2/25/09

B4N

If Jesus had had text messaging, would He have sent His followers a message with the chat acronym "B4N" before ascending into heaven? It wasn't good-bye forever, but simply "Bye for Now." There are some other texting sign-offs that might have worked: BBL (Be back later), CYL (See you later), or just L8R (Later!).

When Jesus left for heaven, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts and point us to the will and ways of Christ (John 16:14) so we will bring glory to the Father. But Jesus knew that He was coming back (John 14:3), Throughout the Church Age, Christian believers have looked to the day when Jesus will snatch His people to heaven (I Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 3:10; I Corinthians 15:50-54), but Jesus also spoke of His return to Earth, and He wanted His Jewish disciples to rest in that truth. He told His disciples to watch for His coming (Luke 21:31; I Thessalonians 5:4), and He offered some signs that would serve as birth pangs labor pains before His return (Matthew 24:8). Unfortunately, as people see each earthquake, each typhoon, each new disease, each new war, each new government dictator rise to power, they jump the gun and say Jesus is coming now! One website I read said Armageddon would take place in 2007. No, that didn’t happen. Like false labor, these pronouncements end in disappointment.

There really are only two signs that Jesus gave that are clear signs of the nearness of His return. First, Jesus said, "This gospel shall be preached in the world as a testimony to the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). According to many missions researchers, the fulfillment of this Great Commissionthe reaching of all people groups is nearly complete, and God wants His people to get involved in this great mission (Matthew 28:20).

The second sign is unfolding before our eyes, and we may see its fulfillment in our lifetime.Although Jerusalem is currently "trodden on by the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24), the Bible says that God will gather the Jews back into their land and re-establish Jerusalem as the capital city. During the "Six-Day War," the Israeli army captured the Old City (1967), and much of today's conflict in the Middle East centers on control of Jerusalem. God will fulfill Zechariah 12:2-10, and Jesus will return at the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:14) as the conquering King.

The world won't need a text message thennot even BIHR: "Behold, I have returned!"for every eye will see the Him (Revelation 1:7a). We are eager for that day, Lord Jesus!

2/18/09

How Would Jesus Counsel?

This past Christmas, as I examined Isaiah 9:6, and especially, one of the descriptives of the Messiah — “Wonderful Counselor” — I tried to imagine Jesus as a modern-day counselor. Would He pull up a chair beside me and ask probing questions? Would He listen with compassion, and then dispense wise advice? Would I go away with answers and transformed thinking? Or would He be more like a “life coach,” walking me through my goals and plans (but making sure they aligned with His own)?

“Wonderful Counselor” does not stand alone in this verse. When I thought about the other descriptive names, I saw clues about the qualities of Jesus that might relate to Him as my Counselor. He is the Mighty God. He has the power and strength to not only share wise words, but effect change in my heart. He is the Everlasting Father. His answers to my questions may not make sense to me sometimes, but then, He sees everything from an eternal perspective. He is the Prince of Peace—and I know I need a counselor who can calm my anxieties and comfort me when trials of life weigh me down.

Jesus, the Counselor, is the living Word, and He urges us to study the written Word to understand Him and the wisdom of His ways (John 5:39; Proverbs 8:17). Author and speaker Nancy Leigh DeMoss encourages women to turn to the Word of God to deal with the stresses and circumstances of life. “Counsel your heart,” she says, “according to the truth and promises of God.” Although I do not discount the need for (and effectiveness of) solid Christian counselors who use the Scriptures effectively (and my preference is Nouthetic counseling), I wonder how many of us would find the answers we seek if we would only become better students of the Word of God.

God’s counsel is authoritative and corrective (2 Timothy 3:16). As He pours out His Spirit (John 16:13a) and makes His words known, God tells us to heed His counsel and “turn” at His reproof (Proverbs 1:23). His sanctifying Word of truth (John 17:17) is also a great source of hope. We can say with the Psalmist: “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth ... my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:4-5). More and more, I choose to sit quietly with my Wonderful Counselor. His trustworthy Word gives clear direction to face the uncertainty of these days.

2/11/09

He Delights in Me!

I am the beautiful bride of Christ! Sometimes I don’t feel so beautiful when I look in the mirror, but the Bible says it is true; and I know that it is an inner work, not external beauty. I am beautiful because of the sacrifice of Jesus, applied to my heart. Because of Him, I have eternal life, but I also have beauty, worth, and purpose.

Solomon declared to his bride: “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!” (Song of Solomon 1:15 TNIV) Song of Solomon is a lovely story that reveals God’s passionate heart for His people. Commentaries suggest it is also a picture of the redemptive love of Jesus for His bride. I see this same overflowing love expressed in other places in scripture. One of my favorites is Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

All human love pales by comparison—even the wonderful love I share with my husband as we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Even the tender, quiet-but-deep love of my human father. Simply put, God thinks I am beautiful and precious, even when I am most unlovable and unlovely in my own eyes. He created me to be a unique expression of His grace. When the Father looks at me, He sees the mark of Jesus in my life. It is my responsibility to get ready for my heavenly wedding (Eph. 5:27).

How wonderful that on days when I feel like a slug and look like a toad, God still delights in me. I choose to focus on that truth instead of the lies that sometimes clang around in my brain.

2/4/09

Celebrating a President

We’ve gone from celebrating Washington’s birthday (February 22nd) and Lincoln’s birthday (February 12th)—even though Lincoln’s birthday was never a federal holiday—to Presidents Day, which is the third Monday in February. The newest trend is to celebrate additional Presidents on that day. For example, in Massachusetts, while the state officially celebrates the birth of the Revolutionary War General, Washington, the Massachusetts governor also honors presidents who come from that state: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John F. Kennedy, and Calvin Coolidge (born elsewhere but spending most of his political career there.)

For some reason, the state does not celebrate the birth of Massachusetts-born George H. W. Bush. No matter our political persuasion, the Presidency is a tough, thankless task. I did not support President Obama for office, but I wish him safety and I pray God will work in his heart (1 Timothy 2:1-2). He promised change for America, but the truth is, it’s not the change most of us want.

I wonder whether our nation will ever honor America’s 46th President, George W. Bush. He was not a perfect President; his flaws were evident because he was a highly transparent individual. He made tough, often unpopular decisions. Even his own party questioned his judgment at times. But like his father, he is an entirely caring, decent man—comfortable in his own skin—and he stayed true to himself, his family, his nation, and his God. I pray that history will deal well with this man who loves liberty and held out so much promise, yet suffered under such stress, misunderstanding, and condemnation. Thank you, Mr. President.