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Archive for the tag “The Gospel Message”

Time Will Tell

Over the last couple of days, I have been pondering a few things. I know, I ponder quite a bit. Every blog posting is attributable to my thought processes. However, God is stirring my heart for change. Change in me and change in this country. I heard about a mission trip to the green hills of Vermont that had me contemplating a move to those hills to help plant a church. Then I recognized my lack of ability to acclimate to cold weather and I thought better of it. But it still left me feeling a bit uneasy to leave that thought alone. After all, Vermont is the second most unchurched state of the union. There are a lot of lost souls in those beautiful hills.

I grew up in the south. I have lived in this state all my life. I have moved from one end to almost the other. Churches are on every corner in the city, with very few miles in between in the counties. Growing up, gathering on Sundays was just the norm. Sunday nights too. Even Wednesday nights, with our covered dish suppers that were a kid’s delight (after all, who could resist all those desserts!). It’s just what we did. Today is a different story. I think much of that is my generation’s fault.

We have a watered down Gospel. Much of us have decided we don’t need God. We’re doing fine on our own. We do the Sunday thing, because that’s what we do or not; depending on what else is going on. I think one of our problems is we didn’t see God working. We put God in the “out there” category. He just doesn’t get involved in our lives. We did the church thing because that’s what we were taught. But is that all we’re called to do? Just do the church thing a couple of times a week? Where’s the fire that the early church had?

Beth Moore wrote a blog posting this week called: “Is this it? Is this what Jesus meant?” (Check it out HERE.) Her words gave my heart a check. I want to see this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I want to experience God working through me. We are told that we would have more of that in the “last days.” Where is it in America? Why are we not experiencing an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on this American soil? Are we washed up – so far gone that we just can’t muster enough gumption to do what we’re called to do as Jesus’ body? Where’s the fire? Aren’t we supposed to experience these things like before? Are the kids in Vermont just going to be lost forever?

Anne Graham Lotz also had a blog posting concerning this American Eclipse that is about to occur August 21 (check it out HERE.) God said in the beginning that He put the sun, moon and stars in the sky as a sign and to mark the seasons/festivals (Genesis 1:14). I have heard that God uses the sun as a sign for Gentile nations and the moon as a sign for the Jewish nation. So, if this is a sign for us in America, what is it about? Here are a few interesting facts that I have learned over the last couple of days.

It starts on the west coast at the exact minute that the sun goes down in Israel – which is the start of the last month (Elul) of the Jewish year 5777 (considered the year of completion). Also, there will be another American eclipse seven years later in April 8, 2024; the first day of Nisan on the Jewish calendar. There is a point of intersection between the first and second eclipse path at the intersection of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. X marks the spot. Time will tell why this spot is marked.

There was a European total eclipse on August 21, 1914. Two months later with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand World War I began. The war ended on November 11, 1918 which was just a few months after the American solar eclipse on June 8. In 1918 was the great flu pandemic that killed more people than the Great War. The flu killed over 50 million people from 1918 to 1920. There were also sixteen earthquakes throughout the world that year that registered more than 7.0. There were thirty with a magnitude of 6.0 to 6.9. What does 2017 American Eclipse hold for us and the world? Time will tell.

God is gracious to us to warn us before events take place. Time will tell what this eclipse and the one to come will bring. But we are not to be a stiff-neck people who do not pay attention or heed the call to change. The church is called to repent. We cannot be the light and live like the devil. I think God is calling us to a new level of commitment or I should say back to the same level as in the days of old. Time will tell.

Are you crying out to God yet? Time may not be on our side. If the clock is ticking, let’s be faithful in this last hour. Let’s teach the children about this great God and our loving Savior. We may be forewarned, but we have to heed the warnings and do something now. God, give us the boldness to tell others Your Story to save lives for your glory.

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Acts 2:37-38,40

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Revival is Now!

I like to listen to prophecy experts. I’m not sure if they are prophets or just teachers who pay attention to what’s going on in the world. Either way, I find it very interesting. One of the things I hear from a variety of sources is a possibility of a great revival happening here in the US. There are many who believe Jesus will be returning for His church in the near future. There are many who think there will be a revival before that day of Jesus’ return. Someone mentioned that the revival will come as a result of this political craziness that we are experiencing. Many talk about martial law going into effect and there will be no “changing of the guard” for the presidential seat. Many visions have been seen revealing devastating earthquakes, tsunamis happening on both coasts, and even a great divide splitting the US at the Mississippi. Only God knows what’s really coming. I do believe judgment is coming one day.

People come back to church when their world has been shaken. But as it was with 9/11 with only a few weeks of returning, will it be a true revival or just a stepping back to family traditions? What will it take for a true revival?

Many times, Jesus spoke of persecution happening because of Him. In John 15, He said that if He was persecuted, then His disciples would be as well. As we have seen in the Book of Acts, the church body grew with persecution. Today, there are many who are being persecuted in different parts of the world. They ask us not to pray for the persecution to end, but for them to be bold and strengthened during persecution; to stand firm in their commitment to Jesus.

Recently, I read a couple of books concerning the persecution of the church. It’s difficult to read about what people have experienced, but what faith they exhibit in the face of persecution. As one who has never experienced such a trial, I cannot imagine how they endured it all. If persecution grows the church, then this could explain why the American branch of the church is showing signs of decline. Our population is increasing exponentially, but our churches are not seeing the same increase. In other parts of the world, the church is increasing even in the midst of great persecution. At the beginning of the church age, found in the Book of Acts – persecution brought the scattering of the church. As persecution continued throughout the next couple of centuries, the growth of the church exploded.

From 120 to 3000 to 5000, then persecution began. My pastor said recently that by the end of the first century there were approximately 25,000 believers. By the time that the Roman Empire “legalized” Christianity around the middle of the third century, 33 million were believed to have been Jesus followers.

So what would it take for us to have a revival today that would show this kind of increase? Do I dare say it? One of the speakers I listen to fairly regularly is a pastor in Hawaii. He gives a prophecy update every Sunday. This past Sunday, he spoke of a revival as well. He said on Sunday that we may have to face persecution like we’ve never experienced it here in the US. The revival may come not of the natural disasters or the man-made disaster from the political fallout; it may come at the expense of what we believe. Because of Jesus and His teaching, we may find ourselves in a position to either stand up for Him or deny Him.

At times, I have wondered if my faith is strong enough. Could I withstand persecution? Would I deny Christ as Peter did at his first persecution? Of course, that was before the Holy Spirit took hold of him and radically changed him. The Holy Spirit gave him such boldness that nothing deterred him from proclaiming the name of Jesus. That’s what the ones who are facing persecution are asking for today. Boldness. Maybe that’s what we all need to be asking for regardless if we are under persecution or trying to reach our friends and neighbors.

Suffering for the sake of the message of Jesus is considered a joy to those who experience it. Suffering helps us identify with Christ. He suffered for us. Jesus said the greatest gift of friendship is dying for one’s friends. If we consider ourselves a friend of Jesus, then we should be willing to die for Him – physically as well as just die to ourselves; losing those things that we hold on to that have no eternal value. So whatever happens in the future, my revival begins now. It starts with me ready to face whatever is in store, with boldness and with the strength God gives me through the Holy Spirit living in me. My revival is now – how about yours? Are you ready?

“I’ve told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I’ve told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them.” John 16:1-4 (MSG)

The Message of Hope

On Sunday, we had a guest speaker deliver a message about hope. He is a person on a life-long mission to deliver hope to the world. He has visited many countries around the world and has many stories to tell of the adventure of delivering hope to the hopeless. He wrote a book which was sold on Sunday. But the book wasn’t to provide for his financial gain. Matter of fact, he was going to give the book away, but my pastor said the money would be donated to provide Bibles to a people in a closed nation. The opportunity has arisen to send one million Bibles to this closed nation, so we were tasked with filling one freight container filled with boxes of Bibles.

I am reminded every now and then how privilege we are in this country. I have grown up with a Bible in my hand. I was given my first copy as a baby at dedication Sunday. Throughout the years, I have owned many different translations. For much of my life, my Bible sat on my shelf unread. At first, it wasn’t very easy to understand. There were too many “thees” and “thous” and such. Secondly, it made no sense to me.

There were many things that just seemed wrong – all the people who were wiped out so that Israel could have their Promised Land. The teachings too seemed wrong for this day and time. A woman’s role is taught to be submissive – I grew up with “woman power” and burning bras – being empowered to do anything we set our mind to. It just seemed wrong. However, what was wrong was my reasoning. I viewed the Word through my “worldly” perspective and not through God’s eyes. God actually elevated women from a man’s property to being man’s helper. God used women throughout history just as He did with men. And we’re all equal in God’s eyes.

The things that I questioned in the past were by my own standards – what I thought was right by my own reasoning. But that’s not the right interpretation. God’s Word is God’s word. It is right in all circumstances; for the past, the present and the future. It never changes, and it stands forever. Sure, it was writing in a time when things were vastly different from today. But its life-giving message stands forever.

Written over a period of 1600 years by many different writers but it is the same message throughout. It is the story of God’s pursuit of man and His extent to redeem mankind from the eternal destiny apart from Him. We all stand condemn until a Savior has risen to redeem us to eternal glory with God in heaven. In God’s eyes, we are the same – lost until we find redemption through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. It is the message of hope. God wants no one to die apart from Him. But many do – either because they have never heard this word of hope or they have rejected it because of their wrong reasoning.

Since my time in the Word has grown deeper, there are many passages that stand out to me. One of those is the passage where Philip takes a trip down a desert road to find a eunuch from Ethiopia studying God’s Word (found in Acts 8). The Holy Spirit led Philip to a man who needed help to understand what he read. As Philip explained to the eunuch a message of hope through Jesus Christ, Philip essentially opened up God’s Word to a nation. Because all it takes is one person to change their perspective, and they will share the message with others. That’s the power of hope. It’s meant to be shared.

After Sunday, I realized what a difference we can make by giving God’s Word to someone who needs hope. It is a treasure. And it should be seen as such. I hope I will never take it for granted anymore. There are many pastors throughout the world who do not even have a full copy of the Word. There are stories of people passing around bits and pieces to share and memorize before passing it along to others. It amazes me the lengths to which many will go to obtain a copy. I have read story after story about people who were desperate for a copy of a Bible to receive it in unusual ways – all by the hand of God. God’s Word is a treasure we need to remember and appreciate, but most of all, we need to read it and share it. It is the message of hope for a hopeless world.

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) Romans 8:23-25 (NLT)

What’s in a Name?

How many times do we say “great” or “awesome” in any given day? “Awesome” used to roll off my tongue all the time, until I heard a comment from James MacDonald about it. A few years ago, he said that he would not use the word “awesome” unless he was talking about God or something related to Him. This past weekend, Pastor James spoke of the overuse of “great” as well. Both words used to denote a standard higher than average. They were used to describe something of significance, not average. But with overuse, the terms no longer hold much significance.

From the very beginning, Great and Awesome described our God. Back in the day (ancient days to as little as fifty years ago), God was feared. There was reverence in how we addressed Him. We understood the splendor and grandeur of our Great God. No one with a moral sense would ever take the Lord’s name in vain. Today, Jesus Christ has become a curse instead of a cry of adoration. We use the Lord’s name as a term of surprise (Oh my God! – now shortened to OMG!); or a term of exasperation (Oh Lord!). One day, every knee will bow at the name of Jesus – Lord of lords and King of kings. Do we get the significance of the greatness of His name?

This past Sunday, my pastor used the illustration of three chairs to show levels of commitment in following Jesus. One chair was still in the box. It represents one who does not have knowledge of Jesus, or has a rebellious heart toward Jesus. They are ones far from God. They are lost and have no hope.

The next chair is out of the box but not fully assembled. This chair represents those who know about Jesus, but they are not fully committed. These are the ones who are comfortable and have just enough of Jesus. They have one foot in church and one in the world. My pastor called them complacent and compromised. Revelation 3:16 calls them the “lukewarm” Christians – neither hot nor cold. Jesus was pretty harsh in His assessment of them and said He would “spit them out of His mouth” (or “vomit” as some have translated). Not a pretty picture of that type of relationship (“relationship” is loosely applied here).

The last chair is a fully assembled chair. It’s ready for use. You could trust this chair to hold your weight if you chose to sit in it. This represents the one fully committed – all in, as my pastor says – to a life devoted to following Jesus, no matter the cost. Their hearts are fully surrendered in all ways to follow Him.

Anne Graham Lotz said recently that the level of our commitment depends on our convictions. In this day and time, we suffer from a lack of conviction about who Jesus is and the message we are supposed to share. We have a “watered down” version of the Gospel message. There is no power behind the message. We have lost the “greatness” and the “awesomeness” of God.

God gave us ample evidence of His glory and majesty in His fingerprint of creation. I get a sense of wonder when I contemplate nature. Think about the earth. He holds it in the orbit that sustains life. It is tilted at just the right angle; it is placed at the right distance from the sun; it holds everything that we need in order to live and breathe. And He spoke it into existence!

What about our own body? Think about how the body works, without our conscious thought. The heart beats; the lungs expand to breath in the air we need; the digestion works (most of the time) to give us the nutrients to sustain us. And our feet are placed solidly on this earth to live a life worthy of our calling. And He formed us with His hands – in our mother’s womb. He knew us before He spoke the first word!

God placed the signs and wonders in the heavens to reflect His glory – to show the world He exists without uttering a word. Yet, He did not stay silent. He created and then engaged with us; not holding back His love for us. He gave voice to His Word so that we could hear and understand the Truth of who He is. That is pretty awesome!

He is the Maker of the Heavens. We have an awesome and great God. We need to discover Him again and be in awe of His glory and majesty. We need the respected “fear of the Lord” once again. Jesus Christ is the Name above all names. He is worthy of all our adoration. The Great I AM! The One who was, who is and who is to come! AWESOME!

But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 (NLT)

The Love of His Story

If you would have asked me a few years ago if I loved history, I would have looked at you as if you were crazy! But for the last few years, I have been fascinated by events of past and present. When I look at the past, I can see God’s hand moving things into place. I need a bit of help to see so I read all that I can read. History is a bit fickle though as it is determined by a point of view. Some of the time, the point of view is accurate enough to get a glimpse into the world at that time.

Jesus’ life is written down for us by four men who give us a slight variation in the details. Each man tells the story of Jesus from the point of view in which the writer can relate, and for the audience who will eventually read it. Matthew took his writings to the Jewish community. Mark did a quick overview of Jesus, hitting the high points. John was the longest living disciple and wrote his version near the end of his life. His view point took a higher view of Jesus. He saw Jesus as the Eternal One – from the beginning of time until the end of Jesus’ life to the eternal life to come. Luke on the other hand, was not a disciple. He was an investigator. He went to the ones who witnessed the events of Jesus’ life and reported on those things.

John should have been the one who told of the birth of Jesus. Ancient writings (or traditions) teach us that John took care of Mary until her death. He probably heard so many stories of Jesus’ birth, the family running from Herod, what they did, where they went, Jesus’ childhood; yet, John mentions none of these things. Luke, however, gives us the birth narrative. Luke gives us the stories Jesus taught; he gives us the healing encounters; everything that we could possibly want to know about the living Savior of the world.

I think we forget the Gospels are books written just a few years after Jesus’ life. These books could have easily been destroyed as nonsense by those who would have known the truth of these accounts. Yet, the Bible is still being validated each and every year. The Book still survives the test of time. There is no other book in history that has the number of manuscripts that validate it than this Good Book. Nothing can compare.

When I first started reading the Bible, I was fascinated by the stories. Originally, I thought this was the complete book of history. I thought it accounted for the Chinese, the Incas, the ancient societies that were talked about in my history classes. It wasn’t until I understood the Bible isn’t the Book of History, but the Book of His Story that things started to make sense. God’s handy work was evident by the events recorded in those ancient manuscripts.

When I consider the events of today, I imagine it’s a bit like those times in ancient culture. At the time of the writings, they probably didn’t understand the significance of the events. It’s with hindsight that gives the greatest view point. In a few years time, we will probably look back to 2015 as a pivotal year. The year gay marriage was upheld in the highest court. The year ISIS took over a vast land. The year Iran was allowed to maneuver their agenda to the signing table with the world watching. The year terror hit the west once again. On and on, we could mark the year of significance.

What fascinates me even more is the prophecies that are coming true as things align to bring events to the ultimate completion. I don’t know what the future holds for us in this next year. I suppose even more events will rock our world. There will be more natural disasters that will devastate us. There will be more death and destruction as Satan realizes his time is growing even shorter. He is becoming angrier with each passing year. But I don’t find any of this distressful. I have more hope than I have ever had. I find God working His plan exciting and hopeful; that people will see His glory and respond in greater ways. I see a revival of the Body of Christ. I see a vast army standing up in one accord – with one faith, one hope and one Head – Jesus Christ.

It’s going to get very real. It’s going to cycle around once again; for history to repeat itself. The Book of Acts will come back to life. The Body of Christ will once again learn how to make disciples and share the Good News to all who are ready to hear. I believe the Holy Spirit will be poured out in dry places, and the Body will have new life and new power. 2016 will be a year of significance like we’ve never seen before. Get ready; hold on for the ride of your life! Watch God work in amazing ways. And remember, we are here for such a time as this!

I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. Psalm 118:17

Not Ashamed

“They” say it is easier at this time of year to share the Gospel message. There are signs all around us to point others to the message of Jesus’ Good News. I had an occasion over the weekend to speak the truth to two women who came to my door. They were going to persuade me that the Bible was difficult to understand and hand me information about the Bible. I stopped their speech and told them I knew the truth of the Bible. However, I didn’t tell them the reason I knew the Truth. I didn’t tell them the Holy Spirit lives in me to help me understand the Bible. I thought of it after they were gone. I failed miserably in sharing the Good News. I was disappointed in my lack of courage to speak boldly to those two women. After the encounter, I prayed for someone else to be better about sharing the Good News with them.

I was reading 2 Timothy yesterday morning. It reminded me of my encounter over the weekend. Paul was always ready to share the Gospel with everyone he encountered. He had a passion to share, no matter the cost to him personally. Even in jail, he proclaimed the Good News to all in ear shot. As I read, I followed the Timothy passage with Acts 28:31: He (Paul) proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! Paul was never ashamed. Paul understood the responsibility of sharing the message.

We are all entrusted with the same message. We all have the responsibility to share with a desperate world. If this is the best time to share with ones who are more willingly to hear, then we need to be better at it. They say practice makes perfect. I want a “do over” with those women! I am not ashamed of the Gospel. I just need boldness to do it, like Paul.

When we receive the gift of salvation, we are not immediately taken to heaven. We are left here for a greater purpose. We are not here to keep the status quo but to advance the cause – take new ground from the enemy. We are in a battle that is furiously fought over our family and friends. We have a responsibility where we are – God planted us in this place and time with His full armor and His Spirit. We are told we are not to be afraid, but to be courageous.

I pray I will do better next time. I need to be working out of the Holy Spirit’s power. Normally, I don’t think of things very quickly. I need to learn to wait on the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I must be prepared to do battle. My quiet time needs to be intentionally minded with the things God wants and not my wants. I don’t need any more training. I don’t need to study anymore – although I will never stop reading God’s word. I need to be more in tuned with the Holy Spirit. That takes practice.

Book knowledge is good, but living it out is where God’s truth is magnified to a lost world. We are Jesus’ body. We are to represent Him in this world. I may have good qualities but that is nothing compared to the righteousness of Jesus Christ. When we, as His Body, represent Jesus well; it will change our world around us. This is nothing like an encounter with Jesus. There is no greater testimony than the one has been transformed by His grace and mercy.

James Robertson (Life Today) said on his Monday broadcast, we don’t have to see the signs and wonders God is presenting to us today. We know we are closer to the end than the beginning. Jesus is coming back one day. Like John the Baptizer before us, we are called to prepare the way. There isn’t much time remaining before all hell will literally be poured out. It’s time to take some more ground.

As Paul as my mentor, I am asking for his level of commitment to share the news of Jesus Christ. Today, the signs point to His first coming – the manger scenes, the gift giving and such. But as the signs continue to point to the second coming of Jesus Christ, I must be intentional about doing God’s work. The work is not finished and will not be done until we see Jesus face to face. Lord, help us! Holy Spirit, work boldly in us so that You can work gloriously through us! Amen.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:9-12

Adversity: The Endurance Trainer

There have been a couple of times in the last week where the devotional readings have been in 2 Corinthians 11. This chapter lists all the hardships that Paul has endured for the sake of the Gospel. There were shipwrecks, floggings, beaten with rods, a stoning incident, danger from his countrymen and from bandits; the list continues with all that he has endured (not to mention the prison time). When Paul started his walk with Jesus back on the Damascus road, did he understand what all he was going to have to endure? There is one little statement the Lord told Ananias when Ananias was given the task to open Paul’s eyes. Ananias was trying to point out to the Lord just who this Paul (or Saul at the time) was and the harm that had come to the brotherhood by his hand. The Lord sends Ananias with “Go!” Acts 9:16 the Lord says “I will show him (Saul/Paul) how much he must suffer for my name.” I wonder if we were to see how much we were going to suffer, would we still follow Jesus?

When I was growing up, I never heard that following Jesus was going to be hard. Sure, it was going to be hard to follow the rules. I tried and failed so many times. But I had no clue that when we take the steps of faith, there will be opposition meeting us head on. Adversity is our character builder. Having an easy life doesn’t give us much of a foundation in developing our faith muscles. Faith has to be built with hardships. If Paul did not go through all that he went through, would the letters he sent to the churches be in our Bibles today? If he didn’t spend time in the prisons, would he have written as many letters? Probably not, to both of those questions. He was a gifted man for sure. But his character was built on his hardships. He could impart wisdom like no one else to those he was encouraging along the way (and to us today!). He had been there, done that and lived to tell about it! Psalm 118:17 became his testimony: “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.”

On Paul’s way to Rome, the shipwreck that is recorded in Acts 27 tells of the fear that the men were experiencing in the storm. Fourteen days they endured the wind and the waves and all was hopeless; they feared death was coming. However, Paul gave the men encouragement. An angel had visited him and gave him a word that no one would be lost and Paul believed that word. Paul must get to his destination to stand trial before Caesar. God used Paul mightily to get the message to the world. It wasn’t easy, but Paul was faithful in doing all that God called him to. It started with a simple message to the one who would open Paul’s eyes – “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”

No matter what we are called to do, our faith will be tested. This is not an easy life. Adversity is the building blocks for our character. Our character is essential to sustain us for our future; the future that God has planned for us. So many times I don’t want to endure the trial – the adversity. I have wanted to run in the other direction. I want out of the situation. But this is God’s way of refining my character. I need the adversity to make me stronger – to have a greater testimony. A couple of years ago, I went on my first mission trip. Before I went, Scripture kept speaking to me about suffering. I thought the trip was going to harder than it was. I didn’t suffer at all. So I forgot the message that suffering was coming. What I now understand is that we all will suffer at some point in our lives. It helps identify with Jesus and the suffering He endured for us (but not to the same extent). But it also draws us to God and develops a deeper relationship with Jesus. As Paul ends his life, he tells Timothy in the second letter (4:7): “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” In the end, this is what we are all called to do. Keep the faith for it pleases God! Isn’t that our greatest accomplishment, to please God?!

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4 (NLT)

The Message

When disaster strikes and we have nothing left, who do we turn to? In the message on Sunday, my pastor said “Is Jesus enough?” What are we left with, when everything is gone? Pastor Andy Stanley said on Sunday, “Worry not.” Worry is about tomorrow. When we worry, we bring tomorrow’s trouble into today. Is Jesus enough for today? Is Jesus enough for tomorrow? Can we really trust Jesus to meet our needs? What if He doesn’t come through? What then? I have trusted Jesus as my Savior, but have I trusted Jesus as my Lord? That means giving Jesus every aspect of my life; things that I know I have no control over and the things that I think I have control over. That means He controls the day – where and when – how and why all belong to Him. Today is His.

Is Jesus enough? How do you actually know that Jesus is enough unless you have nothing but Him? If you have everything you need, do you still need Him? Jesus isn’t a magic genie waiting to fulfill our wishes. He is King of kings – He is Lord of lords. He is God who created the world and everything in it. He is the One who was before the world began. God separated the waters; gave boundaries to the seas. He placed each star in the heavens and calls them by name. He knows the beginning from the end – He has already seen each and every aspect of what we endure. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. He understands our frailties. With all of that knowledge of who Jesus is, it takes a real encounter with Jesus to actually believe what we know.

Back in the first century, people didn’t have the written Word – all they had were eye witnesses to the events that unfolded. The disciples followed Him daily. They witnessed the miracles (but it wasn’t enough); they heard His teachings (but some didn’t believe). They saw Jesus’ love to the outcasts – the sinners (some were outraged). Everything changed with the most important event: His death and resurrection. The ones who witnessed this big event spread the word. In order to have impact for the world, Jesus has to impact our own lives. We have to feel the nail prints for ourselves. We have to live our lives in a way that gives Jesus opportunity to become real to us. When we witness the resurrection power at work, everything changes.

Trust becomes essential to the message. When we encounter the risen Savior as Lord, we can trust that He loves us and has our best interest at heart. When we trust in Jesus as Lord, it means our lives will have impact. Trust that He knows what we need and when we need it. Believe in the One who sent Jesus for us. And learn not to worry – easier said than done, but essential in our testimony of God being bigger than our problems. Nothing is impossible for God. Jesus gives us His peace, and we can trust that in all things, we can have contentment because of Jesus. Jesus is enough. When we witness the resurrection power at work, we have an awesome testimony to share that will impact the world around us. Scripture tells us that not a detail will be missed – trust Him in every little thing.

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.

“This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.” John 6:35-40 (The Message)

In Those Days

These are the opening words to Luke 2 – the Christmas story. In those days, there was political unrest. God’s people were under oppression and felt hopelessness. They had been praying for a new king. There had been prophecies about a king from the line of David who would one day come again. For centuries, the people of God had been under the oppression of other governments, other kings. They were looking for the promised one. In the middle of one of the most powerful kingdoms ever established on the face of the earth, a little baby was born. In the silence of that night, a baby’s life would change everything. A star was born that would guide travelers to the place where they could worship the newborn King. There had been silence for the last four hundred years. God had not spoken. God seemed to be absence from the scene, yet God was working in the powerful kingdom to build roads, to build the infrastructure that would support the message traveling beyond the borders of Israel.

Most of God’s people were looking in the wrong place for salvation. Most of God’s people didn’t have a real clue about God’s plan of redemption. Oh sure, they had prophecies; they had the holy word of the God from their Holy Scripture. But most didn’t understand it. I dare say that the high priest didn’t have a clue much less the average person on the dusty streets of Jerusalem. God had a plan. And they failed to see what God was doing in their midst. We, on the other side of the story, can only shake our heads and wonder why didn’t they understand? Yet, the generations that will come after our generation may actually say the same thing of us. Why didn’t we interpret the signs of God that He is obviously demonstrating to us? He is at work but do we actually see?

The next thing in God’s redemption plan is for Jesus to return. I don’t know God’s timetable – His ways and time is not our own. God has been doing some amazing work to set the stage for the next act. The major thing that has really occurred in the last two thousand years (in my opinion) was the translation of the Bible into a common language. It seems since the day of the translation, men and women have understood and acted upon the Word in greater ways than in the previous thousand or so years since the church was established. Many died for the translation to occur. The religious rulers didn’t want the common man to understand it. They were afraid that their power would diminish and give the power to those who would be faithful with it.

When the Bible was translated, everything changed. People finally read the Word for themselves and were changed by it. They had a new heart and a new spirit. Innovations have further moved the Gospel to mankind. The stage is being set in our own time. Are we paying attention to all that is occurring? We turn a blind eye to the injustices. If you are reading this blog posting then you probably have more than one Bible in your house. We read it but do we take it to heart? Does it change us? The Day of Jesus will come sooner than we think. The Bible teaches that we are supposed to pay attention to the signs and wonders that are occurring. God’s Plan is going to be fulfilled. In these days, we have a responsibility to tell the story of the Glory that came to earth in the form of a baby to redeem those who are far from God. It’s the part we are to play in the Plan. How will they hear if we don’t tell them? How will lives change and hope restored if they don’t know there is One who came to heal them? We have a great treasure in the Word. It’s our responsibility to know what is in it and share what we know. It is also our privilege and joy.

I hope in the future when we look back “in those days” we will see such an overwhelming response to the Gospel it can only be explained because the Glory was revealed in those days!

God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name. Romans 1:2-5 (NLT)

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