Jesus, in Matthew Chapter 16, when talking to the religious leaders, scolded them for not being able to discern the signs of the times. He told them, “you can predict the weather but you fail to discern the signs, you wicked and adulterous generation.” Essentially, Jesus was equating their ignorance of the signs to wickedness. Join us this coming Sunday as we embark on a new End Time Series called, “SIGNS.” Where we will provide real Biblical answers to current Global events. There has never been a time in history like the time we’re living in now. Prophecies have been fulfilled and are being fulfilled at an alarming rate, signaling the coming of the new age. Let us not be caught unawares for He comes as a thief in the night, but let us in eager anticipation, endowed with understanding, discernment and with hearts filled with hope await His Glorious return. See you soon!
I have often said, “it’s not about how you start but how you finish.” Have you ever decided to read a book, start a project, a new business or go on a diet? At that very moment we tend to find motivation, but just as quickly as we decide to embark on that journey – it dies. The diet fails, the business never gets off the ground, we don’t get past the second chapter of the book and our project is left incomplete. I heard a quote a while ago and it said, “Commitment is doing what you said you would do long after the emotion you said it in has left.” We are living in a time where loyalty and commitment are becoming a thing of the past. Not just loyalty to anything, but to the most important foundational principles of life. It’s difficult for me to hear Jesus say, “when I return shall I find faith left in the earth” (Luke 18:8). After 46 years of living, I have seen the de-evolution of committed, faithful and trustworthy people.
It wasn’t that long ago when a handshake meant something. People made agreements and a simple touch of the hands would solidify that commitment. Those were honorable times. We shared a mutual respect for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Today we see a dark contrast between those days and today. What’s happened? Why is there such a lack of faithfulness today in just about every sphere of society? I believe the reasons are multifaceted, but let me take the time to highlight just a few.
First, “God designed us to live through our heart and not our intellect.”The heart is governed by morals. There is one, and only one Supreme moral law giver. When you encounter that Supreme law giver and accept him, you also accept His nature, which is comprised of His moral code and value system. His nature is just and morally perfect. If we adhere to this codependent relationship with Him we take upon ourselves His nature and character, then whatever you believe in your heart, is what you become. It will drive your actions and reactions in life. If how you believe determines how you behave, then our actions can quickly tell on us. In other words, the depth of our relationship with God will extend into our daily living.
The apostle Paul was devoted to his Hebraic heritage and a belief system that even caused him to persecute the early Church until his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus in Acts 9. After this encounter his name was changed from Saul to Paul and his life was drastically altered into the image of his savior. The piercing of his heart with the Gospel transformed his life. In a letter he wrote recorded in Philippians 3, he is expressing the contrast between the two worlds he found himself in and in verses 3-4 he says, “I was circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”
But in verses 7-9 he said, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…” Paul’s encounter with the Christ radically changed the way he lived. When you truly encounter God and He begins a work in you the Kingdom will first be made evident in your decisions and your wants. Jesus supernaturally changes your want. Conversion first happens at the moral level. Your moral conduct is transformed. Being saved is not the same as conversion. Many people get saved because they want fire insurance. In essence they fear the prospect of Hell but when you are converted, Hell fears you.
Second, “At the Cross you surrender who you are, to who He is.”You make a decision to cease to exist. Your desires become His, your wants become His, your dreams become His. You die to yourself and you pick up the cause of the Cross and you follow him. The prodigal son was always a son, but he left saying, “give me” and he came back saying, “make me.” God is looking for a “make me” attitude. The world is teaming with people that are screaming to God, “GIVE ME!” God only responds to “make me.” The Pharisees said to Jesus, “give us a sign,” and he responded by saying, “a wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign but none will be given to them except that of Jonah. (Matt 12:38-39)
Thirdly, “Faith without works is dead.” The Apostle Paul once again brings these heart matters to the surface when he says in James 2:14-18, “My dear brothers and sisters, what good is it if someone claims to have faith but demonstrates no good works to prove it? How could this kind of faith save anyone?”For example, if a brother or sister in the faith is poorly clothed and hungry and you leave them saying, ‘Good-bye. I hope you stay warm and have plenty to eat,’ but you don’t provide them with a coat or even a cup of soup, what good is your faith? So then faith that doesn’t involve action is phony. But someone might object and say, ‘One person has faith and another person has works.’ Go ahead then and prove to me that you have faith without works and I will show you faith by my works as proof that I believe. You can believe all you want that there is one true God,that’s wonderful! But even the demons know this and tremble with fear before him,yet they’re unchanged—they remain demons.” The Apostle puts this subject to rest in this one paragraph. He is essentially saying that true conversion brings about behavioral changes that compel you to action. If God is love and if love dwells in an individual, it brings him to a place of submission to the work of Christ. He is a bond servant to the Lord. He claims God as his Lord and Savior. Lordship always precedes Savior in a truly converted saint.
The cross is not a comfort of life, it’s a new life. The alter is where God alters us. It is where your desires die and where His desires are awakened in you. Where something ugly dies and something beautiful is born. That’s the Gospel he answered to. In 2 Cor. 11 we know just how much suffering he went through, as recorded in versus 24-27, “Five times I’ve received thirty-nine lashes from the Jewish leaders.25 Three times I experienced being beaten with rods.Once they stoned me.Three times I’ve been shipwrecked;for an entire night and a day I was adrift in the open sea. 26 In my difficult travels I’ve faced many dangerous situations: perilous rivers, robbers, foreigners, and even my own people. I’ve survived deadly peril in the city, in the wilderness, with storms at sea, and with spies posing as believers. 27 I’ve toiled to the point of exhaustion and gone through many sleepless nights. I’ve frequently been deprived of food and water, left hungry and shivering out in the cold, lacking proper clothing”.
Paul who authored 13 books of the New Testament, many times behind bars and suffered beyond our ability to fully comprehend, finished strong. He writes in 2 Tim. 4:7-8, “7 I have fought an excellent fight. I have finished my full course and I’ve kept my heart full of faith. 8 There’s a crown of righteousness waiting in heaven for me, and I know that my Lord will reward me on his day of righteous judgment. And this crown is not only waiting for me, but for all who love and long for his unveiling.” I often meditate on the meaning of life and why we are here. We are here to serve God and serve one another. Many times it is easy to just quit and live for myself and my family, but that wouldn’t honor the one who gave us everything. You see, even God himself manifested His love for us through the act of sacrifice. “For God so loved the world that He gave.” (John 3:16) Love is action. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
So do not quit this journey of faith, stay in the race. Soon our heavenly Father will give us rest from our toil and we shall reign with Him throughout eternity. Stand therefore, be courageous, ever abounding in good works, loving your neighbor as yourself and never neglecting your first love. God bless!
It seems the longer I live, the more I discover that there are truly so many beautiful things in this world that provoke some of the deepest human emotions that are too difficult to articulate. The most priceless of such things, I believe, are not the things purchased with money or gained by conventional means, but those things that have been gifted to us by our heavenly father. Where do you find beauty in a world full of darkness? I think beauty is ever present, but not everybody sees it. For instance, I think the most beautiful sound is the boisterous laughter of a baby as he plays with his dad, or the explosive joyful tears of an orphaned child as they’re told that there is a family who wants to adopt, or seeing the miracle of a child being delivered out of the mother’s womb. Beautiful and priceless. I remember when my first child Mikayla was born. I sat there as time seemed to stand still, while I witnessed the literal birth of life. I was filled with awe and every type of emotion one could ever imagine rolled up in a short moment. As tears flooded my eyes I was overcome with joy at the wonder of creation by witnessing my wife giving birth to another human being, my daughter. One life becoming two. I remember driving home from the hospital thinking how weird it felt. Two people drove to the hospital but three separate people came back. A life that was inside a life was now on the outside. It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
I truly believe the most beautiful things on earth are those things that are birthed from a place of love and sacrifice. Yes, sacrifice…it’s funny isn’t it, how when we think about things that are beautiful, we don’t ever think about the word sacrifice; however, in all three examples I just mentioned, sacrifice is an inseparable component of each. Can one truly love without sacrifice? Take for instance the most well-known scripture, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” His love for us was demonstrated by His act of sacrifice. What did He sacrifice? His only begotten son to purchase you and I. If you’re a Christian, you’ve heard this many times before but I sincerely feel most of us fail to comprehend the depths of such a beautiful truth. You see, whatever we give our life to is what we value and whatever we value we love. You cannot love something you don’t give time to, at least not the way God intends for you to love. This can be applied to the relationship you have with your friends, your spouse, your mother or father, your children or most importantly, God. He loves us in ways so beautiful and so intense no amount of books, poetry or songs could ever convey how deep is that love.
But just as much as there are beautiful things on this side of eternity there are also constant reminders of the fallen natured world we live in. A world filled with hate, betrayal, pain, disillusionment, rejection, sickness and death. You don’t have to live long to be victimized by this fallen world. The world deforms us, but the Word reforms us. The Bible says in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”Did you catch that? Jesus knew that in a fallen world His children would go through many painful and agonizing stages of life, whether they were self-inflicted or not, but He also tells us that we could have peace, not in the absence of these trials or tribulations but in the very midst of them. I can tell you from experience, when things seem to come undone and you feel like you’re losing grip on life, it is very easy to slip into hopelessness. But we must remember that our salvation is Jesus. King David had some intensely difficult times in his life, but in Psalm 23:5-6 he said, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.” David reminded himself that although things were falling apart during that season of his life, God was able to give him peace in spite of his circumstance.
That promise was not only for David but for all of God’s children. The world is quickly turning into a very ugly place. The evolution of evil is taking full form and it is bringing with it immense suffering. The world is now teaming with selfish people and those who’s love has grown cold. But be not troubled, be not dismayed, be not discouraged, for we have already overcome. As the old saying goes, “this too shall pass.” For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin – Hebrews 4:15
So take courage son or daughter. And I pray as the day approaches, that we will hold firmly to the promises of God and be found worthy to be counted within the membership of Gods eternal family. Keeping our eyes on the beautiful gift that is Christ Jesus. Loving Him and loving others for Him, because he first loved us – living for Him and dying for Him, because He died for us and rose again for us. So go and find beauty in the simple things, not the worldly things. Remember, whatever you have lost, whatever you have suffered, know that God is working everything out for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Let us finish as the Apostle Paul finished. “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ…”Philippians 3:8