Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No One Has Said You Have the “Patience of Allen”

By Allen White

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

No one has ever accused me of being patient. Maybe I’ve slowed down a little as I’ve gotten a little older, but don’t confuse speed with patience. It’s not the same thing.

When I am choosing a checkout line at a store, I quietly evaluate each customer, the number of items in their shopping cart, and the friendliness of the cashier. Helpful hint: friendly equals slow. I want a cashier with his head down and scanning items like the building is on fire.

And, if the customer ahead of me pulls out a checkbook, forget it. Even if they only have one item, the check is the death blow to the efficiency of that line. I move on.

Now, to further plunge the depths of my neurosis, once I choose a line, I keep tabs on how the other lines are moving. If I can leave the store ahead of the person at equal starting position in the next line, I feel a small sense of victory. I know. I need therapy. Is there a pill for this dysfunction?

But, I have learned a certain amount of patience over the years. When our oldest son was born, he spent most of the first five months of his life in ICU. Hospitals are great teachers in patience.

One day, during his hospital stay, I walked to the parking lot from the Ronald McDonald House. RMH was such a great blessing to us. I couldn’t fathom the cost of a five month hotel stay in San Francisco. (Drop your change in that little box at McDonald’s next time. It really helps!)

Parking for Ronald McDonald House was a scarce commodity in San Francisco. Parking on the streets of San Francisco is also quite a feat. When we finally got an assigned parking space, it was in a lot shared by two medical offices. It was a zoo.

Everyone left their keys with the parking attendant who carefully double and triple parked cars in an elaborate game of Tetris. Cars parked in the drive ran perpendicular to cars parked in the spaces.

As I stood waiting for the attendant to free my car from this maze, a patient from the doctor’s office walked over and said, “How do I get my car back?” I told them the attendant was over on the other side. He would be back in a minute.

The patient looked at me and said, “Boy, you sure are patient.” I was a little surprised at the comment. I thought, “I’m not patient. I keep tabs on competing checkout lines at the grocery story. This person thinks I’m patient.” Then, I smiled. God was working through my circumstance to produce patience in my life.

Think about times you are impatient, especially when your impatient with another person. What response does your impatience evoke in them? If you could take back your words and avoid the hurt or conflict, wouldn’t you? Wisdom challenges us to bite our tongues, especially when the other person is in the wrong.

If we need perspective, just imagine how patient God is with us. How many times has He overlooked our repeating the same stupid mistake over and over again.

At a minimum, just think about how wise we appear when we don’t communicate our impatience, verbally or non-verbally. We can seem much wiser, just by keeping our mouths closed. Think about it.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Water Off a Duck’s Back

By Allen White

Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult. Proverbs 12:16

Years ago I was exiting the choir room at church with a friend. As we walked out the door, we ran into my racquetball partner (it was a long time ago). He made some comment I can’t remember now. I don’t know if he was trying to be funny or what.

The person I was walking with turned to me and said, “You’re not going to let him get away with that are you?”

I told him it wasn’t a big deal. After all, how many stupid things have I ever said that I wished I could take back? As a pastor, if you took every random comment to heart more than likely you’d end up in a mental institution. Water off a duck’s back.

Now, don’t get the idea I am trying to elevate myself to “prudent” in the proverb. To be honest, it was for the sake of survival. As the great theologian Kenny Rogers sings, “You’re got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run.” Carrying every small offense around with you certainly becomes a heavy burden.

In fact, if we cling to every offense, we’ll reach a point where we can’t remember why we dislike certain people. After all, we’ve started to dislike everyone.

While in some circumstances, I can overlook an offense and be prudent. Other times, I do show my annoyance and play the fool. Often I am not listening to everything the other person is saying. I make an assumption as to where the conversation is going, then I react. Or, I take offense at their words only later to realize it wasn’t about me anyway.

The Bible advises us, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). How many problems could be avoided, if we listened more and talked less?

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Monday, May 28, 2012

I Can’t Believe What Came Out of My Mouth

By Allen White

The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not upright. Proverbs 15:7

Several years ago, my wife and I had a small group who met at our house. At the end of the meeting, two of the guys would always go out in front of our house and smoke. The rest of us guys were a little jealous. They seemed to have such a good time out there, but we weren’t tempted to take up smoking.

One day I was talking to another small group leader who was struggling with something in their group. I mentioned every group had something going on. After all, I had a couple of smokers in my group.

A week or so later, a member from this leader’s group came to me and said, “It must be embarrassing for you as a pastor to have two of your group members smoke in front of your house. What do your neighbors think?”

I said, “You know it’s really terrible. I sure wish they didn’t smoke. But, I hear some groups are full of gossips.” Okay, I actually didn’t say that, but how I wish I had. This group member wasn’t an evil person, but the gossiping certainly wasn’t upright.

This proverb makes a connection between lips and hearts. The lips of the wise spread knowledge. Their hearts are set on helping other people and adding value to their lives.

Fools, however, have hearts that aren’t upright. How would anyone know? Jesus said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). A fool’s lips betray the inclinations of his heart.

Often I pray the words of the Psalmist, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). What is coming out of your mouth? The Bible clearly tells us these words come from the heart. How’s the condition of your heart?

We often use words to express frustration or anger. Whether we’re yelling and carrying on or masking our anger with sarcasm, our words betray a seething underneath. Other people typically can’t give us what we need in these situations.

More often than not, we should direct our angry, bitter and frustrated words to God. He won’t be offended. We won’t hurt his feelings. And, He won’t be surprised by how we’re feeling about things.

When we’re tempted to lash out or get others stirred up, we need to direct our words and thoughts to God. He knows our hearts. He understands us completely. And, God can help in ways no person ever could.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Wisdom of Fools

By Allen White

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.
Proverbs 12:15-16

Have you ever been so sure of something you didn’t want to listen to anybody? Have you ever wanted something so badly, you overlooked problems and flaws just to get it? These are not rational decisions. They’re emotional decisions.

When I was a senior in high school, I wanted a car. Not just any car, I wanted a Porsche. With no job and no savings, most Porsches were out of my reach. But, I found one.

It was a 1972 Porsche 914. The boxy little model was only made for four years. With a targa top and mid-engine design, it could turn on a dime. But, it wasn’t perfect.
It was mostly orange from paint, but had a little orange from rust. But, I could overlook a little rust, right? Occasionally, the gas pedal fell off, but that was a pretty easy repair, right? Sometimes it backfired and didn’t run so smooth, but hey, how many other kids in my high school were driving a Porsche? Actual count = one. Me!

None of the obvious issues dissuaded me. It was a Porsche I was capable of owning. I would own it.

Had I checked the Carfax back then or asked a few people who knew people, I would have discovered the car had been wrecked – actually folded up like an accordion and rebuilt. It made my heart sink a little to hear the news after the fact, but I proceeded to enjoy it. Until one day, I noticed the rear wheel was crooked.

The Porsche 914 has unibody construction. There is no frame. It’s all one piece. We took the car into a body shop to see why the wheel was rolling at an odd angle.

The mechanic gave some hopeful news, “Well, we could weld it,” then the other shoe dropped, “But, there’s nothing to weld it to. The whole thing is rust.” My affordable Porsche suddenly became expensive junk.

Why hadn’t I asked more questions before we bought it? Why didn’t we have the car inspected? Why didn’t I consult with people who knew more about Porches than “I’ve really got to have one.”

We sold the car for about a third of what we paid to someone whose eyes were wide opened and wanted a project. We were relieved to be rid of it.

Whether it’s a new job or a new house or a new car or a new anything else, it’s easy to plunge into decisions believing we’re about to enter into the perfect situation. The excitement of “new” overcomes the commonsense of getting advice.

If we honestly look at our lives, we can see times when all of us have gone the way that seems right to us. This is the way of fools. We shouldn’t be embarrassed by foolish mistakes unless we keep making them. Learning from mistakes makes us wise. Repeating mistakes is a whole other matter.

When you face an important decision, whose advice do you seek? Who helps you process your decisions? We should seek both God and others.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why Leaders Lose Followers

By Allen White

You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors. And I was soon in serious trouble in the assembly of God’s people.
Proverbs 5:12-14

“Leaders are learners.” I think I first heard those words from John Maxwell, but have certainly heard similar statements from Rick Warren and many others. Most leaders start out with a heart and attitude wide open to course corrections and new ideas. But, over time, this changes.

Leaders sometimes are deceived by success, even God-given success. They listen to God. They use their God-given gifts. Then, they receive a measure of success. While they assent to humility, the voice of pride convinces them they are smarter than they really are. After all, they must have a lot of things figured out. They have great success.

Once a leader stops learning by seeking out others, reading great books, or even being educated in the school of hard knocks, success begins to retreat. What once seemed like such a sure thing isn’t so sure.

In every sector, in every field of endeavor, these principles are true. Not one of us enjoys correction. But without correction we are sentenced to a reality where what we possess now is as good as it gets. If we’re honest, we must admit, we are not as good as what we think we are.

Rather than being enamored by our own greatest, we must humbly admit, “Without Him we can do nothing” (John 15:5). When we’re received a portion of the things “beyond all we could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20-21), we need to seek God and ask Him for what’s next. There is no place in this life to rest on our laurels. Our reward is on the other side.

When you look at your life, what’s next? Where do you need to grow? What has started to stall out? What has started to decline? Failure is not your enemy. You can learn from your failures. Success is far more dangerous.

When are you tempted to think you bring more to the table than you really do? When was the last time you stopped to thank God for what He has blessed you with?

When was the last time you learned a hard lesson? If it’s been a while, are you open to learn more? When was the last time you sat down with a peer or a colleague to evaluate your performance or your plan? Are you wisely consulting others or are you foolishly thinking you’ve got it all together?

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Richest Man Who Ever Lived Is Not Mark Zuckerberg

By Allen White

Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the Lord, and the wall around Jerusalem. The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the Lord. Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.

The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor —so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” Then Solomon awoke —and he realized it had been a dream. 1 Kings 3:1-15

What if God told you to ask for whatever you wanted? Many TV sitcoms would advise us to ask for a million more wishes or that all of our wishes for the rest of our lives would be granted. But, Solomon had an immediate need and a big responsibility. He was now in charge of running an entire nation and knew he was ill equipped to do it. He already had wisdom to recognize his weaknesses.

Out of everything Solomon could have asked for, he requested wisdom. I’m sure God, being omniscient, already had a good idea of what Solomon would ask. God doesn’t ever need to take a chance. He always knows a sure thing.

God was pleased with Solomon’s choice. “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies…” You might wonder if at that point Solomon was thinking, “O snap, I should have thought about this some more.” But, Solomon asked for the right thing, and God gave him a bonus.

Not only did Solomon receive wisdom that day, God also threw in wealth. God gave more than Solomon asked for. God honored a selfless request with a blessing.

Over the next weeks to months, we are going to examine the God-given teaching of the wisest man who ever lived. Now, for those of us who are well versed on Solomon’s life, we know while he possessed great wisdom, he didn’t always live wisely. God gave Solomon wisdom, but didn’t remove his sinful nature. We have Solomon’s wise words. It’s our responsibility to apply them wisely.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Distraction Feeds Disobedience

By Allen White

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

Some people are terrified by this passage. If they made a decision for Christ and lived their lives for Christ, is there some way they didn’t do enough good works that at Judgment Day they won’t make it into Heaven? That’s not a correct reading of this passage.

If you belong to Christ, you will have a desire to help those who are less fortunate. You and I are Christ’s hands and feet on this earth. God wants to encourage the discouraged, feed the hungry, care for the sick, cloth the poor, and visit the prisoner. When you look at Jesus’ life and ministry, He served the “least” and challenged the religious.

But, here’s the problem. Many Christians lack the desire to serve others. Their hearts have become disconnected from their Father’s heart. The focus of their lives is to accumulate more for themselves and find comfort in the things of this world.

The deception here is the things of this world only bring comfort and happiness for a short period of time. Have you ever had a massage? Boy, didn’t it feel good afterward? Are you still feeling good today? Probably not, unless you just had a massage.

There is nothing wrong with getting a massage or buying a new toy. But, have you ever sacrificially given to another person? Have you taken time to give them your attention? Have you provided something financially for someone who couldn’t afford the necessities of life?

When we begin to care about other people as much as we care about ourselves, we become more closely connected to the heart of God. The “sheep” in this parable are God’s children. They know their shepherd’s voice and He calls them by name.

If you have no feelings for the less fortunate, especially other believers who are struggling, you might be either a distracted sheep or an outright goat. Don’t get discouraged. There is a way to the right side of things.

Ask God to give you compassion for the poor. Ask God to help you see the world the way He sees it. Ask Jesus to live His life through you.

Doing good works for the sake of doing good works is exhausting and unrewarding. But, fulfilling God’s call to serve others and provide for their basic needs makes us more like Christ. God’s Word lived in God’s Power leads to God’s Reward. We don’t work our way into Heaven, but if we truly belong to Christ, we will find God’s work irresistible, if we’re not distracted.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Are You Putting Your Talents Down a Hole in the Ground?

By Allen White

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“’So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Matthew 25:14-30

Over the years, I’ve met a number of highly gifted people who never considered themselves “talented.” They were good at making money or good at making acquaintances; good at organizing things or people, yet their gifts were so natural to them, they didn’t realize they were gifted. They just thought they did the same things everyone else did.

None of these folks were hiding their talents. They were simply unaware of them.

For about 10 years at our church in California, I oversaw the SHAPE process. We taught a class, then interviewed each person in the class to see how they were “SHAPEd” for ministry.

We would talk about spiritual gifts (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4), heart or passion, abilities, personality and experiences. To help someone find the intersection of their gifts and passion was truly an amazing find. We launched many new ministries solely based on what our people felt gifted and called to do. It was far more than just filling holes in existing ministries.

Many churches offer programs like SHAPE, PLACE, Network or similar. If you’re not sure about where your gifts and temperament might fit in ministry, I would recommend a book by Bruce Bugbee called What You Do Best in the Body of Christ .This will take you through the gift identification process in a nutshell. If your church offers a course like the ones described above, sign up for it ASAP.

While some people are unaware of their gifts, similar to the folks in this parable, some are using what God has given them and others are not. What do you have? How could God use it for ministry?

All of us have three God-given assets: our time, our talent, and our treasure. How can we use these gifts to serve God and others?

Let me ask you a few questions: What needs in the community concern you? What are you passionate about? What are the things that just get under your skin, and like Popeye, “You can’t stanz it no more”? Maybe it’s your turn to do something about it?

Pray about this. Offer God what you have. He probably won’t send you to some other place. In fact, God wants to use you right here where you are. As you make yourself available to God, He will use you.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jesus Has Never Been Late Before

By Allen White

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:1-13

If the virgins made a simple mistake, why should they be locked out? After all, everything tends to run out eventually. Were they supposed to roll out a 55 gallon drum of oil just in case? Can you roll a drum of oil wearing a bridesmaid’s dress?

When we look at biblical archeology, we discover these ladies weren’t packing Coleman lanterns. The lamps were so small, you could fit several in the palm of your hand. Of course, they would run out of oil. To not bring extra oil was, well, foolish.

Their lack of preparation kept them from the wedding feast. They knew the “oil life” on the lamps. They could have brought extra oil. This was not a ridiculous requirement.

The parable points to those who are prepared for Christ’s coming. We know Christ will return. He said so, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).

Just like the virgins waiting for the bridegroom, Jesus warned His followers, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  The requirement for the virgins to enter the wedding banquet was simple: be ready to go in when the door opens.

They didn’t know when the door would open. They didn’t seek out experts in predicting door openings or create psychological profiles of the bridegroom to see if he was typically punctual or tardy.

Jesus isn’t tardy. He isn’t behind schedule. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Jesus hasn’t returned. No news flash there. Jesus is patiently waiting for those who are at risk of perishing to come to Him. Who do you know who might be at risk?

Pray for them today. Pray for their openness to hearing the truth. Pray about an opportunity to share with them.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

If Jesus Came Back Today…

By Allen White

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.  Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 24:36-51

Many believers could care less about when Christ returns. If you think that’s too strong of a statement, then let me ask you this: did you think about Jesus’ return today? Most of us didn’t.

Honestly, I’ve heard for 47 years now that Christ will return at any time. Guess what? He hasn’t returned yet.

When I was a teenager, our church choir would sing a very dramatic song about Jesus’ return. I remember we would sing, “What if this would be the moment (insert pregnant pause) that Jesus comes?” In that second, that twinkling of an eye, you might have thought it would take place.

I remember as a child waking up around 10 or 11 pm worried about my family going to Heaven if the rapture took place. I went from bedside to bedside to make sure everyone was right with God just in case. I haven’t asked that question in a while.

After 40 years as a Christian, it’s a little challenging to keep the momentum going. Yes, it could be any day. If we were under persecution, we’d cry out to God for that day to be today. But, honestly, we’ve all become a little bit comfortable. Heaven seems like a far off place.

Every one of us tends to drift. That child who so earnestly sought out the spiritual condition of his family members is a little more secure and a lot less vigilant than he once was.

How about you? If Jesus returned today, what do you wish you would have done beforehand? I’m not talking about a self-indulgent bucket list. Who would you have served? Who would you have shown God’s love to? Who would you have shared the Gospel with?

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Mayans, 2012 and the Return of Christ

By Allen White

“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

 “Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.  Matthew 24:26-35

Some Christian teachers have built entire careers on trying to predict when Christ will return. Others have set exact dates only to be met with great embarrassment at their false prediction. As Jesus Himself said, “No man knows the times or the seasons…”

Over the years, whether well meaning or shady, a few preachers have proclaimed exact times and dates. I remember at summer youth camp one year, a speaker went on and on about how 666, the mark of the beast, was appearing on more bank account numbers. Surely, this was a sign of the last days.

I always wondered about the occurrence of other numbers like 777 or 333. These thoughts tended to keep me in trouble at youth camp.

I’ve heard of people selling all of their earthly possessions in preparation for the rapture. After all, if they were truly all-in, why would they need all of that stuff? The reality is I’m also all-in for Christ. When the rapture takes place, I plan to go. I’m not worried about my stuff. Somebody else can hold the garage sale.

As a kid, occasionally on a Sunday night, when the pastor needed a break from preaching, the church would run one of those movies about being left behind. It didn’t matter how many times I had been to the altar before, those films scared the hell out of me, and I would always go again.

Any preacher who has ever set a date for the return of Christ, most recently Harold Camping, has always been wrong. So far, they’re all batting .000

But, what if we did know exactly when Jesus would return? Would that motivate us to draw closer to God and to win more for Christ? Or, would it have the opposite effect? Would we party like it was 1999, then enter into massive repentance for our last hurrah?

Now, here’s the interesting thing. I schedule these posts in advance. I know some of you honestly thought I got up and wrote at 3 am every morning. Sorry to burst your bubble. But, what if this post is schedule on Saturday, then between Saturday and Monday morning Jesus returns? I suppose the left behind dispensationalists would have something to read during the first week of the great tribulation.

But, I’m not making that prediction. Watch out for those who do. In the meantime, be ready and do what you can to win one more for Christ.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Dangerous, Wonderful Adventure

By Allen White

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house.  Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!  Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.” Matthew 24:15-25

Jesus continued to warn His disciples. If His coming death wasn’t going to be bad enough, they needed to understand how things would go from bad to worse. The resurrection would bring new life, but Jesus never promised an easy life.

Again with this prophecy, portions of Jesus’ prediction related directly to the early church, while other parts are yet to be fulfilled. These words were partially fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The balance of the fulfillment is yet to come.

The spirit of Jesus’ words is for His disciples, including us, to be prepared, but not overly prepared. He wanted them to be aware, but when these events went down, His instructions were “Don’t turn back. Don’t get your coat. Don’t waste time grabbing extra stuff. Just go.”

Practically speaking, they shouldn’t be overburdened when they fled. Spiritually speaking, they had to leave all of the “stuff” they depended on, and in turn, solely depend on God.

Think about how we face a crisis. If we’re short on funds, we grab our credit cards. If we’re short on comfort, we grab a Twinkie. If we have a headache, we grab a pill. If we’re faced with adversity, we grab a weapon. What is your go-to when you face hardship?

What will it take for us to learn? When we’re short of funds, we grab hold of God. When we’re short on comfort, we seek our Comforter. When we’re sick, we use our God-given common sense, and we reach out to our Healer. If we face adversity, we realize we’re playing on the right team.

Following Jesus is a dangerously, wonderful adventure. He warned us it wouldn’t be easy, but neither is the alternative.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Have We Become Comfortable in an Uncomfortable Place?

By Allen White

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 24:3-14

Sometimes we just shouldn’t ask the question. “Do I still have a job here?” “Is there a future in this?” Sometimes we might not want to ask the question, because we really don’t want to hear the answer. Maybe we should just let things blow over. Maybe we don’t need to worry about it.

But, the disciples asked the question, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” You have to wonder if they regretted that.

What did the disciples expect to hear? “The beginning of the end will result in the humiliation of your enemies and incredible success in your ministry. You will be treated like kings – wearing the finest clothes, driving the best cars, and living in the lap of luxury. I’ve got to get you guys used to living in Heaven, so to easily transition your experience, I’m going to give you a little Heaven on earth as preparation.” If that’s what they were expecting, Jesus’ answer pointed closer to Hell on earth.

Some of the things Jesus described have already happened. Some of this is yet to happen. And, some of this prophecy will repeat itself.

In interpreting Scripture, we have to keep a key principle in mind: whatever was taught or written to an audience was understood by that audience. Jesus wasn’t just pointing to some distant tribulation period. He was warning His disciples about a tough, uphill climb. They weren’t headed down easy street.

The persecution of the early church was just over the horizon. But, hadn’t they been through enough? After all, they had to watch their Savior endure torture and death. Now, as the reward for facing all of that, they were going to face more?

Jesus firmly declared to His followers: “Heaven is not a place on earth” (apologies to Belinda Carlile). Persecution strengthened their faith. Persecution caused the Church to disperse into other areas. The tough circumstances that drove them out of Jerusalem put them in the places God ordained for them to be (Acts 17:26). People heard the Good News for the first time and were saved.

If Jesus intended to only make His disciples comfortable, they would have stayed in Jerusalem. But, opposed to our American view of Christianity, God didn’t save us merely to make us more comfortable. Don’t get me wrong. God offers plenty of peace and comfort for our souls. But, why would we ever depend on God if we could comfortably depend on ourselves?

Jesus cut to the chase: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” Pay attention here. The disciples weren’t persecuted for being jerks. They were persecuted because of Jesus. If the world has become comfortable to us, we might want to ask ourselves whose side we’re being drawn toward.

Does the evening news make you sick? Does the callousness break your heart? Do the lives of broken people drive you to your knees?

You and I aren’t involved in a friendly game. We are engaged in war. Our enemies aren’t other people, crooked politicians, or an overly sexualized culture. Our enemies are spiritual (Ephesians 6:12), but our God is greater.

If we make it to the end, we will receive our reward. If we drift away, well, that’s another story.

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