River

River2When Jesus comes back, the world’s armies will be gathered against Him.  He will respond to their aggression with the sword of His mouth, and every enemy will be conquered. As Jesus sets up His kingdom, He will rule and reign from Jerusalem.  As He rules, a most amazing thing will take place at the Temple.  Water will begin to trickle from under the door of the Temple and there on that desert mountain, a river will start to flow.  The river will flow eastward until it empties into that vast salt water lake known as the Dead Sea.  Ezekiel records, “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed” (Ezekiel 47:8).

Even though I believe Ezekiel is describing a real event in our future, I can’t help but think of the picture it paints of what Jesus wants to do in our lives right now.

Jesus wants to conquer you.  He wants to sit on the throne of your life.  You might say to me, “Well what’s stopping Him?”  And my answer is simple.  You are stopping Him.  For Jesus to be the ruler of your life, you have to stop fighting Him and surrender.  And when you stop fighting Him, something wonderful happens.  The Holy Spirit begins to flow from your heart.  The river flows from where His throne is.  The river flows from where He is worshipped.  Wherever this river goes, dead things come alive.  That dead sea of bitterness and resentment in your heart can be healed.  It starts with simply yielding.  Let Him win.  You.

Downward Trajectory

Downward SpiralI don’t know if you’ve been noticing, but our world sure seems to be on a downward spiral.  It seems everywhere you turn, a few more moral standards change.  What once was considered abhorrent becomes slightly tolerated, and what was once only slightly tolerated is now fully accepted.  You see it in how society keeps redefining marriage.  It used to be unthinkable for a couple to consider divorce.  Then divorce became allowable, then accepted, and now we don’t even blink an eye when someone considers divorce.  If I take my definition of a stable marriage from what I see on television, all it takes for unfaithfulness to occur is for one spouse to have someone at work smile at them.  I could talk about our declining standards with alcohol, money, drugs, raising our children, and much more.  So much of our society is on a downward trajectory.

Where will all this lead us?  If we don’t wake up soon and see our world turn towards God, we will see our world primed to follow a coming, charismatic, totally evil leader.  When the antichrist comes on the world scene, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

Is there a solution?  There certainly is.  Make sure your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Learn to follow the standards that Jesus sets for you and not those that the world sets.  You don’t have to go down that slippery slope with the rest of the world.  Stand firm.  Hold on to Jesus.

When Your Enemy Falls

Boxing VictoryGod had a harsh word to the people of Ammon, the neighbors of the nation of Judah on their eastern border.  “Say to them, ‘Hear the word of the Sovereign Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because you said “Aha!” over my sanctuary when it was desecrated and over the land of Israel when it was laid waste and over the people of Judah when they went into exile, therefore I am going to give you to the people of the East as a possession. They will set up their camps and pitch their tents among you; they will eat your fruit and drink your milk” (Ezekiel 25:3–4).

More often than not, the people of Ammon and Judah were enemies throughout their history.  They had harsh words, they had wars, and they simply didn’t like each other.  So wouldn’t it seem natural for the Ammonites to be standing on the border laughing as Judah was wiped out by the Babylonians? After all, God was the one who allowed Judah to be judged because of their own backsliding.  They deserved it.

Beloved, God doesn’t appreciate it when we rejoice over our enemy’s downfall. Solomon wrote, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them” (Proverbs 24:17–18).

God has reasons for bringing judgment, and often it’s because He needs to get that person’s attention and encourage them to turn around.  Don’t be cheering when your enemy has trouble.  Pray and show kindness to them.  Be ready to point them in the right direction.

Walk Don’t Run

WalkingI’m one of those guys who tries to walk every morning.  I do it partly for my physical health, but also for my spiritual health as well.  Walking not only helps my body burn a few calories, but I use the time to pray and listen to the Scriptures on one of those phone apps.  It’s not that I’m against running.  I’m actually quite jealous of those who have the physical ability to run every day.  Yet for my old body, “slow and steady wins the race”.  So as I’m walking and listening to the NIV this morning, you can imagine why a couple of words stuck out and caught my attention.  The apostle John wrote, “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us” (2 John 4).  A little further in the passage, John wrote, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9).

Running is good when it comes to healthy exercise, but perhaps it’s not so good when it comes to truth.  It seems to me that “truth” keeps a steady, dependable pace.  We may not always like how “slow” things seem at times.  We may want to hear “new things” instead of those same “old things”.  Yet for our spiritual health, it’s good to keep the pace that truth sets up.  It may be tempting from time to time to just “run ahead” or stray outside the boundaries of truth.  Yet beloved, just keep the pace.  Don’t lag behind, sit on the sofa, and ignore God’s truth.  Be careful of running ahead.  Slow and steady wins the race.

False Teachers

Wolf Sheep…there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1)

I’m a little hesitant to talk about this subject, because there are some who go way beyond what the Scripture talks about, to the point where everybody else (except them) is a false teacher.  To be honest, you can find something wrong in anyone who opens their mouth to teach.

Some of us are a little naïve in thinking that anyone who has the label “Christian” attached to them is okay, and we should just blindly follow whatever a “Christian” teacher might say.  The truth is, there are false teachers in the world.  Peter said that they would exploit people with deceptive words (2:3).  He said that they will one day face God’s judgment for their deception (2:9).  Peter characterized them as “self-willed” and full of lust (2:10).  He said they would talk about things that they simply don’t understand (2:12).  He said they would have eyes full of adultery (2:14), and be greedy for money (2:15).  And worse yet, they would entice those who have actually begun to follow Christ, and lead them away from God and into fleshly sin (2:18).

My friends, God cares that you have the correct ideas about Him.  God cares that you trust in Jesus.  God cares that you turn from your sin and follow after godliness.  God does not want you following anyone who tells you otherwise.  Keep your eyes open.

Easy

EasyThis week’s Pastor to Person was written by Dave Dunagan:

As we walk through our lives, wouldn’t it be great if there was such a thing as a Christian “easy” button?  Every time we begin to struggle or doubt, all we would have to do is reach into our pocket, pull out our “easy” button, and push it. Then everything would be “perfect”. All our evil thoughts would disappear. All our temptations would suddenly be gone.  We would have strength, boldness and wisdom available to us on a daily basis. God would be so close to us. It would be great!

Alas, life is not so simple. Many times, it’s the poor choices we personally make that cause us the greatest problems. In James 4:7-8, I find the closest thing to an “easy” button. James tells us “7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” (NLT)

Sometimes, making changes in our lives is as easy as turning around and walking away from evil and toward God. The Lord has promised us that as we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. And as we do, those things in our lives that cause us to stumble will begin to fade. Beloved, seek the Lord, don’t lose sight of Him. Tribulations will come, but as we keep our eyes on Jesus, He will give us peace and strength, and the path before us will become easier.

Difficult Truth

CautionJeremiah probably wasn’t considered the most “popular” of people in his day.  He lived during the time just prior to the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.  His calling in life was to warn the nation of the coming judgment and to encourage them to change their ways.  The problem is, if your “message” isn’t always “nice” and “positive”, some people will get offended.  “But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die!” (Jeremiah 26:8)

There are going to be times in life where we are going to be faced with the same kind of choice that Jeremiah faced.  Are we going to keep our mouths shut and not rock the boat, or are we going to speak up and tell the truth.  I have to admit that often I’m more than reluctant to be a boat rocker.  Yet, sometimes the truth is a bit more important than whether or not people like us.  If your child wants to play basketball on the 57 freeway, are you going to keep silent just so they will still “like” you?  I’m not saying we need to be negative all the time.  Some people seem to think they’re called to be critics, and that’s not always helpful either.

Some of us are the recipients of “difficult truth”.  Someone has said something that has hurt our feelings.  We get upset and want to lash out, or run away and hide.  Be careful my friend.  If this “difficult” thing is true, it’s something you want to pay attention to.  The people of Jerusalem blew Jeremiah off when they should have listened.

He gets it

LonelyOur Jesus is certainly the most interesting person there ever was.  Sometimes we like to focus on the fact that He is indeed God. He is truly, fully God.  Yet, He is also human.  He isn’t just partly human, He is fully human.  The writer to the Hebrews records, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Why is this a big deal?  Some of us from time to time fall into the trap of thinking that no one understands us.  And there indeed may be times when those in our immediate company do not get the difficulty we’re in, or the struggle we’re facing.  We start singing that old spiritual, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen”, and we sing it over and over and over.  Our funk grows larger, and the pit we’re in seems to get deeper.

But the honest truth, friend, is that somebody DOES know the trouble you’ve seen.  Not only does Jesus know about you because He is God and sees and knows everything, but Jesus also “gets it”.  Two thousand years ago He took on human flesh and was faced with the same troubles and temptations that we face.  He “gets it”.  He “gets” you.  He has compassion.  He understands.

You are not alone dear friend.  Even though some of us may let you down from time to time, Jesus will not let you down.  “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

No one else

No One ElseThere will be a day when the entire world will turn against God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel.  There will be no friends and no allies to rely upon.  It will be a time when the antichrist will pour out his forces to destroy the people of Israel (Rev. 12:15-16).  In that day, God has something to say.  Isaiah recorded it.  “I looked, but there was no one to help, and I wondered that there was no one to uphold; therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; and My own fury, it sustained Me” (Isaiah 63:5).

No one will stand for Israel.  No one will defend God’s people.  But they will not be abandoned.  God will step in and save them.  This is when Jesus returns and defeats the armies of the antichrist.  Isaiah recorded that He will come with “fury”.  Like someone who messes with a mother bear’s cubs, you don’t want to be messing with God’s people.

There is a great lesson here for us as well, beloved.  There are going to be times when it seems as if no one will help us.  It will seem as if even our friends have turned their backs on us.  David wrote, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10).

When it seems there is no help available, there is a place to turn.  When God is for you, who can be against you?  There is no one else who loves you like God.  No one else.

If you love me …

Nail in handsWe have these little formulas concocted in our heads that go something like this, “If you love me then you will…”  We apply these formulas to our relationships and think that if the other person truly loves us, then they will act or behave a certain way.  Some of those ideas are correct, but some of them are quite flawed.  Too often our “love formulas” are simply selfish, based on what I’m going to get out of the deal.  A guy pushes his girlfriend to go farther than she wants.  A gal pushes her sweetheart into buying too many expensive gifts.

When it comes to God, sometimes the little formula in our head goes something like this:  “If You love me, then You will make my life easy.”  We might not say those exact words to God, but when circumstances get difficult, we begin to wonder if God loves us or maybe has forgotten us.

God spoke through Isaiah, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me. (Isaiah 49:15–16)

You may think that because of some recent experience in your life that God has forgotten about you, but you would be wrong.  You might think that because something has turned painful in your life that God no longer loves you, but you would be wrong.

You may not understand why things happen like they do, but He has not forgotten you.  Your name is inscribed on His hands.

This is a collection of Rich's "Pastor to Person" articles for Calvary Chapel of Fullerton