Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Final Word

                                                                                             So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.  John 19:30  NKJV

As someone who has spent the majority of his life trying to teach others, one thing I have always encouraged others to do is to ask questions.  Although it might seem as if that is something I would not necessarily need to do, you might be surprised how many people shy away from asking questions for fear of how others might regard them.  The unfortunate result of this, however, is those who feel they have all the answers usually dominate even when they are wrong.  Sadly, even within the body of Christ, this happens all too often as those who speak the loudest often drown out the words of wisdom others might bring to a discussion.

One of the things I have noticed over the years is that there are certain questions which never seem to go away, and in fact, also seem to evolve into more complex ones  resulting in believers having to take sides on issues of theology.  A good example of this would be the seemingly never ending debate concerning eternal security, which has grown to include faith versus works, and even what is known as the partial rapture theory.  Although I am sure those who advocate these positions would disagree, after many years of thought I sincerely believe they are a result of a lack of understanding of the grace of God, which allows Him to offer salvation to mankind as a reward for belief only, and not by anything else on our part.

While I have no illusions of having the last word on this debate, my purpose today is to simply encourage you to ask your own questions, and allow the Holy Spirit to help you to understand the questions we all have as a result of studying the Word.  In my own mind, regarding the subject mentioned above, one of the reasons I choose to believe in eternal security is a result of what Jesus’ final words were as He died for our sins.  Although I am sure most of us would say we know what they were, how many have taken the time to really think about them within the context of what He came to this earth to do?

The phrase, “It is finished!”, is translated from one Greek word, “teleo”, which means; “with reference also to the form, to do just as commanded, and generally involving the notion of time, to perform the last act which completes a process, to accomplish, fulfil”.  I highlighted the portion of the definition which I believe should be our answer to those who might hold a different view.  In His own words, Jesus plainly states that His death on the cross completed the process whereby we can be saved.  There is simply nothing left to be done but for us to believe that His death paid the price for our sins.

In the book of Hebrews, Paul is addressing a group of believers who were considering returning to the old covenant way of worship.  He makes it clear in his letter that the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross was sufficient for our salvation.

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.    Hebrews 7:25-28  NKJV

The phrase “saved to the uttermost” is the Greek word pantel─ôs, which means “all complete, perfect, completely, perfectly, utterly”.  There are many more passages which state the same thing to us concerning the sacrifice Jesus made for our salvation and the point in all of them is that there is absolutely nothing more necessary for our salvation  than for us to believe. Jesus’ own words to the unbelievers in the Laodicean church is a promise we all can take and use for our comfort in knowing we are saved by His grace.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.                           Revelation 3:20  NKJV

In regards to the partial rapture theory, where some choose to believe that you can be saved but left behind at the rapture of the Church because you have somehow failed to measure up, I think Paul makes it pretty clear in his teachings that all who have made the decision to put their faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ will go to meet Him in the air.  Look closely at Paul’s words in his letter to the church at Thessalonica where he describes the rapture, and those who go.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.             1 Thessalonians 4:16-18  NKJV

There are two things here that I would point out to you, and those who choose to believe that not all of us will go.  First of all, Paul says plainly that after the dead in Christ are raptured, we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”.  Notice Paul did not say “some of us”, or “those who deserve it”, but all who are alive and believers in Jesus Christ will go to meet Him in the air.

Have you made the decision to accept the salvation offered to us by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins?  If you have, as Paul said, find comfort in the knowledge that you are saved, and nothing can take that away from you.  When Jesus returns to take us home to be with Him, you will go.

If you have never made that decision to accept Jesus as you personal Savior, as the passage from Revelations says, He stands at the door and knocks.  Open the door of your heart today and ask Him to come in.  He promises to come in, and you can rest in the knowledge He will take you home to be with Him for eternity.


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Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Gift of Peace



"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.     John 14:27 NKJV

How do you greet another person in the course of your daily life?  Not just the people you may know, but those you don’t as well?  Do you smile and just nod your head or do you say something like ”good morning”, or “how are you” as you pass?  Many know that in Israel, or even among those of Jewish descent who may live elsewhere, the most common form of greeting is to say “shalom”, which is the Hebrew word for peace.  Of course, there are variants of this greeting but the use of the word shalom certainly implies not only a feeling towards another, but a reassurance as well.

Jews may have traditionally greeted one another shalom, but the origins of the use of that greeting are unclear.  Some rabbi’s have taught that it can be traced back to the greeting the servant of Joseph used towards his brothers in the Genesis account of their return to Egypt.  There we find that Joseph’s brothers were fearful that they were about to face harm because of the discovery that the money they had used to pay for the grain they bought in Egypt on their first visit.  In verse 23 of Genesis 43 we find that the servant of Joseph greets them with the word “shalom”, and tells them not to be afraid.

But he said, “Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.  Genesis 43:23  NKJV

In the passage from John we find that Jesus also use the word peace when talking to His disciples and again, just as in the case of Josephs’ brothers, the purpose is to reassure and deliver from fear.  Yet Jesus also says something revealing in this passage that I think bears note, and that is He makes it very clear that there are two kinds of peace in this world; the peace that comes from God, and the peace the world tries to offer.  To those who choose a relationship with the risen Lord, it appears that there is a completely different kind of peace available for our reassurance.

Most of us understand that the world's definition of peace is the absence of conflict. Two parties can disagree on anything, for any reason, but as long as there is no open warfare what you then have is called living in a state of peace. As I said, however, this is what the world calls peace. As believers though, shouldn't we should be more interested in what God calls peace instead of the world? Most would say yes but I think if we take a good look around it becomes apparent that within the church today, most believers are relying more on the world's definition of peace rather than on what our Lord had to say. 

We need not look too hard at the history of this world to come to the conclusion that true peace between men is not only temporary at best, but according to the Bible, unachievable in a permanent state.  This world is broken, and certainly the world has failed to produce someone who can fix it.  As a father, I enjoyed being seen by my daughters as the one who could fix anything.  Looking back, it would seem that if I had to define my role as a father, it would be something like a physical and emotional Mr.Fixit.  Whatever it was, Dad could fix it.  Well, most of the time anyway.  Just wait until Dad comes home and things will be put right, and there will be nothing to worry about.

I doubt I could count the number of times I got a call while at work about a crisis of some sort, (with three daughters there was always some sort of crisis) and my answer was always “just wait until I get home and I will take care of it”. In the passage from John, if you continue to read you find that Jesus provides an answer to why His peace is different from the peace the world offers, and why we need not be afraid, and believe it or not, it might sound familiar.

“You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I. “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.             John 14:28-29  NKJV

While the world continually fails to produce any sort of lasting peace, Jesus tells us we need not  be afraid because He is coming back, and when He does He will fix what is broken and bring about a peace that passes all understanding.  Bearing that in mind, when you look around at the world today and see the myriad of problems and conflicts that exist, do you wonder how the world is going to solve them or do you rest in the knowledge that Jesus has promised to return and set things right?  The peace that Jesus says He has given us comes from the knowledge that He lives inside of all who believe, and is coming back to take us home to be with Him forever.

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Colossians 3:15 NKJV

Notice the word rule. When I think about that I get the picture of a throne room and a ruler sitting on the throne. In the believers heart, God should be sitting on the throne ruling, but when we look around and begin to be fearful of what we see going on around us, are we really allowing Him to rule?  In order to enjoy peace while the world seemingly tumbles out of control, we must focus on the promises we have from Him and remind ourselves constantly of His soon return.  While that might seem difficult to do, the prophet Isaiah gives us the following instruction.

You will keep [him] in perfect peace, [Whose] mind [is] stayed [on You], Because he trusts in You.                  Isaiah 26:3 NKJV

Two points are made in this verse that helps us understand how we might begin to experience peace in our lives as God intended. The first thing we are told is that our minds should be “stayed” on Him. The Hebrew word for stayed is camak, which means to lean or rest upon, the result being we are supported by whatever it is we are leaning on. Now that might sound simple but in truth exactly how do we do that in a practical sense? Personally I try to look at it this way; when I made the decision to accept Christ into my heart, He did in fact come in. Therefore, it is no longer “I” or “me”, but “us” and “we”. 

Think of it this way; how often in the course of the day do you think of “I” and “me”? Most of us would have to say all the time. It's always about what I should do, or how does that affect me, what do I want to do, etc. Truth is, as believers it's now about the two of us. So to my way of thinking, having my mind “stayed” upon Him is to always think of us rather than me, and to consider how Jesus would respond and then adjust my attitude to reflect that. Secondly, this verse says that the result of having our minds stayed on Him is that we trust Him. The word translated to trust is batach which is actually a verb phrase which means to trust, have confidence in, and as a result be bold in our response. 

I’m not sure that I could honestly say that a day goes by without hearing someone talking about the state the world is in right now.  If not the economy, wars and rumors of wars, even the price of gas gives rise to questions about what in the world is going on.  Have you ever considered that what is going on is part of God’s plan in order to give His children a last opportunity to share the Gospel with an unbelieving world?  With all the concern and worry we see from others, we are given a wonderful chance to share why we can be at peace while this world spins out of control.

The next time someone asks you if you are worried about what is happening in the world today, simply tell them no, because Jesus has promised us He is coming back to fix this broken world.

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

True Wisdom Comes From God



Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.  1 Corinthians 1:10  NKJV

I don’t know about you but speaking of myself, I was always the one sitting in the back of the classroom hoping I wouldn’t be called on to answer a question.  It wasn’t that I didn’t know the answer, but rather I always held the opinion “why run the risk of possibly being wrong”?  Besides, how many of us really liked those who were always raising their hands and showing off how much they knew?  Now I confess that was what I was thinking as a child and as I grew and matured, my feelings began to change.  Yet the one thing I noticed that never seemed to change was the desire of certain people to be looked upon as smarter than everyone else.

When you begin a study of this letter by the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth, you immediately find that this very problem was running rampant within the church body.  It seems everyone was taking sides and basically arguing over who was smarter by virtue of their interpretation concerning certain schools of thought.  This had resulted in a totally dysfunctional body which was more concerned with arguing over who was right rather than being united in sharing the Gospel of Christ with an unbelieving world, which according to Paul, was the whole reason we are called in the first place.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?       1 Corinthians 1:9-13  NKJV

One of the first things I noticed about what Paul has to say here is that he identifies the different factions by naming the person they profess to believe rather than what it is they are trying to teach.  The second thing which becomes apparent when you read the entire chapter is that the subject is wisdom; specifically the wisdom of God as opposed to the wisdom of men.  As I thought about this it began to appear to me that what was going on in this church was more along the lines of a popularity contest rather than an honest disagreement over theology. 

Paul never shied away from correcting false doctrine so it seems to me that what he is confronting here is the problem of certain individuals taking pride in seemingly being smarter than others.  Paul immediately takes them to task and attempts to redirect their focus on the purpose for which the body was created.  This is, of course, the preaching of the gospel of Christ and the sufficiency of the cross for our salvation.  Paul states that this is what he was called by God to do, and any “wisdom of words” on his part would only take away from the message of the cross.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.                              1 Corinthians 1:17-18  NKJV

It is unfortunate that this lesson is still one which many people within the body have failed to learn or appreciate for this same problem can be found today in many different forums.  In the past, as well as currently, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to watch as Christian discussion sites have been created, blossomed, and then slowly wither away as they change from true believers sharing with each other to petty bickering over who is right and who is wrong on any given theological stand.  Eventually all that is left are those who choose to speak the loudest and listen the least, and I can’t help but wonder if they have never read the words of Paul in this chapter to the church at Corinth?

For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.  1 Corinthians 1:19-21  NKJV

“If you torture the data long enough, you can get it to confess to anything”.

What I like most about this quote which I heard many years ago is just how applicable it is within the Church today.  How easy is it to take a portion of scripture and force it to say whatever you want it to.  Yet that takes work, and Paul makes it clear that the cross of Christ and the salvation it offers is a message of simple faith, which to the world seems foolish.  Yet in the end, God will show that the wisdom of men is really foolishness, and faith in the power of the cross is the wisdom which will save.  In their desire to be seen as wise, some people simply become fools.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;   1 Corinthians 1:25-27  NKJV

Have you been looking for a complex answer to the meaning of life?  Does the message of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins on the cross seem too simple or easy?  God chose to make the gift of eternal life for a sinful world as easy as making a choice to believe in the payment made for us on the cross by Jesus Christ, His only son.  If you have never made this choice, I urge you to do it today.  Just pray a simple prayer like this one and become one who has chosen to believe the wisdom of God.

Jesus I know I am a sinner in need of salvation. I believe you sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sin, and I ask you now to forgive me of my sins. I want to receive your gift of salvation so please come into my heart and help me to live and follow you as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' name, Amen.

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”  1 Corinthians 1:30-31  NKJV

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Where Are We?



“And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.    Ezekiel 39:6  NKJV

If you are a student of biblical prophecy, I’m sure you have either heard or read that the most asked question concerning the end times is “where is America?” in all of this?  What I have always believed is that if the United States was relevant, it would be mentioned in scripture.  The fact that it seems to be absent lends weight to the idea that for one reason or another, America as we know it is rendered irrelevant.  Many have taught that one reason might be found in the passage from Ezekiel which describes what some believe is a future nuclear attack.  The following is an excerpt from an article by Chuck Missler of Koinonia House.

“The ultimate invasion of the Middle East by "Gog and Magog" is well known to most Biblically informed observers.1   The invading forces of Magog - recognized as referring to Russia by most authorities - are wiped out by "hailstones of fire" from the heavens, which also cause an earthquake felt around the world.2   A disturbing aspect of this encounter is that similar "hailstones of fire" also appear to fall on those "who dwell securely in the isles" or coastlands. 3   Some suspect that this could be a hint of an intercontinental nuclear exchange as part of the confrontation with Magog and its allies.4”   http://www.khouse.org/articles/2001/344/

The relationship the United States has at present with Russia certainly might support this scenario as the sanctions we have put in place as a result of the conflict in the Ukraine, and the drop in oil prices has severely crippled the economy of Russia.  At present there is absolutely no love lost between our two countries and it might not take much more to provoke this sort of response from Mr. Putin.  As one of my former professors of geopolitics said, “wars are started by desperate men, and desperate men do desperate things”.  If you have read any of the news lately on the state of affairs inside of Russia, this quote takes on new light.


There is, however, another scenario which certainly bears consideration in an effort to answer the question of America’s future.  When the future world government is described in the book of Revelation, one fact which bears acknowledgment is the fact that nations “willingly” give over their authority to the antichrist.

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. “These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.      Revelation 17:12-13  NKJV

You need not look too far in the past to believe that the United States of America would never even consider doing something like this, yet the current state of affairs in our capitol has, to many, caused an unprecedented state of alarm as we see the strength and stature of our country evaporate before our very eyes.  Many now are forming the opinion that, not only are we moving that direction but our country is being deliberately directed to that end.  Is it possible that our current government would actually consider doing such a thing?  Personally I believe there is one other thing we need to contemplate when considering an answer to that question and that is just how would the rapture of the Church affect our current government? 
  
The following link is to an excellent article by Terry James of “raptureready.com”.  I encourage you to read it and consider carefully all that he has to say.  The time is short, and as believers we need all of the information we can acquire in order to answer the questions these times will produce.

“The United States of Antichrist”, by Terry James.

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