Saturday, April 9, 2011

April 10, 2011

"Be not overcome with evil but overcome evil with good."   Romans 12:21

I am serving as an assistant baseball coach for a junior varsity high school team. Billy Thomas is the head coach. We are trying to convince our kids how important it is to practice well because you rarely play better than you practice. The reason you practice is so you don't have to think in the pressure of a game situation, you just respond in the way you have have practiced.

During the Chicago Bulls run of NBA Championships in the 1990's, there was one game winning shot that was made by Johnny Paxson off a pass from Michael Jordan. When the defense collapsed on "MJ" expecting him to take the last shot, Michael kicked it out to Paxson who drained it. In the postgame interview the announcer asked John Paxson (who was the son of a High School coach and had grown up as a "gym rat") how he felt about making the winning shot. I loved his reply, he said, "I have made that shot a thousand times when I was a kid!"

Under the pressure of a final second shot to win an NBA championship game, John Paxson was able to cooly catch the ball and confidently release it because of the hours of practice he invested while growing up.

How will you respond if you are in the last days and if persecution should come? How can you know that you can stand up under the pressure of rejection, or opposition, or threats, or physical abuse - even torture? Do you fear that? Does that prospect frighten you?

I guess no one knows for sure, but if you are not practicing the right actions, attitudes and behaviors now, you won't have a chance under the pressure of intimidation or persecution. Paul reminded the believers in Rome, who where facing persecution, to always do good. When your righteousness is appreciated - that is great. When it is opposed or when it brings pressure - it is all the same to you. You always act you never react. That is the key to being faithful under adverse circumstances.

Life doesn't really have practice sessions. There are no trial runs - just trials. So, what you do every day counts! What you do in your quiet, private moments alone with God when no one is looking will ultimately be exposed when the "game" is on the line. Your private personal preparations will serve you well if these are the end times and persecution arises.

What are you doing today to prepare your for tomorrow? Especially for a tomorrow of turmoil and trouble. How would you fare then if you were to do the things you now do on a daily basis? What habits need to change? What disciplines need to be added or enhanced in your daily routine? Are you overcoming evil with good each day of your life?

What should you do if the persecution comes? Keep worshipping God daily. Keep walking with God daily. And, keep witnessing daily. Then in the difficult days all you have to do is what you always do! You can act rather than react! Just like John Paxson, when the game is on the line you'll deliver!

April 9, 2011

"Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:1-14

I am really thankful that the disciples asked this question about the signs for the coming of the end times. It's good information! I sense you are curious, too.

Jesus seemed glad that they asked it, too, because He was happy to give them (and us) four signs to look for in our generation. Let's examine those together!

Sign One - Spiritual Crisis, Vv. 4-5

Since the days of Adam the human race has been entrapped in a spiritual crisis.

The world was in a spiritual mess when Jesus showed up. In fact, that is why He came!

Many are bemoaning the sorry state of the Church in the early 21st century. To say the least, it is struggling. With the cultural tide turning decidely anti-Christian, the prospects for inprovement seems bleak.

So, the world in a spiritual crisis is nothing new.

But the real question is, "How is your spiritual life? Are you in crisis? What do you need to do to get right with God?"

Sign Two - Political Crisis, Vv. 6-7a

Politics is really just about how people construct systems and structures to govern themselves. Because everything is essentially spiritual, when there is a spiritual crisis, that will be reflected in how people govern themselves.

Human nature is selfish and self-seeking, so it is human nature to attempt to grab power, position and personal wealth rather than govern purely for the the sake of those they serve. When you get several hundred Congressmen and Senators trying to pad their own bank accounts and personal fame, things can get to crisis status pretty quickly. We are there now!

But the big question is, "What are you going to do about it?" Are you praying regularly for your political leaders? Are you registered to vote? Are you knowledgeable of all the current pokitical issues?

Sign Three - Natural Crisis, Vv. 7b-8

There was another earthquake just yesterday in Japan. There are generally 15,000 to 20,000 earthquakes in a year. It seems the frequency and intensity of those, however, is picking up recently.

Romans 1 talks about how even the earth is groaning under the travails of planet earth. And, Jesus plainly states that things will get much worse before they get better!

Sign Four - Christianity Crisis, Vv. 9-12

As things turn tough in the last days, due in part to the spiritual crisis in conjunction with the political strife and the cataclysmic natural disasters, many will lose heart and give up hope. Even some who have professed faith and walked in righteousness will be deceived and fall away from God and the Church and forsake their faith because of the threats, the pressure and persecution brought against those who stand with Christ.

Jesus predicts that many will fall away from the faith in those terrible times. What about you? Will you stand strong? Can you remain faithful? Are you living for Jesus now? If you can't stand strong in faith right now, you probably won't when things get really tough for believers.

When times get worse, you must get better! You are called to "not be overcome with evil" but to overcome the evil in the world with the goodness and holiness of God. The first thing you must do is to get ready for the last days!