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Spam or Roast Beef?

[This is the fifteenth post about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ (Famine)]

Thankfully, our bodies reward us when we try to eat healthy.

Well-being flows through us after we savor a satisfying meal–like eating robust vegetables and chicken in a aromatic stew. We are filled with buoyant energy and glowing vitality.  

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The opposite is true when we’re undernourished. It’s draining and debilitating.

When Jesus taught about the signs of His Second Coming, He said that famines would take place in different places of the world.

A crisis of hunger ensues when adequate, nutritious food is not available. Famine is a painful, heart-rending march toward death.  

I read with admiration stories about the Great Depression of the 1930’s, when families did whatever they could to make their food stretch. Watered-down milk filled more glasses. Cornmeal or bread were mixed into casseroles. Beans stood in for meat. Ritz crackers were disguised as apples in recipes like Mock Apple Pie.

Depression-era food reminds me of the fish sticks I ate in my grade-school cafeteria. Eating the same food over and over eventually didn’t satisfy.

But there is another type of hunger mentioned in the Bible. It is the famine spoken of by the prophet, Amos.

“‘Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God,

‘That I will send a famine on the land,

Not a famine of bread

Nor a thirst for water,

But of hearing the words of the Lord.’” (Amos 8:11, nkjv)

Along with the physical catastrophe of famine, is there now a spiritual famine taking place?

The inner man hungers when Bible verses are watered down. We grow weary when witty anecdotes are substituted for sound teaching or new philosophies stand in for revealed truth. A philanthropic deed is disguised as repentance and obedience.  

We’re tricked into eating Spam, when we’ve been promised roast beef.

In a food crisis, people wander from place to place looking for a morsel of bread. Is it any different spiritually, when people move from church to church, change denominations, or completely overhaul their beliefs because they are spiritually starving?

People are feeling drained and debilitated. Spiritual emptiness is painful. It is a heart-rending march toward numbness and death.

In days of spiritual famine, we can take comfort in the rich sustenance of God’s Word.

Meditating on the words of the Bible is like sitting down to a bountiful feast. Even if we’re not being served, we can always help ourselves.

 

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No Vacancy

[This is the ninth post in a series about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ. (False prophets)]

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No Vacancy

There is a verse in the New Testament that had always puzzled me. It’s Luke 19:13:

“And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, ‘Occupy till I come’” (kjv).

The word “occupy” stuck in my brain like a burr on wool socks.

The above verse is in the midst of a story Jesus told about a nobleman who left on a journey to a far kingdom and left each of his workers a different amount of money to carry on business while he was gone.

I understand the parable. But there’s still that word, “occupy.”

Some Bible translations interpret the word as, “carry on business,” which goes well with the surrounding verses.

Yet I like the King James version on this one, and this is why: to me, occupy means taking up space or holding a position. It’s being in the right place at the right time.

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The Apostle Paul grieved over the people of Corinth when he learned that after he’d left them, false prophets saw an opening and tried to move in. They spread false teaching and had the whole community fearful and anxious.

Paul returned to the city and straightened their course. He wrote:

“But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who . . .  are false apostles,”  (see 2 Corinthians 11:12-13).

Staying in the place of service God leads us to is part of walking in His plan.

It can be a difficult battle. Staying and standing, whether in the workplace, your home, or in the ministry, keeps the Enemy out.

When we serve God, we are taking away opportunity from those who might use or abuse, mislead, deceive, or ultimately, destroy.

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The recent Super Bowl game renewed my hope. The winning quarterback, Nick Foles, is a Christian who wore a cross during after-game interviews. His wife tweeted her euphoria over the win and ended her tweet with “God is good.”

The Eagles’ head coach, Doug Pederson, gave the reason for his success. He said, “I can only give praise to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity.”

In the midst of a game fraught with big money, big egos, and big controversy, God is sovereign.

Had the Patriots won, I think the Christians on that team would have given Him thanks, too.

God’s people were placed in just the right place for just the right time. They magnified His Name and their testimony reached 103 million souls.

          

 

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Wile E. Coyote’s Got Nothing on Them

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[This is the sixth post in a series about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ]

Who can forget the iconic Looney Tunes character, Wile E. Coyote? The Coyote repeatedly failed to catch his always-elusive prey, the faster and smarter Roadrunner. The Coyote’s ridiculous contraptions and ill-fated plans always made me wince, then laugh. Instead of capturing his prey, Wile E. ended up eating dirt.

But real wolves are not cartoon characters. There is no comic relief when watching movies like The Grey, where Liam Neeson’s character suffers through the bitter Alaskan cold and fights for his life against a circling pack of unrelenting predators.

Jesus spoke of wolves when He told his disciples to watch for His return. The first sign He told them to look for is false prophets. He described them as not just wolves, but ravenous wolves.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15 nkjv).

Hungry wolves are vicious and powerful. They run down the vulnerable and isolated. Their keen senses scout prey and their sharp fangs devour the innocent. They kill by repeatedly biting their victims on the hands and face. They are predators with unbelievable endurance.

How do ravenous wolves symbolize the false prophets and teachers of our day?

First of all, they pretend to be sheep and are very good at it. They clothe themselves in everything that is outwardly Christian. They may pray, quote well-known verses, and attend church regularly. They sometimes hold positions of teaching and authority. They may even be pastors.

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False prophets may be as pleasant as a vase of Sunday flowers on the outside, but have the stench of dead roses on the inside.

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False teachers often twist Scripture or omit important parts of verses or passages.

So how do we guard against them? Knowing what the Bible actually says is the only way we can discern what is true.

When you study the Word it’s like staying one step ahead of Wile E. Coyote and watching a falling boulder crush his teaching to dust.

I’ll write more about false prophets in the next post.

Meep, meep!

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Save the Date?

 

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[This is the fifth post in a series about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ.]

Save the Date?

When thinking about the return of Jesus Christ, many have dreamed of a peaceful Kingdom to come. Yet there is much controversy surrounding end-time events, especially the day of His coming.

Feelings of uncertainty and conflicting emotions are stirred when we think about the summing up of all things. Should God have sent us a “Save the Date” card so we will know exactly when Jesus is coming back?

The internet, media, and movies sizzle with doomsday plots, predictions, and scenarios. Catastrophic weather, mudslides, fires, and false missile alarms have us trembling. While writing this column, I learned an earthquake hit my mother’s small town in Missouri, a community close to the famous New Madrid fault.

We have reasons to be concerned. We have better reasons to search out the truth.

Some fringe groups have set dates for Jesus’s return only to concede later that  “the date” has come and gone with no East to West lightning, no invasion of Jerusalem, no man in the field suddenly missing his companion. And because the date comes and goes without incident, scoffers are lit up with criticism.

Those who have studied the Bible are quick to console us that a date can’t be set. Jesus told his disciples, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only (Matthew 24:36 nkjv).”

So what is it that we can know? The day and hour, no. The season, YES.

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With all the snow we’ve had lately, I look forward to the coming season–SPRING! I may not know the exact day when the temperature will climb to 70, but the first signs are welcomed like a balmy breeze.

When daffodils poke up from the thawing earth, robins hop around in the yard, and the tree limbs have little bumps, I know Spring is coming! My innermost spirit dances. I will happily shed my winter wool coat like a lumbering sheep lined up for shearing.

How can we recognize the season of Christ’s return? The first sign Jesus mentions in Matthew 24 is false teachers that come in His name. Some even claim they are the Messiah. Are such teachers around today? You bet.

True teaching has had opponents and imposters since the beginning. By Genesis chapter 3, the serpent is chiding Adam and Eve, “Did God really say . . .” (Genesis 3:1 niv). He planted doubt in their minds about God’s word and His good, loving intentions.

Since false teachers are wolves in sheep’s clothing, how can we recognize them? I’ll write more about deception and false teaching in the next post.

 

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Do Get Carried Away

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[This is the fourth post in a series about the Blessed Hope–the return of Jesus Christ.]

Not only is Christ coming, but Christians are going!

How can a Christian experience taking off in a jet on a beautiful day and not think about it? When we see peaceful white clouds floating across a perfect blue sky, we are reminded.

The Song of Solomon gives us one of the most romantic pictures of two loved ones being reunited and going away together.

“My beloved spoke, and said to me:

‘Rise up, my love, my fair one,

And come away.

For lo, the winter is past,

The rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth;

The time of singing has come,

And the voice of the turtledove

Is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth her green figs,

And the vines with the tender grapes

Give a good smell.

Rise up, my love, my fair one,

And come away!”

(Song of Solomon 2:10-13 nkjv)

 

We are going with Him!

It’s hard to wrap our minds around this. The word “rapture” is used by many Christians and the controversy surrounding it has been spun about like an end-over-end football.

Where does word ‘rapture’ come from? The Latin translation of the Bible uses the word “rapiemur” which means “we shall be carried away” or “we shall be snatched” (1 Thessalonians 4:17 lvb).

When this will happen or the exact order of things is a mystery. But one thing is sure, we will be carried away.

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Think of the hard-working grape farmer, just ready to harvest a crop. Grapes and other small fruit are easy pickings for the sharp beaks of birds who will sweep in and devour, ruining the harvest. Our “snatching away” is like the  farmer who quickly takes the smooth, fragrant fruit and hides it away.

Can you remember our mothers saying, “Don’t get carried away?” They often meant “don’t get too excited” or “don’t jump the gun.”  

In thinking about the return of Jesus, it is okay to get excited. And since God, in His providence, is never early or a second too late, we won’t be “jumping the gun.”