Jesus Is Coming Again

Jesus is coming back to earth someday! If He came today would you be ready? Are you looking for Him and longing for His coming? Heb 9:28 says, “…Christ …shall appear a second time…to those who eagerly await Him.”

The early believers spoke and wrote about His coming soon but they did not know when. When the disciples asked when it will happen,  Jesus answered, “…No one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Matt 24:36

Not long before His crucifixion,  as Jesus was sitting with His disciples on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, they asked Him,  “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)

Several times before this as He was teaching the disciples He told them that He was going to be killed and raised to life again.  Mark 9:32 says,  “They did not understand this statement and they were afraid to ask Him.”

Now Jesus begins speaking about His coming and of the end of the age. He begins with a warning, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ, the Messiah’  and will mislead many.”

Then He describes the state of chaos the world will be in. There will be wars and rumors of wars, nations rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom and in various places famines and earthquakes. This could be today’s newspaper!

He says they will be persecuted and hated by all nations  because they bear the name of Jesus.  Many will leave the faith and  betray and hate one another. The love of many people will grow cold because of the lawlessness and iniquity.

False Christs and false prophets  will show great signs and wonders so as to mislead people, even Christians. If someone says He is in this or that place, do not believe them because Christ’s coming will be like a flash of lightning, from the east to the west.

Just like in the days of Noah, people were living ordinary lives, eating and drinking, and marrying until the day Noah entered the ark, and they didn’t understand until the flood came and took them all away; that’s how His coming will be. There will be two men working side by side, one will be taken and the other left.

Over and over He told them to be ready because they do not know when He will come. He is coming on a day and at an hour when they do not expect Him. He warns them not to live without restraint, as if His coming is a long way off.

Luke 21:25-36 says “there will be signs in the sun, moon and stars and upon  the earth, distress of nations in bewilderment and perplexity at the roaring of the tossing of the sea . Men will be fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

“Then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near…recognize that the kingdom of God is near….Be on your guard….keep on the alert at all times, praying….”

At the Passover meal, the last supper Jesus had with His disciples, He knew His time had come to leave this world and go back to His Father in heaven.  He tried to prepare them but they didn’t understand. He told Peter, “Where I go, you cannot follow me now, but you shall follow later.”  John 13:36

He told them, “Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places… I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3

After His crucifixion and resurrection Jesus was with them for forty days teaching them.  His last words to them were, “Stay in Jerusalem, wait for the Father’s promised baptism of the Holy Spirit that I told you about, Who will empower you to be My witnesses to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:1-5

After He had said these things, as they were looking into the sky, He disappeared into a cloud. Two men in white clothing appeared and said to them, “Why are you looking into the heavens (sky)? This Jesus will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”  Acts 1:9-11

Peter, who was there as Jesus disappeared in the cloud, that day, waited with others in the upper room in Jerusalem for the promised baptism. After he received the Holy Spirit with power to witness, he stood up and preached his first sermon with the result that three thousand souls believed on Jesus.

From that day on Peter determined to tell people about Jesus! The man who had run in fear and denied that he knew Jesus, now boldly encouraged believers to continue in the faith in spite of the Roman persecution under Nero’s reign. He wrote letters of encouragement and also of warning.

He reminded them that he was an eye witness to all that he told them about Jesus. He had heard the Father’s voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased.” But the message will not be accepted by everyone!

Mockers will come saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since our fathers passed away, all continues as it was from the beginning of creation.”2 Pet 3:3

They forget that God already destroyed the earth once by a flood. He is not slow about His promise, but He is patiently giving people time to repent. He does not want anyone to perish. His patience is their opportunity for salvation.  But eventually the Lord will come as He promised.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy he told him, “Realize this, that in the last days difficult, perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable,”

“Malicious gossips, without self control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as this.” 2 Tim 3:1-5

As believers who are looking eagerly for His coming we are to live differently. We are to “abide (stand firm)  in him, so that when he appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him at His coming.” 1 John 2:28

“Now we are children of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3

“Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes (kindred) of the earth will mourn (lament) over Him…’I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, ‘Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev 1:7-8

In a  letter to the Thessalonian believers Paul  tells them that those who are alive when Jesus comes will not go before those who have died. He describes the coming of the Lord. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God;”

“And the dead in Christ (believers who  have died) will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord…Comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13 -18

Jesus’ words of comfort to Martha regarding Lazarus’ death were, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” John 11:25-26

Paul explains a mystery to the Corinthian believers, “We shall not all sleep (die) but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 1 Cor 15:50-53

In the light of Christ’s coming, how should we live? Jesus explained the way to live to the multitudes and to His disciples. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

“For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”

“For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man (Jesus) will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38

Jesus is coming for all those who have repented of their sins and have accepted His salvation. He is coming for all who believe in Him. Those who are trying to establish their own righteousness will not go with Him. They will be left behind!

Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Jesus is not going to take unrighteous sinners to heaven. His death on the cross made salvation available to all who believe and accept His provision.

Romans 10:8-10 “The word of faith is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”

Jesus is coming! The fact that He has not come yet does not mean He is not still coming! His words to us are, “Be ready! Live as if He is coming today! Watch!”

 

 

 

God’s Love And His Anger

On July 8, 1741, Jonathan Edwards delivered his famous sermon entitled, “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God.” The message was given in Enfield, Connecticut at the height of the Great Awakening. The powerful imagery of hell invoked fear.

The text was Deuteronomy 32:35, “Their foot shall slip in due time.” God was angry with the Israelites who had forsaken Him and provoked Him to anger with their worship of demons and other gods. Over and over He had been their Rock, their provider and their deliverer but they turned away from His love and now He was angry with their rebellion.

The message was meant to make people think seriously about their eternal destination. He wanted sinners to realize that someday they will be judged by God, whose judgement will be more fearful and painful than they can comprehend. Graphic descriptions and vivid imagery enhanced the themes presented. A short summary of some of the main points were;

1. Unrepentant sinners face a fearful judgement from which there is no escape
2. Time is short for the unrepentant; God’s wrath will come suddenly and unexpectedly
3. It is only God’s free choice that extends the ‘day of mercy’ and provides another opportunity to respond to His call.
4. Although there are not visible means of death before them at the moment the wicked should not feel secure.
5. All that wicked men may do to save themselves will not save them from the pain of hell if they reject Christ.
6. God has never promised to save anyone from hell, except for the provision of salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross.

His words were meant to condemn the sin in those who were unrepentant and to shake the “fence sitters” out of their complacency. People responded in various ways. Many times the sermon was interrupted as listeners were moaning and crying out, “What must I do to be saved?” Some fled the church and others screamed and nearly fainted! He scared the hell out of a lot of people!! Some repented, believed and received Christ.

Most of the time we want to think of God as all loving, giving and kind. And He is! Scripture says God is Love, that’s His very nature, but He created us with a will, we are not robots. We can exercise our will to love Him and live a life pleasing to Him or we can turn our backs on Him and follow everything that is pleasing to us. We always have a choice.

When we choose our way, He still shows us His love and stands with arms extended, calling us back to Him as He did with Israel. Unfortunately many people reject His call and decide to go their own way. They think they can do it their way and it will be accepted. God says our righteousness is like filthy rags. We can never be good enough or do enough good deeds to cover our sins.

God created us as eternal beings which means, each person will live forever. We were made with a body, soul and spirit. Our body of flesh and blood will die but our soul and spirit will always live somewhere in eternity! God has provided two places for us to live; heaven or hell. There is no third choice! There is no waiting place where we can buy more time to be made ready for heaven!

Two choices;  #1. Heaven, in the place Jesus has prepared for us, to be with Him forever, in the presence of our Father and His angels,  and #2. Hell (the lake of fire) which is prepared for the devil and his demons but where unrepentant sinners will be sent after they face Almighty God! In his book,”Beyond the Cosmos” Hugh Ross says, “The lake of fire is a place where people and demons get what they want above anything else: freedom from the will and rule of God and freedom from the restraints of conscience.”

Jesus told the disciples, don’t worry about the persecution you will encounter as you witness for Me. “Don’t fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;…” Proverbs 1:7 “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.”

Hell is a real place! It’s a place of torment from which there is no escape once you are there! In parables and stories Jesus spoke of people being  sent to a place of outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The book of Revelation speaks of fire and brimstone as the final end of those who refuse God’s offer of salvation. Those who accept the world’s system will be tormented with fire and brimstone with the smoke of their torment ascending forever. Revelation 14:9-11

Today is the day of salvation! James 4:13-14 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will…’  Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.” Hebrews 2 (paraphrased) “We must pay attention to what we’ve heard. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Jesus came to deliver us.” Hebrews 3 and 4, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”

Jesus, the sinless Son of God, came from heaven to earth, took on human flesh, lived as a man, was crucified as the Lamb, sacrificed for the sins of all mankind. The blood of Jesus, now cleanses from sin and saves all who receive Him as their Savior. Romans 10:9-13 (paraphrased) “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart… the word of faith…  if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead you shall be saved.”

“For with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation… Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed… Whoever will call upon the Name of Jesus will be saved.” John 3:16 “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

My friend, what about your soul? Will you spend eternity in heaven or hell? The decision is yours! Do not wait, you may not have another time! Christ stands at the door of your heart but you must open the door! Can you say the words from the hymn by Horatio G Spafford, “It is well with my soul!  – My sin – oh, the bliss of this glorious thought – my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.”

Today is the day! There is no guarantee of tomorrow!

 

 

 

THE GOOD SHEPHERD AND THE BUMMER LAMB

I first learned about bummer lambs when I heard Sheila Walsh telling her story to Leon Fontaine on his TV show. Sheila grew up in Scotland and her mother did accounting for farmers and shepherds. Sheila saw spring lambs being born and loved being around the ewes and their lambs. Once in awhile a ewe would give birth to a lamb and reject it. She wouldn’t feed it or accept it in any way. These lambs were called, “bummer lambs”.

If the shepherd does not take the lamb it will die of a broken spirit. A good shepherd watching his flock finds the little lamb, takes it into his home, feeds it with a bottle and keeps it warm by the fireplace. Then once in awhile throughout each day, the shepherd carries it in his arms, close to his heart so the little lamb can hear and feel his heart beat.

As the lamb spends time with the shepherd it comes to know him and recognizes his voice. When the lamb is strong enough, the shepherd puts it back in the fold with the other sheep and whenever he goes out and stands on the end of the field and calls “Sheep, sheep, sheep!” the first to come running to him are the bummer lambs.

They know his voice and they run to him as soon as they hear him call. They are not loved more than the other sheep but they believe they are loved by him and they respond to his call. When Sheila was going through a very difficult time in her life she remembered the bummer lambs. She was reminded of the shepherd’s care for those little rejected lambs.

When she was little she was a daddy’s girl but when she was 5 years old his attitude toward her changed and she didn’t understand why. One day as she was sitting on the floor playing with her dog the little dog suddenly growled. She looked up to see her dad standing behind her with his cane raised, ready to bring it down on her skull.

The look of hate on his face haunted her for many years and caused her to think there was something wrong with her that caused him to hate her that much. She questioned her value as a human being. Because he fell down when she ran, she blamed herself for his aneurysm and resulting death.  She never voiced it but she tried to stuff it deep inside.

After some years of depression one day everything came to a head and she fell apart. She contacted a Psychologist friend and with his help she checked herself into a Psych ward. About 3 am. as she was sitting in the corner of the room holding onto a blanket she heard the door open. Because she was being watched she didn’t look up right away.

The man came and stood in front of her, so she looked up at him. She thought he was probably a doctor, going off duty, but afterwards she believed he was an angel. Looking at her, he placed in her hand a little stuffed toy, a tiny lamb, and he said to her, “Sheila, the Shepherd knows where to find you!” She remembered the bummer lambs.

In that moment she knew that the Lord, the good Shepherd was with her. She recalled some scriptures that she loved, “Nothing can separate us from God’s love.” “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Today she says, “I’ll always be a bummer lamb.” The bummer lamb is close to the Shepherd’s heart.

Many people have suffered rejection and somehow being rejected or abandoned by a parent hurts the most. We think parents are supposed to love their children but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it is not actually said in words but is expressed by abuse or neglect. Often our response to the hurt is not voiced but is something we carry inside.

This is not an uncommon problem. Some people who seem to have it altogether have been living with deep grief. I will mention two such people that I have heard recently tell of their own relationship with their father. Lee Strobel,  author of “The Case For Grace” told of his father’s words to him, “I don’t have enough love for you to fill my little finger.”

Alex McFarland, author of “The God You Thought You knew,”said that shortly before his father died, he looked at him and said, “You’re nothing to me but a big, dumb ape.” He went out in the dark backyard and sat on a swing. He felt like he wanted to die, like his life was futile. At that moment God spoke to his spirit, “Trust Me, you have value to Me.”

In my own life I have felt the hurt of rejection by my earthly father and I understand how devastating and far reaching the consequences of that can be but my feelings of self worth can not be tied to people or circumstances that change. Like Sheila, Lee and Alex I have heard the voice of the Lord, my Shepherd, telling me I am accepted by Him!

In John 10 we have some of the most precious statements Jesus made about Himself as our Shepherd. He said, “I am the door of the sheepfold” no one gets in except through Me. “I am the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.” I am the good shepherd and I know My own and My own know Me.”

“My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” As the good Shepherd, He goes out, looking for the bummer lambs, the lost, rejected and unloved lambs and He carries them close in His arms where they feel His beating heart.

Healing comes as the bummer lambs spend time with Jesus, our good Shepherd and we learn to know His voice. No one loves the bummer lambs like the Shepherd! Our acceptance is in Him, our worth and our value comes from His estimation of us. We are known intimately, loved deeply and greatly valued by Him.

I am a bummer lamb who wants to spend more time with Jesus, my Shepherd! I want to know His voice and follow Him!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE REASON FOR MY HOPE

1 Peter 3:15 “- be ready always to give an answer to everyone that asks you a reason for the hope that is in you -”

To begin with I must define  what is meant by the word “hope.” It is not talking about some wish for something which may or may not be a reality. It is not an unknown hope in an unknown future. The word used here means “a desire of some good with expectation of obtaining it.” I am expecting the good I hope for.

The first reason for my hope is that God is real. He is the creator of the Universe, the heavens above and the earth beneath. “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood  through what has been made-,” Rom 1:20

I believe that God made human beings, animals and every form of life. Without God, no living creature exists. Nothing just happened to come into existence by itself. God, the Master Designer created the world and now sustains the world. He keeps the sun and moon in their places and provides the air we breathe.

The second reason for my hope is that God speaks to people. He has always spoken since time began, in various ways. He spoke directly to people like Adam, Moses and Abraham as well as others. He also spoke indirectly through His prophets and others.

He also speaks through the Bible, written by men, at different times in history, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The Bible is the living Word of God. The message in it’s pages is the good news of our deliverance from the slavery of sin.

The Bible is reliable because of prophecies that have been fulfilled, the unity of the message and the many historical facts that are correct. The Scriptures answer the questions: “Why are we here? Where are we going? What’s the purpose of life? ” And most important of all it changes lives.

Some years ago I heard an interesting story that was told by Barry Buzza. There was a missionary in Africa who was preaching the Word and giving out Bibles free to anyone who wanted one. He offered one to a rather inebriated young man who said, “No, I don’t want one!”

The missionary said, “Well take a Bible, it will really help you. This is God’s Word to you!” The man said “No, I’m not interested in having a Bible.” As the missionary kept insisting he should take it, the man said, “Preacher, if I took that Bible I would rip out the pages and use them to wrap my cigarettes in.”

The missionary said, “OK, you can do that but you’ve got to make me a promise that every page that you use for a cigarette wrapper, you’ve got to read it before you wrap your cigarette.” The guy thought that’s a fair deal so he took the Bible and walked away.

About 25 years later the missionary came back for a retirement celebration. A young, black man was preaching up on the platform. After the service the young man came up to the missionary and asked him, “Do you know who I am?” The missionary said, “No.”

He said, “I am the young guy you gave a Bible to years ago and I said I would smoke it.” The missionary said, “Yes, I remember that.” The young man said, “Well, I smoked through Matthew, I smoked through Mark and I smoked through Luke.”

“I was smoking my way through John and I got to John 3:16 where it said,  ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believeth in Him would not perish but would have eternal life.’ I knelt down and accepted Jesus as my Savior.”

Hebrew 1:1 says “In these last days God has spoken through His Son.” God spoke when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to show us the Father and make it possible for us to know Him. He came to reconcile mankind to our heavenly Father.

When man chose his own way instead of God’s it caused us to be estranged from Him. That sin carried the penalty of death. Jesus came to earth and paid that penalty for us when He died a cruel death on a Roman cross. But His death was not the end.

He did not stay in the tomb. Three days later He was resurrected. Everyone who believes that Jesus paid the penalty for their sins receives forgiveness and begins a new, changed life with a desire to know and please God.

Everyone who trusts in Jesus as their Savior has the hope, the certain expectation of a resurrection and eternal life with Him.  I have the hope of fellowship with my heavenly Father in the life I live here on earth and for the life I will live with Him in eternity.

I could not hope to keep the law or do enough good deeds to make it to heaven. The hymn writer put it this way, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” My hope is in the salvation He has made possible for me.

Heb 6:19 says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil (the holy of holies in heaven) where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us.” This hope is my sure anchor!

K. Wuest, said this, “This life is the sea; the soul, a ship; the hidden bottom of the sea, the hidden reality of the heavenly word. The soul is seen as storm tossed on the troubled sea of life. The soul of the believer, as a tempest tossed ship is held by the anchor within the veil, fastened by faith to the blessed reality within the veil.”

But what about those who do not choose to put their hope and trust in Jesus? We are eternal beings and will live forever somewhere, either in heaven with God or in hell without God. Hell gives people the right to live apart from God! We have a choice!

I choose to live with and for Jesus Christ. My hope is in Him! Where is your hope?

DRIFTING IS DANGEROUS

 

There are many Evangelical preachers, teachers and church leaders who believe we are living in the last days before Jesus comes again. They do not know the day or the hour but from everything they study in the Bible they see events as shaping up to His soon return. Never before have so many things come together as signs which Jesus said to watch for. (Matthew 24)

If you grew up in Church you heard sermons and read books or heard people talking about this. I remember in the 60’s people feared that another war was imminent.They began gathering food and other supplies and a few even made themselves underground shelters. Along the way there were some books written that actually set dates like, 1988 which was changed to 1989 when it didn’t happen.

When we hear something often we may tune out or tend not to listen very carefully. I remember when I was a child and my mother would tell a familiar story from her past. Because I had heard it before, I did not listen very carefully. Now, many years later I wish I had paid more careful attention. I let her words drift by because they were nothing new. I heard it before.

The writer to the Hebrews says, long ago God spoke through prophets and in many other ways but in these last days, He has spoken in His Son, Jesus. He then gives a warning, ” For this reason, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” It’s possible to hear the message of salvation but not pay attention, instead let it drift, in one ear & out the other. (Heb 1:1-2; 2:1)

He gives another warning  in 3:12 “Take care, lest there be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away (standing aloof) from the living God.” More than once he entreats them not to “harden their hearts.” There’s a downward trend; drifting, then doubting and finally disbelief, refusal to believe because of a hardened heart. Today as He speaks, we need to pay careful attention.

Peter writes to his followers so that they will remember the words spoken to them by the prophets and apostles. He wants them to know that in the last days, mockers are going to come who will say, “Where is the promise of His coming? It didn’t happen in our fathers day and everything is carrying on as it always has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:1-4)

“When they say this, they willfully forget that, by the Word of God, the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water through which the world at that time was destroyed being flooded with water. But the present heavens and earth, by His Word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly people.”  (3:5-7)

Peter also wants them to pay close attention, to not let the truth drift by. “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (3:8-9)

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” (3:10-11)

The message of salvation is an old, old story. God created man to have fellowship with Him but man rebelled. His rebellion carried the death penalty but Jesus, God’s Son paid the death penalty by dying on a cross, in our place. God raised Him from the dead and now He lives and is interceding for us. My part is to believe in my heart and confess with my mouth that Jesus died for me and that He is alive today. (Rom 10:9-11)

You may have heard this message many times but you have not taken it seriously. You think you have lots of time to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. Drifting is dangerous! Drifting is perilous to your soul! Time as we know it, is running out! It’s time to stop drifting! An old gospel song depicts this as someone who is out on a sea drifting farther and farther from the safety of the shore.

DRIFTING TOO FAR FROM THE SHORE           by Charles E. Moody 1923

Out on the perilous deep where danger silently creeps
and storms so violently sweeping, you’re drifting too far from the shore.

Today the tempest rose high and clouds o’ershadow the sky
Sure death is hovering nigh, you’re drifting too far from the shore

Why meet a terrible fate, mercies abundantly await
Turn back before it’s too late, you’re drifting too far from the shore.

Chorus
Drifting too far from the shore, you;re drifting too far from the shore.
Come to Jesus today, He will show you the way.
You’re drifting too far from the shore.

WHEN GOD SPEAKS

When I think about God speaking, words from an old familiar song come to mind. “He speaks and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing. And the melody that He gave to me within my heart is ringing. And He walks with me and He talks with me. And He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” (In The Garden by C.Austin Miles)

When God speaks there are many different responses, some with consequences. The Bible is full of examples of God speaking. Right from the beginning to the end, we have recorded instances of God speaking. He spoke this world and all of creation into existence. He said, “Let there be -,” and there was! He made the first man & woman, breathing His very Life into them and His first words to them were blessing.

But people did not always choose to listen. Adam & Eve did not want to listen to God’s words and their disobedience resulted in a curse instead of blessing. Now, instead of knowing only love, they felt fear and when they heard God walking in the garden, they hid from Him. God knew where they were but He called out to Adam, “Where are you?” Adam needed to admit where he was and what he had done.

As time went on, God spoke in various ways, to many different kinds of people, who were in all kinds of circumstances. Sometimes He spoke through dreams or visions. In Job 33:14-16 Elihu says to Job, “-God speaks once or twice, yet no one notices it. In a dream, a vision of the night, when sound sleeps falls on men while they slumber in their beds. Then He opens the ears of man and seals their instruction,”

When Abraham was seventy five years old, God spoke to him and said, “Leave your country and go to a place I will show you,” and he went out, not knowing where he was going. Although he made a lot of mistakes along the way, he was known as a man of great faith and as the friend of God. As we read about his life we see that God constantly spoke with him.

When the people refused to hear God’s voice, He would speak to the prophets or the leaders, who would then tell the people what God said. Moses was one leader who talked with God , “face to face just as a man speaks to his friend.” (Ex. 33:11) After spending a long time with God, Moses had to cover his face with a veil because the people could not stand to look at the glow on his face.

God’s ways of speaking were not always the same. In 1 Kings 19 we have the account of God speaking to Elijah at a time when he was very discouraged. After God had given him a great victory, he suddenly became frightened of a woman’s threat. Jezebel sent word to him that she was going to kill him. In fear, he ran for his life into the wilderness, sat down under a tree and said, “Oh Lord, take my life!”

After sleeping , he was awakened by an angel who gave him food & drink that sustained him for the next forty days and nights. When he came to Mount Horeb he stopped at a cave. He heard God asking him a question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”His answer was, “I have been very zealous for you. … All the other prophets have been killed, I’m the only one left and they are trying to kill me.”

The Lord instructed him to stand  at a certain place on the mountain. Then the Lord passed by with a mighty show of force. First, a great, strong wind tearing up the mountain and breaking the rocks into pieces. But the Lord was not in the wind!  After the wind, an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. Finally there came a sound of gentle blowing.

When Elijah heard that, he wrapped his face in his mantle and stood in the entrance of the cave. The voice of the Lord came again, asking the same question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah gave the same reply, ending with “I’m the only one left and my life is being sought.” God then gave him instructions to return and choose certain people as leaders. He says, “I have 7,000 other faithful people.”

Elijah listened to God’s voice and obeyed His instructions.  He was a great prophet who was known for his amazing faith with which he performed miracles. He is one example of a man who wanted to hear from God and was blessed because of it. Of course there are also examples of people who did not want to listen to God and ended up with unwanted consequences.

When God told Jonah to go to Nineveh to warn the people that he was going to deal with them about their wickedness, he did not want do it, so he got on a boat headed in the opposite direction. He told the seamen that he was fleeing from the presence of  the Lord. God sent a terrible storm which threatened their lives. At his request they threw Jonah overboard and the sea was calm.

The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow him. In his distress he called out to God to rescue him. After three days in the belly of the fish he had a change of mind and was ready to listen to God. The Lord commanded the fish and it vomited him out. I imagine the fish was just as glad to get rid of Jonah as Jonah  was to leave! In His patience, God spoke to Jonah a second time.

God wanted him to go to Nineveh and warn the people that the judgement of God was about to fall on them if they didn’t repent and mend their wicked ways. The people believed the message and the king, the nobles and ordinary people fasted and prayed and turned to God. But Jonah was angry because God showed compassion, forgave the people and did not bring the calamity he promised.

God speaks today! Above the tumult of war threats, nations rising against nations, kidnappings by Boko Haran and murderings by ISIS, God is speaking! Above tornadoes, earthquakes, drought and changing weather patterns, God is speaking! Many people do not want to hear God’s voice. They believe they have a right to live their life as they wish without any interference from God. They don’t fear Him!

Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Verses 20-29″Wisdom shouts in the street…..because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; and you neglected all my counsel, and did not want my reproof, I will laugh at your calamity….they will call on me , but I will not answer….because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.”

God is speaking! He is calling out a people for Himself to have a relationship with Him. Hebrews 1:1 – 2 “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” He sent His Son, Jesus to bring us into fellowship with the Father.

God speaks to the whole world generally to return to Him but He also speaks to each individual person, calling them to walk with Him. I can tune Him out or I can make time to listen. Each day as I spend time in fellowship with Him through His Word and in prayer I get His perspective on everything around me and I can face whatever comes my way, with confidence that He is there.

When God speaks my best response is a listening ear. “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And He walks with me and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own; And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.” (In The Garden by C. Austin Miles)

 

 

 

 

 

THE GOOD SHEPHERD

In his book, “The Bush Is Still Burning” Lloyd John Ogilvie describes an experience he had in Israel as he sat on a hillside watching shepherds and their sheep in the valley below. As the sun began to set, he saw something remarkable take place. The shepherds began to call out to the sheep, each walking in a different direction. After milling around a bit, the sheep divided and a separate group followed each shepherd.

What a sight, the shepherd in front and the sheep faithfully following. They knew their Shepherd and he knew his sheep.Each shepherd led his sheep to a different sheepfold, an enclosure with four walls and a man sized opening on one side. The shepherds stood inside and called their sheep to enter.

Then they built a fire just inside the door and prepared their evening meal. Before long the fires would be banked and the shepherds would curl up in their blankets for a night of watchfulness inside the doorway of the sheepfold. No sheep could go out and no predators or invading danger could come in past the shepherd.

The imagery of shepherds and sheep is used all through the Bible, depicting God and His relationship with His people. Psalm 100:3 “Know that the Lord Himself is God. It is He Who has made us and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” God is frequently referred to as the Shepherd and Israel as His flock.

He is the Good Shepherd Who provides everything for His sheep as Psalm 23:1 says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Often Jesus spoke of Himself as the Shepherd and the disciples or followers as His flock and when He said He was the Good Shepherd, He identified Himself with God.

In John 10, we have the words of Jesus teaching His disciples. He compares His relationship with them as that of a shepherd and his sheep. When He spoke using figures of speech, they didn’t understand so He began to speak more directly. In verse 7 and 9, Jesus tells them, “I am the door of the sheep.”

Then He says, ” I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Not only am I the protector of my sheep, the only way to go in and out of the sheepfold, but I willingly lay down my life for my sheep.”I am the good shepherd and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

Vs17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.” Vs18 “No one takes it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

But there were other people who heard the words of Jesus and they argued all the time about His words and whether He was the Christ or not. Jesus pinpointed their questioning attitude by saying to them, “You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.”

So, not everyone is a sheep who is following Jesus, the Shepherd. There are those who are not interested in what He has to say except to find some fault. There are some who hear His voice and seem to be one of the sheep but they do not really want to follow Him and obey Him.

All through Scripture there are solemn warnings not to harden our hearts to His voice. In Psalm 95:6-7 “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts -,”

Hebrews 3 says. “Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts,” God requires our obedience if we truly hear His voice and desire to follow Him. Proverbs 29:1 “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.”

In his book, “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23” Phillip Keller talks about a beautiful ewe he had which he really loved. She was healthy and bright eyed, and she had sturdy lambs which matured rapidly. But she had one fault, she was restless, discontented.

He named her Mrs.Gadabout. Because she was a fence crawler, she produced more problems than all his other sheep. No matter what field or pasture the sheep were in Mrs.Gadabout would search for a loophole to craw through and feed on the other side.

Often she would end up feeding on bare, brown, burned up pasturage that was inferior to the place she was in before. She never learned but continued to fence crawl time after time. Not only that but she taught her lambs the same tricks and soon they were skilled at fence crawling too.

Even worse was the example she set for other sheep. In a short time she began to lead others through the same holes and over the same dangerous paths down to the sea. After putting up with her perverseness for a summer, he came to a conclusion. In order to save his flock from becoming unsettled, she would have to go.

He could not allow one obstinate, discontented ewe to ruin the whole ranch operation. It was the only solution. It was a difficult decision to make because he loved her as much as the rest. One morning her fence crawling career was cut short. He took the killing knife and he butchered her. In spite of the good care he had given her she always wanted something else.

To quote Phillip, “She was not like the one who said, The Lord is my Shepherd – I shall not want. It is a solemn warning to the carnal Christian  – backslider – the half Christian – the one who wants the best of both worlds. Sometimes, in short order, they can be cut down.”

There is another type of sheep Jesus mentioned, those who are not a part of the fold yet. Vs16 “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one Shepherd.” Jesus, the Good Shepherd is calling the lost.

In Luke 15 we have a parable Jesus told to illustrate the great love He has for lost sheep. The shepherd who has one hundred sheep finds that one is missing. He leaves the ninety nine and searches for the lost one until he finds it. He calls his neighbors to rejoice with him because he found his sheep that was lost.”

“In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over ninety nine righteous persons that need no repentance. Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”

At Easter we remember the death, burial and the resurrection of Jesus. Isaiah tells us He bore our iniquity, our sins. We were disobedient, like straying sheep and Jesus laid down His life for us. If we hear His voice and follow Him we will never want or lack any necessity of life. He promises to care for us forever, in this life and the next.

Vs27-30 “My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one (essence).”

HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN

How long has it been since you talked with the Lord,
And told Him your heart’s hidden secrets?
How long since you prayed? How long since you stayed
On your knees till the light shone through?

How long has it been since your mind felt at ease?
How long since your heart knew no burden?
Can you call Him your friend? How long has it been
Since you knew that He cared for you?

How long has it been since you knelt by your bed
And prayed to the Lord up in heaven?
How long since you knew that He’d answer you
And would keep you the long night through?

How long has it been since you woke with the dawn
And felt that the day’s worth the living?
Can you call Him your friend? How long has it been
Since you knew that He cared for you?

 

Song by Mosie Lister