Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Caught Up in the Clouds
I wonder what it will be like
to be caught up in the clouds,
to hear the trumpet call of God
and the archangel shouting aloud.
Will it feel like floating on water?
Will I be too excited to care?
Even with questions unanswered,
I’m just grateful to know I’ll be there.
For whether I’m one of the dead being raised
or I’m standing on earth when He comes,
it will be the most amazing moment
to be in the presence of the Son!
I’ll be reunited with all of my loved ones
and friends who fell asleep in the Lord.
And how do I know this will come to pass?
God promised me in His Word.
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven,
with a loud command,
with the voice of the archangel
and with the trumpet call of God,
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
we who are still alive and are left
will be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
And so we will be with the Lord forever.
Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
I Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NIV)
Both letters to the church at Thessalonica place an emphasis on the return of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Paul was encouraging the Thessalonians to take hope in the reality of the Lord’s fulfillment of his promise to come back to take us to the place he has prepared for us (John 14:2-3). He also gave important instructions on how we as Christians should live in the light of this knowledge.
My prayer is that the pages of this book will encourage you to read all of I and II Thessalonians. As you read these meditations on God’s word, journal your own thoughts as well. The photographs and poetry will help you to see clouds with a new wonder. Glorious clouds at dawn and sunset demonstrate the Lord’s power. Storm clouds symbolize obstacles to overcome. White fluffy clouds are like the peace I have in knowing Jesus. Allow clouds to remind you of the day when those of us who trust in Christ will be “caught up in the clouds” and “be with the Lord forever.”
Monday, May 22, 2017
Until Jesus Comes
What are we to do until Jesus comes?
As the old hymn says, “We’ll work.”
Paul made it clear that our daily duties
We are not to shirk.
We’ll earn our bread and not be idle
Never tiring of doing what’s right.
And watch the clouds for Christ’s return
When from this earth, we’ll take flight.
“For when we were with you, we gave you this rule:
‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’”
“…And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.”
II Thessalonians 3:10 and 13 (NIV)
ĕrgazŏmai2038 – to toil (as a task, occupation, etc.), (by impl.) effect, be engaged in or with, etc.: - commit, do, labor for, minister about, trade (by), work.
kalŏpŏiĕō2569 – to do well, i.e. live virtuously: - well doing
As a teenager, I always wondered where to find the biblical basis for the hymn, “We’ll Work ‘til Jesus Comes”. Now I’ve found it! The exhortation to continue working was given because some Thessalonians took Paul’s preaching about Christ’s return to mean that it was so imminent they just needed to sit back and wait. Paul wrote to remind them that he worked to earn his keep when he was with them and taught them that they should do the same.
While anticipating Christ’s return like a child the night before Christmas, we are still to go about our daily lives earning a living, caring for our families, and most importantly, doing what is right. The King James Version warns us not to “grow weary in well doing.” I tend to swing way too far one way or the other. I’m either so engrossed in my job that I neglect my time with the Lord, or I’m so caught up in longing for Christ’s return that I have a difficult time doing the necessary chores of life.
Throughout I and II Thessalonians we are reminded that Christ is coming back for us and to be ready and excited about that day. However, we are also reminded to take every opportunity to live virtuously and be good workers here and now. What shall we do until Jesus comes? Work, do well, and live in glorious anticipation of the day when we will be caught up in the clouds with our Lord!
Father, help me to keep the proper perspective of life on this earth. Help me to remember that my longest, saddest times here are a mere grain of sand in the hourglass of my eternal life. Help me to support myself in a way that honors you, to take every opportunity to be a blessing to others, and to be ready at all times for your return.
Friday, May 19, 2017
Father, you keep showing me
ways to pray for my family.
Lord, encourage my children’s hearts.
Strengthen them your word to impart.
Give them power to do good deeds.
Let them know your love has met their needs.
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who loved us and by his grace
gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
encourage your hearts and strengthen you
in every good deed and word.”
II Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV)
paraklēsis3874 – imploration, hortation, solace: - comfort, consolation, exhortation, intreaty.
parakalĕō3870 – to call near, i.e. invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation): - beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort (-ation), intreat, pray.
“Mine!” said the toddler as he grabbed the toy from his baby sister. From the earliest moments of life we are self-centered and selfishly motivated. Treating others well must be patiently taught and modeled. Sharing is one of the most difficult concepts we convey to our children. Perhaps this is because we have not mastered the practice of thinking of others above ourselves even as adults.
For this reason we need to pray for our children and for each other that Christ will strengthen us in every good deed and word. Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Here he prays that Christ will strengthen the Thessalonians. He also prays that the Lord will encourage them.
The Lord encourages us through the work of the Holy Spirit (Paraklētŏs-an intercessor, consoler: advocate, comforter.) The Spirit convicts, instructs, and guides us into truth (John 16:5-15). The Lord illumines the scripture as we read so we may know what good deeds we are to do and be encouraged to do them. He helps us to understand his word and share it with others. He comforts us and enables us to comfort others (II Corinthians 1:3-7).
Lord, strengthen me to do your will and to encourage those you place in my path. Help Tom, Esther, and Christan to be strong in your love and choose their words and deeds according to your will. Thank you for the encouragement you have given through your word, your Holy Spirit, and the family and friends you have placed in my life.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
The Opposite of Halitosis
“His breath could knock you down,”
is said with pinched nose and a frown
when someone’s breath is truly found disgusting.
But the breath that will totally consume
and send the Antichrist to his doom
is the sweet breath of the Savior we’re trusting.
“And then the lawless one will be revealed,
whom the lord Jesus will overthrow
with the breath of his mouth
and destroy by the splendor of his coming.”
II Thessalonians 2:8 (NIV)
analiskō355 – prop. to use up, i.e. destroy: - consume.
pnĕuma4151 – a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze; by anal. or fig. a spirit, i.e. (human) the rational soul, (by impl.) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, demon, or (divine) God, Christ’s spirit, the Holy Spirit: - ghost, life, spirit (-ual, -ually), mind.
katargĕō2676 – to be (render) entirely idle (useless), lit. or fig.: - abolish, cease, cumber, deliver, destroy, do away, become (make) of no (none, without) effect, fail, loose, bring (come) to nought, put away (down), vanish away, make void.
ĕpiphanĕia2015 – a manifestation, i.e. (spec.) the advent of Christ (past or fut.): - appearing, brightness.
“If looks could kill...” is another trite expression. But when Christ returns at the end of the tribulation, the brightness of his appearance and the breath of his mouth will totally annihilate the Antichrist. Ultimate Light will overcome all darkness.
Christians debate over whether we will be taken to heaven before the tribulation, midway through it, or at the end of it. It’s interesting to study, and I have my own opinion based on the scriptures. However, the most important concept to grasp is that when it is all said and done, Jesus wins. If we are his children, we are in the winning army; and we have the advantage of already knowing the outcome.
Our Lord is powerful. We can trust him in every trial, great or small. We can tap into his might through prayer, and we need never fear. Life here and now is just the beginning, not the end of our journey. The present is difficult, often painful, sometimes discouraging. But take heart! This is a mere moment in time compared to eternity with our Lord Jesus.
Lord, help me to live in the present with my hope resting solidly in the amazing future you have planned for me. Thank you for being with me through all the problems here on earth, my “ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1b NIV)
Monday, May 15, 2017
Miraculous Power Supply
Lord, You supply the power
for every work of faith.
Help me to wholly lean on You,
living each day by Your grace.
“With this in view we constantly pray for you,
that our God may deem and count you worthy
of [your] callingand [His] every gracious purpose of goodness,
and with power complete in every particular [your] work
of faith [faith which is that leaning
of the whole human personality on God
in absolute trust and confidence in His power,
wisdom and goodness].
Thus may the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified
and become more glorious through and in you,
and may you [also be glorified] in Him according to the grace (favor and blessing) of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ,
the Messiah, the Anointed One.”
II Thessalonians 1:11-12 (Amplified Version)
dunamis1411 – force (lit. or fig.); spec. miraculous power (usually by impl. A miracle itself): - ability, abundance, meaning, might (-ily, -y, -y deed), (worker of) miracle (-s), power, strength, violence, mighty (wonderful) work.
pistis4102 – persuasion, i.e. credence; mor. convicition (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), espec. reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstr. constancy in such profession; by extns. The system of religious (Gospel) truth itself: - assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.
Sweet Pea is in the clutches of the bad guy. All seems lost. Popeye is scrawny compared to Brutus until he whips out his spinach, consumes it straight from the can, and sprouts muscles instantaneously. Sweat Pea is saved, and children everywhere eat their spinach.
God’s power is far better than spinach. Without Jesus, I can do nothing; but if I stay close to him and allow him to live through me, I can do everything he has called me to do. (John 15:5, Philippians 4:13).
Miraculous power – have I ever prayed for that? When I pray for my friends in ministry, do I pray that God will empower their works of faith in order to glorify Christ? I’ve come to the conclusion that I voice puny prayers. I pray, “Lord, if it’s your will, please strengthen Richard to lead men to a closer walk with you.” I pray as if God’s power is limited by our ability. It is not. I should pray, “Lord, I know it’s your will for men to be transformed by your grace. Infuse Richard with your power to speak boldly and live adventurously for you. Complete his work of faith by taking the men you’ve entrusted to him and totally renewing them to serve you faithfully.”
Lord, I yearn to have absolute trust in your power, wisdom, and goodness. I pray that your power will be evident in the works of faith you are completing in and through me. I am relying on your ability to complete the work you started in me (Philippians 1:6) because I know that without faith in Christ I am incapable of pleasing you (Romans 8:5-11).
Friday, May 12, 2017
A WORD FOR CHRISTIAN MOTHERS
By Susie Hale and Susan Slade, 2017
Precious Jewels Ministries
Carrying a baby inside for months is one way to become a mother.
However, some women are meant to adopt the child of another.
Others have no “legal children” but mother someone who needs love.
What Christian mothers have in common is found in our Father above.
The Lord demonstrates mothering as He shelters us under His wings.
A mother protects her children from all kinds of harmful things.
Lord Jesus’ love was limitless, self-sacrificing and forever.
A mother goes to great lengths for her child and abandons them never.
A godly mother tells them of Jesus, teaches them Bible verses.
A good example for her children, she lives the attitudes she nurses.
A mother who models Christlikeness will be worthy of praise.
Your children will grow up to bless you for showing God’s love many ways.
A godly mother is infused with strength that comes only from the Lord.
Nurturing children can be a challenge; mothers must abide in God’s word.
In a world that devalues human life, reducing motherhood to a choice.
Embrace the privilege of motherhood and boldly raise your voice
To remind the world God says children are an inheritance and a reward.
They should never be treated as a bother, but be protected and adored.
Embrace the role of mother if you have been so blessed.
If you still can, embrace your mother for all the love that she expressed.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
The blazing Avenger
who throws evil into hell
is the same loving Savior
in whose arms I long to dwell.
The one who troubles troublers
with His angels at his side
is the Christ who prepares
a place in heaven for his bride.
“God is just: He will pay back trouble
to those who trouble you
and give relief to you who are troubled,
and to us as well.
This will happen when the Lord Jesus
is revealed from heaven in blazing fire
with his powerful angels.”
II Thessalonians 1:6-7 (NIV)
anĕsis425 – relaxation or (fig.) relief: - eased, liberty, rest
thlibō2346 – to crowd (lit. or fig.): - afflict, narrow, throng, suffer tribulation, trouble
Stuck in the crowd, she could only go where the mob carried her. At the intersection of hallways, someone pushed her; and the throng spat her out into the English hall. She had no choice but to go that way even though her class was in the opposite direction. Earlier in the day, the unwavering press of her fellow students held her captive at the scene of a fight that ended in blood and police officers. Her first day as the new kid in an overcrowded high school was a terrifying experience.
The world presses in on us, persecutes us, and seems to narrow any possibility of escape to freedom. We are troubled. Sometimes we wonder why justice has vanished. However, the Lord warns us that in this world we will have tribulation, but he also reminds us that he has overcome the world. The hope of future glory far outweighs our present sufferings (Romans 8:18-25). When Christ returns and we are caught up in the clouds, we will have relief, liberty, and rest from the pressure of the crowd. To be able to relax in the kingdom of heaven free from fear and tension forever is the hope we hold on to.
I love the song “This World is Not My Home” because it reminds me that I’m not supposed to feel at home here. My home, my refuge, my ultimate place to relax, is in the place Christ has prepared for me. He promised that he will return to take me to my place in his Father’s house (John 14), and when he does he will also send those who do evil to the place where they belong. I am assured of heaven, not because I deserve it; but because Jesus died and rose again to secure my home there. When the road to that home seems narrow because of afflictions, tribulations, and troubles of this world, I’ll ask the Lord to help me focus on the fact that “I’m just a-passin’ through.” God is merciful.God is just. Relief will come and last for eternity.
Father, help me to keep my eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith so I will have the stamina I need in times of trouble (Hebrews 12:2-3). Thank you for the many passages in your word that remind me that my present state is only temporary, but the glory that you will provide in heaven is eternal. How I long for the day of Christ’s return when we will be caught up in the clouds!
Monday, May 8, 2017
God Will Do It
Lord, I can’t possibly do all the things
I’ve recently read I should do.
I’m thankful you also gave me your word
That I can rest in you.
For you are the one working in me,
And I’ll be changed by your grace.
Help me to focus on being your child,
And seeking my Father’s face.
“Faithful is He Who is calling you [to Himself],
and utterly trustworthy,
and He will also do it [that is, fulfill His call
by hallowing and keeping you].
I Thessalonians 5:24 (Amplified)
pistŏs4103 – obj. trustworthy; subj. trustful: - believe(-ing,-r), faithful (-ly), sure, true
pŏlĕō4160 – to make or do (in a very wide application, more or less direct): …bring forth, cause, exercise, fulfill, perform…(These are just a few of the synonyms listed)
I know that I’m not perfect,
And I shall never be.
But Jesus Christ is perfect
And has come to save me.
I wrote the four line verse above when I was just a teenager. It’s still extremely true today. Yes, I’ve grown in my walk with the Lord; but I’m thankful that God sees Christ’s righteousness when he looks at me because my own truly is “as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Someone once told me that it was more important to be God’s child than to try to do God’s will. At the time I thought that doing all the things the Bible says I should do was how to be a good child. I was wrong.
When I try to do good works and have good attitudes in my own strength, I eventually get frustrated and fail. When I focus my energy on being still and knowing God, he does his work in and through me, resulting in right thinking and better behavior. When I fail, I need to remember that God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). With my own children, when they would fail to do what I had asked them to, I would give them an opportunity to try again. How much more does a loving God do that for me.
God goes even farther than that. He promises to be faithful to do through us what he has called us to do. As I spend time with him, he reveals a direction I should go. Then he tells me that since he began that good work in me, he’ll finish it (Philippians 1:6).
Thank you, Father, for giving me the power to live a life pleasing to you. I thank you that obeying your word is a desire you place within me as I get to know more of you rather than a condition for knowing you. Thank you for being faithful to fulfill your plan for me.
Friday, May 5, 2017
WARMTH WITHIN HIS WINGS
How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!
therefore the children of men put their trust
under the shadow of thy wings.
The picture here is of a protective mother hen guarding her baby chicks. Jesus even presented this image of Himself when He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke 13:34). I am not saying that God is female. However, He expresses the nurturing, protective heart of a mother toward her babies. One of the names for God is El Shaddai which means all-sufficient One who sustains. Shaddai even has the connotation of “many-breasted.” What a picture of the love of our God – a mother nursing her baby!
Maternal instinct is to protect and provide for her children at all cost. It is a self-sacrificing love. The Lord is the complete personification of perfect love. The Lord Jesus laid down His life to save, to redeem His children. He is the mother hen, but He is also the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). You may have heard it said that, “Your mother is your mother forever. You will always be her baby.” When we are Jesus’ lamb, His child, we are His forever. He will never let us go!
John 10:27-29 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
We are helpless, fearful chicks; but our Father like a mother hen or duck has wings that are strong to shield us. No predator wants to come between a mother and her chicks. We can rest securely under the mighty wings of our God.