Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Though the earth give way

Psalm 46: 1 God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
   and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea
3 though its waters roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their surging
 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
   God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
   he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

 7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
 8 Come and see the works of the LORD,
   the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
   he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
   he burns the shields[b] with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.”

 11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. The God of Jacob is our fortress!

How many times have you sung that in church? Does it have real meaning to you? While this Psalm is perfectly applicable to many situations in life - and rightly so - we should also take it for exactly what it says.

This Psalm is talking about the kind of faith it takes to watch the earth give way and the mountains fall into the sea without fear.

When you study the Bible, one of the things that God will do for you is make connections. When you read something like this Psalm, you'll find yourself saying, "Wait! That sounds really familiar!" (This is when a Concordance or an Internet search can be very helpful) and you'll find verses like these:

Luke 21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Psalm 46 and Luke 21 go together. They are both talking about the end of the age - the things that will happen before Jesus comes. It's easy to read the Bible and be a little casual with what it's saying. It's perfectly right and correct to apply this Psalm and others to your every day situation. Figuratively, the mountains of your life may fall into the depths of the sea - but God is with you. You have no need to fear. 

However - a little challenge for you. As you read through the Bible, take it literally, too. The day is going to come when mountains all over the world are going to fall into the sea. The day is going to come when something causes such changes in the sun and moon and other heavenly bodies that men are going to faint from terror. Something is going to cause the seas to roar and toss that is completely unexplainable. Nations will be perplexed at it. Those days may be just ahead of us. Seriously. 

And, when that day comes, and your friends don't understand, your neighbors are terrorized and you start hearing about the elite preparing to head for great, underground bunkers (Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth. Is. 2:19), what will you do? Will you be afraid? You shouldn't be - not if you know your Bible. You can point people to places like Luke 21 and say, "Don't be afraid. God says these things would happen. It just means that Jesus is coming. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.

Some people point this verse and then practice ridiculous things like contemplative spirituality, where you are supposed to empty your mind because God told us to "be still." NO. NO. NO. Be still - be unafraid - stand firm. When these things begin to happen, it is God reclaiming what Satan took possession of. "Be still," means to quiet the fear in your heart - to remember that God IS your fortress. HE is the strong place to hide.

We all need to know what the Bible actually says about the days ahead, so we can calm the fear in our own hearts and in others. Jesus is coming, people. It's time to get serious. NOW is the time to fill your lamp with oil. Don't wait until the earth begins to shake.

One more challenge for you, especially if what you're reading here is way out of your comfort zone. (The first was to get into the Bible and READ and to take literally what you are reading). Today, tomorrow - over the course of the next few days - I encourage you to spend some very deep time in prayer. I want you to ask the question, "Lord, is she right? Is the hour that late?" and then expect an answer.  Trust and believe that God will answer you. And, who knows? Maybe I'm wrong, and you'll get a different answer than I've gotten. I'd love to hear from you, either way. If you'd rather not post it here, you may e-mail me.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Watcher's Crown

I've been praying about the direction of this blog, and what to cover each day. I'm trusting (not a feeling, but a conscious decision based on my knowledge of God's character - see the blog from Friday) that God WILL direct me as the days go on. There are so many wonderful things in God's Word to write about, but I kind of feel like Jude, when he wrote:


Jude 1:3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.


The very first thing that Jesus warned when asked about the last days was, "Watch out that no one deceives you." (Matthew 24:4)


Deception is coming - so good, so bold, so ingenious, that if possible, the very elect would be deceived. Then entire New Testament is filled with warnings about it. Here is just one:

1 Timothy 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.


I believe those days are in our immediate future, and I feel a great urgency to share the Scriptures concerning them with you. However, I'm going to pause and remind myself and you of something important. If those days are upon us, it means that Jesus' return is upon us also. 


In Paul's second letter to Timothy, he knows his death is near. He warns Timothy, again, but look how he ends:


2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 


That word, "longed for" is agapaō. Even if you've had just the tiniest exposure to Greek, you probably recognize that word, used for agape love. We have one word for love, but the Greeks had several. The agape love is love which is totally given over to something. It is the kind of love that Jesus has for us. It is the kind of love which we strive for. Paul is saying that there is a special crown for all those who long for, agapaō, LOVE, Jesus' return. 


You remember that Peter had disowned Jesus three times on the night before His crucifixion. After His resurrection, Jesus reinstated Peter, but unless you realize what words are being used, you lose some of what it is about. 


John 21:15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agapaō - This is the agape love, the love Jesus had when he died in our place) me more than these?” 

   “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”(phileō - This is brotherly love - the kind of love we are to have for our fellow believers. Peter is not willing to shoot his mouth off again. He knows he failed before. He doesn't want to do it again)

   Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”(Again - agapaō)

   He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”(Again - phileō. Now that you know the what's really being said, can you hear the desperation in Peter's voice? He knows he's not at the point Jesus is asking him to be)
   Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (Now, this time, Jesus says phileō. That's why Peter is hurt. He feels like Jesus is saying, "Do you only have phileō love for me, Peter?)
   Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”(He's saying, "you know I only have phileō love, Lord)
   Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (Not to leave the story at that point, notice how Jesus is saying that is enough. "Feed my sheep with your phileō love, Peter")

That agapaō love - is the peak of love - unselfish, whole-hearted, love -

Peter says,

1 Peter 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness (phileō); and to brotherly kindness, love. (agapaō)


If you love Jesus' appearing - if you are watching, waiting, longing for His appearing - there  is a special crown for you. Some people call it the "Watcher's Crown." There are several crowns promised to believers at the judgment seat. They are not all the same, and they are not all given for the same reason. (I know talking about a differentiation in rewards is kind of controversial in Lutheran circles, and it is easy to get off track, so I'm not going to stroll too far down that road)


Romans 8:23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.


2 Corinthians 5:2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,


Jesus' return is near.  Time is very short. The watchmen on the wall are crying out. This is not a reason for terror. It is not a reason for fear or dread, but for excitement - for joy!  


Over and over, we are told to watch. And, "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”(Luke 21;28)

I see that day drawing near, and the deception that comes with it. However, it means Jesus' coming is near, too. Can you even begin to imagine the wonder of that day? So, I watch - and I warn, and I hope you'll watch with me. Look up! Our redemption really is drawing near. We are ALL commanded to watch, but some are truly called to it. Are you one of them?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Deception comes first

In Matthew, chapter 24, Jesus' disciples came and asked Him a question:

Matthew 24:3 Now as He (Jesus) sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

What was the answer?
Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.

The biggest sign of the nearness of Jesus' return is deception.

He goes on to say (skipping a few verses here and there)

Matthew 24:5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.

No one with a discerning heart and mind can deny that deception already abounds. Yet, Jesus warns that worse deception will be coming before His return. Deception so convincing it could deceive, if possible, even the elect. What does that mean? That word, translated "deceive" is planaō (plä-nä'-ō: study more here. It means:

1) to cause to stray, to lead astray, lead aside from the right way
a) to go astray, wander, roam about
2)a) to lead away from the truth, to lead into error, to deceive
b) to be led away into error and sin

How could something deceive even those who know better?  Well, partially because it's always mixed with truth. Satan has had 6,000 years to practice his lies on us, and he's getting really good at it. It's kind of like charting a course in the ocean or deep in space. If you are off by 1/2 degree, that doesn't seem to amount to much - but over time, you'll wind up completely lost and perhaps dead. Almost right is not good enough. You could be fooled - I could be fooled - our pastors could be fooled.

What does that mean? It means that you need to go back to the Bible all the time and make sure it says what the person is saying it says. Remember that a clever person can take verses from here and there and prove nearly anything he or she wants. Look how far the Jehovah Witnesses have gotten doing that exact thing! The more familiar you are with God's Word, the easier this will be, and the quicker you can spot the lie.

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Even Paul was checked up on - and he says this was a noble thing! He praised the Bereans for doing this. Note that the message was received with eagerness. They listened to what Paul had to say, and then they went and checked it out for themselves. There may be times when you will have "false prophet" alarm bells going off right away. The Bible says to stop listening at that point. The message should no longer be received with eagerness when that happens!

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.

This doesn't say to test some things, but to test everything, including those things that come from the Christian book store, from your church - and from me!

Most of this is from a study I wrote awhile back, called "Why Study the Bible?" This is only about 1/5th of the study. You can find the rest of it here. There is a link at the bottom to other studies.

As I sat in church this morning, I was thinking about this blog and the direction I'd like to go with it.  I am convinced that the days of "normal" of our world are just about to end. These days, that Jesus warns us about - when deception would fool even the elect if that were possible - are in our immediate future. We need to get ready for that - not necessarily by stockpiling physical necessities (although I am not going to discourage anyone who feels called to that) - but by stockpiling God's Word in our hearts. Amos warns:

Amos 8:11
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. 12 People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.

While that was true in the past,  (Amos was written about 750 BC) I believe it will be true of the future, too, as much of Amos concerns the "Day of the Lord."

So, that is my intent with this blog - to help those who are starting to hear the call to "be ready" to GET ready. And, absolutely, the first thing to do is to get into God's Word. Pick a translation you'll actually read and start reading. You can start at the beginning, you can pick almost any book and start there or (and I'm only kind of kidding), you can virtually open the Bible at random and begin there.

In the past, I've strongly encouraged people to start at the beginning and just read. Three to four chapters a day will get you through in about a year. Twenty chapters a day will get you through in about three months. Forget the commentaries and all the "what it really means" and JUST READ.

While I still strongly believe that, I am also convinced that 1) We are nearly out of time and 2) Because we are nearly out of time, God will help us read and understand what we need to. I am not a betting person, but if I was, I would bet, that as you read, God will send you different places in His word - to learn what you need to as fast as He intends you to.

Here is my prayer for me (and maybe you, too, if you're feeling called this way):

Heavenly Father, I am calling on you in the name of my savior, in Jesus' name and HIS righteousness, to direct me and my family to read, learn, be, think, say, do - all that You would have of us. Teach us Your word, Father. Help us to learn what we need for the days ahead. Make us ready for Jesus' coming - and to help all those around us to be ready for that day. Please, Father - only You know when that day is, but I feel with all my heart that it is drawing near. Please, Father, make us ready.

If you will read and pray for understanding of what you read, pray for God to direct you, He will! It's that simple.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Trust is not a feeling

Do you trust God? Really trust Him, no matter what?

If we were honest, most of us would say that trusting is hard. We "trust" when our loved ones are safe, there is food on the table, our lives are secure. What does it even mean, anyway, to "trust" God?

Isaiah 12:2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."

Fellow Lutherans will likely recognize this verse as one we sing often as part of our liturgy. It starts out "God is my salvation." Literally, it is God  ('el) is salvation ( yĕshuw`ah). For those with a bit of Hebrew knowledge, you may recognize the name of Jesus there. In other words, one way of understanding that first line is "God is Jesus." Yĕshuw`ah is salvation. You may remember the angel said to Joseph, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."(Matthew 1:21)

So, the verse starts out, "God is Jesus. I will trust and not be afraid."

I will trust (batach). It means: 
1) to trust
2) to have confidence, be confident
3) to be bold
4) to be secure
1) to cause to trust, make secure
2) (TWOT) to feel safe, be careless

It is a verb, but it's an ongoing action - an incomplete action. Something that happens again and again, sometimes extending from the past into the future. Although the last part of the definition can include "to feel safe," this is not a feeling. This is a conscious decision - one that has to be made again and again. I WILL trust. I will take confidence. In what? In the fact that Jesus is God, and, as the verse continues, "he has become my salvation." 
The "afraid" there is pachad and it means to fear or dread. The verse goes on: 

The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."

The part that says "the LORD, the LORD" is actually Yah, he is Yĕhovah. The preexisting one - the "I am that I am." The voice of the burning bush. The all mighty, all powerful creator of the universe. HE is the one who is my strength. HE is the one who is my song (zimrath), my reason for praise, my reason for comfort, for life, for security - my reason to trust! Not a feeling at all - but a knowing of who your savior is!

That One, that all powerful, all knowing, all loving Yĕhovah, HE is my salvation. He controls all and is worthy of my decision to trust. Faith is a gift, and trust is certainly related to faith. Without faith, we cannot trust. However, trust implies action on our part. It flows from faith. But, don't get it confused with feeling. Trust is a decision based on your knowledge of all that your Savior is.

In the Hebrew, there is another way of looking at the verse, too. Yĕhovah, the all powerful One, is MY salvation. He is MY Jesus. He has connected Himself to ME, and to you - and to all who believe. The all powerful creator of the universe has intentionally connected Himself to each of us who believe in Him as savior. Yĕhovah is my Jesus. That's why you trust. That's why you can face each day and whatever it brings.

Do you understand that it doesn't matter what you FEEL? I WILL trust, regardless of what I feel. I WILL face this day and every day, no matter what it brings, because Yĕhovah is my salvation. He is my Jesus.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Waiting for the Lord

Psalm 130
Waiting for the Redemption of the LORD
A Song of Ascents.

1 Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD;
2 Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.

3 If You, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.

5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
6 My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

7 O Israel, hope in the LORD;
For with the LORD there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
8 And He shall redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.

As Christians, it seems like we spend most of our time waiting for the Lord. Usually, His timing is not our timing - and so when we pray, we often wind up waiting for an answer. Our hearts are heavy, and we wait for joy to return. Our children are far away, and we wait for the Lord to bring us together (at least by e-mail or Facebook!)

The Bible is full of admonitions for us to wait patiently for many things - but most of all, for the Lord to come. We are to be watching and waiting, expectantly.

In the Psalm above, in verse 5, it says: I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.

That word, translated "wait," is qavah (kä·vä'). It means

1) to wait, look for, hope, expect
1) to wait or look eagerly for
2) to lie in wait for
3) to wait for, linger for
2) to collect, bind together
a) (Niphal) to be collected

Notice how there is an element of waiting to be gathered together. In that same verse, the word translated "hope" is yachal (yä·khal'). It means

1) to wait, hope, expect
a) (Niphal) to wait
b) (Piel)
1) to wait, await, tarry
2) to wait for, hope for
c) (Hiphil) to wait, tarry, wait for, hope for

(You can study the meaning of each word here)

So, what does that mean? What does it mean to "hope" in God's Word in this instance? It means that God's word says it, therefore we expect it. God says it will happen, so we wait expectantly for it to happen.

In the next verse, "My soul waits for the Lord More than those who watch for the morning— Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.", that word "watch" is shamar (shamar). It means:

1) to keep, guard, observe, give heed
1) to keep, have charge of
2) to keep, guard, keep watch and ward, protect, save life
a) watch, watchman (participle)
3) to watch for, wait for
4) to watch, observe
5) to keep, retain, treasure up (in memory)
6) to keep (within bounds), restrain
7) to observe, celebrate, keep (sabbath or covenant or commands), perform (vow)
8) to keep, preserve, protect
9) to keep, reserve
1) to be on one's guard, take heed, take care, beware
2) to keep oneself, refrain, abstain
3) to be kept, be guarded
c) (Piel) to keep, pay heed
d) (Hithpael) to keep oneself from

Wow - do you see some New Testament correlation in there? For me, 2 Peter, Chapter 3 is just an expansion of the same thought:

2 Peter 3
God’s Promise Is Not Slack
1 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us,[a] the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 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 creation.” (Those who have stopped waiting!) 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[b] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
(See the reason for waiting patiently?)

The Day of the Lord
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.[c] 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Be Steadfast
14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;
(Do you see the connection to that Hebrew word, shamar? As watchmen, waiting for the Lord, we are to be blameless. Why? One reason is so that others, seeing us, will also be drawn to the Lord.)  15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

Do you see the connection? Wait - expectantly - believing God when He says it will happen. Wait - patiently - because the reason that day is delayed is so that more will believe in Jesus as their Savior. Wait - on guard, and living righteously, because that day IS coming. 

Look up! Time is short!

Why the name?

Why the name "Even the Stones" for a jewelry store? First, credit where credit is due - it was my daughter Chelsea who suggested it. She knows of my love of Jesus, so when I heard it, I thought it was perfect.

The name comes from Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He came, riding on the foal of a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah:

Zechariah 9:9  "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He [is] just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.

Luke 19:28    The Triumphal Entry

When He (Jesus) had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, 30 saying, "Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. 31 And if anyone asks you, 'Why are you loosing it?' thus you shall say to him, 'Because the Lord has need of it.'"

32 So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. 33 But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, "Why are you loosing the colt?"

34 And they said, "The Lord has need of him." 35 Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. 36 And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road.
37 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38 saying:

"'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!' Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples."

40 But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out." 

So, that is why each one of my necklaces has a cross at the back. It's not meant to be part of the design. It's meant to be a statement of faith - a reminder - to cry out, to praise Jesus, to keep Him as your king - and that "even the stones" join you in that.