Saturday, April 30, 2011

May 21, 2011

A great deal is being made of this date. Perhaps you have seen the posters proclaiming that on May 21, 2011, a great earthquake will take place such as the world has never experienced. In a moment, less time than a camera of the highest technology can capture, millions of people will vanish - the Messiah will return, the rapture will take place, the utter and complete annihilation of this earth and universe will be at hand.

Or so we are told.

I feel a sense of sadness for those who have been caught up (no pun intended) in one man’s quest to be someone special in the divine plan of Almighty God.

Is he sincere? Perhaps. However one can be sincere but sincerely wrong.

I will not argue the plethora of theological points that refute this claim. I will not entertain futile dialogue with those who are (until May 22, 2011) absolutely convince that THIS is the prophesied date of Jesus’ return. But, likewise, I will not sit idol and allow this proclamation in the name of Christianity to take place without contrarily offering a few verses to “those who have an ear to hear”.

We are living in difficult times. If the economy has not affected you yet, it will. If wars have not affected you they have most likely affected someone close to you. If disease, loss, sadness, death have not darkened your door you are most fortunate. You no doubt know of someone who has experienced one or more of these events.

And what can we say about the groanings of the earth? How can we ignore the increases of strange weather patterns, earthquakes, natural disasters? What about apathy towards government? What about the lack of trust, honor and patriotism?

Signs of the times?

Certainly! But these have always been a part of the human experience; just as promised in the Bible. Are they on the increase? A snapshot of the news would indicate that, if nothing else, the frequency of such upheaval is on the rise. But rather than turn to one man’s allegorical commentary, I prefer to turn to the words of Jesus. He did not mingle verse upon verse in His discussion of the end times. He did not pay homage to numerology, contriving secret codes and mathematical equations to reveal what it was He wanted people to know. He simply addressed the issue in Matthew chapter 24. Here is a bit of what He shares:

“For then there will be great tribulation - affliction, distress and oppression - such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now; no, never will be [again]. And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would endure and survive; but for the sake of the elect (God’s chosen ones) those days will be shortened. IF ANY ONE SAYS TO YOU THEN, LO HERE IS CHRIST, THE MESSIAH; OR, THERE HE IS; DO NOT BELIEVE IT. For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and they will show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive and lead astray, if possible EVEN THE ELECT (God’s chosen ones). See, I HAVE WARNED YOU BEFOREHAND. So, if they say to you, Lo He is in the wilderness (desert), do not go out there; if they tell you, Lo He is in the secret places or inner rooms, do not believe it. For just as lightning flashes from the east and shines and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of man be. Where there is a fallen body (a corpse), there the vultures (or eagles) will flock together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed her light, and the stars will fall from the sky and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and beat their breasts and lament in anguish, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory - in brilliancy and splendor! And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect [His chosen ones] from the four winds, [even] from one end of the universe to the other. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its young shoots become soft and tender and it puts out its leaves, you know of a surety that summer is near. So also when you see these signs all taken together coming to pass, you may know of a surety that He is near, at the very doors. Truly, I tell you, this generation - that is, the whole multitude of people living at the same time, in a definite, given period - will not pass away, till all these things taken together take place! Sky and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But of that [exact] day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” -Matthew 24:21-36

In verse 42 Jesus goes on to say:

“Watch, therefore - give strict attention, be cautious and active - for you do not know in what kind of a day [whether a near or remote one] your Lord is coming.”

Our’s is not to give a date. Our’s is not to share the Word of God [in affect] to simply bring honor to ourselves for having done so; supposing that WE are special for giving such a “spiritual dispensation” when the world appears so Godless. No. Our’s is to humbly admit that we stand daily before a Holy God. We stand naked and in need. Naked and exposed for who we really are - in our private times, in our hearts, known only to Him. In need of His loving touch and forgiveness.

The date of His return? Certain! The time? Precise! He has already taken care of it. The more timely question, the most immediate question, “are we ready?” We can know that we are ready by applying the Passover blood of God’s Sinless Lamb to our lives. No wonder Moses directed God’s people to apply the blood in such a manner so as to form a cross. No wonder it was applied to the door - the one access.

The only date that we can be certain of is now; now is an appropriate day to turn our lives over to a loving God through the death, burial and resurrection of a living, loving Jesus Christ. Do we understand it all? Certainly not. But in love He has given us enough to know our need and to know His fulfilling and forever sacrifice. Do you know Him? Does He know you?

Loads of love

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Easter - a day of candy, chocolate, chicks, and colored eggs; baskets, bonnets and bunnies; shiny shoes, frilly dresses, family, food, pastel colors, ribbons, Easter-egg hunts and lilies.

For many Easter is a yearly pilgrimage to grandma’s house. There, the sounds of family laughter and the gastronomic fragrances of memories past converge in a grand celebration of heightened senses.

To some the celebration of Easter still carries religious overtones acknowledging that a man called Jesus of Nazareth, who had just days earlier been executed by way of crucifixion, raised Himself up from the cold grip of death and stepped outside of the tomb. Or, so the story is told ...

Oh, there are countless theories about His “resurrection”. Perhaps Jesus never really died but instead, “swooned”. Perhaps the cool dark and damp enclosure of the tomb served to revive His beaten and bloodied body. Or, maybe, just maybe, His followers - like Judas who betrayed Him, or Peter who on three separate occasions denied he ever knew Him, or all of the others who ran and hid when Jesus was arrested, perhaps somehow they summonsed up the courage to overtake the Roman guards protecting the tomb, the resolve to break the Roman seal and the strength to roll back the massive stone to remove the corpse.

Maybe ...

It’s perplexing. Logic suggests that if indeed Jesus was dead these few remaining followers, who fled from Him when He needed them most, would not concoct a risky scheme to steal his body and compromise their own safety. Had they not just witnessed Him die in agony on a Roman cross? Would they not be better off quietly returning to their previous vocations? They could simply pick up where they had left off - before following Jesus. There were still fish to catch, sick to tend to and taxes to collect. They could start life over and forget about having been duped by the charlatan, Jesus.

Was it possible that their egos so overwhelmed their ability to reason that they collaboratively, even willingly, braved beatings and scourging, beheadings, and crucifixions just to save face. Were their words so powerful, their delivery so polished, their persona so overwhelming that they ultimately influenced countless thousands to believe their message and thus follow their misguided footsteps? Maybe ...

Maybe ...

Maybe they had no other option. Maybe following Jesus to a martyrs death WAS, in their minds, their only option. Perhaps they felt they had already sealed their fate of ridicule and embarrassment. Perhaps they foresaw a life of continual chiding, having left all they had to follow this vagabond dreamer who now lay dead in a borrowed tomb. Maybe it was easier to die. At least in death they might leave a more honorable legacy to those remaining.

On the other hand, why didn’t they just deny Him - like Peter did? Why didn’t they agree to absolve themselves and confess openly to the political and religious leaders - and to their fellow citizens, that they never realized what a troublemaker Jesus was intending to become? They could have pleaded their case that had they known where Jesus was headed they never would have followed. They might even have been honored for taking such a stand and for bringing this fledgling sect to an abrupt end.

These men had options. Did they choose and option that was reasonable?

Maybe ...

Okay, okay, THESE were Jesus' former followers. But what about the testimony of those who hated Jesus? What about those who had never followed Him, were never duped, but instead made it their personal ambition to search out and kill Jesus followers? What would someone like that possibly gain by making a sudden about-face to become a Jesus follower?

What about Saul of Tarsus?

Think about this fella for a moment. He most certainly existed since somebody had to have written the books of the New Testament attributed to him. So, why not him? And why not accept his brief autobiography?

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but reared in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated according to the strictest care in the Law of our fathers, being ardent - even a zealot - for God, as all you are today.” - Acts 22:3

“Circumcised when I was eight days old, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew [and son] of Hebrews; as to the observance of the Law I was of [the party of] the Pharisees, as to my zeal I was a persecutor of the church, and by the LAW’S STANDARD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS - [supposed] JUSTICE,UPRIGHTNESS AND RIGHT STANDING WITH GOD - I was proven to be blameless and no fault was found in me.” - Philippians 3:5,6

“[Yes,] I harassed (troubled, molested and persecuted) this Way [of the Lord] to the death, putting in chains and committing to prison both men and women. As the high priest and the whole council of elders [Sanhedrin] can testify; for from them indeed I received letters with which I was on my way to the brethren in Damascus in order to take also those [believers] who were there, and bring them in chains to Jerusalem that they might be punished.” - Acts 22:5

So Saul was a Roman citizen (born in Tarsus), of Jewish heritage, educated at the feet of Gamaliel a celebrated scholar of Mosaic Law. He was a self-proclaimed religious fanatic and celebrated persecutor of Jesus followers. In fact, the first introduction we have of him is during the stoning of Stephen.

“Then they dragged him (Stephen) out of the city and began to stone him, and the witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.” - Acts 7:58

And because Saul so ardently felt he was doing the will of God by persecuting these Jesus followers, he could consider himself absolutely blameless! Why in the world would Saul abruptly change his direction and become a Jesus follower himself? WHY? He gives his answer in the Book of Acts:

“But as I was on my journey and approached Damascus, about noon a great blaze of light flashed suddenly from heaven and shone about me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me - harass and trouble and molest Me?’ And I replied, ‘Who are you Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am JESUS, the Nazarene, Whom you are persecuting.’” - Acts 22:6-8

As a result of this meeting, Saul, now known as the Apostle Paul, became an evangelist to the Gentiles for the cause of Jesus. As a result of this meeting, the Apostle Paul wrote numerous letters to the early Christian churches - many of those letters make up the New Testament of the Bible. As a result of this meeting the Christian message spread like wildfire throughout the world and Jesus followers continue to celebrate an empty tomb, a risen Savior, a coming Messiah, King of kings, and Lord of lords.

It begs the question, “was all of this accomplished for the cause of a dead man?”

Maybe not ...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


What does it mean to truly be grateful? Sounds like a simple question at first.


I’ve always considered the word synonymous with “thankful” and to some extent, in the English language, they are. But what does the Bible mean when It refers to being “grateful”?

As is usually the case, my search revealed numerous Greek words used in the New Testament to express the giving of thanks. There is one word, however, that is translated, “grateful”. The word is, “EUCHARISTEO”. The word is used 39 times in the Bible. Here are a few examples:

“He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.” - Romans 14:6

“He took the seven loaves and the fish, and when He had given thanks He broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.” - Matthew 15:36

“And as He was going into one village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance. And they raised up their voices and called, Jesus, Master, take pity, and have mercy on us! And when He saw them He said to them, ‘Go (at once) and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cured and made clean. Then one of them, upon seeing that he was cured, turned back, recognizing and thanking and praising God with a loud voice; and he fell prostate at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him (over and over). And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was there no one found to return and to recognize and give thanks and praise to God except this alien?’” - Luke 17:12-18

“So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father I thank You that You have always heard Me.” - John 11:41

“And He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, ‘drink of it, all of you.” - Matthew 26:27

While numerous words of “thanks” focus attention upon the gift or benefit received, this unique and specific word focuses attention upon the Giver of the gift or benefit. The loaves and fishes, the healing of leprosy, the raising of a dead friend, the cup at the last supper were not the focus of Jesus’ thanks. This thankfulness, this, “gratefulness”, was an acknowledgement of the power and love, the grace and mercy of the One Giver of all good gifts, Almighty God.

What is “gratefulness”? Being grateful is the heart’s acknowledgment that there is a Greater Power from Whom all blessings flow.

Thomas Obadiah Chisolm (1866-1960) was weak and sickly. His early adult life was riddled with bouts of illnesses that often confined him to his bed. So often too ill to work, his few moments of health were exhausted by long hours of heavy labor just to cover his expenses.

At the age of 27, Obadiah surrendered his life to this One called, “Jesus”. He found comfort in the Scriptures and in the promise that he could always draw strength from God, Who would always be faithful during his time of weakness. His favorite passage is in the Old Testament, Lamentations 3:22-23:

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”

Obadiah Chisolm wrote the lyrics to many Christian hymns. None so perfectly express the focus of true gratefulness as the following:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou has been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

It is a new morning; a new day for which to be thankful! In our gratitude, may we more fully express "gratefulness" to the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Sustainer of our hope, and the God from Whom all blessings flow.

Have a great day!