Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Season To Watch

"Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors! "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. "It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. "Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— "lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. "And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!"
Mark 13:28-37 NKJV

I find it surprising when so many ask me why I choose to study and teach on prophecy when there are so many portions of scripture like this one from Mark that make it clear what Jesus expects from us. I try to explain to those who question that this is not merely a suggestion from God, but a command repeated over and over again. As such, I try to get the point across that if God commands us to watch, it is because He intends to show us signs that we will recognize as harbingers of the end of this age. One of the points I have often contemplated concerning this passage is if it is possible God is giving us a clue as to when the rapture would occur when He chooses to use the season of summer as an illustrative tool.

The term “dog days of summer” is probably familiar to most, yet many are probably not aware of what it means or of its origin. Actually, the answer to that question is hazy and debatable, while some believe it may date back as far as the Roman Empire. As to what it might mean, let me make a suggestion based solely on my own observations and educational experiences. One, like most people I have a dog. I also live in a part of the country which experiences summers which tend to occasionally receive triple digit heat late in the season. Just like people, I have noticed my dog gets just a little testy during these days of excessive heat, exhibiting a marked lack of patience and a tendency to growl and lash out when disturbed.

As I considered that, I also was reminded of something I realized back in the day when I was a history major in college. Do you know the vast majority of conflicts in the history of the world have started during the summer months? My point? I just wonder if the conflict that God reveals in His Word concerning the future of Israel and the world, taken along with His command to watch with a reference to the season of summer, should be a major clue to those of us who choose to obey the command to watch?
"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

While many are familiar with the seven Feasts of Israel, which were celebrations appointed by God and revealed to Moses during the Exodus, not as many are familiar with the Fasts of Mourning which are days which commemorate a tragic event or events that have occurred in Israel's history. While these days of remembrance were not instituted by God, He does mention them when He reveals to the prophet Zechariah that the time will come when they will be turned into days of celebration after the tribulation ends and the Messiah begins His reign on the earth.

"Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'The fast of the fourth [month], The fast of the fifth, The fast of the seventh, And the fast of the tenth, Shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts For the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.'
Zechariah 8:19 NKJV

This past Tuesday was the seventeenth of Tammuz, which is the first fast day, or the fast of the fourth month referred to by Zechariah in the passage above. This day begins a period of three weeks of national mourning in Israel that lead up to Tisha B' Av, or the ninth of Av which is the fast of the fifth month. When discussing this first fast day in his book “Armageddon: Appointment With Destiny”, the late Grant Jeffrey says that the events which have occurred on the seventeenth of Tammuz serve to show the nation of Israel that God's favor had been withdrawn from them because of their sin as a nation. It also served as a sign that God's judgment was soon to follow, which throughout history has certainly occurred on the ninth of Av.

I have always believed that if God goes to the trouble of telling us a specific day or time that something has happened, there is probably a very good reason for it. The first passage we looked at this morning comes from the book of Isaiah, and is noteworthy because it was also quoted by Jesus during His ministry here on earth. If you look in the fourth chapter of Luke you find this account;

So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
Luke 4:16-17 NKJV

Jesus then reads the passage from Isaiah 61 but does an interesting thing; He stops reading in the middle of verse two where it begins to talk about the day of vengeance. Then Jesus explains to the people;

And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Luke 4:21 NKJV

Almost every commentator I have read agrees that this is because the day of vengeance that Jesus does not talk about is the future tribulation period that will come upon Israel because of their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. It is during this time of tribulation that the rest of verse two comes into play because what it describes is that period of time which the passage from Isaiah calls “the day of vengeance of our God“. If you are at all familiar with the events described in the book of Revelation concerning this coming time of judgment you might think that there will be plenty of reasons to mourn, yet the Bible makes it clear that God intends for the world and the nation of Israel to know the real reason to mourn;

"Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Matthew 24:30 NKJV

"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for [his] only [son], and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
Zechariah 12:10 NKJV

We as believers understand that the next time Jesus returns will be the rapture when He comes in the clouds to take His bride the Church, made up of all who believe in Him, back to Heaven. Now if this were to occur in the month of Av, you would think that this would be a cause for celebration and not a time to mourn, yet the thought that immediately crossed my mind when I read this was one which applies to everyone and not just Israel. You see, while it will be a time of celebration for those who go, don't you think it will be a reason to mourn for those who don't? Of all the events which have occurred throughout history during the three weeks of mourning in Israel, they would all pale in comparison to being left behind when the rapture happens.

Consider all the things that are happening in the world right now. We have the signs of a potential war in the Middle East which could occur at any time, floods in other parts of the world while half of the United States is experiencing record heat. Earthquakes occurring, volcanoes erupting, wildfires burning, and most of all a government in this country which now seems intent to turn its back on God and the commandments He has given us to follow. With all these things in mind, not to mention the fact that we have just entered the period of time where God has historically demonstrated His displeasure with His children’s disobedience, I would certainly conclude this is an especially important season to be watching. As such, I think it seems even more important than ever for all of us to consider our eternal destiny and make sure we know we will accompany our Lord when He returns for His bride.

If you are reading this today and have never made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I urge you to do it right now. Simply admit to God that you need His forgiveness because you are a sinner,  be willing to turn away from your sins, believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and invite Him to come in and control  your life through the Holy Spirit by praying a simple prayer like this;

Jesus I know I am a sinner in need of salvation. I believe you sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sin, and I ask you now to forgive me of my sins. I want to receive your gift of salvation so please come into my heart and help me to live and follow you as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' name, Amen.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
John 1:12 NKJV

If you have prayed that prayer, or one like it, you can rejoice that you will spend eternity with God. If not, I'm sorry to say that very soon you might just have a reason to mourn.

Keep watching.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Necessary Qualities

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of [this] life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.              2 Timothy 2:3-7  NKJV
Who in this life has never wished that something could be easier?  It just seems natural that we look for the easiest way to do something in order to avoid expending more physical or emotional effort than required to accomplish whatever it is we are faced with.  I have a feeling most of us, if given a choice, would choose an easier task rather than a difficult one simply because it seems to be our nature to do that.

Yet in this passage Paul does a very good job of removing any thoughts we might have that a life pleasing to Christ is going to be easy.  In fact, he does just the opposite by comparing the life we have chosen to three occupations that help to illustrate what will be expected of us if we are to succeed in serving our Lord in a manner that pleases Him.  Those three illustrations are of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer.

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of [this] life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. V. 3-4
When we consider the life of a soldier, one of the first things that should become apparent is that by enlisting in the army an individual is choosing to serve and obey the authority of his superiors.  In effect, a soldier dedicates himself to follow the orders of his superiors without question and ignoring anything or anyone which might interfere with that mission.  I recall once visiting a military post with a friend and recognizing someone I knew from school who was on guard duty that day.  I called out a greeting to him and was surprised when he did not even acknowledge it.  My friend explained that while on guard duty soldiers were forbidden to do anything which might distract them from their assignment to guard.

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.  Matthew 6:24  NKJV
Paul uses the example of a soldier serving to help us understand that we need to be committed to serving Christ to the point that we do not allow even the cares of this life to distract us from that service.  The question for all of us to answer is are we serving God with the sort of dedication which blocks out everything else?

And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. V. 5
I know I have mentioned before that I participated in athletics for many years, and the one sport where I had the most success was track and field.  I was fortunate enough to run the third leg of the quarter mile relay while in college on a team that, at that particular time, was considered overachievers.  The relay race, like others, has a set of rules that must be followed or you face the possibility of disqualification.  Not only must you not step on the lines of your assigned lane, you must also pass the baton within a marked zone which, if you are running as fast as you can, seems incredibly short.  When running on the curved part of the track as I did, you could actually shorten the distance you ran by running as close to the inside line as possible.  My only talent, (I was not the fastest runner on the team) was the ability to run along that inside line without touching it and getting us all disqualified.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain [it].  1 Corinthians 9:24  NKJV
Living a life that is pleasing to God requires following the rules He has set before us.  Do you discipline yourself daily to know and follow those rules or have you chosen to simply ignore the ones you find “inconvenient”?  Paul explains we must live our lives according to God’s commandments and I think you will find the world is full of those who are watching you with the hope of seeing a mistake which gets you disqualified.

The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.  V. 6
I live in an agricultural area which, according to the experts, grows some of the best timothy hay in the world.  So much so, that the vast majority of it is exported to many countries outside of the United States.  One of the things I noticed soon upon moving here is just how hard and time consuming it is to raise a crop.  Many of us are familiar with the old expression “can see to can’t see” which describes the length of the day many farmers put in.  I can tell you for a fact that in this part of the country “can see” is around 4:30 AM while “can’t see” is around 9:30 PM.  Right now the farmers are cutting and baling the first cut of hay and if you are up at those times you will find that they are already out in the fields working to get that hay in.

The lazy [man] does not roast what he took in hunting, But diligence [is] man's precious possession.  Proverbs 12:27  NKJV
Paul says that because of his diligence, the farmer is entitled to be the first to eat what he has produced.  Do we as believers approach our service for God with the same kind of diligence as a farmer does with his crop?  Do we work from daylight to dark, or do we take a little time off when we get tired or discouraged?  May we all pray for the strength to work as hard as God asks of us.

Dedication, discipline, and diligence.  Three qualities that Paul tells Timothy are necessary to be successful in a life committed to the service of our Father in heaven.  If you have made the choice to accept the gift of salvation which God has provided for us, my prayer for all of us is that we will approach our lives for Him with these three necessary qualities.

Keep watching.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Fight Club

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  Ephesians 6:10-11  NKJV

I think it is safe to say that at one time or another most all of us have experienced some sort of conflict with someone else.  Life being what it is, we as humans seem to always find someone we don’t get along with yet have to interact with for one reason or another which then leads to conflict.  The nature of the conflict may take many forms depending on the personalities of the individuals, yet I have no doubt all of us have experienced what is commonly described as a “fight”.  There was even a major motion picture released a few years ago called “The Fight Club” where individuals actually joined a club with others with the sole intention of fighting someone else.

Now while I am sure none of us really likes to fight, and most if not all of us try to avoid a fight if we can, when we study the New Testament it certainly appears that most of the writers go out of their way to prepare us for the reality that we are actually in a big one.  By choosing to believe in the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and making the commitment to live our lives according to His commands, we are entering quite literally the fight of our lives.  In this passage from his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives us detailed instructions concerning this fight, and how we are to approach and prepare ourselves for it.

One of the most important points Paul makes here is in verse eleven where he tells us that what is expected of us as believers is simply to "stand". He repeats this in verse thirteen where he tells us that after doing "everything", we stand firm. In his way, God is telling us through Paul that the only thing He expects from us is that we play defense, not offense.  In verse fourteen we are told we can stand firm if we remember those parts of God's armor we have already put on when we made the decision to follow Christ. Those were reminding ourselves of the truth of Christ in which we believe, remembering our position before God thanks to the righteousness of Christ, and resting in the peace that is ours from the knowledge of the first two which was promised to us in the gospel of Christ.

So where do we go from here? Well, in verse sixteen Paul introduces us to the most practical piece of our armor, the one that we will need to use the most, and that is the shield of faith.

above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  Ephesians 6:16  NKJV

Now personally I like this picture because to me, it really illustrates well what Satan is trying to do to us as believers, and the way he tries to attack. First of all, an arrow is not all that large, and if one is coming straight at you I expect it is pretty hard to see. Second, I have watched people shoot arrows with the compound bows used today and I can tell you for a fact that those arrows fly very, very fast. Third, they are pretty quiet as well. You can look at an arrow as the first of the stealth weapons, because the first time you will probably hear them is when they hit you, and obviously by then it's too late to do anything about it. Fourth, and even more important is the kind of arrow Satan uses. It's not your everyday arrow, but a flaming arrow which not only wounds you, but starts a fire that will continue to burn until put out.

As a result, God tells us that we need to take up the shield of faith. Hopefully like me, you have had the opportunity to watch a movie that illustrates the use of a shield to defend against an attack by arrows. I know I have seen a few that have done a great job showing what it must have been like to be in a battle like that. You have an army marching forward, carrying their shields which are almost as big as they are tall, and the opposing army launching their arrows. As soon as they fire, their opponents kneel down and hide behind their shields as thousands of arrows fall from the sky. As the attacking army continues to fire their arrows, the defending army simply waits behind their shields until the advancing army is out of arrows, and then they begin their attack. God tells us something in verse sixteen that I think is very critical for us to remember. He says that if we take up the shield of faith we WILL be able to "extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one." Not some, ALL. That is the sort of reassurance we as believers all need to remind ourselves of daily.

Since we know we can win with God's help, it is also important to understand what these arrows will look like so we can recognize the "stealth" attack by Satan. I think the clue is in how God describes them when He says they are "flaming". Obviously a flaming arrow will start a fire, which then burns until put out. How does Satan "burn" us inside? I think these arrows will have two characteristics no matter what form they may come in. Remember they are coming from Satan, and we already know his method of attack. Satan wants us to doubt the truth from God in which we have believed, so first of all these flaming arrows will come out of our own thoughts. It's a sneak attack that seems to come from nowhere when we begin to doubt what we believe in.

Secondly, they will attack our position in Christ, the faith in Him that we have, which has already been described in the first pieces of armor we put on. You see, the key to overcoming a good defense is to first create doubt in the mind of your opponent that he is capable of defending himself. That works in any sport you can think of, as well as our fight against Satan.

Most important to us, though, is to understand the difference between what we believe, and the shield of "faith" which we are instructed to take up. What is faith? The best answer I can give you is faith is "acting" on your belief. You see, belief is one thing, but making decisions, taking action, demonstrating your belief in what you do is faith. Faith is always action. I can say I believe that the airplane will fly, but unless I get on board I won't be demonstrating faith. The fact that you may have doubts proves that you have faith. So apply your belief to everything, every situation you find yourself in, and you will be demonstrating faith and defeating Satan and his arrows. We need to be "active" believers, Christians DOING not just believing. Ever notice how the defensive players in football are always moving around just before the snap? That's what we need to be as believers, moving targets that make it harder for Satan to hit.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  James 4:7  NKJV

This verse tells us that if we "resist the devil", (another way of saying take up the shield of faith and act), the devil "will flee from you". We can win this battle. God has not only told us how, but given us the tools. We only need to follow His instructions to be successful in our fight. But the best part of all is the understanding that we only have to play defense.  

Keep watching.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Do You Really Love Him?

"If you love Me, keep My commandments.                       John 14:15  NKJV
Most of us have, at one time or another experienced the joy that comes from knowing someone loves us.  I am equally sure that most of us would agree that there is no greater feeling than to know someone cares about us in a loving way.  Just this weekend I was doing some house cleaning and came upon an envelope in which I had placed many of the little notes that I received over the years from all three of my daughters.  The notes were written on different occasions, mostly when I had to travel for different reasons, but they all had one thing in common and that was that they all expressed their love for me.

As I sat and thought about those years, I began to remember all the little things that they had done as they were growing up in order to show their love for me.  Some were big, some were small, but the one thing they all had in common was that whatever it was, it was demonstrative.  In other words, they were not content to just say they loved me, but rather they wanted to show me they did by doing something they knew I would enjoy.  I think it would be fair to say we would all agree that when we truly love someone it is a natural desire to want to do something in order to show that person just how much we care.  It also stands to reason that we would seek to know the person well enough to give them something we know they would want and enjoy.

Obviously as believers we should have the desire to demonstrate our love for our Heavenly Father in ways that we know would please Him.  In the passage above from the book of John, Jesus tells us just what God wants from those who claim to love Him, and that is obedience to His Word.  In this chapter, as well as the next, Jesus repeatedly explains that what God wants most, and expects, is that those who claim to love Him follow His commandments.
"He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." John 14:21  NKJV

Jesus makes it clear that the proof of our love for the Father is the desire to please Him by knowing and following His commandments.  So how logical does it seem that many today believe the greatest threat to the Church is the attack on the authority of the Scriptures?  It should come as no surprise considering we are shown exactly how Satan works by looking at what happened in the Garden of Eden.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; "but of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' "Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die.                             Genesis 3:1-4  NKJV

In other words, God said it, but He really didn’t mean it?  How often today do we hear those same words or something similar when the Word of God commands a certain course of action which the world may find objectionable?  More and more today we see examples of the Church compromising on certain commandments we find in the Word in order to be “politically correct”.  As believers though, the question the Church should be asking is simply this; “do you really love Him”?  If you truly love someone your concern is how best to show them your love in a way that they would appreciate.  When it comes to our relationship with God, He has already made it clear how best to please Him.
"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.                                  John 15:10  NKJV

I think the key word in this passage, and the answer to how best know what God expects is contained in the word “abide”.  In the Greek the word is meno which means to sojourn, abide in or tarry, or continue to be present.  In other words, by striving to keep God’s commandments we are pleasing Him, and as a result are able to live our lives in a relationship with our Father in which He can manifest His love for us just as we do for Him.  I like how David describes the relationship we can have with our Father if we seek to please Him in this way.
ALEPH. Blessed [are] the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed [are] those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways. You have commanded [us] To keep Your precepts diligently. Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes! Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commandments.              Psalms 119:1-6  NKJV

Do you really love Him?  Are you trying to please Him, or please yourself?  You see, that is what it really all comes down to.  We either do what we know is pleasing to God, or we choose to do what pleases us.  My daughters looked for ways to make me happy, either by writing little notes or doing things for me they knew I would like.  That was their way of showing me they loved me.  Are you looking for ways to show God you love Him?  You do that by studying His Word and keeping His commandments.
"But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?         Luke 6:46  NKJV

Keep watching.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Enemy Within

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.                                 Jude 1:3-4, 8  NKJV

I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before, but one of the more interesting things that has happened to me quite often in the past few years is that after I post on Sunday I find that many others have written about the exact same subject as I have.  Now as often as this has happened, I have come to the conclusion that this is not a coincidence but rather the working of the Holy Spirit who is communicating what concerns Him to all who will listen.  This week the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me about the state of the church, and, for lack of a better expression, the “dumbing down” of the gospel as more and more believers choose to compromise on the laws God has clearly laid out for us to obey.

Something I have often wondered when studying scripture, especially the New Testament, is the possibility that the closer we get to the book of Revelation, we are getting specific advice addressed to those who live in the time closest to the fulfillment of those prophecies. Now understand, I fully believe that as the Bible says; all scripture is “profitable”, but I can't help but wonder as I read the book of Jude, which we find right before the book of Revelation, is that Jude speaking about the time which immediately precedes the tribulation? Are we being told something we really need to hear and understand? Is Jude describing what life will be like immediately before Christ returns for His church?
In his book, Jude warns us specifically that the time will come where the greatest danger to the church will come not from the outside, where the danger has historically been, but rather from the inside by way of those who profess to believe but reject the authority of scripture.  I think Jude describes them well in verse eight where his description of them shows they have a blatant, arrogant irreverence to the Word of God.  As difficult as this might seem to many of us, you don’t need to look very far at all to see this very thing happening all around us today.  I wrote about this a couple of years ago and want to revisit that post with a few additions in the hope that you will not only find something of use to grow in your faith, but also have the courage to examine yourselves in light of the message from Jude.

When my children were small, I can remember times when I especially wanted to make a point I would say something like “you really, really, really, need to listen to me now!” Have you ever used that type of language to get someone's attention? This is exactly what I thought of when I first read this verse from Jude. So as always, the first thing I did was do a word search trying to understand exactly what point Jude was trying to make here. The words that stood out to me were “exhort” and “earnestly contend”.

Exhort: parakaleō... to beg, entreat, beseech

Earnestly contend: epagōnizomai...two words, epi and agōnizomai which used together means to take a deep breath, to endeavour with strenuous zeal, strive: to obtain something.

Now I don't know about you, but when I had to “exhort” my children to do something, it was because whatever I asked them to do in a normal tone of voice wasn't getting done. So the result was resorting to other methods of persuasion in order to convince them of the necessity of performing the task given to them. The subject in this passage is obviously sharing the gospel message with an unbelieving world, and apparently we are being told that first of all, Jude had to resort to “exhorting” believers to do this. What a sad commentary of the times when believers for whatever reason need to be “begged” to share the gospel!

I think most of us understand that the natural reaction of the body before attempting to perform a strenuous task is to take a deep breath. Unfortunately for me, as I get older I notice myself taking deep breaths before doing just about anything! But I think you understand what Jude is trying to say here. The time has apparently come where sharing the gospel is a difficult, strenuous undertaking, and believers are obviously becoming hesitant to share their faith with an unbelieving world! So a situation has appeared where Jude must resort to begging believers to perform their responsibility to share the gospel because it has become a difficult, if not discouraging thing to try and do.

Last week God used a situation in my life to illustrate this passage to me in a way that even I could understand. I have mentioned before that I like to fish, and although not very good at it, fishing is the sort of sport where you don't necessarily have to be successful to enjoy it. Fortunately for me I have a good friend who is very good at it, and likes to take me along with him in his boat and show me the right way to do it. ( I actually think he takes me along so he can laugh but that's another story. ) So there we were trying to catch bass during spawning season and while he was pounding them I was getting skunked.

After awhile he asked me exactly how was I retrieving my lure? I thought that was a funny question because don't you just throw it out there and pull it back? His answer was that during the spawn, the fish are on the bottom guarding their nests, and in order to get a strike I needed to let the lure go to the bottom and drag it along so the bass considered it a threat. Now my answer was that was a good way to snag and lose a good lure, but his answer was if I fished where the fish weren't, I wasn't going to catch anything anyway.

So admitting to myself he knew what he was talking about, I tossed my lure out and began to drag it across the bottom, and wouldn't you know it, first cast and bang! In fact, guess who caught the most fish? That's right, he did, but I was a close second. The point God made to me was this; how often do we continue to try and share the gospel in a way that seems “safe” to us? If it becomes difficult do we take a deep breath and do what needs to be done, or do we retreat and put ourselves in a position where God must “exhort” us to do what He needs us to do?

Now more than ever, we see the world becoming hostile towards the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rejection, scorn, and even persecution are the orders of the day when trying to spread the good news. Many are becoming discouraged with all that life is throwing at us right now, and how easy it is in circumstances like these that we tend to retreat rather than press on. Jude gives all believers what I would call an “attitude check” in this passage. What exactly is your mindset right now as the world approaches the return of Christ for His church? Are the difficulties causing you to back off, or become more aggressive? God, through His servant Jude, gives us the direction and advice we need as believers living in these troubled times.  I think it is no coincidence that in the book of Revelation, the church at Laodicea, which is a description of the church which will exist just before the tribulation begins, is described as "lukewarm".  What a perfect description of a church that believes you can compromise on the authority of scripture.

I believe we as a body need to look in the mirror and examine our own faith by asking three questions based on this message from Jude.  One, do I submit to the Word of God?  Two, do I respect the authority of Scripture?  Three, am I humble and teachable?  Our goal is to take a deep breath and press on with the knowledge that very, very soon we will have our reward. The easy path when confronted by those who would challenge the authority of God’s Word is to compromise in order to avoid conflict and escape persecution.  The hardest part of the race comes just before the finish line.  As we approach our deliverance from this world may we “contend earnestly” in sharing the Word of God in love with those who would challenge the authority of His Word.

Keep watching.

 PS.  Like I said, write about a subject and the next thing you know you find someone else doing the same thing.  I just found this article concerning the subject of the greatest challenge facing the Church today written by Albert Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.