Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why Does Jesus Return?

But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.
Jude 1:17-19 NKJV


Now I admit this must seem like a strange question to ask, but as usual, if you follow along for awhile you will understand where I am going with this. As you know if you read my last study, I took a week off to visit my daughter and her husband in North Carolina. Having never been farther east than Colorado, suffice it to say I was introduced to a very different pace of life than I am used to. One of the things I enjoyed, and could certainly get used to, is the notion you should spend a good part of your day sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair watching the world go by. (I'm also now a fan of SEC football but we will save that for another time) So every morning I would get up early, as is my usual habit, and sit on the porch and read my Bible.

Now most of us by now are familiar with the rule of thumb that if you want to make a point, you keep repeating it until it is firmly embedded in someone's mind to the point they couldn't forget it if they wanted to. It sort of seems that the Holy Spirit has been doing that to me lately, for no matter where I go in my study, I end up in the same place; the state of the Church at the end of the age. Last week I even tried to deliberately do something different by choosing a book I am ashamed to admit I knew very little about, and that was the book of Jude.

Now maybe some of you are in the same boat I was in. I knew it was only one chapter long, and found just before the book of Revelation, but that was about it. So imagine my surprise when I sat down and began to read only to find out it was a warning to believers in the last days about those in the church who profess to be Christians yet live according to the standards of the world. Now as you can see, this is not a new subject, but one that I have been writing about for some time. So as I sat on the porch and thought about why the Spirit kept returning to this subject, the question I will pose to you occurred. Since Jesus Himself raised the comparison between our times and the Days of Noah, and we know the flood occurred because only Noah and his family were left untouched by the evil around them, what if God sees the same circumstances evolving as He looks at the Church today? That is, because those who profess to be Christians corrupt the witness of His Church, does God decide to send His Son to take the Church away before it becomes completely ineffective to accomplish the purpose for which it was created?

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 1:3 NKJV


The Greek word for “contend” in this verse is epag┼Źnizomai, a mouthfull I agree, yet why do I bring it up? Mainly because this word only occurs once in the entire New Testament, and if it only occurs once, I strongly believe it is one we need to look especially close at. It comes from the root word ag┼Źnizomai, which means to “strive, fight, and labor fervently”. So Jude is not describing a simple discussion of theological differences, but a serious conflict where believers are admonished to “strive, fight, and labor” for our faith. The feeling I get from reading this is one of a fight for our very survival, which, if compared to the day in which Noah lived and the fact he and his family were the only "uncorrupted" ones left, seems to make perfect sense.

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Revelation 3:15-16 NKJV


So my question for you to consider this week is this; is one of the reasons Jesus returns for the Church the fact that we are slowly losing this fight? I think the passage in Revelation addressed to the Laodician church might well answer that. Can you imagine God being so disappointed with His Church that all He can do is “spit” them out of His mouth? If so, does that mean that the majority of us are not “contending” for the faith as God intended? Are we leaning more towards “tolerance” rather than accountability?

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:4 NKJV


as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.
Jude 1:7,8 NKJV


These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.
Jude 1:16 NKJV

Let's not forget that Jude is describing “believers” in the local church, not the unbelievers outside the church. Can you believe that Jude tells us these people would even dare to "mock" the Gospel? It certainly doesn't take a lot of imagination to see why the witness of the Church could become ineffective by the presence of these people. When unbelievers see no difference between how they live and how those who claim to be believers live, why believe? If you then consider the law of diminishing returns, doesn't it make some sort of sense that God might consider this one of the reasons He decides to send His Son to take away His bride?

Of course, I am not suggesting this is the only possible reason God chooses to act, rather that it may be one of many. Many suggest the rapture is a "number specific" event or something else, and it may well be. Yet I certainly feel more comfortable considering the possibility it is a result of many different reasons and not just one. Our God is a God of infinite patience, yet the time will come when even He says enough is enough and calls us home. The question I am asking myself is will I be able to stand before God and say I fought for the faith, or be embarrassed because I know I could have fought harder?

As always, this is not intended to be an exhaustive study of this subject, but rather to stimulate you to study more on your own. I pose these questions to you for your own personal consideration in the hope that you will listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to say to you about it, and then share what you learn with others in the body. By doing so may we “contend earnestly for the faith” which was presented to us in His Word, even more so as we see the day approaching. Never be afraid to fight for the gospel of Christ.

Keep watching.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Unreasonable Christians

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:1-2 NKJV


Something I slowly figured out as I started to study scripture as a young believer is something I like to call the rule of opposites. I suppose it goes something like this; in the Christian life there is no middle ground, or gray areas where we can “negotiate” with God. Either we do as God desires, or we do the complete opposite. Now I suppose there are many examples in life we could use to illustrate this principle such as black and white, up and down, or simply good and evil. I think you begin to get the picture. Yet as a believer I find myself looking at things in what many might consider a rather simplistic sort of way. What way is that? Well, how about God's way or Satan's way?

Now I think it entirely possible that statement might offend some, yet if you think about it, isn't it a logical conclusion? The Bible tells us, and certainly illustrates by many examples, that God looks at our behavior in just this way. Either we do as He commands, or we follow “you know who”. Thinking that way kind of makes you wonder about that old classic song “I Did It My Way”. Guess what? It wasn't your way, it was Satan's way if it didn't follow God's way. I have always been troubled by believers who seem to think there is nothing wrong with ignoring God's commands if they can somehow “justify” their behavior in their own minds, as if it is possible to negotiate with God! Notice how your kids try to negotiate with you? Did it work? Ever try that with your own parents? How far did you get with that? Unfortunately, God has a message for those who think they can get Him to change His mind.

"For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Malachi 3:6 NKJV


The above passage from Romans is one of my all time favorites because it seems to state plainly everything God expects from us as believers in just one verse. What I want to share with you today is what we can expect to find if someone who claims to be a believer choses to ignore what we are told in this verse, by applying the rule of opposites.

The first thing Paul tells us is that if we make a decision to follow Christ, it is "reasonable" to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Simply put, we begin to live God's way, and not the worlds' (Satan's) way. The word for reasonable in the Greek is "logikos", which not surprisingly is where we get the word logic. The definition is, "pertaining to the reason or logic; spiritual, pertaining to the soul; agreeable to reason, following reason, reasonable, logical". I would presume then that it seems pretty clear what God expects from those who say they are believers. It is "logical" to begin to live your life as He expects, and to follow His rules. Yet considering the rule of opposites, what would we expect to see if someone who claims to be a believer chooses not to do as God requests?

If you choose not to act "reasonably", your only choice is to be "unreasonable"

un·rea·son·a·ble
Adjective

1. not reasonable or rational; acting at variance with or contrary to reason; not guided by reason or sound judgment; irrational: an unreasonable person.
2. not in accordance with practical realities, as attitude or behavior; inappropriate: His Bohemianism was an unreasonable way of life for one so rich.
3. excessive, immoderate, or exorbitant; unconscionable: an unreasonable price; unreasonable demands.
4. not having the faculty of reason.............Dictionary.com

Take note of some of the descriptions in that definition. Irrational, unreasonable and inappropriate attitudes, resulting in excessive and immoderate behavior. From that description, it would seem almost impossible for someone who claims to be a Christian to act in such a way, yet unfortunately, as we approach the return of Christ for His Church, it would appear this sort of behavior becomes common. How is this possible? Note what Paul says in verse two; "be not conformed to this world". The word conformed means to "fashion" oneself after another, so what Paul is saying is that believers have a choice to either "dress, look, act," acceptably to God, or the complete opposite.

How many people do you know claim to be believers yet are obviously "conformed" to this world? They hardly ever go to church, but rather spend their time enjoying what the world calls "fun". They talk and dress inappropriately, following the example of what the world considers acceptable, and unfortunately for those who might observe them, would never be confused as a Christian. This is the point Paul is trying to make here; it is "illogical", and "unreasonable" for someone to claim to be a Christian, yet be conformed to this world. Unfortunately though, we see these kind of believers all around us.

There is, however, one more unfortunate result of a believer unwilling to do the reasonable thing by sacrificing his or her life to God, and we find that in the book of Peter.

knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
2 Peter 3:3-6 NKJV


I personally find this to be one of the most depressing passages in the Bible. Why? Because if you study the context of the entire book, you find that Peter is describing the problems that will arise in the Church in the last days, and the "scoffers" he is talking about are believers! How is it possible that someone who says their hope is in God and claims to be a believer, could doubt the very promise we have been given concerning His return? For the very same reason Paul told us about in Romans. They choose to do the 'unreasonable" thing by letting their actions be controlled by "their own lusts", and as we know by now if your actions aren't controlled by God, they are obviously controlled by Satan. To some that might sound harsh, but the reality is that the rule of opposites applies. Either we put our lives under God's control as a "reasonable" (logical) decision, or we go the other way.

Peter also makes it clear that the unfortunate result for those who choose the wrong way is God's terrible judgment. God may delay, but He never changes His mind. Those who choose the wrong path will pay, and pay dearly. Peter makes that point by recalling the story of Noah and the flood, and reminding us of just how far God is willing to go in order to judge His creation. The single biggest mistake those who choose not to sacrifice their life to God make is believing they are going to get away with it. If there is one thing the Bible makes perfectly clear, it is that God will always judge disobedience.

Have you made the "logical" choice to present your body to Christ? Are you living your life according to His standards rather than Satan's? As Paul says, it's your "reasonable" service.
As we approach the anniversary of the flood, may we be reminded that God expects us to live for Him, and will judge those who don't. Please don't be unreasonable.

Keep watching.

PS I will be traveling to North Carolina later today to visit my daughter and son in law for a week. Please pray for our safety as we travel, and hopefully I will not be too late with next weeks post. It might prove to be an eventful week. Keep watching.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Possibility of an October Rapture

Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
2 Peter 3:7,8 NKJV



In the past few months there has been an upsurge in conversations among believers concerning the conviction that the rapture of the Church is going to occur during the month of October. This conclusion is based on the fact that many different people, from very diverse backgrounds, using different schools of research, have all arrived at the same approximate point in time as a window for the rapture to occur. I have been asked for my thoughts on this, so for better or worse, what follows is my opinion on the possibility of an October rapture.

Time and space do not allow me to examine all the many ways those much smarter than I have arrived at their conclusions for the timing of the rapture. Some of these include numerology, Bible codes, astronomy, visions and dreams, and even the Great Pyramid in Egypt. I want to make it perfectly clear that I have no reservations whatever about the convictions or the research by believers who hold to these positions, for I am familiar with most and am impressed not only by the scholarship, but by their commitment to serve the body of Christ by their willingness to share the results of their studies, research and experiences.

Regardless of the method used to arrive at their conclusions, those who believe the rapture will occur this month connect those conclusions directly to the events of the flood of Noah, and the fact that the Bible tells us clearly when that occurred. The flood began on Cheshvan 17, or what on our calendar will be October 25. Much of the research used to point to this day as the day of the rapture stems from day counts working backwards from the Holy days of Israel that will occur approximately seven years from now using the length of the Tribulation given to us by the prophet Daniel.

Now, while not having any disagreement with the scholarship, I do have a question concerning using the anniversary of the flood as a day for the rapture of the Church. Why? It's because of a little thing called “typology”. If you are not familiar with this term, let me try to explain it in a way that makes sense. In essence what this term means is that many of the events in the Old Testament were actually pictures of what was to occur in the future, and the study of these events is called typology. Some examples that may help would be the story of Abraham being told to sacrifice his only son Isaac, and God providing a lamb as a substitute. Joseph, sent by his father to visit his brothers and being “killed” in a sense by his imprisonment in Egypt only to reappear as second only to Pharaoh as ruler in Egypt. Jonah, being thrown overboard allowing the others to survive while he suffers the punishment of God's wrath in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights. There are many more, but hopefully
these are enough for you to begin to see what is meant by the study of typology.

So exactly what is the point I'm trying to make here? Simply this; if typology is an accurate method to predict future events, (and as a teacher of mine used to say, “pattern is prologue”), Noah and his family were not “raptured” but preserved “through” the flood which was the “judgment” by water mentioned in this passage from Peter. In the book of Revelation we read that there are those who are preserved “through” the tribulation as well. As this passage also says that another judgment is coming, this time by fire, which we know to be a reference to the coming tribulation, it would seem to me that the anniversary of the flood is better suited to be an indicator of the beginning of the tribulation period and not necessarily the rapture of the Church.

Now rather than being depressing, that conclusion should actually excite us since the rapture of the church (if you hold to the pretribulation rapture view) occurs before the tribulation begins. So if the prevailing opinions that the rapture is this month are accurate, that being the case, a whole lot has to happen in just the next couple of weeks. Now many of you thinking, “so when is the rapture”? Well, I certainly don't profess to know the day or the hour, but considering our little diversion into typology, notice something often overlooked in the story of Noah.

..two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God had commanded Noah. And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth.
Genesis 7:9,10 NKJV

So I just wonder; God had everyone and everything get on board and then waited seven days before executing His judgment, so does this possibly mean that God might use the rapture of the Church as a seven day warning of His coming judgment on the earth? Personally I believe that it makes sense that there will be a little time between the rapture and the beginning of the tribulation since there are obviously events that need to occur to prepare the world to accept the reign of the anti-christ. Many scholars believe the destruction of Damascus which we find in the book of Isaiah, and the Gog Magog War found in Ezekiel, will take place immediately before the Tribulation begins. The belief is, in fact, those very events produce the “enforced peace” brokered by the anti-christ.

With that thought in mind, let me create a work of fiction that might help explain my thinking. Part of this will be conclusions I came to when writing my book concerning the coming conflict in Israel, but I think you will agree that most of it makes sense even if it doesn't occur exactly as I lay it out. After reading it, I think you will then understand my statement that a whole lot must happen in a very short time if the Tribulation is to start this month. Again, what follows is not prophecy, just an educated guess as to what might happen in the time between the rapture and the beginning of the tribulation.

IF....the rapture occurs only seven days before the start of the tribulation;

Day One; Total World Upheaval as millions disappear without a trace. Society begins to fall apart as governments, institutions, military and law enforcement agencies, all are crippled.

Day Two; Israel's enemies attack believing the disappearance of the “infidel” , and the crippling of the west is a sign that their cause is just. Unfortunately, they choose to use chemical weapons. Israel responds by using nuclear weapons to defend themselves, resulting in the complete and total destruction of Damascus. (Isaiah 17)

Day Three; What is left of world government, UN, EU, individual countries, condemn Israel's response (naturally) and seek a solution. The nations of Ezekiel 38 agree to combine efforts and come up with a solution of their own.

Day Four; While the debate rages among what is left of world government, the Ezekiel 38 coalition of countries moves their forces by a massive airlift to position themselves for an attack on Israel making no attempt to hide their intentions.

Day Five; A massive attack by the Ezekiel 38 coalition using their combined air assets is attempted and destroyed by God's intervention.

Day Six; A highly respected, powerful individual proposes a solution to the conflict between Israel and it's enemies which guarantees an “enforced” peace.

Day Seven; The government of Israel and the combined governments of their enemies agree to the proposed peace agreement and sign the “covenant with death”. (Isaiah 28:15) The seven year Tribulation begins.

So do you begin to understand what I mean when I say a lot has to happen in a very short time? If the conclusions of many that this is the month of the rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation, many events must transpire in just the next few weeks. Again, I have no idea if events will occur in the order or in the time frame I used here, but I think it will give you an idea of how things just may work out to bring about the time of God's judgment on this earth.

Of course, the question I have often asked in my articles when discussing the rapture of the Church, and our responsibility as watchers, is this; what are you doing about what we are seeing? Are you just sitting there getting all excited or are you looking and searching for ways to share the gospel of Christ with those around you who do not yet believe? As we see the day approaching we need more than ever to be bold when opportunities present themselves to share our faith.

If you are reading this blog and have never made a decision to accept the free gift of salvation offered by our God I encourage you to do that right now. Simply pray to God and confess you are a sinner, ask Him to come into your life and take control, turn away from your old life and seek to live your new life according to His instructions given to us in His word, the Bible. Hopefully we will all meet together very, very soon.

Keep watching.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Isaiah 17 Warning?

Many have questioned the idea that the Bible predicts that Damascus, the capitol of Syria, will be destroyed by Israel sometime in the future. They also question the idea that this destruction will be caused by the use of nuclear weapons, as apparently implied by the account in Isaiah 17. The following link reveals that Israel today has released a report concerning the possibility of bombing Damascus during the Yom Kippur War. Is this a sign of things to come, and a warning to Damascus that all options are still on the table? Read it yourself and decide.

Keep watching.

http://debka.com/article/9064/
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/did-israel-ever-consider-using-nuclear-weapons-1.317592

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Man After God's Own Heart

"And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, 'I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.'
Acts 13:22 NKJV


I think I mentioned last week how much I have enjoyed studying the life of David, and the many lessons I have learned as a result. I remember as if it were yesterday, sitting in Sunday School and hearing about David and Goliath as well as many other stories about his life. Yet it was many years later when I first encountered this verse in Acts, and began to consider just what God meant when He described David as “a man after My own heart”.

You see, along with the stories of his many victories, many of us are well aware of the stories about his failures and shortcomings. So how is it that a man who was guilty of the things David was, be described by God in such a flattering way? Exactly what did God mean, and, considering David's failures, is it possible for us to follow in his footsteps and be seen by God in the same light? How can we as believers follow after God's own heart?

I believe our first clue is in the phrase which follows the compliment, where God also says “who will do all My will”. This passage in Acts is actually a quote of the words God spoke back in the Old Testament when Samuel was informing Saul that his reign as King of Israel was about to end.

"But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you."
1 Samuel 13:14 NKJV


From these two verses it would seem pretty clear that in order to follow after God's own heart, one of the most important things expected of us is to do His will, and follow His commandments. That should come as no surprise considering how often the scriptures speak on that subject.

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
1 John 2:3,4 NKJV


To know God is to obey God, so the first question we must ask ourselves if we want to follow after God's own heart is "am I following all of His commandments"? Do we question our actions constantly in light of His revealed word to make sure we are not violating any of His laws? The Bible is our guidebook to knowing what God wants from us. Are we reading it daily and seeking to know what God expects from us? That is the first thing we need to do if we want to know the heart of God.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.
Proverbs 3:5-7 NKJV


How easy has it become for us to try to solve our own problems or to follow the advise of the world when it comes to dealing with life's difficulties? I think the second thing we need to do to follow after God's own heart is to seek to do His will in everything we do, and not try to come up with our own answers. I can remember each of my daughters arriving at the point in their lives where they felt that they were perfectly capable of making their own decisions without the help or "interference" of parental advice. I certainly remember that happening in my own life as well, but it would seem that God tells us here that as believers we never come to that point, rather we should always look to Him for advice on what to do.

The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart,

The third thing I saw when looking closely at this verse was the word "after". Now I may not have been the smartest kid in school, but I do remember my English class and diagramming sentences. The word "after" is the Greek word "kata" which is a preposition. Now if you are like me, the only thing I remember about prepositions is that they mean action. So what God is saying here is that in order to be seen as following after God's heart, we must be actively doing what He expects from us. So to be known as seeking after God's heart we must be actively pursuing the life of doing His will.

Is it possible for God to look at us today and give us the same compliment He gave David? Certainly. It is up to us, however, to do the things necessary to be seen by God in that light. Do we know His commandments, do we know His will for our lives, and are we actively following and doing those very things? If so, we too can be people after God's own heart.

Keep watching.