Friday, December 31, 2010

Instead of a Happy New Year, Consider The Cross of Jesus!

As we ready ourselves to enter the New Year, and look back at the past, I’m astonished I lived to see another year on my calendar. Back in the 40's and 50’s, even the 60’s and 70’s, I could not imagine I would get to see the how the world would look like in the year 2000, much less tomorrow’s date of January 1, 2011. As I ponder the issue of time and its length, I am reminded of the great prayer of Moses recorded in Psalm 90: 

So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom, (Psalm 90:12)
This Psalm was penned somewhere in between the time after the Israelites were freed from Egyptian bondage and possibly towards the end of their wandering in the desert for 40 years. Maybe for reflection, possibly to uplift and encourage the worn out travelers, or maybe a mere expression to God as Moses searches for consolation of His grace and mercy and the return of God’s favor. He submits himself and the people into a state of surrender, not knowing if their journey will last one more month, one more week, one more day or even one more hour. Obviously, the prayer of Moses can be applied to our own human frailty, wondering how much time do we really have left before the fate and His timing snatches (harpazo) us not up to Heaven but from our physical life here on earth.

As we look back on the many years we have sojourned our human existence, some of us may reflect on the pains we have suffered, some on what we believe was a great and worthwhile effort in helping our fellow man. Some (actually many of us) wondering what has been the true purpose in our life, and seek meaning to it in whatever manner possible. But, today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow, and as for tomorrow, Jesus told us not to worry about what lies ahead: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own, (Matthew 6:34). In the Book of James, we are also told, why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes, (James 4:14).

But yet, in Moses' prayer, he asks God to teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Though it seems Moses may have penned his prayer upon this particular occasion of the weary journey they had experienced the last 40 years before he was supposed to finally enter into the Promised Land, history records he never made it, due to his sin of momentary disbelief. Yet Moses persisted in his prayer. As Moses sang that prayer, we may easily apply it to the years of our own passage through the wilderness of this world, and hopefully it furnishes us with meditations and prayers very suitable to the solemnity of a funeral.

There are many who have lost hope as they look at the signs of the times and the increasing instances of danger and despair as we wonder if our days on earth before His return are right around the corner, or could last another hundred years. Many believe that we (American Christians) are being punished for America's moral decline and the societal decay we witness daily. Many are trying to push this melting snowball of chaos and doom back up the mountain with political pulley schemes in hopes they can turn America back to its glory days. Many of today’s prophets have thrown in the towel and instead spend their entrie day making predictions that our days are numbered. Most certainly, we are one day closer to Armageddon and the final return of Jesus Christ to rule and reign on earth forever. But no one knows the day nor the hour regardless of what CNN and MSNBC report.

But, as we enter into the coming year, I sincerely believe that God is not through with us yet, otherwise we would not have made it to December 31, 2010. While many look on and acquiesce that America has no hope of ever being great again, I am reminded of the story of Jonah, who ran away from God when ordered to preach to the city of Nineveh. But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. We all know that Jonah eventually was tossed into the ocean because the sailors knew God was punishing them with a heavy storm because of Jonah’s recalcitrance to boldly peach the word of God. So, there is Jonah, deep in the roaring sea, quickly gulped down by a giant sea mammal, feeling he was destined to die. After much prayer, Jonah was spewed out. Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time and this time He obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh and preached to its king and people about its impending doom unless it repented. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

As the story goes The Ninevites believed God’s warning. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust and proclaimed everyone to call urgently on God, let them give up their evil ways and their violence, and who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that the Ninevites will not perish. Well, we know what happened. When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

As we enter into this New Year, those who claim they want to see America survive, need to serve Jesus Christ, they need to pick up their crosses and begin to speak with boldness that God is not through with His plans to bring more people into the Kingdom of God. But he needs cross-bearers who are not afraid of their political and church leaders, nor even afraid to die, but to preach the Gospel with boldness. Yes, we have grace in the time of need, and yes, there are many who seek healing and prosperity in their lives more so than moving forward, wounds and all, and reaching the lost for the glory of God.

But Christ needs soldiers of the cross who are willing to abandon everything, those brave ones whose only insurance will be the full armor of God (not political schemes designed to elect Christian politicians who will legislate a conservative agenda), to bring more souls into the Kingdom of God, who will turn this country around through the righteousness of Christ, not their own! God is not seeking a state government that will mandate morality for the citizenry; he wants a people who will abide by His laws, implemented in their lives by people with a heart bent on His will! He wants to see the return of the Ezekiel’s, Jeremiah’s, Isaiah’s, Paul, Barnabas, Mark, Peter, Timothy and all the other apostles who did not fear death (which they later experienced), but who were willing to preach an unadulterated Gospel, instead of this watered down trash being promulgated by New Age Christians who practice the ways of their master, those who pay homage to the ways of the sinner and who focus on the methods currently used by the prince of the power of the air.

Yes! Moses prayed for God to teach us to number our days to attain wisdom. And guess what? He answered that prayer when He told us through Psalm 98:2 that He has already made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He also told us in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation!

However, I’m sad to report that God looked around and he couldn’t find any real preachers of salvation because they were too busy playing church, or debating doctrines that will have no bearing on those who decide to choose Christ or eternal damnation. We see His concern in Isaiah 63:5, I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm achieved salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me.

Therefore, dear friends and loved ones, instead of my wishing you all a Happy New Year, hope that you will be able to fulfill your New Year's resolutions, or hopefully that the next year will be a more prosperous and healthy year, more successful in your job and businesses, and special blessings for you and your individual families, I ask that we recognize that there is nothing we can do to insure we will even be here to celebrate the incoming year.

Many are probably saying, “There he goes again! Preaching rubbish that takes away people’s hope to seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and prosperity? “

This is not my intent, although I will say that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not a message you will find in the Bible but only in the U.S. Constitution, which obviously the American Christian fails to make that distinction.

Nevertheless, the word of God advises us about this pursuit of wealth, fame and fortune, as we note in profound scriptures found in Luke 12:15-31. In the first verse it warns us that our life does not consist in the abundance of the things which we possess, and in verse 20 it tells us that whatever we work hard for and may possess at the moment will not guarantee us salvation if we are not in a right relationship with God. For that matter (speaking about numbering our days), we could lose everything before the clock strikes one second after midnight, January 1, 2011, because God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? [Think about this verse as you over-celebrate the New Year, and try driving home without a designated driver]

But there is much that we can do to insure that we are in a right relationship with God, that He will continue to use us in the morrow and that we can work most diligently to see that there will be more people in the Kingdom of God in the year 2013 than there was in 2012.

Therefore, if we make it home safely tonight, after celebrating the New Years to the wee hours of the morning, and if we wake up tomorrow morning, we can be grateful that we made it one more day!

However, before you get ready to go out and celebrate, stop for a moment and ponder this. There are only two things that you can really consider in and about your future. Not a third option, nor a fourth, fifth…..but two. Only two options that will actually confirm whether you are truly a child of God, or at least love Him enough not worry about having a Happy New year, but rather picking up your cross and following Him, wherever that may take you. We can either choose to do things from here on out the way Jesus would want, or we can do it our own way!

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me, (Matthew 10:38).

Remember, our days are already numbered, and we know that there is only one day left in our present life, and that day is today! Which option will you choose? Are you worthy of Jesus Christ?

For more information about the author and his books, please click on Joe Ortiz.

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