Sunday, September 26, 2010

Comfort Food

The term "comfort food" (added to the Webster's Dictionary in 1972) refers to foods consumed to achieve some level of improved emotional status, whether to relieve negative psychological affect or to increase positive.[1] More generally, comfort food can be defined as food that brings some form or measure of comfort..... Wickipedia

Now like most people, I have a certain dish or two that I like more than others, but I'm not all that sure they help my emotional state or feelings of well being. On the other hand, when it's cold and rainy I like to make a big pot of stew following a recipe I learned from my Dad. My kids always knew they could expect that stew when the weather turned gloomy, and they even began to ask for it as they got older. The need for comfort, however, is something we all need from time to time, and as believers I think it's only fair to ask "what is our spiritual comfort food"? Is there really such a thing, and if so, where do we find it?

For the idols speak delusion; The diviners envision lies, And tell false dreams; They comfort in vain. Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; They are in trouble because there is no shepherd.
Zechariah 10:2 NKJV

I think this verse speaks volumes about where we go to looking for comfort, and the hazards of looking in the wrong place. When Zechariah wrote these words, the children of Israel had stopped looking to God for their comfort, and as a result were left "hungry" because what the world has to offer will never supply the comfort we need. It seems to me that the delusion of the world is that we can be happy with what it has to offer. The lies and false dreams are the assurances of the "experts" that the world is where we need to look in order to get what we want, but in the end we find there is no truth in what they say, and as a result, no comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV

You have to love a verse that uses the word comfort five times. In this letter to the Corinthian church, Paul begins by stressing the source of our comfort as believers is God the Father. Not only that, but he makes it clear that He is the God of "all comfort", (not just some) and will comfort us in "all our tribulation"(whenever we need it). We all should realize by now that as believers we will have troubles. It is part of the life we are asked to live, and as we said last week, there are reasons for it. However the Bible makes it clear that we are to go to God for the comfort we need, and not to anything the world (Satan) would use as a substitute for the real thing.

This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.
Psalms 119:50 NKJV

I often find myself relating to David and some of the many trials he went through. Yet as I have studied his life one of the things that stands out to me is that he always turned to God for his comfort. As often as he messed up and needed help, he always knew where to turn for the comfort he needed, and that was to God's word. I really enjoy reading and studying the Old Testament stories because I find that those people were human just like me and made some of the same mistakes. The stories of the people serve a purpose though, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4 NKJV

You see, we can find comfort and hope for whatever situation we find ourselves in by reading stories about how others had their troubles but God always took care of them and delivered them.
When faced with the need for comfort, do you look to the world for what the Bible says will never satisfy, or do you turn to the Bible for the comfort God the Father says will always satisfy? Do you need comfort today? Let God's Word provide it.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 NKJV

Keep watching.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Somebody's Watching You

“Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
1 Peter 2:12 NASB

How often do you notice what goes on around you as you follow your everyday routine? Going to work, or to school, or shopping at the grocery store downtown, do you see and observe the many people around you and what they are doing and sometimes saying? Of course you do, and I'm sure all of us could tell stories of what we have seen people do or have overheard people say at times like this. The point I want to make, however, is this; if you notice them, what makes you think they don't notice you? The fact is, we are being watched.

In this passage from the first book of Peter, we find advice on what God expects from believers who live their lives surrounded by unbelievers. At the time Peter wrote this, the early Christians were greatly outnumbered by unbelievers, and were in fact having to endure increasing persecution at their hands. Understanding human nature, and aware that the normal reaction by anyone would be to respond in kind, Peter tells us that God expects us to react in a way that is the complete opposite of what the world would expect. So let me share with you what I believe the Spirit is telling me in this passage.

First, we will be accused. The Greek word for accused is "katalaleĊ" which in today's world could easily be translated "trash talking". It means literally to talk "against" someone, or as translated in the NASB, slander. The thing to be aware of though is this; none of it is true! When Peter wrote these words the early believers were being accused of all sorts of things, including eating human flesh and drinking blood, participating in wild orgies, and atheism because they did not worship idols like everyone else. Of course none of this was true, but that did not matter at all to their accusers. Peter says the answer to this is not to argue, or try to confront the accuser, but to simply continue to live your life in a godly way and not let these untruths affect the choices you make on a daily basis.

Second, we will be watched. I think this verse makes it clear that we are all being watched, and watched closely. I also feel there are three groups of people watching as well. Scary thought isn't it? First we are watched by those who accuse. These people want to see our reaction, and in fact, are probably trying to provoke a reaction. Second, we are being watched by unbelievers that are simply observers curious about how we react. They may not have participated in the trash talking, but they heard it or are aware of it and want to see what we do. Third, other believers are watching as well. They may not have been the object of the accusations but they know the what and the why and they are curious as well as to how you react to the situation. It's entirely possible they have not been a target like you because they are "camouflage" Christians, believers who don't live a life any different than the unbelievers around them. All three of these groups are watching you, so how you react will say much to many, and that brings us to the third and last point of this passage.

Third, we can be a witness to many. This verse says plainly that they will not only see what you do, they may glorify God when He visits. Now this brings up a very important point some might miss with just a casual reading of this verse. Exactly when is God's next "visitation"? Well that could be when someone dies, or if they don't, at the end of the tribulation. So what exactly is this verse telling us? I think two things here. The first is that everyone will stand before God and have an opportunity to glorify Him either when they die, or if it is when He comes, and this passage seems to make it clear their choice may well depend on our witness! Have you ever given thought as to what people left behind after the rapture will say about you? Will they say they understand, based on how you lived your life, why you went and they did not? Or will they say you lived no different than they did so why did you go and they did not?

When it comes to witnessing we always are impatient to see results right now, before it's too late. That is fine to a point, but we must understand that it may take the event we know as the rapture to germinate the seed we sow. I like what Chuck Smith, founder and pastor of Calvary Chapel had to say about this verse in his commentary on First Peter,

So live a life that is a witness before the world. They may say ugly things to you. They may sneer at you. They may mock you. But let your life be a witness that when the Lord raptures you, they're going to say, Wow, that guy was right, you know. He was really a neat guy, you know, he was all right. He did the right thing, you know, oh man. So, they will.

I couldn't say it any better than that. As hard as it is to have someone "talking trash" about us, it does in fact give us a perfect opportunity to witness to an unbelieving world. Why? Well now you know; it's because this verse tells us someones always watching you!

For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.
1 Peter 2:15 NASB

Keep watching.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On Being A Watchman

I had the pleasure over the holiday weekend to spend a little time catching up with one of my former Sunday School students who was home visiting her family. I call it a pleasure for I have watched as she matured as both a individual and as a believer into both a loving wife and a dedicated follower of Christ over the past seven or eight years. As we talked she told me of attending a Bible college and writing an exposition on a portion of scripture as one of her requirements. When I asked what scripture she chose, imagine my surprise as she related writing on one of my most favorite, and what I believe to be one of the most important portions of scripture for believers today. I'm talking of course about our call as believers to be watchmen just as the prophet Ezekiel, as well as others, have been called.

If it hasn't become evident by now if you follow this blog, I strongly believe we have all been called to be watchmen. It is the reason I do what I do, and why I encourage you to do the same. As we see the day approaching where we will be called home, the responsibility to shout out a warning of what is to come has never been greater. With that in mind, I am going to share today an old post from last year that addresses this subject, and one which I think we all need to be reminded of from time to time. Consider this as a source of encouragement, because as we all know it is so very easy to relax our guard, or become complacent as we wait impatiently for our Lord to return for His bride.

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. [For the Son of man is] as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.
Mark 13:33-37 KJV

Did you notice how many times we are told to watch? Did you also notice the last verse says we ALL are being commanded to watch? I get the idea this is a rather important point Jesus is trying to make. So why is watching such an important responsibility? Consider the following passage from the Old Testament concerning watchmen and what was expected from them.

Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take [any] person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.
Ezekiel 33:2-6 KJV

It was the last verse in that passage that got my attention. If a person is appointed to be a watchman, and does not fulfill his responsibility to warn of what he sees, he will be held accountable for those who perish because of his failure. Talk about responsibility. I have no doubt that watchmen in the Old Testament took their job very, very seriously. So here is my question to you; since we are commanded to watch, have we as believers been appointed "watchmen" with the same responsibilities as those in the past? Are we required by God to not only watch, but to warn of what we see?

The state of our country has been the subject of much talk in the last year or so, what with the "changes" being instituted by the leaders in our government. Many have made no secret of the fact they believe the moral compass of our nation is seriously malfunctioning, and the direction we are going is quite the opposite of what it should be. Many have asked what we should do as believers when confronted by what we see happening in our nation today? I believe the answer is as clear as it was to Noah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and all the others appointed as watchmen. We need to stand up and be counted as opposing the direction our country is headed, and especially be clear as to why. Times like these are an opportunity to share the love of God with those around us, and to explain His laws and expectations concerning our behavior. The Bible is very clear that any nation that turns it's back on God will be judged. No question.

Look at what God had to say about Israel in Jeremiah's day.

And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.
Jeremiah 1:16 KJV

Do you see any similarities between our country and what was happening at the time of Noah? Are we as a nation turning from God and worshiping what we have created with our own hands as they did in Jeremiahs' day? Are the decisions made concerning social issues based on God's laws, or popular feeling? Is our country headed for judgement? If we continue on the course we are on, I have no doubt. Will it be hard to stand and be counted? Absolutely. However look at what God told Jeremiah when he was commissioned to serve.

Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I [am] with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.
Jeremiah 1:17-19 KJV

Are we living in the last days? Personally I am surprised we are still here given what I can see with my own two eyes. America is fast approaching the time of judgment, and as Jesus said, "no man knows the day or the hour". Do you want to be surprised at His coming, and realize you failed in your responsibilities as a watchman? I don't. May you find strength to watch and warn others of what you see by the power of God's promises to us.

Keep watching.

PS. On a personal note to my friend N, if you read this could you send me a copy of your paper if you have one? I would dearly love to read it, and I'm sorry I didn't think to ask when we talked.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Whose Land Is It Anyway?

"And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.
Zechariah 12:3 NKJV

Regifting or regiving is the act of taking a gift that has been received and giving it to somebody else, sometimes in the guise of a new gift.

Are you familiar with the term regifting? I will admit when I first heard it I was a little confused, but after hearing an explanation I had to laugh. I have often wondered since then if I have been the recipient of such a gift, without really caring one way or another until this thought occurred to me; "how would I feel knowing my gift to someone else was being passed on"? As I thought about that, I actually felt not only hurt, but a little offended because like most people I try to put a little thought into what I give to others. This of course led to the next question I had and that is just what would I feel towards someone who I knew had passed on a gift that I had given them?

Much of the world's attention was focused this week on the meeting in Washington between the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians as they attempted to "restart" the peace process. As expected, one of the first concerns to make headlines was settlement activity in Jerusalem. and the expiration this month of the "building freeze" that has been in effect. As I read this I couldn't help but wonder about the fight over territory, and Israel's willingness to attempt to bring peace by giving up it's claim to certain parts of the land. It was then that God brought this whole subject of regifting to mind with the simple question, "whose land is it anyway"?

On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates
Genesis 15:18 NKJV

If you are not familiar with these two landmarks, allow me to help you out a little. The river Euphrates starts in Turkey, passes through the northern half of Syria and Iraq, and empties into the Persian Gulf. The river of Egypt, which many would assume was the Nile, is actually the Wadi el-Arish that is located south of Gaza in the Sinai. As you might expect, this location is the subject of some debate, so you can feel free to do your own research on that subject. My point though is this; God gave all the land between these two rivers to Israel as a gift. That obviously means it was God's land to begin with, and He decided to give title to it to Abraham and his descendants. The gift, however, came in the form of a covenant with an interesting addendum.

"And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.
Genesis 17:1 NKJV

I wonder if the word everlasting was put in there because God knew the time would come when Israel would start "regifting" parts of the land to their enemies in an attempt to buy peace instead of trusting God to protect them as He has done in the past. Did you notice as well that part of that covenant was an affirmation that He was to be their God? As we see Israel giving away parts of God's gift of the land, obviously in violation of the covenant, the natural next question is are they in violation of the other part of the covenant as well? With these thoughts in mind, the very obvious question is just what does God think of all of this? Is He offended that Israel is "regifting" His gift to them? Knowing what is in store for Israel according to the Bible, probably gives us an answer to that question. We know it is God's intent to judge Israel, but it is the manner and scope of that judgment which gives us a clue as to what God thinks about all of this.

"Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. "And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD," says the Lord GOD, "when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.
Ezekiel 36:22-23 NKJV

The word for "hallowed" is qadash which literally means to be set apart, or be consecrated. The time is coming when God will use the nation of Israel in such a way as to show the world that He is the only God. God will defend His land, and sanctify His name by reminding Israel of the terms of this "everlasting" covenant. The severity of this judgment will result in Israel finally acknowledging Him as their God and Saviour and they will "set Him apart" from all others. The only question is "how soon"?

A Psalm of David. THE earth is the LORD's, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.
Psalms 24:1 NKJ

It's God's land.

Keep watching.