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Wednesday, September 14

Who will be caught up to be with Jesus when He returns?

"And when these things begin to come to pass,
                    then look up, and lift up your heads;
                                          for your redemption draws nigh."

                                                                                                          (Luke 21:28)

  Perhaps one of the most startling and painful things that I have experienced in my life took place at pre-season football camp in college. It wasn't something that occurred during conditioning in the weight room, during practice on the field, or even during a game. It was what happened at 4:00 AM each morning during "four-a-day practices".

           Each morning the members of the coaching staff would position themselves up and down each hall of the athletic dorm. Just as their synchronized watches hit 4:00 AM, each of them began blowing those obnoxiously loud and ear-piercing boat horns or, as I call them, "heart attack" horns. And, at the same time, they would scream at the top of their lungs, "Wake up! Wake up!"

           Aside from my time working on the water front at a marina during high school, I had never heard so much violent profanity coming out of the mouths of so many guys at one time, as when in response to those horns being blown! To this day, I can't find words that can even remotely begin to relay how excruciating the pain, and how agonizingly disorienting it was! You see, enduring four hard practices during each day of training camp was so fatiguing that our being woken up that way was literally a shock to our system. Each morning, those who fought their way out of bed and into the locker room were provided with another opportunity to make it onto the team roster. Those guys who didn't fight their way out of bed, and, instead, ignored the wake-up call and went back to sleep, were disqualified and sent off to clean out their lockers and leave camp - no if's, ands, or buts about it!

           The crucial importance of answering the wake-up call, and staying awake, had everything to do with either making the team or being disqualified from pursuing a spot on the team. On a side note, the guys who took the initiative to bring their own alarm clock to use in getting up on their own, they were the guys who beat everyone else to the locker room for practice, and always grabbed the coaches attention first. Interestingly, this same principal applies to our Christian walk of faith as well.

           In 1979, through a series of events orchestrated by God, I came in off the road from doing music outreach concerts. That's when I focused my life on reaching out to people and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There was no question in my mind that God was calling me to use my gifts, talents, and everything else I had to give, to share the Gospel that Jesus Christ preached, so that those who needed and wanted Him would have an opportunity to know Him and to receive Him into their hearts and lives. I can remember, just like it was yesterday, I asked Jesus if He would anoint my life, and raise me up to be used in His work, to watch out for, pray over, and awaken those who have been lulled to sleep by the venomous cares of this world.

           From the moment I knew in my heart that God was calling me to start this work, I began praying two foundational prayers. The first was asking God if He would prepare, equip and strategically position me for the privilege of working with Him, to lead His beloved children into His loving and waiting arms. My second prayer was asking for God to clear the way for me, and now Brenda and I together, to play a substantial role in His final harvest of souls. This was my passion then, in 1979, and it has grown even greater every year since then. My closing in prayer had always been, and even is today, "Father, I ask for Your wisdom to obtain Your strategy so that we can reap an abundant harvest of souls, working with You, so that You will be glorified in the eyes of everyone we reach!"

           As a result of my prayers, Jesus helped me understand and share with others the crucial life-or-death importance of making sure we are not lulled to sleep, blinded by the cares of this world, or distracted from Christ's unfathomable love for us. The first passage that comes to mind is where Jesus gives us an emphatic warning to watch and pray, saying, "Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch."  (Mark 13:33-37)

           What I have always loved about this passage of Scripture is just how plainly Jesus lays out what is expected of us. If we maintain our focus on what Jesus has entrusted to us -- occupy our place as He provided it for us; maintain the work He has equipped and created for us to do; and walk by faith in His authority -- our watching and praying for His return becomes a natural part of the process. Walking in the authority of Christ also ensures that we line up to fulfill the call of God on our life, both, as a member of His Family, and as a warrior in His Army.

           Isn't it as though we often complicate what God makes simple?! It would be a mistake to focus so much on *when* Jesus will return, that we miss out on the very joy and privilege He came to provide for us, to begin with. We must enjoy becoming “one” with our Heavenly Father - us in Him, Him in us, every moment of every hour of every day. So... those who are gonna be caught up to be with Jesus when He returns, will be those who are caught up with Him right now!

           On the other hand, if we let down our defenses (studying The Word of God and putting on the Full Armor of God), we can be sure that wicked spirits will come around. Beware, at the time of our vulnerability, it gets easier to fall prey to the media (a central and growing source of deception), and the many distractions that come to consume our life in this world. We won't have long to wait before our focus turns more toward the world's cares, leading us away from our Father, ever so gradually, unless we catch the alert and "wake up" before it's too late.

           There is a wartime alert and command for military personnel that perfectly illustrates this important point. When military personnel are away from base, or "on leave", and an enemy force is approaching the camp, the watchman on duty sounds the alarm, commanding the troops that, "ALL LEAVES ARE CANCELLED; EVERYBODY BACK TO BASE!" It is time now for the WATCHMEN - those who have eyes that see and ears that hear - to sound the alarm for the benefit of those who need AWAKENED. Sound the alarm to the wicked spirits that come to steal, kill, and destroy our offensives - robbing us of the unspeakable joy awaiting ALL who WANT, and diligently seek, our Loving Father!

           On a sobering note, it is vitally important that we, as Christ's watchmen, heed the warning Jesus gave when He spoke to Ezekiel, "But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand." (Ezekiel 33:4-6)

           Some who teach this message will wrongly emphasize that we must primarily secure our escape from eternal damnation. We must realize that the real benefit of giving our heart and life to Christ, is getting to enjoy oneness with The Lord and Savior, and leading other individuals into Truth. Our focus must be for awakening folks to the reality that they must also turn their eyes and hearts, wholly, to our unfathomably Loving God and Father, and experience Life (and have it abundantly). We cannot allow ourselves to make the terrible mistake of being focused only on preparing ourselves to see the return of Jesus. We mustn't cheat ourselves from sharing with others the privilege of lifting up Christ Jesus every minute, and working with our Heavenly Father every single day.

           There are growing numbers of folks who lack the knowledge of God's Word. Simply put, we don't have to be so caught up with preparing for Jesus Christ's return if we are already caught up in working with Him right now. For all who will heed the "wake-up" call, they will stand to gain an eternity of joy, at its fullness. The greatest joy, and unspeakable pleasure of all, will be the privilege of looking on God for all of eternity! "Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." (Psalm 16:11)

           God is our Loving Father. Unfathomable fulfillment awaits each one of us when we come to offer back to Him our gifts and talents that He so graciously has given to us. To do our part to fulfill His plan and passion for all of His Wonder-Full Creation, we serve The Consummate Family Man and Father, God. Just as we refer to Jesus Christ as, "The King of kings and Lord of lords," God is "The Loving Father above and beyond all dads!"

      "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." (John 12:32)

      This message is provided to help fan the flame in your heart for Christ Jesus, His wonder-full ways, and His plan and purpose for us in this life. To ask questions, make a special donation, place a special order for books or CDs, or to share a testimony or prayer request with us, please click for e-mail, or write a letter and mail it to us at Toward The Mark, Inc., P.O. Box 1152, Yorktown, VA 23692-1152 - see it also on our website.

      We look forward to meeting here for the next blogpost as we KEEP PRESSIN' IN! Please make sure to invite your friends who are unsaved, or those who just need encouragement. We pray that God bless and keep you!

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Friday, September 9

Weekly Wisdom: True LEADERS Speak LIFE!

The tongue of the WISE is Health.  -Proverbs 12:18b

Where “Sticks and stones may break some bones..." words spoken in the wrong way can cause even worse damage to a person’s heart!  Psalm 57:4 explains, “My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.
You see, you don't need a knife or a gun to commit murder!  Sowing weed seed, by speaking wrong words over the life of a person, leads to death if it isn't rooted out.  Luke teaches us that, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)
We can turn the tide of destruction in the lives of those around us who are listening!  We need to truly understand this!  PEOPLE'S LIVES CAN BECOME FORMED INTO EXACTLY WHAT WE SAY, Death and life are in the power of the tongue...” (Proverbs 18:21a) so ... SPEAK LIFE!





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