giving. It’s thought provoking. It’s challenging. It’s informative about the world we currently live in.

There are times when I get overwhelmed with the chaos; however, the chaos never diminishes the peace that reigns in my heart. Peace is there no matter what is happening on the outside. Peace is just there filling every fiber of my being. Do you have that peace too – no matter what?

The Bible tells us we don’t fight flesh and blood – there is a spiritual enemy that is working against us. In every regard, he is throwing this world into chaos. It’s what he does – it’s who he is. Deceptive. Manipulative. Destructive. He challenges God’s plan by throwing in chaos. Scripture tells us we shouldn’t be surprised by the events that take place in our world today. God’s word foretold it all.

God’s plan will be successful, but the enemy always tries to stop it. His time is drawing to a close. We know this by God’s word – the birth pains of the end are growing closer together. Disasters are more frequent and intensity is ramping up. Historical flooding, historical fires and crazy times tell us things are coming to a crescendo.

One day, Jesus will return. We’ve heard this since Jesus left the first time. Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend this will all end one day. But it will. Maybe we’ll see it, or maybe we will all die before that Day. But we will all have to stand before Jesus one day. We are told to be ready – regardless. We are never promised another day. Accidents happen. Heart attacks are too common these days.

We never know how long we are given for this life. Scripture tells us to number our days – we need to make the most of what we’re given. We are told though, we have an eternal life. What we have here is very short. We should be striving for the eternal. God’s word tells us to store up the treasures in heaven. We are to make a difference in people’s lives – these things will be stored in heaven for us for our eternal home.

There has been a thought circulating in my mind for the last few months. (Not scriptural – just strange thoughts I have at times.) What if the things we do here for eternity purpose is our resource to live on there? If we do nothing here for eternity purpose, we will be just getting by in heaven (for eternity) – we will be in the poverty section of heaven (for eternity). Our street will be paved in silver instead of gold. I know, at least we’re in heaven, right? But we might miss out on some of the best adventures with God. It could be life-changing for us and for those we could impact. But if we miss it, what are we losing for eternity?

What we do matters. It’s not how we’re saved – we aren’t saved by works. We are saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ, His Son. But because we’re saved, we should want to do more (faith and works are woven together). You might have heard the term – hurt people hurt people. This concept should be true of us: saved people save people. This is what we’re called to do.

These times shouldn’t surprise us and it shouldn’t thwart the work that needs to be done. We might get overwhelmed for a minute, but it shouldn’t throw us into despair. It’s part of the plan. We need to understand: God is still on the throne and He is still our good, good Father. Let’s not get sucked into the chaos, but remember we are His hands and feet for such a time as this. He arranged it just for us. Time to be about the Father’s business – eternity is just around the corner.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 1 Peter 3:12-16

The Fig Tree

As my small group discussed the cursing of the Fig Tree found in Mark 11, I sat there wondering why Jesus would curse a tree and then tell His disciples to have faith when He was asked about it. Jesus hardly ever answered people in a direct way. His conversations never seem to flow as expected.

The Samaritan woman at the well comes to mind (story found in John 4). She asked Jesus about physical needs, but Jesus responded about spiritual needs. That was Jesus’ way – we look for physical fulfillment when Jesus looks for spiritual fulfillment. But the fig tree didn’t seem to be about anything spiritual, or was it?

The story of the fig tree starts with Jesus going to the fig tree to feed his hunger. Because the fig tree had leaves, the fruit was expected to be hanging from underneath, but the tree bore no fruit. Jesus said to the tree, “May no one eat fruit from you again.” Seems a bit harsh since just before Jesus cursed the tree, Mark wrote it was not the season for figs. Shouldn’t Jesus have expected to find no figs since it was not the season? Yet, He looked for figs.

The next day, the disciples passed the fig tree once again. However, this time the tree was withered from the roots. Peter remarked about the tree being withered and Jesus responded “Have faith in God.” Doesn’t His response seem a bit odd? That’s the thing that had me a bit stumped as I listened to the small group discussion. As I sat there, thoughts began to flow concerning this tree and the time this all took place – the last week of Jesus’ life.

Jesus’ ministry was coming to an end. The disciples were getting ready to embark on a new path – they didn’t know it yet, but a new age was about to begin with them. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree may have been the beginning of the end of Israel as they knew it. Israel had been back in the land for a few centuries by that time. They had been looking for their Messiah to come to save them from the physical presence of Rome. Jesus didn’t come as their physical savior, but as their spiritual Savoir. The leadership didn’t get the distinction.

John the Baptist came on the scene to open the way for Jesus – repent for the Kingdom of God is near.  He prepared the path for Jesus to walk. Jesus continued the message of repentance, but the leadership rejected His message and they did not repent. God gave Israel three years to hear the truth. Some responded to the message and recognized Jesus as the Messiah. They were the ones selected for the next season – the harvest season.

Throughout Scripture I am told, fig trees represented Israel. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree was ultimately cursing Israel for their lack of repentance. When Jesus left this earth, Israel was doomed to fall. Forty years later, Rome conquered Israel and dispersed most of the inhabitants to the rest of the world. The unfruitful season for Israel was complete and a new season dawned. The church age began – a season of great harvest.

It would begin with the followers of Jesus who brought forth the Word of Jesus throughout the world over the next two thousand years. The early Christian Jews were not part of the curse because they had faith in God as Jesus told them in Mark 11:22. They believed Jesus was who He said He was. Jesus spoke about having faith in God as they prayed and to do so in His name. Jesus told His followers do not doubt in your heart but believe what you say will happen, it will be done for you (my paraphrase of Mark 11:23 about telling the mountain to move). It was the main instruction for the church age to flourish.

If you read through Mark 13, you will see the signs of the end of the age – the end of the church (harvest) age. Jesus said the lesson of the fig tree was to watch for twigs to become tender and the leaves to come out then we will know when summer is near (Mark 13:28). Jesus said when these times begin, we are to know the end is near, right at the door (Mark 13:29).

Again, the fig tree representing Israel, we can gather from this passage: when Israel is once again established in their land and prospering, which they are today; the church age is almost done. There are more Jews today who are tender toward Jesus than ever before. The leaves of prosperity are abundant and before long, Israel will be the one bearing the fruit – the church will be gone and it will be left to Israel to bring home the final harvest. Jesus will return to Israel to receive the bounty.

As followers of Jesus, it is our responsibility to share what we know and tell others of the Good News. We have a Savior the world needs – they may think they have physical needs, but in reality we all have spiritual needs. If God can bring Israel back from the far corners of the world, then He can and will fulfill the rest of His plan. He will finish what He started – in each one of us and throughout the world. Believe and do not doubt – have faith in God – this is the lesson of the fig tree. He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.

“Be careful that you never allow your hearts to grow cold. Remain passionate and free from anxiety and the worries of this life. Then you will not be caught off guard by what happens. Don’t let me come and find you drunk or careless in living like everyone else. For that day will come as a shocking surprise to all, like a downpour that drenches everyone, catching many unaware and un-prepared. Keep a constant watch over your soul, and pray for the courage and grace to prevail over these things that are destined to occur and that you will stand before the presence of the Son of Man with a clear conscience.” Luke 21:34-36 (TPT)

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