At All Times

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Jesus spends a lot of time explaining the end of time and God’s return to His disciples. I’m so thankful it’s included in the gospels. I have studied more of the end times prophesy in Daniel, Zechariah and Revelations until this year. I found it so interesting to sit and savor these words Jesus spoke about His glorious return. The story of the ten virgins is a parable that doesn’t get mentioned in messages/sermons much. I had never read it so closely and considered its implications.

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible. When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take olive oil with them. But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps. Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’

“Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’

“The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’

10 “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.

11 “Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘I assure you: I do not know you!’

13 “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour. Matthew 25:1-13

I do not want to be caught off guard when the Savior returns. Matthew reminds us in chapter 24 that God’s return will be like the days of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah when everyone was going about their daily business of working, getting married, eating and drinking. All of a sudden, the flood hits and the city fell. Except for a few, no one was ready because they had not read the scriptures and noticed the warning signs that were given by prophets and angels.

Although God is the only one who knows the exact day and time He will return (Matthew 24:36) we have the scriptures and words that Jesus and other prophets have left us to open our eyes to the signs of His return. We must read, know and consider what it means to be ready at all times for His return. As Luke says,

“Be on your guard, so that your minds are not dulled from carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life, or that day will come on you unexpectedly 35 like a trap. For it will come on all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 But be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:34-36

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Hangry!?

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Hangry!  It’s a combination of the words hungry and angry. We commonly use this term at our house when our daughter hasn’t eaten because when she is hungry her temper is quick to ignite and her patience is nonexistent. Like many of us, she responds more reasonably when her stomach isn’t growling. It occurred to me as I read Mark 11 that Jesus may have had suffered a case of being “hangry” while He walked this Earth in human form.

The next day when they came out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 After seeing in the distance a fig tree with leaves, He went to find out if there was anything on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples heard it.15 They came to Jerusalem, and He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple complex. Mark 11:12-16

The withering of the fig tree is the only miracle of destruction that is recorded in the Gospels. Throughout the Old Testament the fig tree is used to symbolize Israel and Jesus used this illustration to teach the disciples a lesson about faith (Mark 11:20-26), but I wonder if I started out as a lesson or was just reaction to a moment of intense hunger. Jesus was, after all, human when He walked this Earth. As the Son of God, He had access to the Father, but He was flesh and bones and suffered from hunger. I think He may have had a moment of “hangry” here at He approached the fig tree in the hopes of nourishment. Finding nothing but leaves left Him a bit miffed and He responded by cursing the fig tree.

Then the scriptures move right into His exchange and tossing of tables in the temple complex. I don’t know how much time had passed from the moment of cursing the fig tree to the temple, but Bethany is only 2 miles from Jerusalem (the temple). It would seem He left Bethany hungry and not getting anything from the fig tree He arrived at the temple in Jerusalem hungry and agitated.

No doubt Jesus was disturbed and angered by the “den of thieves” (v. 17) that were defiling His Father’s house, but I always thought it was a bit uncharacteristic of Him to come through tossing tables when He usually offered up a parable.

Was Jesus just “hangry”? This would make cursing the fig tree and tossing the tables at the temple understandable. I don’t know, but it’s fun to ponder it. It’s interesting to consider the complexities He must have faced as the Son of God walking around in human form. This is what’s so exciting about reading the Bible. There is always a new bit of information to ponder that I missed or never considered. Truly, we serve an amazing God! One who has such a great sense of love for us He sent His son to walk among us so He could relate to and understand the temptations we face in this flawed flesh.

 

Just the Facts, Please!

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I apologize for those of you who received my son’s blog post on his archery adventures. When you have two bloggers in the family, posting on the wrong account is bound to happen. At least in our house! If you want to read up on what he has been doing you can always visit www.urbanarcher.net.

Now, here is your Biblical post for the week.  🙂

There are many stories within the New Testament that I’ve heard or read over and over again. Many of Jesus’ parables stand out and are often used in messages and Bible studies. However, this week in Luke I ran across a parable called the rich man and Lazarus. I seldom hear it mentioned or taught on. I encourage you to read it in its entirety. It doesn’t need any explanation and speaks for itself in very convicting way.

“There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day. 20 But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was left at his gate. 21 He longed to be filled with what fell from the rich man’s table, but instead the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. 24 ‘Father Abraham!’ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’

25 “‘Son,’ Abraham said, ‘remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to pass over from here to you cannot; neither can those from there cross over to us.’

27 “‘Father,’ he said, ‘then I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 because I have five brothers—to warn them, so they won’t also come to this place of torment.’

29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:19-31

No commentary needed, right. So how about a prayer?

God, may our hearts and minds be open to receiving your Word. Give us the strength and the courage to share the good news of eternal life through your Son, Jesus Christ so that others may know You. Increase our faith to levels we could have never anticipated or expected so that we can remain under Your wing and receive the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. In Your name we pray, Amen

Not an easy path, but a clear one!

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Do you really have to believe in Jesus to get to Heaven?

If you have read my blog for long, you know I’m passionate about sharing the importance of reading scripture for yourself so that you will know and trust the promises and truths God has for us. I’ve said many times before,  I was late in my understanding and faith in these promises because I listened to what everyone else said about God and His Word and didn’t dig into for myself until later in life. It’s difficult to gain the trust of a friend of a friend, but not a personal friend. This is one huge benefit of reading/studying scripture for ourselves. We get to know God, our trust grows deeper and we realize who we are in Him.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. 32 You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

HOWEVER, God revealed a very big thing to me the other night at my small group as we entered into one of our thoughtful conversations.

Reading scripture doesn’t just solidify our faith and help us recognize Him. Reading scripture clarifies all the things the worlds does such a great job muddying up for us. I will admit to once having wavering and fence-sitting opinions on many issues such as abortion, marriage, eternal life, creation, etc. until I opened the Word of God and read it myself.

When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they don’t recognize the voice of strangers.” John 10:4-5

The best part of knowing and reading God’s Word is that there is truth and clarity in it. With truth and clarity comes a clear path to travel. Not an easy path, but a clear path. To read His word is to know Him, His laws and His ways. It is very easy to be deceived by others, this world and Satan when we are not clear on who God is and what He calls sin. I fell victim to this gray watered-down syndrome for years because I only listened to what others said about God.

One Sabbath, when He went to eat at the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they were watching Him closely. There in front of Him was a man whose body was swollen with fluid. In response, Jesus asked the law experts and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they kept silent. He took the man, healed him, and sent him away. And to them, He said, “Which of you whose son or ox falls into a well, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” To this they could find no answer. Luke 14:1-6

It’s vital to know and understand God’s ways and laws. Just as the Pharisees where watching Jesus closely to see what He would do – others are watching us each and every day. When we call ourselves Christians, others are looking at us more closely than anyone else to see how we respond, what we believe and how we react. We don’t have to live in the gray of this world that will ebb and flow like the tides. The strength, clarity, peace, strength and truth we desire are all sitting on the bookshelf in the book we call the Bible. The question is, will we pick it up?

Five Random Things

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In my journey through the Bible this year, I’ve discovered there is no way to put all my thoughts and discoveries into one blog a week. This is especially true now that I’m in the New Testament. So instead of writing five different blogs on the following topics, I decided to condense them for you this week and put my top five random thoughts, from week 42 of my Bible readings, into one. I promise to keep it short, but if you are running short on time at least read #4. It’s the one that hit home for me and the one I’ve lived out the most recently.

Soon afterward He was traveling from one town and village to another, preaching and telling the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary, called Magdalene (seven demons had come out of her); Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Susanna; and many others who were supporting them from their possessions. Luke 8:1-3

  1. I adore how Jesus had so many women along with Him (and the disciples) as they traveled to share the good news and heal the sick. This wasn’t just a fraternity or man’s work. I always knew that Mary Magdalen adored Jesus and that she was special to Him as well. However, reading Luke reminded me that any woman who had been possessed by seven demons and cured would surely follow the one who saved her – and we know who that was! Can you imagine it? Her faith, adoration and love had been earned in a very special way and she never forgot all Jesus did for her. Sometimes I feel like I forget the blessings God pours out on me and my family as time moves on, but Mary Magdalene didn’t and I don’t want to either!

When He had come to the other side, to the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met Him as they came out of the tombs. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 Suddenly they shouted, “What do You have to do with us, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Matthew 8:28-29

  1. The demons recognized Jesus over everyone else. This reminded me that when we are more like Pharisees (more focused on self, man-made rules and pride) we can miss the incredible presence of God that is right before us. Unlike the demons, Jesus isn’t around to torment us, but to love, cherish, forgive and adore. I don’t know about you, but I can always use a little more of that.

Jesus sent out these 12 after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road leading to other nations, and don’t enter any Samaritan town. Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Matthew 10:5-7

  1. “This kingdom of heaven has come near.” There have been a few times I can distinctly remember the “kingdom coming near”. They are amazing moments that I treasure and have tucked away in my heart as Mary did when Jesus was born. However, I wonder how many times the kingdom has come near to me, but I have missed it due to sin, distractions and selfishness? I desire to know each and every time the kingdom comes near to me and I pray we will all begin to recognize it over the noise of the world.

Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. [16 If anyone has ears to hear, he should listen!]” Mark 7:15-16

  1. I (and many others) are constantly counting the grams of sugar, fat, carbs and calories of everything I put into my mouth. This verse (and words from Jesus) greatly convicted me. What if I paused, read the label (thought about what I was about to say before speaking) and considered it along with everything else I had eaten that day (looked at the long-term effects) before I opened my mouth to speak each time? If I spent as much time decoding my words and heart as I did my food labels my relationships may look very different and even healthier!

When the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t try the demon out of a man, he replied, “Because of your little faith,” He told them. “For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. [21 However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.]” Matthew 17:20-21

  1. This verse is used a lot on bookmarks, stickers and pictures, but sometimes when verses are used this much I tend to overlook the significance of them. As I read it this week, I was reminded that God doesn’t require us to have faith the size of Montana. He doesn’t need more from us, He just needs us to come as we are. We don’t need to be perfect or have everything in order. The irony is that we are only made perfect through Him and He will place everything in the correct order if we seek Him with just the tiniest size of faith. That’s all He asks we seek Him with.

These five thoughts are just the tip of the iceberg. Jesus said so much that we need to consider, discover and reflect upon, but we can’t do that until we pick up His word. Although this journey of reading the Bible cover to cover is almost complete for me, this could be the year that you decide to pick it up and discover God’s Word for yourself. There is no better way to discover who God is and what His promises are. If you decide to take the challenge, please send me an e-mail. I would be honored to pray for you along the way.