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My Sensible Solution For Immigration Reform

A Nation of Immigrantsveteran-300x263

Immigration reform is a hot topic of conversation at the moment.  It was a key issue in the last election cycle.  There are many who argue passionately for amnesty being extended to illegal aliens already in the country and there are many who argue passionately that the word “illegal” still has meaning.  Unfortunately, there is far more heat than light being generated in most of the debates.

Politically, both parties seek to get an advantage with a growing voting bloc.  Both parties want to be seen as the champion for Latinos.  Both parties want to be able to trumpet that THEY are responsible for Hispanics gaining political clout in the United States.  And both parties risk losing part of their base voters who live in border states.  We live in interesting times.

Displayed on a plaque on the inner pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, is the poem, The New Colossus¸ written by Emma Lazarus.  It was a donation by Lazarus to a fund-raising effort to construct the base of the Statue.  She initially declined to contribute the work, but a good friend convinced her that her work would be of great significance to the immigrants who would sail under Liberty into New York Harbor.

While Liberty was not conceived and sculptured as a symbol of immigration, Lazarus’ poem has become exactly that.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

We are a nation of immigrants.  Unless you hail from Native American roots, your ancestors “came” from somewhere.  As you read the history of our nation, people came here looking for a better way of life.  People came here looking for freedom.  People came here longing to worship in whatever manner they saw fit.

As a matter of historical fact, Native Americans were treated poorly and duped into questionable treaties by the Western Europeans due to naivete on the part of the Native Americans and European cunning and overwhelming firepower.  Some argue that the current political situation and argument is hypocritical at best.

Into the secular dispute, Christians must include a discussion of Biblical, Kingdom principles.  As Christians, which side of the debate should we support?  If it comes to a vote, how should we vote?

A Nation of Laws

Illegal immigration is a personally difficult subject.  I have good friends on both sides of the debate and even more importantly, I have personal who were born in the United States, but whose parents came here illegally.  The parents have never violated the law, have held jobs and (I assume) paid taxes, and lived quiet lives.  The entire family has a deep, personal, and active faith in Jesus Christ.  Each of them attends and supports the church with time, energy, and substance.  For me, simplistic answers are insufficient.

If I take the position that mercy should be shown to illegal immigrants and amnesty and citizenship should be given to those who arrived here illegally, but have not engaged in criminal behavior since their arrival, I compromise the rule of law and make it anecdotal.  The problem with anecdotal law is that it can change at the whim of any ruler.  The basis for the establishment of our nation was to escape anecdotal law and launch a system based on the concept that “all men are created equal.”

Illegal immigrants steal American taxpayer dollars through Medicare, Medicaid, and other governmental programs that provide “free” benefits and do not require citizenship as a basis for receipt.  “Theft” does not always happen at the point of a gun or result in an arrest and conviction.  Robin Hood is celebrated in folklore, but in history, he was a common thief.  Does then that immigrant family I know actually participate in “criminal behavior?”  And should the parents be deported?  Does anything less threaten the rule of law in America?

Those who argue for amnesty always use “grace” and “mercy” as their arguments.  Those arguments are not without merit.  Jesus had little use for the Pharisees and Sadducees who were the lawyers of His day.  He chided and condemned them for creating regulations that no one could keep and called them, “hypocrites” regularly.  Does that mean that we should lay aside our laws and simply welcome all who find themselves within our borders no matter how they arrived?

Mercy without a standard is meaningless.  If anyone who can geographically locate himself within what are now our borders, then our borders are meaningless.  What purpose do they serve?  If our borders are to be protected, if lives are put at risk and tax money is spent to do so, then our borders must be significant and citizenship must be significant also.

A Sensible Solution

I wonder what would happen if politics were removed from the debate?  Would there be so much name-calling and vehemence if illegal aliens who became citizens could not vote…ever?  It seems to me that caring for all those who are genuinely in need is a Christian mandate, but as a legal American citizen, I resent having my vote diluted and my resources reallocated to people who have broken laws without my consent.

The situation seems a dilemma until political advantage is removed.  Christians are, I believe, more than willing to assist those less fortunate.  It has been proven again and again, that America responds to needs from a disaster more generously and more quickly than any other nation.  I don’t think caring is the problem.

Don’t confuse a secular debate about law with a spiritual debate about “care.”  Jesus was clear that His Kingdom was not of this world.  He also said that while we are not “of” this world, we are “in” it.

I believe that if the church is allowed to be the church and the government stops playing god for votes, the debate between Americans becomes a profitable discussion and not a screaming match to gain an advantage.

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“The Miracle Moment” 20 Years Later

January 17, 1993

William Jefferson Clinton was preparing for his inaugural, the Cowboys beat the 49ers, and God showed Himself powerful and contemporary in a Sunday School class at Houston’s First Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.

The lesson that morning was from Psalm 103, primarily verses 1-5.  David is talking to himself and instructs himself to “Bless the Lord” which means give praise or thanks to God.  He then lists some reasons for himself to do so.

He (God) forgives all my sin; He heals all my disease; He redeems my life from the grave, the pit, destruction; He crowns me with love and compassion, loving kindness; and He restores my youth like the eagle.

I stood to teach the class of 150 or more on that morning.  I had never been more emotionally drained than I was that morning.  I had never had less faith than I did that morning.  The pit David described was swallowing me.

But God (aren’t those great words from the Scripture?) changed everything.  Let me explain…

The Back Story

In 1990, I was serving as the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas and had been for some time.  First Baptist was a great church and an historical Southern Baptist Church. In January, I contracted a flu virus that ultimately penetrated the mylan sheath of my vocal folds and damaged the nerve tissue beyond repair.

Over the next three years I was seen by over 63 specialists and their teams (totaling over 200 doctors) as they tried to diagnose and treat me.  I had been left with a voice that sounded like the worst case of laryngitis you have ever heard, and could only make that if I screamed at the top of my lungs.  My daughters were both students at Baylor and I could not even call their dorm because I sounded like an obscene phone caller.

Though the congregation had been incredibly patient with my disability, I had resigned for obvious reasons in 1991.  Everything I had ever done to earn a living had been connected to my ability to speak and suddenly my “tool kit” was gone.

We had moved back to Houston and my wife had become the primary breadwinner in our family.  A dear friend gave me a job as a private investigator working in an area where my voice was unimportant, but I ached to do the ministry to which I had been called.

The Catacombs Class

First Houston had a Sunday School class that had first met in the basement of the church, hence “The Catacombs.”  A wonderful group of folks that I had been privileged to teach before I went to Brenham and with whom contact was never lost.  When they learned that we were moving back to Houston, they came to Brenham with bodies and trucks and moved us…or, as one of our directors said, “Retrieved” us.

It was to Houston’s First Baptist Church that we returned and to that class as members.  Their support and fellowship was (and is) more valuable than words can express.

In April, 1992, the teacher of the Catacombs had to take some time away for personal reasons.  Our directors (a husband and wife) asked if I would fill in while a permanent replacement was sought.  I protested that I was too hard to understand which was met with “we’ll listen REALLY carefully.”  I have come to understand that they asked, not because I was such a profound teacher, but because they loved me and knew how desperately I needed to teach.

The female half of our director team was persistent about me becoming the permanent teacher even when the educational staff of the church expressed their reservations because of my voice.  She told them that she was as certain that God wanted me to teach that class as she could possibly be and they ultimately relented.

Little did she, they, or me truly know what God was preparing.

The Moment

As I mentioned before, I was in a horrible pit as I took to the platform that morning.  Two days previous, I had sat for hours in my living room with a shotgun in my mouth and I had come to the end of myself.  “Blessing the Lord” was difficult for me.  In truth, the only reason I was there was because I could not find a substitute and I could not simply not show up.  So my teaching that morning was perfunctory, nothing more.

As I began the outline I discussed the word “all.”  It literally means “every single one without exception.”  Christ’s forgiveness of all my sin is what makes the Good News GREAT.  I had no problem with that discussion.

But, when I began to talk about healing, my words were, “I still believe God heals,” while my thoughts were, “but why not me?”  I moved through that discussion as honestly as I could and began my third thought…”He redeems my life from the pit.”

I began my discourse, “I have had, and you have had, in times past, pit experiences.”  On the word, “pit,” the pressure that had been in my throat for three years was gone as if someone had removed their hand from choking me.  I continued, startled, “We’ve all had times when our life seemed to be in a pit, in a grave, and we didn’t have an answer for the pit we find ourselves in.”  While I was speaking, I was swallowing choke-free, and I’ll never forget my thought…”is that what I think it is?”

Since Then

Doctors confirmed that it was what I thought it was when I saw them the following days.  My voice has been totally restored, and to quote my lead physician, “I can’t find any evidence that you ever had a voice problem.”

The event happened on January 17, 1993, the third Sunday of the month…today.  The event was caught on tape in the most casual way.  The event changed my life and has affected literally millions of people worldwide.

The Catacombs Class started recording lessons decades before that Sunday.  In a large group, 100% attendance is impossible.  In order to be of service, a cassette recording was made no matter who taught, and one or two copies would be made available the following Sunday.  The cassettes would simply be on the back table and if you wanted one, it was there.  When I say, “no big deal,” I mean, “no deal at all!”  But in that church with over 20,000 members that was the only class that recorded their lessons.  Anywhere else would not have had the impact that God intended.

I didn’t ask to teach the class, our director fought to have me teach.  I didn’t write my own material, I was using what used to be called, “Bible Book Series” material that was used Convention-wide.  And, don’t forget, I didn’t want to be there.  Coincidences?  I think not.

From that day to this I celebrate the restoration of my vocal ability.  I wrote of the experience the following week and described it in terms that likened it to Lazarus coming from the grave.  My gratitude and my emotions have not waned in 20 years.

I have crisscrossed this country and the world telling the story of that moment.  God has used me as an object lesson of His grace and power.  I have appeared on the Oprah show and have shared my story with one little lady in a nursing home who could not speak, but wept as I related the timeless story of His Goodness.  I still go wherever the opportunity is given to share the story and I will do so until I am physically unable to do so.

If you would like to hear The Moment for yourself, go to our website, www.nuvoice.org.  It can be heard on our Home Page.  Listen and believe this…if God could do that for me, He can solve whatever problem you have in your life.  He loves you every bit as much as He loves me.

We’ve been saying it for 20 years….and counting.

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Therefore, Be It Resolved…

Resolve

We’re a week into the New Year. How many of your resolution are still unbroken? Resolutions are easy to make, but difficult to keep. Most of us make go through the exercise of making resolutions for the New Year. Based on last year’s performance, we resolve to do better. We resolve to lose weight, to get in shape, to make more money, to be kinder, to give more to charity, and many others. Unfortunately, most of our resolutions don’t last more than 24 hours, if that. We don’t make the commitment necessary to achieve the success we wish in whatever area.

“Resolved!” The word just feels strong. By definition, resolve is, “to make clear or understandable.” In legal documents, the word heads the paragraphs that follow the “Whereas” clauses. What is resolved is what is decided and promised based on the stated premises. Resolved indicates a commitment to a particular course of action. The key word is “commitment.”

The word “resolve” has another definition that may not be as familiar to you. It is, “to break up, to separate, to change by disintegration.” We observe both definitions on display when Jesus stood before Pilate. Pilate did all in his power to make Jesus dis-integrate, but Jesus made Himself very clear and understandable. He kept-it-together when it most mattered. As we face a new year, we I challenge you to exhibit the same kind of resolve that Jesus had.

Expediency Lacks Resolve

After listening to the charges against Jesus, Pilate announced, “I find no fault” in the man that stood before him. The trial was illegal under Roman law. The charges were falsely filed and prosecutors were corrupt. But political expediency clouded Pilate’s judgment and the execution of an innocent man proceeded unabated.
We see expediency in politics every day. The recent “fiscal cliff” was a manufactured crisis that created an expediency issue for Congress. The phrase “kicking-the-can-down-the-road” is a description of what elected representatives do in order to avoid hard choices that will be unpopular and therefore not expedient. The motivation for their choices is no different than that of Pontius Pilate.

Businesses use profits as an excuse to cut corners and make expedient rather than principled decisions regarding the contents and safety of their products. Jobs are sometimes shipped overseas because manufacturing costs can be reduced even though the quality of the product suffers.

Teachers’ union leaders are more interested in protecting the jobs of the members who keep them in office than they are in providing the quality educators that our children deserve. It is more expedient for the leadership to “fight” for their members than to improve the professionalism of their members.

Let’s face it, the resolve that allows one to stand in the face of adversity and not flinch, not dis-integrate, is a rare commodity these days. The resolve that Jesus showed is based on integrity and personal commitment. Jesus knew who He was, why He was there, and was prepared to “endure” the moment for the “joy set before Him.” The resolve He demonstrated is principled, and principle is rarely expedient.

More Than Conquerors

Many challenges and opportunities await you in 2013, anticipate them. Some of the God’s best opportunities will come disguised as overwhelming problems, expect them. You will be tempted to make compromising, expedient decisions because the alternative, principled decision will be “hard.” I dare you to trust God and show your resolve.
When the crisis comes, when the decision choice is hard, when you have the opportunity to do the right thing, you will if you have committed beforehand to allow Christ to rule in your life.

Paul told the believers in Rome that no matter the challenge before them, that an “overwhelming victory” belonged to them through Christ. The promise is still valid.

Whereas, He has loved us with an everlasting love, and,
Whereas, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and,
Whereas, nothing can separate me from His love,
Therefore, be it resolved, that I commit my life, my decisions, and my eternity into His Almighty care.

Have a great 2013!!!!!

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A Nation Grieves

A Nation Grieves

Words to adequately describe the events in Newtown in the past few days do not exist.  For the heroes who did their best to protect the innocent children who were massacred, “grateful” is a woefully insufficient description.

It was an almost immediate response for many to politicize the tragedy, but this is not the time for the political discussion.  Whether the fault lies with “guns” or with the “moral decline” of this nation is a dispute in which we will gladly engage at another time, but it is appalling to use these beautiful, innocent, babies and their families to make points.  This is a time for compassion and support for those who have suffered the loss.

Today, we grieve.  We grieve for what the shooter did to others, but we also grieve for his family, who lost son, brother, and mother in the shooting, and must carry the family name for the balance of their lives.

I have a two adult daughters and a 9-year old granddaughter.  As I watched and listened to the news reports this past week, all I wanted to do was embrace all of them.  I wanted to tell each of them, one more time, how much love I have for them and that nothing else in the world mattered.

We know who, we know how, we know what, we know when, and we know where.  We will never understand the why.  The shooter’s personality and mental condition will be sliced and diced by the pseudo-experts over the days and weeks ahead, but, at the end of the day, their opinions may be “educated,” but they are just guesses.  Only he knew why he did what he did

Death is never an easy subject to grasp, even for adults.  The death of a child is, emotionally, even worse.   King David was a man of war.  He was accustomed to men around him dying.  But, when the death of Absalom, his son, was reported to him, the Scripture says he was “shaken.”  He wept, and cried out what every parent of every child who dies has said, “If only I had died instead of you….” (2 Samuel 18:33).

This tragedy comes in the midst of the celebration of the birth of a baby, a unique child, the Son of God.  He, too, was killed senselessly and without just cause.  But, His death was part of the plan of God, and he rose after three days as He had promised he would.  Paul reminds us that believers in Jesus Christ do not “grieve as those who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)  Note that he did not say we would not grieve.  The separation, the hopes, dreams, plans and futures that will not be realized, the senselessness of an untimely death, cause us to hurt, to grieve, to mourn.

It is right and appropriate that we do, however, because we believe that because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, we have hope that we will be reunited.  It is that hope to which we cling.  It is that hope we offer as comfort to grieving parents.  Innocent children were slaughtered, they are with God, and we live in HOPE.

To all in Newtown, and to all who grieve, we offer a prayer from the famous Christmas Carol, “Sleep in Heavenly Peace.”

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A Charlie Brown Christmas

CBXmas TreeCharlie Brown TV Special in 47th Season

Our world has changed dramatically since the Christmas Season of 1965.  That was the year that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” first aired on CBS.  It has been enjoyed by millions ever since and has become as much a part of American Holiday TV as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  But, in 2012, it is not politically correct to tell the Christmas story on secular TV.  In 2012, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Chanukah, and even Earth Day are all approved subjects for public consumption.  Christmas, on the other hand, creates controversy even when expressed in a 47-year old cartoon.

A Charlie Brown Christmas Parable

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the depiction of the loneliness that many feel during the season and the joy that comes from inclusion.  It also contrasts the sacred with the secular in Christmas, and that is the source of the controversy.  “Sacred” is not an acceptable topic for secularists.

Charlie Brown and the little Christmas tree are parallel characters.  Each of them is considered by their peers to be defective and unwanted.  Charlie Brown begins the show looking into an empty mailbox, finding nothing, and exclaiming he “just doesn’t understand” Christmas.  All his friends are so shallow consumed with the secular trappings of the season, that they find Charlie Brown’s search for meaning beyond their understanding.

For the other characters, Christmas is all about Santa and the gifts that they will receive.  Using comically PC language for today, Sally, Charlie’s own sister, says she only wants her “fair share” of the Christmas loot.  The children in the Peanuts neighborhood don’t understand Christmas any more than the secularists of today.  Self-centeredness and consumption have replaced peace on earth and good will toward men.

The Tree

When sent to pick out a Christmas tree, Charlie Brown picks the sorriest tree on the lot, proclaiming, “This little one needs a home.”  After much initial ridicule from the rest of the cast, the tree is trimmed and is transformed into a beautiful centerpiece for celebration.  The tree is a beautiful symbol of God’s relationship with His creation.

That poor tree was ugly and useless.  There was nothing the tree could do for itself.  That little tree was not just unappealing, it was wretched.  Guess what?  We are like that forlorn tree.  We are wretched and hopeless.  Our world is ugly and our presence does nothing to enhance it.  There is nothing about us that makes us appealing, we need “a home,” and love that is beyond our own ability to earn or deserve.

Choosing us makes no more sense that Charlie Brown’s selection of that little tree.  No one can understand why He would choose us, but He did.  Instead of being abandoned, we were suddenly included.  Instead of being the object of ridicule, we unexpectedly have eternal value.  After choosing us, he “decorated” us with His own love, mercy, grace, and righteousness.  He made the ugly beautiful.

Merry Christmas!

The real story of the Birth of Christ contained in the Gospel of Luke is recited by Linus in the performance.  Secular humanists, et. al., would much prefer it not be included, but Charles Schulz was adamant about its inclusion almost 50 years ago, and so it remains.

Frankly, the Gospel is the point; the point of A Charlie Brown Christmas; the point of the Holiday; and the point of life itself.  We were without hope and God chose to become one of us so that we would have the opportunity to know Him.  Why would He choose to do such a thing?  No good reason, but He did.  He “decorated” an ugly tree on Calvary’s hill so that He might “decorate” us with peace, joy, love, and eternal life.

If you celebrate another holiday at this time of the year, I wish you a sincere, “Happy Holiday.”  But, I expect your respect of MY Holiday in return.  No matter how much you secularize, marginalize, ridicule and sue, Jesus is still the reason for the season.

Merry Christmas to Charlie Brown and to you!

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Are These The Last Days

Current Events Create Question

The political struggles of the Middle East are nothing new.  Not one of us living today has seen anything that remotely resembles “peace” in the region, nor is there any “peace” on the horizon.  The television debates being seen from Libya, to Israel, to Gaza, to Iran, to Iraq, to Lebanon, to Syria, to Egypt, to Susan Rice, to our President’s own behavior, to the vote of the United Nations table granting a Palestinian state “non-member observer” status has caused a renewed interest in Biblical prophecy.  Daniel Chapter 11 is being read and commentary is being offered by many regarding its relevance in the “real” world of today.

Make no mistake, I am an unabashed Christian.  I believe the Bible’s veracity from its cover all the way to “Maps” so my views are no doubt as unbiased and objective as any reporter from ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, or the New York Times.  What differentiates me is that I disclose my bias instead of hiding behind a report of “the news.”  When I learned journalism, that disclosure was required.  Now, it seems that the line between journalism and marketing has become very muddled at best.

Because so many of you are wondering, “Are these the last days?”  “Is Jesus Coming Soon?”  “Should We Be Afraid?”  Let’s see if we can answer some of your questions and allay some of your fears.  Let’s talk about The Second Coming of Christ.

There are 1845 references to the Second Coming of Christ contained in the Old and New Testaments.  It is a subject of prominence.  There are 318 references to the Second Coming contained in the 260 chapters of the New Testament, roughly 1 in every 30 verses.  In fact, for every reference to the initial birth of Christ, there are 8 references to His return.  It is a subject of significance.  23 of the 27 Books in the New Testament allude to the event, and of the four that do not, 3 are single chapter letters written to individuals for a specific purpose.  It is a subject of preeminence.

The Second Coming of Christ is still one of the most debated theological subjects.  Biblical scholars are divided as to the method of His coming, the manner of His coming, and the moment of His coming.  Fundamentally, one must ask, “Is the Christ Really Coming?”

While I am certain that we will not resolve every argument in this space, I want to give you the “Miller Theology” on the subject.  I will not take the space to quote every complete Scripture that I reference, but will give you the “address” so you can look into it for yourself.  I believe you receive the instruction given to the Bereans and look into matters on your own.

Asserted, Attested, and Anticipated

Jesus, Himself, asserted that He would return.  In the Gospel of John, chapter 14:1-2, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his crucifixion and death.  Some have suggested that this passage refers to His crucifixion and resurrection, but that interpretation is impossible on its face.  His words of comfort spoke of a time when He would take us to the place He prepared for us so that we would be with Him forever.  No one ascended with Him.  His words were of a future event.  This message is consistent with the message of redemption delivered from Genesis forward.  So, we begin with a direct promise that He would return.

Then, there is the testimony of the angels at the ascension in Acts 1:1-11.  Their words, “this same Jesus” are literal.  The words are significant.  There are some who believe in a “spiritual” return of Christ, meaning that His work continues or whenever someone adopts His lifestyle, He has “come again, “ but “this same Jesus” denies the viability of such a theology.  He is expected in a literal, physical, return.

His coming has been anticipated since the Ascension.  Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (I Thess 4:13-18) to encourage their faith and perseverance.  He reminded them that we do not grieve at the death of those we love like “those who have no hope.”  Believers have a hope that extends beyond this life.  It is anticipated that we will live beyond this life and it will be eternally “with” Christ.

Secular humanists are existential because they hold no hope of life beyond their last breath on this earth.  We, on the other hand, are clear that this life will be full of challenges, but life exists beyond this plane.

Is This “THE” Time?

Many theologians and scholars accede to the Second Coming of Christ, but spend their time and energy trying to answer the question, “When?????”  The renewed interest in Daniel chapter 11 comes about whenever timing becomes a popular issue.

I do believe that there will be war in the Middle East that will be beyond anything we have ever witnessed.  I believe the war will be for dominance in the Muslim world and will occur between “The King of the North” and “The King of the South” with Israel being both the scapegoat and the prize in the battle.  Daniel, chapter 11, gives context not only to the historical division of the Kingdoms referenced when the prophecy was given, but also to the cataclysmic events at the return of Christ.  You may reference “The NuZ” article, Will The Gaza Peace Hold? to read more on the subject.

But, are these the last days?

The simple and direct answer is, “We don’t know.”  Jesus was asked the essentially same question by His disciples in Matthew 24.  His answer was unequivocal.  “No one knows about that day or hour….”  Any time (including now) that you hear or read about someone fixing a date for His return, RUN!!!  The person is a false prophet, I care not his credentials.  The Bible is clear that we are NOT to do such.  But, in that same discourse, Jesus did give us a couple of descriptions of the times that we could recognize.

When He said it would be “as it was in the days of Noah” (v. 37-42), His message was that the people who were lost in the flood didn’t think that would happen.  Noah was considered an alarmist nut.  Society at large had no time for Noah’s message of impending judgment….and then it happened.   Christ’s return will occur to a society that will not listen, much less heed the message.

Jesus gives a bit more detail earlier in the conversation (v9-14).  He told His disciples, and us, that apostasy will be rampant.  He describes ridicule, rejection, and martyrdom.  He describes a time when the Gospel would be preached throughout the world, but that the opposition would be so strong that even those who have professed “love” would grow “cold” in their faith.

Any cogent analysis of the world situation would indicate that the indicators of His Coming are obvious, but that does not mean we should expect Him by December 21.  We are looking for His return, but not vacating our responsibilities to share the Gospel.

Israel is God’s chosen people.  The Palestinian issue has been ongoing since Ishmael and Isaac.  It will not conclude with Israel being annihilated.  Neither will there ever be a politically negotiated permanent solution in the Middle East.  The prophecies of Daniel will come to pass.  Only when Christ returns will peace be achieved.

The fact that Israel is becoming more and more isolated, even by the United States, is, in and of itself, an indicator of “the last days,” but we don’t know if these “last days” are THE last days.  There have been many times in history when the “last days” were proclaimed, all were obviously erroneous.

What We Do Know

Here’s what we can say, “If these are not the last days, when the last days come, they will look just like this!”

Will there be a ground war in the Gaza Strip?  Will there be an invasion of Israel?  The answer to both questions is ultimately, “Yes.”  Turkey needs Gaza for easy entrance into Egypt and Egypt needs to defend Gaza for that reason and others.  Both will use the Gaza conflict with Israel for their own political ends.  Will America abandon Israel?  Unfortunately, yes.  Will Israel cease to exist as a political entity?  Perhaps it will, for a time, but God is in Israel’s corner and they cannot “lose.”

Whatever the situation, we do not live in fear.  Our faith and hope is in the Prince of Peace, and that gives us peace.  Whether He comes before we exhale our current breath or does not come for another 1000 years does not affect the truth of the Gospel and the hope that we have in Him.

Jesus proclaimed that His Kingdom was not of this world.  Our citizenship is ultimately in His Kingdom so it is not profitable nor necessary to be worried about the political situation of this world.  Make sure that your citizenship in the Kingdom to come is assured.

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A Time To Give Thanks

 

 

A Christian Tradition

 Name the first three things that come to mind when I say Thanksgiving.

 That’s what I thought you’d say, “Turkey, football, and a nap!”

For many people those three things are really all the holiday is about.  Gorging, gang-tackling, and grabbing the couch.  But I have three other things worthy of your consideration at Thanksgiving.  How about, Praise, Prayer, and Purity?

Praise

 Now, praise is a divinely empowered weapon for human hands.  A life that is full of praise can overcome anything.  The Word tells us to put on the “mantle” (cloak or garment) of praise (Isaiah 61).  The instruction is to use it to replace the spirit of heaviness, fainting, or despair.  When you begin to praise the Lord, you are loosing a power that elevates you above storms and trials.  You are elevated to see from God’s perspective.  In most circumstances praise will remove the clouds from your vision to allow you to see God’s solution to the problem.  There are many Biblical examples of the results of God’s people overcoming with praise.  But the key is the “doing” and not the “preparing.”  The challenge for us is to use praise as a deadly weapon on a consistent basis to destroy the work of the enemy.  Praise is a better weapon than any defense that will ever take the field!!!

Prayer

And then there is prayer to consider.  Prayer is the discipline of seeking God’s heart for the many affairs of our life.  It is giving our heavenly Father the opportunity to influence our daily decisions.  Jesus said in Luke 19:46, “My house is a house of prayer…”  We are also told that the Church would become temples not made by human hands (that’s us folks).  There is a familiar chorus that states, “Know ye not, know ye not you are the temples of the Holy Ghost.”  The point is that our lives should be saturated with prayer.  We should be full and running over with the life of God from the time we spend in His presence; houses that are full of prayer.  We have talked and preached about it, but this is the season to do it.  Paul wrote to the Colossians and said, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (4:2).  “Devote” means to “give your entire person over to; set yourself apart unto a purpose; become addicted to; apply yourself wholeheartedly to.”  ‘Nuff said!  Instead of napping, start praying.

Purity

Finally, there is the word, “purity.”  The “Puritans” who founded the holiday here derived their name from the root word.  Purity means living according to the character and statutes of the Living God.  America has prospered because it has always had the Judeo-Christian ethic at its heart.  Our people have been blessed because our lifestyle has honored the Word of God and our society has been structured to acknowledge and honor and emulate the purity of Almighty God.  I genuinely fear that such is no longer true.

 In the Scripture, Israel prospered until sin overcame a majority of the people.  Israel was left to its own consequences when it ignored or denied the holiness of God.  America has known and taught the purity of the Scripture, but America is desperately in need of learning once again, “to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”   When you really think about it, our primary function as believers is to behold His beauty until it permeates every area of our life.  Another expression that is often used to express this concept is to be “filled” with Him.  The apostasy of our nation is blatant and overwhelming.  We need a true awakening of purity and holiness.

 There is no doubt that the Thanksgiving turkey looks so good when it comes to the table, it tastes so good when passing over our tongue, it fills our tummy ‘til we think we won’t ever be able to eat another bite.  But it doesn’t satisfy for very long.  Before the day is over, we’re back in the kitchen looking for a snack.  Not so, the purity, the holiness of God.  Beholding His beauty, permeated with His power, sated with His splendor, and meditating on His might brings satisfaction that is incomparable.  Sin loses its attraction when compared to the beauty and grace of our Lord.

 This Thanksgiving, as you pass the cranberry sauce, think Praise, Prayer, and Purity…enjoy, share, and be blessed.

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