Sunday, September 30, 2012

...Until the Day

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah [were], so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Matthew 24:36-39 NKJV

These verses from the Olivet Discourse are probably familiar with many, if not most believers today. Jesus is talking about His return for His church, which we know as the rapture, and He describes that time as being like the times of Noah. So like many, I have given a lot of thought to the account of the flood which we find in Genesis, and in particular the days leading up to it in order to see what the Spirit would reveal to me as I studied. One of the first things that I noticed was that God made it a point to tell us exactly when the flood occurred.

At this time of the year, when the rest of the world is preparing to celebrate Halloween, I am always reminded of the flood because the Bible tells us it occurred on the seventeenth day of the second month on the Jewish calendar. That puts it around the same time of the year as Halloween, also known as All Hallows Eve, The Day of the Dead, and many other names it has gone by throughout history. Of course, this particular holiday being celebrated at the exact same time of the year that the flood occurred which was God's judgment on the world that resulted in the death of all mankind is just another coincidence, right?

The second thing that came to my mind as I studied the account in Matthew was a phrase we find in verse thirty-eight. If you look closely at the passage, notice something Jesus said. He said that people in Noah's day went about their lives doing what they did "until the day that Noah entered the ark". So? Well, let's look more closely at the passage in Genesis that talks about that day.

Then the LORD said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth. For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made."
Genesis 7:1-4 NKJV

What these verses tell us is that God told Noah to go into the Ark because in seven days the flood was going to begin. Matthew tells us that the normal, everyday life of the unbelievers of Noah's day continued until "the day" Noah entered the Ark. If the flood did not begin until seven days after Noah entered the Ark, what happened on that day that got their attention to the extent they changed what they had been doing? Since Noah had been going in and out of the Ark for 150 years while he built it means something different had to have happened this particular day. Considering this, the only answer I could come up with is found in the following verse.

So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.
Genesis 7:16 NKJV

To put it another way, after everybody went in, God shut the door! Now I got to thinking about the door, and the first thought I had was "just how big was that door"? It had to be big enough for the largest animals on the earth to walk through. That door must have been huge! With a background in construction, my next thought was how was it engineered? Hinges? Sliding? Let's not forget weight either. Made of wood thick enough to withstand the pressures it would face from the sea, and treated with pitch which would make it even heavier. It would have taken a massive effort on the part of Noah and his sons to put that door in place, much less close it.

But the Bible tells us God shut the door. What exactly did the people outside see and hear when God shut it? Did they see it closing seemingly all by itself? Did it close slowly or slam shut with a loud noise? Maybe a little thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure? Whatever happened, because we are told that life changed after the door shut, when that door closed there must have been a message there that they heard loud and clear. What might that message have been? I wonder if it was the realization that no matter if they changed their minds or not, they had lost their chance to get in? Thinking about this led me to a couple of other passages where God talks about closing a door.

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Matthew 25:10-12 NKJV

Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from,' Luke 13:24-25 NKJV

I think the message God intends for the world is clear. In order to escape the judgment that is coming, you must enter before the door is shut. In Noah's day, I believe the people of the earth had a good idea what was coming when they saw the door shut, and realized they had lost their chance to escape the coming judgment. When the world sees the church disappear in the rapture, they will know just as the people of Noah's day knew, that the door which leads to deliverance from God's judgment is shut. My prayer is that you have made the choice to enter in before that door closes. The day that Noah entered the Ark, the tenth day of the second month will occur around the end of October. Have you made your choice? Jesus said this;

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
Revelation 3:20 NKJV

I pray you have asked Jesus to come into your heart, and have given your life to Him. If you have, we will walk through that door together and hopefully soon. Many of us believe we are fast approaching the day of the rapture of the church. As you can see, we are also fast approaching the anniversary of the time God judged the world the first time. With all the examples throughout history of God choosing to use anniversaries of events in Israel's history to do other things, is it possible we will see the next judgment of God on this earth begin on the same day it did back in Noah's time?

knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of creation." For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world [that] then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth [which] are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
2 Peter 3:3-7 NKJV

Keep watching.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Do You Want To Be Healthy?

I took some time off this past week to enjoy a visit by my brother and do a little “catching up” on events since I last saw him. As we talked the subject of the state of the church in America came up and I was encouraged to find we shared the same opinion on it's health, and the reasons for it. Now most of us have heard at one time or another that the best way to enjoy a healthy lifestyle is to avail ourselves of two things; the right food and proper exercise. This simple formula applies to our spiritual health as well and one could certainly use the argument that ignoring this may be the biggest reason for the poor state of the church today.

I have often been asked what resources I use in my personal studies and to be truthful it would take quite a long time to list all of them. Yet there are a few that I go to on a regular basis because I know what I can expect to find there is good, solid, scriptural food. One of those resources is pastor Jeff Schreve of First Baptist Church of Texarkana Texas. I will list two links at the end of this column where you can go to see for yourself, but right now I would like to share a short devotion of his that addresses the subject of our need to eat the right scriptural food and exercise our faith.

The Key to Winning Your Spiritual Battles
Jeff Schreve, First Baptist Church, Texarkana Texas

I saw a recent survey that asked, “Which celebrity would you like to have live next door to you?” The number one response was NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow. Tebow, you might remember, won the Heisman Trophy at the University of Florida, was drafted by the Denver Broncos, and was recently traded to the New York Jets. He’s is a godly man who is not afraid to stand up and speak out for Jesus Christ.

A few months back, I read Tim’s wonderful autobiography, Through My Eyes. In the book, he talks about how competitive he was growing up. At 4 years old, he asked his dad if he could start lifting weights. When his dad said no, he got hold of some stretchy rubber tubes and started working on building his shoulders. He also did 400 push-ups and 400 sit-ups every day. Wow! That work ethic continued through school, and the rest is history.

Tim Tebow is a lot of things. But if you had to find one word to describe him, you might use the word strong. He’s strong physically, and he’s strong spiritually.

Now, growing strong isn’t just for the Tim Tebows of the world. It’s for all believers. And while we may have different physical abilities, the one area where we can all grow strong is in our relationship with Jesus Christ. This is an absolute must for all Christians because Satan would love nothing more than to attack your weaknesses and destroy God’s work in your life.

So how can you grow strong and stand firm in your relationship with the Lord? Well, the Bible tells us in 1 Peter 2:1-3:

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

I want you to notice something very important from this little passage. As believers, you and I must long for and feed on the Word to grow just like a newborn baby longs for pure milk to grow. Jesus makes it clear that Christianity is a new birth experience (John 3:3). This is exactly what Peter has in mind as he’s writing, as evidenced by his words in 1:3, where he says that God has caused us to be “born again into a living hope….”

This is crucial, so don’t miss it! The moment anyone sees his or her need and cries out, “Jesus, have mercy on me!” the new birth experience becomes a personal reality. And just as newborn babies need milk to grow strong, so do born again believers need God’s Word to grow strong in the fight against the enemy.  

Many Christians have been believers for years, but are still newborn babes because they’ve missed this simple truth. Listen, you and I never outgrow our need for the Word of God. It is food for our soul. So spend time each and every day in God’s Word, feasting on it and letting it dwell richly within you. As you do, you’ll grow strong in your faith and start winning your spiritual battles!

Keep watching.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Is The Acceptable Year About To End?

"The Spirit of the LORD [is] upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to [the] poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to [the] captives And recovery of sight to [the] blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."
Luke 4:18-19 NKJV

We talked briefly last week, and often in the past, about the suffering and persecution we often feel comes our way as believers in Jesus Christ. I'm sure no one would argue about how uncomfortable and troubling it is to suffer for our faith, and I'm equally sure most of us at one time or another have asked the question “why doesn't God do something about it”? Well if it helps, I want to make it clear today that God intends to “do something” and if the events occurring in the world today are any indication, that time is almost upon us.

The passage from Luke reveals to us the occasion where Jesus reads from the book of Isaiah, in the synagogue at Nazareth where He was from. If we look at the passage Jesus read from Isaiah, we see that He did something very interesting. Compare for yourself the two passages; what Isaiah wrote and what Jesus read.

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to [those who are] bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,
Isaiah 61:1-2 NKJV

I want to share with you a short commentary by Ray Stedman about these passages and what it meant when Jesus chose not to finish reading the complete passage from Isaiah.

Luke's gospel records that Jesus went into the synagogue at Nazareth on one occasion, as was his custom, and asked for the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled it until he found the place where these words are written. Turning to this very spot, he read this passage about the Spirit coming upon him, anointing him, and that he was called to preach the gospel, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, etc. He stopped reading in the middle of a sentence, after the comma following the words, "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he closed the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, sat down, and said, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your hearing."
Note carefully where he stopped reading. He did not go on to read, "and the day of vengeance of our God," because when he first came he introduced "the day of God's favor," the day when God withholds his judgment.
This is the answer to the question people are asking, "Why doesn't God do something?" The answer is, because he is giving people everywhere a chance! When he starts judging, he will judge the whole world -- everybody in it, without exception. Only those who have already bowed to his will will escape the penalty of that judgment. Then he will begin "the day of vengeance of our God," the phrase Jesus did not read that day in the synagogue. This comma has been called "the longest comma in history." "The year of the Lord's favor" now covers almost two thousand years of time, but it will be followed by "the day of vengeance of our God."
Notice the contrast between "the year of his grace," and "the day of vengeance." God does not like vengeance. He does not delight in judgment. Isaiah calls it "his strange work." But it must be done eventually, though it will be kept as brief as possible. This is what prophecy records as "the time of the end."

So in answer to the question about why God doesn't do something about our suffering, it seems perfectly clear that we are told that He will, but at a time of His choosing. The Hebrew word for “year” used here is shaneh which refers not to a calendar year but rather describing a period of time. So the only way we will know when the “year of the Lord” is over will be when the “day of vengeance” begins. If you are curious about God's day of vengeance you can read all about this period of time in Joel chapter two and chapters six through nineteen of the book of Revelation. Yet when I read this passage in Isaiah I can't help but be curious about the “acceptable year” and wonder if there is more to this than meets the eye?

When I step back and look at the passage in it's entirety, I am struck by the thought that Jesus says He was sent by God to proclaim both the “acceptable year” and “the day of vengeance”. Naturally then, I can't help but wonder just how, since the day of the Lord has not yet arrived, will Jesus “proclaim” the coming “day of vengeance”?

In the Hebrew, the word for proclaim is qara' which translated means “to call, cry, utter a loud sound”. That being the case, are any of you beginning to think what I'm thinking? Is there any event on the horizon that you know of where we might hear Jesus “qara' “? There certainly is, and Paul describes it for us in his letter to the church at Thessalonica.

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.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 NKJV

This is why I love studying the Bible so much. It so often seems like a puzzle where we strive to find out just where the different pieces fit in order to see what the complete picture shows us. It certainly appears to me that not only did Jesus use the occasion in Nazareth to reveal Himself as the Messiah, and the fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy, but also to tell us that we will hear from Him again when it is time for the Church to depart, and He can “comfort all who mourn”. Is the acceptable year about to end? Consider the words of the prophet Joel;

Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the LORD is coming, For it is at hand:
Joel 2:1 NKJV

If you are hurting or suffering today take heart.  I truly believe we are about to be comforted in ways we could never imagine.

Keep watching.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Last Ten Days

"Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw [some] of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Revelation 2:10 NKJV

One of the first things I learned when I first embarked on a serious study of the book of Revelation was the importance of the first three chapters of the book and the part they play in the history of the church. The fact that there are exactly seven letters to seven churches should be the first clue that there is something special there by the simple fact that the number seven in the Bible always refers to perfection in the sense of completeness, or a perfectly complete picture of something. Yet when you study these seven letters you begin to see that the picture we are given has application on far more than just one level.

Now the obvious picture is that Jesus is giving a “report card” to the church as a whole, and uses these seven in order to show that there are just seven categories to describe a church and all churches will fall into one of them. Yet scholars have found that these seven categories also mirror the evolution of the church throughout history. On an even more personal level is the fact that each of us as believers can be categorized as fitting the description of one of these churches in regards to how we choose to live out our faith.

So simply put, if we are as close to the return of Jesus for His church as we believe, the church today as a whole can be described as lukewarm (Laodicean), while yet being made up of individual churches which can fit the description of any of the other six. Most important to note though is that all churches are made up of individual believers who can also be described as fitting one of these seven examples we are given. As one well known bible teacher is fond of saying, make no mistake that these seven letters apply to all of us today!

With that in mind, my thoughts have continually been drawn to the description of the church at Smyrna, which you find is the only church of the seven that Jesus had no words of correction for. In Jesus' eyes they were “doing it right” which should to us be an example of how we should live. Yet Jesus also has a word of warning for them which we see in verse ten of chapter two, that has always intrigued me. Why is that? Well if we accept the premise that these letters apply to all of us, it becomes obvious that any church as a whole, and any individual believer fitting the description of the church at Smyrna, is going to have a time of tribulation that apparently lasts for ten days just before the return of Jesus for His church.

Now this conclusion on my part is based on the premise that the Bible “says what it means, and means what it says”, and there is no question that this is exactly what this verse says. Although these ten days of tribulation occurred in the past, because these letters apply to us as well it's logical to assume we are being told that one type of church, and one type of believer, is going to suffer ten days of “tribulation” just before the Church goes home. So my next question is just what might this “tribulation” be? In order to try and figure that one out let's examine the meaning of the word used here for tribulation.

Tribulation; Gk. thlipsis; a pressing, pressing together, pressure...oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits.

Have you ever felt "pressured"?  A question I have always had in regards to living in the end times is just how much discomfort are believers going to be subjected to as we get closer and closer to the return of Christ for His church? Lately it would appear that the answer to that may be very uncomfortable as more and more I am hearing about situations where dedicated, committed believers being subjected to trials they never suspected would occur. Many are a direct result of the state of the economy, as I hear of Christians losing their jobs, having trouble paying their bills, and even struggling to put food on the table.

Let's also not forget the events of this past week at the convention in Charlotte where the Democratic party delegates tried to remove the name of God from their platform and actually booed when the motion to put it back was put to a vote! If that isn't “oppression” to the Church I don't know what is. Let's not forget either, the examples we have seen lately of what happens when anyone has the courage to present the Bible's stand on any of the “social” issues in this country. Of course, it should come as no surprise that the natural question which results from these situations is simply "why"? As a believer, shouldn't we be able to expect God to spare us from these troubles? 

Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel: "My way is hidden from the LORD, And my just claim is passed over by my God"? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to [those who have] no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew [their] strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:27-31 NKJV

Obviously, from this passage we can see that Israel was complaining to God that He was obviously unaware of their suffering because He had not done anything about it. They were feeling as if God had abandoned them, and was either unaware or unwilling to do anything to alleviate their suffering. Especially interesting is the idea we see that the people felt that God was obliged to deliver them! Do you notice the words "just claim"? They felt as God's chosen people, they should somehow be immune to struggles. I am sure many today are experiencing those same feelings as they experience the hardships that seem so prevalent in our nations current situation. Yet Isaiah goes on to answer those feelings by telling us three things we need to remember when we experience trials in our lives.

First of all, Isaiah reminds us that God is never asleep, or too tired to listen to our cries for help. He doesn't "faint" or get "weary", and believe it or not, He has a plan that we as humans may not "understand". His ways are not our ways, but Isaiah assures us that even though we may not understand, or agree, God's ways are not our ways.

Secondly, Isaiah assures us that God will give us the "power" and the "strength" we need to endure. It seems here as if we are being told that within the body of Christ there are three levels of maturity. The "youth" would refer to those who are new and relatively immature believers who would struggle the most when experiencing these kinds of difficulties. The "young men" would be those who have grown enough to endure a bit longer, but still struggle with circumstances they could not control. Those who are able to "wait", however, are those believers mature enough in their faith to understand that God is always faithful to provide the strength we need to endure.

Third, Isaiah uses a beautiful example of an eagle to picture what life as a mature believer can be. Can anyone imagine running and never getting tired, or walking forever without running out of energy? Fortunately for me, I live in an area where all I have to do to watch eagles is drive a mile to the river that runs through a canyon south of town and I can spend hours watching bald eagles fish and hunt for their food.

One of the first things you notice when you get up close and personal with an eagle is just how big their wings are. I don't know just how they can fold them up so small, but let me tell you, when they unfold those wings to take off they are impressive. It is common to see eagles with a wingspan of 6-7 feet. The strength they possess is just amazing to watch. To see them dive on the river and come up with a fish that I would have to use two hands to just lift takes your breath away. Then of course, we come to their endurance. These eagles can soar forever! They just sit over the river riding the air currents and never hardly move their wings. They just sit up there floating for hours without seeming to expend any effort at all until they spot dinner swimming below.

Is it any wonder God chooses to use the eagle as an illustration of His care and concern for His own? The power and strength and endurance is there for us when we need it, but what is required of us most is to wait. We are an impatient people who want answers and action right now, but our God is a God of patience and deliberation. 

Many [are] the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
Psalms 34:19 NKJV

God tells us that as faithful, righteous believers we will suffer afflictions. If we believe what Revelation says, the last ten days here on earth are going to be very, very uncomfortable for some. However the proper response is to wait upon the Lord who is not only able, but promises to give us the strength we need to soar like eagles. Note in the passage from Isaiah that God does not promise to take away the suffering, but rather to give us "strength and endurance" so we can be delivered through it. The Revelation passage says if we endure, we gain the “crown of life”. When believers suffer, rather than growing tired or fainting, we need to ask for strength and wait for the promises of God as a witness to those around us that God indeed will provide what we need.

It is just my opinion, but I truly believe that when the rapture occurs it is the “Smyrna” type believers who will leave the biggest impact on the ones left behind because they were faithful to endure the tribulation they had to go through those last ten days. To me though, the best reassurance I have from this passage in Revelation is the very first words Jesus says to us; “Do not fear...”. As hard as we may struggle, we need not fear for God has promised to deliver us. Right now, anyone who chooses to take the Bible's position on anything sets themselves up for the definition of “tribulation” given in the letter to the church at Smyrna, yet our Lord says do not fear!

Please join me in praying for those who are struggling as we approach the end of this age. Never forget; do not fear, for God is faithful.

Keep watching.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Who's the Judge?

I have heard a few questions this week on the subject of our responsibility as believers to share what God has to say about some of the decisions we make in this life of ours.  As should be expected, the world often reacts in a negative way to the message of God yet we should not let that discourage us from fulfilling our responsibility to share the gospel and all that it says.  This is a post from a few years back that discusses the subject of the response we most often get from the world, and some thoughts on what our attitude should be.

"Don't judge me." "You're judging me." "The Bible says judge not lest you be judged." Have you ever heard those words directed to you? I know I have, yet many are unaware of the simple fact that if you do hear those words, it probably means you are busy doing what God asks of us. No, not judging others, but informing others of what God has said in His word concerning what He requires of us.

When I have taught about this in the past, I always like to use this example. Have you ever been pulled over by a policeman? Do you remember what it felt like when you saw the car pull up behind you? Not me! I wasn't doing anything wrong! Then the lights go on and he motions for you to pull over. You look in your mirror and watch as he slowly gets out of his car, adjusts his black robe and picks up his gavel before slowly walking to your car. Gotcha didn't I? Of course that's not what he looked like, because he is a law enforcement officer, not the judge. It is simply his job to tell you he observed you breaking the law. It is the judge you face in the courtroom who has the power to pass the sentence, and in reality, it is he alone that "judges" you.

Last week we discussed our responsibility to speak out about what we see happening in the world around us, and the fact that just like the prophets of old, we are in essence warning of God's coming judgment. The thought occurs to me that the Old Testament prophets probably heard "you're judging me" a whole lot. Of course, that did not stop them from doing what they were told by God to do, and neither should we. There is, of course, a more acceptable way of doing that and I believe we need to be sure we warn people with and attitude of love, and not with an attitude that could be interpreted as "judgmental". I'm sure we all have a passage or two in scripture that means something special to us, or one we seem to feel applies to us more than another. One of my very favorites is the following passage from the book of Psalms.

The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. More to be desired [are they] than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, [And] in keeping them [there is] great reward. 

Psalms 19:7-11 NKJV

I liked this Psalm so much that I memorized the whole chapter, and have tried to remind myself to quote it every day. One of the first things I noticed about this Psalm is how much David is saying he loves God's laws. Now just like anyone else, I would rather people not tell me what to do, so I wanted to discover why David was so desiring of knowing God's laws. What came to mind as I read this Psalm is that David concentrates on the positive results of following God's laws rather than the judgment that comes from disobeying. Not to say we are not warned of what could happen if we don't, but as we would say in this day and age, he concentrates on the "upside".

I look at this as a clue as to how we should approach fulfilling our obligation to speak out about what we see around us today. Accentuate the positive aspects of obeying God's laws, without minimizing the judgment that God says will certainly come. I have said before that when I encounter something unusual or out of the ordinary when studying scripture, it is Gods' way of making a point. Consider the following as an example. There occurs an unusual verse in the book of Zephaniah I want you to read. Why unusual? It is the only time in the entire Bible where every letter of the Hebrew alphabet is contained in just one verse. Guess what the subject of that verse is? That's right; Gods' coming judgment of this world.

"Therefore wait for Me," says the LORD, "Until the day I rise up for plunder; [fn] My determination [is] to gather the nations To My assembly of kingdoms, To pour on them My indignation, All My fierce anger; All the earth shall be devoured With the fire of My jealousy.
 Zephaniah 3:8 NKJV

Do you think it's possible God is trying to make a point here? Is it possible this verse is His way of emphasizing that a decision to reject Him and His laws has only one result? We know that the time where all the nations of the world will be gathered is during the Tribulation. The Bible also makes it abundantly clear what the scope of that coming judgment is.

That day [is] a day of wrath, A day of trouble and distress, A day of devastation and desolation, A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of trumpet and alarm Against the fortified cities And against the high towers "I will bring distress upon men, And they shall walk like blind men, Because they have sinned against the LORD; Their blood shall be poured out like dust, And their flesh like refuse." Neither their silver nor their gold Shall be able to deliver them In the day of the LORD's wrath; But the whole land shall be devoured By the fire of His jealousy, For He will make speedy riddance Of all those who dwell in the land. 
Zephaniah 1:14-18 NKJV

We see the signs of that coming time all around us today, and as the Bible tells us, when you see the signs you know He is near. Standing up as believers and speaking out about what we see, and using that as an opportunity to affirm Gods' laws and expectations of His people will most certainly occasion a response accusing us of judging others. But we are not the judges because we only speak out about what we see. The responsibility to judge and pass sentence is Gods' alone and He has promised He will certainly fulfill that duty.

The good news is that God is a forgiving God, and has promised to deliver anyone from that coming judgment by simply accepting His free gift of salvation and striving to follow His laws. May we be bold to share that good news with others in a spirit of love and forgiveness as we see the day approaching.

Keep watching.

( Originally posted November 15, 2009 )