Monday, June 25, 2018

Not Ready

Not Ready
June 25, 2018
Matthew 25:10  "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived."

Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven through parables. He did so several times, from several different angles, all so the point could get driven home. One of the themes of describing the Kingdom of Heaven was in reference to its timing. The timing of Heaven, when the Lord comes back again, will come as a surprise. He said expect it to come and wait patiently for it, but also in constant preparation for it, staying prepared. It will come when you least expect it and if you are not ready, then you will miss it.

Consider a storm shelter. If there hasn't been a storm in years and the storm shelter gets used as storage for junk, and isn't kept clean with fresh supplies, it will be no good in the day of trouble. A storm shelter's role is to provide safety during the severest of storms and it must be ready without notice, as predicting a severe storm is often impossible. The supplies in a storm shelter need to be refreshed constantly, even if it isn't being used, so when the time comes it can keep people alive. But it takes time and effort to maintain the readiness of a storm shelter. On warm and sunny days, when there is no threat of a storm, it is easy to get lazy and put off keeping the storm shelter ready. Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven will come, but there will be many people who will have grown weary in staying prepared for it.

The parable of the ten virgins, waiting for the bridegroom, speaks to the readiness required for the Kingdom of Heaven. The bridegroom came in the middle of the night, and those who had not stayed prepared for it, and needed oil, were caught off-guard. They had been ready days and weeks ago, but got lazy and complacent, failing to stay prepared. When the bridegroom was coming, they had to go get oil for their lamps. In short, they were not ready and therefore had to hurry in an effort to not miss it. Unfortunately, when the bridegroom came back, they were not ready. In fact, they were not even present when the bridegroom came; they were off buying oil. Not only were they not ready, they were off doing something else.

While the parable speaks to the coming of the Lord, and being ready at all times with salvation in heart and hand, the parable speaks to the timing of the Lord and staying prepared for Him in general. No matter what it is in life, staying prepared is critical. In the Christian walk, this is not meant to stand alone for salvation, but for all aspects of the Lord's timing. You are either ready for the Lord to show up or you are not. There is no middle ground. You are either ready for the Lord to come back and save you or you will miss it. You are either ready for the Lord to bring about your miracle or you will miss it. You are either ready for the Lord to use you and take you to the next place in life or yo will miss it. If you are not ready, when the Lord brings about His timing, then you will miss it and be found doing something else.

What is worse than missing the Lord's time or His miracle, because you were not prepared for it, is what you'll be caught doing instead. The virgins were caught going to buy oil, but what will you be doing? Will you be proud of what you'll be caught doing, serving the poor or serving yourself? Not only will you miss the Lord's timing, but you'll suffer the embarrassment of what He will find you doing instead. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matt 25

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Just God

A Just God
June 18, 2018
2 Chronicles 12:6  "Th leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, "The Lord is just.'"

I hear, time and time again, of Christians who complain that the Lord is not fair. Fairness, a term used for equitable distribution, is not actually in the Lord's rule books. The Lord is not a fair God, as you and I want to define it. We look at what other people have, or our undesirable situation, and complain that it is not fair. The Lord gets to choose, unfortunately, and we get to submit to it. He is right, all the time, however, which is why we should submit to His seemingly inequitable distribution of situations in life. He is not a fair God but He is a just God. The idea of being just is in the administration of accountability and rules, according to His moral standards.

People think they are good, or moral, but defined in their own eyes might be out of plumb with the Lord's definitions. Morality gets to be judged by the Lord, and in accordance with His measure of right and wrong, He administers justice. You may debate on His timing of justice but He always administers justice. The problem with Him administering justice is that we don't always like it or agree with it. We get punished for not doing anything wrong. But I would ask, as judged by yourself or by the Lord. If I judge my actions, I am going to give myself a free pass on a great deal of my actions. No one self-condemns. We complain the Lord is disciplining us, thinking it is unfair. But again, He is not fair; He is just. So, if He is administering justice in your life, and it adversely affects you, I would ask you one question. Do you thank the Lord for the rebuke and take your medicine like an adult, or do you kick and scream and complain like most of us?

The Israelite had sinned against the Lord and in accordance with His promise of discipline, according to how He defined right and wrong, He disciplined them. The Lord administered justice. The Israelite could have complained, argued with the Lord and His choice of discipline, but instead they took their medicine like an adult and declared that the Lord was just and right in disciplining them, in administering justice on their sins. They were extremely mature about it, at least in this one particular instance, and acknowledged being wrong. Not only did they acknowledge being wrong but they endured their discipline without complaining, doing their time for knowingly doing their crime.

When was the last time you thanked the Lord for disciplining you? The Israelites acknowledged their sin, recognizing they had been warned, and willingly reaped the just rewards for their sins. The declared that the Lord was being just. As a grown man, I can appreciate how the discipline I've had in my life has shaped me for the better, but not once in my life have I expressed gratitude during my discipline. Discipline is uncomfortable and we'd like to avoid it completely. I've never once received discipline with welcoming arms, declaring that I deserved it. Not once. But I did, and so do you. Be both deserve discipline when we step outside the bounds of the Lord's expressed rules of morality and He administers justice. He is just, for our sins. We don't get a free pass because we are Christians. He forgives us instantly but that does not remove the discipline we get to endure; it is part of Him delivering justice. Acknowledging His justice in the midst of discipline is very humbling, something few of us are willing to do. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Deut 16:20, 2 Chron 12, Ps 9:16 & 11:7, Pr 3:12, Heb 12:6-8 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Is it Time

Is it Time
June 11, 2018
Psalm 102:13  ". . .for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come."

Time is mentioned in the Bible hundreds of times, almost nine hundred if you want to count. The Lord uses time, though, differently than you and I do. In human terms, time is a unit of measurement to define a period or span, marking past, present, and future. In our terms, time is finite and immovable. It is not fluid nor is it flexible. Time has hard lines that do no stretch. But the Lord uses time much differently than we do. He uses time to delineate a change or mark an event that includes a before and after. You can see this when reading Scripture as He uses phrases like: the appointed time, in due time, the time has come. Time, for the Lord, marks an action, not keeping tabs on the collective sum of instants. Time, for the Lord, means change or that something is about to change.

The Lord is working in your life, and has been since before you were born. This work, an action word, denotes His intention for an outcome, as if He is working toward an appointed time for you. The appointed times for you mark a special event, turn of circumstances, completion of something, the start of new adventures, or the precipice of your purpose. This is how the Lord works, and Satan knows this. Satan may not know your future, but he knows your potential and he knows the Lord is working in your life for the appointed times. Satan's goal is delay your appointed times, to stop you from the purpose you were called. You can see this when he tempted Jesus in the desert before the crucifixion. Satan was trying to stall or stop the appointed time for Jesus to die on the cross. When Satan can intervene and affect God's work, it changes time, alters your history from what the Lord intended, and alters the future.

Christian, is it time for a change or something important in your life? Is there a work the Lord is doing? I would suggest the Lord is always doing a work, you just might not be focused on it the same way He is focused on it. Regardless, Satan is also working right now to stop your appointed times, to stall or derail you. There is a spiritual battle going on right now, fighting over the timing for your life, the timing that marks the change of seasons, the completion of something, the start of something new, or the precipice of your purpose. This timing marks a work, a work that is part of the Lord's planning for you from the beginning. But you have to pay attention to it, looking out for it, working in tandem with the Lord. If you are going about your life as you see fit, failing to pay attention to the work the Lord is doing in your life, then you will miss your appointed times, your purpose, being derailed without knowing it.

There is a work going on in your life and maybe you can sense the enemy's intent to stall your timing, to derail your work. This is where you get to help out. You get to remove all the possible barriers and temptations in your life, just like Jesus did when Satan tempted Him in the desert, bringing about a single focus. Jesus refused to allow the devil to steal His appointments. Is it time for an appointment in y our life?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ecc 3, Is 48:16, Jer 25:34, Ez 7:12, Hag 1:2, Matt 4:17, Mark 1:15, Mark 14:41, John 4:23, John 5:25, John 16:21

Monday, June 4, 2018

Greatest Platform

Greatest Platform
June 4, 2018
Judges 16:30  ". . . And he killed many more when he died than while he lived."

One thing I have learned about the Lord, firsthand, is that nothing is beyond His reach or His control. This has positive and negative implications if you have human, rational though. On the positive side, it can mean He saves us, heals us, rescues us, protects us, and provides for us. But on the flip side, if He doesn't do those things, at least as perceived by our human, rational thought, then He clearly must not love us or want us and then we feel betrayed by Him. I've seen so many people hurt in life by rotten circumstances, and then blame God suggesting if He cared then He could have intervened. I know parents who have lost children to the grave, and they begin to despise the Lord. If He loved them, then He would have saved them from the pain and the suffering and the heartache, after all nothing is beyond His reach or His control, so He clearly allowed it to happen. It it was within the boundaries of His control, then He clearly allowed it to happen. They reason, God is not a beneficent God.

It is true that nothing is beyond His reach and His control, but any other point in our human, rational thought needs thrown out the window. When we accept the idea that this deity is our loved one, we must also accept His sovereignty. We cannot expect that He will love us and care for us as a human would. God is bigger than that kind of love. He loves you so much that He is willing to allow you pain and discomfort if it means the best forward outcome for your life. I say forward outcome because immediate outcome suggests the disappointing one you have in your life for the immediate. Thankfully, the Lord is not limited to the immediate. I read a story about a God who let His earthly son die on a cross, an excruciating and undeserved death, but then resurrect His son and glorify Him above all creation, just so mankind can be saved. God allowed the horrifying death of His son on the cross, complete with pain, and yet God remained a good God. I imagine, when Jesus was dying on the cross, that He had never felt that kind of pain before. And it was allowed by a good, good Father. But then I realize that the greatest pain, the greatest perceived disappointment in the immediate can be the greatest platform of a person's life.

The greatest platform for a person's life, as I read story after story in the Bible, is usually born from their greatest sorrow or greatest failure. Abraham's greatest achievement was having a son, Isaac, but not until being childless for 90 years. Gideon's greatest victory in battle was born from being the weakest with the smallest army, having been humiliated for years. Samson's greatest victory over the enemy was after he had fallen and lost his eye sight. Jesus' biggest victory and platform wasn't until He spent three nights in the grave. Paul's biggest ministry was born from being imprisoned.  I look outside the Bible and find many people even in the last several hundred years who have had a huge impact on the world, but it wasn't until after there was grave disappointment or utter failure. The Lord can bring such amazing stories out of our darkest pain. John Newton, the man who wrote the song "Amazing Grace," was a slave trader turned Christian. He then was a voice against slavery and preached the Lord's salvation, having a huge impact for the Lord. Helen Keller, born blind and deaf, inspired many people not in spite of her disabilities but because of her disabilities. She even wrote songs, though not able to hear. She wrote a book called My Religion, detailing her faith and how her life is full when the Lord dwells within her. She still inspires millions with and without disabilities, to this day.

The point is not your circumstance, pain, failure, or disability. The point is, if you allow the Lord to have it, then it can become the biggest platform for your life, its meaning, and your personal accomplishments. It is possible the Lord allowed it just for the very reason of your entire life's purpose on the earth. Remember, the entire purpose of Jesus was to bring salvation to the entire world, but was only brought about through the suffering on the cross. Without death on the cross, Jesus would not have had a platform for salvation.  Your inability, your disability, your failing situation, your failure, they quite possibly are going to lead to your biggest achievements for the Lord. You have to let Him, though, take them and use them. If you fight it and become bitter, then you actually lose and Satan wins.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Is 4:4, Judges 16:22-30, Rom 8:28, 1 Cor 2:9, 2 Tim 2:7-13, Heb 6:15, James 1:12