What Do I Really Believe?

I’ve been captivated by the Live Dead missionaries’ way of thinking.  I suspect it is because, from my perspective, their thinking is most like the mindset the early disciples and believers espoused.  When prophets repeatedly told Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, …in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me (Acts 20:23, ESV), with deep felt conviction he said, …I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24, ESV).

The only way Paul could say that with such conviction was because he actually believed what he had been teaching and preaching; living it out by taking serious risks on a daily basis.  By the same token, the only way our Live Dead Missionaries can take the risks to go into countries that threaten the lives of missionaries in order to reach the unreached people groups is because they actually believe what they say they believe. 

Perhaps the reason such a perspective of life is so captivating is because 1) intuitively we know that is how Jesus lived; and 2) it is so contrary to how we normally live out our daily lives here in the USA.  Instead, we are fearful and anxious about many things.  We lean more on our own logic and emotion in making daily decisions in life, and we are more obsessed with living than dying and going to be with our Lord.  There must be a doctrinal disconnect from our default thinking therefore in the choices we make.  Whatever the driving factors have been that have led to our current mindset, our lifestyle and cultural thinking are dramatically different from that of our Lord as well as the early church believers. 

Perhaps it would be healthy for us to commit to making notes as we read the Bible, especially the New Testament, listing the variety of choices the early believers made and beside each one write down what you think may have driven those people to make such a choice.  Ex. When the early believers were persecuted, they suddenly quit their jobs; left their homes, family and friends; and scattered to other parts of the world with hardly more than the clothes on their backs.  They didn’t have a job or even friends or family waiting for them to help them get settled and on their feet.  Nevertheless, they continued to tell those who would listen how Jesus changed their lives and thereby turned their world upside down.  Imagine what type of faith and level of love for God it would take to compel you to make such decisions. 

After you have listed a dozen or more examples in the Bible, make a list of the big choices you have made and how they have required divine faith.  Are the claims of what you say you believe about Christ, His ways and teachings, actually revealing the depth of faith the early believers lived out in their daily lives?  As for me, my faith and commitment to my Lord falls far short of that of the early believers. That makes something rise up within me to want to more diligently seek to have the same heart for Christ that Paul and the early church lived out.  Holy Spirit, please do whatever You need to do to reshape the passion in my innermost being to be like that of those through whom You forged the Church of Jesus Christ!  And, I ask that you help me to inspire and encourage more in Nebraska to do the same.

God Did What??

When you pray, what might be the concept of the God to whom you pray?  Is he an austere God, a Santa Claus type God who gives you good gifts, or a distant God who you are not sure even hears your prayer?  Or, is He a sovereign God who is not manipulated by the words, volume or posture you use when you pray? 

Who or what has shaped the image of God in your mind?  Was it what you read in a book or two or heard in a sermon or from a parent or friend?  Or, was it formed after reading not a verse in the Bible but the whole Bible?  Most often your understanding, and therefore expectations, were shaped by someone who modeled God in your life such as a Father or minister whom you highly revered.  Another way our concept of God may be shaped is by our own imagination—perhaps a new and improved “Christ” relevant to our self-centered times.  However, Luke wrote, …we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man (Acts 17:29, ESV).

The Bible God cannot be shaped by one or two verses but by all that the Bible tells us about God and what He does.  We love the famous verse, And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28, NLT2).  Our first response is to interpret the word “good” to mean something in our current day that is pleasant, understandable, or that makes us look good.  But what is “good” may not always feel good at the moment.

When King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king of the 12 tribes of Israel.  Through some very interesting and insightful circumstances, 10 of the 12 tribes declared their independence splitting God’s chosen people.  Rehoboam could not allow God’s people to be divided, so he prepared his army to force them back under his rule.  About that time, God sent a prophet who said to Rehoboam, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not fight against your relatives, the Israelites. Go back home, for what has happened is my doing!’” So they obeyed the message of the LORD and went home, as the LORD had commanded (1 Kings 12:24, NLT2). What?!!  How can God do something so deplorable as that??  I highly suspect Rehoboam probably imagined such a thing would surely be contrary to His will.  He was noble enough to deny his logic and obey God!

When painful things come into our lives, based on our limited image of God we quickly say, “How could a good and loving God do that?” and then either get mad at Satan or at God for allowing it to happen.  Could there be another alternative?  Could it be the result of a foolish decision we made, truly a Satanic attack, or could it actually be God orchestrating it for “good” reasons He alone can understand at that moment in time?  How big is your God?  Is He big enough to have greater plans than we can imagine?  …plans that take us through Gethsemane and Calvary before we experience our Resurrection moment?  Indeed, we most certainly must try to rightly discern what may be behind our experiences.  However, we must never forget:  we will never be able to understand our God who created all that there is, loves us more than we can comprehend and has plans that are beyond our imagination.  He asks us to trust Him and His goodness—even when we don’t understand!!  Read God’s Word again to discover just how BIG the Bible God really is.  When He reveals His Greatness to you, it will comfort your heart and help you REST in Him.

Antichrist

A young minister recently said, “I know I may not be correct about this, but I’ve wondered at times if the anti-Christ is actually a person.”  He observed the term antichrist is not capitalized in the Bible and often referred to in pluralistic language such as 1 John 2:18 (ESV), Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.  He thought perhaps the antichrist may be those spiritually passively-resistant within a church who push back against missions, aggressive soul winning or a serious discipleship model that intentionally shapes the hearts of believers to come …to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ (Ephesians 4:13, NLT2).

Wow!  I had never even considered that line of thinking before!!  I was caught off-guard and virtually silenced with his thought process.  In the midst of that, although I haven’t been able to completely process that idea, I can say it keeps returning and challenging me to reflect on it!  It was true within each of the seven churches that had letters written to them in Revelation.  There were at least two types of believers within each church, overcomers and non-overcomers; the latter perhaps very similar to the passively-resistant within a church today.  I had never considered the potential influential power the current day non-overcomers within a church might have on the overcomers in what they believe about God and how they live out their faith in Him. 

I have observed their negative witness on unbelieving young people seeking authentic hope as evidenced in genuine life-change.  These seekers are looking for something our society cannot offer them, something they heard Jesus exhibited.  Therefore, they hardly look twice at what appears to be as spiritually impotent as a secular club might look.  I have also observed the most intense “fights” or resistance within churches is led by those content with talking the Bible but not seriously investing their time, energy, skill set or money in turning their part of the world upside down.  Unfortunately, I’ve observed this group of supposed mature church members literally sucked the spiritual passion out of a new believer over time. 

I’m not sure exactly what to make of that concept, but one thing I am sure of; I do not want to be one or among those who refuse to be “all in.”  I do not want to be among those who won’t take risks to obey the Spirit’s whispers and instead passively rely on their natural thinking or giftings or cultural methods more than on their passionate intimacy with God.  Nor do I want to be seduced into chasing rabbit trails that sound spiritual yet fail to produce the same spiritual heart Jesus reproduced in His disciples.

Instead I want to be among those whose faith in God forces them to take risks to accomplish the work of His kingdom based solely on the authentic leading of the Spirit and the working of His Spirit through them.  We have the very same Holy Spirit Jesus had to do what He did, so I believe the Spirit can do through us today the same work He did through Jesus’ humanity.  So, let’s rise up and do the supernatural, life-changing work Jesus did with His calling and anointing!    

Awe-inspiring Encounter

When going through my recent stint with kidney stones, I wanted to learn as much as I could through all the pain and humbling experiences.  One thing I was reminded of is my love, appreciation and respect for Connie, my amazing wife.  She certainly shines much brighter than I, and I’m very proud of her for doing so.  I have deeply loved her for decades, but it was in my pain I saw how awe-inspiring of a woman she has been in my life.  Interestingly, as I reflected on those things, I found my feelings of love for her rise to the surface and bubble over the edges of my thinking and feeling.  Just experiencing that brought me great pleasure and warmth within.

Something I then had read in my devotional time emerged through my foggy mind.  Our love and appreciation for friends and fellow workers in our life also have a way of losing their luster.  In fact, the old axiom can even be true that familiarity breeds contempt.  We’ve all watched a young couple fall in love and get married.  But then, instead of happily riding off into the sunset for the rest of their lives, the cares and disappointments of life began to cloud the romantic stars that once sparkled in their eyes.  These stars disappeared as their partner began to fail to meet their suitcase full of unspoken, subconscious expectations.  Some go so far as to become embittered and end their relationship in divorce.  Through counseling I’ve found it possible to lead them to again fix their eyes on the great features of their spouse.  When they did that, the debris would clear enough for the bright stars to return to their eyes—but for a few, lasting only several months because they would fall back to their old selfish ways of focusing more of their spouse’s faults than on their admirable qualities.

How might that be so different in our relationship with our God?  At our salvation we were dazzled by God’s love and goodness.  This lasted until we felt He stopped fulfilling our subconscious expectations of Him due to our convoluted thinking that God is always good based on our definition of that word.  It is like children whose parents give them virtually whatever they want until what they want could hurt them.  The parent’s word “no” then makes them angry!  Once God says “no” to us, it will be only a matter of time before our talk of loving God with all we are begins to die and fossilize just as it can happen in our marriage. 

Stretched by his pain, Job’s humanity became frustrated with God.  One of his better friends, Elihu, actually begins to challenge his thinking by saying, among many other things, Listen to this, O Job; Stand still and consider the wondrous [awe-inspiring] works of God Job 37:14 (NKJV).  God’s words to Job that followed Elihu’s words stunned Job.  Through this life-changing, eye-opening encounter he again saw the awesomeness of God and then very humbly said I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand Job 40:4 (NLT2).   

How long has it been since you stood still in your pain and taken time to absorb the awe-inspiring attributes of God?  The lack of such encounters in believers is evident in the waning fear of God and His authentic Holiness in their daily attitudes, words and choices.   

Have you become discouraged and subconsciously found yourself with disappointed expectation, comparing your experiences with others and maybe even trying to justify or rationalize why you “left your first love” for Him?  God’s solution for each of us in these times is the same as His answer to the Ephesian believers, Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches Revelation 2:5 (NLT2).  Holy Spirit, please position us to again Stand still and consider the wondrous [awe-inspiring] works of God.

Why Settle for Less?

Connie and I have been watching When Calls the Heart where it is evident a few in the community of Hope Valley do not share the same value for integrity the majority do.  No doubt that TV series reflects similar values of our world today, albeit I suspect the percentage in a typical community who value integrity has significantly shifted.  What is it that motivates a person to deceive, cheat, misrepresent themselves or leverage their position for personal gain rather than the good of others?  I’m sure the answer to that is complex, but fundamentally it seems the motivation is to somehow take shortcuts to achieve their dream.  That dream may simply be to be recognized as someone better, wealthier, more powerful or wiser than they really are.  Their shortcut may amount to living above their means or shaving or embellishing the numbers on an IRS return or a sales or business report.  Not too long ago it was reported that Wells Fargo had developed an elaborate scheme to make them look bigger and better than they really were.

In the Bible days, scales represented justice or honesty not just in business but in character and therefore speech and decisions.  The idea was that something was to be weighed in order to ascertain either its quantity or its value.  Scales or balances are the symbols of justice or equity as Solomon wrote, “The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights” (Prov. 11:1 NLT2).  Of course, God detests dishonest scales since He is Truth.  He therefore expects humans to be truthful in their words or business dealings.  That’s certainly correct, but is that the only reason?  I now realize there is even more to it than that.  I was intrigued when I connected that truth with Jesus’ words, But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:30 ESV).  Jesus reveals our anxiety is triggered by lustfully looking at things we want but do not have.  This leads us to use any form of dishonest scales as a shortcut to attain or obtain whatever we dream of having.

Jesus’ rationale was more profound than simple truth as crucial as it is.  Did you notice Jesus’ words, …will he [God] not much more [provide clothes]…, if we simply love and genuinely and patiently trust Him to provide what is best for us?  Why then should we fantasize about shortcuts we could leverage to gain a little more for ourselves?  God already has so much more He will give if we remain faithfully and fully committed to Him and don’t compromise!  The idea of using dishonest scales exposes far more about unbelief in our heart and how big/weak and loving/irrelevant the god is we envision in our heart. If we see Him as the Bible describes Him, we can be at perfect peace while someone else has more than we do whether that be in a checking account, fame, power or position in a larger church or business. 

It is no wonder why God hates dishonesty in whatever form it takes.  He sees it as finite man’s way of attempting to dismiss God’s desires to provide for His children.  What humanly contrived means or methods might we subconsciously default to or knowingly use in order to attain whatever we consider represents success when God doesn’t seem to be giving us what we want?  Do we seek better leadership skills, manipulation of whatever sort, faddish looks or technology in order to attract the attention of the world, gain greater political power, etc., etc.?  It is not that any of these are necessarily inherently wrong in themselves.  However, they become wrong when we invest more time and money strategizing or otherwise seeking them more than we do seeking to know, trust and love God more intimately.  Wow!  That is a very thought-provoking challenge.  In what ways have you and I been tempted to take shortcuts to achieve or obtain something either God knows would harm us rather than help us or something He plans to give us in His time and way? 

What is Your Default?

I was reading in 2 Chronicles 32 of when Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, surrounded Jerusalem with his army.  At that time Judah’s little army was a hopeless match for the world’s most powerful army.  I suspect that might be like the US Supreme Court ruling that your church must allow child molesters to oversee your children’s department. It would be an insane and unfair confrontation. 

Hezekiah, the king of Judah was a righteous, God-fearing king.  He had the Jews take some defensive measures, but every logical person knew the situation was hopeless.  In that context, Hezekiah told the people, With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah 2 Chronicles 32:8 (ESV).  That last sentence triggered the question in my mind, would church attendees take confidence if their church that had been allowed to deteriorate to the point they needed 1 million dollars to restore it, and their pastor stood up on Sunday and told them something like what Hezekiah told his people? 

Most likely people today would try to figure out a way to sell their building, borrow the money, or tear down what was too broken, so the restoration costs would not be so great—anything to save their church.  I must admit, that would be my initial default way of thinking. I may even feel sorry for the pastor being so naïve and think he was just trying to spiritualize an unsurmountable natural problem.  How about you? 

The reality is the default thinking of most of us is to look to what the Bible refers to as
the “arm of flesh” or human ingenuity to solve our problem where it is when we or someone we love, develops a sudden life-threatening illness or a financial crisis.  Keep in mind, there is a big difference between God using humans to solve problems when He genuinely guides them to do so and when a believer’s default thinking is to resort to human ingenuity without seeking God’s guidance.

I was sobered when I read what God said through the prophet Jeremiah, …Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD Jeremiah 17:5 (ESV).  How might we have inadvertently fallen into that very trap too.  We figure out creative ways to solve big or little problems or do what we think sounds spiritual.  We have even convinced ourselves we are doing so for the cause of Christ.  Unfortunately, we can’t see what we have done until over time the fruit of our labor begins to reveal it is not as sweet as we had hoped.  It’s even hard then to admit our misguided choice, so we double down and find another “arm of flesh” we believe will stabilize or hopefully restore whatever is showing signs of failure.  As the verse says, such default responses are subtle ways of turning away from the Lord!  I’m sobered and humbled because far more often than I would like to admit, I stand guilty of that type of thing. 

Oh God, forgive me and PLEASE bring me back to where I first trust in You and seek your wisdom when I face a Goliath in my life.  Do whatever needs to be done in me to reset my default to running to You and thereby find my confidence restored in hearing Your words to me!  If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor  Exodus 33:13 (NLT2).  Is that your prayer as you start a new year too? 

How Great is Your God?

I watched the Christmas animated movie, The Star, with my daughters and most of their children and grandchildren.  It was about a donkey who was supposed to carry Mary but did a very poor job of it because he thought so selfishly as many of us do.  The thought that struck me as I watched was how God used various common, fallen humans and even a misguided donkey in that episode of Jesus’ life.  I doubt that was the intended impression for the movie, but it did incite some very thought-provoking issues.

One question it raised for me was, “Do I believe God could use me to do what Mary, Joseph, Elijah, Paul, or even Joshua did?”  Somehow it seems we think a person must be exceptionally holy in some way in order for God to use them in a profoundly dynamic way.  After all, who am I to even think I could be a Moses or Peter?  Who am I to even imagine God might guide me or speak to me, much less that I should do something like a great Bible hero?”  Have thoughts of that nature ever crossed your mind?

But then I remember what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV) Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  My false humility messes with my trust in who God’s Word describes Him to be.  While I may feel like my humble thoughts honor the greatness of God, in reality they DISHONOR Him.  It is His greatness that is precisely what makes it possible for Him to choose anyone or anything He wants to use.  What He might choose to do through Mary, Joseph, Paul, me or you, has very little to do with who we are or what we are or are not naturally gifted to do.

To be very candid, after God has used me in the past, there have been times when I have had to talk myself down from thinking I was someone special.  Have you had to do something like that?  Since God can speak through Balaam’s donkey if He chooses, He can speak through me regardless of my slowness of speech or even if I momentarily had a silver tongue.  In fact, I’ve observed those with a silver tongue struggle more with erroneously thinking others should speak like they speak or be as culturally sensitive as they are. 

When Jesus asked if a father of a demon possessed child could believe, the father “cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).  I now see that to be a much healthier response than withdrawing in unbelief hiding behind false humility.   

Oh God, please keep reminding me that I am most effective when I am cognizant of the fact it is only YOUR power working in me, in spite of me, that is able to do any profoundly dynamic spiritual work.  Help me to relax when I’m positioned to speak on your behalf and get out of Your way so You can do whatever supernatural things that needs to be done.   Help me to believe You will use me to do things like Elisha, John, or any other Bible hero, not because I’m gifted, but because You are wanting to flow Your power through me for reasons known only to You.

Want to Hear from God?

Buying and selling stocks intrigues me but my naivety about the subject has kept me pretty much on the sidelines.  I don’t like to lose money!  It was in a moment of intrigue I remember trying to decide if I should buy a certain stock, and if so, should I buy it now.  I tried to ask God what I should do,and it was like my phone had died — He didn’t pick up the phone — not even a ringtone!  My guess is I wasn’t even asking the right questions of my God!   Has that kind of thing happened to you when you felt like you really needed to hear from God about something?  Asaph, one of the writers of the book of Psalms, wrote Psalm 83:1 (ESV), O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God!  Can you relate to that desperate cry to have God speak to you? 

Although primitive, what we used to call “Bible roulette” is still practiced by some today.  That is when you desperately want to hear from God, so you close your eyes, open your Bible and put your finger down somewhere on one of the pages.  You read the verse closest to your finger then try to figure out how that verse might be God’s answer to your prayer.  Can it work?  It is not impossible.  However, it is not the quality of communication that satisfies God’s heart or ours.

From my experience and study of scripture, I’ve found that only right perspective and close, daily relationship with God can provide the appropriate context for life-giving dialogue between us and Him.  As with most friendships, that level of exchange can occur anywhere, at any time, or while in any posture.  And, whatever He says will be suitable to our particular life and circumstance.  It will bond our life with His as well as our spiritual family. 

When Jesus was born, the Jews had not heard a word from the Lord for 400 years!!  Why?  Jesus made it quite clear that while they talked a great talk and had a lot of religious activity, their perspective of God and relationship with God was very different than His.  Is that so different from what is happening today? 

All too many today see their God as someone who doesn’t judge or allow us to suffer but rather is more like Santa Claus and their relationship with Him reflects that lack of respect.  That wasn’t Jesus’ perspective.

Peter points out not all suffering is the same.  It is the “why” part of suffering that changes it hue.  A mother about to have her baby even understands that difference.  Peter illustrates in 1 Peter 3:19 suffering motivated by one’s unwavering devotion to God is an indicator of authentic love for Him.  He went on to write 1 Peter 2:21, For to this [suffering] you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  Paul understood that suffering concept because he wrote, Philippians 3:10, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.  Any variation from that perspective of God will skew one’s relationship with God and thereby distance him/her from enjoying the communication with God and joy of Jesus had.

Authentic Christianity is all about dying to our sexual preferences or fantasies, our self-centered affluent desires, our independence and secret habits in order to love and serve a God in Whose presence we kneel in silent awe.  I am so humbled when I think of Christ who left what we dream of, to be born into poverty and be willing suffer so you and I can have life!  This is the level of devotion to which I too am called.  I am convinced that the more I embrace a heart like His, the more clearly and frequently I will hear His life-giving words.  Oh God, melt me and mold me to be more like you so I can have intimate communion with the Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.

Futile Defensiveness

Ouch!!  Although I don’t know that it showed, I recently felt a jab of pain when a person I was trying to help misunderstood what I was trying to say and responded with defensiveness.  We’ve all at least flinched when we felt misunderstood, falsely accused or treated with disrespect or even contempt haven’t we?  I wonder how God felt when He saw the choice Adam and Eve made in the garden to mistrust Him.  Their defensive response of blame exposed the fruit of their crucial choice.  Adam even bit the hand that fed him and blamed God for giving him Eve who he said led him to eat of the forbidden fruit!  Each of us to some extent have followed their model and indulged in one of its many expressions.

I’ve clearly seen the defensive response to guilt in my grandchildren, myself and most every adult I’ve encountered. When one of my grandchildren has broken something or has done something wrong, he or she has blamed his/her sibling and made up some excuse that has relieved his or her guilt.  As an adult I’ve felt jealous of others more gifted than I, and instead of accepting that God shaped me with different skillsets, I made up some reason why I was not as successful; I blamed my parents, my social class, where I was educated or the teachers/professors, etc.  Instead of owning the neglect or foolish mistakes I made, I even took the high road of the same defensiveness and essentially told myself I was more spiritual than those preforming better than me.  You know what I’m writing about because you’ve most likely done something similar as well.

Peter wrote to Christian slaves who apparently took the more “spiritual” spin on when they felt the pain of their master’s discipline.  Instead of owning what they failed to do on their job and the natural consequences for it, they made themselves feel better by believing God would bless them for having had to experience the pain.  Their pride prevented them from receiving God’s true blessing.  To that response Peter wrote, Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you (1 Peter 2:20 NLT2).

I’ve recently been humbled as I reflected on Jesus’ human response to the deep, deep pain He endured.  In His humanity He patiently endured suffering for only doing good!  How did He do that?   Paul explained His secret, …[He] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, (Philippians 2:7-9 ESV).  What a stunning contrast to Adam and Eve’s defensive response and my all too common response!!

How might things be different if when we find ourselves with a poor work ethic or neglecting efforts to build our skill set, etc.; we humble ourselves, own what we could do but haven’t been doing, then recalibrate our trust in our heavenly Father to sort out the details and honor Himself through our depraved humanity?  That is not to say there will not be times when the Holy Spirit, in contrast to our defensive ego, prompts us to stand tall as Jesus and speak righteously in love instead of anger when confronted by our accusers.  It seems we might be much better off in mental health and spiritual power if we rightly discerned the difference and remember James 4:6, …God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Day of His Coming

It seems in recent years birthdays, anniversaries and special holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter are coming before I am ready for them.  Connie just said when putting our fall decorations away and bringing out Christmas ones, “Didn’t I just get my fall décor out?”  If she wasn’t so good about making those seasonal transitions, I would not remember the next season is coming!  Even then, if Connie didn’t get me involved in bringing up the tables and chairs from the storeroom when the family comes over for dinner, I suspect that special day would still slip by me.  I guess age does that to a person.

I find Paul’s words very interesting in the context of being ready for the Lord’s return.  1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 (ESV), Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.  For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  He wasn’t too concerned about how the believers might be like the five virgins who knew but still weren’t prepared for the groom’s coming.  I can’t speak for others, but I suspect I’m not as fully aware as I would like to be.

It seems like Paul is revealing one of God’s ways when he wrote the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  For reasons fully known only to Him, it appears He likes to come to us when we don’t expect Him.  Perhaps He hopes to catch us doing good when we don’t think He is noticing.  Possibly He wants to see just how genuinely we believe He is alive, what He has said is true and/or if we have faith that He will show up.  This unique way of God also manifests itself in the way He comes to meet with us in our daily life.  Today while driving to the office, He just unexpectedly showed up while I was driving.  It was such a wonderful time with Him.

I wonder what it might take to alert us to His next visit with us personally or even in our worship services.  It might help me if He would do something like Connie does in changing the décor of the environment to alert me to be expecting His interaction with me.  Jesus did reference the signs of His coming, the décor, to be increased persecution, contempt for Christians, rampant sin, and a decreasing passion for God.  Yet, Amos 5:18 essentially says the day of the Lord will not look like what we expect.  Paul said it will be as unexpected as a thief invading your house at night.  The Jews missed Christ’s first coming because it didn’t happen as they expected.   Could that happen to us too?

I suspect God wants us to have such a love for Him that He, above absolutely everything or everyone else, is foremost in our mind.  When Connie is gone overnight, I may get busy with other things, but the moment the busy roar dulls down, my mind reverts to Connie and when she will be back home.  I don’t need any reminders!  My mind just naturally goes towards her and her return.  Could it be that is the type of love Jesus was talking about us having for Him when He quoted the Old Testament law as the greatest commandment? Mark 12:30 (ESV), And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  When we honestly love Him with that level of intensity, we will not only be looking for His return, we will be looking for any and every message that comes from Him while He is preparing for His return.