Saturday, March 16, 2013

On "staying awake!"

Today I was reading the words of Jesus in Mark 13 where he is talking to his disciples about his second coming. He tells them that no man knows the day or the hour, so we must be on guard and keep awake. He warns them (and us) that he could come suddenly and find us asleep, so once again he says, "...I say to all of you, 'Stay awake!'"

Ever since my late teens, I have believed that we are in the last days. However, I don't believe that Jesus will come in the next hour or day or month. I am NOT looking for the pre-trib rapture (see one of my posts on that subject), but I AM looking for the 2nd coming of the Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus). 

We read in Revelation 16 about three major armies coming from the north, the east and the south to converge in the battle of Armageddon, located in the valley of Megiddo, located in Israel, I see that this easily points to the armies of Russia, China and the Arab states coming together to destroy Israel. I believe that this could possibly happen in my lifetime. 

Until then, what must you and I do to stay awake? What does that mean? Do you down a lot of "No Doze" or Red Bull, or drink lots of coffee? Of course not--that's not the kind of "awake" of which Jesus is speaking . He's talking about staying connected to our brothers and sisters, focusing on loving one another, serving one another, praying for the saints, looking for ways to honor one another, hating evil, loving what is good, showing hospitality, contributing to the needs of the saints, not repaying evil for evil, doing what is honorable in the sight of everyone, etc. Read more at Romans 12:9-21.

Staying awake doesn't necessarily mean immersing ourselves in church activities. Much of our church activity can be an escape from being "in the world, but not of it." I think Jesus might want us to be involved with something like Big Brothers or Big Sisters, the Salvation Army, Teen Challenge, a local hospice, going to your local prison or jail, serving families of prisoners, or helping the poor, etc.

I think "staying awake" means doing what Jesus would do, hanging out with sinners, loving them and serving them. After all, the Bible says that Jesus was "a friend of sinners." Can the same be said of me or you? Do your non-Christian co-workers want to hang out with you, or you with them? Most Christians I know here in the Bible-belt don't have too many non-Christian friends, and the thought of going to a bar is anathema (like being "damned to hell"). But personally, the Jesus that I worship would go to a bar and be very comfortable and at home there, even as he was at the Wedding at Cana where he performed his first miracle. 

Even as I write this, I am convicted and fall far short of the mark. I'm not doing most of what I've written, at this present time. In the past, yes--but right now, no. So I need to take my own words to heart. I need to focus on what it means for me to "stay awake" where I live. Grow where you are planted. Tend to the garden where you live  

Last of all, for us to "stay awake" as believers, I think we need to love the Jews and Israel. We need to pray for Israel. We as believers need to seek the salvation of the Jews--not to try to turn them into good little Christians (which has been our self-imposed stumbling block and the major reason why most Jews don't want to hear about Jesus). We need to talk to them about the Messiah, Yeshua, who is their Messiah, the chosen and anointed one. We need to explain to them Isaiah 53 that the Messiah has come. He was born according to the prophet Micah in Bethlehem, and he was sacrificed for our sins and raised to life on the third day. We need to invite them to become "completed Jews," not Christians. I'm not so sure I want to be called "Christian" so why would a Jew want to be? I'm more comfortable with being a follower of Jesus (Yeshua). Jews need to be introduced to Yeshua, their Messiah and Savior.

Paul writes in Ephesians 3 that the great mystery of the ages is that Jews and Gentiles are now members of the same body. They are One in Christ. For sometime now, I've thought that Islam which is a thorn in the side of both Jews and Christians, will not be overcome or arrested in its worldwide expansion until one thing happens: A oneness between Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus, the Messiah and Our Savior. 

For starters, as believers, we need to be reading the Old Testament because Jesus is found on every page of the Old Testament (Luke 24:25-27). Timothy became a believer, not because he read the Gospels, but through reading the Old Testament scriptures which made him wise unto salvation (there was NO New Testament for Timothy to read, he was saved through the Old Testament scriptures). If your pastor doesn't regularly preach from the Old Testament, you need to ask him, "Why? Because "All scripture is inspired of God" and you can't understand the New Testament if you don't know the Old Testament. You can't understand what the John the Baptist's statement, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" means if you haven't read Leviticus. You can't really know what Paul means in Romans 4 about Abraham being justified by faith if you haven't read Genesis.

The writer of Hebrews begins by saying "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets..." That's the Old Testament. In Hebrews 3:7-10, it says for us to not harden our hearts as they did in the rebellion on the day in the wilderness." What rebellion? What day? If you haven't read Numbers, you'll be clueless. How did they harden their hearts in Numbers? in the wilderness? Again, I repeat, if you aren't reading the Old Testament, you'll be fairly clueless as to what is really being said in the New Testament because the Old Testament is the key that unlocks the New Testament. 

As the Church, we need to be praying for our Jewish friends and neighbors and loving them and looking for opportunities to serve them and present the Good News that the Messiah has come! We need to visit and support Israel which basically is hated by the entire world, including many in the U.S. and some in the church. That should tell you something--that Israel is hated by so many--which to me reveals that Israel is holy and set-apart by God and the world is trying as always, to destroy that which belongs to God because they hate God and anything that God loves, namely Israel. 

When we start to reach out to Jews and to Israel, we'll begin to see the hold that Islam has on this world broken and weakened. We will also be that much closer to the second coming of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. 

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