Not a minute too soon.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mathew 24:36).   Here we find Jesus speaking to his disciples about his return; when he will leave heaven once again, and proclaim his kingdom here on earth; to fulfill his promise to both rule and save, and to hold to account the just and unjust alike, offering eternal judgment both in life and death.

Many throughout history have made predictions concerning this end of the world, while even more are eager to know of its time and place for concern of their lives and how they choose to live it.  However, Jesus makes it quite clear that no one knows the day or the hour except for the Father; in fact, he tells us neither the angels in heaven nor the Son of Man (Jesus himself), knows the timing of his triumphant return.  Therefore, we can’t possibly know the day or hour of the second coming of Christ, but we can be assured it will not take place a minute too soon.

It has been said that Jesus did not come to preach the gospel, but came so there would be a gospel to preach.  While he was indeed a great teacher of Gods abundant mercy and grace, his place on earth was to serve mankind by offering a way to eternal life.  In doing so, he became the sacrifice each of us needs to receive our free gift of salvation through our faith in him; therefore, those of us who know Christ and his selfless decision to fulfill the Fathers plan are blessed with the knowledge and truth that saves; thus, Christ became the gospel – the good news to be preached to the ends of the earth.  Unfortunately, there are still many that do not know of this truth; in fact, there are many, who have not even heard the name Jesus spoken among them; moreover, they don’t know of the gospel, as they have never heard of the good news.

While Jesus was speaking to his disciples on the Mount of Olives, he spoke of the many things to come that would be signs of his imminent return.  He spoke of wars and rumors of wars.  He spoke of earthquakes, famines, and false prophets.    He told them to prepare and likened his return to that of a thief in the night.  He told them to “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Mathew 24:42).   He told them that only the Father knows the day and hour of his return; however, we can be assured it will not be a minute too soon.

You see; God loves his children, each and every one of us.  No matter the right or wrong we choose to do, he loves us just the same.  So much in fact “…that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Three days after the sacrifice and death of our Lord Jesus on a cross, he rose to life and spoke to his disciples saying “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mathew 28:19).  His command was to preach the gospel, the good news, to all nations.  He knew that many had not heard of him and this free gift of life; therefore, he called those who had, to reach out to those who had not; those whom are lost and wandering along the path which leads to destruction; those whom do not know Christ to this very day.  Consequently, according to Gods love for his children, his desire for all to be saved by our belief in the everlasting life offered through our faith in Jesus Christ, and the vast numbers of people who have not yet heard the good news of his gospel, we can be assured of one thing; while we may not know the day or hour of Christ’s return, we can firmly believe, it will not be a minute too soon.

Sam Jones

First is the Kingdom!

 

 

 

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It’s not me…

I think I finally understand God; fully understand – that it’s not me.

As a people living in the world set before us, we often learn to depend on ourselves.  We take control over all things in this life and strive for greatness, or at the very least, a life set upon the wishes, well doings, and desires of ourselves; and I dear God, have been no different.

For as long as I can remember Lord, I have prided myself in my accomplishments.  The ability to go forth and succeed by my own hand, all the while forgetting to offer glory to the one who makes all things possible – Jesus.  Sure at times I offer my thanks, but soon again I push forward, on my own, and leave you to be God on your own, without me.  In doing so I move from one thing to the next; from one success to another only to find an emptiness, a hollow shell of what I thought this life could be, by my hand, without you.

What I have come to realize this night dear Lord, is that it has been you walking alongside me in every choice I make, in every effort, in all I strive for, watching and waiting for me to call upon you.  To go ahead of me; to both lead the way and walk behind me ensuring I remain on the path which leads to my salvation and your glory .  It’s you God, not me.  It’s you who give me the strength, courage, and conviction to succeed; and it’s you who gives me the ability to build a life worth living.

I have known for quite some time now dear God, that you are with me, that you watch over me, and you want the best for me.  But I have not entrusted myself over to you – not fully.  I have not given all of myself and have instead held onto this control over my life, to ensure it is all I have wanted it to be.  But tonight God, you have spoken to me, reminding me that the things of this life, of this world – the things which I have considered vital to my existence, that have consumed me for all too long, are simply not what’s important.  But instead Lord, it is you.  It is you God, not I that truly matters.  The things of this life, of this world exist only to bring you glory; and all things which I have lived and strived for can be laid down at your feet this night – right now, so that you could remove the burden of my desires from my life; that you could direct me and provide all things essential to my life as you see fit.  All I have to do is trust you Lord, give myself over to you, die unto myself, pick up my cross daily, and follow you.  I was born to praise you, and am grateful to know that truth.  Thank you God, thank you dear Jesus, for stepping into my life tonight and speaking into to my heart.  Reminding me that it is and always will be about you – not me.  It has never been, nor ever will be, about me.  It simply cannot be me, for I am nothing without you.

and Jesus said “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Sam Jones

First is the Kingdom!

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Jesus

Christ is supreme and works all things for the good of those who believe, follow, and love in Him; as evidenced by the humiliation, torture, and death given to Him, by the men of whom He was freely giving of Himslef, and sacrificing His very life as a man for the redemption of all peoples, while continually keeping the details of each and every person both here and yet to come, in both His heart and in His mind.  An eternal gift given specifically for you and for me.  An amazing gift of love and grace, a gift we are surely unworthy of, but given just the same………..What have you done for Jesus today?

Sam Jones

First is the Kingdom!

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Failure, Shame, and Forgiveness.

Speaking to His disciples about His approaching betrayal and death, Jesus said “Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer”. “And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going”. Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going”? And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later”. “But why can’t I come now, Lord” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you”. Jesus answered, “Die for me”? “I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me”. Wow; to be Peter! I wonder what ran through his mind at that moment listening to Jesus predict his denial. Was he surprised? Maybe. Was he offended? Possibly. Did he buy in? No! In Fact, he went on to say “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Well, we all know the rest of the story; Jesus is betrayed by Judas – and Peter (who indeed denied Him three times), left Jesus to stand trial and suffer….alone.Oh to be Peter; how he must have suffered through the thought of his failures. How devastated he must have felt after leaving his teacher, his friend, his Lord to suffer and die alone. How his heart must have pained through feelings of shame and sadness. Oh to be Peter! I’m sure this disciple believed he would stand with Jesus to the bitter end – whatever the cost; in fact, I have no doubt that he believed in his words spoken to Jesus a short time before his death….. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” However, he failed to follow through; he didn’t deliver.

So many of us suffer the same affliction, don’t we? We have the heart and certainly the best of intentions, yet somewhere along the way we fail to follow through; we don’t deliver. Jesus of course knows this about us; however, and incredibly – He loves us just the same (as proven by His work on the cross). You see, Jesus came for one reason and one reason alone – LOVE! His love for us; His creation, is so great, that He couldn’t stand by and watch us fail time and time again knowing full well the penalty for such was death. So He chose to meet us in our failures, to provide a path, a solution through a blood stained cross, and the only sacrifice that could give eternal life – Himself. In doing so, grace was given to all who believe; in fact, Paul goes on to tell us in Romans that we are actually credited righteousness by our faith in Him and our belief in His works. God knew this was the only way, because no matter our heart or our best intentions, often times – we fail to follow through; we don’t deliver.

God knows we will make mistakes, He knows we will make poor choices, He knows we will fail; but, He never wants to be left out. Even in our failures, He wants to be the focal point of our lives. At times we may feel as though we have screwed up so badly that God is the last one we wish to confront; that this particular mistake was far worse than the last, and God could not possibly understand, let alone forgive us…..once again. But truly, it is during these times God wants to shower us with His love, His understanding, and His forgiveness. If we would only include Him, invite Him in, ask for forgiveness and the wisdom to have learned from our mistakes, and then accept His forgiveness through His unquestionable mercy and endless grace – we would move on through life without shame, feeling comforted, and know we are both loved and equipped to handle all things this world may place in our way.

Three days after His crucifiction, Jesus returned to His disciples and stood on the shores of the Tiberias calling out to them saying “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped into the water, the other disciples followed in the boat. Peter knew his Lord had returned, and without hesitation, without thought of his failures or feelings of shame, he ran to Jesus. Actually, he jumped out of a boat, into the water, and swam!

We are not much different from Peter as we suffer through our self-inflicted failures time and again; however, because of Gods never-ending grace, because of His sacrifice, because of His love, and because of our faith in Him – we are forgiven. Peter teaches us two very important things in scripture; one, we will mess up! We will make poor choices which impact our lives and of those around us when we fail to rely solely and completely on God. Second, and maybe most important, when we do fail – that’s when we need God the most. We should not attempt to hide from his presence, ignore His place in our lives; but rather, we should run straight to Him. In fact, we should jump out of the boat, into the water, and swim!

Sam Jones
First is the Kingdom!

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Dear God…..Happy Fathers Day.

Lord of all creation, King of heaven and earth, Bread of Life and Living Water…..Happy Fathers Day! You are Father over all that is seen and unseen, Lord over life and death, King seated high above all creation; and thus, reign supremely from your throne of love and grace. Dear God, to you belongs all glory, all praise, all thanks, and all my love. For it is you God that gives hope; that loves and never hates; that forgives sins and wash us clean; that bled from a cross for all mankind; that gives life and saves from death, and always shines bright in a dark and broken world. Thank you Lord, thank you God, thank you Jesus; my love remains with you always, and I remember you today, my Father…..on Fathers Day.

Sam Jones
First is the Kingdom!

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The Giver of Life!

The world was perfect; beautiful blue seas, lavish green lands, bright warm days, crisp breathtaking nights, creatures of all kinds scattered about, and mankind – created in the very image of God, made for God, to be in relation with Him – to be together as one. Indeed it was perfect, just as our Father intended for it to be. In five days, God created light and separated it from darkness. He created the sky and separated it from the waters. He created the land, vegetation, sun, moon, and stars; then, He brought life – life to a world that was made to live; life to a world that was made to sing of His glory. The waters became filled with fish and creatures which swim about, the skies with birds and all things able to fly, and the land with animals, livestock, and wildlife of all kinds. It was beautiful, and God knew it was good – but it wasn’t enough, not quite good enough for God; therefore, on the sixth day, He created mankind. Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” God, the giver of life and author of all creation had a sense and a purpose to create mankind. He did so not as an act of power, or to add another piece to the creation puzzle started just five days before; but rather as an act of love. You see, we were the only ones created in His image. God’s plan was to see Himself in us; to give us rule over His masterpiece; to love us, live among us, and be with us – always! Oh how He loves us! Oh how He cherishes us! God gave life to all things, and undoubtedly did so carefully and with much thought. Still, it was mankind that he formed with His hands; created from the dust of the ground, and breathed life into the nostrils of man. Oh how intimate! Oh how loving! He created us, every part of us both large and small, and certainly took His time with us. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”. “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body”. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”. Oh how He loves us! And though we have sinned; even though we failed Him in the beginning, even through to this very day – He loves us, and His purpose for us remains! As He left His throne to become man; to walk the earth and teach us both how to live and how to love; to suffer life as we do; to feel the pain of flesh and temptation of sin; to bring hope to all man through blood and a cross – He did so in remembrance of why He created us; to be in relation with Him – to be together as one. On the seventh day God rested; His creation was complete. I can feel His joy this very moment; the joy over His work; the joy over His redeeming plan; the joy over His love for us. Thank you Father, for your endless love and eternal grace. You too, are so very precious to me.

Sam Jones
First is the Kingdom!

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But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

Can you imagine it? Can you see it? A man – a rugged carpenter wrapped in peasant clothing riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. This was no ordinary man of course – no, far from it; in fact, He was our King. Jesus had the appearance of an average Joe in that time, but He was far more, and the people knew it, at least for a little while. As He rode into the city, the crowds both with Him and ahead of Him spread their cloaks and branches cut from trees along the road in praise; you see, they knew this man. They had heard of and seen the many miracles, the healings, and the teachings this man gave to all those who inquired of Him, who listened – who believed! It was almost as if He were God Himself; and of course, He was – He is! This entry; a triumphant entry, was foretold by the prophets of old thus fulfilling the prophecy that our King would ride into the holy city……..on a donkey – A DONKEY! I imagine He could have rode in on a gallant, brilliant white horse, dressed in the finest clothes, and draped in elegant jewelry; or at the very least, a crown of gold. Maybe He could have just floated into the city further showing His power – His Deity. But that isn’t our God, and certainly wasn’t the impression Jesus wanted to give. You see, He wants love – even longs for it. He wants to be praised by His creation, but will not impose it upon us, and certainly will not glamor us into believing He is worthy of our love and praise; therefore, He rode in on a donkey, wrapped in peasant clothing. During His entry to Jerusalem, the disciples shouted in praise “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” They understood the importance of this moment; the fulfillment of prophecy, and the glory of their King. However, they were contested by the Pharisees as they called out to Jesus and said “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” They did not want to hear such praise, such blasphemy from the lips of men for a man. No, not this man who taught with the authority of God and forgave sins. Only God could do such things, and of course He could not be – you see, He was wrapped in peasant clothing, and rode into the city on a donkey. The Pharisees had long hated Jesus and His ministry, even plotted to kill him; they were in no uncertain terms going to praise Him – a man who loved sinners, taught with authority, and called the law into question while asking for a genuine heart instead. No, they could not, would not praise Him; instead, they called out to Him and said “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” Did he? No! In fact, what Jesus said next was one of God’s most powerful teachings in all of scripture. To the Pharisees Jesus replied “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” In that simple word from one who was both fully man and fully God came a powerful truth. All of creation belongs to God, and all of creation shall praise Him. This moment, entering Jerusalem, was crucial to Gods plan to the salvation of all believers, and to the story He has chosen to tell. And at this moment, praise would be given, if not by man, then by the stones of the ground – who were each created by Him, and thus recognize and praise Him as such. It’s amazing to think that all things created know and have the ability to praise the one who gives life; in fact, I doubt I will ever look at a stone in the same way again. Consequently, this word from Jesus helps me to further understand Gods word in Philippians “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. I will continue to love and praise God the rest of my days, and am eternally grateful to the one who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey wrapped in peasant clothing, as I know He is my King, and He took that ride for me. Praise the Lord Jesus forever and ever!

Sam Jones
First is the Kingdom!

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Indescribable Gift

I’ve often wondered what heaven is like.  Are there vast cities of gold, or luscious green prairies?  Are there glistening waterfalls, or dense forests and mountain peaks?  Are there changing seasons, or simply a never-ending array of blue skies and snow white clouds?  Whatever your picture of heaven is, one thing is for certain, it’s magnificent and perfect; a place created by God, for both you and me.

The story begins with war; an angel named Lucifer, believing he was all-powerful and mighty enough to become God, revolted against our creator and took with him one third of the angels in heaven.  God in all His sovereignty cast out His mighty general, as well as those who chose to follow him, to the depths of the earth, which was created out of darkness.  In the time to come, God created all that we see; the earth and all things in it, the lands and the sea, the creatures which move about, and of course, man and woman – you and me.  We were given free reign of this great creation and invited to share in God’s joy with Him.  We were invited into relationship with our Father; to live, to laugh, and to love for all eternity; however, God’s enemy had different plans for us; in fact, God’s enemy soon became our enemy as well.

It wasn’t long before mankind fell in the garden by the hand of this enemy.  We were fooled by his lies and deceived of his will.  We listened and believed he wanted better for us, and he convinced us that we too could be like God; the very thing Lucifer wanted for himself some time before.   As a result of the fall we gained far more than we bargained for; not only the knowledge of good and evil, but also a desire for things we were never intended for, and independence that destroyed our perfect relationship with God; in fact, our fall led to separation from our creator, our father, and our friend.

In the years that passed, the actions of mankind became inherently evil in the eyes of our Lord.   We were tempted by sin, lived in sin, and seemingly came to love this sin.  We were proud of our independence and thought little of our broken relationship with our Father.  In fact, despite all God’s promptings, miracles, mercy and grace, mankind chose to go at it alone, to live out the lie of our enemy, and seek first this world, rather than the Kingdom of God.

Knowing full well our choices and sinful nature had not only separated us from God on earth, but would also keep us from Him for an eternity, our Father chose to send His son; to leave His magnificent and perfect home, and enter a world of chaos and evil.  He chose to leave a timeless masterpiece and enter into the painful flesh of man.  He chose love over anger, forgiveness over judgment, mercy over intolerance, and grace over death.

More than two thousand years ago the birth of a single child to a virgin mother brought light into a dark world.  Jesus was born with a purpose; to set authority over the evils of this world, to preach truth over lies, to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and to save His children in mankind.  He knew the struggles and pains of the world yet still chose to live as man, to be born of flesh, to be tempted by sin, to be subject to humiliation and persecution, to be tortured and killed – to simply live the life we live.  He could have done it differently.  He could have saved us without opening himself to suffering, without leaving his magnificent and perfect home.  He could have fixed things from afar in all His sovereign power and avoided the perils of earth.  But that wasn’t His story.  That wasn’t the story He chose to tell.  Instead, He chose to write a love story, one that proves His longing for His children, one that proves righteousness prevails over evil.  He chose to save mankind in the most perfect way, to sacrifice the life of the Son, to give Himself over to death so that we may live, and to overcome death, so that we may be given the greatest gift of all – life and relationship with our Father in heaven for all eternity.

I wonder what heaven is like.  Are there vast cities of gold, or luscious green prairies?  Are there glistening waterfalls, or dense forests and mountain peaks? Are there changing seasons, or simply a never-ending array of blue skies and snow white clouds?  I’m not entirely sure, but I do know this, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

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