Tuesday, October 25, 2005

#17 The Day and Hour Unknown

#17 October 25, 2005
The Day and Hour Unknown

?Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.? ?So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.? (Matthew 24:42,44)

I have watched a small amount of Hurricane Wilma coverage in the last couple of days, particularly interested because my father in law and sister in law live in the Venice and Fort Myers areas of Florida. Reports of people who decided to ?hunker down? and not heed the warnings were frequent. Wilma has not been a surprise. They have known about her for days and folks had plenty of time to prepare and seek shelter elsewhere. Many chose not to take the warnings seriously.

The Bible has not left us ignorant of the fact that Jesus is coming back. It is full of watches and warnings about His coming. This will be a literal coming back, with Jesus ruling and reigning here on earth and a coming judgment. Although ?No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father? (Matthew 24:36), we are given ample warning and ways to prepare for that Glorious Day. Prophecy scholars believe that we have more reason than any generation before us to believe Christ may return in our generation. (LaHaye, Tim F. Are we living in the end times/Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins).

Many today are not heeding the watches and warnings about the end of the age. I am talking to more and more people lately who just don?t see the need for Jesus in their life. I?ve heard, ?I?m just not ready to take that step right now?. ?I just can?t accept that right now.? ?Maybe someday, but not right now.? Whether from ignorance of what is predicted, or just outright rejection of Christ, people are not taking the warnings seriously. 2Peter 3:5 tells us that in the end there will be scoffers. ?The unregenerate minds of unbelievers resist the idea of the intervention of God in human affairs. Their problem is spiritual ? a matter of the will ? and the unbeliever remains deliberately ignorant of the truth?. . (LaHaye, Tim F. Are we living in the end times/Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins). They are being offered the free gift of eternal life and are choosing to reject it.

Lest we become puffed up and complacent in the fact that we are ?saved?, believers also are given a responsibility in light of the fact that Christ is coming soon. We say ?Yes? to Jesus, we belong to Him and our future is in His hands. However we are given clear direction on how we handle these truths. 2Peter, Chapter 3, verse 11-14 tells us ?Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.? This verse tells me that I can speed the Lord?s coming! Wow! It also says that we are looking forward to it. My question is ?are we really looking for His coming?? Or are we ?hunkered down? in our safe lives, concerned only with the here and now?

Jesus tells us in Matthew, Chapter 24 to be ready ?because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.? He says, ?keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.? Again in Chapter 25, verse 13, He says, ?keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.? In keeping with these commands, we as believers need to heed the watches and warnings of our day and be more conscious of holy living in this unholy age. Evangelism and winning souls to Christ should be a real priority in our lives. Telling the story of Christ and His love for us and His unlimited forgiveness and willingness to reconcile us to the Father is of utmost, dire importance before it is too late. If we woke up each morning and looked into the eastern sky and truly, truly believed that today could be The Day, what sort of difference would that make in the way we live our lives, treat our families, reach out to those around us? Jesus said, ?It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.? (Matthew 24:46). I believe that we would leave our Laodicean lifestyles (Revelation 3) and become hot in pursuit of He who suffered and died for us. We would stop feeding only ourselves but reach out and snatch souls from an eternity of being without God. Jesus is standing at the door and knocking! But His day will come like a thief (2 Peter 3:10 and 1 Thessalonians 5:4), at an hour that we least expect.

Are we living in the last days? No one knows for sure, but the signs are certainly there. We as believers need to be watchful and ready for His coming. And even if He doesn?t come in our lifetime, isn?t this the way we should be living anyway??

Looking up,

Donna Schultz

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

#15 Encourage Yourself in the Lord

#15 October 11, 2005
Encourage Yourself in the Lord

"David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David encouraged himself in the Lord" (1 Samuel 30:6)

David, in exile in the land of the Philistines, was running from Saul. The Bible tells us that he lived in Ziklag for a year and four months. During that time he fought many battles and was always successful. One day the commanders no longer wanted David to fight with them, so he was sent back to Ziklag. Upon arriving he found that the Amalekites had carried out a raid and burned the city. Everyone including the women and children were taken captive. The captives were intended for sale as slaves in the markets of Egypt. Even David's two wives had been carried off. His men turned against him, they wanted to stone him even though he was in great distress of his own. But the Bible says.."David encouraged himself in the Lord" (1 Samuel 30:6). What does that mean? In that time of intense trial, what did David do? I believe that the answer is three-fold.

First I think that encouraging yourself in the Lord means remembering your former joy. A beautiful example of this is written for us in Psalm 42, verses 1-5. While it is not penned by David, but connected with the Levitical family called the Sons of Korah, it is an example of remembering happier times during a time of great hardship. The psalmist is longing for God. He is being taunted by his enemies (vs. 1-3). But he deliberately turns his mind to thinking of a happier time. He remembers the former joy of going up to the house of God, actually leading the procession, "with shouts of joy and thanksgiving" (v.4). Then the tables of his feelings turn and he says, "Hey, why are you downcast, o my soul (why are you worried or upset)? Why so disturbed within me?" He's talking to himself and says, "Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him my Savior and my God" (v.5). He becomes confident that God will do something good. What a change in attitude just by setting his mind to the joys he has experienced in the past and away from his fears of the future!

Along with remembering happier times in the past, recalling God's faithfulness to you is the second step in encouraging yourself in the Lord. Deliberately think back to the times in your life when you had no answers, but God gave them to you. Recall impossible situations that you thought you would never find your way out of, but God.....Remember that money you needed? You were provided for. Remember that illness? You were healed. Remember that broken relationship? It was restored. Remember your wayward son or daughter in trouble? They're on the right track now. We all have so many testimonies to the faithfulness of our Savior. And if He did it then, He'll do it again. He is "the same, yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

Last, meditate on scripture instead of your problems. When fear knocks on the door, answer it with faith. Fear will not be there anymore. And that faith will be a result of hearing the word of God (see Romans 10:17). Your faith in God will increase as your fear decreases. Just like muscle replaces fat through exercise, exercise your muscles of faith to replace fear. Read the Word..speak it out loud concerning your situation. Every problem, question or circumstance is addressed in God's word. Search for your own personal scriptures -- search like you're looking for treasure. Claim those promises and believe them -- not the devil or your feelings. Satan is just a big old copy cat! He cannot do what God does, so he just tries to imitate Him. God's tool is faith - Satan's tool is fear. Soon you will notice that the two cannot co-exist. Fear is the opposite of faith. You can't feel them both at the same time. With fear comes panic and confusion; with faith comes peace. And you know that "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). Live your life and make your decisions out of a sound mind, not one of fear, panic and confusion.

We all face our share of "ites". Husband-ites. Wife-ites. Wayward children-ites. Lack, sickness, work and annoying people-ites. Like David we can encourage ourselves in the Lord. He was a man just like us.

The dictionary defines to encourage as "to inspire with courage or hope; to spur on".

Spur yourself on with remembrance of happier times and God's constant faithfulness. Be courageous, knowing that the Almighty God of the Universe is your loving Heavenly Father and that while He died as the Lamb of God, He rose as the Lion of the tribe of Judah -- totally able to conquer in your every battle. Hope in the fact that at any moment He will appear in the eastern sky with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16). He will take you with Him to a place that is "ite"-free, tear free and where your heart will never break again. "Stand up, lift up your head, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28).

With all that to look forward to, we can say with the Psalmist, "Why are you so upset? Put your hope in God!! I WILL praise Him!! He will come through for me one way or another. He is my Savior and my God!"

Until next week,

Donna Schultz

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

#14 "The Only Way Out is Through"

#14 October 4, 2005
"The Only Way Out is Through"

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior" (Isaiah 43:1-3).

I remember taking my children to the local and state fairs and watching them go into the fun house. They went through the entrance with eager anticipation, not knowing what was ahead. Once inside they faced an endless maze of sliding floors, crooked mirror images and walls that blocked their paths. One fun house in particular had an upper level about half way through, where they would be able to see me standing below watching them. There were no hidden doors and no routes of escape - the only way out was through.

The days of our lives are kind of like these fun houses, although at times we'd be tempted to say that they are not much fun at all. But just like the fun house at the fair, the only way out is through.

Through the sliding floors of sudden bad news or horrible loss, that threaten to make us lose our footing and fall, while the floor keeps twirling around underneath us. Through the crooked mirror images of lies, deceit, unkind words, low self-esteem and rejection that blur our view of what we really believe and who we are in Christ. Through the walls built up by anger, bitterness, stubbornness and hard heartedness that block our path to the abundant life that Christ died to give us. The walls of sin, the crooked mirrors built by the enemy and his deceptions, the sliding floors of the trials and tribulations we encounter everyday.

Notice that God doesn't say "when you go AROUND the waters and the rivers and the fire." He says "when you go THROUGH." He has a perfect plan for our lives and it must conform to His pattern. The highest quality is only achieved through the pressure, the fire and the floods.

Oswald Chambers says, "If we are ever going to be made into poured out wine for Him, we will have to be crushed-you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed."

"The spice frankincense only releases its fragrance in the heat of a fire. It was used to make the sacred anointing oil for kings and priests and for the incense burned as a sacrifice to God in the Jewish temple. Some forms of worship only release their sweetest fragrance to God when offered from fires of trials and adversity. The sacrifice of praise offered in times of trouble is especially sweet and pleasant to the King of Kings." ("Finding Favor with the King, Copyright 2003, Tommy Tenney).

The three Jewish boys who found themselves exiled in Babylon under the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar knew what it meant to go through. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship the image of gold that the king set up and found themselves thrown into a furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who threw them in. But there was a fourth man in the fiery furnace and they were not harmed - they came out and didn't even smell like smoke!! (See Daniel 3). They had a five fold victory. They were loosed from their bonds. They were protected from harm. They were comforted in trial. Their God was glorified. And as God's servants they were rewarded. (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Moody, c. 1962).

There is also a fourth man in the fiery furnaces, waters and rivers of our lives. He is God Almighty, El Shaddai, Jesus Christ Himself. Notice how personal He is..."I have summoned you by name; you are mine" (v.1). Notice how you are not ever, ever alone - "I will be with you" (v.2). Notice who He is, "the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior" (v.3).

Notice His promises..."the rivers will not sweep over you and you will not be burned" (v.2). In Psalm 66:12 the psalmist says, "we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance."

Just as I stood below, outside the fun house looking out for my children, your Heavenly Father is waiting for you to go through. He hasn't left to go get a cotton candy or an elephant ear. He is waiting patiently and lovingly for you to come out on the other side. And when you do, "your faith, of greater worth than gold, will be proved genuine and will result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:7).

You will be as fine wine and choice spice. You will be ready for that place of reward and abundance that He has promised. You will be a sweet taste and a beautiful fragrance to your wondrous King!

Going through,

Donna Schultz