Thank You for the NO.

“God must often seem to us to be playing fast and loose with us.  The adult must seem to mislead the child, and the Master the dog.  They misread the signs.  Their ignorance and wishes twist everything.”  (C.S. Lewis)

I am such a small creature with such limited understanding.  One of eight billion – 8,000,000,000!  And some demographers estimate we are half of the total population that has ever lived since Adam and Eve, 16,000,000,000 in all.

News reporters should not be allowed to use words to describe such large numbers.  Does it not seem easier to accept that our national debt is $31.12 trillion than to read our national debt is $31,120,000.000,000.00!?  And it is growing by over $2,000,000,000,000.00, two trillion, per year or $5,480,000,000.00 per day!  When you see $5.48 billion it just seems to not bother us so much as seeing the numbers stretching across the page.

However, I am writing about people today, not money.  Eight BILLION is still a lot of people.  Think of the crowds in which you have been numbered.  You may have been one of 50 or 100 at a church or social club.  If your church is a mega-one, maybe you were one of 5,000.  You could recognize your children across the large auditorium and even see them wave to you.

Then you went to a concert with 25,000 attendees, and suddenly you could not find anyone you knew beyond those within earshot, maybe 20 feet (3.5 metres) away.  A large crowd gathered in Washington, D.C. for a special occasion and the news outlets estimated your “group” was over 500,000 or maybe a million (1,000,000).  All you could see was a “sea of faces” bobbing up and down, looking literally more like a lake than a mass of human beings. 

So eight billion (8,000,000,000) are LOTs of faces!!  And each one has his or her story; each one is troubled by a relationship or blessed by a colleague or family member; each one has had physical and emotional pains, and each has had offers of peace if he or she would take them.  Each ONE.

Thus, when we ask God for a parking space and one suddenly opens up, do we accurately conclude the Creator of the Horsehead Nebula actually paid attention to our desire for a few minutes’ convenience?  Or could it have been coincidence?  Does the One who designed your DNA and spangled the universe with galaxies really care if your bird or lizard or dog dies?  Would He not have more important things which require His attention?

When the apostle John encountered The Son of Man in Revelation 1, he was so overwhelmed by this Person that he totally blacked out and had to be revived.  This revelation of Jesus continues through chapters 4, 5, 7, 13 and 19 to 21 and HE is amazing!  He is beyond our full comprehension!  The difference between us and an insect seems less than the difference between us and HIM!!  He is more than our small minds can digest, and then we wonder why He sometimes does not jump when we say, “Do what I tell you to do.”

Yet, Jesus, Himself said that Father numbers the hairs of our heads!  Such a mind with such vast power and yet such perception of the details!!  So when we do not get the “answer” we demand from this Creator, we should not be dismayed, and conclude, “See, God does not exist because He did not do what I want.”

He knows; He understands; He cares more than we can grasp and loves you and me, us two out of 8,000,000,000 (or 16,000,000,000 depending on who you are counting).  He knows and loves YOU more than you can imagine.  So trust Him.  Though he seems to be playing fast and loose with us, simply trust Him, believe in Him and receive His gift of eternal life.  Then, someday, we will know fully even as we have been fully known.  And thank Him for all things, even when He says, “No.”

Rated PG-13: Christianity and Sex

Why Do Christians Make Such a Big Deal about Sex?
September 26, 2022 by: Rebecca McLaughlin (in Crossway.org, an excellent free resource for book reviews.)

Beliefs about Sex
One day, to try and catch him in his words, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (Matt. 19:3).  Some Jewish rabbis allowed divorce for any reason.  Others only allowed it in cases of adultery.  The casualties of the more permissive view were women, who could be abandoned freely.  Jesus replied, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt. 19:4–6)

Jesus goes right back to the beginning of the Bible, when God creates us — “male and female” — in his image. (Gen. 1:28)  These are the first words the Bible says about humanity.  They are also the first planks in the raft of human equality.  We tend to see equality for men and women as a self-evident truth.  But it is not.  It started as a Judeo-Christian belief.1

Beliefs about Equality
Jesus connects God’s creation of male and female in Genesis 1 to a pivotal verse in Genesis 2.  God makes man first, but then says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Gen. 2:18)  This role is not inferior.  In the rest of the Old Testament, God himself is most often described as a helper.  What is more, the creation of the woman is not an afterthought.  In Genesis 1, humanity is told to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).  It is literally impossible for man to accomplish this mission without woman!

In Confronting Jesus, this follow-up to Confronting Christianity, Rebecca McLaughlin shares important biblical context to help all readers explore who Jesus really is and understand why the Gospels should be taken seriously as historical documents.

Right after God says he’s going to make a helper, he brings the animals to the man and gives him the chance to name them.  But no animal is a fit helper for the man (Gen. 2:20).  God does not discover this by trial and error.  (Maybe an orangutan? Nope. How about a chimpanzee? Nope.)  God already made the animals before he said he would make a helper for the man.  Parading the animals before the man emphasizes that the woman is different from them.  Instead of being like an animal, she is like the man.  To underscore this point, Genesis describes God putting the man to sleep, taking a part of his side — almost like taking a cutting from a plant — and making the woman.  On seeing her, the man exclaims, “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of man.” (Gen. 2:23)

Just like in English, the Hebrew word for woman (ishshah) includes the word for man (ish).  The first words God speaks about humans in the Bible were that he would make them — male and female — in his image.  The first words a human speaks in the Bible celebrate the relationship between male and female.  They are followed by the verse that Jesus quotes in his response to the Pharisees: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24)

Man and woman are cut from the same cloth.  Marriage is in one sense a reunion, as man and woman become “one flesh.”  In case we missed the role of sex, the narrative concludes, “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Gen. 2:25)  This is the picture to which Jesus points when he’s asked about divorce.  If a husband and a wife are “no longer two but one flesh,” if God himself has joined them together, then who are we to tear them apart?  But we do.

The Spiritual Significance of Sex
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful short story, Zikora, begins with a woman in labor.  As the story and the labor progress, we see Zikora texting the father of her baby.  He was her long-term boyfriend who abandoned her when she declined his proposal — not of marriage, but of abortion. 

“’I’ll take care of everything,’ he said.”2  She had told him she was stopping birth control and thought he was on board.  But he had said they had miscommunicated.  “‘Kwame,’ I said finally, in a plea and a prayer, looking at him, loving him. Our conversation felt juvenile; an unreal air hung over us. I wanted to say, ‘I’m thirty-nine and you’re thirty-seven, employed and stable, I have a key to your apartment, your clothes are in my closet, and I’m not sure what conversation we should be having, but it shouldn’t be this one.’”3

We find out later that Zikora had an abortion at age nineteen.  She was pregnant by a guy she had met in college.  “’I don’t do commitment,’ he had said, ‘but I didn’t hear what he said, Zikora recalls; ‘I heard what I wanted to hear: he hadn’t done commitment yet.’”4 

In the first century, poverty and fatherlessness often led to infants being left outside to die.  Today, they are the biggest drivers of abortion — which is often less the flower of a woman’s so-called right to choose and more a bitter fruit served up to women who feel like they don’t have a choice.5

Jesus locates sex in the one-flesh union of marriage between a man and a woman and gives it spiritual significance.

In some ways, the divorce of sex from marriage that we’ve witnessed in the twenty-first-century West is not unprecedented.  Some form of commitment-free sex for men has been a feature of most societies throughout history, and women have borne the consequences: social, emotional, and physical.  But Jesus locates sex in the one-flesh union of marriage between a man and a woman and gives it spiritual significance.  This makes sense of his hard words about adultery and other forms of sexual immorality.  Sex is not just a pleasurable act.  It is not even just a means for having kids.  It is an expression of a one-flesh unity, made by God to picture Jesus’ love for us.

The Pharisees ask Jesus, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” (Matt. 19:7).  Jesus replies, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:8–9)  This teaching protected women and children from being abandoned.  It presents marriage as a permanent commitment that can only be undone by adultery.  As usual, Jesus takes what the Old Testament law said about sexual ethics and tightens it up.  Even his own disciples are shocked (Matt. 19:10).  So why does Jesus — who never married — see marriage in these uncompromising terms?  Because it is a picture of his own love for his church.

Whenever people ask me why Christians are so weird about sex, I first point out that we are weirder than they think.  The fundamental reason why Christians believe that sex belongs only in the permanent bond of male-female marriage is because of the metaphor of Jesus’ love for his church.  It is a love in which two become one flesh.  It is a love that connects across sameness and radical differences: the sameness of our shared humanity and the radical difference of Jesus from us.  It is a love in which husbands are called not to exploit, abuse, or abandon their wives, but to love and sacrifice for them, as Jesus did for us.  In Adichie’s story, Zikora’s college boyfriend often said, “‘I don’t do commitment’ with a rhythm in his voice, as if miming a rap song.”6  With the same consistent rhythm in his teaching, life, and death, Jesus says to us, “I do.”

Notes:

  1. Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars, vol. 2, trans. J. C. Rolfe, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1914), 65.
  2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zikora: A Short Story (Seattle, WA: Amazon, 2020), Kindle.
  3. Adichie, Zikora.
  4. Adichie, Zikora.
  5. For more on this, see Rebecca McLaughlin, The Secular Creed: Engaging 5 Contemporary Claims (Austin, TX: The Gospel Coalition, 2021), 75–80.
  6. Adichie, Zikora.

This article is adapted from Confronting Jesus: 9 Encounters with the Hero of the Gospels by Rebecca McLaughlin for Crossway.
Dr. Rebecca McLaughlin (PhD, Cambridge University) is the author of Confronting Christianity, named Christianity Today’s 2020 Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year. Her subsequent works include 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) about ChristianityThe Secular Creed; and Jesus through the Eyes of Women.

 

If Jesus Arose from the Dead, Why Didn’t He Stick Around?

Why would Jesus have to go away and send the Comforter, also called the Holy Ghost?
Why could He not stay on earth and daily “prove” that He was the resurrected Christ or Messiah (Anointed One) sent from God to redeem the world from sin?
Could He not hold news conferences to show that He was alive from the dead?
Could He not show His wounds in His hands, feet and side in a continual world tour?  Although He would have a lot of ground to cover!

Consider in history when God DID show up in unmistakable experiences.  He revealed Himself through Moses and Aaron in spectacular fashion to both Pharoah and the Egyptians as well as the Israelite community living in the land of Goshen in northern Egypt.  He led them for 40 years in the wilderness of Sinai (they were not wandering; they followed a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night).  (See Exodus 13:17-22; and chapters 1416.)

And look how often they grumbled against Moses and God who had delivered them!  So much so that an entire generation was forced to die in the desert before their children could inherit the Land of Promise.  Apparently even God’s obvious Presence was not enough to discourage sin in the camp!

In Craig Keener’s book, Miracles Today, he perceptively asks “How much evidence does it take to convince someone [a miracle occurred]?… If I am adamant that miracles are impossible, in principle I might reject any amount of evidence. If I already trust God, I will thank God for even the smallest details of life… God doesn’t do miracles for our entertainment.”

Likely a true anecdote, in the story of Poor Lazarus and The Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), the rich man is in anguish having gone to hell while Lazarus is comforted at Abraham’s side (a ‘pre-Heaven,’ so to speak).  The rich man begged Abraham to allow Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water to cool his tongue.  When Abraham said this was impossible, the rich man asked if Lazarus could go back from the righteous dead and warn his five brothers, so they could avoid winding up where the rich man was.

“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (verses 29-31)

On another occasion (Matthew 12:38-40), Jesus was asked for a “sign” to prove His divine credentials.  “But He answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  I.e., He was announcing that He would rise from the dead!  This was a frequent claim of Jesus, so clear that His opponents even asked for the sealing of His tomb to prevent a fraudulent claim that He had done so.  (Matthew 27:62-66)

These were people who knew Jesus could heal the blind, restore shriveled arms, open deaf ears and even raise the dead (John 11:38-53)!  Yet, their hearts would not believe, no matter what evidence they saw.  Think logically, and how do you kill someone who can raise the dead!?  Yet that is what they proposed to do.  In John 12:8-11, they even plotted to murder Lazarus because he had been raised from the dead!!  Couldn’t any of them spell “irony” in Hebrew?  How do you kill someone if Someone else can just raise him from the dead!?

“Faith” in the Bible is more than just mental assent.  In the Complete Jewish Bible, the words both from the Hebrew and Greek are most often translated as “trust.”

A little boy was asked to define “faith,” and he said “It’s believing something you know just ain’t true.” 😁  But obviously, that is not the case in the Bible.  Faith is trust; it is accepting the evidence with an open mind and relying on God to do what only He can do – save lost people from hell and give us eternal life.

Let’s suppose for a minute that Jesus DID stay here on earth in His resurrected body.

  1. First, how would He prove that He was really 2000+ years old?  Maybe the history books, all obviously written with His approval, are like claims of Roman Emporers being gods.
  2. Second, how would He prove to ME that He had really died.  If I only live 70-90 years, how do I know that He is not just longer-lived and will not die after me?
  3. Third, how do I know the wounds in His hands, feet and side were not inflicted just before I was born?

In order for ME to believe that He could come back from the dead, I WOULD HAVE TO SEE HIM DIE ALL OVER AGAIN! … unless I trust Him and His followers.  And if I do not trust them, why would I trust Him even if He arose from the dead in MY presence again?

Abraham’s words ring true: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”  We know this is true because He arose from the dead, and the Pharisees of His time still tried to quash the rumor that He was alive.  Yet they could not produce a body nor show where He was laid, because He IS RISEN!

Jesus knows what is in our hearts, and how we resist the truth as the unbelievers of the first century did.  So He sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to woo us, to persuade us, to open our blind eyes and allow us to see the Evidence That Demands a Verdict.  Jesus promised Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  (John 20:29)

Who will you believe today?  Jesus?  His disciples who died rather than admit to a lie?  Or the Pharisees who said, “They stole the body,” but could produce no proof?  (Matthew 28:11-15)

One added feature to understanding how Jesus would have been limited if He had stayed on earth in His unglorified body comes from Jennifer Arimborgo in Peru; a blogger worth following!
https://feedingonjesus.com/2022/09/26/never-lost-in-the-crowd/

Two Destinations – An Almost Wordless Wednesday

“For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  Jesus

What is the sign of the end of the age? Do NOT be DECEIVED!

“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  (Matthew 24:3)

2022-05-21 Do not be deceived

Many people read the words of Jesus following this question, and without looking at what He really said  think false prophets, wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution of Christ-followers, betrayals and lawlessness are the signs of the end of the age. 

But we must pay attention to what Jesus actually said: All these are but the beginning of the birth pains,” NOT the signs of the end.  He provided ONE and only one sign of the end of the age:
“This gospel [good news] of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Mathew 24:14)

Now we do not know exactly what Father evaluates as a “nation” or ethnicity (a more accurate translation of this word, ἔθνεσιν).  Could it include the Sentinel Indians that John Chau was trying to reach?  Nor do we know what the “testimony” involves: someone announcing it on a soapbox or a Bible translation in the native language?

Deception Island's Whaling RemainsIn any case, we should not think that because Russia is invading another country, THIS is it.  The tragic 2015 earthquake in Nepal was not an indication that Jesus was coming soon.  The 21 Coptic Christ-followers that were beheaded by merciless ISIS Muslims was not the end.  The summer riots of 2021 in Seattle, Portland and other cities of the U.S. were not indications of Jesus’ return any more than the Watts riots of 1965 or the Dead Rabbits riots of Irish immigrants of 1857. 

2022-05-21 DeceivedJim Jones was one of many false prophets to flit across our television screens depicting crazy guys who led many people to their deaths when they “drank the cool-aid” quite literally.  He simply followed the path of previous devious leaders like Joseph Smith of Mormon fame and Pope Julius who sold indulgences to enrich the coffers of his organization.  Such wars, rumors of wars, natural disasters and false teachers will continue until Jesus returns.

Jesus main emphasis in describing all this was to say, “See that no one leads you astray!”  He mostly wanted His followers to be careful not to be deceived by miracles and false prophecies.  He laid down a basic principle for future prophecy in John 14:29: “Now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.”  Though this was in regard to specific things coming the next day at His crucifixion, the postulate is applicable across the board for all Bible predictions of coming events.

We need to study the future prophecies of the Bible to have some ideas of what to expect, but we likely will not be able to predict stock market crashes, where the next riot will occur, when the tsunami will break over the Northwest coast or who the Anti-Christ is . . . until he is revealed.  (BIG hint: he’s probably not Donald Trump nor Joe Biden.🙄) The important thing is to keep in tune with the Spirit of God and be able to understand what is happening in the world as it unfolds.  And BE READY!   Scripture (Matthew 24:17-20) suggests events will occur so rapidly that one will not even have time to grab an extra coat!  It will happen as fast as lighting‼️

So what is The Sign?  Tell everyone that Jesus is returning.  Tell everyone that sin is forgivable.  Tell everyone that there is hope, even when the world seems to be reeling out of control.  Tell everyone that Jesus is God, that The God Who Is has revealed Himself in Jesus who died to take away our sins, MY sins, YOUR sins.  Preach this Good News to all the world all the time until everyone has had an opportunity to accept or reject the claims Jesus made.  Then the end will come and the redeemed will be saved, the blind will receive sight, the oppressed will be set free and God’s will will be done in earth as it is in Heaven.

Whatever we believe about the End Times, they will happen according to God’s timeline, not ours.  They will happen according to His plan, not any man’s.  But the End Times will happen. 
Know and love the truth.
Do not be deceived.

The Two Greatest Fears

2022-03-26 Killware BewareIt seems like a terrifying time to be alive.  Fear and depression stats are off the charts as government officials warn to leave masks alone for health-care workers, then warn that if you do not wear a mask, you are committing a crime against your community.  Then you don’t need a mask anymore, then you must wear one.  And don’t even get me started on the politicization of gene therapy that has been misnamed “vaccines.”  When Michael Crichton wrote The State of Fear, I wonder how fully he realized how accurate he was.
Fear controls.  Fear restricts.  Fear dominates.  Fear enslaves.  Fear manipulates.
Laura Dodsworth, a British photo-journalist used a similar title for one of her books, A State of Fear and spoke to Epoch Times about it on American Thought Leaders.

2022-03-26 Angels Can Be ScaryCuriously, the most common first words out of angels’ mouths when they showed up in the Bible were, “Fear not.”  Unlike the nice little girls in a church Christmas pageant, they must be pretty scary when they materialize!

Scripture teaches there are two great fears every person has, and the first and foremost is fear of death.  There is a mystery in Hamlet’s “undiscovered country” that makes us willing to suffer all kinds of burdens because we do not know what lies beyond since no one has come back to tell us . . . except Jesus 😉.  And for those who have accepted His salvation, we can say with Paul, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-56)

Yet, even knowing what will happen AFTER I die does not completely remove the fear of this final baptism into the unknown.  Of course, there are matters of pain, disease, or injury that are frightening, but when you read of martyrs who gave up their lives rather than renounce faith in Jesus, one cannot help but be moved by the lack of fear!  Yet that hesitant fear remains.

It reminds me of my first time on a three-meter diving board.  I had fallen from higher limbs out of trees onto leafy ground.  The gym teacher had effectively taught me how to swim and I had even been in the “deep end” when swimming lengths of the pool.  The week before, everyone in the class had jumped or dived off the low board.  But as I climbed the 10 foot ladder to the platform my knees trembled and I was scared.  One after another, classmates before me walked up (in what seemed to me overconfidence or bravado) and just casually walked to the boundary of common sense and suddenly they were GONE!

The splash that followed 1.42 seconds later did not give me any more confidence.  I was going to leap to my death!!  But I knew the line behind me would want me to get over the brink as quickly as possible so they could jump, so steeling my spirit and mind against the despondence of my doom, I also walked up and off the edge!  The comfort of feeling the water enclose around me removed all my fear.  So I expect it will be something like this when I “cross the Jordan.”  Like the old hymn sang, “I won’t have to cross Jordan alone.”

But most of the people in the world do not have this comfort.  For them, the fear of death is paramount in their minds.  Everything they do (with the exception of adrenaline junkies) is to try to stay alive.  And even adrenaline junkies take precautions and plan their escapades in expectation that they will survive.  R.J. Corman reportedly offered $1,000,000 to his doctors for every year he lived after a cancer diagnosis in 2001.  Many octogenarians and older still look for organ transplants and medical ‘miracles’ that will keep them alive “just little longer.”  Without Jesus, death is the most fearsome adversary mankind faces.  Even though everyone will die at some point, many often go to extremes to put off this inevitable contest with an opponent who is destined to win.  Some even freeze their bodies in hopes that before frostbite sets in someone will come up with a cure for whatever is killing them!

The second greatest fear most people experience is, “What will the neighbors think!?”  Okay, maybe not neighbors, but someone else.  Fear of what other people think runs a very close second to the fear of death.  Some people even risk death to avoid being thought foolish or vain or somehow less than what they wish they were.  We joke in Kentucky, Bubba’s most common last words are, “Hey, ever-body, watch THIIIS!”

2022-03-26 Nokia Cell PhoneI recall when Nokia cell phones first came out, a man entering an elevator continued talking about his financial wizardry as we ascended 15 stories in the building.  What he did not notice was the light on the face of his phone had gone out, indicating he had lost the connection in the lift! 🙄  But rather than admit to us strangers that he was not as savvy as wanted us to think, he kept up the charade.

Jesus warned specifically not to fear what people may think of you.  “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves,… have no fear of them,… do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.(Matthew 10:16-28)  However, some authorities in Israel did not get the memo: “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in Him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12:42-43)  Sooo sad.

For the Christ-follower, this is an ongoing battle with the flesh, to be humble and obedient and not worry about what people think.  Some of us struggle with this more than others, but we are on the right path when we say with the author of Hebrews, So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:6)

In Jesus discourse the night before His crucifixion He told His disciples, and by them tells us, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

“Oh, the worst of all tragedies is not to die young, but to live until seventy-five and yet not ever truly to have lived.”   Martin Luther King, Jr. who was assassinated at age 39

On Trial For Being A Christian

“If you were on trial for being a Christian, would the evidence convict you?”

2021-10-30 The Trial
This was a question I read on an Intervarsity Press poster back in the 1970s. (Good stuff, usually, from IVP. 😉)

The question got me to thinking back then, and now again, about whether people recognize that being a Christ-follower is the most important item in my identity.  A man was speaking to a bunch of us working for the census in 2020 and began to explain how we were to perform our jobs, but without introducing himself.  One of the attendees wondered about his qualifications and asked, “Who are you?”

He presented his name, and then to all our surprise said, “I am first of all a follower of Jesus Christ; an American citizen by birth; a philosophical conservative; a census bureau supervisor by training . . .”  Interestingly, no one challenged his claim to follow Jesus nor commented on it.  However, you can bet, he was watched closely to see if he really followed Jesus!

2021-10-30 Jesus WearablesSuch should be our identification: “first of all, a follower of Jesus Christ.”  If you are one of “us,” how many people that you work with know this?  What evidence have you presented, both in words and actions that signifies your priorities?  This must be more than “tee shirt or jewelry evangelism.”  How many lewd songstresses have you seen with sparkling diamond crosses around their necks as they sing about illicit love affairs or angry lyrics about culture or death?  I remember honking at a car in the ’80s that had a “Honk If You Love Jesus” bumper sticker and the driver flipped “a bird” at me with his middle finger! 😒

Wearing jewelry or clothes that signifies one’s devotion to Jesus is fine, but if that is the total of our announcement of who we are, we are far short of what Jesus calls us to be.Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33) 

So how have you presented your faith in the Resurrected One to those with whom you associate daily or weekly?  Do people you have met for a short time know that you believe Jesus is the uniquely born Son of God?  Have you warned your friends and colleagues that an eternal destiny separated from Life awaits them if they do not receive Jesus as their savior?  Do you care about them enough to warn them as though you consider their houses are on fire?

One does not need to be a theologian or have all the answers.  “When someone thinks they have all the answers you have to wonder if they know all the questions.” (Rick Warren)  Like the man born blind in John 9, all you need is this truth,One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25)  If Jesus has opened our eyes to the reality that this life is very short compared to the Life to come, we need to be telling our relatives, colleagues, neighbors, everyone we encounter for more than 30 minutes. 

This does not mean everyone will accept our testimony or receive Jesus.  To work together and fulfill our responsibilities on jobs or in relationships does not require anyone to agree with us.  But they should know that we love them; that Jesus loves them enough to die for them; that He went to the cross and arose from the dead FOR THEM!  If we love them as Jesus loves them, very few will put us on trial.  But if they do, there should be enough evidence for a conviction!

2021-10-30 Convicted

Where Is The Promise Of His Coming – Part 1: The Lie, The Truth, The End and Your Choice

“They will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’” 2 Peter 3:4

We are such a short-sighted race, we humans.  There is no distinction here for black, yellow, white or polka-dotted.  After all, God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.” (Acts 17:26)  We are all directly related, and should treat each other as brothers and sisters, because that is what we are. 

The Lie
2021-09-18 Serpent in GenesisBut we are also all sinners, because Adam and Eve preferred to believe they had a better idea of how to live than their Creator did.  They believed The Lie with which the father of lies continues to bewilder mankind: God is holding out on you, and YOU can be like Gods.

Some atheists have said, “Well, if there IS a God like Christianity teaches, I don’t want anything to do with Him.”  They drank from satan’s cool-aid and believe lies about God’s nature, His intentions, His abilities, His power, or now even His existence.  Whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)  Or they have listened to false teachers with an agenda of self-gratification, selfish ambition or worse.  Such false teachers are going to their well-earned destruction; do not go with them!

Would you reject a teacher who wants to do good for you, just because one of his students said bad things to or about you?  Do not reject a God who loves you just because someone ‘claiming’ to know Him does something bad!

My heart aches for so many who are separated from The God Who Is, who has revealed Himself most clearly in Jesus, the Christ (or Anointed One).  He does not want anyone to miss the eternal life with joy unspeakable and full of glory, a life without pain or disease or death or separations.  However, He will not force anyone to trust Him – it must come from our choice of who to believe: the devil whose only goal is to steal and kill, or Him whose only desire is to bring more abundant life.  He leaves that decision up to each of us, and no one can force or convince another if they are unwilling to believe.

The Truth
Jesus IS coming soon, and we do not know the hour or the day, suggesting that His “rapture” (or catching away) of the Church could occur at any time.

2021-09-18 The TruthSome refer to the Pre-Tribulation rapture of the Church as a “secret rapture.”  However, according to reliable resources there are more than 2,300,000,000 (2.3 billion) “Christians” in the world, making it the world’s leading religion.  Add that it is the fastest growing religion, most of the new converts coming out of Islam according to Al-Jezeerah in 2020.  Africa and the Middle-East are the fastest growing areas of Christianity, even though the risks of claiming to be a Christian are greatest there.

Grant that some so-called ‘Christians’ are weeds among the wheat, even if only half are true believers in Jesus, the instantaneous and simultaneous disappearance of 1,150,000,000 (1.15 billion) people collected from every nation on earth would constitute a global catastrophe unlike anything the world has ever seen!  And this number could be a significant underestimate because of many “underground” Christians who cannot yet publicly claim the Name because of persecution.  Imagine up to 2,000,000,000 (2 billion) people or more disappearing in the twinkling of an eye!  This would hardly be a “secret rapture.”

The End
2021-09-18 The EndThis would instead be the most ripe situation imaginable for a “Man” to come onto the global stage, and with “ten horns,” or ten major world powers backing him, initiate a global authority to regulate emigration/immigration, establish peace in the world’s worst trouble-spot, Israel, and begin to institute a global digital currency.  This global currency will not become mandated until three and a half years later when this “Man’s” false prophet comes onto the scene to enforce it.

By then it will be too late for tears, wishing you had put your trust in Jesus before this global currency is the only way to buy or sell.  But it will still not be too late to put your faith in Him; it will just be much more costly, because you will not even be permitted to get groceries without a ‘Mark’ that will allow you to do so.  And to get this ‘Mark’ you must swear allegiance and loyalty to the Man ordering it.  Even if the false prophet, charged with excuting anyone refusing this “Mark,’ fails to find you, no one is going to help you out.  But the promise Jesus gives is that some will refuse the ‘Mark” and be saved, though through death.

Your Choice
The Creator of life and all that you see in the universe would do anything to bring you into the Truth if you will trust Him.  But He will not force anyone; He will not ‘prove’ Himself beyond what He has already done by raising Jesus from the dead. 

2021-09-18 The Truth Will Set You FreeThe slogan of several universities around the world is The Truth Will Set You Free.  However, this slogan is not really referring to scientific or mathematical, or even philosophical truth.  It comes from the words of Jesus in John 8:32, where the whole quote is, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

My friends, the time is short until Jesus will return.  I appeal to you, that if I am wrong and Jesus is not God, if He did not arise from the dead, if He is not coming back to take us to Heaven, then none of this matters.  BUT, if what I have presented is true, the most important thing in your world is to know Him and be found in Him at His return.

“This I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him.  Yet He is actually not far from each one of us . . .
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by [Jesus,] a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Paul, on Mars Hill, Acts 17:24-30

See Part 2 on .

10 Common Signs That Are NOT Signs of the End

2021-09-07 The Parable of 5 Wise and 5 Foolish Bridesmaids“There were ten young women, the equivalent of bridesmaids in our time, who were waiting for a bridegroom to show up outside the bride’s house.  In their culture, the groom would host a big ‘bachelor party’ for his friends while the bride waited in her home.  Sometimes, in his anxiety to join his bride, that party would be minimal and over quickly. 

“However, other times the party with the guys could go on a looooong time.  No one had a wristwatch to keep track, so it was up to the groom to decide.  When he finally showed up with his entourage, the bridesmaids would join the procession of groomsmen into the wedding feast and marriage ceremony.

“Five of these young women knew the groom might be a long time and planned ahead.  They had lamps to illuminate the wedding feast, and being wise, they brought extra fuel for their lamps.  Five were not so diligent and only brought the fuel in their lamps.

“As the day wore on into evening, the less attentive girls asked the wise ones for some of their fuel.  Prudently, the wise ones simply responded they could not give their fuel away or they might not have what they needed.  This was not greedy, but simply the way it was.  So the five “foolish” ones went into town before the shops would close in order to buy fuel.  But by the time they got back, the groom had arrived, the feast had begun and the lights were blazing inside the walls of the bride’s home.

“The foolish young women begged to be let in, but the Master of the wedding told them, “Truly, I do not know you.”  And so they were left outside, out of the party and uninvolved in the wedding.”  (paraphrased; Matthew 25:1-13)

Sound harsh?  This is the story Jesus told His disciples after He had just answered their tri-part question: “When will [the destruction of the Temple] be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and [what will be the sign] of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)  This also was not a pretty picture, so for those who think of Jesus as a gentle, mild-mannered, sweet-guy teacher, all roses and lovey-dovey, Matthew 24 and 25 can be eye-openers!

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour,” (Matthew 25:13) and He was not going to tell them.  In fact, His loving Father, the “I Am” who revealed Himself to Moses, is the only one who knows.  Even Jesus is out of the loop for His return date (Matthew 24:34).

All New Testament references to Jesus’ return to rapture the Church out of the world emphasize that there are no markers we can lay down and say, “Okay, Jesus will come in three and a half years,” or “Jesus will return in seven years.”  These views are referred to as mid-Tribulation and post-Tribulation rapture.  If Jesus’ return to “catch away His bride” was on this schedule, we could pretty much count the days: precisely 1,260 days, or 2,550 from whatever event begins the first half of the Tribulation.  (See Revelation 11:3, 12:14, Daniel 7:25, 12:7)

Furthermore, before He returns He noted that life would be pretty “normal,” at least as normal as they can be with all kinds of alarms going off and false prophets spouting “wisdom” in WordPress blogs about how to be happy, how to have a fulfilling life, how to make lots of money, etc.; “as it was in the days of Noah.” (Matthew 24:37-42, 2 Timothy 3:1-7)

Jesus specifically said these are NOT signs of the end of this age:

  1. People claim to be a Savior or to have all the answers to the world’s problems.
  2. Wars and rumors of wars.
  3. Famines.
  4. Earthquakes.
  5. Persecution of Christ-followers to death.
  6. Many leave faith in Christ and betray and hate other Christ-followers.
  7. False “prophets” who claim to have special knowledge.
  8. Deception: calling “good” evil and calling “evil” good.
  9. Lawlessness.
  10. Lovelessness; exaltation of self-love; love of pleasure.

Then WHAT IS the sign of the end? “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  (Matthew 24:14)

With over 7000 languages in the world, most now have some of the Bible in their “heart language” and Bible translations societies are closing in on the most obscure of these.  However, we do not know what God considers a language or “nation” in the Great Commission.  In any case, there is no reason to suspect that this Gospel will not reach every nation of the world within the immediate future!

2021-09-07 Bible Translations

Therefure, Christ followers must not only Be Ready, but help everyone we can to Get Ready to meet Jesus!

 

 

HaHa! Death, So What!?

Again, a diversion from my blogs on prophecy and end times (i.e. eschatology; ); next week.  This came up from a recent discussion with a couple dear friends about death.

2021-08-21 The Resurrection and the Life

Are You Afraid of Death?
Why are we Americans, in particular, so terribly concerned with NOT dying?  Granted I do not look forward to the process of death; disease, disability, reduced physical and mental capacities.  However, death itself will be a welcome relief from the cares of this world. 

Please, do not take this too far.  Christians are opposed to euthanasia and suicide.  These are not in our playbook!  We are the people who follow the Lord of LIFE!  He is the One who has created us, and He made us for His own pleasure. 

However, if following Jesus calls for suffering in this world, James has laid down for Christ-followers this mandate: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3)  Or if you prefer the KJV, My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

Do not complain when things are difficult or do not go according to our plans.  Look instead for Father’s hand in how our suffering will lead us to understand the suffering of Jesus more clearly.  Look for the opportunity to represent Jesus to a watching world, differently than the reactions of people who do not know Him.  Look for “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7) to guard your mind against fleshly or demonic influences that will rage against our inconveniences.

And if death is on the horizon for a Christ-follower, we who know the Lord of Life, should be the last to moan and groan, “Why me!?”

2021-08-21 Grim ReaperHow much better to recognize the Spectre with his scythe to collect souls, and laugh at him!?  “O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting?”  This is the victory of LIFE OVER DEATH!  Do we believe Jesus or not when He says, Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”? (Luke 17:33)  Or in John 12:25,  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”?

Dying in the Lord
Christ-followers, we have become far too attached to this world when we resist the idea of dying in the Lord.  The apostle Paul noted to a young church,It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.  Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two.  My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better! (Philippians 1:20-23)  Of course, Paul left the timing of his departure up to the Lord, but his point here was that death held no fear.  He was laughing at the Spectre’s face!

The fictional demon, Screwtape, when instructing his young protégé, Wormwood, taught,  “Prosperity knits a man to the World.  He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him.  His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home on earth… You will notice that the young are generally [more willing] to die than the middle-aged and the old.”  (Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)

Have we been fooled into thinking THIS is the life that matters?  Do we really feel “at home on earth”!?  Who would want to spend eternity watching “I Love Lucy” or “Friends” reruns on television, or seeing what Hollywood will come up with next to entertain us?  Do we really want to continue playing video games or working for companies that minimize our contributions in order to maximize profits?  What is THIS life for?  Francis Chan asked, “Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?”

So friend, if you love life, you will love what Jesus offers: eternal life, perfect health, a Home in Heaven more astounding than any beauty this world can show, friends who will never desert you, no more cruelty or death.  Most of all HE will be there, seated on His throne, ever available to hold us in His arms and reveal all that He has planned for us for eternity!  It almost makes one want to die to begin that wonderful LIFE and “be with Christ which is far better.”

But Father has set the times for each of us, and we need not rush it.  But neither should we fear it.  He will call our names and we will rise when He is ready for us.  Laugh at Death and tell him, “Come and get me if my Lord allows!”  Because when we “die in the Lord,” we will live forever with Jesus (Revelation 14:13).