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Discerning The Times And Seasons Of God

 

By Dr. Richard Ing

December 1, 2003


            One of the worse frustrations for most preachers is the realization that after years of researching, praying, preparing and delivering sermons and teachings, hardly anyone was really listening.  Many will come and congratulate you for a good message, but not many will change on the inside.  Once, I gave a message that I thought was a great revelation.  A member came up to me and gushed about how good the message was.  The strange thing was that I had given almost the identical message three Sundays before and that member was sitting in the front row. 

            Most of the time, who we are, what we do and where we are in life is what we intend deep in our heart.  On the outside, we think that we want to be a lawyer, doctor, electrician or whatever, and we think that we will be doing this or that in the future, or have a certain house or own certain things in the future; but when we get there, we find that we are not what we thought we wanted to be, we are not doing what we said we wanted to do, and we do not have what we said we wanted to have.  Who you are today, what you do and what you have, represents the true intent of your heart.  Jesus said it this way, “What comes out of your mouth comes from your heart  Mt. 15:18.  The fruits of a person’s life expose what is really in the heart.  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  Lk. 12:34.  Put another way, “What you are, do and have is what your heart wants.”

            That’s one of the reasons why spending copious amounts of time discussing what is going to happen in the end times, or when tribulation will arrive is a waste of time. Even in the face of imminent death and destruction, most people will not change.  I once had an employee who weighed almost 450 pounds.  Her doctor told her that if she did not lose weight, she would never see her 12 year old daughter graduate from high school.  She cried and for two weeks, she went on a diet.  But, after two weeks, she was back to her old habits.  This is a true story. While she had the motivation to change, her intent was not strong enough.  Deep in her heart, she wanted to be exactly what she was.

            It takes strong intent to do something difficult.  Today, I am almost exactly what I said I wanted to be a long time ago.  There were many times when I wanted to quit law school.  I was living away from home for the first time - among strange people in strange surroundings with very little money.  I didn’t know if I could pay for the next semester.  But, I had burned my bridges and had quit my job as a civil engineer, spent almost all my savings and told everybody I was going to be a lawyer.  At ten years of age, I promised God that I would be a pastor one day.  When He reminded me of my promise thirty-five years later, I formed the strong intent to become His servant.  Eventually, I burned my bridges again.  Over time, I gave up my law practice and real estate business.  Today, I am a pastor serving God.  I am very clear that where I am, what I have and what I do was what I intended in my heart.

A PARADIGM SHIFT

            The famous Jewish professor and author, Elie Weisel, wrote what he claims to be a true story that he received from a holocaust survivor.  As I recall, the story takes place high in the mountains of Transylvania, .  A Jewish music teacher loved to sing and joke.  One day, he traveled all the way to Poland to visit relatives.  While he was there, the Nazis of Germany invaded Poland and swept through it in 72 hours.  In the particular town where the music teacher was visiting, the Nazis gathered all the Jews and took them into a wooded area where they shot all of them with machine guns.  The music teacher was splattered with the blood of those next to him, but miraculously unhurt.  He went down in a heap as dead bodies fell on him.  The German soldiers prodded, kicked and bayoneted the prone bodies to make sure they were all dead.  The music teacher somehow was left untouched.  He was frightened and shaking, but he held his breath until the soldiers left.  He was so scared that he waited until it was dark before he crawled out from beneath the dead bodies. 

            Somehow, he made it back to his mountain village in Transylvania.  But, he could no longer sing and joke.  All he wanted to do was warn his people.  He talked to and pleaded with everyone he came in contact with, warning them that the Nazis were coming to kill all the Jews.  The people laughed at him.  They could not believe such a far-fetched story.  After all, Germans were highly civilized and world opinion would not allow them to butcher innocent people.  “Don’t worry,” they said, “Nothing bad is going to happen.”  The school teacher cried and pleaded, but nobody wanted to listen.  They would walk away when they saw him coming.  They had heard his message too many times.  Finally, the school teacher left with all his belongings and headed deeper into the mountains.

            One day soon thereafter, the villagers saw military trucks making their way up the mountain road leading to the small town.  “Just go along with them,” the mayor advised.  The soldiers quickly rounded up all the Jews, cordoned off one section of town and put the Jews there.  The Germans called the place, “The Jewish Ghetto.”  “We’ll just cooperate and bide our time,” the people said, “After the war is over, they’ll release all of us.  You’ll see.”  After a few months, the commanding officers gave the Jews 24 hours to prepare to be moved out of the area.   Many of the Jews were busy digging holes in their back yards to bury their jewelry in the dark of night.  “We’ll be back,“ they thought.  The next morning, all the Jews were crowded into army trucks and soon a convoy made its way down the winding road.  “They are probably going to put us together with other Jews so that they don’t have to travel up the mountain,” the people rationalized.  “We’ll just be patient.  Our God will save us.” 

            When the convoy reached the bottom of the mountain after two days, the truck gates were opened and the prisoners found themselves at a railroad station.  “Well, I guess we’re going to be living in a place far away from here.  Oh, well.  We’re still alive and we’re still together.  What can they do to us?  When this is all over, they will let us go.”  A train was already waiting and the Jews were literally stuffed into filthy cattle cars so that they could not even sit or lie down.  Soon the train began to move.  Clickety Clack, Clickety Clack, Clickety Clack, went the train wheels along the tracks.  It was almost hypnotic.  Soon it became dark and the people were hungry and thirsty.  The people thought, “We’ll just endure until we reach our destination.  Then we will eat.” Throughout the night, a well-known woman slept.  Every so often, she would wake and scream, “Fire!  Fire!  I see fire!”  “Shhh,” the people next to her whispered, “You’re just having a nightmare.  It‘s just a dream.”  There was much optimism among the people.  The young people were even having sex standing up.  They were oblivious to their surroundings.  The grunts and moans made it obvious.  The train went on all night and the woman never stopped screaming, “Fire!  Fire!” 

            Soon morning approached and the sun peeked over the horizon.  A clearing appeared and tall barbed wire fences stretched out over the land.  Many bleak wooden barracks arranged in rows could be seen.  Several towering smoke stacks stood like sentinels in the air.  “Fire!  Fire!” the people began to shout as fire belched out of the huge smoke stacks.  As the train slowed to a stop, the people peered out through the slats.  They could see a large sign through the fog.  It said, “AUSCHWITZ.“ 

            What is it that prevented the people from running away from imminent danger?  Was it groundless optimism that refused to allow one to believe that he could ever be killed - a kind of “superman“ complex?  Was it a belief system that could not admit any threat to survival?  Despite a long history of hatred against the Jews, had complacency and comfort shut off all survival instincts and cause them not to want to see or hear from those who were messengers of destruction?  Elie Weisel never found an answer.  Isaiah and Jeremiah probably didn’t have a clue.  Neither do I.

STORY OF TWO CATS

            Once I heard the supposedly true story of a man who lived in Manhattan with his two neutered male cats that were brothers.  After 14years, he was promoted to general manager by the company he worked for, but it required that he move to Iowa.  He knew that cats of advanced age had a difficult time adjusting to a new environment and he decided to put them to sleep.  After all, they had had a good life and they were now showing signs of old age.  When the day to take them to the vet arrived, he gave them the best meal he could and put them in a box on the front seat of his car.  They had gone to the same vet for years, in the same car and the same front seat.  The day was sunny and clear.  He turned on the radio and soon the cats were fast asleep.  As he approached the parking lot, one of the cats suddenly jumped up and with a loud meow squeezed through the window.  The owner stopped his car, and chased after the cat.  The cat refused to stop running and he soon dove into a sewer opening.  The owner could see the cat about a foot out of his reach.  He kept called out to the cat and reaching out for him.  This cat had always responded to his owner and would jump on his lap when his name was called.  He had never acted this way before.  Whenever the owner’s hand reached out for him, the cat would back up further and even took a swipe at the owner.  After thirty minutes, the owner gave up and went back to his car puzzled.  There on the front seat, the other cat was fast asleep.  The owner picked up the purring cat and walked into the vet’s office.  Within an hour, the second cat was dead.  The owner never saw the other cat again.

            What was it that caused the first cat to suddenly leap through the window and run for his life?  Was it a survival instinct - a primeval intuition of impending danger?  After all, the cat had gone to the vet many times and had never acted this way before.  What about the other cat?  Why was he so different?  After all, they came from the same litter and were raised up in exactly the same way, in the same environment.  The owner spent many hours pondering over what had happened.  Perhaps we should too.

            Which cat are you?

FATALISM?

            When the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke to the people through parables and to them plainly, He replied,

                        Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.  For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.  Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. . . For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.  Mt. 13:11-13,15.

Those whose hearts are open and who are searching for truth will see, hear, understand and receive.  Those whose hearts are waxed gross, covered by unbelief and having no intent to change or let go of the world will have eyes but will not see, ears that hear but will not hear.  It is the heart that opens and closes the eyes and ears of those who cannot understand.  They will not understand the parables or what was said by Jesus and those who speak on His behalf.

END OF AGE

            Some will disagree that the end of the age is near.  They’ve heard the “Wolf!  Wolf! cry too often.  Others don’t want to give up the good life and refuse to change.  They will offer any excuse not to obey.  But, the truth is that Jesus was not saying that only when the end of the age is fast approaching should we strive for perfection in Him.  Being an overcomer, a spiritually-mature Christian is for every generation and every person.

            Seeking first the kingdom of God is not an end-time message.  It is a message for all Christians all the time.  We are to be conformed unto the image of Jesus Christ.


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