Celebrating the beauty of God's grace

I Resemble that Remark

[This is the nineteenth post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ            (Offense and Hatred)]

How many of us can think of The Three Stooges without cracking a smile? Who can forget Mo with his bossy sarcasm, Larry with creamy pie on his face, or Curly getting himself into a pickle and coming back with quirky retorts like, “I resemble that remark!”

Would a show like The Three Stooges even make it onto television in today’s politically correct environment? Don’t think so.

Not only are people easily offended, the offended one responds with unforgiveness and spite. Is there ever talk of clearing the air, apology, forgiveness, or reconciliation?

Instead, those with opposing opinions butt heads like two clashing goats, caught in attack and counter-attack. Push forward and push-back.

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What ever happened to letting things roll off your back? Or walking away and treating yourself to a chocolate sundae? What about taking the high road? That way of thinking doesn’t seem to be around anymore.

Jesus warned us that civil society would crumble as the day of His return draws near.

His words are to the point: “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another” (Matthew 24:10, nkjv).

The word “hate” has almost become a buzzword. Many believe that the quickest way to silence someone who has an opinion different from yours is to label them a “hater.”

If a minister preaches on verses from the Bible that touch a sore spot of conscience, that sermon is labeled “hate speech.”

Yet if a Hollywood actor takes the podium and curses the President with vulgar profanity, the entertainment community gives him a standing ovation. Those who spew vitriol and hate are only revealing the darkness inside of them.

“. . .for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45b, nkjv).

On the flip side, the same passage teaches, “A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good” (Luke 6:45a, nkjv).

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So we have a choice: to turn aside hatred and to speak healing words when we have a chance.

We can take a stand as the Holy Spirit leads while being careful not to add fuel to the fire.

As the day of our Blessed Hope draws near, Christians should be thankful that we have been forgiven.

“For we ourselves were also once . . . living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared . . . according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:3-5, nkjv).

 

 

 

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It’s the Destination

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[This is the eighteenth post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ (Lawlessness)]

About five years ago I traveled to a writer’s conference in Colorado.

After arriving at the Denver airport, I rolled my squeaky suitcase outside to wait for the shuttle van that would take me to the conference center.

Standing on an island of hot concrete, I blinked into the bright sunshine. In the distance, the cool, ice-capped Rockies soared into a pure blue sky, their sharp peaks softened with downy white clouds.

That refreshing vision brought beauty and peace to my soul. It breathed new life into my travel-weary bones.

I kept that exhilarating view in mind as I rode in a packed van for a two-hour journey. The trip was anything but refreshing.

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The twisting mountain roads and switchbacks kept my eyes glued to the road, praying for safety. The van pulled over a couple of times because of car sickness. I silently sipped my water, praying I wouldn’t get sick, too.

Ironically, the close-in mountains and trees kept me from seeing any far-off vistas.

Our Christian journey begins with the vision Jesus promised us–an eternity of peace, beauty, love, and refreshment.

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But the road we travel getting there is bumpy and treacherous. There are sharp curves, switchbacks, and sickness. We can’t see the vista because of the pine trees. But we have to keep going and stay the course, the beauty unfolds just ahead!

Jesus spoke about endurance when he taught about the last days.

Lawlessness will be the order of the day. Many will be offended at the gospel and the name of Jesus. Hate will lash out like a serpent’s tongue.

“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. . . And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:10,12, nkjv).

Take heart knowing Jesus has prayed for us! Just before His crucifixion, we were on His mind! He lifted up His eyes to the Father and prayed,

“Keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. . . ” and, “I do not pray that Your should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:11,15, nkjv).

Jesus goes before us, is beside us, and is our rear guard!

And we have fellow travelers to hand us a cold water when we’re parched and tired. Our companions are those we are to be one with, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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Shaken and Stirred

[This is the seventeenth post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ (Earthquakes)]

Earthquakes shake things up.

The recent eruption of Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii is sending shock waves throughout the islands. Rumbling earthquakes have hit the region 704 times in the last seven days.

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It is no wonder that earthquakes will signal that last things are about to take place on Earth.

Earthquakes are mysterious, unpredictable, terrifying, and devastating. The cataclysmic shifting of tectonic plates beneath our feet remind us how powerless we really are. When it comes to the very earth we walk on, we have no control.

God, who is in control, is gracious toward us. He gives us security and consistency throughout most of our lives so that earth-shaking events are the exception, not the rule.

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When monumental things happen, they disrupt and disturb. Our paradigm changes. Earthquakes are so powerful that the event causes people to separate their time on earth in terms of “before” and “after” the cataclysmic event.

In the Bible, the prophet Amos distinguishes the time of his prophecy by recording that it took place “ . . . two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1, nkjv).

Closer to our time, the great New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12 caused the MIssissippi River to run backwards, collapsed islands, and created a new lake.

The tremendous quakes rang church bells and shook the ground thousands of miles away in Boston and New York City. History in the Mississippi Valley had a monumental point of change.  

A “great earthquake” rumbled the ground at the resurrection of Christ. An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled away the stone at the door of Jesus’s tomb–revealing to all the world that He had risen!

How momentous was the change! Before the quake, we were  ”without Christ,  . . . having no hope and without God in the world”(Ephesians 2:12, nkjv).  

After the resounding quake of the resurrection, “ . . . you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesian 2:13, nkjv).

Another “before” and “after” is coming. It will be world-shattering and tremendous.

The appearance of Jesus, our Blessed Hope, will usher Christians out of the “before” of injustice, trials, and suffering into the afterlife of our eternity.

We will live in the everlasting light of His Presence, a new day of joy, mercy, and grace.

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A Horse With a Name

[This is the sixteenth post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ (Famine)]

“I’ve got the plague,” we often hear someone say, when they’ve battled a long bout of cold or flu that just won’t go away.

Real plagues are more serious than the worrisome but short-lived sicknesses we endure.

Another word for plague is pestilence. It is a sudden, fatal epidemic and one of the things Jesus warned about when he listed harbingers that would signal the beginning of last things (Matthew 24:7).

The opening of the fourth seal in the book of Revelation releases a pale horse named Death (Revelation 6:8, nkjv). It’s hue is not just white, but sickly green. It is the color of disease and demise.

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Disease follows quickly on the heels of war and famine. In war-torn Syria, a new infectious plague has sprouted wings. Carried by the sandfly, “Aleppo Boil” is a parasitic disease that causes skin ulcerations and can spread fatally to internal organs.

War, impoverished health, and societal breakdown are breeding grounds for infectious disease.

And will we ever escape the dark grasp of cancer that seems to reach into every home and family?

This is depressing, I know.

Here’s the good news. The Psalmist wrote:

“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence” (Psalm 91:3, nkjv).

In Christ we have a hiding place from the pestilence that comes when evil reigns. Whether it is through evil governments that withhold grain from starving people, through drought and war, or through ignorance and despair, our Rock, Jesus Christ will keep us. pexels-photo-755385.jpeg

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by” (Psalm 57:1, nkjv).

 

[This is the fifteenth post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ (Famine)]

Thankfully, our bodies reward us when we try to eat healthy.

Well-being flows through us after we savor a satisfying meal–like eating robust vegetables and chicken in a aromatic stew. We are filled with buoyant energy and glowing vitality.  

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The opposite is true when we’re undernourished. It’s draining and debilitating.

When Jesus taught about the signs of His Second Coming, He said that famines would take place in different places of the world.

A crisis of hunger ensues when adequate, nutritious food is not available. Famine is a painful, heart-rending march toward death.  

I read with admiration stories about the Great Depression of the 1930’s, when families did whatever they could to make their food stretch. Watered-down milk filled more glasses. Cornmeal or bread were mixed into casseroles. Beans stood in for meat. Ritz crackers were disguised as apples in recipes like Mock Apple Pie.

Depression-era food reminds me of the fish sticks I ate in my grade-school cafeteria. Eating the same food over and over eventually didn’t satisfy.

But there is another type of hunger mentioned in the Bible. It is the famine spoken of by the prophet, Amos.

“‘Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God,

‘That I will send a famine on the land,

Not a famine of bread

Nor a thirst for water,

But of hearing the words of the Lord.’” (Amos 8:11, nkjv)

Along with the physical catastrophe of famine, is there now a spiritual famine taking place?

The inner man hungers when Bible verses are watered down. We grow weary when witty anecdotes are substituted for sound teaching or new philosophies stand in for revealed truth. A philanthropic deed is disguised as repentance and obedience.  

We’re tricked into eating Spam, when we’ve been promised roast beef.

In a food crisis, people wander from place to place looking for a morsel of bread. Is it any different spiritually, when people move from church to church, change denominations, or completely overhaul their beliefs because they are spiritually starving?

People are feeling drained and debilitated. Spiritual emptiness is painful. It is a heart-rending march toward numbness and death.

In days of spiritual famine, we can take comfort in the rich sustenance of God’s Word.

Meditating on the words of the Bible is like sitting down to a bountiful feast. Even if we’re not being served, we can always help ourselves.

 

The Next Big Thing

[This is the fourteenth post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ (Famine)]

It’s that time of year again.

Winter and Spring are duking it out for dominance. I don’t know about you, but the changing weather had me wearing my warmest down jacket on Saturday and open-toed shoes by Tuesday.

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Can the same be said for the signs we see taking shape all around us? Like towering clouds, change is moving swiftly across the landscape of our existence.

Jesus described the “beginning of sorrows” as birth pangs–one remarkable crisis building to the next, even more shocking reality. We have given up trying to predict the NEXT BIG THING.

War brings death and destruction and sends aftershocks in its wake. Is it any wonder that hunger follows quickly in its path? Famine is one of the birth pangs Jesus talked about:

And there will be famines . . . in various places.” (Matthew 24:7, nkjv)

In war-torn countries famine is an ever-present reality. Families thirst for clean drinking water and scavenge for food.  

Even in America, hunger strikes 1 out of 6 people. Unbelievable.

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While we are looking for our Blessed Hope, how about giving hope to others? Why don’t we find ways to contribute to our local food banks and give donations to reputable organizations like the Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse who are boots on the ground in destitute and war-torn countries?

The Salvation Army

Crisis in Syria: Relief for Refugees – Samaritan’s Purse  

 

 

 

 

 

Kingdom v. Kingdom

[This is the thirteenth post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ (Wars and Rumors of Wars)]

Many Christians are aware of the prophecy that Jesus gave to his disciples concerning the last days. His prophecy includes these words: “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom . . . ” (Matthew 24:7, kjv).

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In the last decades, we’ve been exposed to many wars. So many that we’ve almost become numb to this passage of Scripture. We shake our heads, feeling powerless in the face of ongoing conflict.

But could this verse have another layer of meaning we have missed? I’ve often wondered why the passage seems to repeat itself. Wouldn’t it have meant the same thing if only “nation against nation” had been written? Why the additional words about “kingdom against kingdom”?

Could it be that the kingdoms that are mentioned refer to conflict in the spiritual realm? The Kingdom of God overcoming the kingdom of the world, now under the persuasion of Satan?

In case we imagine that Evil doesn’t claim a kingdom, the words of the apostle John remind us, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19, nkjv). 

Also consider Satan’s arrogant assumption of kingdom ownership when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and said, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Jesus responded with, “Away with you Satan!” (Matthew 4:9-10, nkjv).

As we see and hear about the rage of nations, behind the scenes are spiritual kingdoms at war. Unseen forces are controlling dictators–evil men who lust for power and control.

In the present Middle East conflict, the leader of Syria has descended into the darkness of genocide. He has twice used chemical weapons, including Sarin and chlorine gas, on his own people.

When we are assaulted by reports of evil, it is easy to fall into despair.

In an Old Testament story about Israel and the King of Syria, the prophet Elisha’s servant is panicked.

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The King of Syria has surrounded them with his powerful army:  

. . . there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?'” (2 Kings 6:15, nkjv).

Wise Elisha responded, ” . . . ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:16-17, nkjv).

As spiritual battles are fought at every level do we as Christians believe God has us surrounded with his mighty help?

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