We Wait for His Son

Photograph of the solar eclipse seen in Oregon, USA August 21, 2017

We wait for His Son from Heaven, who He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

I live within the path of the recent solar eclipse of the sun. Some Americans believed this passing of the moon between the sun and the earth was a sign of the end of the world. They were sure it would announce the return of Jesus or the advent of the Antichrist. They twisted together speculation and Scripture taken out of context for their strange doctrine. In doing so they created fear and raised money while maligning Jesus Christ and His holy Word.

As Christians, we eagerly await the return of Jesus from Heaven. We look for Him – who died for the Church and was raised from the dead for the Church – to return in the clouds and gather His Church unto Himself to forever be with Him. We anticipate Jesus Christ, not the Antichrist.

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another (1 Thessalonians 5:9, 11). We have comfort, joy, hope, and demonstrate lives of godliness in Jesus, we don’t live in despair and fear over the future.

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Jesus Still Loves the Little Children

mr rogers

They brought infants to Jesus that He might touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:15-16).

A little boy sat on the floor with the tv on, waiting for his friend. The friend arrived, took off his sweater and shiny shoes and replaced them with another sweater and tennis shoes. “You are special” and “It’s you I like” he sang, the words simple, genuine, and true.

We fed the fish, received a speedy delivery, walked to the bakery, met kings and owls and took trolley rides, then sat for a little talk together. He knew the words to calm fears, drown silence, fill loneliness, and cover with grace and understanding.

After smiles, waves, and his friend leaving, the boy knew that tomorrow would be another “snappy new day.” Mr Rogers was a 25-minute friend reflecting the best American society had to offer.

Today I recall the boy of my childhood from the vantage point of time and realize how much the world has changed. Being a child is much more difficult. The world is more dangerous, life more complicated, reality harsher, society far brasher. The innocence and simplicity of my childhood has vanished.

One thing hasn’t changed: Jesus still welcomes and loves the little children.

I Like to be Liked

Like to be Liked 9.1.15I’m sure you like to be liked. Me too.

Few people have a social death wish. We want to go along to get along. We live and let live. Then we talk about the Good News of Jesus and forget what makes it “good news.”

When you read Paul’s presentation of the Good News in his letter to the Romans, he doesn’t start with something sweet like, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” No, he begins with uncomfortable words like wrath of God (1:18), unrighteousness (1:18), without excuse (1:20), futile [empty] minds and foolish hearts (1:21), God gave them up (1:24), dishonor their bodies (1:24), the lie (1:25), vile passions (1:26), committing what is shameful (1:27), penalty of their error (1:27), debased mind (1:28) … oh my, the list gets even more nasty after this. Until there’s a presentation of how wicked we truly are, we’ve only shared religious news.

After Paul thoroughly writes about the awfulness of sin, he presents Jesus’ death at the end of chapter 3! Imagine, the idea that “God loves you” doesn’t show up in Romans until chapter 5, one-third of the way through the book; and that love is for people saved through faith in Jesus.

We’re often afraid and ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ because we want to be liked; but truth is always more important than popularity.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the heathen. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17).

Scare the Hell

Scare the Hell 10 2015Marcus went to bed earlier than usual. The morning would bring a special day for the 13-year old. He was trying out for his junior high school basketball team and needed to be rested and ready to make the squad.

From out of the hallway he heard the clock chime its familiar tune. It was 2 am. “So much for going to bed early if I don’t fall asleep early,” he thought to himself.

A short time later Marcus awoke to a screeching sound and the smell of smoke. In the same hallway where the clock chimed every hour hung the smoke alarm. He heard his parents yelling and his two baby sisters crying. He was scared. Just then his bedroom door smashed open. Marcus jumped hastily from his bed and followed his father through the smoky hallway to the front door. He could feel the searing heat of the flames as he rushed past the kitchen.

Safe outside, the family huddled in the street as the police arrived and then a fire truck. Now every part of the house lit up the night sky. Marcus felt dazed by what he was seeing. Everything he had … everything he knew … it was gone. He was sure he was going to puke.

The young teen turned in the street toward the sidewalk just in time to walk into the path of a passing car, the driver looking at the fire rather than the road. Marcus was dead.

Just because you scare the Hell out of someone with tales of everlasting fire, the mark of the beast, or a world war, doesn’t mean he is safe in the arms of Jesus. Threats and fears don’t convert men; only grace through faith in Jesus saves.

 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).

Six Months to Live

six-months-to-liveMy wife and I sat across the desk from the very official looking doctor. He bowed his head and said to me, “I’m sorry Mr Rice, but you have cancer. From the test results … you only have six months to live.”

I looked at my wife, stood to my feet and answered, “Then I’d better get busy. I have a lot to get finished in that time.”

I know this was a dream because I come from a long line of stubborn people who will have plenty of time to see a doctor once we’re dead.

Seriously, none of us knows what tomorrow – or the next six months – holds. The fact that each of us has only a certain allotment of time should not come as a surprise to us, though we struggle to make that allotment of time relevant.

Jesus knew that His earthly life was limited for time. Even as a Child He could say, Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? (Luke 2:49). May you and I have such clarity of purpose!

Poisoned Candy and Truth

post-truth-worldIn 1974, eight-year old Timothy O’Bryan died after eating a piece of poisoned candy on Halloween night.

Every year since 1974, American school children and parents are warned about taking candy from strangers because it may be poisoned, riddled with razor blades, or filled with pins or ground glass. Some hospitals even x-ray candy for free to ensure its safety.

The only problem is that there has never been a generalized poisoning of candy, apples, popcorn balls, or any other treat in the United States. Never. In the case of young Timothy O’Bryan, it was his own father who poisoned his son’s candy to collect on a large life insurance policy.

Now consider the famous Oxford English Dictionary. In 2016, editors chose as the English word of the year “post-truth.” Post-truth refers to an outright lie that is accepted by a society as truth. The dictionary adds that “objective facts are less influential … than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In other words, ignore and deny facts, truth is what you feel or think.

Poison candy, photographed fairies, toast causes cancer and eggs produce heart attacks, killer-clowns,  dangers of fluoride, men trapped in a female body, cell phones and brain tumors … the list of fear-inducing post-truth, junk- science, urban legends, or whatever name you call the widely accepted lie, is still a lie.

For the Christian, truth is not individual, emotional, or experience-based. God is truth and He has revealed the truth in the Bible. Feelings and experiences don’t determine what is true, God does. What He says is the truth.

Jesus explained it simply when He prayed, Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth (John 17:17).

Free to Speak

free-to-speak

When I stopped at the bank today, Joanne greeted me with her usual smile and friendly chatter, but I could tell something was wrong. When I asked how she was doing, she faked a smile, wiped a tear, and changed the subject.

It can sometimes be difficult to talk to people. Anything you say seems to be wrong, so the fear of offending the person keeps you silent. At other times there is nothing to say. The hurt or the feeling of being overwhelmed is too much.

Life is full of different levels of communication, but we all need someone with whom we can speak freely, openly, and boldly. You can say anything to this person without fear of condemnation or rejection. You can be serious, silly, or stupid without fear of being judged.

The Bible talks about having confidence or boldness with God. Both words mean the same thing, to have “assurance, freedom of speech without brashness.”

Knowing God’s great love for us allows us to open our hearts and pour ourselves out to Him. Even in our weaknesses, the Holy Spirit helps us pray. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26).

God’s shoulders are big enough for our honesty in prayer. He’s more than able to bear our weaknesses. Even when we don’t know what to say, our struggling silence never disappoints Him. Wonderfully, He will never reject us, judge us, or condemn us when we call upon Him with a sincere heart.

The Controversy

shepherds 1The angel said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10).

The rocky plains around Bethlehem were (and still are) used as grazing land for sheep. Located only a short distance from Jerusalem, Bethlehem was a popular place for raising sheep for the sacrificial slaughter at the Jewish temple.

Shepherding was not a prestigious job in the ancient world. The task was always pawned off on the youngest son (1 Sam 16:10-11) or daughters. Farmers and city dwellers detested shepherds (Gen 46:34), and by the time of the prophets, shepherds were considered fully both second-class and untrustworthy.

Shepherds suffered from cruel stereotypes, and shepherding was even outlawed in Israel except on desert plains. The Jewish Mishnah (commentary on the Law of Moses) refers to shepherds in belittling terms, describes them as “incompetent” and notes that if a shepherd was found hurt or injured, there was no legal or moral responsibility to help him. They were unable to hold public office, forbidden to testify in court, had no civil rights, and were considered worse sinners than tax-collectors and prostitutes.

Yet, strangely, it was to a group of shepherds that the Father chose to announce the Incarnation of His Son.

We are most impressed with the message of someone rich or famous, powerful or successful. They are paraded before crowds at churches and evangelistic events and given time on Christian tv. What fools we are!

When God had chosen His man to be king of Israel, Samuel’s prejudice came out. God had to remind him to be careful in his judgments, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart  (1 Samuel 16:7).  And who did God choose? A young shepherd named David who would later write, The Lord is my Shepherd  (Psalm 23:1).

A Hope in God

hideAre there are mornings you’d rather stay in the safe and warm comfort of your bed? From your cozy little nest you can hide from disappointments, from the storm in your world and the storm blowing in your mind.

The Old Testament prophet Elijah saw the power and glory of God displayed before the Jewish nation. He knew beyond all doubt that the God of Abraham was not only living, but was his God! Yet as you read his story in First Kings 18 and 19, you find that Elijah was taken low to the point of despair by one word (1 Kings 19:1-2).

Elijah’s self-pity became so overwhelming that he ran into the wilderness, rolled himself under a bush, and there prayed, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life!”  (1 Kings 19:4). We despair when wepay attention to the stormy circumstances and forget the God who never leaves us nor forsakes us.

After 40 days, God led Elijah into a cave where God demanded an answer. What are you doing here, Elijah?  (1 Kings 19:9). God knew why Elijah was there … why he had fallen into fear and despair.

In the mouth of the cave, God revealed His great power and glory again. The Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces … but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind and earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. 

The God who had answered by fire on Mount Carmel had not changed; Elijah had changed. He’d forgotten to keep his eyes on God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalm 43:5).

50 Shades of Gray

50-shades-of-greyWhen the Jewish leaders brought the King of the Jews before the Roman governor, they demanded He be given the death penalty. Jesus was guilty in the minds of the Jewish leaders of declaring Himself to be God, but what would Pontius Pilate decide?

The Gospel accounts say that Jesus refused to defend Himself against His accusers. This left the Roman governor confused about Jesus and what to do next since he found no fault in Him at all (John 18:38). But the protesting crowd outside the courthouse was moving from anger to violence.

When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that an uproar was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” (Matthew 27:24). Stirred by fear of the crowds (John 19:8), Pilate compromised truth with what worked for him politically and Jesus was led away to be crucified.

I’m been amazed at how many people calling themselves Christians are willing to act like Pilate. They will compromise truth for fifty shades of gray. They will accept one shade of evil while condemning another shade of the same evil.

As people of faith in Jesus Christ, we are to walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), proving what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret (Ephesians 5:8-12).

Whether in your workplace or at the ballot box, in your finances or in the privacy of your own bedroom, let us shine the light of Christ rather than throw shade in an already compromised world.