Thursday, September 21, 2017

Surreal

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed    --

in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.


                                                                     I Corinthians 15: 51-52





Surreal, the times we live in are surreal. The definition of surreal, according to Webster's 7th New Collegiate Dictionary, is: "having the intense irrational reality of a dream."

Doesn't the thought of the rapture of believers in Jesus Christ seem surreal? Like a dream that it even could happen?  The fact that we will hear a trumpet, the dead in Christ will rise from their graves and we will be changed in the smallest amount of time, doesn't it sound "preposterous"? (As Chuck Missler states when talking about the rapture.)

But that is the "blessed hope" of the Church, and as my pastor says, "Don't mess with my blessed hope!" Churches that teach there is no rapture, or that we must go through the tribulation are in fact doing that, messing with our hope. I just read in Titus about the blessed hope:

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself [His] own special people, zealous for good works." Titus 2: 11-14

Jesus told us that we would not know the day or the hour, but He did say we can know the times and the seasons.

Many might say that people thought they were in the times and seasons throughout the Church Age. Like during World War II, people thought surely that Hitler was the antichrist, especially when the Jews were being eradicated in the ovens of the concentration camp in Germany.

Or in the year 1666, I read that many people thought that was the end of the world, being that it was the year of triple sixes. Even many people thought in 1988 that we would be caught up then.

Now many believers are  talking (and arguing!) about the Revelation 12 sign in the constellation of Virgo. This Saturday, September 23, on the Feast of Trumpets the planet Jupiter will exit the womb of the constellaton Virgo. All the features of Revelation 12: 1-2 will be in place in this particular sign from the heavens.

"Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.
Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.
His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne."
                    Revelation 12: 1-5

So many, many in the Body of Christ believe that possibly this might be the day that the Church, whom they say is the Child, (not the male Child, who is Christ) will be caught up to meet the Lord. Even the word for "caught up" is harpazo, the same Greek word used in I Thessalonians 4:17:

"Then we who are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."
The point of this blog is not to argue that this is going to happen this weekend. But the surrealities among us with hurricanes, monsoons, people losing their minds, artificial intelligence, Israel being back in the land and so forth sure sounds like the end of the end times. In Luke 21: 25, Jesus described these end times and they sound just like today's headlines:
"And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;
"men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
"Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
"Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."
Oh, and by the way, today, September 21, 2017 just happens to be the UN's International Day of Peace. No matter that it says I Thessalonians 5:2-3:

"For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape."
Though there have been many arguments about this Revelation 12 sign, and what it means, it seems the Body of Christ has become polarized over this very issue. I have not wanted to say much about it, for fear of others scoffing at me, if the truth were known. 

With all that, I believe that the catching up could happen this weekend. Or it could happen later this fall. Maybe even later than that. God Himself knows the perfect time, and that is enough for me.

I am not going to stake my claim on a particular day, but I do want to be ready. For even though this seemingly absurd event called the Rapture is scoffed at by the world, it is going to happen. My greatest test is overcoming the lukewarm test, being blase or consumed with arguing with others about the whole thing.

The only way I can do this is to keep looking to my gracious Lord and Savior. Though there are millions of distractions: books, movies, tweets, facebook posts and snapchats, He calls me simply to bear His yoke daily. Bearing it is the most wonderful and gracious thing I ever get privileged to do. The yoke that Christ asks me to wear is, in the Greek, chrestos (5543 Strong's). 

"Christ's yoke is chrestos, as having nothing harsh or galling about it." (page 2327, Hebrew Greek Key Word Study Bible, ESV, 2013)
Let's just work on being ready for that Day.

 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Jesus: Don't Leave Earth Without Him

"And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves,
people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken." Luke 21: 25-26





Do you remember the credit card commerical jingle: "Don't leave home without it?"

I was thinking today of our brief stay on this planet, and then the moment of our death. Right now, it seems like we will be here forever. But think of those who went before us who thought the same thing, and now are no longer here. They made an exit from this life, and according to God's Word,  have gone to only one of two places: heaven or hell.

Much in all as people don't like to talk or even think about hell, it seems Jesus talked more about hell than He did heaven. So, as I mused this morning, what will it be like when we have our final heartbeat on this planet? We will go to one of those places.

JESUS: Don't leave earth without HIM! Yet, there is this:

On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' Matthew 7: 22-23


 So sobering. To whom was the Lord referring? I mean, these people claimed to know Him, but He tells them He never knew them!

I can't help but think that these people were so called good, upstanding members of their community. But they did not know Jesus. They somehow counted on their own good works to give them credit with God. They thought that perhaps they were better than some that were criminals, and somehow that would give them the ability to cite their own good works before God.

But in Revelation 20, Jesus, though the Apostle John,  talks of a throne, not of mercy but of judgment. At this throne, those that thought somehow they had done enough good works will have them measured in the light of God's justice. And no one, no one at that throne will be found to have enough good works to save him..

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.*
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.     Revelation 20: 11-15 (* my emphasis)

To me, these are the somberest words in the Bible. They say nothing of "universal reconciliation." Why are they in God's Word if  not true?

Look at all the chaos and destruction swirling around us. Signs in the heavens, signs in the oceans, men's hearts failing them from fear, people losing their minds. Maybe this will continue to go on for years, but then again maybe it will not. Maybe it will all come down, and come down soon. 

If it does, do you know for a fact that your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life? Have you trusted in His free and irrevocable gift? You can, right here and right now. This is really good news!

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.
And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice
and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.  John 5: 24-29

I am rereading a great book called Earthquake Resurrection. The author, David W. Lowe, contends that the sixth seal of the book of Revelation will occur when the resurrection of all dead believers  will suddenly be snatched out from their tombs.  Then we who are alive and remain will meet them together in the air and then forever will be with the Lord. See I Thessalonians 4:16.

The earthquake will be as no other earthquake, as the shaking will be from every part of the earth. It will occur (though much larger) just as there was an earthquake when our Lord was risen by the Father from the dead.

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.
The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised,
and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" Matthew 27: 51-54


Today, if you only are willing, you can take Jesus' water of life freely and without cost. (Revelation 22:17) The price of this great salvation has been completely borne by Him in His love for you. He won't force you, but while it is still called Today, you can make the choice to believe on Him.

Then when you leave this earth, whether by resurrection or by death, you will be sure not to leave without Him. You will not have to stand in terror at the Great White Throne, for your name will be in the Lamb's Book of Life. You will be counted among the glorious saints of God. Amen.
 



Friday, September 1, 2017

Harvey's Overcomers

The LORD [is] your keeper; The LORD [is] your shade at your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night. Psalm 121: 5-6


A gem of wisdom from the pulpit caught my attention: "If you're not happy just where you are with just what you have you will never be happy no matter where you are or what you have."

 That one little thought has saved me many times. The lie is that if I just had that one more thing I want, then I could then be happy. But we all know that even the richest people, the ones that have everything still are not satisfied. If I have the Lord, then I have what I need, no matter what I apparently lack in comparison with others. 

 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. Psalm 23:1


I realized today that God has seen fit to order my life in just such a way that is perfect for me, to keep me leaning hard on God. God took all the quirks of my personality and temperament and came up with a plan that is optimal so that I could keep seeking Him. Even my infirmities add up to help bring about something good.

Friends,  relatives, and acquaintances did not have the same need I did, and God worked in their life a different way. How intimately God knows and deals with each one of us, His children.

Years ago I talked with a godly man with a premise that God does everything He can in each person's circumstances so that they might cry out to Him and be saved. That does not mean that all mankind will, but that's God's heart toward them. Some might need to endure persecution, others might need to realize the emptiness of riches without Christ. But God knows what each one needs, and if He went to the utmost to give His Son for us on the cross, then why wouldn't He  work in the backgrounds of all of our circumstances to try to get our attention?

O earth, earth, earth, Hear the word of the LORD! Jeremiah 22:29


If this is true, then  if there are things in my life that I don't like, I rest, somehow knowing He uses these things for my highest and best purpose. They can draw me eve closer to Him in this little entity called time.

I watched a beautiful news clip from some of the survivors of Hurricane Harvey. Gathered in a shelter together, they spontaneously began singing a praise song to God and even calling out to God for revival. Now, that's trusting Him to have control of things, even when their homes were destroyed and they lost verything but the clothes on their backs. Instead of becoming contentious and angry, God's promise made them content, even surviving a once in a millenium type of flood. They witness to us the preciousness of God's promises:

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
 So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" Hebrews 13: 5-6


Before the watching world, Harvey's overcomers displayed God's truth:

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;  Psalm 46: 1-2: 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Quiet Us with Your Love

 Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for [it is] nigh at hand... Joel 2:1


Do you feel worrisome about the latest news reports? The headlines grow harder and harder to bear.

Just less than a week ago was the eclipse and now a storm bears down in the sourthwest that may end up being worse than Katrina. Every day it seems our country implodes just a little bit more.

I am confused by what's all around me, yet the answer I need to these very problems were written thousands of years ago. 
 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3: 5-6

Somehow God knew all of this craziness was going to happen, in this generation since the re-establishment of the nation of Israel. It seems the key to really get the end times ball rolling was May, 14, 1948.  Suddenly we are almost 70 years from that day. And everything is flying out of control.

 I flounder in a confusing sea of information when listening to the news updates. Everyone has their opinion, experts abound. But stability does not come from the plethora of advice I  find from the world.

Only one thing is sure: God's Word and His promises to all of us, His undeserving children. I may understand just a tiny bit, but one day it all will be made clear. So each day I try to read and record verses impressed on me.

Today, one of the verses I read and recorded was Zephaniah chapter 3:1-2.  I thought about my own reaction to the times we live in:
 Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city!  She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD; she does not draw near to her God. Zeph. 3: 1-2

 Am I listening and attentive to the warning knocks the Lord is sending to this country? I've lived in a time of unbroken prosperity, but that could all change in a moment.

Yesterday I was deprived of my morning coffee so that I could undergo a small procedure at the hospital early in the afternoon. The world could have ended that I didn't get my morning cup of joe. I felt awful without it. Then, I thought what if the electricity went out permanently? No more dark roast for me! This verse from Jeremiah came to mind:

 "If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?  Jeremiah 12: 5
 Here I am again, Lord. Please keep me and my loved ones safe through spiritual and physical storms. One of my children and his precious family live in the path of Harvey, so this storm weighs heavy on my mind and heart. Still, God speaks words of reassurance:

 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zeph. 3: 17
 Dear God quiet this storm by Your love, exult over Your people that lie in its path with Your singing. And may we, the sheep of Your pasture, remember that if You, Lord, did the most in saving us through means of the cross, than You, God, also will meet every other need until You bring us safely home.

  He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Song of Solomon 2:4









Wednesday, August 16, 2017

To God Alone be Glory

I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images. Isaiah 42:8


God alone deserves all the glory.  In that wonderful devotional by Charles Spurgeon called Morning and Evening  I read these words for August 16:

God's glory is the result of His nature and acts. He is glorious in His character, for there is such a store of everything that is holy, and good, and lovely in God, that He must be glorious. The actions which flow from His character are also glorious; but while He intends that they should manifest to His creatures His goodness, and mercy, and justice, He is equally concerned that the glory associated with them should be given only to Himself. Nor is there aught in ourselves in which we may glory; for who maketh us to differ from another? And what have we that we did not receive from the God of all grace? Then how careful ought we to be to walk humbly before the Lord! The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High. 
The last statement really hit me. "The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High."

Something clicked inside me. The basis for all the chaos, the fighting, the murders and in general all the misery of this world comes from the fact that one day in eternity past, God's most highly created being in a moment wanted glory for himself instead of giving it to the Most High.

In that minute, angelic rebellion started and it carries on to this very day. But lucifer wasn't the only rebel. One third of the angels joined him, and every day, we either join lucifer in his lie that God doesn't deserve all praise, or  we stand with God and rightly praise Him as the only One deserving glory in this entire universe.

The Lord revealed something ugly  lurking inside of me. Oh, how I hate to even admit it, but if it helps someone else who is struggling, it'll be worth it. That little ugly sin called envy was festering inside my heart of hearts.

On Monday, I realized this fact when I wrote this Proverb in my journal:

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but ENVY* makes the bones rot. Prov. 14:30 (my emphasis)


Suddenly, it hit me... Envy was causing me to spiritually languish, rotting inside. Ouch. Should I agree with that one who cannot even speak the truth by being envious of some other person's blessings?

When I read Spurgeon's words about there only being room for one glory in the universe, it connected in my soul. If I am envious of someone, I am telling God that what He gave me was not enough, that somehow He passed me by, made a mistake, call it what you will. Somehow I think that I deserve better than what He gave me, and the old bones start to rot. I am looking to glorify myself, and acting like the archenemy of God.

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?             I Cor. 4:7
Reading and believing that verse quiets my soulish longing for recognition by people in this world. Any talent I have is solely His gift to me, and there is no room for boasting in my flesh. Did I do one thing to earn or deserve it? No way.

 In the past, I didn't understand why God demands all the glory. Dare I say I thought it was selfish of Him?  That only proved my ignorance of knowing Him at all.

God alone deserves the glory because He humbled Himself more than any creature in this universe, to the point of being born in a dirty cattle trough, being misunderstood and abused when He went about doing only good, and as a thanks for all His gifts and healings was hung naked on the cross and suffered the punishment we all deserved, as us, instead of us. (See Phillipians 2.)
"In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.
Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God!"
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God."    II Corinthians 5: 19-21 NET
If we look at a flower, or a bird, or behold the blue sky or the stars in the heavens, they in their beauty, even in this fallen world, will attest:

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.    Revelation 4: 11

Even as we sing this beautiful chorus in the local assembly, one day soon all of God's children will be falling on our faces and singing it to the Lamb of God, the One who deserves the glory because He alone took away the sins of the world. Amen.
 
 





Monday, July 31, 2017

Numb in Laodecia

... you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.    Revelation 3: 17-20



I am numb. This world around me is dying and mostly I care for my own pleasure if I am honest about it.

Jesus stands knocking at the door of my heart, in the day of being connected 24/7. The Lord of the Universe waits, asking for permission to come in and fellowship with me, but I am too busy.
Maybe I have ear buds on or am catching up on the latest movie from Netflix.

People outside the church are hurting, looking for love in all the wrong places. I am too quick to point my finger and judge them rather than to show them God loves them and cares. 

It's easy for me to love others when they love me back. But what if they don't, how do I go on loving them? Facing that failure reveals how little I  do love with His agape love and not my own human love. I am numb.

Technology exploded in my lifetime. They forewarned of it in books like 1984 and Future Shock. But nothing could fully prepare us for this time in human history.  My humanity is only capable of so much expansion at one time even as the world goes on  with  attempts to "better" God's creation. In spite of microchips and bionic brains, in my spirit I know that will not solve the problem of human loneliness.  Our technology does not answer this great need of man, but the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ does.
 
In dying for me, He made a way for me to be with Him forever. The one who loves me unconditionally proved it by dying for me and all mankind on the cross.

 That same Lord knocks at the door of my numb heart.  Every day a plethora of choices comes my way for books to download on my device, movies to watch, songs and news shows to listen to.  Every single day they just keep on coming, hounding me to take a detour from the moment by moment fellowship with God. But still, He waits.

 Maybe I hear a knock right now, in spite of the buzz all around me.  God of the Universe is asking my permission to fellowship with Him? How can that be? Yet how patiently He waits until I realize that nothing else in this big ole world will fill the crater inside my stony heart.

If I let Him in, at times He  rebukes and disciplines me. It's for my highest good, not my destruction. Better for me to get the discipline here in time than at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Oh Lord I am numb in Laodecia. It's about me, myself and I and You are so often shut out. I live in the richest nation in the world and all the pleasures it gives does not fill the void inside without You.
Yet by faith I can answer that door for You to come in and give me peace, blessed peace. Oh Lord You wait patiently, but opening the door is up to me. Amen.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Eight Years Ago...By His Mercy

...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit                   Titus 3:5


By His mercy eight years ago today I started this blog called inchristalone-byhismercy.

By His mercy there have been 240 posts, in which my goal was to glorify my Lord and Savior in some small way. Even if one person was directed to look away from themselves and unto Him for salvation it would be worth any time or trouble on my part.

Eight years ago when I started this blog I was not yet a mother in law, or a grandmother. I did not have an empty nest.

I was still working part time, still coloring my hair, still in my forties!

Where has the time gone? Day by day and moment by moment it's slipped away.

My father is gone now, and we are busy helping my mother into an assisted living facility in the next few weeks.

By His mercy, the day I was baptized at Northgate Bible Baptist Church, the pastor quoted this Titus 3:5 verse before plunging me into the water. That was over thirty years ago, but  still I remember it.

How I loved hearing that verse, not by works of righteousness that we have done...

It was like drinking an ice cold glass of lemonade when my soul was parched with trying to be "good enough."

It is the same way with my Christian life too. It is not by deeds of righteousness that I do that I grow in grace and knowledge of Him but simply according to His mercy.

Mercy in the Greek is eleos. In Vine's Expository Dictionary, the definition of mercy starts with: 
ἔλεος
ELEOS is the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it. It is used... of God, who is rich in mercy, Eph. 2:4, and who has provided salvation for all men, Tit. 3:5, for Jews, Luke 1:72, and Gentiles, Rom. 15:9. He is merciful to those who fear Him, Luke 1:50, for they also are compassed with infirmity, and He alone can succour them...

Any progress I have made between then and now is by His mercy. I hope, when I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ, there will be evidence of some. Yet consider this thought, which made me stop and think, for 7-17 in None But the Hungry Heart:

It takes more to break inertia than to ease momentum. Misdirected zeal is more easily corrected than inert sloth...

It is possible, and very humiliating, to be awakened to the fact, that though we have had a measure of zeal for the Lord, that we have barely known the things we should have known, nor the behavior that is becoming to us in this marvelous day of grace.  

But it is the love of the Lord Jesus that would lead us on, through the judgment of ourselves and ways, into deeper communion with Himself to be better representatives of Him here in whose likeness we shall soon appear. 
I could have done more in this eight years worth of time, but  I press on. I want to simply show the world by my words and actions that He is worth knowing, worth pursuing with all my heart.  Think back to where you were eight years ago. Are you where you want to be now? Let His love motivate you to press on. In the end, it is all that matters.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3: 13-14