Jesus Is Coming Again

As a child I was often scared I had missed the rapture. I would call my grandmother just to see if she answered the phone. If she didn’t answer I would call my pastor. If he didn’t answer I would call my mom at work. That was, apparently, my order of likelihood of going to Heaven.

I had a simple faith and a simple theology. At any moment Jesus was coming back to get His people and you were either going or you weren’t. I’ve found that as we age, and our understanding and theology develops, it becomes easier to justify our own behavior, rationalize world events, and to push to the back of our mind the imminence of His return. As a result, much of my adult life walking with the Lord has been the pursuit of returning to a childlike faith.

I still believe Jesus is coming back!

I believe in the physical, imminent return of Jesus Christ. We are often hesitant to talk about it because so many have sensationalized and made a mockery out of His second coming. Many have also made predictions about His return that turned out to be embarrassingly wrong. Jesus warned us against this type of conjecture (Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7). The apostle Paul also warned that Christ’s return wasn’t a topic for speculation, but for preparation (Romans 13:11–12).

I may not know when He is coming again but I know that He is coming again. Ignorance of its proximity does nothing to diminish its certainty. Jesus is coming again! In fact, a mocking tone surrounding belief in His coming is prophesied to precede His return.

“Know this first, that there shall come scoffers in the last days who walk after their own lusts, and say, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were since the beginning of the creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4, MEV)

There’s a lot of things I don’t know about His return, the day or the hour, but that doesn’t diminish the reality of the things I do know. Jesus is coming again.

“But, beloved, do not be ignorant of this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness. But He is patient with us, because He does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat. The earth also and the works that are in it will be burned up. Seeing then that all these things are to be destroyed, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, while you are waiting for and desiring the coming of the day of God, in which the heavens will be destroyed by fire and the elements will be consumed by intense heat? But, according to His promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:8-13, MEV)

Jesus is coming back, and not only coming back, but coming back suddenly. “But concerning that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray. For you do not know when the time will come…Watch therefore—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, in the evening, or at midnight, or at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:32-33, 35-37, MEV)

Jesus is coming back, He’s coming back suddenly, and He’s coming back suddenly for those who are looking for Him.

“As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this comes the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many, and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to save those who eagerly wait for Him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28, MEV)

Those who are welcomed into the New Jerusalem with Jesus Christ will not be surprised or shocked about His return. Scripture says it will be granted to those who have watched and are looking for Him. Those who “eagerly wait” for His return! Many prophecy teachers in recent years have made an endeavor to identify the Anti-Christ. Scripture says the one we should be looking for Jesus Christ!

Jesus is coming back for those who are looking for Him. However, He didn’t leave His plan a mystery for us. He told us many ways we could identify the season of His return.

“There will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men fainting from fear and expectation of what is coming on the inhabited earth. For the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:25-28, MEV)

Jesus is coming again. While no man knows the day or the hour, Jesus did want us to recognize the season. So, He gave us signs to look for. Not like road signs with exact markings but rather indicators of readiness, like in harvest season.

“Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts become burdened by excessiveness and drunkenness and anxieties of life, and that Day comes on you unexpectedly. For as a snare it will come on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Therefore watch always and pray that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will happen and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36, MEV)

Jesus is coming again! He gave us signs in the stars and in the Earth in order to increase our anticipation of His return as well as to decrease our preoccupation with the things of this world. He wanted us to have every preparatory advantage for His return. He wants us to recognize the season in order to increase our anticipation of His return. We are vulnerable to distraction and burden by the cares and diversions of life. Jesus wanted us to be able to fight that distraction by giving us signs to increase our readiness for His return!

Is September 23rd, 2017 going to be the fulfillment of the Revelation 12 prophecy? I’m not sure. Maybe. Are blood moons, wars, national and racial conflict, an eclipse, hurricanes, and earthquakes definite signs of His coming? Jesus said they would be (Matt. 24:3-14). Are the ones we’re experiencing right now the ones of which He was speaking? I don’t know.

What I do know is that they increase my awareness and anticipation of His return. They cause you and I to look up once again and consider the heavens. They motivate me to call as many people as I’m able to become fully committed disciples of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is coming again.

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God Wants Me To Be Happy

 

one red balloon

I was told by a particularly selfish individual once that they had decided to proceed with their reckless behavior despite knowing that it would run contrary to the Word of God as well as any understanding of common decency. They were simply unhappy in their current situation and they believed that God would not hold them accountable for their misdeeds because God really wanted them to be happy.

I’ve thought about that quite a bit after hearing that line of reasoning. Does God want me to be happy? Is that what the gospel is all about? Is THAT why Jesus died on the cross? So I could be happy. I can’t imagine a less noble or more meaningless reason for the sacrifice of Jesus than for me to merely seek out temporary happiness from day to day on the Earth.

I realize this may offend some people, but it seems completely antithetical to the message of the scriptures to assume that my happiness is God’s highest aim. Ultimately the question before us is, “What is God most invested in for me?”

If it’s not my happiness is He invested in my unhappiness? Again, no. That too runs contrary to scripture. It is not my happiness nor my unhappiness that Jesus aimed to secure through His death and resurrection. He is most interested in our fruitfulness.

God is most interested in our fruitfulness to His glory. Our fruitfulness to His glory and His kingdom is what brings the most blessing and joy to our lives. Jesus said in John 15:1-5

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that bears no fruit, He takes away. And every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean through the word which I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, neither can you, unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who remains in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit. For without Me you can do nothing.” 

The problem with happiness is that happiness is dependent upon our circumstances and our circumstances change. What made me happy yesterday doesn’t make me happy today and what makes me happy today likely won’t satisfy me tomorrow.

There are a lot of things God wants for you, and they’re all good things, but happiness isn’t necessarily one of them. Happiness is one of the most fluid, short sighted, and petulant emotions. It changes, often with little to no regard for what we need and what is in our own best interest. You can’t trust happiness because you can’t trust your heart! Whoever tells you to follow your heart is lying to you. Your heart will deceive you, it will lie to you, and it will tell you things God doesn’t even believe (Jer. 17:9, Pro. 27:20, 1John 3:21).

God knows that you and I need something bigger, stronger, and more sufficient than the petulant, deceitful, and short sighted demands of happiness from our own hearts to build our lives upon.

The Christian has not been promised happiness. That doesn’t mean we should aim to live in unhappiness. It’s simply to say that God has bigger and better gifts to give us than happiness. He is calling us to live the noble life of self-sacrifice and servanthood to the cross.

God isn’t our personal genie, present in every moment and compelled to modify every turn of our life that we find uncomfortable and unwelcome. We are called Christians, after the one who denied Himself to carry a cross. He isn’t interested in our ease of life. Our calling is to take up our cross.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, MEV)

God wants us to be fruitful. He wants the fruit of the Spirit to be produced in our lives. He wants us to walk in the fulness of joy. Every time we pursue happiness outside of the will of God we are exchanging His great gifts, and the source of all our blessings, for the fleeting happiness we might cobble together from the things of this world.

No, God doesn’t want us to be happy. He wants us to walk in His ways so that we will be fruitful, blessed, joyful, and holy. He wants you to have joy!

“I have spoken these things to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)

Jesus said the whole reason He wants us to remain in Him and bear fruit is because He wants our joy to be full. And that joy is only found in Him. We were designed for Him!

“God wants me to be happy.”

No, God wants you to produce the fruit of the Spirit and be holy.

“But God wants me to be happy.”

No, He wants you to “conform to the image of His son” (Rom. 8:29).

“I love God and I know, because God loves me, that He just wants me to be happy”

Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

Let this sink in; Jesus loves you too much to let you always be happy.

Those of us who are parents understand this principle when it comes to our kids. We want them to be safe, healthy, and we want them to learn to be upstanding and moral human beings. So we don’t let them be happy and eat candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We don’t allow them to play in traffic, no matter how happy they would be. We are far more concerned with their safety in that moment than their happiness. We don’t let them bully other children, destroy property, or disrespect their elders and authority figures because we are more concerned with what they are and what they are becoming than we are with their momentary happiness. Somehow, it’s when we must reconcile ourselves as children to our Heavenly Father that we begin to find this concept difficult and insufferable.

It’s instructive to me that this phrase is almost always used as a way to justify behaviors and decisions that we know we will find resistance from the scriptures and the church. If it’s true, God wants me to be happy, then it will be true at all times. Yet it’s never used as an explanation for pain and suffering, never said to comfort someone going through a test of their faith.

The real truth is that sin can make you temporarily happy in certain circumstances but it is incapable of providing the lasting and sufficient joy, the blessedness that Jesus wants and went to the cross in order to secure for you and I.

If you being happy means chasing sin over God’s will then no, God doesn’t want you happy. Furthermore, if following Gods way is unhappiness to you then you need to be born again. Those who have been born again of water and spirit find fulfillment, peace, joy, and blessing in living in God’s will, God’s way, and God’s time.

In Matthew 5 in His “Sermon on The Mount” Jesus upends our natural inclinations by teaching that the blessed ones, the happy ones, are those who:
are poor in spirit
mourn
are meek
hunger and thirst for righteousness
are merciful
are pure in heart
are peacemakers
are persecuted for righteousness sake.

Jesus explains that these people are blessed because they have:
the kingdom of heaven
the comfort of God
an inheritance
righteousness
mercy
the hope of seeing God
the privilege of being called the “sons of God”

God wants us fruitful. God wants us blessed. God wants us filled with joy.

Achieving those things may or may not involve our personal happiness. Sometimes the avenue by which we access that blessed life is not one that is particularly happy, or preferred for our human comfort. Sometimes it means we need to be pruned (John 15:1-5). But if we remain in Christ and surrendered to His will it will always move us toward the chief aim of Jesus, namely our redemption from sin and the fullness of our joy through His indwelling Spirit.

God may not want me happy, but He does want me joyful, He does want me blessed, and He does want me saved.

On Grace

winter parkThere is likely no more celebrated and yet widely misunderstood concept in scripture than the grace of God.

Is grace permission for Christians to live any way they want without repercussion? Is grace license to sin? The Apostle Paul says no, yet his understanding of grace was so radical that he feared it might be misunderstood as license to sin (Romans 6:1).

So, what then is grace, and what does it do? Titus answers that question for us.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, righteously, and in godliness in this present world, as we await the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for Himself a special people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:11-14, MEV)

The grace of God does three things:

1) Grace brings salvation.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the age of this world and according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among them we all also once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and we were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and He raised us up and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one should boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9, MEV) *emphasis mine

For by grace you have been saved through faith. What a great sentence!

We are saved because of the grace of God. He looked upon us in favor and love and procured salvation for us through His death and resurrection allowing us to stand before God justified and sanctified in His name. Thank God for His grace!

It is His grace that calls us to repentance (Romans 2:4; Zech. 12:10). It is because of His grace that our sin is washed in the waters of baptism and we are filled with His Spirit (Ephesians 1:7-14). Thank God for His saving grace.

2) Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.

Some see grace as license to sin, almost as a supernatural version of the coveted “get out of jail free” card in Monopoly. This is not solely a problem in the modern church but was an issue the Apostle Paul found necessary to address in the first century church as well.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may increase? God forbid! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1-2, MEV)

So Paul makes very clear that grace is not permission to live unrighteously.

Don’t let anyone convince you the grace of God is license to sin. Grace is a teacher and its curriculum is holiness. Grace “teaches us to deny ungodliness” and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Grace brings salvation and then teaches us how to walk in righteousness.

3) Grace causes us to live in anticipation of the soon return of Jesus Christ.

A soul truly touched by the grace of God is a soul that will be “looking for that blessed hope”, the soon return of Jesus Christ. The grace of God doesn’t baptize us with an unrepentant passion for the thrills of this world. The grace of God, as Paul and Titus understood it, births in our hearts a hunger for the soon return and full redemption of Jesus Christ. Grace lifts our eyes from this world in anticipation of the next!

Furthermore, this Grace described is understood to be available for all men. No one is exempt and no one is overlooked. It’s grace that is amazing, free, and available to all.

The scriptures go on to tell us to “teach these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.” (Titus 2:15). Don’t be intimidated to teach this kind of grace.

Grace that brings salvation. Grace that doesn’t permit us to live sinfully but rather teaches us to live righteously. Grace that lifts our eyes off this world and awakens in our hearts a longing for our eternal home. Grace that cause us, like a kid in December, to eagerly await the coming of our Lord. 

That is amazing grace.

The Dangers of Pride

The following is a blog post from Fabienne Harford at Desiring God. Fabienne Harford (@fabsharford) is a writer, speaker, and counselor, serving on staff at The Austin Stone Counseling Center in Austin, Texas. She writes regularly atwww.fabsharford.com.

old abandoned church

Pride will kill you. Forever. Pride is the sin most likely to keep you from crying out for a Savior. Those who think they are well will not look for a doctor.

As seriously dangerous as pride is, it’s equally hard to spot. When it comes to diagnosing our hearts, those of us who have the disease of pride have a challenging time identifying our sickness. Pride infects our eyesight, causing us to view ourselves through a lens that colors and distorts reality. Pride will paint even our ugliness in sin as beautiful and commendable.

We can’t conclude that we don’t struggle with pride because we don’t see pride in our hearts. The comfortable moments when I pat myself on the back for how well I am doing are the moments that should alarm me the most. I need to reach for the glasses of Christ-like humility, remembering that nothing good dwells in my flesh, and search my heart for secret pride and its symptoms.

In his essay on undetected pride, Jonathan Edwards points out seven sneaky symptoms of the infection of pride.

1. Fault-Finding

While pride causes us to filter out the evil we see in ourselves, it also causes us to filter out God’s goodness in others. We sift them, letting only their faults fall into our perception of them.

When I’m sitting in a sermon or studying a passage, it’s pride that prompts the terrible temptation to skip the Spirit’s surgery on my own heart and instead draft a mental blog post or plan a potential conversation for the people who “really need to hear this.”

Edwards writes,

The spiritually proud person shows it in his finding fault with other saints. . . . The eminently humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts.

2. A Harsh Spirit

Those who have the sickness of pride in their hearts speak of others’ sins with contempt, irritation, frustration, or judgment. Pride is crouching inside our belittling of the struggles of others. It’s cowering in our jokes about the ‘craziness’ of our spouse. It may even be lurking in the prayers we throw upward for our friends that are — subtly or not — tainted with exasperated irritation.

Again Edwards writes, “Christians who are but fellow-worms ought at least to treat one another with as much humility and gentleness as Christ treats them.”

3. Superficiality

When pride lives in our hearts, we’re far more concerned with others’ perceptions of us than the reality of our hearts. We fight the sins that have an impact on how others view us, and make peace with the ones that no one sees. We have great success in the areas of holiness that have highly visible accountability, but little concern for the disciplines that happen in secret.

4. Defensiveness

Those who stand in the strength of Christ’s righteousness alone find a confident hiding place from the attacks of men and Satan alike. True humility is not knocked off balance and thrown into a defensive posture by challenge or rebuke, but instead continues in doing good, entrusting the soul to our faithful Creator.

Edwards says, “For the humble Christian, the more the world is against him, the more silent and still he will be, unless it is in his prayer closet, and there he will not be still.”

5. Presumption Before God

Humility approaches God with humble assurance in Christ Jesus. If either the “humble” or the “assurance” are missing in that equation, our hearts very well might be infected with pride. Some of us have no shortage of boldness before God, but if we’re not careful, we can forget that he is God.

Edwards writes, “Some, in their great rejoicing before God, have not paid sufficient regard to that rule in Psalm 2:11 — ‘Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling.’”

Others of us feel no confidence before God. Which sounds like humility, but in reality it’s another symptom of pride. In those moments, we’re testifying that we believe our sins are greater than his grace. We doubt the power of Christ’s blood and we’re stuck staring at ourselves instead of Christ.

6. Desperation for Attention

Pride is hungry for attention, respect, and worship in all its forms.

Maybe it sounds like shameless boasting about ourselves. Maybe it’s being unable to say “no” to anyone because we need to be needed. Maybe it looks like obsessively thirsting for marriage — or fantasizing about a better marriage — because you’re hungry to be adored. Maybe it looks like being haunted by your desire for the right car or the right house or the right title at work: all because you seek the glory that comes from men, not God.

7. Neglecting Others

Pride prefers some people over others. It honors those who the world deems worthy of honor, giving more weight to their words, their wants, and their needs. There’s a thrill that goes through me when people with “power” acknowledge me. We consciously or unconsciously pass over the weak, the inconvenient, and the unattractive, because they don’t seem to offer us much.

Maybe more of us struggle with pride than we thought.

There’s good news for the prideful. Confession of pride signals the beginning of the endfor pride. It indicates the war is already being waged. For only when the Spirit of God is moving, already humbling us, can we remove the lenses of pride from our eyes and see ourselves clearly, identifying the sickness and seeking the cure.

By God’s grace, we can turn once again to the glorious gospel in which we stand and make much of him even through identifying our pride in all its hiding places inside of us. Just as my concealed pride once moved me toward death, so the acknowledgement of my own pride moves me toward life by causing me to cling more fiercely to the righteousness of Christ.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23–24)

Perpetual Adolesence

20131205-011158.jpg It is certainly an unfortunate tragedy that Paul Walker’s life ended so young and we all naturally sympathize with his family and friends who lost a loved one and a family member.

However, I would surmise that if Paul Walker was given a second chance he would challenge all of us to never act as equally reckless as he and his friend were this past weekend.

He leaves behind a daughter and a message. Perpetual adolescence must end.

Whatever you idolize will determine what you also demonize. Our culture idolizes reckless adolescent behavior and so we demonize responsible adult behavior.

I realize my comments will most likely be misunderstood and this will be an unpopular post. Nevertheless, I feel like it needs to be said. Real men don’t risk their lives for an adolescent thrill. They put the needs of their children, wives and families ahead of their own adolescent drive towards selfish, reckless behavior.

You’ll not hear the media comment in this regard. The message we hear from Hollywood, the music industry, and the magazine aisle is that we should pursue self gratification and adventure at any cost. The ultimate evil to be avoided is not selfish, reckless behavior but boring, monotonous, adult behavior.

Our culture celebrates the adolescent. Television reality shows like The Bachelor and Big Brother, sitcoms like Two and a Half Men and How I Met your mother, as well as the litany of reckless and indulgent films offered to us by Hollywood every year, have indoctrinated us to believe that the worst day of a man’s life is the day he has to grow up.

I’m sure, if he were somehow able to comment, Mr Walker would choose to do things differently that day. He, I’m sure, would have chosen watching his teenage daughter grow into an adult and someday walking her down an aisle over the momentary thrill of high speeds on a California highway.

The Scriptures weigh in on this subject. 1Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

That’s good advice.

When you become a man it is time for adolescence to end. Men should not remain boys because when they do everyone around them suffers.

One of the leading indicators of potential incarceration is a fatherless home. One of the leading causes of poverty is fatherless homes. 85% of youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless home [Fulton County GA jail populations, TX Department of Corrections, 1992], 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census].

Fatherless boys and girls are: twice as likely to drop out of high school; twice as likely to end up in jail; four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems [US D.H.H.S. news release, March 26, 1999].

What’s the point?

The point is, while we celebrate the antics and thrills of the perpetually adolescent men surrounding us, we are encouraging one of the most destructive behaviors, not only to ourselves and our families, but to society.

As a culture, we’ve celebrated selfish, reckless behavior in men and enabled men to vacate their responsibilities to the children they create and the women they pursue.

Every little boy, every little girl, every mother, every wife, and every city needs men who have put aside childish things and have learned how to behave and take responsibility like a man.

The truth is that marriage to a woman often beckons men to a higher calling then they would naturally be inclined to achieve. As unfortunate as it is, the reality just might be, if Paul Walker had been married to his daughters mother, he most likely would have been more inclined to request that the driver of the speeding Porsche Carrera slowdown, if nothing else, for his wife and daughters sake.

In a culture of celebrated feminism and the idolization of the adolescent, there needs to be a clear call from the church for men to put aside perpetual adolescence and begin to behave responsibly, maturely and in an adult manner.

We need less boys and more men.

Welcome

This site will be an archive of articles and thoughts on a range of issues that affect Christians and the church. We all want to be found faithful to the Bible and live a life that honors Jesus Christ. However, how to do that is often elusive. It’s easier said than done. So we will collect here as much teaching and writing as we can to help us think and live in Biblical way.