I'm realizing lately that I have not sufficiently wrestled with Jesus' words in Matthew 24:21-22:
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”
(Matthew 24:21-22 NKJV)
Jesus made such an alarming statement - there has never been a more difficult time in history and there will never be a time more intense and dramatic than what is coming. He's saying it's greater than the global effects of all of the world wars, and will include pestilence, fearful sighs from heaven, demonic powers raging at levels never seen before, and the earth being shaken like it never has before. It's so easy to "romanticize" and just gloss over these things, either thinking that we will be removed from the situation or completely protected in the midst of it.
In the days of Noah we can find similarities to the coming hour, but it is not sufficient to describe them completely. In Noah’s day, it had never rained before and there were never any boats. There was nothing to compare the flood to. But Noah acted in godly fear, saying “I don’t know what a boat or rain is, but I do know your voice.” Noah obeyed God for 120 years despite the accusation and revilement of his neighbors and even some of his own family. What Noah did made no sense before it started to rain. He went from being the most foolish man to the wisest man on the planet when the rain began.
Over a year ago I wrote this post on “pray-reading” the Word. I went back and re-read it and decided that it would be a good thing to write on again, because I absolutely love doing it!
One of my favorite passages to pray-read this past year has been Psalms 119. I find myself often spending 10 or 15 minutes on one verse alone, because I really feel the Lord as I do it. If you don’t pray-read the scriptures, let me just say that you’re really missing out! The Word was meant to be our “conversational material” with God. More than just bringing Him our personal, external needs, I’ve found that simply engaging Him in conversation over the Word has transformed my heart tremendously.
He knows all of our needs before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8). He invites us into prayer not for the sake of telling Him our needs, but simply for us to interact and dialogue with Him in conversation. What would it be like if an earthly father only heard his son or daughter’s voice when they needed to eat or borrow the car? There wouldn’t be any relational, heart-to-heart connect in that. Our heavenly Father is longing for a heart-to-heart connection with us. He’s not just the “big guy” that answers our laundry list of prayers after we pray them in dry repetition again and again.
Okay, Mark 6:45-51 is perhaps one of the craziest passages in the whole Bible! I've been meditating on it for a few days now, and I can't believe how much I've "missed" from the story. I'm sure we all know about the time when Jesus walked on water. But I've been challenged to "go deeper" and to really figure out what was going on. It's so invigorating to my heart to let my holy imagination get into the story and then to ask Jesus questions about it! So this post is just a splash of my thoughts and questions to Jesus on the passage.
“Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled.” (Mark 6:45-51 NKJV)
So Jesus just got finished feeding 5000 men (plus women and children, so perhaps there were 15,000 people needing to eat. That's a lot of people to feed!) and sent His disciples rowing across the sea of Galilee (which was probably about 10 miles across, depending upon the direction). After He sent them away, He goes off privately to pray.
We just started our monthly 3-day fast together as a community, and more and more I am discovering God’s wisdom in the “seeming weakness” of prayer. Telling God what He told us to tell Him, skipping a few meals, and spending time reading and praying through the Bible seems like a foolish waste of time to the natural mind. Yet I’m finding that it is truly the pathway to a vibrant heart full of life, peace, and joy.
Today I was reading through Luke’s gospel when I flipped ahead a few pages to Luke 21 and something caught my eye. Jesus said that many would be going through life as normal when the events of the end of the age come and trap them. But the major “antidote” that Jesus gave to us to counteract a dull heart weighed down by life is prayer. He says:
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.””
(Luke 21:34-36 NKJV)
A friend the other day asked me an interesting question – “Do you think you have the right eschatology to be saved?” It’s a genuine and very real question to ask because of Jesus’ own words about deception coming at the end of the age. But I responded:
“My eschatology is definitely wrong in areas, but the way to be saved is not by having the perfect understanding of all of the end-time events.”
In pondering and searching out my answer a bit more, I came across Luke 13:22-30 where Jesus answers a pretty loaded question from someone He meets in His journeys through the cities and villages on His way to Jerusalem. The follower asks boldly “Lord, are there few who are saved?”
I’m certain every one of the people following Jesus on that day had many assumptions about Jesus’ answer, but the way Jesus responds totally blindsides them all. The Jews in Jesus’ day held to the vast collection of Old Testament prophecies that Messiah would come, restore all things, destroy Israel’s enemies, and bring her back to a place of prominence among the nations once again. They believed their ticket or entrance into Messiah’s kingdom was based on their ethnicity as children of Abraham and their adherence to Moses’ law.
Yesterday I relaunched my web design website. Check it out:
My heart is to use the funds I raise by building websites to financially support prayer and intercession both locally here in Kansas City and across the nation.
It's been over a year since I redesigned my personal website, and I think it will be due for a facelift soon. In the meantime, enjoy the facelift to my design website :)
So often the intellectual smart guy walks around, knowingly or unknowingly, with an orb of unapproachability surrounding them. You know the type. Anyone who would challenge their thinking or even ask a simple question is surely going to walk away feeling intimidated, their brain having been run through a wringer. But what was it about Jesus – the smartest Man that has ever lived – that made Him so approachable?
The height of God’s beauty is found in His meekness. There is nothing more attractive than meekness. Jesus perfectly displayed the riches of God’s meekness. How can One so strong, so wise, and so mighty stoop so low in such tenderness? It truly humbles us to look upon the great mystery of God’s meekness.
Not only is it humbling to look upon His meekness, but it is inspiring to our hearts to walk in it ourselves. Our greatest glory, freedom, and pleasure is found in being like God in our character.
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.
(Ephesians 5:1 NKJV)
There is an inherent dilemma in “being first” in privilege and prominence in this age because it creates social and time pressures that may distract us from developing meekness. But we’ve been invited to be set free from the bonds of pride as we walk in meekness. In our weakness, we can receive the impartation of the Holy Spirit to truly walk like Jesus did. Ask Him for it!
I’m continuing my series on the seven churches of Revelation 2-3, focusing on the letter to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. I’ve decided to split up these posts a bit, just because there’s so much I want to say about each church. So there may be a couple of entries for each church as I progress along. Be sure to read this post and this post as an introduction to the series if you have not already.
Ephesus was the capital and largest city of the Roman province of Asia Minor with a population of approximately 250,000 people and a public theatre seating 24,000. It was a center of commerce and finance, but also was known for immorality and idol worship. The major shrine in the city was the great temple of Diana, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world being 425 feet long, 220 feet wide, 60 feet high and held up by 127 marble pillars. The worship of Diana (or Artemis in Greek) promoted sexual immorality throughout the city. The silversmith trade was prosperous because of the demand for gold, silver and bronze idols of Diana to be used as one’s household deity (Acts 19:25).
The church in Ephesus, shining like a lamp in the midst of darkness, was a revival center for Asia Minor (Acts 19:26) being the third most prominent church in the Book of Acts after Jerusalem and Antioch. Paul first came to Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem from Corinth at the end his second missionary trip in AD 52 (Acts 18:19-21). He initially preached in the synagogue for several months and then left. His friends Priscilla and Aquila stayed to train Apollos and the disciples of John the Baptist (Acts 18:24-28).
Paul returned to establish a church on his third missionary journey (Acts 19-20) which he used as his ministry base for three years (Acts 20:31). During his visit, the people responded so fervently to the gospel that the market for purchasing the silversmiths’ little Diana trinkets virtually disappeared. The revival resulted in many coming to Jesus with such extreme devotion that the silversmiths troubled Paul and caused many involved in idolatry to burn their magic books worth 50,000 drachmas (Acts 19:13-20). A drachma was an average day's wage ($100/day would have been $5,000,000 worth of magic books).
I spent my final moments of 2008 back here:
with these people:
If you think that's a little strange, let me explain. I was a part of the stage crew at this year's onething conference in Bartle Hall downtown KC, where we always ring in the new year with worship and prayer. This year, we invited the young people into a "sacred charge" before the Lord to commit to specific things like praying at least two hours per day, fasting two days per week, reading the book of Revelation, leading a weekly bible study, and boldly proclaiming the message of Jesus' return. Many of the young people responded wholeheartedly. It was unbelievable...
I'll give more updates on onething as the days progress. It was a lot of work for all of us, but I'm certain that the attendees were unbelievably blessed.
If you have a testimony about onething either as an attendee or as someone who watched it through the webcast, let me know by leaving a comment - I'd love to hear it!
It's Christmas time again, which means, at least for an IHOP guy like me, the onething conference is right around the corner, the prayer room slims down to the people who actually live in Kansas City (since many students and interns leave for the holidays), and many of the prayer room sets and songs are sung around passages relating to the birth of Christ.
I seriously wish we could take an entire month out of each year and corporately meditate on the incarnation. Of all of the things that we should center our lives around, few, if anything at all actually, should outweigh the nativity scene we view perhaps hundreds of times each December. For the eternal infinite God to fully become a finite human being is arguably the most shocking, the most outrageous, and the most scandalous thing that has happened in the history of the created order. Dana Candler in her book Entirety writes:
Jesus, the Living Word, was God from eternity, begotten before time, dwelling in the unapproachable light with the Father, inhabiting the everlasting ages before the world was made in all glory and majesty (John 1:1-2). Perpetually worshipped by angels, He possessed all things from all eternity, and to any onlooker of the adoring heavenly hosts, there was no apparent reason for this to change.
Yet in the heart of God, from this love of the Holy Three, there was a plan of scandalous proportions rooted in outrageous love, and the crux of that plan involved the unthinkable departing of the Begotten Son from the shrouds of unapproachable light and the unimaginable emptying of Himself in the assumption of a human frame. It meant the unthinkable mystery that God the Creator would enter the world through the womb of a young maiden whom He Himself created, and ultimately, the shocking culmination of God hanging on a cross—the eternal statement of His endless hatred of sin and everlasting love of mankind.
The Baby that we find in the manger was the same One who was eternally the Possessor of All, the Author of Life, the uncreated One who was with God from everlasting (Micah 5:2). He did not consider His eternal exaltation as something to be grasped and used for His own gain, but rather He chose in transcendent love to empty Himself of so great an exaltation, making Himself of no reputation and taking on the form of a bondservant (Philippians 2:6-7).
Out of the erupting love and desire of the Godhead, the Son left the covering of unapproachable light and the vastness of His heavenly riches, wrapping Himself in the profound obscurity of poor humanity and becoming to the natural eye nothing more than a newborn Jewish boy, and later a typical young man, son of a carpenter, from Nazareth. In these obscure, ordinary beginnings, the extraordinary occurred: God took on the plight of humanity, the weakness and frailty of our dilemma and forever assumed His identity as our Brother, making us bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh forever.