If Today Was Your Last Day

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

If Today Was Your Last Day

By Benjamin Vrbicek

We’ve all heard some version of the question, “If today was your last day on earth, what would you do?” The question is designed to get us thinking about what truly matters and what doesn’t.

There is a helpfulness to this question, I suppose. I certainly don’t want to spend my last day before seeing Jesus perfecting my yo-yo technique or binge-watching Dora the Explorer.

But to be frank, I find the “last day” question paralyzing. It’s overwhelming to consider all the things that could possibly be done. How does one decide what’s the most effective, impactful, God-honoring thing to do when your toes are on the precipice of eternity? How could I know if it’s better to sneak into North Korea—should it even be possible—and preach the gospel, or to track down all my unsaved friends and family so I can preach the gospel to them? Maybe I should also drain my life savings so I can give it away—but who should I give it to?

I have no idea how to answer these questions. Besides, thinking about the most effective thing to do on your last day seems to me like the silly meme that gets shared online: “Jesus is coming; look busy.”

Does being prepared for the second coming of Christ merely involve some extraordinary acts of obedience moments before he returns?

According to Jesus, it doesn’t.

What Does It Mean to Be Ready for Jesus’ Return?

In the Gospels, Jesus frequently charges his followers to stay ready for his return. One such place is Luke 12:35-48. Through a couple short parables about different kinds of servants, Jesus illustrates for his disciples what it means to be ready.

Stay Dressed for Action

In this passage—contra the logic of the “last day” question—being prepared for Jesus’ return means doing the kinds of things appropriate for your context, however ordinary and mundane they might seem. If you’re a teacher, be found grading midterms to the glory of God. If you’re a Christian who works in a factory, be found working until the whistle blows.

Jesus commands, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning” (v. 35). The literal rendering of the phrase “stay dressed for action” is, “let your loins stay girded.” Back in the day, to have your loins girded meant that a man was ready to work because he had pulled his long, flowing robe around to the front and tied it tight so that it wouldn’t interfere with action.

Read the rest here.

Fisherman, Follow Me

Photo credit: freebibleimages.org

Fisherman, Follow Me

By Pat Knight

Peter’s extroverted personality may have been responsible for his leadership as spokesman for Jesus’ select group of twelve disciples. He was a flamboyant fellow whose brusqueness created trouble for himself and for his Master. Have you ever pondered the reason Christ recruited Peter as a disciple, when He fully recognized Peter’s propensity for aggression? Though impulsive and roughly hewn on the outside, Jesus looked into Peter’s heart to identify his potential for loyalty, submission, and reliability. Jesus knew Peter would develop into a powerhouse for the Kingdom of God in the future. But first, Jesus must sand the rough edges of Peter’s personal approach, teach him tenderness and tact, and impress upon His disciple the nature of his Master’s mission on earth.

Jesus’ disciples were a varied assortment of professions and personalities. None among them were important or accomplished. God chose ordinary men to perform extraordinary feats. The most unprepared were believers God could mold and make into a useable instrument for His glory. God peers into hearts, searching for a person’s capacity to serve, obey, and to conform to His will. God’s methods have not changed over the centuries. He converts His weak children to towers of strength to promote His important assignments, as the Spirit infuses us with power and direction.

A life-long fisherman by trade, Peter was self-assertive and independent, intrigued by the authority of the man who urged, “’Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people’” (Matthew 4:19). Jesus issues the same command to all believers, encouraging us to depend on His leadership for every aspect of our lives. When questions or calamities arise, we need not scramble to find our own solutions; Jesus is our close companion, ready to answer and aid at a moment’s notice. In fact, our Savior already knows in advance what will occur in our future. Trusting His guidance and grace offers tranquility when we are surrounded by anxious moments, allowing Jesus to fight our battles and achieve the victory He promises. “Do not be afraid or discouraged … for the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not have to fight this battle. Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld” (2 Chronicles 20:15b; 17a; 20b).

Peter was impetuous. When he recognized Jesus walking on water, he requested his Master summons him to walk toward Him in the middle of the lake. Peter successfully took several steps on water—until the gusting wind distracted him. Doubt overwhelmed his faith and he began to sink. “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “‘You of little faith,’ Jesus said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31).It took courage for Peter to leave the safety of the disciple’s boat, depending solely on Jesus to enable him to step onto the surface of the water. Whenever believers divert their focus from Jesus in the midst of a storm, our present fear claims more prominence than our trust in Jesus. Like Peter, we lose faith and begin to sink from the Master’s presence. The tangible difference between fear and faith is Jesus!

The Messiah began preparing His disciples by teaching them about His future suffering and death. “Peter took him {Jesus} aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, my Lord!’ he said, ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns’” (Matthew 16:22-23). Peter was struggling with unbelief, exposing his own impulsive methods. When Jesus compared Peter’s actions to Satan, his arrogant behavior exposed an adversary or an accuser.

In the garden the night Jesus was arrested, Peter’s combative nature was revealed when he instinctively whacked off the high priest servant’s ear with a sword. “Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away!’” (John 18:11). Did Peter still believe that Jesus’ purpose on earth was to condemn and destroy? Jesus touched the servant’s ear, healing him instantly. When would Peter learn to trust the saving grace and mercy of the Son of God?

Photo credit: freebibleimages.org

At the Passover feast, Jesus predicted Simon Peter would disown Him three times before the rooster crowed. A few hours later, still vacillating between fear and courage, Peter took his focus off Jesus until the last rooster crowed, the moment when the servant and the Master’s eyes met. “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him. And he went outside and wept” (Luke 22:61-62). How would Peter compensate for such personal failure? By running to the garden, the first of the disciples to meet his risen Savior. Later, Peter was the only apostle to be spiritually reinstated by his Lord (John 21:15-19).

Like the audacious disciple, we may be unaware of our own spiritual deficiencies. Following Jesus from afar as Peter did the night of his betrayal, is a dangerous posture for any of us to assume. When believers learn to trust Jesus wholeheartedly, there emerges a vivacious, vital person whose sole purpose is to concentrate on the Savior. Let us readily admit, as the Israelites did long ago:

“‘We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you’” (2 Chronicles 20:12), a prayer that God the Father honored.

Simon Peter is a vivid example of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Peter was the emboldened orator on Pentecost Sunday, where 3,000 people were converted to Christianity. He had evolved from headstrong to humble; from arrogant to obedient; from timid to fearless. Simon Peter’s spiritual metamorphosis was evidenced as the first disciple to confess to Jesus, ”’You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:16). Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the uneducated disciple authored two New Testament epistles bearing his name. He became a pillar of the emerging church and the first apostle to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. A self-sufficient heart was rehabilitated into a dependent servant fashioned for heaven’s work!

We are confident that each life responds to miraculous spiritual reform. The most bombastic attitude can be tempered and used for God’s glory. Our Lord chooses ordinary believers for colossal assignments, strengthening and empowering them with Jesus’ attributes. God modified Peter’s rebellious characteristics, substituting qualities and sensitivities previously undeveloped in the disciple. All believers are blessed with capabilities that blossom under sovereign tutelage. Jesus is the compassionate Son of God, willing to invest his own perfect life for the purpose of redeeming and reconstructing each of ours.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
(I John 3:1).

How Jesus’ Death Proved He Was King

Today I’m sharing from Core Christianity

How Jesus’ Death Proved
He Was King

By S. M. Baugh

In Christ’s earthly ministry, the Jewish people were expecting him to raise an army like any earthly kind would in order to resuscitate the Davidic kingdom (e.g., John 6:15). This was on their minds when Jesus entered Jerusalem in a royal “parousia” mounted on a donkey:

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” (John 12:12-15; emphasis added)

But the kingdom which the Messiah was about to win through conquest (e.g., John 16:33) as he rode into Jerusalem was much, much bigger and far more important than a realm centered in a tiny country on earth. It is a kingdom not of this world (John 18:36), but instead a whole new creation.

Read the rest here.

Jesus, the Bright and Morning Star

Jesus, You’re Beautiful by Sara Groves is a lovely song of praise to Jesus that truly touches my heart. Its sweet lyrics are wonderful to sing and easy to remember.

As you listen to this song, thank God for Jesus our beautiful Bright and Morning Star:

12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me,
to give to every one according to his work.

13 
I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the Beginning and the End,
the First and the Last.”

14 Blessed are those who do His commandments,
that they may have the right to the tree of life,
and may enter through the gates into the city.

15 
But outside are dogs and sorcerers
and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters,
and whoever loves and practices a lie.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel
to testify to you these things in the churches.
I am the Root and the Offspring of David,
the Bright and Morning Star.”

17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”
And let him who hears say, “Come!”
And let him who thirsts come.
Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

—Revelation 22:12-17

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

The #JOY of #HOPE in the Lord {Reblog}

2016 was the year of JOY for me. 2017 has been all about HOPE. Today’s post is about how JOY ties in so closely with HOPE.

What is true JOY? Charles Spurgeon describes it this way:

 “The JOY OF HOPE—who shall measure it? Those who are strangers to it are certainly strangers to the SWEETEST MATTER in spiritual life. With the exception of present communion with Christ, the JOY of a believer in this present state must be mainly the JOY OF HOPE.

“It does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He is (OUR HOPE),” (1 John 3:2) We thank God that we shall be satisfied when we wake up (from the sleep of death) in the likeness of Jesus! This ANTICIPATION (HOPE) of Heaven makes (the hurt of) earth become endurable! And the sorrows of time lose their weight when we think of the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory (Our future HOPE). (2 Corinthians 4:17)”

Recently I’ve been contemplating the phrase Quality of Life. Here are some of the definitions of Quality of Life, also referred to as QOL:

Wikipedia: is the general well-being of individuals and societies. QOL has a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, politics and employment. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of living, which is based primarily on income. Instead, standard indicators of the quality of life include not only wealth and employment but also the built environment, physical and mental health, education, recreation and leisure time, and social belonging.

The Free Dictionary: Noun, quality of life- your personal satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the cultural or intellectual conditions under which you live (as distinct from material comfort); “the new art museum is expected to improve the quality of life” gratification, satisfaction – state of being gratified or satisfied; “dull repetitious work gives no gratification”; “to my immense gratification he arrived on time” [Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.]

Medicinet.com: The patient’s ability to enjoy normal life activities. Quality of life is an important consideration in medical care. Some medical treatments can seriously impair quality of life without providing appreciable benefit, whereas others greatly enhance quality of life.

BusinessDictionary.com: Daily living enhanced by wholesome food and clean air and water, enjoyment of unfettered open spaces and bodies of water, conservation of wildlife and natural resources, security from crime, and protection from radiation and toxic substances. It may also be used as a measure of the energy and power a person is endowed with that enable him or her to enjoy life and prevail over life’s challenges irrespective of the handicaps he or she may have.

As you can see, there are differing opinions on what quality of life actually means. Some people use it as a measurement of how happy and fulfilled a person is. Others think of it as a way to gauge how someone can enjoy life in spite of physical handicaps or limitations. And many others consider it to be an indication of how much people have overcome in order to enjoy their life no matter what obstacles they face.

Where is God in all of this?

“The world is filled with people trying to adjust to the pain, trying to deal with life without total collapse, break down, burn out, hopelessness, fear, apathy or just giving up. And all of that really is a matter of learning how to endure. And that’s our key word this morning because the passage in front of us gives us the secrets to endurance…the secrets to endurance. How can we endure the pain of life? The profound difficulty of life? The great disappointments, broken dreams, broken bodies, broken homes, broken lives, broken relationships? How can we handle all of that? How can we face life like the Apostle Paul did who said back in verse 8 of this chapter, “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed”? How can we live like that? How can we be so triumphant?” —John MacArthur, GraceToYou.org

So, how can we think more like Paul? Is it possible to be afflicted and still triumphant? I have shared with you before that I live with several chronic pain illnesses. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic migraine plague me every single day. Some days are worse than others, but I can honestly count on one hand the number of pain-free days I have had in the last 15 years and still have fingers left over. And yet I still have more JOY than I ever thought possible.

To me, the HOPE of JOY = the JOY of HOPE.

I do not think we can have one without the other because each produces the other. For example, I can have the HOPE of JOY because . . .

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes— I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
—Job 19:25-27, NIV

And I can also have the JOY of HOPE because of this . . .

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:5-6, 13, NIV

Beloved, don’t you see? It doesn’t matter what is happening in our lives as long as we continue to hang our HOPE on our Savior. That thought alone produces so much JOY that it is impossible to stay down or depressed about our circumstances for long.

Choose JOY!

Yes, JOY is a choice that we make every single day. If we have invited Jesus Christ into our hearts as our Savior and Lord, then we have the certain HOPE of everlasting life in heaven with Him. And if we have that certain HOPE, how can we be anything but JOYFUL, no matter what our circumstances?

My Redeemer lives!

Please enjoy this video of Nicole C. Mullin singing one of my favorite and comforting songs, “My Redeemer Lives.” I know it will fill you with as much HOPE and JOY as it does me!

If for any reason you cannot view the video, read the lyrics here.


[Emphasis on the words HOPE and JOY are mine]

Billy Graham: The Mystery of the Incarnation

This article about Jesus’ humanity (What did He become? Flesh) is the last of three excellent articles about the incarnation of Jesus Christ from the December 2017 issue of Decision Magazine.

Billy Graham:
The Mystery of the Incarnation

By Billy Graham

When you read the record of the coming of Jesus into the world—born in a stable, born of a woman, reared in the woodshop of a poor Jewish carpenter—you could not grasp the truth that He was the God-man if the Scriptures didn’t reveal it.

This great mystery of the incarnation is the crux and the core of the Christian message. It is the mystery over which the rationalists stumble, by which the humanists are offended, and by which the world is bewildered.

The natural mind is not equipped to grasp this truth that transcends human wisdom. Paul—after reasoning with the Greeks, who majored in knowledge, and with the Romans, who majored in justice—said, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).

I would like you to consider with me three facts regarding the incarnation.

First, the incarnation is a Scriptural fact. 

The recurring theme of the Bible is the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The prophets wrote of it, the psalmists sang of it, the apostles rejoiced and built their hopes on it and the epistles are filled with it. Christ’s coming in the flesh—His invading the world, His identifying Himself with sinful men and women—is the most significant fact of history. All of humanity’s puny acts, accomplishments and attainments pale into nothingness when compared to it.

Read the rest here.

The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy

Shared from the Grace Thru Faith site.

The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. The virgin shall be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).

There is perhaps no prophecy in the Old Testament more controversial than this one. Many liberal theologians reject the notion of the virgin birth of Jesus as being simply legend, Jews flatly deny its validity and non-believers scoff at it as the best example of the mindless belief necessary for Christianity to flourish.

Yet a careful study of the history of Israel, the laws of inheritance, and the promises by God to King David lead even the most skeptical student to conclude that Jesus had to be supernaturally conceived to be both God and human, and therefore qualified to redeem mankind, and have a legitimate claim to the Throne of Israel.

The God Man

Jesus had to be God to forgive our sins. No mere human can do that. One of the charges levied against Him was that He committed blasphemy by claiming the authority to forgive us, a power reserved for God alone (Mark 2:1-7). To prove He had that authority, Jesus healed a paralytic (Mark 2:8-12) right before His accusers’ eyes.  The immediate healing was incontrovertible evidence of His authority, derived as a direct descendant of God.

But He had to be human to redeem us. The laws of redemption required that a next of kin redeem that which was lost. (Lev. 25:24-25) This so-called kinsman redeemer had to be qualified, able and willing to perform the act of redemption. When Adam lost dominion over planet Earth and plunged all his progeny into sin, only his next of kin could redeem the Earth and its inhabitants. Since Adam was a human whose Father was God (Luke 3:23-38), only another direct Son of God could qualify. This is why Paul referred to Jesus as the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). Since the Laws of sacrifice required the shedding of innocent blood as the coin of redemption, only a sinless man was able (John 1:29-34). Since the kinsman redeemer’s life was required, only someone who loves us the way God does would be willing (John 3:16). This is the real test of the kinsman redeemer. Seeing Jesus as qualified and able to redeem us isn’t a great problem. After all He’s the Son of God. But recognizing that He was also willing to step down from His Heavenly Throne to trade His perfect life for ours should really humble us. What kind of love did it take to voluntarily suffer the pain and humiliation required to redeem us?

Read the rest here.