Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Putting Sin to Death: 6 Practical Steps

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)

Some of you will be shocked to learn that I had an addiction to pornography for nearly 30 years. There are a number of causes which kept me from putting that sin to death, but I won’t focus on those causes now. The only reason I have brought it up is to encourage those who are struggling by letting them know that I know their battle and that Jesus has shown me a way out. Rather than dwell on my sin, I want to show you that through the power of Jesus, you can put your sins to death as well.

You can’t put one over on God.

Before I start, I want you to understand a few things. The first one is to dispel any thought you might have about whether or not God sees your sins and hates them. If you claim to be Christian, then I shouldn’t have to go into any detail about this. First, God hates sin enough to send His only begotten Son to die in order to get rid of them. Second, you can’t put one over on God. He knows about your sins. ALL OF THEM.

If you keep your sins secret, you will continue to commit them.

If someone is watching you and holding you accountable before God, you will find a way to either hide them better or deal with them honestly. I struggled a dozen years longer than I needed to and lost a great deal more than I might have, because I found new ways of hiding my sins from those who were aware of them and who were willing to help me overcome them. Instead, I distanced myself from those people and continued my sins in secret.

Jesus will not allow any of His own to perish.

I do not glory in the fact that I was able to turn my life around. I glory only in the fact that Jesus would not let go of me and let me slip away. In His prayer for His disciples, Jesus repeats the phrase, “who you gave me,” (or a variation of the phrase) more than a dozen times. Through this, we are to understand that our faith is not something that we’ve chosen for ourselves, but something that God has ordained for us and something that will be perfected at some point.

What struck home the most is in John 17:12 Jesus said, “Those whom You gave me, I have kept…” Brothers and sisters, if Jesus is still after you to put away your sins, if He is still hounding you, bothering you, convicting you and making things tough for you, it is because He is committed to keeping you. Celebrate that patient grace by repenting and turning back to Him.

Putting your sins to death is simple, but not easy.

We are not without help for dealing with our sins. With Jesus Christ living within us, we have the power to mortify or put them to death. The process is simple, but its application is not easy. Applying these steps to your life requires a daily, hourly, and at times, a “by the minute” commitment to your faith in Jesus. When you have become serious about putting your sins to death, you will do it, and the strength you have in Jesus will increase in order to put them behind you.

Steps for Putting Your Sins to Death

Putting sins to death involves nipping it in the bud. You have to stop them at their moment of conception. If you do not learn to do that, temptation can rapidly advance past what little control you have. These steps are a systematic approach to eliminating ongoing sins in your life. I’ll give them to you in brief form and then discuss each individually.

·         Rebuke Satan
·         Flee from temptation.
·         Flee to Jesus.
·         Repent.
·         Accept forgiveness.
·         Focus on Jesus.

If you want to use the RFFRAF acronym, that’s fine. The important thing is to arm yourself with this tool and remain at the ready to use it when the moment of temptation comes.

Rebuke Satan

We are engaged in a spiritual battle that goes well beyond what we understand. As Paul points out, in Ephesians 6:12, we “do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Jesus demonstrated this on several occasions when He used the phrase, “Get behind me, Satan.” (Luke 4:8, Mark 8:33, and Matthew 16:23) You were not left to battle it out with Satan on your own, you were given the power of the Holy Spirit to use in this battle.

The moment you feel temptation come upon you, the moment you are tempted to watch an erotic video, take a drink, pop a pill or indulge in whatever sin you face, you must bind Satan through the power of Jesus. “Satan, in the name of Jesus, get behind me.”

Flee from Temptation

Brothers and sisters, if you bind Satan and then hang around to see if He gets loose, you won’t accomplish anything. Basically, what he’ll do is convince you that it’s okay to untie him. It is essential that you flee from the situation. You cannot bind Satan and keep playing the porn video. You cannot bind Satan and twist off the cap of the bottle. You have to physically and mentally remove yourself away from the situation you are in.

I have been tempted by seeing a shapely woman walk down the street, on a billboard or in a television commercial. I had to learn to change the channel, take a different route or turn my eyes away. Sometimes, I had to turn away or remove myself several times in the space of a few minutes, because I was fleeing a little way and then looking back over my shoulder. (Consider Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt in Genesis 19:26)

Flee to Jesus

You can’t really flee from someone or something unless you have somewhere or someone to flee to. Even a secular counselor will advise their clients to flee to something that draws their minds away from the situation that they are in. As Christians, we have the most powerful advocate and protector in all of creation to flee to. Put your mind on Jesus. Put your mind on His holiness. Put your mind on His righteousness. Put your mind on His desire for you to have good things in Him. When you do that, you’ll not only have gotten away from the situation, but you’ll have placed yourself in a new frame of mind. (He is my refuge and my fortress in Psalm 91)


“It was Satan’s fault that I was tempted, right?” Wrong. It was your fault for not arming yourself against Satan’s attack and allowing him an opportunity to attack you. It was your fault for not mortifying your sins. It is the sinfulness that still lingers in you that is causing you to be led into temptation. Repent of your weakness of faith. Repent for having that moment when you actually considered listening to Satan. Repent of your desire to continue to have that which is sinful. (If we claim we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. 1 John 1:8)

Accept Forgiveness

Repentance has no legs if you don’t accept Jesus’ forgiveness. Lingering in repentance, lingering in how bad you are, lingering in self pity and continuing to wallow in those things is an affront to Jesus’ grace. Besides being an insult to your savior, not accepting your forgiveness in Him, opens you up to Satan’s lies and further temptation. If you don’t accept your forgiveness in Jesus, Satan will continue to point out how wicked you are and how hopeless things are for you. Before you know it, he’ll say, “You already screwed up, you might as well go ahead and…” Accept the forgiveness for which Jesus died in order to give you. (If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins. 1 John 1:9)

Focus on Jesus

Accepting your forgiveness should lead you to focus on Jesus. Your first thoughts ought to be thankfulness to Him that He has the power to work through you to bring you to righteousness. You should not be congratulating yourself because you did not fall to temptation. It is critical that you recognize that it is Jesus who is binding Satan, providing a place for you to flee to, granting you forgiveness and winning the battle within you. Turn your focus to Him and rededicate yourself to a daily walk with Him and to strengthening yourself through His Word and through prayer. Pray that He will increase your desire after His righteousness and increase your love for His Spirit living within you. (Think on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. Philippians 4:8)

Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.

I am going to give you a warning. This is not going to be a McDonald’s solution. You won’t be able to order this remedy at one place and then pick it up at the next, having your sin put behind you. This solution will be more like a slow smoked rack of ribs. You might have to repeat this process several times in a day, several times in an hour or several times within a few minutes before Satan begins to flee from you (James 4:7). In fact, more than likely, you will have to commit yourself to doing this for the rest of your life on earth, but it will have some lasting effects on you if you let it. Here are just a few of them:

·         Sharpens your ability to recognize temptation.
·         Makes you dependent upon grace.
·         Makes you more grateful toward Jesus.
·         Causes you to see how powerful Jesus’ Spirit living within you really can be.
·         Puts your focus on the great worthiness of the Lamb of God.


I did not deliver myself out of my sins. Only Jesus can do that, but He is faithful in doing that, if we, as Christians, surrender to His Spirit living inside of us. Though we continue to fight the “wickedness of this age,” we are not left alone to fight it in our own strength. When we get ourselves out of the way, resist Satan, and allow Him to do His work, Jesus destroys our sins, and in so doing, destroys His enemies.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Coming February 7, 2017

My sister, Karen and I are wrapping up a project that we've been working on for several month. I'm thrilled to bring attention and glory to Our Holy Lamb and equally thrilled to share the graphic interpretations of biblical truths, which Karen has provided. Look for the release of Our Holy Lamb on February 7th, 2017 and add Lifting the Fleece to your email so you don't miss any updates. May Jesus be glorified in you.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Keep Your Butt Behind You!

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14

Some of you knew my Dad and Grandpa. They were kind, selfless men who were amiable and generous to anyone and everyone around them. They weren’t just that way out in public, they were that way at home too, but they were also very focused when it came to getting a day’s work done. They could be a little harsh with their intensity on occasion, but even in their harshness, they were teaching us to be better men. One phrase that I can recall hearing on several occasions was, “Keep your butt behind you!”

What does it mean to keep your butt behind you?

As a youth, I never fully understood what that phrase had to do with using particular tools or welding or any of the hundreds of other physical tasks that we were taught, but they did make me pause, listen to their instruction and learn how to do things right. I accomplished those tasks because I kept my butt behind me. So, what does it mean? In essence, it means to stop trying to rush ahead and force things to happen. In the case of using tools, that meant allowing the tool to work the way it was meant to work.

“Keep your butt behind you” is a call to steadfastness of purpose.

The main issue involved in keeping my butt behind me as a boy had to do with a youthful tendency to not focus on the task at hand. Physically, it was learning to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground and staying in a steady position with a solid foundation underneath me. A beloved football coach used to have a similar term that he used, “Keep your pins under you!” In both cases, the focus was on keeping a strong base underneath me. Those lessons reach far beyond ranch work and football.

Focusing on the Upward Call

The apostle Paul is giving us a similar word of guidance in Philippians 3:12-14. In essence, he said, “I’m not perfect, but I keep trying. I haven’t learned or understood everything, but I keep seeking.” In spite of the fact that he wasn’t perfect, Paul knew where to keep his focus. He kept it “on the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He knew that his foundation was found in keeping things behind him in their place and moving forward toward the prize ahead of him. Hebrews 12:1 & 2 echo what Paul wrote:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus is our greatest example

The writer of Hebrews reflects the steadfastness of Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. In spite of what He endured, Jesus didn’t look behind Him, didn’t glance to the right or to the left, but remained singularly focused on doing the work that was before Him. He had all of the power of God in Him. He could have swept over the earth conquering the whole world, but that would not have accomplished His purpose. Jesus kept His butt behind Him. He held fast to His foundation and focused on His work.

Christians are struggling

All across the world, Christians are struggling in various forms. I have spoken to many individuals who are struggling with their faith as they face numerous difficulties. I have gone through some pretty tough struggles myself. Though these things are not uncommon, I believe that I’m seeing a pattern taking place. Our struggles have to do with balancing out what we see going on in our chaotic world and what to do with our faith.

Christians are being called out

I believe that Christians are being called out by God. When I use the term “called out,” I mean it in two ways. One of them is that we are feeling the labor pains that were prophesied and we’re being led toward going home. The other is best described by the showdown scene of a Western movie, “I’m callin’ you out!” That meaning is in order to prepare us for whatever we must endure ahead of us. In essence, Jesus is asking us to show what we’re made of; He’s asking us to find our foundation and set our feet firmly upon it.

Christians need to keep their butts behind them

The examples and exhortations that we have from Jesus and from the scriptures tell us to stand fast in our faith. Joshua made a similar call to the Israelites in Joshua 24:15, “choose ye this day whom you will serve.” The days of playing church and playing at religion are falling away. We ought to be praising God for that, because it will get rid of the crap that weighs us down and ensnares us. We need to lay those things aside and focus on the UPWARD CALL.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Recognizing Deception

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” – Matthew 7:15-20

I learned much of what I needed to know about false prophets from Hanna Barbera cartoons on Saturday morning. Many or my generation will recall Ralph and Sam, the sheepdog and the coyote, who punched the time clock to begin the day, battled it out, and then punched out at the end of the day. It wasn’t uncommon for Sam to dress himself as a sheep to sneak into the flock, grab himself a juicy one, take it to his den, unzip his sheep costume and prepare to eat the sheep. Often, the sheep he’d grabbed was the sheepdog dressed in a sheep costume as well.

Sometime ago, when I first started this blog, I formed an illustration in my mind, which became the focus and motto of my Lifting the Fleece blog. “Sheep don’t wear wool; they grow it.”

False Prophets Are Dressed Like Us

Jesus warned us that false prophets come to us dressed in sheep’s clothing, but inside they are ravenous wolves. In other words, false prophets look just like us. They dress like us. They walk like us. They talk like us. They sing the same hymns. They say the right words. They pray the right words. They quote the scriptures. On the inside, however, they are very different and what they DO over time reveals their true character.

The Middle East Peace Accords

The greatest example of wolves being dressed in the clothing of sheep is the Middle East Peace Accords that are taking place in Paris this week. On the surface, bringing peace between the Palestinians and Israelis seems like a noble, Christian thing to do. However, those involved and those touting it as “great strides toward peace and security,” are using it as a disguise for executing a hidden agenda (though it isn’t hidden all that well). In his case, it is extremely easy to see that this is a last ditch attempt by the UN to force a two state solution on Israel and Palestine before pro Israel leadership comes into power in the U.S.

 Political Correctness

Worldwide, there is a movement of political correctness. This movement, on the surface, has high reaching hopes that we will love one another, that we will not judge one another, that we will be tolerant and accepting of everyone, and that we’ll all live in peace and harmony. Those who espouse this movement like to remind us that Jesus was accepting and tolerant of all people. How many times have we been told that our intolerance, “Just wasn’t who we are”? Political correctness is packed full of all sorts of manipulation toward ulterior motives.

Church Led Astray

An enormous number of people in the church are being led astray by the politically correct doctrine, because love, peace and tolerance sounds like who Jesus is. Allowing people to follow what they personally believe and not questioning those believes is the Christian thing to do, right? After all, Jesus tolerated anything and everything. He even ate and drank with sinners. What would Jesus do (WWJD)? Well, He might make a whip of cords and drive the animals and money changers out of the temple while turning over their tables.

Tolerance and Jesus Don’t Belong in the Same Sentence

Jesus was far from tolerant of everyone. Jesus was singularly focused on His mission. Jesus made it very clear that He came to retrieve His lost sheep. He healed those who expressed their faith in Him. He forgave those who repented. He adamantly refuted the false teachings of the Sadducees and Pharisees, at times, with some pretty strong language. All in all, Jesus was singularly focused on carrying out God’s will. He taught His disciples to be loving and kind, but He also taught them to not allow themselves to be led astray by false doctrine and to dispute it through the Word of God and the discernment of the Holy Spirit who would give them eyes to see and ears to hear.

You Will Know Them By Their Fruit

Jesus told us that we will know false prophets by the fruit that they bear. Their lives will reflect the words they speak, the prayers they pray and the scriptures they quote. Their lives will bear that out because their Christianity will be growing out of them rather than a garment that they can put on and take off at will.

The Vine and the Branches

Jesus illustrates very clearly, how a true believer bears fruit in John 15:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” – John 15:5-8

Those Who Abide in Jesus Bear Fruit

Consider what flows out to the branches from the vine; the sap, right? The sap flows into the branches and makes the branches produce leaves, buds, flowers and fruit. A branch can produce leaves and flowers without producing fruit. Those branches might look and smell pretty, but if they don’t bear fruit, they are pruned from the vine to make room for those which produce fruit.

Fruit Bearing Vines Have the Word Abiding in Them

Jesus words abide within those who bear fruit. His truth is within them. They don’t just speak the words, but as James points out, “they are doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” – James 1:22. Essentially, the sap of the vine (the Word) flows through us and causes us to produce fruit. What fruit do true Christians produce?

·         the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control – Galatians 5:22 & 23
·         for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. – Ephesians 5:9
·         the humble, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and who rejoice in heaven. – Matthew 5:3-12

Throughout the gospels, Jesus follows up on the concept of fruit bearing as a sign that a person is truly bearing “fruit worthy of repentance.” – Matthew 3:8


The difficulty of discerning who is a false prophet and who “bears fruit worthy of repentance,” is not an easy task. It is not as difficult for someone who abides in the Word of God and who fellowships with Jesus daily. Even repentant Christians go through times when they aren’t very fruitful, but at some point, they will return to producing fruit if Jesus truly abides in them. How do we discern?

·         Seeking the whole counsel of God. Abiding in the Word, studying, learning and applying it to our lives.
·         Praying that a person’s fruit will be revealed.
·         Surrounding ourselves with other believers who might bear witness to the fruit of the other person.

The Importance of Reproof and Correction

Jesus brought the fruit of the Sadducees and Pharisees into clear focus by rebuking and correcting their error. In some cases, these individuals fought back and even sought to kill Him, but in others, they received their correction with humility, their eyes were open and they were made to bear new fruit. Paul writes to Timothy that:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17

May we be diligent in revealing God’s truth even in the midst of the persecution of our age, because through it, we will come to clearly discern the sheep from the wolves.


It used to be more common to put on our best clothes, Our Sunday Clothes, but that isn’t as common any more. Instead of clothing, false prophets tend to play church when they’re in the spotlight and everyone can see them, but they present something totally different in secret. In truth, only Jesus knows the true state of our spirit or anyone else’s, but He will bring a person’s fruit to life when we seek His discernment in the Word and hold fast to the eternal truth of Jesus.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Is Jesus Coming Back in 2017?

"Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." – Luke 21:36

One More Night with the Frogs

I find it extremely intriguing and have often wondered at a particular conversation that took place between Moses and Pharaoh in Exodus 8:8-10. With frogs in the palace and in every house in Egypt, Pharaoh called Moses in and pleaded with him to intercede for him with God and send the frogs back into the river. Moses, said, paraphrasing, “When do you want this to happen?” Pharaoh’s response was, “Tomorrow.” Tomorrow? Seriously? Why tomorrow? Why not right now? Why spend another night with the frogs? I feel the same way when I look forward to the return of Jesus. I don’t want to wait until tomorrow. I’d just as soon it happened right now! I hope I don’t even finish writing this post.

Is Jesus Coming Back in 2017?

I can unequivocally respond with yes/no/maybe. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the time is ripe for Jesus’ return. There is evidence that some events have yet to transpire before Jesus’ return. There is no way that anyone can rule out either possibility.

Yes, Jesus Is Coming Back in 2017

There is evidence that make Jesus’ return in 2017 very possible:

·         From September of 2016 to September of 2017 is a Year of Jubilee. The Year of Jubilee was a year that took place every 50 years. Among other things that took place in a jubilee year, land was returned to its original owners. The idea was that the clock was to be reset and things were to be restored to the way they were before. During the last Year of Jubilee, Israel regained control of Jerusalem, which had been lost to them since the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in 70 AD.
·         Astronomical (not astrological) signs point to it. Before you get up in arms, remember that in the first chapter of Genesis, God set up the stars “for signs and seasons.” The Star of Bethlehem is one instance of an astronomical sign that everyone is familiar with. Christian astronomers have recognized a sign that is to appear throughout 2017 and culminate in September, which follows Revelation 12 to the letter. I won’t go into detail, but it is a fascinating sign that you should check out at 23 September 2017. (Please do not freak out on me, it’s just a possibility to consider.)
·         70 years since Israel was restored as a nation. Many or you will immediately bring up that Israel didn’t officially become a nation until May of 1948. Though, officially, that is true, the declaration for the establishment of Israel came on November 30, 1947. The moment that decision was announced, five nations rose up to invade Israel and prevent it from being returned to the Jewish people. Ezekiel’s prophesy of the dry bones was fulfilled when an Israelite army sprang up, seemingly out of nowhere,  and began to defend its land in response to that invasion, which culminated with the state of Israel being established in May of 1948.
·         70 nations of the UN meeting to divide Israel on January 15, 2017. Two days from now, this meeting will convene in Paris. It is quite possible that this will be the last straw in God’s patience. Consider Psalm 2… “Why do the nations rage and plot a vain thing? He who sits in heaven will laugh at them… Then He will speak to them in His anger… I have set My King on My Holy hill in Zion!”

No, Jesus Is Not Coming Back in 2017

There is evidence that Jesus is not going to come back in 2017 as well. Though I believe that Revelation has mostly been fulfilled before 70 AD, I also believe that God will deal with the nation of Israel and the church through a period of tribulation. I believe this because I believe that what happened at the end of the Jewish age in 70 AD was a prototype of what will happen at the end of ALL time. Though things have gotten bad, I don’t know that we’ve seen that sort of tribulation to this point. The attempt to divide Israel, the overwhelming support the evangelical community provided for Trump and the enormous battle for a One World Order on the world stage are really just getting started, in my opinion.

Maybe, Jesus Is Coming Back in 2017

In His discourse on the Mount of Olives in chapter 24 of Matthew, chapter 13 in Mark and chapter 21 in Luke, Jesus warned His disciples that when the armies began to invade Jerusalem not to go to Jerusalem. The normal course of action in that day was to flea to the citadel for protection. 1.1 million Jews who had fled to Jerusalem, according to Josephus, the historian, were killed by the Roman siege and destruction of the city. Christians escaped that siege because they were obedient to that warning of Jesus. Will Christians be removed from the coming destruction? It is a possibility.

The Alamo or a Great Revival

There came a point when Santa Anna’s army had surrounded the Alamo mission in Texas when Colonel Travis called all of the men who were in the Alamo together and explained the situation to them. If they stayed, they would buy more time for Sam Houston to put together the necessary troops to drive Santa Anna out of Texas. Travis made it clear that staying meant that every one of them would die. Reportedly, he drew a line in the sand and asked those who would stay to step across that line. We know they stayed.

What does that have to do with Jesus coming back in 2017? I think Christians are surrounded and besieged on every side. We are at a point where a line is being drawn in the sand and we’re going to have to decide whether or not we’re going to step across that line. Stepping across that line might mean bringing extreme persecution down on our heads or there is another possibility. And that’s what makes me want to give the answer “maybe” to whether or not Jesus is coming back in 2017.

Unlike Travis and the men who stayed to fight in the Alamo, Christians face the possibility that by making our stand we might actually win. Christians all over the world have risen up against the New World Order. Christians have begun to take a stand and proclaim with great boldness that Jesus Christ is Lord! Instead of this being the end, this could be an opportunity for the greatest revival that has ever taken place in history. Imagine it! It gives me goose bumps to think of something like a Pentecost happening all over the world, today! The only thing better would be heaven itself.

The Parable of the Virgins

Regardless of whether you answer yes, no or maybe to the question of Jesus returning in 2017, I think there is a parable that ought to come to the forefront of the mind of every Christian. This parable comes from Matthew 25. Keep in mind that this came after Jesus discourse on the Mount of Olives in which He answered the disciples questions about His return.

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 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.’

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” – Matthew 25:1-13

To understand this parable, you must understand that Jesus has used the illustration of the bride and the wedding to talk about His relationship with the church. Marriage in the time when Jesus said this to His disciples was composed of three phases:

·         Contract or betrothal. In which the promise of marriage was agreed upon.
·         Consummation. This occurred when the groom came and took the bride into her chamber or tent and consummated their union.
·         Celebration. The wedding procession left the place where the consummation took place and went to the house of the groom’s father for the seven day wedding feast.

The time of the first phase was indefinite. It basically lasted until whatever was agreed upon in the contract was fulfilled. Check out Genesis 29 for the best illustration of this.

Jesus signed the contract for our betrothal with the sending of His Holy Spirit as His seal. We are only waiting for Him to return in order to consummate the marriage.

Keep Plenty of Oil for Your Lamp

Just like the virgins in the parable, we can be certain that the groom is coming soon. We can wait with eager anticipation that eminent return, but we must have plenty of oil for our lamps. The error the five virgins made was to think that it was so close that they had plenty of oil and were forced to go buy more oil. While they were gone to buy oil the groom came and they were left behind.

Personally, I don’t want to spend another night with the frogs. I would much rather meet Jesus in the air right now. Jesus may or may not come for us in 2017. The only safe place to land in all of this is to keep watch, do not be misguided and keep plenty of oil on hand for your lamp, just in case He’s delayed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Were the women of the bible heroes too?

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” – 1 John 3:2

One of the neat things about the bible is that it is a complete book. What I mean by that is that the one central theme, which has been called the scarlet thread, runs throughout it. That scarlet thread points to, magnifies, brings attention to, prophesies about, testifies of and directs us toward Jesus. The bible and the history of faith is like a mirror as well. Believers in the Old Testament looked forward to the coming Messiah through faith, much as we look back toward Jesus paying the ultimate sacrifice. Thus, to look for an example of how to live by faith, we can look back on the faith of those great Old Testament heroes.

Were there women of the bible who were heroes too?

When we look at heroes in the Old Testament, names like Abraham, Joseph, Noah, Gideon, David, Joshua and Daniel certainly spring up, but what about the women of the bible? Were there women of the bible who were heroes too? There were indeed. In fact, the scarlet thread that I mentioned earlier is a reference the actions of a woman of faith named Rahab, who gave protection to the Israelite spies who had come into Jericho; letting them down in a basket outside the wall so they could go back and make their report to Joshua (Joshua 2). In order that she would not be harmed, a scarlet thread or chord was placed in her window so that she and her household would be known to the attacking army. Her faith was her salvation and an example to us.

Why draw attention to the women of the bible?

What’s the big deal? Why draw attention to the women of the bible? After all, in Galatians 3:28, didn’t the apostle Paul write that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus?” (emphasis added). I am not refuting that message of Paul. In truth, both and men and women are to be encouraged, instructed, rebuked, corrected and raised up in their faith through the scriptures equally. Both men and women can be encouraged by the great “heroes of the faith” in Hebrews 11.

Women of the bible are a shining example to girls and young women.

In an age of Lady Gaga, girls and young women need the example of women of the bible. Girls, young women and older women as well need to be aware that they are not limited in their faith and how they can also reflect the image of Jesus in their lives through their actions just like the women of the bible did; women like:

·         Rahab (Joshua 2)
·         Rachel (Genesis 29)
·         Deborah (Judges 4 &5)
·         Ruth (Ruth)
·         Abigail (1 Samuel 25)
·         Esther (Esther)
·         Hannah (1 Samuel 1)

These are only a few examples of the women of the bible who have a significant impact when it comes to reflecting the faith of the “cloud of witnesses” referred to in Hebrews 12. Five of those women have been highlighted in a series by Erin Weidemann called Bible Belles. If you have daughters, granddaughters, nieces or young friends that you believe might benefit from the encouragement of these women of the bible, check out this short video.

Our greatest calling is to be like our Lord Jesus in every way, even girls and young women. Having women of the bible to look up to as heroes; women who demonstrate what it means to live by faith, can be a great encouragement. Believe it or not, the women of the bible can also be an encouragement to men. Reflect your faith in Jesus in every way. If you have an opportunity to pass that on to a girl or young woman, do it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Christianity Is Drifting

“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1&2

Christianity, in general, is drifting. It has been drifting for quite some time, but it is far out at sea with no land in sight at this point. Why would I make such a claim? I make that claim because of several tendencies of those who confess to be Christians. Those tendencies are:

·         Lukewarm attention toward Jesus.
·         Inability to speak the name of Jesus.
·         Failure to focus solely on Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith.

The time is already upon us that those who are the true sheep of His fold will be called out by Him. They will receive His rebuke, repent and turn to following their shepherd.

Lukewarm toward Jesus

 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” – Revelations 3:15 & 16

This is a warning to the Lukewarm Christians. These are Christians who are on fire for Christianity on Sunday morning, maybe Wednesday night and during special church programs, but are cold toward Jesus throughout the week. The result of that sort of living makes them lukewarm. He who sits on the throne would rather those Christians were hot or cold.

God showed us the manner in which He wants us to commune with Him when He provided the manna and quail for the people of Israel in the desert (Exodus 16). God might have provided those things once a week. He might have provided them on Sunday mornings only or He might have provided them on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. That’s not what He did.

We are to eat of the manna daily. We are to eat of the Bread of Heaven daily. We are to commune with Jesus daily. If you are not in the word and in prayer daily, then you are lukewarm and you will be vomited out of God’s mouth.

Inability to Speak the Name of Jesus 

“This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:11 & 12

The power for salvation is in the name of Jesus. If you’ll read through the book of Acts, you’ll see a phrase that is used over and over again “in the name of Jesus.” Take a look:

·         For the remission of sins in Acts 2:38
·         The lame walk in Acts 3:6
·         Salvation in Acts 4:10
·         The name of Jesus is forbidden in Acts 4:18
·         Healing in Acts 4:30
·         Baptized in the name of Jesus in Acts 8:12 and 8:16
·         Preaching in the name of Jesus in Acts 9:27
·         Disputed the Greeks with the name of Jesus in Acts 9:29
·         Risked their lives in the name of Jesus in Acts 15:26

In total, there are 18 direct references to this phrase in the book of Acts, which is more than half of the references throughout the New Testament. What was recorded in Acts was the most powerful period in the history of the church. The disciples going forth and preaching, baptizing and healing in the name of Jesus was so much of a threat that the name of Jesus was forbidden.

I’ve been as bad as or worse than anyone else. For a very long time I was afraid to speak the name of Jesus. I would use every other name that He has. I would speak of God, Christ, the Lord, the Savior, the Messiah, the Good Shepherd, etc., but for some reason, speaking the name of Jesus was very difficult. I got over that fear and began to watch my life change.

Christians, listen! There is power in the name of Jesus. Speak His name boldly. Stop avoiding it. Yes, all of those other names are who He is, but the name of Jesus has special significance and power behind it. Call your brother, Jesus, by name. Speak of Him boldly.

 Failure to Focus Solely on Jesus

 “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” – Hebrews 12:1&2

If you’re putting your faith in your job, in your bank account, in your pension check, in Trump, in baptism, in prepping, in church, in Sunday school, in the virgin, in the mass, in the Lord’s supper, in praise and worship, in Saturday morning prayer breakfast, in your home group, in the ten commandments… I could go on and on, but I’ve made my point. If your faith is in anything apart from Jesus, IN ALL THINGS, then you are adrift.

Back when I could still lift my stiff legs, I ran hurdles. There was one thing about running hurdles that was truer than in any other even on the track; you had to keep your eyes focused straight ahead. I don’t mean mostly so, with glances through your peripheral vision to either side. If your focus wasn’t 100% on the next hurdle, you were going to wipe out.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot run this race of faith by looking behind us, to the right or to the left. We must focus our eyes straight ahead and fix them on Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith; NOTHING ELSE. Not church politics, not the youth group, not the rosary, nor any idol. We don’t NEED anything else. In fact, the time is rapidly approaching when there won’t be anything or anyone else, but Jesus to deliver us.

 Call on the name of Jesus today. Focus on Jesus today and every day. If you are to find your way back to dry land from drifting on the sea, your only hope is in Jesus. Don’t hesitate. Do it now!