The end of all things

Revelation 21:6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Do you ever fear the future?  Are you afraid to give any thought to what will happen to this world when the end comes?  Are you thinking right now as you read this that the end times already have come?

The Bible has a lot to say about how things end, some of them may seem a little unnerving because of their unfamiliar nature (flying creatures with eyes on their wings and whatnot), but there’s great news about it all.  God is the author of all things, from creation to His appointed end time.

There’s nothing to worry about!  Nothing ends apart from the way God wants it to come to completion.  None of it ought to scare us.  Even though there’s talk of earthquakes and the sky becoming dark, wars, and famines, we know who is in control of it all.  We know who wrote the ending before the beginning.

God is good, He is in control, He is perfect in all His ways.  He will bring all things to their necessary completion for your life, for my life, and for the world as we know it.  Keeping in mind the nature and character of the Father alleviates fear of the future.

Feed My Sheep

Commands of Jesus Series

John 21:15-16  After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love Me more than these? ” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “You know I love You.” “Then feed My lambs,” Jesus told him.

16  Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “You know I love You.” “Then take care of My sheep,” Jesus said.

John 10:9-11  Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.

10  The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.  11  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep.

Lost animals are very sad to see, most of the time in our society we see lost dogs instead of lost sheep but the look is the same, they have a desperate look and seem about ready to panic.

Jesus saw the crowds of people that were under the care of the religious leaders and he had to sympathize with the lost sheep of Israel, they were desperate for a shepherd. They didn’t have a leader that would tend to the flock and protect it, instead the religious leaders were exploiting the sheep and watching out for their own interest. (Matthew 9:36)

Just before Jesus left this world he told those of us that are leaders in the church to be his hands and feet while he is gone. The Great Shepherd took care of his sheep, he laid down his life for the sheep and then after he rose from the dead he told us to carry on his work and feed, guide and protect his sheep until he returns.

1 Peter 5:2  Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly–not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.

Jesus transferred the responsibility to us, I need to be found faithful to my duty and be a better shepherd than the ones that he found the last time he was here.

In Opposition

It’s hard at times, isn’t it? For as hard as one may try to live that good life, that example that is given in love and honesty, strengthened by the teachings of Christ, the truth is that it almost always seems as if someone somewhere is going to take exception to you. It’s one of those frustrating truths that sort of always seems to come out.

But then, can one really be that terribly surprised? If the perfect Son of God found Himself amidst the challenges of those who opposed Him (Matthew 22:15-22) despite all that He was and that He meant for humanity, suffering even unto His death, (Mark 14:53-65, Mark 15:21-41) then, in our own imperfect nature, what chance does any one of us have? If Christ Himself couldn’t please all of the people all of the time despite the fact that He had come to save all humanity, than how can we expect ourselves, in trying to live our lives, to find that we have any more of a chance?

No, the real challenge of Christian living, of being a disciple of Christ is not a question of if we meet opposition in our lives, it is not a question of whether or not we are challenged by those around us, if we are liked by those around us. The real question is a matter of how we meet them. It is a matter of how  we respond when it seems as if we are overwhelmed by the burdens of dealing with those who do not like us, who, for one reason or another, have taken exception to us.

The truth is that sometimes it is harder than others, sometimes it hits us harder than others. Sometimes it seems to pile up on us until finally we wonder exactly what is going on as we feel the pressure and the weight of it all. We don’t want it to affect us but, in a way, we just can’t seem to help it. After all, we are made to be social creatures, to exist with  companionship, whether it is marriage or relationships, friendships or acquaintanceships, with others. (Genesis 2:18)

God knows that we are going to have confrontations. Then again, it doesn’t take the Almighty, Omnipotent and Omnipresent sight of God to understand and to see that. Yet He also knows that, for as much as they may affect us, they aren’t what defines us. What defines us, what defines the love, the hope and the beauty of our souls is the way that we react to it. It is why, each and every step of the way, He seeks to show us the path towards righteousness, telling us that, though the race may be long, we need to run it with endurance, living with patience and love even towards those who have shown nothing but malice and hatred towards us. (Matthew 5:43-48)

You see, life is hardly going to be fair and there are times when it isn’t going to be right. It is during these moments when the only thing that can be done is that we live according to the people that God intended us to be, realizing that even though we are in this world we are not of it. (Romans 12:2) In other words, as the great Reformer Martin Luther once put it, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from making a nest in your hair.” For as negative as it may become, only you can let it have any power over you. Only you and you alone can let it wear you down or affect your mindset.

That doesn’t mean that you should not respond when you are attacked, or when the opposition you face comes to meet you head on. What it does mean is that the Disciple need to remember that whatever worries or stress it may cause, God is the one looking out for you, He is protecting you from trouble that it may be bring and, as such, it makes no sense in giving yourself grief over it. (Matthew 6:25-34) In the end it is going to be as it needs to be, for better or for worse, even as the Disciple comes to understand that the worst will always end up giving way to the better if they trust in the wondrous and divine nature of God’s grander design.

What opposition do you face in your daily walk? What challenges from others burden you? Lay them at Christ’s feet, go to God’s throne and kneel, praying that the hearts of those who may dislike you are changed, but also praying that your own heart is changed so that you are able to look past to the brighter future God has in store for you, realizing that sometimes life is just full of opposition but that is life and other people’s problem, not yours, even when they try to make it yours.

It is then that the peace that you seek will not be far behind as you focus yourself on the things you can change and trouble yourself not with those that you cannot.

Don’t Despise The Little Ones

Commands of Jesus Series

Matthew 18:1-4, 10  About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

2  Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them.  3  Then He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  4  So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

10  “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of My heavenly Father.

This is probably one of the easiest commands for most of us. After-all how could you not like children?

Jesus loves the little children and he told us that we need to be like a child in order to inherit a place in eternity with him and yet we spend so much of our time pretending to be so grown up.

We want to appear to have it all together and to be self sufficient, we want people to see our strength and we will go to great lengths to hide our weaknesses.The problem is, Jesus didn’t want his followers to be that kind of people, he wanted simple, obedient child like followers that would rely on him and would trust in him to take care of our weakness.

I need to be willing to do what ever my heavenly father ask of me.Increase my faith Lord that you will provide the strength and the guidance for anything that you ask me to do.

Baptize My Disciples

The Commands of Jesus Series

Matthew 28:19  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

You can easily see the importance of the first part of this well known verse, the command to go and make disciples, that is obviously important, but we may not consider the second part of this verse to be such a big deal. Why is it so important?

It is through baptism that we testify to the world that we know that we are in need of getting cleaned up, it says that we have found the only way to get rid of the stain that sin has left on our soul, with baptism we acknowledge the fact that we cannot wash ourselves of our sin and that we needed someone else to take away the eternal penalty of our sin.

Romans 6:4-5  For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.  Since we have been united with Him in His death, we will also be raised to life as He was.

It is important to make it clear that baptism cannot make anyone right with God. It is only a testimony to the fact that I have already been cleansed and it tells my friends and neighbors that my life is now to be associated with my Savior who did the ultimate for me when I wasn’t even his friend.

It tells everybody that for now on I have a new way of living that for now on I will be striving to look like my savior, selfless, kind, patient and all of those other traits that we have been commanded to live by.

It is an oath by which we renounce the world and the flesh, as rivals with God for the throne in our hearts; and an oath of allegiance by which we resign and give up ourselves to God, to be his, our own selves, our whole selves, body, soul, and spirit, to be governed by his will.

Help me to always live for you Lord. I want to always keep fresh in my mind that you gave it all so that I could have it all. Thank you for loving me to the extreme before I was even your friend.

Temptations

There is no greater challenge for the disciple than the internal conflicts that they can face, nor is there a greater stumbling block than the ones that we put up for ourselves. For as strong as the Devil may be, for as much as he comes to us “like a roaring lion” seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8), the truth is he needn’t do much considering his are but temptations but ours is the rebellious nature willing to take temptations and beyond to whatever next levels there may be.

But then, as the old saying goes, as our blessed Savior Himself reminds us, “The spirit is willing but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41b)

Consider some of the greatest warnings of the Bible. They are not warnings against the Devil. After all, the old Adversary, he did his part in Eden to corrupt the nature of mankind. (Genesis 3) Even there he never quite tells Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit of God. All he does is plant the idea in their head to question. Everything else is up to them as Eve partook and Adam watched to see the results.

If there is one thing the story of man’s fall to sin and temptation proves, it’s that even those who know of the presence of God, who have seen it first hand, have stood in His light and heard His voice calling to them, need nothing more than a gentle push and the worst of their nature comes out. Sometimes that push comes in the form of a want or a desire, sometimes it comes with a snide or hurtful comment, other times it comes from the best of intentions just gone terribly wrong.

The question for the disciple is, if it is such an easy snare about their feet, if it is such a simple trap to fall into, how do they guard themselves from it in their everyday life? How do we make the flesh stronger to match the nature of a spirit given to the love of Christ and the blessings of our Heavenly Father? How do we avoid the temptations that are there?

Quite simply put, we can’t. This side of Heaven, the imperfect side of Heaven given to the more base nature of the flesh, temptations are always going to be there. For as much as we may try to steer clear of them, as soon as we turn from one, another one is always going to be there staring us in the face. The true nature of Christian living, the true nature of faithful devotion to God isn’t the avoiding of temptation, it is not falling into temptation. It is meeting it head on with a heart and a will given over to God with the truest understanding that through Him who makes us more than conquerors (Romans 8:36), we have the power to overcome if we choose to use it.

This does not mean, as they may say, go out and look for trouble so you can exercise a Christian will and strength to demonstrate a power that you may have over temptation. The more we put ourselves in the line of fire, the more prone we are to be hit when we least expect it. What it does mean though is that just because we face temptations and inner conflicts does not mean we are any less the disciples that we should be, or any less on the road that God intended for us.

Faith is about understanding that even through the temptations of the flesh and the weaknesses of our nature God has a divine and holy plan for us, a wondrous design for our lives. Yes, it is true that there will be time when we don’t live up to it and other times when we do better. Yet we cannot live in those weaker times of our lives, and we cannot believe that just because temptations are present we are weaker than we should be, as it is a way of letting self-doubt in, and with it doubt about the nature of our salvation.

Pray and be vigilant. Look to the challenges that are there for what they truly are, a way of proving that you are led not of yourself but through the power of the Spirit to be a better and stronger person. Do not put yourself in a situation where you will be tested but do not shrink from the tests when they are unavoidable. This will tell you not only more about your own character but the character of your faith, showing you where you have been made strong and where you still need to pray for strength, knowing that if you come to God with a pure heart, desiring to do better and to be more, He will give you what you need.

In the end this is how we show ourselves to be the most faithful of His disciples, of Christ’s followers, as we meet the self-conflicts and challenges with the power of His might through the love that He has for us.

The cross

John 19:16-18  16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus,17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them

Oh the cross.  The symbol we uphold as a wonderful sign of God’s love for us was viewed as a symbol of torture for the people of Jesus’ day.  What we wear around our necks as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice was used by the Romans as a reminder of who was in control.  Or so they thought they were in control.

The beauty of the cross is that it was not forced upon Jesus.  He knew full well when He stepped out of eternity into time and space that He would face the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, the denial of Peter, the abandonment by the rest of the twelve, the scourge of the whip, and the torture of the cross.  He knew it, and He chose to come anyway.  His love for mankind compelled Him to do so.  God’s plan of redemption from the beginning was completed in Jesus’ act of willingness to go to the cross.

He endured every moment of pain for you and for me, that we might be reconciled to God.  There’s no greater gift ever given in all the world that God becoming a man to die for our sins.  We so often look to Jesus for what He can do for us – and not what He DID for us.  We look to Him for what He can give us – and not what He GAVE us.  He gave us himself, and there is nothing that compares.

We don’t need treasures.  Jesus is our treasure. We don’t need pleasures.  We can delight in Christ.  We don’t need respect and position, the humble, suffering servant bought and paid for our standing with God.  He is our gift.  If we accept the offer.

Jesus Is Punished For Our Good

Isaiah 53:2-5 There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

Good Friday, what a name for the day that Jesus was crucified for our sins, it seems like the opposite of good is what we should be thinking about when you say that Jesus has been executed.

Good Friday seems bad but if you know much about Jesus then you know that he is all about opposites. The first shall be last, the greatest will be the least, the rich will be poor and now the ultimate opposite: the innocent get punished for the guilty.

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Hymn by Philip P. Bliss (1838-1876)

The most innocent (perfect) man that every lived became the most guilty, he took the sins for everyone upon himself, he took the bondage of death so that we can be free, he took dirty rags and made them white as snow.

Thank you Lord for taking the punishment that I deserved.

The High Priestly Prayer

John 17:1-26  

1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.t 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,t that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Before the world was created, Jesus was.  Before time began, Jesus was.  And then, the Eternal One who holds all things in balance did something extraordinary – He stepped into time and took on human flesh.  He gave up all the glory of heaven so that we could know God.  He gave up many of His rights as God, but one thing He did not give up – His love for us.

While on this earth, Jesus loved His own just as He loved them in heaven.  In His last hours, He prayed a beautiful prayer, first for His close followers and then for you and me.  He knew He was betrayed, He knew He would die, and He knew that you and I would sin against Him.  But He prayed a high priestly prayer for our joy in Him, our unity in Him, our sanctification in Him.

Then Jesus gave us an idea of what salvation is all about.  He died that we might be where He is, that we may see His glory and therefore glorify the Father.  This was the plan before time began.  He’s always loved us, before we even existed.  And though we have sinned against Him, He chose to die in our place, taking our sins onto Himself, so that we can experience eternal life with Him.  Oh what love He has for us.

The Day of the Lord Will Come

Jesus is coming

2 Peter 3:1-13  1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God,6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,t not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

What should we expect when Jesus returns?  Will there be a great disaster on the earth that wipes out everything?  Will the entire world come to an end before Jesus comes back?  Will He rapture His people before any disasters?

The main point that can be reached through studying the Scriptures is that there is one thing we can expect when Jesus returns:  Jesus.  We won’t know when it will be, what the circumstances will be leading up to His arrival, and Jesus himself even spoke of the timing of His return being unknown to any but the Father.  When the time is right, according to God’s standards, the Father will send the Son back here to reign.  It may seem like it’s taking forever to us, but His timing is perfect.  To God, who is eternal, there is no reason to rush, and He’s never late.

The fact that we don’t know when Jesus will return is not cause for discouragement.  It is cause, though, for us to always be ready at all times.  We should be living out the lives He’s called us to live, carrying out His will here on earth.  We can’t sit around waiting, He’s given us a mission.  He expects us to be fulfilling that mission until He returns.  While we expect Him, let’s prepare the way for Him.