Thursday, November 16, 2017

Serving God in The Modern World

In II Timothy 3:1-4, Paul warned, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

 Literally, he is saying that in the last days, people will make a big show of being religious, but have no understanding or concern with God’s power.  They will be self-absorbed, greedy, taking credit for other people’s work, and proud.  They will slander people, have no respect for their parents, and have no appreciation for what they receive.  They will have very low moral standards, and not show natural affection, even killing their own parents or children.  They cannot be trusted, and will not hesitate to make false accusations against people.  They will lack self-control, and be cruel.  They will hate and try to destroy those who stand for what is right, thinking they are above the law, and better than other people.  They will be more concerned with entertainment than with God or his teachings. 

As we look at what is happening today, we see all those things in abundance.  The news media does not hesitate to slander political figures and deliberately make up lies about them.    Road rage and school or workplace shooting demonstrate a lack of self-control, while abortion and murder of parents and domestic abuse show the lack of natural affection.   Children are encouraged to ignore their parents, and people would rather go to a sporting event than to a church.  Unfortunately, churches have adapted by becoming more focused on entertainment and emotional pleasure than on spiritual development.  As a result, II Timothy 3:12-13 warns, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” 

As these attitudes and behaviors become accepted, they spread and become increasingly common in our world.   Christians find themselves increasingly being accused of racism and intolerance, being forced to remove Christian symbols or customs, facing lawsuits and having their children taken away.  Churches and religious centers are attacked and burned. 

II Timothy 4:1-4 instructs how we should respond to such conditions.  “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 

We need to remember that God and Christ will judge everything that is done on earth, and that their standards have not and will not change, regardless of society’s changes.  We are to preach the word.  Several words are translated preach, but they are nearly all derivatives of either a word meaning ‘to teach,’ or a word meaning ‘to proclaim as a herald.’  Under the laws of heraldry, any change to message was punishable by death, whether it was proclaimed publically or privately.  To teach has the same meaning it has in modern English.   The message must not be changed, whether it is popular or unpopular.    We still need to reprove, to point out when things are not right.  We need to rebuke or specifically address wrongdoing, and we need to encourage those who are doing what is right, but we need to do those things patiently, carefully teaching what God wants. 

As the wickedness becomes more widespread there will be increasing pressure to adapt our teaching to be more appealing to modern society.   There will be pressure to change both the way we worship and the moral standards to suit the current attitudes, openly rejecting the traditional ways.  People will leave churches which do not go along with the new ideas, adopting man made stories in place of God’s word.  We must not give in to that pressure.  II Timothy 4:5 commands, “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”  We are to stay focused, not allowing our standards to change, even when we suffer for our position.  We are to continue to share the gospel, and teach those who believe to follow Christ fully.  The great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 commands,  “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…”  It is not enough to just win people to Christ.  We are to make full proof of the ministry, not just do the first part.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Don’t Give Up

I Thessalonians 5:17 commands, “Pray without ceasing.”    II Thessalonians 3:1-2 describes some of the things we should be praying about.  “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.”  We need to pray for our teachers and leaders, that they will be able to speak the word of God in such a way that people will understand and accept it as God’s word, rather than just man’s statements.  We also need to pray for protection from illogical and evil attacks because many people have allowed Satan to control their minds and have no understanding of what is right and good. 

While we are going to have trials and persecutions as Christians, we have no need to be afraid, either of the attacks or that we will fail and fall into sin.   II Thessalonians 3:3-5 reminds us, “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.  And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.  And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.”    I Peter 1:5 tells us we “…are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  We can depend on God to guide us day by day.  John 16:13 tells us, “… when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth,” and we will be able to understand it because as I Corinthians 2:16 tells us, “we have the mind of Christ.”  

Unfortunately, human beings have a tendency to adopt the attitudes and practices of those with whom they associate.  II Thessalonians 3:6 warns, Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”  We need to disassociate from those who will not do what the scriptures teach.  If we do not, we may well go along with their sin instead of following Christ. 

Paul and his associates had set an example before the people, according to II Thessalonians 3:7-9.  “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.”  Though they were involved in full time ministry, and deserved payment for it, they had supported themselves to set a proper example for the people to follow.    

While we are told to help the poor and feed the hungry, we need to be careful in how we do it.  II Thessalonians 3:10-12 instructs, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.  For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.  Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”  We need to be careful that we do not leave the impression that if we are serving God we don’t need to make any effort to support ourselves.  I Timothy 5:8 warns, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”  If a person will not make the effort to support himself or his family, he has in effect turned his back on God, rejecting what God said in Genesis 3:19.  “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”  He is worse than an infidel because he knows what God said and refuses to obey.

While we have a responsibility to help widows and orphans, we are limited in what we can do.  I Timothy 5:16 instructs, “If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. “  The church should not be expected to take responsibility for those who can get help elsewhere.   If we try to help everyone who wants it we exhaust ourselves and our resources and end up unable to help those who really need it.   II Thessalonians 3:13-14 warns against burning ourselves out.  “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.  And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”   Instead of allowing ourselves to get discouraged trying to help everyone, we need to take note of those who are not doing their part and stop supporting them, encouraging them to take responsibility for themselves.  We will be far less discouraged when we do things God’s way instead of copying others.   

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Don’t Let Teaching About the Rapture Distract You

Paul had been forced to leave Thessalonica because of violent opposition from the Jews.  The Christians had gone on to serve God in spite of the opposition, becoming quite strong.  I Thessalonians had been written to encourage them to continue to grow and walk in the Spirit.  They had done so and II Thessalonians compliments them for having done so. 

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” (II Thessalonians 1:3-10)

Their continued growth was a testimony to the wisdom of God in calling them and predestinating them to be saved, and promising to punish those who attacked them.  Clearly, their enemies deserved the punishment they will receive when Christ returns.  Paul and his associates just prayed that they would keep on, so that God would be glorified, as I Thessalonians 1:11-12 states.  “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, Paul had stressed that the knowledge that Christ was going to return was a primary motivating factor in serving the Lord, making it very clear that we do not know when it will happen.  Unfortunately, some had become so wrapped up in the Lord’s return they were neglecting teaching about spiritual growth in their effort to scare people into getting saved or witnessing.  As a result a lot of false teaching about the second coming was being disseminated.  II Thessalonians 2:1-2 warns them not to allow such teachings to concern or distract them from just following what Christ taught.  “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.“  They were not to let even claims of some special revelation from the Holy Spirit, some exciting new interpretation of scripture, or some newly discovered writing purporting to be from the apostles distract them from what they had been taught.  Everyone who claims to have some special knowledge about when it will happen makes it clear they are false teachers. 

Paul went on to remind them that certain things had to happen before the Lord would return, in II Thessalonians 2:3-5.  “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.  Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things.”   Before the Lord returns, there will be a great turning away from the scriptures to other teachings.  This will lead to the Antichrist seizing power and setting himself up as a God.  The Lord will not take out his saints until after the Antichrist comes to power.  This is exactly what Christ described in Matthew 24:4-31, Mark 13:4-27, and Luke 21:7-28. 

As II Thessalonians 2:6-7 points out the spirit of Antichrist is already working, but is restrained from taking over until that restraint is removed.  “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.  For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”  Many have taught that this refers to the Holy Spirit and inferred that as a result, Christians had to be taken out in what is known as the Rapture before the Antichrist comes to power.  Daniel 10:20, Daniel 12:1-2, and Revelation 12:6 all indicate that Satanic power and the Antichrist are held in check by the archangels.  There are no verses in scripture that imply the Holy Spirit is the one referred to here, and thus no evidence that the Christians will be taken out before the Tribulation. 

Once the restraints are removed, The Antichrist will seize power, according to II Thessalonians 2:8-12.  “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”    Those who have rejected Christ will follow the Antichrist because they have chosen not to believe in Him.

God chose those who would believe to be saved, from the very beginning of creation.  He used the gospel to draw us to him, and save us, and we have nothing to fear when he returns.  We need to stand fast in the faith which resulted in our salvation and allow the Holy Spirit to establish us, as II Thessalonians 2:13-16 says.  “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.  Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”   We are to occupy till he comes.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Exercising Faith

While the Holy Spirit produces certain attitudes, or fruit in our lives, these attitudes only become automatic as a result of repetition.   Just as developing consistency shooting a basketball requires exercising certain muscles, learning to be consistently joyful requires learning to appreciate the things that happen in our lives.  I Thessalonians 5:18 commands, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  It is God’s will that we learn to be thankful, to appreciate what he does in our lives, so if we are not thankful, we are not fulfilling his will. 

There is another side to this verse, however.   If God is truly sovereign, then there is nothing that happens without his allowing it, even though it may be the result of our own stupidity, or Satan’s attacks.  If we understand how much God loves us, even sacrificing his own son for us, we know that he will always act in our best interests, no matter how bad something may seem. 

Romans 8:28-33 reminds us, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.   For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?  Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.” 

God gave his own son for us when we were his enemies because he knew what we were like.  He was not randomly picking in hopes that we would turn out to be good enough.  It is him that makes us good enough, not our own actions.   Having invested his own son’s life for us, he will not throw away his investment for some minor irritation.  Instead, he will see that we have everything we need to accomplish his purpose.  Even the worst things that happen to us will ultimately turn out for our benefit. 

In Genesis 37: we find the story of Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery.  After a short time, he was accused of sexual impropriety, and sentenced to prison.  He had gone from the favored son in a wealthy family to being one of the most hated foreigners, and remained that way for thirteen years. Finally, God used a contact he had made in prison to promote Joseph to being the Prime Minister of Egypt. 

Nine years later, Genesis 45:4-8 tells us, “And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.   Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.  For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.”

Though what had happened was a result of evil intentions by his brothers, it was God’s way of accomplishing his purpose, saving not only Joseph, but the entire nation of Israel.   Who knows what God may be doing in your life through these problems and trials?   Rejoice that God considers you faithful enough to be entrusted with such a situation.  Don’t waste your time fighting against God’s plan and complaining, as I Thessalonians 5:19 tells us, “Quench not the Spirit.” Let him have his way and don’t try to prevent him from accomplishing his purpose.   

Don’t get resentful about things in God’s word that don’t suit you.  I Thessalonians 5:20-22 commands, “Despise not prophesyings.  Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.  Abstain from all appearance of evil.”   Check out the teaching of God’s Word to be sure that is what it really means and practices what is good while not doing what it says is wrong.  Understand that it is the Holy Spirit who is teaching you these things, according to John 14:26.  “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”   Refusing to heed the scriptures is one of the ways we quench the Holy Spirit. 

While it may seem difficult and counter intuitive, we can be sure of the results of exercising our faith.  I Thessalonians 5:23-24 promises, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”   Our faith rests on the very character of God.  

Friday, November 10, 2017

Pray Without Ceasing

I Thessalonians 5:17 commands, “Pray without ceasing.”  Throughout history there has been a lot of misunderstanding about prayer, with almost every religion and many non-religious people talking about prayer.   Countless books have been written about how to pray, prescribing a specific ritual, specific words, a special position, or countless other things to help our prayer life.   Various people have been held up as examples of how we should pray.  Unfortunately, most of them start with a false concept of what prayer is, and in many cases the advice actually hinders spiritual prayer, focusing our attention on the wrong thing.   

Prayer is simply talking to God, communicating with him as our loving father.  In Matthew 6:5-13 Jesus gave his disciples guidelines about praying.   “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.    But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.  Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” 

Just talk to him like you would to your father, because that is who he is.  We don’t have to worry about getting everything just right, because Romans 8:26-27 tells us, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”  If we mess up, the Holy Spirit will interpret it correctly.    He’s not going to get upset or ignore us if we don’t word things just right.   He wants to us to share our feelings, opinions, desires and thanks, not just repeat what someone else said.  While reading or quoting from a prayer book or praying the scriptures may make us feel very religious, Jesus said not to do it. 

Another common misconception is that we need to pray long and hard to get God’s attention.   As Jesus said, that is a heathen concept, a concept held by people who know nothing about God.    In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus contrasts the difference between God and an unjust judge.  “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.

And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.  And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?  I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” 

We ought to pray, expecting God to answer, because he loves us.  We should be able to come boldly whenever we have a need, as Hebrews 4:15-16 advises.  “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”     Because he loves us we don’t need to nag at God to wear him down like the woman did the judge.  Instead of nagging him about one thing, we ought to be talking to him about everything in our lives, much like a child walking with or helping a loving mom or dad.  As Paul said,  we should pray without ceasing, or be in a continual state of talking with God.    No where in Scripture are told to pray for hours or pray it through.   Jesus spoke of the hypocrites which make a show of their long prayers in Matthew 23:40.  As he said in Matthew 6:6, they are just after men’s admiration, and they already have their rewards. 

Jesus gave his disciples a model for their prayers in Matthew 6:9-13, which is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer.  “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”  Notice that it doesn’t use any flowery words or eloquent phrases, but gets straight to the point.  “Give us the food we need today.  Forgive our sins.  Keep us from evil things.”  It is very short, just sixty five words, even in the comparatively flowery King James English.   Jesus’ prayer in John 17 provides us an example of an actual prayer, by the greatest man of prayer and faith of all time.   

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Start Now

People have a tendency to procrastinate when they know they don’t have to get a job done until a certain date, and had God told us when Christ will return, people would tend to wait until then to serve him.  Instead, he warned us that he would come unexpectedly to show who is really serving him.   There are certain things Paul lists that should characterize a Christian’s life.  Now is the time to start doing these things. 

I Thessalonians 5:12-13 starts out with our relationship to Christian leaders.  “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”  In I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, Paul gives specific instructions for choosing church leaders.  They need to demonstrate those qualities before they are given the position.   We need to know how they live their lives to see the Holy Spirit’s working in them.  Hebrews 13:7 commands, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”   We should follow our leaders, but only to the degree they demonstrate a spiritual lifestyle. 

God will hold religious leaders accountable for what they have taught and how they have led.  As Christians we have a responsibility to work with them, not to be constantly challenging their authority or rebelling against them.   Hebrews 13:17 commands, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”   If they are not spiritually qualified we should find a different leader.  If they are, we need to cooperate with them.   There shouldn’t be conflict in the church.   As I Corinthians 3:3 tells us, conflict is a clear indication of an unspiritual state.  “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”

Not everyone in the church has the same level of spiritual maturity.  I Thessalonians 5:14-15 teaches us to deal with them appropriately.   “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.  See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.”  Some have never learned to follow the rules God has given, and they need to be warned that what they are doing is wrong.  Others can’t seem to grasp God’s promises and live in fear.   They need comforting and encouragement.  Still others are weak and find it easy to turn away.  They need guidance and encouragement.   We need to learn to be patient with them, constantly trying to teach them to grow and be faithful.  We need to be careful to always treat everyone properly, and not take out our frustrations on them.  Quite simply, we need to demonstrate godly love for them. 

One of the things that kept getting Israel into trouble in the wilderness was their constant complaining.  They hated having to move camp every day.   They wanted something different to eat.  They didn’t like Moses always telling them what God wanted.   They were never really happy about anything for very long.  Unfortunately, many Christians have the same attitude.  Numbers 11:1 tells us,  “And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.”    One part of the fruit of the Spirit is an attitude of joy, of enjoying life.  I Thessalonians 5:16 tells us, “Rejoice evermore.”  After all, we have eternal life and the problems in this world are only temporary.   If we gripe about what he has already given us, why should he bother to give us more?  We’ll probably just gripe about it too.   Learn to enjoy and be content with what God has given.

Our happiness is based on our attitude rather than what we have.  As a result two people in identical situations can have totally different experiences, with one miserable and the other bubbling with happiness.    I Timothy 6:6-8 advises, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”   Don’t wait until everything is just the way you want it to start enjoying things.  If you do, you may miss out completely.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Be Prepared

It is critical that we understand that the Lord is coming back and will reward his servants if we are to remain faithful to him, as Hebrews 11:6 states.  “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  an understanding of Christ’s return emphasizes that he will reward his servants.  Thus, in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 Paul tells us, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and s shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” 

While understanding that he is returning is crucial, we are to live by faith.  As a result, we are not told when Christ will return.   In Matthew 24:36, Jesus told his disciples, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”  Even the angels do not know when the Lord will return to establish his kingdom.  In Acts 1:7, he told them, “…It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” 

Knowing that God said it was not our business to know when Christ will return, Paul refused to speculate when it would happen, according to I Thessalonians 5:1-3.  “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.  For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.  For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”  The one thing we can be sure of is that it will happen at a time when people, even Christians are not expecting it.   We just need to be ready at any time because Luke 12:40 warns, “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”   Anyone who thinks they know when it will happen has been deceived. 

While we don’t know when He will return, we are to get prepared so we’ll be ready whenever he does come.   I Thessalonians 5:4-11 reminds us, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.  Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.  Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.  For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.  For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.  Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”

Instead of wasting our time trying to figure out when the Lord will return, like an army recruit in basic training, we need to get prepared so when the time comes we will be ready.  Ephesians 6:11-20 describes the process.  “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

As Jesus said in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”    As the Boy Scout motto says, “Be Prepared”