Awakening

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to broach this subject, without making light of the grief associated with such tremendous loss of innocent life, which occurred on Friday, December 14, 2012. My heart goes out the individuals and families involved and associated with these events; and you are in my prayers.

That being said…As I drove home from work on Friday, after briefly hearing what was taking place in Connecticut, I had the strong urge/desire/need to read my Bible. As you know, I’ve been studying the book of Romans and decided early last week, to really take my time studying this book, because there are just so many important topics worth discussing. I’ve been writing it all down in a notebook so that I can discuss these various topics at a later date, but during Friday’s studying/reading I covered Romans 1:18-25. Today, we’re going to focus on the first two verses.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. (Romans 1:18-19)

As I read these verses, I couldn’t help but think of all the wicked and godless things that I’ve been seeing in the news over the past few weeks. From stolen nativity scenes, billboards claiming the story of Christ to be a myth, and churches approving of homosexuality (and allowing them to take leadership positions within the church). As well as what’s been splashed across our media for the past few years regarding pornography, human trafficking, child molestation, abortion, rape, murder, divorce, and sex outside of marriage (including adultery, prostitution, and casual sex).

We live in a nation that refuses to acknowledge that God has full authority over all. A nation that wants to remove God from everything: our schools, our government, our money, basically our everyday lives. A nation that doesn’t want to take responsibility for its actions; and therefore, refuses to acknowledge the fact that there is a God. Because to do so means that we must be held accountable to the laws which He’s established.

I have a newsflash for you, whether you believe that there is a God who maintains full authority or you don’t; it doesn’t change the fact that God is real, that He loves us and He sent His son to die for us. If we choose not to believe and choose to live a life of rebellion and of personal satisfaction and gain, we will be held accountable.

The numerous accounts of violence against others and self that have occurred within the last few years, as well as fires, car accidents, natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, famines, typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes, forest fires, and floods), our failing economy, threats and rumors of nuclear and biological war….are not entirely separate from our reaction to God and His commands. The more we chase the things this world has to offer, rather than the cross; the more we try to deny His existence, rather than proclaim His glory; the more innocent children we slaughter in the womb, rather than being grateful for the blessedness of life;  the more we try to create God into the image of man, rather than striving to become more like Him (check out Romans 1:22-23)…the worse our circumstances will become.

Unfortunately, this is to be expected. We know, as believers, that according to God’s word, that things will become even more terrible before His return (I am always thinking about Christ’s return (even more so lately, as we’ve been celebrating Advent and Christmas); and since we don’t know when Jesus will return we need to be prepared at all times and we should be sharing His Truth and love with everyone who crosses our path!

However, just because we’re living in the end times, and we know that wickedness will continue to grow, doesn’t mean that we ought to just sit back and let it happen! There will still be times of revival and awakening in our nation and churches. Remember the days of kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah, and the many prophets whose words can still be read in our Bibles today (and even the Great Awakenings of the early 1700, 1800, and 1900s). Before Israel/Judah’s fall, God gave His people chance after chance to serve Him; and awakenings and revivals were common during that age (don’t believe me? Read 2 Kings).

We, the church, need to stop sitting on the fence and standing on the sidelines, and we need to be proactive (instead of reactive) by sharing and living out our convictions before it’s too late; before our Assyrian and Babylonian armies come in to take us apart, and before Christ’s return. As of right now, there are so many that aren’t standing upon God’s word and aren’t living as He called us to, and unfortunately, some of these individuals are simply being deceived and following their wicked leaders; but the truth remains that they won’t be joining us in heaven. Never stop speaking truth in love.

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:6-13)

Perfect Storm

While finishing up the book of Acts today–chapters 27-28–I read about Paul being sent to Rome as a prisoner. Paul’s entire story amazes me and once I find the time, I really want to study more about his life; but in these two, final chapters of Acts, that which impresses me most, is Paul’s ability to remain calm while sailing through a hurricane.

After reading it, I sat here wondering to myself, “If God wanted Paul to go to Rome (which He did, according to Acts 23:11), then why did He allow a hurricane to delay his arrival and put 276 passengers at risk?” A few different answers came to mind…

First, just because God calls us to do something or go somewhere, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be easy to do. Sometimes there are obstacles and/or battles that we must face before we can move forward. And storms, such as these, prepare us for even bigger storms/obstacles that we might face in the future. Therefore, we must persevere and allow the storms of life to strengthen and mature us; otherwise we’ll never be strong/mature enough to handle the greater things God throws our way!

Second, sometimes we go through storms as a test of faith. Paul passed this test with flying colors! He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was going to bring him through this storm safely, so he didn’t let it freak him out! He was actually the one trying to calm down the rest of the crew and forcing them to eat, since they’d been so worried about their predicament that they hadn’t really eaten in two weeks (Acts 27: 33-34).

Third, sometimes we go through storms for the sake of the people around us. Paul’s reaction to this storm greatly impressed the people around him. They saw that Paul had great faith in God, that he could foretell things that would happen next, and they were encouraged by him. They were taking Paul’s advice by the end of their journey!

I wish I had Paul’s faith! Even though I know that God is in control, I know I’d be anxious if I were facing Paul’s storm. Facing the storms of life are no easy task. Most of the time, the people around you can’t see what you’re facing, and you feel alone, scared, lost, ashamed, or sad. I faced my own reoccurring storm recently (that’s why there was such a gap between my posts) and the winds continue to blow harder and the waves keep getting bigger, with each storm; but I keep moving forward; I keep persevering. I KNOW what God’s word says, even though I feel differently during these times; but, I know that feelings can be deceiving, so I stay grounded in His promises. Lastly, I know that because the storms keep getting bigger and meaner, I’m growing and maturing in the way God intends; which, can only mean that He has something big planned for me. So please keep me in your prayers and I’ll keep you in mine.

Take care and God bless!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I Am Peter

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down you life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:36-38)

I don’t know about you, but when I was younger this was me. “I’ll never do that!” I’d state. I learned over time, that it’s much easier to say that, until your life, future, or image is on the line. It’s so easy to fall, fail, or make a life-changing mistake; it happens in an instant! Often one moment of weakness leads to another, and yet another, until you’ve learned to block out the voice in your head telling you to stop for a moment and think about the consequences of your actions.

Peter thought he’d never disown Jesus; he’d lay his life down for Him! He loved Him! But in a moment of weakness–and fear–Peter denied the one he loved and slunk off into the shadows, ashamed, and full of bitter sorrow. Just as Peter wept over his shame and weakness, I’ve found myself in the same sorrowful predicament. I may never have outwardly spoken my disowning, but my actions certainly never showed that God reigned supreme over my life, or that I was His follower.

And yet, just a few chapters later, in the book of Acts, Peter preaches to a crowd of strangers that Jesus is the Messiah; a powerful, Holy Spirit-filled message of truth, love, and repentance! Peter becomes the leader of the early Christian church!

It is so easy to fall. It’s so easy to feel like it’s the end of the world and that God can’t use us because of our failures. But time and time again, He’s shown in His deed and word that He can use us! That His plans for us are solid and good and purposeful!

My experiences have taught me mercy and grace and compassion for my fellow man. They’ve taught me that when you make a mistake you have to fall upon your face before God admitting them. And they’ve taught me that sin is sin. I can’t sugarcoat what I’ve done, I can’t say that it’s okay for some people, but not for others; because it shouldn’t have been done, period. It’s wrong and it will always be wrong. I was wrong!

I am Peter. I may have fallen, but God has picked me up. What He’s got planned for me, I have no idea. What He’s taught me, is immeasurable. But every day I ask Him for another chance. Another chance to show Him that I love Him; another chance to show Him that I can be and do what He’s created me for; and another chance to accept any present and/or future responsibilities that He chooses to bless me with.

Watchful Eyes

It’s so funny how one can read the Bible over and over again, and yet realize something new, every time you read it. For instance, today as I read Luke 12, I noticed that God expects more from believers than unbelievers. “Well duh!” You may be thinking to yourself. Now, hear me out…In verses 35-46 Jesus tells the parable of the men waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, the man on the lookout for the thief, and the wise manager whom the master puts in charge of his servants. The point of each of these stories? To be prepared for whenever the Master (Jesus) returns; to not be caught unawares. To instead, be caught doing exactly what the Master has called us to do. So, what happens if we’re caught not doing our Father’s will?

That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:47-48)

“Woah! Okay, so you’re telling me that those of us who know what God’s will is for our lives and what He wants us to do….If we don’t do it, we’re in just as much trouble as those who are ignorant of His will?” No, I’m telling you that you’ll be in even more trouble. It’s like when you were little and you and your younger sibling got caught doing something you weren’t supposed to. Who got into more trouble? You! The older sibling always gets into more trouble because he/she should have “known better.” That’s how God sees Christians…we should know better.

God didn’t just send His son into this world to be beaten, die, and raised to life, for us to sit around on our hands and keep this free gift of life to ourselves! He tells us to go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). We tend to think of the world is these huge terms; we think of the little boy or girl in a small rural community with little to eat. But the world is at our very fingertips; it’s our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, our cashiers at the grocery store, even the people who follow us on twitter (or our blogs). And our “making disciples” usually doesn’t begin with words, but with our actions, attitudes, and desires…and there’s always someone watching.

What are your actions, attitudes, and desires saying about you? Are they saying you live for Christ? That He’s the center of your world? Or are they saying He’s an afterthought? A great addition to your already busy schedule? Something to make you feel good? When you’re frustrated or angry how do you respond? Is it Christlike? Or do you spout obscenities? Are you mean/treat others with disrespect? What are the things you aspire for? Are they earthly/worldly (ex. the latest iPhone/iPad, car, computer, a bigger house, more clothes/shoes)? Or spiritual?

God has given us much…LOVE, GRACE, MERCY, HOPE, LIFE; therefore He expects much. Who are you going to share it with?