Living With Expectation

There’s a lot of expectation today. We expect to be financially successful, with a big fancy house and car before we hit 30. We expect to marry Mr. or Mrs. ‘Right’, and we expect that person to be with us for our entire life. We expect to have the perfect child – and we expect to have the right number of children. We expect others to like us as we are, and we expect our friends to never disappoint us or betray us …… and we expect that God will make sure all these things happen.

Those are some massive expectations!

I say this. We have skewed expectations. The only thing we can expect in this world; the only thing that we can be assured of happening is that we will be disappointed, betrayed, and hurt. Look at recorded history. Read the Bible. GOD warns us over and over that we will have trouble in this world. Doesn’t that seem to counter that this same GOD Loves us and wants us to be with Him?

Have you ever had a friend that you would do anything for? Best friends. Bosom buddies. Someone you’d go the extra mile for. One day, you find out they have another ‘best friend’! That hurts ….. and yet, that’s exactly what we do to GOD. We choose of our own free will that we would rather hang out with the world. We choose sin over perfection. (Sounds rather brutal like that …..)

Okay, so this is a little depressing so far. I’ve had plenty of expectations, and I have experienced heartache and heartbreak, disappointment and betrayal by people I care about deeply. What’s the point? Our focus has to be above all of these earthly things; otherwise, we become bitter and angry. Our Great Expectation, our one expectation that is Truth, is this:

“All Praise to GOD, the Father of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. It is by His Great Mercy that we have been born again, because GOD raised JESUS CHRIST from the dead. Now we live with Great Expectation, and we have a priceless Inheritance—an Inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, Pure and Undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And remember that the heavenly FATHER to Whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of Him during your time here as “temporary residents.” ” – 1 Peter 1:3‭-‬4‭, ‬17 NLT

Listen to Shane and Shane’s new song “Is He Worthy?” from the 2019 album Hymns Live. (Authors Ben Shive and Andrew Peterson)

HE is Worthy!

Image from The First Fruits of Zion

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Fear of the World?

There is so much violence. Every time I watch the news or open a social media app, war, violence against persons, terrorism – these grab the headlines. As Christians, followers of JESUS CHRIST, should we be afraid of this ugliness? I am concerned for the spiritual safety of our children as socialism and radicalism take center stage, because we have strayed so far from our moral, our Christ-centered base. I know where I will be when the LORD returns with His army to destroy the Enemy and the world as we know it. Do you? Are you certain, without a shadow of a doubt? What we are seeing now, this destruction of our society, is nothing – NOTHING – compared to what is coming. Are you experiencing fear for the present?

Read the Bible. Compared to the return of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, now is tame. Don’t be afraid of today, and look to JESUS so that you have no fear for the future. He is the only way to avoid what’s coming.

“Before them the earth shakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The LORD thunders at the head of His army; His forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys His command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” ” – Joel 2:10‭-‬12 NIV

-Rubens-

The Fear of GOD: Praise Be!

“The fear of God” is a phrase used numerous times in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelations. One of the first times it was used was to illustrate how much God wants us to love Him. In Genesis 22, Abraham is prepared to offer his son, Issac, as a sacrifice to the LORD – his miracle son, born to him and Sarah in their old age. Abraham trusts with his whole heart that the LORD will provide an alternative, and He does. Abraham answered [Issac], “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” He [GOD] said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear GOD because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.” – Genesis 22:8‭, ‬12‭-‬13 NIV

Do I love the LORD, the GOD Who created me, enough to sacrifice my child? I’m pretty sure I don’t have it in me to do so. I would gladly offer myself, my own life, to save my family and loved ones – but to willingly lay one of them on an altar and prepare to offer their life? Could you? Do I “fear” GOD enough? Thank GOD that He made that decision for us by sending HIS Only Son as our sacrifice!

“Praise be to the GOD and FATHER of our LORD JESUS CHRIST! In His Great Mercy He has given us New Birth into a Living Hope through the resurrection of JESUS CHRIST from the dead, and into an Inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This Inheritance is kept in heaven for you….. Concerning this Salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the Grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care….. Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your Hope on the Grace to be brought to you when JESUS CHRIST is revealed at His coming.” – 1 Peter 1:3‭-‬4‭,10‭,13 NIV

“But just as He Who called you is Holy, so be Holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be Holy, because I Am Holy.” “Since you call on a FATHER who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in Reverent Fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed …… with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in GOD, who raised Him from the dead and Glorified Him, and so your Faith and Hope are in GOD.” – 1 Peter 1:17‭-‬19 NIV

To “Fear GOD” means to be awestruck, astonished, conscious, reverential; to live a God-centered life. In Genesis 31:53 NIV, Laban said to Jacob “May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” “So Jacob took an oath in the Name of the Fear of his father Isaac.” (“the Fear” = GOD)

Since we call Him Father and reflect Him as our Father, shouldn’t we want to avoid offending Him or disappointing Him? If I do a thing, will it hurt God? From Romans 14:12, we learn that God judges our work, but He doesn’t judge whether we will be in heaven. Belief in the LORD JESUS CHRIST determines where we will be – heaven – and our service & works determines how we will be there. Our ‘graduation’ is the works we do while still on earth. Our Foundation is Jesus and as such is rock-solid, but the rest of our building will reflect our works. When GOD tests our works, our “building,” will His Holy Fire destroy my building?

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the One already laid, which is JESUS CHRIST. If anyone builds on this Foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames.” – 1 Corinthians 3:11‭-‬15 NIV (Also read 1 Corinthians 4:5 and 2 Corinthians 5:10-11)

Teachers and preachers are held to an even higher standard because they are the leaders and guides for everyone else. (James 3:1-2) Our life, our deeds will be judged; not our salvation. On earth, money talks; in heaven, only the Blood of JESUS is accepted as payment for our sins because His is the Blood of the Unblemished, Innocent Lamb (Exodus 12, Rev 5). The Blood of the Lamb is the scarlet thread that runs through the Bible from start to finish – there is no hope in a bloodless gospel. We are ransomed with a precious, priceless, infinite price, the price of JESUS as the Lamb. Listen to John’s Revelation:

“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, Who was slain, to receive Power and Wealth and Wisdom and Strength and Honor and Glory and Praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To Him Who sits on the Throne and to the Lamb be Praise and Honor and Glory and Power, for ever and ever!” – Revelation 5:6‭, ‬12‭-‬13 NIV

Jesus is our Sacrifice, our Pardon, and all we have to do is to accept the Pardon as offered – Free, clear, no strings attached. If you don’t accept a pardon, then it’s no good. From the great evangelist Billy Graham, “We all have a hunger in our hearts for God – an empty place in our souls that only He can fill.” (Read Psalm 42:2).

We have our past redemption by The CHRIST, and the future prospect of judgement:

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear GOD and keep His Commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For GOD will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13‭-‬14 NIV

Throwing Stones

We are so quick to judge and condemn! Actual stoning might not be practiced or legal anymore – except under Islamic law – but the verbal stones we throw are just as deadly. Most recently, the young artist Lauren Daigle has been harshly criticized for her response to the question “do you feel that homosexuality is a sin?” in a radio interview with Domenick Nati. I have great respect for her answer, and I love that she ends the comment with “I’m learning too.” Here is her full response:

“I can’t honestly answer on that. In a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don’t know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God. So when people ask questions like that…that’s what my go to is. I just say read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know, because I’m learning too.” (Emphasis mine) I identify with her answers. I can’t say that I love that someone is a homosexual, but I can certainly love the person. When you read Lauren’s statement, she is encouraging the questioner(s) to study GOD’s Word and discover the Truth for themselves! Isn’t that what we all should be doing? Why do we start throwing stones, instead of encouraging another Christ-follower in her walk with the SAVIOUR? If she is on going on talk shows and sharing her faith with the non-Christian world, who are we to criticize? Why are we so anxious to negate her testimony?

“But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” ” – John 8:7 NASB

When I hear that statement from my LORD, my hands immediately drop the “stones” I’m gripping. I find myself praying for Lauren Daigle in her walk of sharing JESUS with the world. Christian artists are hit by the same temptations that we are – even more than us, because they are such a prominent target for the enemy. Just like any other man, woman, or child, they can slip. It doesnt mean they don’t love the LORD; it just means they are human. If something that we consider inappropriate speech happens, or in our eyes they don’t stand firmly enough, are we, you and I, worthy of passing judgement? Better read John 8:7 again, and consider our own lives before grabbing that stone. In fact, take that pile of stones you have stockpiled and turn it into gravel, then spread it out to make their path a little smoother.

I am not worthy of judging anyone, based on my life. I still do, but lately I find myself dropping more rocks than I throw. I personally have been judged and found guilty by man. The first time I shared my testimony in front of a large recovery group, I was approached by someone who had known my sister for years, and whom I had known for about 6 months. He knew about “that sister,” the one who was fallen and broken ….. but he didn’t know that I was that sister. He had judged – harshly – the person he knew only because of the prayers and his friendship of my family. He was shocked to be introduced to the before sister, and trying to reconcile it with the present sister. When you meet someone new, they only see the now. Would they be shocked at finding out who you were before you surrendered to the LORD?

Sometimes, actually too often, I find myself judging someone without knowing them. We are all flawed, broken, and undeserving of GOD’s Love, yet He still freely offers that unconditional LOVE to us. The only difference – the only difference between me and the rankest, darkest sinner is that I have asked for and received the forgiveness of my LORD JESUS. I still deserve too be stoned to death, but He reached out and washed away all my sins with His Blood sacrifice. How can I judge anyone else? We are not perfect, and instead of condemning the talk or behavior of a missionary to the world, perhaps we should do as Lauren Daigle says and read the Bible. Admit that we aren’t GOD (Thank You, JESUS, for showing me that Truth!) Spend time in prayer for that person. Christians have no need for trash talk!

Go out into the world, Lauren Daigle, and continue to spread the LOVE of our LORD JESUS CHRIST to the world. Praying for you, sister!

Photo credit: https://texasbeyondhistory.net/plateaus/images/ap15.html

Perfection!

I am the middle child. Actually, I share that spot with my next younger sister, because out of 6 kids (poor Mom!) I am third and she is fourth – 2 ahead of me, and 2 after her. I am the baby of the first 3, and she is the eldest of the last 3. We have also concluded that most (all!) of us are ADD, and some are ADHD as well, starting with my parents- and it really goes back further than them. My life is an oxymoron 😎 …. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with us!

Whatever spot I choose for the moment, baby or middle-child, I must admit that I have been guilty of pride and perfection much of my life. Is that an affliction? Perfectionism stems from many things, both internal and external. I think that on a subconscious level, we make the choice to be prideful and conceited. I chose both, to hide the damaged, broken parts that I am comprised of. Whatever I did, I did with the attitude that if I did it, it was the right thing to do. Whatever I decided was the right decision, the only logical conclusion in my mind; therefore, anyone else was obviously wrong. I had the attitude that I was invincible, hard and sharp-edged – and I was hard and cut people like a knife with my words and actions. I sound like a bad person! If I was told I had a heart of ice, or that I was hurtful or mean, well, guilty as charged. I was full of pride and could do no wrong because I was perfect. Seems like we all have the tendency to judge others based on our own perceived perfection. For years, I was really good at being perfect, at least on the outside. My ‘inside’ was pretty messed up!

Even now I will find those feelings of pride and perfection, perfectionism and judgementalism, stealing back into my life. I cry out “GET BEHIND ME, SATAN, in the Name of JESUS!!”

When I came to be under the Shining Bright Light of my LORD JESUS through His saving Grace, all of my cracks and brokenness were illuminated. His illumination shows everyone who looks what a messed up person I am, but the LIGHT also shows how He has put me back together. My prayer for us today:

LORD, show us our brokenness. Shine Your Great Light on us and let the world see YOU in that Light. Use my brokenness to illustrate how beautifully You can put us back together, if we just ask You. No matter how shattered we are or how much ugliness we contain, help us to see the beauty of Your Handiwork in ourselves. You alone can take all of our messes and all of the junk we accumulate in our hearts, and create something beautiful.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the LORD JESUS, to testify to the Gospel of the Grace of GOD.” – Acts 20:24 ESV Amen.

And the ONE who was seated on the throne said, “See, I Am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5 NRSV

Friend – Oh! What A Friend

Can you imagine GOD, the Great Creator, saying this about you?

“I was overjoyed when some of the friends (brothers and sisters in CHRIST) arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the Truth, namely how you walk in the Truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the Truth.” – 3 John 1:3‭-‬4 NRSV

Yes, I am aware the John wrote this about own his feeling of joy upon hearing that people he had taught about the LORD were continuing their walk with JESUS. So many stumble and slip, it truly is a joy when we know that someone we have worked with and taught about JESUS, and who has accepted Him as their Saviour, is continuing in their walk with Him. I know it was not written to describe how GOD feels about HIS childen, but can’t you just imagine Him saying it about one of us? We know that Heaven rejoices when a sinner is saved, so why wouldn’t He be happy to hear a new ‘arrival’ in Heaven testify about His children’s faithfulness? I pray that after all the years I spent parched in the wilderness of sin, perhaps one person will testify for me in His Presence.

Not to give me pride, because that has finally left me, but just to know that I have given the Almighty GOD a tiny sliver of the incredible JOY that He has given to me with His Love. As I write this, I realize that I do have a Friend like that, a Friend Who will testify for me in front of the Almighty! That Friend is JESUS, and I can testify that there is no better Friend to have than Him. What a Friend we have in JESUS…. Joseph Scriven wrote a poem by that name in 1855, and it was set to music in 1868 by Charles Converse. It has been sung in churches worldwide, and numerous recording artists have performed it, including Bing Crosby, Aretha Franklin, Alan Jackson, and many more. My favorite, though, is a new rendition by Matt Maher. Both songs tell of the incredible love JESUS has for us, and how He willingly takes our sins and our burdens so that we no longer have to struggle under them. (You can get get the lyrics and the music on Google and YouTube.)

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:13‭-‬15 ESV

JESUS is not only our best Friend, He is the Sacrificial Lamb, the High Priest, and our Advocate! He will stand up to the prosecutor, that great liar – the Father of Lies, Satan, when we all (no exceptions) stand before GOD for the FINAL Great White Throne Judgement; Revelation 20:11-15. You might also read Hebrews 4:14-15, 8:6, 9:11-12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6, and 1 John 2:1. There is an an article online on the Advocacy of JESUS written by Amazing Discoveries, titled “Christ’s Mediating Ministry – He is our Advocate,” published August 13, 2009. It goes into great detail and was quite interesting. If you have questions, or doubts, I hope this will encourage you to do your own research, and search the scriptures for the answers. If you leave questions in the comments, I will do my best to help you find the answers, but first, read the Bible – it’s a fascinating book of Truth!

Just a Friend? No, WHAT a Friend! Is He your Best Friend?

“What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those which are least supported by devotional feeling…these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.” – #CSLewis

Truths, Halftruths, or Lies?

Talking Heads. That’s one way of referring to reporters. I remember when we believed that the reporters told the truth, and we didn’t need to second guess them, or research to determine the real truth. We trusted that whatever Walter Cronkite said was right; true. Unfortunately, it is no longer true that we can believe whatever is said. The news now is full of blatant partisanship, outright disdain, lies, and halftruths. Nighttime talk show hosts are among the worst offenders, and are so prejudiced that I refuse to watch them. Making a couple of offensive jokes is one thing, but making the entire monolog about disrespecting our elected officials is not acceptable. Even when I cannot stand a person or their politics (and there have been many!), I still should respect the office they hold.

There are reporters whom I hold in great respect, and they are the recorders and reporters of the scriptures; the writers of the Bible. When GOD spoke, they listened and accurately recorded His messages alongside first-hand accounts of their history. In the New Testament, the Gospels are eye-witness accounts, and well researched accounts, of the Life and Testimony of the One known as JESUS CHRIST, MESSIAH. Luke, a physician, began his account:

“Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.” – Luke 1:1‭-‬4 NRSV

“Then He [JESUS] said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the SON of MAN, and you will not see it. They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the SON of MAN be in His day. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it.” – Luke 17:22‭-‬24‭, ‬33 NRSV

We should give serious thought to who we listen to, whether on the nightly news or in the pulpit on Sunday, or on social media, 24/7. What is the real TRUTH? Are we listening to GOD’s Truth or the half-truths and lies of the world? I try to follow Luke’s example and investigate, but we all fall victim to the propaganda and outright lies being promoted, at least part of the time. A couple of days ago, we had the opportunity to vote for a number of political offices. For months beforehand, there was a huge amount of rhetoric (i.e. lies and halftruths) that went on from the candidates, their PAC’s, and the groups who supported – or opposed – them. Lines were drawn between parties, and I think people failed to look at the candidate’s records, choosing from emotion rather than fact. As a result, I believe our country lost people who were much better suited for the job at hand than some who were elected. We desperately need to look to GOD for guidance through His Word, rather than looking to the news pundits; the Talking Heads.

JESUS is coming back, I believe sooner rather than later. The earth and all of her people, all of humankind, are in the throes of great trials and tribulations. Just look around! Research it! Matthew 24:4-29 describes how bad things will get here on earth, and it is all happening now. John was a great reporter, and in his book of Revelations, chapters 6-18, he tells in detail everything that will occur before JESUS returns, and in Revelations 19 reveals how JESUS returns:

“Then I [the Apostle John] saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its Rider is called Faithful and True, and in Righteousness He Judges and makes war. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name inscribed, “KING of kings and LORD of Lords.” ” – Revelation 19:11‭, ‬16 NRSV

What does this all mean to me? It means that I need to take everything I hear and carefully weigh it against GOD’s Holy Word, the Bible. I need to be quiet and listen, try to discern the truth behind the rhetoric, and look to the recorders of Truth. Remember this: