Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When Will Jesus Return?

Can we Know When Jesus Christ Will Return?

     The answer is complex and therefore we need to dig down deep into history and Scripture to discover what God wants us to know and what we are not to know.  In order to properly discern the times we have to take a number of subjects, perspectives and tie them all together to discover what God has said, is saying and when He will send His only begotten Son back to earth in bodily form.  

  The bible is a collection of inspired writings of God through the men of God over a period of a few thousand years. The Bible is many things to many people, but one thing it is to me among many is the story of relationship between God and man and ends in a marriage relationship.  In order to discover what to look for to be ready for His return we have to look at marriage to determine His return.  The Jewish history and arrangement of marriage is what will help us discover better about His return.  Jesus is a groom and those who are called his people are his bride. 

   We can also look at signs in the bible to help us determine when this return will occur. One thing God does not want us to know is the exact time as in the hour of day, day of the month and month of the year.  However, I believe we could determine within a 24 hour cycle  a certain day, month of the year and yet miss the exact year.  That alone is knowing God’s schedule , seasons and reasons without know the date and exact time and that is what I believe God wants us to know. In biblical history the groom has up to 7 years to prepare for his bride and pay the dowry. I will never say Jesus is returning on a certain day in the calendar year, but I certainly may suspect a certain every year and prepare myself for that day every year as God gives us great details, but also leaves us with great mystery. What a groom He is with such love for His bride.
Also in order to know the times and seasons of His return we must take in the full council of God’s Word and not just the New Testament or just the Old Testament. His Word is now 2 covenants coming together and so much of it now is coming to pass.

   Science is another factor we must calculate. Much of what is passed off as scientific evidence is often still speculation and not actually observable science. Great discernment is needed among the saints. So many today within the church are split on evolution verses creation. We are told deception in the last days will also be great.  For example, when the bible tells of the length of man prior to the flood and the decreasing age of men after the flood we can never truly object to those long ages of men prior to the flood because nobody was there to prove it one way or another. We have written biblical history and it is contrary to longevity since the flood. So science says impossible, yet the Word says otherwise.

   If indeed the world was completely flooded and is a different world then it was prior, we can only measure science based things this side of the flood.  God said in Gen 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”    We know that Adam and Eve did not die the same day as they ate of the tree or did they? Many speculate that God meant spiritual death as result of sin entered into their lives. Indeed I would agree with that, but also 2 Peter 3:8 says “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  Yet the bible says in Gen 5:5 Adam died at age of 930 years. “Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.  So if 1 day is as 1000 years to God then indeed Adam and Eve did die within the first day ( as God sees days). It is a mystery for us in the natural world as we are time oriented people, but Adam did die within a day from God’s Word perspective.
It’s these types of mysteries we have to work through, study through and reflect upon to see if indeed God has more for us to know and see about His soon and coming return.

In revelation we often see the blood of the saints in heaven as a martyrdom blood, but should we not keep in mind the blood of virginity as it related to Hebrew marriage? The robes dipped in blood in revelation may have more meaning to it then what we presume.

   I've been asked to blog and write about his 2nd coming and it does excite me as never before. In the 1980’s I was hoping without scriptural insight that he would return before the year 2000. Now I see so much more and look forward to sharing those things to encourage and admonish the Body of Christ.  Next post will be more about the Jewish Holy Days as it related to His return. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why Passion alone can Backfire.

Why Passion alone can Backfire.

When I got saved I was 19 yrs old and I was truly transformed. I mean my sins where really gone. Within 4 weeks I became very passionate about my new found faith. I told everyone about Jesus including my drinking buddies. My passion for the Savior was amazing as I look back. It really carried me for a season and I was thankful for how God allowed me to feel so passionate for Him. But then I started stumbling and was shocked at myself.

Within a few short weeks I began to fail Him and stumble and it was then that the local church and it's weekly teaching, bible studies and worship times began to truly sustain me and it reignited my passion. It 8 weeks later I surrounded it all and allowed God to sanctify my heart. My pastor and other adults kept encouraging me , teaching me and guiding me in my new found faith and my passion continued.

Even when I was in college passion for Christ was within me, but it was not enough to carry me or sustain me. I needed times of prayer, worship and fellowship and I needed it often. It seemed like the more I prayed and hung-out with fellow believers the more passion I had and the more I could not wait to get back to them to tell them what happened since the last time I saw them.

Let's face the facts, you need everything about the local church Jesus intended it to if you want to be passionate for Christ and remain effective for Him.

Let's talk about passion in marriage as an example. When you fall in love you are passionate and nothing could seem to get in the way. But after the first few years the term " the honeymoon is over" comes into reality and you have work at keeping the passion alive more then perhaps the 1st few years. If you want passion and romance to continue you have to add a few things to keep the passion alive. In any marriage you must stay bonded by spending time together , sharing one another's hearts, sharing Christ together and protecting that love and passion with the principals of God's Word. A true successful marriage needs more then passion to endure the years, because temptations come to marriages over time as much as temptations come to our souls over time.

Passion alone wasn't enough to sustain my discipleship as a young man.

Listening to the predominant narrative of modern evangelical Christianity, you could get the impression that passion is all we need to live a life of discipleship to Jesus. If we can just become passionate and enthusiastic enough, we will have the fuel we need to fulfill the Great Commission and live the way of Jesus. It’s a “Bible camp” mentality that continues into adulthood for most of us, I think. Kids and Teens come home from camp each summer pumped up, but if they do not stay engaged and focused as you well know, that passion could be gone before the next Sunday. Revivals often leave people passionate for Him, but within a few short weeks if folks don't stay with the "spiritual disciplines" the passion of revival is like that of camp for kids., it's gone.

When Passion Falls Short

Jesus, tells a different story of passion in the Gospel of Mark when he is approaching the cross. At the last supper with his disciples, he tells them they will all fall away, but none of them believe it! Peter passionately declares, “Even if all fall away, I will not!” Jesus responds will a dire warning: “Tonight… you will disown me three times.” Peter simply cannot believe it. How could it ever happen when he feels this passionately about it? “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you!” he proclaims.

Jesus takes his disciples from dinner out to their favorite camping spot, the olive groves of Gethsemane, where he finds it necessary to pray. He takes Peter, James and John with him and tells them to simply sit with him while he prays. Instead they fall asleep. Jesus comes back and wakes up the slumbering disciples, warning them with these important words,

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

You probably know the rest of the story. They fall asleep again, right up until Jesus is betrayed. The whole situation takes them off guard and, just as Jesus predicted, they all fall away, and Peter disowns Jesus three times.

Passion wasn’t enough for the disciples to stay awake and pray with Jesus. Passion wasn't enough for them to remain firmly loyal to Jesus in the face of adversity and threat. Passion wasn't enough for them to keep their promises of fidelity to Jesus. Passion just isn't enough today either.

That’s why Jesus could predict they would all fall away. He knew that they were simply attempting to live on passion alone, and he knew that it wouldn't be enough for them when temptation came.

Training That Sustains Us

That’s why he urged them to watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation! The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. In other words, the passion is there, but you need more than passion. You need training and continued training. We need training often as well. Jesus created the body of Christ and His church to be a source for keeping us trained and spurred on and encouraged, so when we walk into the world weekly we can keep our passion by way of watching and praying with our fellow believers.

Why? Because my spirit is willing (I love ?....!), but my flesh is weak (I’m not very good at it!).

In the same way, passion was not enough for the disciples to remain faithful in trial. They desperately wanted to come through for Jesus, I’m sure. They genuinely thought that they could, too. They assumed their passion would carry them, but it wasn't enough. They needed training. They needed to learn to watch and pray, so that when temptation comes they will have the capability to actually do what they so desperately want to do.

We need the same thing, if we’re going to follow Jesus as disciples. That’s what “spiritual disciplines” are all about, training us so that we can be poised and ready for the trials and temptations that come our way as we join Jesus in his work.

I have to remind myself of this every once in awhile. My passion is not enough to sustain me as pastor either, I need to submit to a regimen of training so that my flesh isn’t weak on the day of temptation. This is why we begin each week in worship at Deland Nazarene Church. We worship, pray, read & hear the Scripture together. It’s why we gather on Sunday nights in the fall and throughout the year to celebrate what God is doing in our midst in small groups and training. It’s why we encourage people to sign up for a discipleship group , Sunday school group, mission trips , camps , retreats and attend Wednesday night bible studies.

As we engage in these weekly and seasonal exercises, these predictable patterns, we find that God’s grace inhabits those spaces and he begins to transform us. We become spiritually “strong” not by trying really hard, but by indirect effort and patterns of commitment. That’s how we train as disciples… doing little, seemingly insignificant things weekly that allow us to do the things we cannot do by direct effort.

How are you and your family doing at training as disciples right now? What are some of the results you've seen so far? What adjustments do you need to make?

My hope & prayer is you will review your spiritual disciplines in these last days and seek what The Lord would have you do to endure until the end.

You are loved!

Pastor Peter 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Are SmartPhones producing Stupid People?

         Recently I have gotten into a grove of eating right and exercising more. I am committed to walking 5 miles a day and riding my bicycle at least once a week. It's been over a month now that I have done this and I've made some interesting observations of myself and others and I guess the culture as a whole. 

 Observation #1 Do I really need to take my cellphone with me everywhere I go? I tend to take it everywhere just in case.  I don't need to talk to others, text them or even use a fancy gps app, but yet my habit is "just in case" someone calls or I need others or they need me I better take it along. I believe I'm addicted! Are you? 

  Observation #2. Am I that important that I need to be accessed on my smartphone all day long?  Answer: NO.  The more accessible I am to others and they are to me the less I seem to get done anyway and the more distracted I can get from life in front of me.  

Observation #3 People use their smartphones everywhere like in Grocery stores, in restaurants, at airports and unfortunately while driving in their cars. Do you?  For those who say no, then good for you, but for the majority of Americans that is not the case. 

Other Examples:  A week ago I was in a high school speaking to the principal when I observed an interesting encounter. An 18 yr old girl who had her cellphone taken away during class ( because using it is forbidden )  choose to have her cellphone back and drop out of school verses having her relative pick up her smartphone after school or the next day.  I guess in her world everything precious revolved around that phone. She weighed out the value between immediate cellphone returned or finishing high school.  The cellphone won her heart over finishing her senior year and graduating. Which was smarter, the phone or the girl? 

A week earlier when I was landing on the runway in Boston I observed an entire plane of people getting out there phones to make calls. It was as if all the addicts at once were pulling out their phones and taking a hit or shot to get their fix. I know I'm not the only one who has a smartphone issue, but I am glad I am starting to see more then ever all it's negative impact on the culture and my own life. 

I read this article in the Wall Street journal the other day and here is one quote. " More than 80 percent of Americans use smart phones, but apparently they compromise our sleep, reduce our social awareness, and make us stupid."  I must admit I agree with that quote. I remember when I use to memorize more numbers and things, but with a Smartphone it can remember it for me which in turn causes me to have to do less with my own smart brain. 

For years I have tried to get my wife to have a cellphone. She has used them on occasion, but she has not had one and is rarely accessible by one. I do believe she is smarter for it in more ways then I ever realized.  She reads more, she is more focused, she is less distracted and she is accessible by our home phone or through other people in our family.  She's a Smartwife while I the husband posses the smartphone.  

Drive thru's now have posted signs that read like this "do not use cellphones while in the drive thru". As well as bank lobby's also have the same signs among other places. Using your cellphone in public places slows the lines down and people talk on them instead of being focused on ordering food, banking, etc. If you really think about it, using a cellphone is usually rude in public places and it's the result of trying to do multiple things at the same time. 

About 9 years ago before the smartphone revolution stormed our culture I was at a luncheon with some businessmen. One of them mentioned that when 12 year olds had cellphone he realized it was time to dump his. I did not get it then, but I get it now. Businessmen get more done with less distractions and with more focus. So when more people have access to calling more people then a business persons phone was typically gonna ring more. Several smart friends I've known over the years have disciplined themselves to realize they could do more if they could be accessed less. Some changed their habits and others dumped the phones to a emergency phone only for the glove box. 

     Our culture and the American people have come to expect immediate results in everything and that also includes access to each other's lives.  But there was a day when we would leave a message and maybe wait a day or two or longer to get a return call. 

Just because one device can do it all from knowing the weather to a instant flashlight does not mean everyone needs one. Maybe if we dumped the smartphones we would all spend more time with the people around us, get more done and be more focused and be smarter for it. 

Does the average smartphone user put limits on themselves and their phones? Probably not!  People now think less and focus less. While our phones are getting smarter,  the people are being dummied down. Have you ever walked into a business to buy something or to get served only to discover the employee was on their personal cellphone texting or starring at there smartphone with a lost in space glare? 

 I still have my smartphone, but I am coming to realize its time for me to be smarter about how and when I use it. I certainly do not want to be out witted by a stupid mindless device. Do You? 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

1500 @ Your Door!

What do you do with 1500 people at your front door? 

"As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was". (Mark 1:29-34 NIV)

"The whole town gathered at the door." This sentence might sound like a figure of speech, but it's actually a fact. First we need to think about what happened in town before they got to the house and we need to ask ourselves what was the town like. In 2000 I was in that ancient town of Capernaum and it is right off the shore of the sea and now it's a tourist site of ruins. Back then however,  it was a small fishing village and estimates say it has a population of about 1500 people. 

     In our county in Florida there is a small town between county lines in the middle of nowhere as some folks say. It's rural, depressed in economy and  It has a store and a gas station and not a whole lot more then that. However it has about 1700 residents that call it home. When something happens in a small town of 1500 -1700 news of it travels fast. So when Mark's gospel says the whole town gathered at the door that must have been some sight to see.  

     When I was in a small African village this past Feb 2013 in Senegal West Africa I saw a small village show up for an outdoor movie.  What started off as maybe 50 people ended up well over 300 people. In just a few short hours news of something different or unexpected must have traveled fast. We had been digging a well all day and then news traveled that we were going to show a film that night.   

   There are several things about this historic encounter I enjoy about Jesus and his followers. First is they went to the Synagogue. This implies they had their priorities in line with God's concept of a day of rest and worship. The miracles did not start flowing in this village until the Sabbath day and and that evening after worship. This speaks to my spirit that we need a day of rest with God's people and when we rest and worship and listen to God's Word our faith to receive God's grace is quickened.  It was after the teaching of Jesus with His Authority of Scripture that we see one miracle after another.   The miracles went from Church to home and home to village. I presume the 1500 people were not in the synagogue on the Sabbath evening service. When I was in those ruins I would estimate enough room for maybe 200 maximum. 

      The fishing village of Capernaum had a kairos Day. The kingdom of God was at hand in the worship service, then the anointing of the moment flowed to the home of Simon and Andrew and by the time the rest of the town of 1500 heard about what happened at church they found our Savior and his disciples at home probably trying to have a nice relaxing meal.    

In this story I see how Jesus did not tell them to go away because he didn't eat dinner yet, but rather he began to minister grace, hope and mercy from the Father into as many lives as he could possible touch. And this 1500 at the door happened after sunset in the dark with maybe some good moonlight.   In this encounter I don't see the disciples praying and healing people with Jesus, but I envision them watching Jesus , observing and possibly being the crowd control folks as they (like the entire town)  were probably as bewildered with Jesus and the constant flow of miracles as anyone. So if 1500 people showed up with diseases and demons after dark for help I can only imagine it was a long night. The crowd eventually disappeared and Jesus seems to have gotten a little sleep. However, scripture tells us before Sunrise he slipped away alone to pray.  

What a day in Capernaum!! It stated in the outflow from the day of rest and worship and attracted the whole town to one door. 

After Jesus left that town I wonder how many were in synagogue the next Sabbath seeking God with a renewed appreciation of grace.  The greatest lesson I believe was likely for those disciples who witnessed something they later were to do themselves in years to come.  

The lesson for me is to go with the flow when God shows up. In summary I see an evening of worship on the beginning of a Friday night sabbath ( where a few unexpected things happened ) followed by a relaxed dinner in a home before some sleep. However, when arriving at the home for dinner someone is sick and grace flows again. Followed by a nice meal and fellowship before an unexpected knock at the door comes. After ministry at the door starts it just seems it never ended until maybe 4 or 5 hours later when the crowd drifts off to get some rest and Jesus finally crashes for maybe 3 or 4 hours.  Are we willing to let God redirect our plans like God redirected theirs? 1500 at the door is certainly a kairos moment of kingdom encounter that still speaks to hearts today including mine.