Intentional Christians

It’s hot…really hot…and humid. The six o’clock weather reporter will tell us the heat index was 105 degrees that afternoon. I sit in my air conditioned car at the intersection, sitting in judgment of a panhandler. I question his sincerity – his honesty. Is he really hungry – is he really homeless? And then up ahead a car window opens and a lady’s hand is extended with a large cold drink from some fast food place.

This was no accidental show of charity or compassion; this was intentional. The lady had purposefully, willfully gone to Wendy’s or McDonald’s – someplace – and purchased this cold drink. I don’t know if the lady was a Christian, but she certainly exhibited the Christian attitude of love – not judging the man’s heart as I was, but feeding the Lord’s sheep.

I was immediately reminded of the passage in Matthew 25 (Matt. 25:41-45), where Jesus talks about the sheep and the goats and sadly I had to count myself among the goats on that day.

Judy and I have been attending a Nazarene Church in Palm City for some months now and several of the recent sermons have been on Intentional Christian Living. Much of the teaching has included Bible study, prayer, and Christian fellowship, but what has struck me most is the word INTENTIONAL.

Intentionality is the flip side of accidentally. We choose a lifestyle of love on purpose. We join a Bible study group knowingly, purposefully – not accidentally. We choose not to watch worldly and unholy TV programs and internet sites intentionally – deliberately – by design. We choose to forgive when worldly persuasions would have us hold onto the hurts and sorrows inflicted on us and our forgiveness is by design – intentional. We determine to follow Christ consciously – willfully – premeditatedly. It’s no accident.

Having stated all this we acknowledge the hand of the Holy Spirit in our choices. He is our guide to righteousness and also the source of conviction when we stray or stumble – yet we remain responsible for the choices we make and the consequences thereof.

Being an intentional Christian means you have considered all options in a given circumstance or situation and decided to act or respond as you believe Jesus would. That decision can sometimes be a bit daunting and uncomfortable; even challenging and costly.

It means you have established practices to deny the temptations of some addiction. It means you have purposefully harvested words from Scripture to employ when Satan comes calling. It means you pray for someone who you really don’t want to succeed or to heal, and to forgive when your sinful nature says, “retaliate”. It means you get up out of the easy chair and go and serve in your church or community, even when that serving is painful – either physically or financially or emotionally.

God will often call us to most uncomfortable and challenging ministries; ministries that we are sure are beyond our abilities, detrimental to our lifestyle, and contrary to our plans and purposes. Being an intentional Christian means we say “Yes Lord, send me.”

There are no 'accidental' Christians. Though we cannot take credit for our walk with Christ we do have a hand in how we walk by the choices we make in our daily life. Simply going to church on Sunday no more makes you a Christian than sitting in an airplane makes you a pilot. James taught us "…be doers of the word, and not hearers only". (James 1:22 NKJV)

There is intentional, purposeful, deliberate work to be done on a daily basis if we are to be all God has designed and called us to be and do. Our salvation did not come complete with all the tools and attitudes of righteousness necessary for Kingdom work.

There is faith to be increased; love, joy, and peace to be spread, the Holy Word to be learned and shared, charity, kindness and compassion to give, and prayers to offer – Everyday, Everywhere, and with Everyone.

When Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple He responded to their queries, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  (Luke 2:49 NKJV)

I pray we are all about our Father's business!!

Be blessed.

Rapture

Almost everyone has heard at some time or another something pertaining to or about the Rapture. Some believe it, others do not. Some understand it, and surely others do not.  Whether you choose to believe or not, that’s entirely up to you. With that said, lets try to shed some light on the subject.

Some fifteen years ago Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins authored a wonderful fictional account of the rapture, followed by their interpretation of the seven year tribulation and Christ’s second coming. I believe the twelve book series, though sophomoric, is a great read, and faithful to the scriptures.

The word rapture comes from the root word for “caught up”. The root word for “caught up” in the Greek language is harpazo, which means “to snatch away” or to take away suddenly. In the Latin Vulgate Bible, the words “caught up” are translated as rapturo. Christians have since chosen to describe this soon-coming event of the Lord suddenly snatching away His true followers from the earth as the rapture. The rapture according to the bible in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says… 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 so shall we ever be with the Lord”.

This is when Christ Himself will descend from heaven with the shout (also known as a trumpet blast) of the Arch Angel, to take all those who believe in Him. (Also known as the church or the body of Christ). Those believers who have died are raised from the grave first. Those who are alive, are then caught up to meet Christ in the air. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 Behold I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trump shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality“. (See the NLT translation)

What this verse means is that we will not all die or taste death. Some of us will be changed as we yet are alive. In the twinkling of an eye… approximately 1/100 of a second! Our bodies must be changed into glorified bodies and therefore incorruptible. We will be given perfect bodies; no blemishes, no scars, no imperfections, no overweight and sorry, no tattooed or pierced bodies, We will be clothed in fine white linen and be made ready for The Bridegroom.

This is not the time of Christ’s second coming on a white horse with an army of angels that we find in Revelation chapter 19 and forward. That second coming is seven years after the event of 1 Thes. 4:17. The rapture will occur with no warning – no stars falling, no red moon (Rev. 6:12). In what is called the “Olivet Discourse” in Matthew 24, our Lord Jesus informed His disciples of what was to come, regarding His return.

He warned them of wars, of natural disasters, of false prophets and teachers, and that the nations would be at each other’s throats. He warned them of persecution, hatred and betrayal. Now we might say “now is such a time!” But we find that the spiritual writers and speakers of every generation as far back as we have documentation, each felt their generation was surely facing the days of the rapture. As sinful and godless as we may perceive this time, so too did our predecessors in the faith. And yet the Rapture has not come. . .why?

I think Peter addressed that in his second epistle; “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, NOT WANTING ANYONE TO PERISH, BUT EVERYONE TO COME TO REPENTANCE.” (2 Peter 3:8-9 emphasis added) In this case God is the Master Procrastinator. . .waiting – desiring that more and more of His creation would come to Him before the hammer falls.

I think there are a couple of most important issues we must tattoo onto our mind and heart. First and foremost – it (the Rapture) could happen now – RIGHT NOW! The Bible tells us there will be no warning of when Christ will come to “gather His elect” (Matt. 24:30-31) Jesus originated the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared”. What about your life would you change if you knew He was coming tonight????

And secondly, there is what you must do to be prepared. . .

It is assumed that as a Christian you have surrendered yourself to God, confessed you sin before man, and repented of all wickedness. That being a given, we further assume you are abiding by the commandment Christ Jesus delivered to the Pharisees as told in Matthew 22:37-39, and that you are counted among the sheep as depicted in Matthew 25:34-40.

We never get it perfect my friends – hard as we may try. But God knows those who love Him and are sorrowful of their failures to meet His standards. It is only as we are sure of His mercy and forgiveness that we can boldly come to His throne and eagerly anticipate the Rapture.

As for your author. . .I say “BRING IT ON!”


The Burden of Sin

“At that time I pleaded with the Lord. . .”Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan – that hill country and Lebanon.”

“But. . .the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough”, the LORD said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. . .” (Deut. 3:23, 25-26 NIV)

How great was this tragedy that Moses had brought upon himself. He had allowed the rants of his people to give rise to an uncharacteristic fit of anger, and perhaps a moment of prideful “I’ll show you a thing or two”.

At Horeb God had told Moses to ‘strike the rock’ with the rod by which the Red Sea had been parted, to bring forth the water for the querulous mob. (Ex. 17:6 NIV) This visually demonstrative action testified to the power God had trusted to him. This same rod or staff had been turned into a serpent at the burning bush and again in Pharaoh’s court. It had been held over the Nile to render her waters to blood and had been held high in Joshua’s battle against the Amalekites.

God had provided a rod for the babe of the faithful, but as that faith matures we depend more on words than rods. And now at Kadesh God has commanded Moses to simply speak to the rock. (Num. 20:8 NIV) But Moses is irritated, angry and hot with disappointment in the demands of  the people. Though he now led a younger generation they had to have known of the failures of their fathers and the ensuing thirty-eight years of wandering for their faithlessness. ” O faithless and perverse generation, how long must I put up with you?” They had witnessed the Shenikah go before them day and night all those years, their daily bread provided, sandals that never wore thin, battles they never lost, yet now they railed against him once again. “Put a coin in that slot machine you call God. I want it and I want it now!”

And so in his anger Moses disobeys God’s instruction. And in that instant all his dreams of a life in the land of milk and honey are dashed. The vision that had allured him all those years, from the burning bush til now disappeared like morning dew on a summer sunrise. Consequences – the burden of sin. Moses would be allowed to look, but he could not touch.

God forgave Moses his trespass just has He forgives yours and mine, but for Moses the consequences were tragic. Just as God forgave David his sin with Bathsheba, the consequences were to burden him all his days. God forgave Abraham and Sarah and fulfilled His promise of a lineage that would be His chosen nation, yet the consequences of the trespass with Hagar is with us still.

No one wakes up with sin on their itinerary. Sin comes on us unexpectedly. That may seem an obvious observation, but if so then we need to be prepared. Paul warned that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil.

So we put on that whole armor of God. That suit of armor – the belt of truth (God’s truth, not man’s), the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel of peace, a shield of faith, a helmet of salvation, and finally our only weapon of offense against those forces of evil, the holy word of God.

Be a Scout – Be prepared for those flaming arrows of the evil one. We reap what we have sown – though forgiven, there is suffering with sin.

May the Lord God abundantly bless you and yours, and may you be a blessing to someone else today.

Higher Thoughts, Higher Ways – Part II

In our previous issue we examined God’s purity relative to mankind’s, as we are infected with a sinful and rebellious nature. As we contemplate on Isaiah 55:8-9 again this week let’s delve into the abundance of God.

There is a webpage which illustrates the size of our ‘big blue marble’ in comparison to other planets in our solar system, and then on to our sun and other stars. The URL is http://www.rense.com/general72/size.htm. This illustration should help to demonstrate our less than significant footprint on the universe. It may also help us begin to grasp the greatness of our Creator.

Now if I may, let me use this size comparative illustration to bespeak of God’s abundance. “Abundance of what”, you may ask. I think first of the abundance of His grace. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul expounds on this premise of ‘higher grace’. (Rom. 5:12-21) The point is made that whatever was done by sin, and through sin, was outdone by the grace of God. If it was possible for death to get such a foothold through one act of selfishness so as to reign on earth, it must be equally possible for eternal life to reign through the matchless act of self-denial which shines from the cross. If death came to all men through the trespass of one sinner, grace must come to them more abundantly through the gift of righteousness by Christ Jesus. It was never tit for tat. The icon, the symbol of our salvation was never the balancing scales, but the cross.

There is no comparing our forgiveness and God’s. We may not measure His by our own. We say we forgive if – if the trespasser were more contrite, if the trespass weren’t so blatant, so willful. Or we will forgive – but we won’t forget. Our forgiveness isn’t prompt, and we often remain unloving, though possible civil in our relationships with the offender.

Now, as we ponder these flaws in our own mercies, is it any wonder we cannot realize the completeness of God’s forgiveness, nor the full meaning of His assurance that He will remember our sins no more? As the prodigal plodded homeward he expects only a stinted pardon and a servant’s ration. But the father runs to him, embraces him, kisses him, clothes him with the finest, and seats him at his table with the most royal provision. That is the difference between man’s notion of forgiveness and God’s

We must abandon our standards of grace, whether of your own forgiveness or that of others; they are of no help here. Our fathometer is useless, our estimates fall short. We look again at the planetary comparison – and find that even that comparison is wanting, inadequate.

When God forgives, He ceases to remember; He blots out our iniquities as a cloud; “as far as the East is from the West…” He does not just treat us as pardoned criminals, but takes us to His heart as beloved sons, heirs to His throne. (See Psalm 103:1-13)

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived. . .” (1 Cor. 2:9)


Consequences

“Be sure your sin will find you out!”

Joe sat at his dying wife’s bedside. Her voice was little more than a whisper. “Joe, darling,” she breathed, “I’ve got a confession to make before I go. I’m the one who took the ten thousand dollars from your safe and spent it on a fling with your best friend, Charles. And it was I who forced your mistress to leave the city. And I am the one who reported your income tax evasion to the government.”

“That’s all right, don’t give it a second thought,” answered Joe, “I’m the one who poisoned you.”

 

There aren’t very many free passes when it comes to wrongdoing.  The sinner often doesn’t ‘reap what he sows’ right away.  He may skate for a season, unaware, even uncaring of the wake his trespass has wreaked.  Sometimes it is years before he realizes the aftermath of his offense, how many have been affected, and how deep the hurt he caused.  But the fallout can be, and most often is both immediate and unending for the offended.  There are consequences to sin – both physical and spiritual.

Our best example of this is that of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Their sin was both immediate and unending.

The initial result of their sin was their awareness of their nakedness. They had lost their innocence. Close behind had to be the first impression of fear and guilt.  Never before had they felt the need to hide from God.  And once they were exposed God’s punishment was both immediate and unending for both they and all mankind that would follow.

They were exiled from the Garden; their sin had introduced physical death into the world.  In fact in order for God to have provided them with clothing made of skins, (Genesis 3:21) an animal had to have been slain.  Prior to that Adam and Eve, and all animals were vegetarians (Gen. 1:30).  Most Biblical scholars agree that man was intended to live eternally in the Garden.  But now God decrees that man shall return to the dust from whence he came.

Famine and pestilence were now introduced as God curses the earth, (vv 17-19).  Never before had there been disease, crime, storms, or evil of any kind.  No poisonous beast nor plant populated Eden. Man would now labor ‘by the sweat of his brow’ for his sustenance. Woman would now suffer greatly in child bearing, from morning sickness, through agonizing labor pains, to postpartum depression.  She would be subservient to her husband, though many women would rail against this natural law, it was God ordained.

But the most dreadful and wretched consequence of sin would be mankind’s separation from God.  God is holy, ans as such He cannot abide with sin, and now man is sinful.  There would be no more walks in the Garden with the Creator.

But God, in His mercy, would provide mankind with a ‘get out of jail free’ card, an escape clause from our contract with spiritual death.  In His omniscience and wisdom He had planned our opportunity for salvation before the beginning.

Though we are forgiven our trespasses, that does not erase the consequences. God does not, nor can those afflicted, erase the outcome of trespass. Families are torn apart, lives are lost, relations are shipwrecked. I can personally attest to this.  Mistakes, self-serving attitudes, and selfish pursuits years ago by your author caused permanent scars for my family and friends. Though I have been the recipient of undeserved forgiveness, the wounds are permanent.  We need always remember that forgiven sins retain the repercussion. . . the fruit of that which we sowed.

The physical consequence to sin will vary with the sin that is committed. However, the spiritual consequence remains the same; for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The solution to the spiritual consequence of sin is revealed in the completion of the verse. . . “BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord“. Salvation from our sins does not remove the physical consequences of sin. If you drank too much and developed hardening or cirrhosis of the liver, it won’t go away. If you committed sexual sins and picked up a disease or became pregnant, those problems will remain. However, the long term problem, our separation from God and eternal life can be cured. In addition, learning to live life God’s way will give us the tools to handle the results of our past mistakes

I would encourage you to be quick to forgive those who have wronged you,.  You must know that you have wronged someone in your past and we all pray for grace regarding them, just as Christ Jesus provided forgiveness for our own sins.  We pray for their forgiveness and we trust the Holy Spirit has led us to repentance from those wrongdoings.

Forgive as you have been forgiven.  May the Lord God bless you abundantly, and may you be a blessing to those around you.

God bless,