Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is the Lord coming back on Saturday?

I guess I’ve had my head under a rock and haven’t heard, but obviously the Lord is supposed to return on Saturday. Well, that is if you believe everything you read on the internet. A pastor friend of mine put a post on Facebook this morning about a web site proclaiming that the coming of the Lord was May 21, 2011. This obviously has a lot of people upset and worried because they believe this “prophecy”. So, I thought I would take a minute and address this subject of the Lord’s return. There are certain things that we know about the Lord’s return and certain things that cannot know.

Here is what I know:

The Lord’s return is imminent. This means that Lord could return at any time. When the apostle Paul wrote to the troubled Thessolonian church about their loved ones who had passed away he made this statement, “then WE which are ALIVE and REMAIN shall not prevent them which sleep.” (Emphasis on words is mine.) These people were worried about their loved ones who had died before the rapture of the church. They were afraid that their dead family members would not be part of the rapture. Paul assured them that those who were alive would not be the only ones to go in the rapture. It is obvious that Paul believed that he would be one of those who were alive when Jesus returned. There was nothing preventing the return of the Lord in Paul’s day, and there is nothing preventing Him from returning today. I believe the next great event on God’s schedule is the rapture of the church.

There are no signs related regarding the return of the Lord. There is nothing that has to be fulfilled before Jesus can come back. Some have misunderstood signs concerning the second coming of Christ in His revelation with signs concerning the rapture of the church. These are two separate events and will happen at least seven years apart. There are signs about the revelation, but not the rapture. (A good example of this is Matthew 24.)

We should be ready. The Lord could come back Saturday, but he could just as easily come back today. Jesus goes as far as to tell us that “no man, nor the angels in heaven, nor the Son” knows the hour in which this will take place. Because of this we must be ready. Do not be one of those that will say “peace and safety” and then “sudden destruction” comes upon you. (1 Thessalonians 5:3)

Here is what we do not know.

We do not know the day when the Lord will return. The gospel of Matthew promises that it will be a time in which we are not expecting. No one knows when Jesus will come. There is no secret bible formula you can use to understand something that God promised you would not be able to understand.

We do not know the truth about history. The fact is that our world went through many years of darkness. During the days of the scriptures God would use godly men to keep track of days and seasons. After the bible was finished most of this work was placed into the hands of ungodly men. During this time calendars were changed, dates were not kept accurately and it is widely believed that the date we use today could be many years away from accurate. So, how can you calculate accurately when you don’t have accurate information to calculate with? You can’t!

To sum this up let me say that I’m not worried about the Lord returning Saturday. Could He come Saturday? Sure, but not because there is a secret formula that says He will. If He does come I’m ready.

People use the Mayan calendar to predict that the earth will come to an end in December 2012. I remember being in high school and hearing people predict that the Lord would return in 1993. Obviously there was a man who made a lot of money predicting the Lord would return in 1988, then again in 1989. We all remember the paranoia over the year 2000. (Remember how the Lord was going to return, banks would collapse, computers would crash, and everyone needed to stock up food and water?)

The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t know, and you cannot know. All you can do is be ready. What if today is the day the Lord returns? Are you ready to meet Him? We may have many more years. We may have mere moments. Whatever amount of time we have left should be used to for the glory of the Lord. Don’t be fooled by false prophecies, but at the same time be ready.

“But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”    1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Friday, May 13, 2011

It’s Time to make your voice heard!

When you read through the book of Esther you see a development in the life of Esther. After she receives the news that the wicked Haman had plotted against the Jews she is nervous and afraid. As she develops she moves to prayer, steps out of faith in appearing before the king and now in this chapter the time has finally arrived when she must make her voice heard. God has set the stage for what we see in chapter seven.

Throughout the pages of the Bible God’s people are told to make their voices heard. We are told to make our voice heard in praise. During the triumphant entry of Christ, we are told that the people cried “Hosanna” “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” The disciples wanted to quite the crowd. Jesus told them that if they were to be quite the rocks would cry out.

We are told to make our voice heard in witnessing. Jesus gave the example of the man who made a wedding celebration for his son. Once the wedding was prepared he called for the guests. One by one the guests declined to come. Because of this, the man told his servant to go out into the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, so that his house would be full. What a great example of the witness we should be.

We are told to cry out against sin and the list goes on. The church has been silent too long. It is time make our voices heard.

Speak up before the king

In chapter seven we see the seventh banquet mentioned in the book of Esther. The three main guests at this banquet are the king, Esther, the queen, and Haman. I’m sure that when Haman goes to this banquet he does so with mixed feelings. He is happy to be the invited guest of the queen, but at the same time his pride is hurt because the honor he just had to give to Mordecai in chapter six.

As the king did on two other occasions he asks what the petition of the queen is. Once again he offers her up to half of the kingdom. (This did not mean he would really give her half of the kingdom. This was an expression used to demonstrate that the kingdom was willing to be generous.) It seems that this petition of Esther is something that has been weighing heavy on the kings mind. He does not waste any time in asking Esther about it. I’m sure this has been heavy on Esther’s mind as well. No doubt she has rehearsed this speech many times.

Her request was that her and her people be spared from certain doom. You will remember way back in chapter two that Mordecai had instructed Esther not to reveal her nationality when she entered the contest for queen. She has kept that secret this whole time. I’m sure this statement perplexed the king. I can see the shock in his face. “What does she mean her people?” “Is she not Persian?” “Has a secret been kept from me?”

It is now time for Esther to take her place with her people. For her to do this was to not only identify her nationality, but to reveal her religion as well. In this day to be identified as a Jew was much more than nationality. Having made her request it is now in the hands of the Lord.

Startled the king asked who the person was that would do such a thing. Either the king is looking for someone to blame or he does not even realize yet that Esther is a Jew. The king was already hit with one surprise when he found out that his queen was a Jew. He is going to be hit with another. He is about to learn that his number one man is the one responsible for this problem.

Speak up before it’s too late

I can see Haman’s mouth fall open. He has no words. He does not know what to do. Haman may not have known, but God has promised that no weapon formed against His people will prosper. God promised Abraham that he would bless those that blessed him, and curse those that cursed him.

The king is so shocked and enraged that he storms off from the table into the garden. We don’t know what was going on in the king’s mind. It may have been anger. It may have been embarrassment. It could be far more than these two things. Did Haman really want to slay the queen? If Haman wanted to kill the queen could it be that he was involved in the crime of Bigthan and Teresh? Could he want to kill the king as well?

I don’t know what the king thought but I know that it was not by chance that the king was just reminded that a Jew named Mordecai saved his life. If Esther was a Jew, and Mordecai, the man that saved his life was a Jew, then why would he want to kill the Jews? The king walks up and down in the garden trying to control his anger.

When the king returns to the room he sees Haman pawing at the couch of Esther. Haman knows that his last resort is to beg the queen for forgiveness. Seeing this, the king immediately accuses Haman of trying to molest the queen. This crime is punishable by death. The gallows that Haman constructed for Mordecai were convenient, so they take Haman and hang him on his own gallows. Apparently Haman had let it be known that he intended to hang Mordecai, because the people of the palace knew about the gallows he built.

The day before Haman led Mordecai around the city with royal apparel on. Now he is being led through the city with his head covered. No doubt Haman’s wife and his ten sons witness his execution.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”  Galatians 6:7

Haman sowed hatred against the people of God. Haman attempted to kill Mordecai by hanging him on the gallows. Now Haman is hanging 75 feet off the ground with a rope around his neck.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

National Day of Prayer

As most of you already know today is the day that our nation has set aside as a day to pray. While I believe that everyday should be a day of prayer, it is wonderful that we set aside a day to remind us of the need to pray.  I can’t help wonder how our nation, our world, or even our homes would be different if we pledged to make every day one of prayer.
I thought I would take just a second and share my prayer with you today.

“Lord, I’m so thankful today. I have been blessed beyond what I deserve. You have blessed me with a wonderful home, with health and with happiness. Most of all you have blessed me with the privilege of knowing you as my savior. I’m so glad that on February the 23, 1993 you saved a 14 year old kid who was on his way to hell. From that point I have never been alone. You have me your Spirit who lead, guides, and comforts me every day.

Today I pray for my family. I love my wife and two girls. I’m glad that you placed them into my life, and could not imagine my life without them. Bless them today, give them protection and happiness. Please bless mine and my wife’s family, my church family, my pastor and his wife.

I pray for those that we love who are suffering today. I pray for those who have sickness, heartache and suffering. I pray for those who are sick in sin. I have family that is lost. I lift them up to you today pleading for their soul. Lord please don’t let any of my family die lost. I pray for that small group of people who I am privileged to minister to. I pray for my Sunday school class, the children I minister to at church and for the one who is reading this blog.

I ask your protection over our country. America is not what she once was. We have allowed too many distractions to come into our lives that have caused us to take our eyes off of you. Please send revival to our country once again. Let it begin with the local church and move throughout our communities, our states and our nation.

God you are good, your mercy is great and your truth endures through all generations. You are worth our love and praise.

In Jesus name, Amen.”

That is my prayer today. What is yours? Have you prayed today? Let me finish by saying that if it has been awhile since you last prayed, today would be a good day to fix that problem.

Your friend in Christ,
Joshua Sharp

Monday, May 2, 2011

Is God glad we killed Osama Bin Laden?

I usually don’t post two blogs in one day, but this is something that has been on my mind all day. I thought I would share my thoughts on this subject in this blog. So, Is God glad we killed Osama Bin Landen? The answer to this question is two-fold. Truthfully the answer is yes and no.

Let me begin by saying that the Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the unrighteous. God spoke through Ezekiel telling us “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”  There has never been a sinner die and go to hell and God be pleased about it. “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

In my blog earlier today I talked about the death of another wicked man by the name of Haman. (If you did not read my earlier blog it's entitled "It's time to listen to the voice of God.) Haman was a man not unlike Bin Laden. He hated the Jews, he hated the one true God and he was willing to murder and kill if that is what it took to promote his cause. It is wasn’t for the hand of God moving on behalf of the Jews Haman would have succeeded and eliminated the Jewish population. But before God allowed Haman to be killed he warned him on more than one occasion to repent of his ways.

Had Osama Bin Laden been willing to repent of his ways and turn to God then I believe he could have found salvation. John 3:16 tells me that God sent His Son to die for the sins of the whole world. Osama Bin Laden is burning in hell as I write this blog, and although he was a terrible man, God takes no pleasure in his death.

While God does not take pleasure in the death of the unrighteous, He does from time to time have to eliminate them. A lot of praise will go out to a lot of people for finding and killing America’s number one enemy. The fact of the matter is that if God was willing they never would have found him.

I believe that Bin Laden's hatred for America was because we supported Israel. His number one enemy was the Jew and that meant we were his enemy as well. The trouble with being the enemy of the Jew is that, when you are the enemy of the Jew you are also the enemy of God.

Way back in the book of Genesis God told Abraham that he would make him a great nation. Along with the promise came another promise. God promised to bless them that blessed Abraham (his decedents the Jews) and curse them that cursed Abraham. God has made good on that promise. One of my heroes J. Vernon McGhee was famous for saying “The Jews have been around to attend the funeral of every enemy who tried to kill them.”

Osama Bin Laden was an old enemy with a new name. His name could have just as easily been Pharaoh, Caesar, Haman, Hitler or Stalin. Each of these men have in one way or another tried to eliminate the Jewish people and each of these men have suffered a similar fate to that of Bin Laden.

Woe unto the person, or nation that turns to harm the Jew! It is my hope that America will forever be the friend of Israel. God will bless those that bless the Jews. The day we turn our back on our Jewish friends is the day God turns his back on us. Let us, as the people of God, pray that that day never comes.

God took no pleasure in the death that took place late last night, but the enemy of the Jew is the enemy of God. Osama Bin Laden picked the wrong fight.

It's time to listen to the voice of God

Have you ever heard the saying “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”? Well that could not be said for Haman in Esther chapter 6. The fact is, as when chapter six begins it will be the last day of the life of Haman.

When I taught this lesson to my class at church I titled chapter six “It’s Time to listen to the voice of God.” If Haman would have listened to the voice of God this day may have went different. Before the chapter is over Haman will be warned many times about his wickedness, and on each occasion Haman will ignore God’s voice. Haman continues to run head first into his wickedness.

“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”   Ezekiel 33:11

The fact is that God has no pleasure in the death of a sinner. God does not want anyone to die lost and go to hell. The Father rejoices, the Son rejoices, the Spirit rejoices, and the heavens rejoice when a sinner is saved. If Haman would have turned to God he could have been saved. God would have loved to save Haman.

God speaks His will, verses 1-3

Many times God speaks to us without us even realizing it. We assume that when God speaks He does it in such a way that there is no way we can misplace His voice. This is not always true.  Sometimes God speaks in a “still small voice” as He did to the prophet Elijah. Sometimes He speaks through an event in our life. Sometimes He speaks through others. Maybe He speaks to us through something we read, or hear. In chapter six He will speak through a sleepless night.

I believe it is important that we train ourselves to hear the voice of God. There have been many times that God has spoken to me. Most of the time when God speaks He does it in a small way. A nudge saying maybe you should do this, or not do that. I try my best to listen.

This night in Shushan was a sleepless night. Haman is up all night supervising the construction of the gallows that he intends to hang Mordecai from. The king is up all night as well.  Shakespeare wrote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” King Solomon agreed by saying,

“The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.”  (Eccl 5:12)

I’m sure that the king had spent many nights awake. No doubt the king had many responsibilities and worries that kept him up at night. He worried about the finances of the kingdom. He worried that someone would try to take his life. Maybe he ate too much at the queen’s feast. We don’t know why he is awake, but God is keeping him awake for a purpose. This night however will be one of the most eventful in history.

Since the king is unable to sleep he orders one of his servants to read to him. Again, this is the hand of God working. The king had many forms of entertainment at his disposal. He could have called for a musician to play music or a troubadour to tell him a story in a song. He could have called for some of his officers to come play a game. He could have called for a woman to come to his chamber. Instead the king asks one of his servants to read to him.

The Persians had a strict order of honor and rewards. This kept the people loyal to the king. As the servant reads the account of something in the mind of the king clicks. It’s like a light going off. He realizes that nothing was ever done to honor Mordecai for saving his life.

You can almost picture the servant reading and the king sitting up in his bed asking, “You didn’t read what was done to honor that man. What did we do for him?” The servant looks over his notes and replies, “Nothing was done to honor him.” If Mordecai would have been honored 5 years before, the events of this day could not have occurred. There was a definite reason that Mordecai’s deed was wrote down, but no honor was given.

God speaks to the wayward, verse 4-14

God takes no pleasure in the unrighteous, but he also takes no pleasure in the unrighteous person’s death. The bible is clear that God does not bring judgment without first bringing a warning. Before Judas betrayed Christ he was warned. Paul tells us in his epistles to warn the unruly. God does not just judge someone without first giving them the opportunity to repent.

I have seen God warn people about their sin. I have also seen people ignore the warnings of God. To see someone ignore the warnings of God is one of the scariest things you can watch. In these verses we will watch Haman ignore the warnings of God. We will also see what happens to a sinner that continues to ignore the warnings of God.

Haman hasn’t slept this night either. He has been up all night supervising the construction of the gallows he intended to hang Mordecai on. Once they are built he goes to the palace early to get permission to kill Mordecai. I’m sure Haman thought that if he would get permission early then Mordecai would have to hang there all day, giving everyone the opportunity to see his dead body.

When Haman arrives the king hears someone stirring in the court so he asks who is outside. When he finds out that it is Haman he calls him into his bed chamber. Again, the hand of God is moving. Had Haman arrived an hour later the king may have already consulted with one of his other advisors. God wanted Haman to be the first one there. God wanted Haman to be the one that spent the day honoring Mordecai, not killing him.

When Haman is called for the king asks him a question without giving the background of the question. “What should be done to the man the king wants to honor?” Haman thought the king meant him. After all, he was the prime minister. He had been given the ring of the king. He was given permission to destroy the Jews. Surely the king was thinking of him. Little did Haman know that before the day was over the situation would be reversed. Haman would spend the day honoring Mordecai and the gallows that were meant for Mordecai would hold his body.

Imagine the sequence of events. First he has to go find Mordecai and bring him to the palace. He has to put the royal clothes on him and get him on the king’s horse. Next, he had to walk up and down each street of the city proclaiming that this was the man that the king wanted to honor. When all this was done he was to take Mordecai back to the palace, remove the clothes from him and send Mordecai away. This was quite a day.
When the day is over Haman heads home. He has his hood over his head like someone has died. He has been publicly humiliated and does not want anyone to see his face.  When he arrives home he again gathers his family and friends like he did in chapter five. What a difference a day can make. This time he does not call them to brag, but to share his humiliation. When he tells his wife and friends about the day he has had his wife speaks up. What she says is very interesting.

Basically his wife is saying that there is no way Haman can prevail over Mordecai. God is sending another warning to Haman. Had Haman repented of his deeds and asked for forgiveness, God would have forgiven him. This may have spared the lives of himself and his ten sons. I don’t know if she thought the day was a bad omen or if she knew the history of the Jews, and God’s promise to Abraham. She did know something was not right. Just as Pilot’s wife warned her husband not to have anything to do with Jesus because of the dreams she had the night before. Haman’s wife is warning him about bad things that lay ahead.

While they are discussing these things a knock is heard at the door. It is an escort come to bring Haman to the banquet Esther is making. As Haman leaves he has no idea he is headed to his last meal. Oh, how things would have been different if Haman would have listened to the warnings of God.