Are these really the end times? Devotional for Tuesday, May 31, 2011

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2Tim 4:3,4
 “In answer to your inquiry, I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” William Booth

After the recent date-setting incident, it is fashionable to scoff at those who insist we are in the last days. The scripture is full of prophesy about the last days and certainly the time does seem full and the return of Jesus surely is not far away. Perhaps most significantly is the drift of the church from sound doctrine and the tendency to political correctness in preaching. When the century turned from the 1800s to the 1900s, William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army was asked about his concerns for the coming century. His response is quoted above. 
Consider the church today. Are not those who preach the power of the Holy Ghost considered “fringe?” Is the church obviously lacking power, particularly in Europe and North America? Less so in Africa and Asia where the Holy Spirit is honored and preached and persecution is rampant.
Are we not hearing a revision of Christ’s words, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” We are now told that Jesus is one of many ways.
Have you heard that Jesus is ready to forgive, without mention that our repentance is a prerequisite to that forgiveness?
How many realize that grace doesn’t just mean that “Jesus saves” but that He brings the power to change?
What about government? In American, at least, we have bought the lie that we are a democracy; that the majority decides what’s right, and not a republic in which certain principles are not altered by shifts in public opinion.
As for heaven without hell, we have talked of that recently. In fact, it’s practically the talk of the church.
So, it does seem we are in the end times. But most importantly what does that mean? It means we need to have a sense of urgency. It means we need to seek the kingdom first. It means we need to share the gospel and tell others what Jesus did for us, how He convicted us, saved us, changed us, and through His Holy Spirit, enables us to live in a world that is winding down. In other words, we need to be telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Be blessed.
Nick

Memorial Day – Try Remembering – Devotional for Monday, May 30, 2011

We had a wonderful Memorial Day Service at Amana on Sunday, including a segment in which all veterans were asked to stand. We were thanked and honored. It wasn’t like that when I came back from war. It wasn’t an  honored war; it was Vietnam. I remember our ship coming under the Golden Gate Bridge with all hands on deck with garbage being thrown at us from the bridge. I remember shipmates wearing wigs to go into town to try to avoid being identified as military.
I remember many years later at a Promise Keeper event, being thanked for the first time for my service. My experience is years old and I’m well over it. But I am concerned about those serving now as the country wearies of the War on Terror. These men and women are serving in an undermanned armed forces. They are having to spend way too much time deployed in dangerous war zones. The fervor of 9/11 is a distant memory. I pray that we not forget to spend some time tomorrow amongst the cookouts and general relaxing to spend some time considering their sacrifice and praying for those who serve and their families. 
But tomorrow I will be remembering others who are sacrificing, under attack and being murdered not in defense of our country, but in defense of our faith. Christian persecution is as pervasive, if not more so, than at any time in history. You can learn more about what’s happening here.

For 2000 years, men and women have died for their beliefs while those of us who have freedom to worship find it just too much trouble to get up on Sunday mornings and exercise that right. Those of us who have lived a while remember times when it was a lot more comfortable to talk about Our Lord and share our faith. Can full persecution be far away? We should pray for those under attack, and pray that when they come for us, that there is someone there to pray for us or our children.

Remember and
Be blessed.

Devotional for Sunday, May 29, 2011

His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:3
Is your life chaotic, at least sometimes?  Demons thrive in chaos. Stability is the condition God creates in our lives. When we feel everything is chaotic, it isn’t usually because circumstances are chaotic, but rather our perception is chaotic. What I mean is we are unable to focus. While trying to deal with problem 1, we become distracted by problem 2 and so on. Example. A woman is home all day with the kids. She has had it up to “here” with the problems of the household. Dad shows up bringing his own world of problems. His focus is entirely different. If he can’t quickly readjust and focus on where is wife’s life is and if she can’t do the same, it’s going to be a long night.

How do we avoid this chaos? by focus on Him. As Peter tell us in this verse, He has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness. Notice what that means. “Life” includes all that happens in our day-to-day natural world. “Godliness” includes all things spiritual; the perfection of our spirit life that He calls us to. No striving is involved. He has already granted “everything.” We need only focus on Him. 

You see our chaotic world is full of our attempts to fix things, to bring all that we see as “out of sync” back into sync. By focusing on Him, we realize, He’s got it covered, not by what we can accomplish but “by His own glory and excellence.” It so easy to say “Let go and let God.” But wow is it hard to do.

Try it, one more time, and
Be blessed.

Nick

Believing the Bible – Devotional for Saturday, May 28, 2011

Yesterday we considered accepting Scripture as the truth, the word of God, unfiltered by tradition or human reason. There are many reasons to believe the bible.  Max Lucado touched on several in a recent column.

Our bible was composed over sixteen centuries by forty authors; yet it has one central theme. Some of the authors were scholars, but others were soldiers, shepherds, and fishermen. Begun by Moses in lonely Arabia, finished by John on lonely Patmos. Penned by kings in palaces, shepherds in tents, and inmates in prisons. Yet there is a consistency of theme and purpose united by inspiration by one Holy Spirit.

The bible is durable. It is the single most published book in history. The top seller for three hundred years. Translated into twelve hundred languages. The possession of a Bible is a crime in some countries and it has been condemned and burned in others. Yet is survives.
The Bible contains more than three hundred fulfilled prophecies about the life of Christ. His biography was written by a multitude of authors before his birth. No other writing can make that claim.

The Bible works. Apply the principles of fidelity to your marriage, and see if you don’t have a happier home. Apply the principles of forgiveness to your relationships, and see if you aren’t more peaceful. Apply the principles of honesty at school, and see if you don’t succeed. Apply the Bible, and see if you don’t agree—the Bible works.

Scripture is truth that was miraculously written, has survived for centuries, predicts future events, and contains principles for living now and eternally. Can human reason and tradition add anything to that?

Read it and try it and be blessed.

Nick

What the Hell? – Devotional for Friday, May 27, 2011

Lately there has been much discussion about hell. Is there a hell? Is it a real place? Who ends up there? Does anyone end up there? This isn’t a discussion that just came up. It’s the logical result of a process that’s been ongoing for years. When Christianity started, the followers of Christ were still around and recalled and recorded what He said. There is amazing consistency between their recollections recorded in the gospels and the letters they wrote. What he said was what he said and that was the end of it.
But soon students of the gospel began to treat scripture simply as literature, traditions developed and mankind moved into the “Age of Reason.” Man began to respect his intellectual ability and his traditions. Eventually, these became as important as scripture giving rise to concepts such as the “three legged stool.” This was the idea that, in evaluating what is true,  equal weight should be given to scripture, reason and tradition, like a stool that could only be stable if all three were equal.
As time went on, Man began to give his intellect and traditions more weight than scripture. Today, for many, biblical concepts are only accepted if they are “rational” and have been accepted by our forefathers. Not necessarily forefathers all the way back to the disciples, but forefathers of one or two generations is enough.
As a result, we now think we are smarter than God. And not just smarter but more loving. “Christians” say things like “the God I know would never…” You fill in the blanks.
Erasing Hell by Francis Chan comes out on July 5, 2011. Francis has impressed with his teaching and writing. Crazy Love  is a call to “radical” Christianity, like it was originally practiced and is seldom practiced now. I look forward to his teaching on hell. He has prepared a  preview video, in which Chan discusses the importance of the doctrine of hell, and why at this crucial moment of ecclesiastical history Christianity can’t afford to get it wrong.  If the lost are being told there is no hell, the tellers had better be “damn” sure they are right. 
I recommend watching the brief video and considering, “What the hell?” Does the scripture stand on it’s own as the inspired word of God? And if it does, do we really know what it says, unfiltered by centuries of “reason” and “tradition?” We can’t afford to get this wrong. We need to know that there is truth and what that truth is.
Nick

GIve God the Glory – Devotional for Thursday, May 26, 2011

Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name (Psalm 29:2)
Do you ever critique Sunday service on the way home? Have you ever heard yourself say: “”I didn’t get anything out of that today.” If so, sadly, you’re not alone. Do you realize that you’re not suppose to “get anything” out of the service? Worship is about Him not us. We are in church to give and not to get.
Does “Give God the Glory” sound familiar? It isn’t surprising that we are self-focused on Sunday mornings. We hear about God meeting our needs. We are preached to and sung to. We are prayed for and served. Put yourself in the Pastor’s place. He faces a group that has had a variety of experiences in the previous week. Some good, some bad. Many are happy for a variety of reasons. Many are down for a variety of reasons. He’s suppose to meet all those folks just where they are? Isn’t that considerably unreasonable. Even if God has been speaking to Him all week (and with all the issues he has faced there’s no guarantee that He has), that word may not be the word for every person in every seat. 
What if we turned things around? What if we focused on God? What if we come thankful for what He has done rather than moaning about what He hasn’t? What if we came with open hearts looking for the needs of those around us? What if we looked to feed instead of thinking we were guests at an all-you-can-eat buffet?
In order to turn our Sunday mornings around, we need to turn our lives around. In order to show up on Sunday ready to give rather than to get, we will have to be filled all week. We will have to be spending time with God, in His word, and in His will. Instead of looking at church as a filling station where we get gassed up to get us through the week. We will have to look at it as a place where all He’s done for us and through us during the week flows out of us like rivers of living water.
Instead of sucking our ministers dry, we should be filling them up each Sunday morning with the blessings our lives in Christ have been during the week. Most of the “new” people who come into any church each Sunday morning are not lost folks looking for Jesus, they are “Christians” drifting from a church where they weren’t “feed” or “blessed.” Can’t wait to see what good things they will bring to share.
 
Face it. Not everyone is suddenly going to reverse and show up on Sunday as a giver rather than a taker. But what if you did? What if this week you focused on being all the Christian you can be? What if you went to service this Sunday focused on giving rather than getting? What if you left service asking, “Did I give God everything I had during this service?” rather than “Did I get anything out of this service?”
What if? Would you be more blessed? You bet.
Nick

Knowing God – Devotional for Wednesday, May 25, 2011

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 

Much was lost when Adam and Eve fell in the garden. Perhaps most significance was our intimacy with God. The first man and woman walked and talked with Him in the garden. It was a reason they were created, to be friends with God. Our general feelings of emptiness, the hole in our soul, are based on the loss of that intimacy. So much so that Paul yearned, “that I may know Him.”

We are to “seek first” the Kingdom of God. If we are yearning for God and are focused on Him, our other perceived needs melt away. Much of what we think we want and need are simply substitutes for the God we were created to know and serve.

That desire to know Him is fired by the Holy Spirit who comes to reside with us when we repent and turn to Him. We see with new eyes, and long with a new heart, blessed with new possibility to know Him and grow.

Nick

Call on the Name of the Lord – Devotional for Tuesday, May 24, 2011

32 And it shall come to pass
      That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
      Shall be saved.
      For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance,
      As the LORD has said,
      Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. Joel 2:32
21 And it shall come to pass
      That whoever calls on the name of the LORD
      Shall be saved.’ Acts 2:21
13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. Romans 10:13
 
The phrase, “Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” is used three times in the Bible—once in Joel 2:32 as part of a prophetic account, once in Acts 2:21 by the Apostle Peter during his address at Pentecost, and once in Romans 10:13 by the Apostle Paul in his address to the Roman church. There must be something to calling upon the name of the Lord.

I just finished watching a video taken during the tornado which struck Joplin, Missouri. Several people took refuge in the rear of a convenience store. There is little light in the video so not much can be seen. But the noise of the savage storm can be heard as can the voices of the frightened folks. Some are saying “We’re good.” Other are urging calm. But above all you can hear the sounds of praying, specifically the name of “Jesus” repeated over and over again. This little group survived a storm, the final death toll of which has not been determined.

We are told that in the last days the world will erupt with earthquakes and storms. It seems that is happening in our day. Why? It seems to me that this kind of violent adversity sends us to our knees and puts the name of our Lord on our lips. As time grows short, it’s as if all the stops are being pulled and every possible motivation is used to bring us back to God and to repentance. 

Don’t we need to exhibit the same sense of urgency? Time is wasting. It’s time to get creative and urgent. The train is leaving the station and not everyone we love is onboard.

Testify and be blessed.

Nick