If you have stumbled here by accident let me first insist that there really are no accidents in life. If however, you came on your own free will then please by all means open your hearts and your minds to the "New Wine" that God has prepared for you!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ready or not

For all followers of Jesus Christ, our most cherished gift that we receive is eternal life in the presence of our Creator, which is our blessed hope. This hope is built on the firm foundation that Jesus Christ laid when He died for our sin as the “Lamb of God” on a Roman torture device two thousand years ago.
The last night that Jesus spent here on earth He reassured His disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”  John 14:1-3.

The night before Jesus died He told us that He planned on returning for us. However, the exact day and hour of His glorious appearing was not to be known by any man. It’s interesting how many scenarios have been postulated since His departure on both the exact date and circumstances surrounding His return. So, while His return to the earth has been prophesied, acknowledged by almost all denominations, and is believed to be imminent, we will all still need  to wait patiently, keeping alert  for the signs and clues Jesus left us with.

In the book “The Acts of the Apostles”, Luke records for us Jesus’ departure from earth in His new resurrected body. “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadily towards heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’” Acts 1:9-11.

This is a wonderful clue, especially when we illuminate Revelation 19:11 with its light. “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.” This scene depicts the Lord as He returns on a white horse with the armies that are in heaven:  the church, Old Testament believers and angels. This word picture of Jesus, the conquering King, returning on a white horse does not match the account given in the book of Acts where the angels told the apostles Jesus would return the same way He left.

The church (ekklesia) the “called out ones or assembly” were also affectionately known as “the bride of Christ”. Jesus alluded to this heavenly union many times during His ministry. When He told the parable about the ten virgins, when He poured wine to seal the New Covenant, when He paid the bride price, detailing a ritual bath or baptism, the idea that He was going away to prepare a place for us to dwell and the statement that He would return when the Father deemed it was time.

In the letter to the church in Thessalonica Paul writes “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. 

It is clear from scripture that this passage is a unique and separate incident from Christ’s Second Coming where He is riding on a white horse with all the armies of heaven riding behind Him. No, this event is the surprise return of the Bridegroom for His bride “the church” or “called out ones”. As in all ancient Hebrew weddings, the bride was to purify herself and be on the ready for the bridegroom’s surprise return. Then as He takes His bride back to the wedding chamber, the entire wedding party would follow for a great feast and celebration that would last many days.

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” Because “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb” Revelation 19:7-9. Ready or not the lord is coming for His bride!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Being content

Driving home from the store the other day my seventeen year old daughter asked “What inspires you”. For a moment I was stumped with her question but knowing she was really interested, I looked deeper into my memory for a good answer. After what seemed like a very long pause, I successfully stumbled upon a couple of appropriate answers while wading through a quagmire of jumbled ideas. “Music. Music inspires me,” I said while keeping my eyes on the road but I kept on searching for a better answer.  Then more ideas came in like a flood. “Good artwork, food and fellowship, these things inspire me,” I said with a smile confident that I was truly making father points, but then…

It dawned on me, something that the apostle Paul said “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-12.

That was it, the answer to her question that I was desperately searching for. “Contentment”.  Even the full definition of “inspire” supports my theory “transitive verb: to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration”. To know that God is protecting me, providing for me on a daily basis and that I can rest in that promise.

If we take our eyes off Jesus, off God the Father and shut the Holy Spirit out of our lives, then we lose sight of where our strength and power comes from. Soon the trials and tribulations of this life become too numerous and heavy for us to carry on our own and we begin to doubt God is there to help. Peter, after seeing Jesus walking on the water, petitioned the Lord that he may come to Him. The disciple took a step in faith as he stepped out of the boat, walking to Jesus on the surface of the water. As soon as the reality hit that the wind and the waves might overtake him, he took his eyes off Jesus, began to doubt and sank into the sea.

It is important to keep things in a clear perspective or before too long fear will devour and steal our joy. Take money as an example, how many zeros behind the number seven do you need to be satisfied?  Look at this string of figures:  $7.00, $70.00, $700.00, $7,000.00, $70,000.00. I know we all think that we would be more satisfied with $70,000.00, but really being content means that whatever amount we have we are thankful for it. The truth is that we will always want just one more zero behind the number seven. 
I love what Jesus said about trials and tribulation “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you will have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Oh what beautiful words those are to meditate on in times of trouble. Our hope is built securely on the foundation of Christ and our future eternity with God. Our lives here are but a vapor or a vanishing mist short lived while we pass through like pilgrims on a great journey.

God has promised us an inheritance and sealed us with the Holy Spirit as pledge of that future state. Unfortunately, our window to that future has become clouded with lustful wants and desires. Greed continues to push and drive us to work longer hours and harder for things that we won’t be taking with us when we go to meet our maker. You don’t see many coffins towing trailers full of toys.

Being content each day with what the Lord gives us is what inspires me to do the things that put a smile on the face of my Creator. Our enemy tries to sell us things by making promises that have no guarantee but that look shiny on the outside, appealing to our human lust. The grass might look greener in your neighbor’s yard but it will turn just as brown in the drought that looms over all of us. Being content is a real act of faith. It shows others that we trust our God with our lives and, even if we don’t get a beautiful rose garden, we have a home waiting for us that was not made by hands.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The final clue

The clouds began to gather in the sky blocking the sun’s light and causing shadows to fall on the crowd that was gathered to watch the afternoon executions. Large hollow areas in the cliff, below the bluff where the crucifixions were being performed, gave the appearance of a large skull. A breeze began to blow as several of the women pulled their shawls tighter into their bodies and turned away from the wind. Mourners wailed as Jesus writhed in pain. Agony gripped Him as He dangled from nine inch Roman spikes that impaled His hands to the roughly peeled wooden cross beam. Several soldiers sat on the ground with their legs folded, casting lots for his garments.

Weary, from the all night proceedings and after being flogged within an inch of His life, Jesus did not have a great deal of strength left to fight for life. He desperately tried to push up on His legs attempting to ease the pain but the throbbing continued radiating down the entire length of His body.  On His head a make shift crown of thorns had been driven through His scalp. Above His head was placed the plaque that Pontius Pilate ordered written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin that read “Jesus Of Nazareth, The King Of The Jews”.
 Jesus looked up towards heaven and cried out “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Many in the crowd and some of the soldiers mocked Him saying “He saved others but He could not save Himself”. Hearing this, Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, cried in a loud voice “It is finished”. Then, bowing His head, He  gave up His spirit.

The last words of Jesus are so important to understand. The Lord had had a tough time trying to get His disciples to understand why He was willingly allowing the Romans to kill Him. They were expecting their prophesied Messiah to be a conquering King, the Lion from the tribe of Judah. Instead they got a lamb being led to the slaughter. Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, before He dies, leaves them all with one last clue; he quotes the beginning of Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

God inspired King David to write this psalm about 970 years before the birth of Christ. The psalm has been troubling to Jewish scholars who can’t seem to merge the two distinct profiles of the Messiah. For thousands of years Jews had been awaiting the day their Messiah would come to crush their opposition and usher in the kingdom of God. However, God’s plan was so much better as His One and Only Son would come twice.  By quoting psalm 22, Jesus was alerting and pointing His followers to the psalm where they might discover His real mission and identity. 

The seventh verse of psalm 22 goes on to describe how people would mock Him. “All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying ‘He trusted the Lord, let Him rescue Him, since He delights in Him’”. After being falsely accused by the Sanhedrin, Jesus is mocked by the soldiers of the governor inside the Praetorium. There He is stripped, clothed in a scarlet robe, given a crown of thorns, a reed is put in His hand, He is spit upon and struck in the head. “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’” Matthew 27:39.

Remembering that psalm 22 was writing by David 970 years before Jesus’ birth and before the art of crucifixion had been invented, now look at verse 16 “For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierce My hands and My feet;” If that is not painting a clear enough picture of the Lord’s crucifixion lets add some highlights; verse 18 “They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Other psalms of interest: psalm 34:20 (not one of His bones would be broken), psalm 41:9 (Christ would be betrayed by a friend), and psalm 69:21 (Christ would be given vinegar and gall).

So this last clue from Jesus, as important as it is, pales in comparison when we read His very last words “It is finished”. At that moment all of the world’s sin was cancelled, paid in full never to be seen again. The bible teaches us that salvation is a gift from God and it’s not something we can work towards. But as with any gift you must reach out and receive it!