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 allowed 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

Boring Christianity? – Wordless Wednesday

2021-09-15 WW - Is It Boring Being a Christian

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

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!

 

 

Jesus IS Coming Soon. Who Will You Tell Today?

Returning to a theme of Prophecy, it is important for Christ-followers to not take a laissez-faire view of the rapture.  “I’m saved and ready, so I can relax.”  Father will hold us accountable for what we know and do not share with those who need to know.  “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17) 

2021-08-28 Four Lepers

Consider the four lepers of 2 Kings 7.  The Syrian army was besieging northern Israel such that there was a famine, possibly because the enormous Syrian army was taking all the grain and animals that would normally be food for the Jews of Samaria, possibly inflicted by God for the sinfulness of the northern tribes of Israel, led by Ahab’s second son, Jehoram (aka Joram).  Miraculously, God had chased the Syrian army away in a night of confusion and they had left everything in their camp, fleeing on foot.

Since “lepers” were considered unclean and could not go into the city, the four decided to go into the Syrian camp and settle their fate by letting the Syrians kill them rather than die of hunger outside a city that was also famished.  When they found the camp deserted they started taking spoils of war from various tents and hiding their new-found wealth somewhere nearby.  

Realizing that they were blessed and the city was still assuming it was under siege, they went to the gate of the city and reported that the Syrians were gone and everyone could come out and plunder the camp.  Suspiciously at first, the Israelites came into the camp, but when it was confirmed that the Syrians were not laying a trap, the whole city rushed out to grab food, drink and all the goods left behind.

But our focus is on the four lepers.  They realized that they had stumbled onto something wonderful and fearing Yahweh, the God of Israel, they recognized that to enjoy God’s blessing and not share it would result in punishment.  “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” (2 Kings 7:9)

2021-08-28 Saved By GraceFellow Christ-follower, learn a lesson from the lepers!  If we are saved by the grace of God and our faith in Him, we do not have to fear judgement.  However, when Jesus returns to take us who believe in Him to be with Him forever, we need to be busy about our Father’s business.  We have this good news: freedom from punishment for our sins, deliverance from demons of oppression and fear, knowing that we will live forever whatever suffering we may endure here on earth; and to NOT share it would be like those four lepers if they had continued living in the luxury of the abandoned Syrian camp while people in the city continued to starve!

Jesus IS coming back, probably sooner than later.  Certainly, the Second Coming of Jesus to take His Church to be with Him is closer than when Paul, Peter and John wrote about it in the first century after Jesus’ resurrection.  Bible translation into almost every language on earth, global activities of politics and armaments, social structures of developing nations catching up to developed ones, conflicts for which there appear no solutions – all are setting the stage for the “man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) who will attempt to establish a world-wide government, and only allow people with a “Mark” to buy and sell.

All he needs is a global event that will cause so much confusion, chaos and fear that the leaders of the nations of this world will be happy for anyone who seems to know what to do.  This event could easily be the “rapture of the Church,” resulting in billions of people leaving the world in “a twinkling of an eye.” (1 Corinthians 15:52)

“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-6)

You have the best news the world has ever heard.  You have an anointing of God’s Holy Spirit.  You have the guardianship of angels.  Do you dare to NOT share such good news with a friend who does not know there are provisions that can feed the hungry soul, quench the desperate thirst for Truth, and satisfy the heart with knowledge of the Holy?  “This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us.” 

Who will you tell today that Jesus is coming back and they can come along?  Be ready.

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).

“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

2021-08-14 When Will These Things Be

Jesus was intentionally vague about when He would appear for the purpose of taking His bride, the Church, away from the world, and when He would return to establish His kingdom on earth.  What He was very clear about was that we should not set dates or think He was appearing in some secret place or time.  Both His appearing and return will be global phenomena that no one will be able to avoid.

Some definitions are in order:

  1. The Church is not an organization. It is composed of everyone who has put their faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, repented of their sins, and participate in His rulership in their lives (Colossians 1:18).
  2. The “last days” or “end times” are synonyms and refer to the Church age following the first coming of Jesus, His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into Heaven. In our day, we use these terms to refer to the end of the Church age.
  3. The Church age began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), after Jesus ascension and 50 days after the Passover which coincided with His resurrection.
  4. The “rapture” is when Jesus will take the Church out of he world, described in Matthew 24:32-50, 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. He will appear in the sky in the same way as the disciples saw Him leave in Mark 18:19, Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:6-11. The term “rapture” comes from from rapio (“Latin: “to snatch away”), which is found in the Latin Vulgate Bible in 1 Thessalonian 4:17 (translated “caught up” in English translations).
  5. The Second Coming is when Jesus will return to set up an earthly kingdom described in Matthew 24:15-31, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 and Revelation 20:1-6. Sometimes this term is used to refer to all the events from the rapture to the end of the Tribulation.
  6. The Great Tribulation is the last half of seven years of tribulation while the Anti-Christ is ruling the earth. It will be a time of judgments poured out that will be worse than anything mankind has ever experienced (Matthew 24:21-22; Revelation 15-16)

In Acts 2:17, Peter told the assembled crowd,And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,” quoting Joel 2:28.  And Peter said, “This is it!”  I.e., these are the last days, beginning in Acts 2, about 2000 years ago!  This is what Joel prophesied 800 years earlier, and NOW, Peter said we were entering the last days of which Joel spoke.  But some of what Joel prophesied did not begin to happen that day.

Peter continued quoting Joel:
And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (2:19-20; see Joel 2:28-32)

These are things that have not yet happened but are waiting for “the Day of the Lord.”  That specific day, referred to also in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 will be when Jesus returns to set up His kingdom on earth, seven years after He has taken the Church out of the world.  This is not the same as His “appearing” referenced in 1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 4:1 and Titus 2:13. 

In these references, Jesus appears in the sky to catch away His Church, those who have put their faith in Him, repented of their sins and are living for Him.  The rapture (or “being caught up”) is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and will occur “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Note also, the “last trumpet” mentioned in Corinthians is not one of the trumpets of judgment listed in Revelation 8, but a reference to the last trumpet the Church will hear on earth.

We should not confuse The Day of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 with the rapture.  The rapture is described by Jesus in Matthew 24:32-50, after He had answered the disciples’ questions about  “the coming of the Son of Man,” the time at which Jesus will come to earth to set up His rulership.

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessnes is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5)  

This “coming” is distinguished from “our being gathered,” but is referenced here together because of false teaching that claimed Jesus had already come to establish His kingdom “in men’s hearts.  (On a side note, this heresy was also promulgated in the 20th century and continues in some fringe religions.)  As I have described, the “gathering” is a reference to the rapture.

A final note: Whatever we believe about the timing of the rapture, there are two realities all Christ-followers must keep in mind.

  1. First, no difference of opinion among Christians justifies unkindness toward those who hold different views.  Jesus commands us to love one another, just as He loved us.  He also said that our love for one another would be the evidence to all people that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35).  Wrangling over issues such as the timing of the rapture does not exhibit Christ’s love (Titus 3:10).
  2. Second, the most important aspect of the end times is not the timing of the rapture but the absolute certainty of the return of Jesus Christ to the world in these last days (Acts 1:11; Revelation 19:11-16).  The timing does not alter the fact that those who belong to Him will enjoy eternal life and those who do not will be separated from Him for eternity (John 3:18).  Only faith in Jesus as the our savior will distinguish the saved from the unsaved, regardless of our views on the rapture.  So pray earnestly for those who do not know Him yet!  They need Jesus.

We shall behold HIM!!  Maranatha, even so, Lord Jesus, come.

God Help Us All – Wordless Wednesday

Five Times August is the name of a solo music project by Dallas, Texas independent singer/songwriter/guitarist Brad Skistimas.  Another one on this same theme entitled Jesus, What Happened To US?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPzc8ROZEjU.

The Beauty of Spiritual Language

I was planning to write about prophecy of end times again, but in prayer felt a ‘nudging’ of the Holy Spirit to address a subject that in times past has been a source of division and conflict within the Body of Christ – speaking in tongues under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  I was covering some prophecy ideas on the weekend of Pentecost, , so here is the trade-off.

2021-08-07 - The Holy Spirit

From the early 1900s (I read about this; I am not THAT old! 😅), when the Holy Ghost (as He was called back then) began moving in lives to experience what the apostles and disciples of the book of Acts experienced.  A common feature of these more modern day disciples was to first experience “speaking in tongues” similar to what occurred in Acts 2, 10 and 19.  The experience was called “being baptized into the Holy Spirit” as John the Baptist had prophesied Jesus would do to His followers.  “After me comes He who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  (Mark 1:7-8)  This theme was reiterated by Luke in his introduction to the Acts of the Apostles.  And it is clearly this “baptism” that began the Church Age in which we now live.

However, many mainline churches at the turn of the last century were upset by the emotionalism and lack of coherent theology of many of these “tongues-speakers” and repudiated these phenomena as being emotional excitement and works of the flesh; some even declared them demonic.  But the clear dedication to Jesus on the part of many of them, and the missionary zeal exceeding that of the mainlines resulted in the formation of new denominations that welcomed and encouraged people to seek God for “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” with an initial evidence of speaking in tongues.

In the 1960s a “neo-charismatic movement” began to take hold with people within more traditional mainline churches and almost every denomination world-wide found itself addressing “praying with the Spirit.”  (See also Romans 8:26 and Ephesians 6:18.)  Episcopalians led this transformation but Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists and most other denominations adjusted from their “‘Tongues’ is of the devil” stance to honor Paul’s explicit instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:39, Do not forbid speaking in tongues.”  Baptists were a little late to get on board, but leaders like Bill Gothard honored this scripture in his presentations and made headway among his almost entirely Baptist audiences of thousands.

The excesses of some in groups like the Assemblies of God, The Foursquare Church and others who insisted that speaking in tongues will accompany the baptism into the Holy Spirit as an initial evidence of such infilling led to almost a two-tier system of spirituality.  But the sincerity of most in these denominations, and their patient defense of speaking in tongues and development of Biblical theology of the experience, combined with their missionary zeal, resulted in phenomenal growth and world-wide acceptance among Christian denominations.

Although most current arguments against speaking in a “spiritual language” refer to Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14, an honest appraisal of these instructions to a church that was getting too enthusiastic will reveal he was NOT discouraging speaking in tongues, but rather trying to preserve the practice through correction, balance and guidance, not prohibition.   He even begins the subject with an affirmation, Now I want you all to speak in tongues…” (1 Corinthians 14:5).  The point is to make a distinction between tongues as a gift for ministry in the meetings of the Church and tongues as a grace by which any believer can draw closer to The God Who Is, such that Paul could assert, I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:18).  Obviously he was not doing that in meetings of the Church but in his personal prayer times. 

2021-08-07 The Beauty of Spiritual LanguageTo summarize some points from Jack Hayford’s superb text (The Beauty of Spiritual Language) on this subject, speaking in tongues is not unbiblical nor outdated.  It is not a “transcendental experience” as with cult meditations or surrender of the will in a mystical stupor.  It is not a “status symbol” as though one who speaks in tongues is better than one who does not.  It is not a ‘cure-all’ for difficulties in living for God nor a badge of holiness.  It is not a substitute for spiritual growth or Bible study.  As one Christ-follower told me, there is one and only ONE evidence of the infilling of the Holy Ghost given in the Bible: You will be witnesses!” (Acts 1:8).  So “if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is essentially coming to a place of wanting such intimacy with The God Who Is that one becomes open to anything He wants to do in and through you.  It is wanting “to know that you know that you know” who He is and that your testimony of Him will not be based in dry lifeless theology of book knowledge but in experiential knowledge so intimate that the only human comparison is that of a marriage where two become one flesh (Ephesians 5:32).  When you know Him the way Adam knew his wife and she conceived (Genesis 4:1), you cannot help but talk about it.  Who ever heard of a married man who loves his wife that did not want to tell you about her!?  The nature of a good marriage is such that a man can not speak very long with anyone before his wife comes into the conversation. 

Jesus is the baptizer into the Holy Spirit, an action that all four of His biographies assert (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33).  If you come to Him with this request, He assures us He will not turn us away nor let us be deceived, but meet our heart’s desire to know Him better. (Luke 11:13)  So just come to Him and ask, because the promise is for YOU and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39). 
Worship Jesus as you listen to the Maranatha Singers sing the Spirit Song and invite Him to baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

 

Life In Abundance, Even In Death

2021-07-24 Fall in Kentucky

“A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10 (CSB))

It always intrigues me when discussing death with some ‘Christians’ that they demur and say, “Let’s talk about something nicer.”  And I wonder, what is ‘nicer’ than death?  True, I do not look forward to debilitating disease or pains and problems of aging, but the end of this life on earth is not something awful for us to fear.  Even in death, there is abundance of LIFE!

The Christ-follower daily faces paradoxes.  Jesus announced very clearly, For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35)  The “sermon on the mount,” Matthew 5-7, has many of these oxymorons, starting with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12).  The most pointed of these are the last two: “Blessed are those who are persecuted (?)” “Blessed are you when others revile you (?) and persecute you (?) and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely (?)  What kind of invitation is this to follow this guy!?

Far too many Christ-followers have been sold only half of the bill of goods.  Prosperity preachers abound with promises that if you just buy their books and listen to their sermons, you will have unending health, wealth and comfort.  If things do not work out to make your life its very best, it must be your lack of faith, or something wrong with you, because God only wants to do good for you.

But just thinking of how the love of parents requires them to sometimes do something painful to their children should eliminate any confusion here.  No child ever said, “Oh, goody, I get to have a vaccine shot today!”  But a loving parent will vaccinate their children against DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus) to protect them from these much more harmful diseases, no matter how much the child may scream.  Love constrains parents to make their children eat their vegetables even though the dessert cake is sweeter.

So, yes, our Father only wants what is good for us.  C.S. Lewis began to understand this as he matured in his trust in God, writing “We are not doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  And “there’s the rub,” as Shakespeare’s Hamlet said.  The maturity to which Jesus calls His followers is not the nursery school comfort of warm milk and cookies.  It is the challenge to come to Him and DIE so that you can truly live.

The Christ-follower, like Jesus, lives in a culture of life-affirmation.  Thus abortion, the unwilling taking of an unborn child’s life is anathema to His people.  Euthanasia, the execution of those who no longer are “contributing” to society (whatever that means), is also viewed as something more demonic than beneficial.  Suicide, in societies that have honored God’s word, has always been viewed as counter-productive.  Even suffering, when viewed as a means to draw us closer to the One who suffered more agonizingly than we can imagine, becomes life-affirming and a channel for God to bring glory to Himself.  Our rewards will wait, but they will come.

Thus, we are instructed that when we are persecuted, we can move to another place (Matthew 10:23), but not to retaliate against our persecutors, but to pray FOR them (Note: NOT against them).  We are not to fear death or its agencies that try to murder us (Matthew 10:28).  Francis Chan, just as he headed to Hong Kong to set up ministries in Southeast Asia, noted, “It is crazy to me that it is perfectly normal to be a Christian in America and to be obsessed with staying alive.” (February 7. 2020)  Jim Elliot penned in a letter to his bride, He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Someone observed once, that unless one is willing to die for something they can not really live for it.  We who follow Jesus view death not so much as an enemy of life, but as a ferryman who will one day transport us out of his reach.  Following Jesus may involve pain, suffering, or apparent loss in the world’s eyes.  We may lack in comfort or have greater difficulties than those who just go with whatever cultural stream is flowing.  But there will come a day when it will all be worthwhile.

We must not serve God just for His rewards (another blog coming soon), but He does promise great rewards for those who give up their lives to or for Him.  Our confidence in Him assures us that there is nothing for the Christ-follower to fear.  He came to give us LIFE, and that promise is as certain as His resurrection!  There is no historical event more certain than that Jesus arose from the dead.

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”  (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

 

 

Guest Blog – Alabastersky and Shades of Grey

A blogger presented this on July 15, 2021, and wrote in much clearer fashion than I probably write.  I have not been down all the rabbit-holes she went into, but investigated many of them including extensive reading of Vedic Literature, the Book of Mormon, prophecies of Zoroaster, the Quran, writings of Mary Baker Eddy, and others.

Altogether, the Bible is the only book (or library of books) that really tells the Truth about The God Who Is, how He has revealed Himself throughout history, and finally in Jesus, called The Christ.  Read on for valuable insights.
Thanx, Alabastersky.
_______________________________________

In the 1990’s, in spite of the good little church goer that I was, there was about a 4 or 5 year period where I used to be attracted to anything new-age, from music to books and everything in between. Back then, to me, everything was a shade of grey. There was no black and white, and although you would hear me say that God and scripture were true and that I believed in absolutes, I had no clear understanding of what that really meant.

I was fascinated by Nostradamus and end-of-the-world prophecies, but if you told me I should study the book of Revelation, I likely would have rolled my eyes in the belief that (at least at that time) I was not a theologian nor even a book worm, so none of that would likely make sense to me anyway. The sad truth was that angels clothed in light, things written through trans-channeling (or auto-writing), and anything that focused on a better me and learning to love myself through my own independence and “woman had more of an attraction to me than anything “holy”.

One of the books I actually do remember reading at the time was titled Conversations with God. I found it interesting that the author claimed there was no right or wrong, there was only functional and dysfunctional. Sounds somewhat logical, right? Especially when wrong and right appear so black and white, so unloving and hateful! But let me tell you why all of that is deception dressed in light – taking what is truth, twisting it, and then repackaged it in a way that is always palatable and yet never powerful.

First of all I want to say that God is so much more than just sentience (or feeling) as new-age spiritualism would have us believe. That He is “more of a feeling” and is “everywhere and in everyone and everything” is a twist on the truth that He is omniscient and omnipresent. He is, in fact, an actual living, breathing, person, and His Word is not only truth but really IS ABSOLUTE truth, and very powerful!

Featured Image -- 20182After both of my parents passed away, I learned that grief is love that has no where to go, and because love never dies, grief may subside but it always remains under the surface. So imagine when it dawned on me that I had been grieving the Holy Spirit, because at that time I was so absorbed into all of this, His love for me also had no place to go. I didn’t realize I was actively resisting Him. If you were to ask me back then, I was in such a confused state that I would have even debated that God approved of that form of spiritualism, because I didn’t understand the difference between an “angel clothed in light” and an “angel of the Light“.

Only in Jesus Christ can I find freedom to live the life I was created to live – my purpose in this life. That was a game changer for me, because all of the sudden I saw sin (which is ANYTHING that separates me from Him) as slavery (black), and righteousness in Him as freedom (white).

“Oh but Lisa”, you might say, “there IS grey! Take for example the grey lines between male and female”! Yes, the male/female thing can be a big debate and a lot to unpack for some, but I have to tell you that the black and white in me no longer sees it as a debate. Once I aligned myself with scripture, passages like Psalms 139 (He formed me in my mother’s womb, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, all the days ordained for me were written in His book…) and Jeremiah 1 (before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…) came alive with meaning! I began to realize that if I choose to become anything outside of what He has created me to be (and this goes beyond just LBGTQ, it applies to anything and everyone) – if WE, any of us, choose any other path outside of the one He has created and ordained for us, then we set ourselves up for a life focused on temporary pleasures, and in the end are left not only unsatisfied and unfulfilled, but also in a deadly deception.

True science, in the end, always aligns with scripture (whether intended or not). Why? Because Jesus Christ, God Almighty, the Creator of this universe and everything in it, is immutable. We align with Him, He doesn’t align with us. He doesn’t sanction the sin, He sanctions the sinner. Once I recognize His authority in my life, I am the one who changes as I come under it. Anything less is expecting Him to change and bend to my will instead of me bending to His – and that in itself is saying that I do not believe He is God, because I do not value Him enough to bend my will to His. Truth: the fact that He sanctions the sinner and not the sin has nothing to do with Him not loving me, quite the opposite. It has everything to do with Him loving me so much that He takes delight in me as I discover what I was created for.

I’m just glad He caught my attention enough at the time for me to allow Him to stop the soul-sucking practices, habits, and bad theology I was mixed up in and allow Him to begin healing me instead. His Spirit was continuously wooing me back to Him. As I began to respond and desire conversations with the Living God Himself rather than with just His creation, I knew more and more that He really is immutable (the same yesterday, today, forever), and that scripture really is His holy word.

So that’s where I am with holiness on my end.  It is what I call the journey of shades of grey into a solid state of black and white, because that’s what holiness does. Only those who allow His holiness to be imparted to them realize what a beautiful thing it really is to be set apart in this way. It is incredibly comforting in the chaos of this world, and touches the human spirit in a way that is far more than anything sensual this world has to offer!

Link to original blog: https://alabastersky.wordpress.com/2021/07/15/shades-of-grey/