Jesus takes pride in His Church
Second Chronicles tells us of King Asa’s calling upon the Lord. When he first came to the throne, the King was faced with a very difficult situation—the Ethiopians had invaded the land with a million-man army and 300 chariots. King Asa cried out to God,
LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee. —2 Chronicles 14:11
He knew the odds against him surviving meant nothing to God. If God be for us, who can be against us? God and you make a majority. The Lord was with Asa, and the king went out and destroyed the Ethiopian armies.
When King Asa returned from victory the prophet Azariah met him and said, The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. —2 Chronicles 15:2
Asa began to prosper. He became very strong and powerful. In the later years of his reign he was threatened again. But this time, the threat came from Baasha, the king of the northern tribes of Israel, who was building fortified cities north of Jerusalem in preparation for an invasion. King Asa took money out of the treasury and sent it to hire Ben-Hadad, the king of Syria, to invade Israel from the north. This caused Baasha to withdraw his troops from invading Judah and to deploy them to defend the northern border. It was a clever and successful strategy that worked. However, rather than seeking the Lord in prayer, he sought human help. The prophet Hanani came to him and rebuked him for seeking the aid of man rather than the help of God. The prophet reminded him of how the Lord had helped him against the Ethiopians at the beginning of his reign, and he declared,
For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him —2 Chronicles 16:9
Here the Bible is declaring one of the basic truths of God. He is looking for people to bless. God wants to work in your life and bless you. He wants to use you as one of His channels, as one of His instruments. But He’s waiting for you to come into alignment with His plan. The moment your life comes into harmony with the purposes of God, you become a channel through which God’s power and love can flow to a needy world.
God is looking for people whose hearts are in tune with His desires. Thus, the greatest prayer is “Lord, bring me into harmony with Thy will.” You can’t improve on that. But it has to be more than just lip service. It must come from the heart. And that’s not easy.
There are so many things I want done, and so many of my prayers reflect selfishness. So many of my petitions are for things that would bring me comfort, ease, and happiness. But the real purpose of prayer is to see the work of God accomplished in my life and then, through my life, in the lives of others.
I believe that God intends to give you every right thing that you pray for, but His timing is often different than yours. Many times God delays the answers to your prayers for a very good reason.
One reason God may delay an answer to your prayer is that He desires to give you more than what you were asking for at the moment.
Hannah is a good example of this. She had been barren for years. Her husband had another wife with many children. Day after day Hannah’s barrenness plagued her.
One day Hannah and her husband were traveling to the tabernacle while the other wife stayed at home with the kids. On their journey to Shiloh her husband asked, “Hannah, why are you so sad?”
Hannah replied, “Give me children.”
He responded, “Am I God that I could give you children? Aren’t I better to you than many sons? Aren’t you satisfied with me?”
When Hannah arrived at the tabernacle the agony of her heart was so great that she couldn’t even utter her request. She felt the grief so deeply that she just lay before God in the court of the tabernacle. Her lips were moving, but she made no sound with her voice.
Eli the priest passed by and saw Hannah prostrate before the Lord. He thought she was drunk and ordered her to stay away from wine. Hannah said, “No, I am not drunk. But the handmaiden of the Lord is grieved because she is barren. I’ve been pleading with God to give me a son. If He will give me a son, I have promised to give him back to God all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1).
That’s what God wanted to hear from Hannah, because God needed a man. The state of the nation Israel was so corrupt that there wasn’t a man around for God to use. Before God could get a man, He had to get a woman. Therefore, He dealt with Hannah’s heart.
Hannah had been praying for a son for many years—a son for her own joy and pleasure, a son that would put an end to the taunts from the other wife. Hannah had prayed, “Lord, give me a son. Take away the shame.” But finally she prayed, “Lord, give me a son. And I’ll give him back to You all the days of his life.” Hannah had finally come into harmony with the purposes of God.
The priest told her, “Go in peace. The Lord has heard your prayer. You will have a son.” Hannah went home and God gave her a son, Samuel. He became a prophet, a priest, and one of the most outstanding leaders of God’s people in the Old Testament. Yes, God wanted to give Hannah a son all the while. But He delayed the answer to her prayers, so that He might work in her heart until she would be aligned with His purpose.
Do not get discouraged when God delays the answers to your prayers. He may want to give you so much more than what you’ve been asking for.
God knows the right time to answer our prayers. Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive:
The promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence…ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. —Acts 1:4–5,8
After Jesus spoke these things, while His followers were standing with Him on the Mount of Olives in Bethany, He ascended into heaven, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
The disciples returned to Jerusalem and continued steadfastly in prayer in one accord. The Bible says that they continued to wait till the day of Pentecost had fully come. It would have been possible for God to have poured out the Holy Spirit on them in the first ten minutes, but for His own purposes He saw fit to wait approximately seven days (Acts 1–2).
How long are you to persist in prayer? Until you get an answer—either a yes or no.
|How Do We Love God Practically - Part 1 |
by Nancy Missler
|David Needham, author of the book Birthright, states, "...the big task is not the finding of the truth, but the living of it!" I agree with him completely. What good are God's principles if they don't work in our hearts and change our lives?|
With this in mind, let's put all we have learned so far (in our series "Loving God") into practical use. What are the steps in the moment by moment laying down of our wills and our lives to God? In other words, how do we love (agapao) God daily?
My Survival Kit
There are eight steps to what I call my "Survival Kit." These are steps that God has laid out for us in scripture to help us deal with our sin and become open and cleansed vessels for His use.
I literally go through these steps at least once a day, and sometimes as many as two and three times a day if I am dealing with something very difficult or extremely painful. These are the eight steps "back to freedom" of Spirit.
The first four steps, which we will cover in this article, are really formalities. These are attitudes we need to form daily. These are not steps we have to do each time we quench God's Spirit, but simply attitudes we need to have "on" each day. We might go over these prayerfully each morning, to remind ourselves to be cleansed vessels.
The final four steps of the Survival Kit are mandatory steps, ones we must do each time we sin and quench His Spirit. These four steps are known as the "inner Court Ritual," because they are the actual steps the priests took in the Inner Court of the Temple in order to deal with their sin. (These four steps will be covered in detail in Parts 2 & 3 of this series.)
I recommend putting each of these steps (especially the last four) on 3x5 cards. Keep the cards with you at all times. Then when something occurs, take out the cards, go through the steps, and choose by faith to believe that God has reconciled you to Himself. Because He is faithful, once again His Life will pour forth through you.
Going through these steps every time we are confronted with a hurtful remark, a painful situation, pride, fear, resentment, bitterness, etc., is what enables us to be cleansed and prepared vessels for what God might call us to do next.
So let's explore the "attitudes" that are essential to walking in God's Way of Agape.
1) First, we need to have an attitude of continually "presenting our bodies [to God] as living sacrifices." (Romans 12:1-2) What we are doing here is willingly giving God our permission to walk through us and to expose anything that needs to be dealt with.
On a daily basis, we should be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to expose what He wants to in each of us.
We don't have to "feel" this first step. In fact, most of these steps won't be felt at all, they will simply be "faith choices" or contrary choices.
As we are opening ourselves up to God, we must always remember how much He loves us and that he is always faithful to His promises.
A good prayer to pray is Psalm 19:12-13, "Cleanse thou me from hidden or secret faults. Don't let them have dominion over me." Also, Psalm 139:23-24, "Search me, and know my heart and see if there be any wicked way in me."
2) The second crucially important attitude we need to have "on" each day is one of continually denying ourselves, denying our own "justified" feelings, our own rights, our own frustrations, our offenses, and so on. This is something that we do on the "inside" (setting aside our own thoughts, emotions, and desires). Denying ourselves on the "inside" is often much harder to do that denying ourselves "outwardly" (careers, positions of prominence, material things -- houses, cars, clothes, etc.).
Emotionally, this will be a very hard step because it hurts to lay ourselves down, especially when we are "justified" in feeling the way we do.
Each time we struggle with this, I would suggest reading all of Philipians 3:8-15, where Paul says, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord!"
We must ask ourselves, "Am I really more concerned with doing God's Will in my life then I am my own happiness?" There will be many times when we must choose to do God's Will, knowing temporarily it will not bring us happiness. But, of course, the lasting joy that will come from being in the center of His Will is something to which nothing can ever compare.
Luke 14:26 reminds us that we really cannot be God's disciples unless we are "willing to" (not wanting to, not feeling like it, but just willing to) lay everything down (father, mother, wife, children, brethren, sisters). "Yea," He says, "even our very own lives!"
Remember, we don't have to "feel" willing in order to do this, we simply must be willing! (Big difference!)
Several years ago, I went to lunch with some dear old friends and we began to talk about how very important it is to simply "be willing" to deny ourselves and follow God. One of the gals said, "Nancy ,I don't agree. I think some people just don't have the ability or the capability to lay everything down and do it God's way."
She then gave various reasons why she was convinced they couldn't: "Because they came from dysfunctional families, co-dependent situations, poor marriages, physical abuse circumstances, emotional problems, etc."
I said, "I really don't believe that's true! If they are Christians, then God is in them. And He is the One who makes them capable and gives them the ability to deny themselves.
I believe all Christians are capable of laying themselves aside (because God is in them), but not all Christians are willing to do so! That, to me, is the bottom line!"
God has all the Love, all the Wisdom, and all the Power they need.
When we are "willing to lay everything down," God promises us in Luke 18:30 (as well as in many other places) that He will return a hundred-fold, "in this life" as well as in the world to come, all that we have chosen to give to Him.
Get up and Do What God Says
3) Another crucial attitude we must have is that of being willing to obey God's Will, no matter what He tells us to do (no matter how we feel, no matter what we think ,no matter what we want). We are to get up and be willing to do exactly what God has asked us to do.
The attitude we just spoke about in step #2 (denying ourselves) concerns our "inner man" (setting aside our own thoughts, emotions, and desires, so God can fill us with His Life). This next step of "obeying God's Will" is different. It concerns the "outer man" - our outward actions.
It's getting up and doing in action what God has called us to do, saying, "Not my will, but thine" (Matthew 26:39). Or like Peter said, "At Thy Word, I will" (Luke 5:5). Again, trusting that God will perform His Will and His Life through us.
We are emotional creatures and God is asking us here to set aside our own emotional responses and choose to act totally out of faith. Again, we don't have to "feel" willing in order to do this, we must just "be" willing.
2 Corinthians 8:11 says, "As there was a readiness to will, so there must be a performance also." If this is a difficult step, I would suggest reading Philippians 2:5-9. This is the passage that talks about being "obedient unto death," not only on the inside choosing to lay aside our own thoughts and emotions, but now, on the outside getting up and doing in action whatever God has called us to do.
Take Every Thought Captive
4) The final attitude we must have in order to walk God's Way of Agape is to be willing to take every thought captive.
2 Corinthians 10:5-6 says, "Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled."
[Note: The four steps of the Inner Court Ritual, which we will cover in Part Two are how we "revenge all disobedience."]
Remember, our thoughts stir up our emotions; our emotions then influence our desires; and our desires are what produce our actions. This is why we need to go after the ungodly thoughts first and take them captive.
If we can catch these negative thoughts first, then we prevent the chain reaction before it even begins.
When we don't take every thought captive and we don't put off our corrupt thoughts and we just go along with the "tide of emotion," we end up confused, discouraged, and depressed. And, of course, that's just exactly what the enemy wants.
It takes constant discipline and effort to continually recognize our negative thoughts and to renew our minds. Sometimes it would be a lot easier to just give in and let those wild emotions rule. But do you know what happens when we do this? We die! If we don't take those ungodly thoughts captive, they take us captive.
Remember, we are not responsible for the original self-centered, negative, or bad thought when it first comes in. It's what we choose to do with that thought that produces the sin or not.
If we recognize the ungodly thought and choose to give it right over to God, then we have not sinned and we have not quenched His Spirit. However, if we don't do anything with that thought, and we allow it to stir up self-centered feelings, then it will be sin.
It's critical to be aware of, recognize, and then catch the ungodly thoughts as they come in. We are to refuse them, crucify them and annihilate them. We are not to even think them, let alone speak them!
As Philipians 4:8 says, we need to fill our minds with good things...
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."So, it's imperative that we have "on" a godly attitude each day. If we are cleansed and prepared vessels, then we will be ready and available for whatever it is that God might call us to do next.
In Part Two, we will begin to explore the "mandatory steps" of loving God daily.
In this article, I hope to briefly explain why after more than 20 years of study, I remain captivated by the pre-trib rapture doctrine.
My Fascination With The Pre-Trib Rapture
Ever since the early 80s, I've maintained a deep fascination with the pre-trib rapture. I don't recall when I first heard of the rapture, but I do know I instantly realized that this event would someday demand the world's attention.
Modern-day society has witnessed some rather distressing events over the past century. We've seen the assassination of world leaders, national and international wars, and disasters of every sort. All of these events have left deep scars on the psyche of humanity. However, I think these events will pale in comparison to the panic that will be caused by the pre-trib Rapture.
The rapture will someday give a new meaning to the word "shock." For the U.S., the attack on Pearl Harbor and the September 11 terrorist attacks currently rank as the most startling events in our nation's history. When the rapture takes place, I am convinced it will be 100 times more shocking than Pearl Harbor and September 11 combined.
In the past, no single event has managed to touch each individual on a personal level. For example, very few people in 1941 had even heard about Pearl Harbor, let alone knew someone involved in the incident. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon fall into the same category. Everyone saw the calamity on television, but it's unlikely that more than 1% of the US population knew any of the victims who worked in the Twin Towers or the Pentagon, or who were aboard the commercial airliners hijacked by the terrorists.
On the other hand, after the Rapture takes place, everyone left behind will know someone who was mysteriously taken away. It could be a neighbor, a distant cousin, or a person's entire immediate family.
Some prophetic commentators have tried to predict that there will only be a few halfhearted questions like, "Where did everybody go?" Simple logic dictates that the people who find themselves left behind will be absolutely terrified by what has taken place.
I can only guess at the level of interest the press, government, and public will pay to the rapture, but I'm sure it will be immense. As a result of the catching away of the Bride, I believe many individuals will turn to Christ and become numbered with the tribulation saints.
It's So Near
If it looked like the pre-tribulation rapture was going to transpire 100 years from now, there probably wouldn't be a pressing need for me to quickly assemble a website devoted to the subject. However, I believe we are getting very near to the end of what is called the Church Age, so I have been rushing to put together a comprehensive site on Bible prophecy.
Because the rapture is an event that will take priority over all other aspects of our life, it is very important for us to be mindful of its nearness. Death is the only other comparison one could use to describe the type of impact the rapture implies.
The rapture has always been an imminent event, but we now have the luxury of being able to look at history and realize there were a number of key end time prophesies that required several years to evolve into where we see them today. Before May 15, 1948, we only had hope that Israel would once again become a nation. It wasn't until the late 1990s that China gained the ability to field a 200-million-man army. Jan 1, 2002 stands as the date the Revived Roman Empire reestablished the practice of having a common currency.
I keep a close watch on dozens of prophecy-related categories and in the last few years I've noticed an exponential increase in the rate of prophetic progression. In many cases, I can clearly see we have already arrived at the point of fulfillment--no waiting or further development is really required. The final implementation of those end time factors is the only thing lacking.
The Great Transformation
When describing the rapture, most prophetic writers like to focus on the negative consequences of the event. Yes, if the driver of a car were to suddenly vanish, the vehicle would spin out of control. The tribulation is said to be a time of unparalleled distress, so I doubt a few traffic accidents will amount to any lasting significance.
As believers, we will have more important things with which to concern ourselves. Our main focus should be on the heavenly realm. Once we get to glory, we will be confronted with a world of absolute splendor.
Jesus said each believer will receive his own heavenly mansion. If we each have a spacious estate waiting for us, I see no reason for a Christian to strive to build an earthly mansion. I find it rather odd that so many well-known preachers spend large sums of money on ritzy housing and fancy cars. If they had a true understanding of eternal value, you would think they would buy modestly so that they could reinvest their financial gains into the spreading of the Gospel.
"But as it is written, 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him'" (1 Cor 2:9).
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2).
Losing Everything; I Mean Everything
I once took a tour of the United States Air Force's Strategic Command Post at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. The center is charged with tracking the movements of anything that could deploy nuclear weapons: missiles, aircraft, or ships. It's the first layer of command that would order a nuclear counterattack. The command center would obviously be the prime target of any potential enemy.
While I was in the control room, I asked the sergeant giving us the tour, "What would you folks do if you knew a missile was headed in your direction?" His reply was, "I guess we'd open the snack bar up to all takers." I was struck by how true it would be in that situation in which money would have no value. A standard 10-megaton nuclear device exploding over the base would leave nothing but a giant hole in the ground.
For Christians, the rapture will bring devastation similar to that wrought by a nuclear war. When the trumpet sounds, all followers of Christ will instantly lose all of their worldly belongings. As a believer, you might have $20 million in the bank, a fancy home, a yacht, or your own prosperous business, but come the rapture, you can wave all that stuff goodbye as you soar skyward.
The Christian community holds wealth that is easily valued in the $1 to $2 trillion-dollar range. Knowing the total funding for global evangelization efforts amounts to a few hundred million dollars each year, our priorities are certainly in need of reevaluation.
I can testify that I have personally put my own money where my mouth is. During the most recent one-year period, I estimate I've spent $4,000 on this Rapture Ready site. Because I know the money I allocate to the site is being deposited in my eternal bank account, I view the funds as going to a blind trust fund.
I don't expect to be around to see Social Security, so it doesn't trouble me whether or not predictions of its distant future insolvency turn out to be true. Whenever oil prices zoom up, many people worry that we're going to either run out of gasoline or that it will become prohibitively expensive. At the end of each episode, however, the supply and the price always manage to return to more reasonable levels.
Because we don't know exactly when Jesus is coming for the Church, I believe it is wise to make long-term plans. The key, I believe, is not to allow ourselves to be distracted by trivial issues. We should concern ourselves mostly with today, and let tomorrow take care of itself.
When the catching up takes place, I expect to be flooded with a number of regrets over things I should have accomplished. It's the realization that our good deeds are the only possessions we will take with us that motivates me to keep pressing ahead.
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (Mat 6:19-20).
The Benefits Of Being Rapture Ready
One of the most obvious benefits of being ready for the rapture is not having to suffer through the tribulation. Here are four passages that indicate that believers will not be left to suffer the outpouring of God's wrath:
"Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36).
"And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
"For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth " (Revelation 3:10).
If you're included in the rapture, you will be taken to heaven--the place that is a synonym for happiness. The Bible tells us that in heaven there are no health problems, moral failures, economic hardships, or marital difficulties.
The most important benefit of being included in the rapture is the chance to finally meet the Lord of Lords face to face. It's hard to envision what that experience will be like, but seeing one';s Creator certainly has to be the ultimate fulfillment of a person's existence.
"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Tim 4:8).
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (1 John 3:2-3).
Mockers And Detractors
Whenever an unbeliever sends me an email message that attacks or mocks the pre-trib rapture, I always think of the irony they are imposing upon themselves. Someday, the rapture will take place, and these folks will be dumbfounded.
Even when I get some rather nasty letters that condemn me to the fires of hell or that label me as a raving lunatic, it doesn't bother me because I know it would be punishment enough for anyone to miss the rapture. I see no need to take the attacks personally. I think after the event, these folks will be blaming me for not trying hard enough to convince them of their folly.
Once the big event takes place, there will be no more arguments over the rapture's validity. I try to set people up to be reachable after the Church is taken home to glory. Because I believe most of my detractors are still searching for truth, I don't return fire by saying things like, "Say hello to the Antichrist for me" or, "Save me one of those 100 lb. hailstones in your freezer. When I get back, I'd love to see what one looks like."
End time scoffers are actually doing me a valuable favor. The Bible says doubters will be one of the signs of the last days. Their strong opposition is what helps drive my fascination with the rapture.
"Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts. And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Pet 3:3-4).
Get Ready, Jesus Is Coming
You don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. In the Book of Luke, Jesus used a weather analogy to highlight how people failed to use simple logic to recognize the time in which they were living.
The folks who lived in the early part of the first century failed to realize that they were about to witness the revelation of the Messiah. Their error resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Today, people are making an even bigger mistake by not comprehending that this is the generation that will see the fulfillment of the end times.
I've always found it interesting how the salvation issue, both before and after the rapture, is so well balanced. Before the rapture, people need to use faith to overcome the lack of physical evidence for that event. After the rapture, there will be plenty of physical evidence of the event, but then a person will need faith to overcome the trials of the tribulation.
"And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?" (Luke 12:54-56).
"Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:34-35).
If you would like to know more about what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, or if you want to know for sure that you belong to Him, you can go to my page, How one becomes a follower of Jesus.