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!

 

 

My Most Important Blog EVER

2021-01-30 News AnchorNews hits us faster than we can absorb it.  This began with television reporting back in the 60s and 70s of the last century.  The joke about our level of engagement came with a news anchor announcing, with a bright smile, “10 killed in hit-and-run on Broadway, film at 11.”

We are saturated 24/7, 1,440 minutes per day, with available information any time we look at our watches, phones or computers, most of which is unrelated to our daily lives, very little about which we can do anything, and most without consequence for any length of time, only lasting until the next broadcast or posting on social media.

But there IS something that matters, something integrally related to your life, something over which you have complete control, something that will last for all eternity: 
What will you do about the claims of Jesus, called the Christ? 

Jesus is the focal point of history, changing for over half the world the way we count the days of our lives ever since shortly after He walked on earth.  And He made some pretty audacious claims, so auspicious that I capitalize pronouns when I refer to Him.  Nothing particularly holy about capitalization, but simply to reflect that He is higher, better, greater (every positive superlative of which you can think) than any other human, past, present or future.

To understand who Jesus claimed to be one must read His biographies, which we call the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the first four books of the New Testament. (Many online sources are available and each one can be read in your native language in less than an hour; my favorite source is at Biblegateway.com where you can see if your language is listed.)

Even those who do not trust Him as what He claimed to be admit something unusual happened after He left the world, something that transformed His followers from meek and frightened, politically disenfranchised jellyfish to robust and daring defenders of what they had experienced.  What they experienced is recorded in Matthew 28, John 16 and 20, and Acts 1 and 2.  And all but one of them died rather than recant; only John survived to old age, but that was in exile on a prison island.

These disciples who had deserted Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, are next seen hiding in quiet rooms, afraid the High Priest, Sanhedrin or Roman authorities might be coming after them next.  Their political aspirations were dead, their leader had been crucified and the Jewish leaders had ensured that none of the disciples could steal His body.  They were confused and dismayed that the One they expected to lead Israel to international prominence, even over the Roman Empire, was dead and buried in a Roman-guarded sealed tomb.  How much worse could it get!?

But rather than getting worse, some women went to the grave in which Jesus was buried and found it empty, encountering angels who declared, He is not here, for He has risen!”  Mary Magdalene, hardly an archetype of integrity, did not believe the angels and came at first to announce to the disciples, who were cowering in their chamber, that the tomb was empty.  Two of the disciples, Peter and John, ran to the tomb to see for themselves and also found it empty.   But then Jesus met Mary Magdalene in the garden where His tomb was and showed her that He was alive!  A couple of others returned from Emmaeus and said they had seen Jesus alive!

In all of these encounters, the ones who knew Jesus best resisted the stories and did not understand the Old Testament scriptures and refused to believe tales of seeing Jesus.  They still could not think of the things He had taught them about His death!  It was just too much for a rational brain to take in . . . until He appeared to them in a locked room.  (They were still afraid and could not sort through the events that were happening faster than the Fall of the Berlin Wall in modern times.)   But when Jesus appeared to them, He showed them His wounds from the crucifixion and they finally believed.

So what did He claim about Himself? 
That He is the bread of life that came down from Heaven.
That He is the light of the world.
That He is the good shepherd.
That He is the resurrection and life.
That He is teacher and Lord.
That He is the way, the truth and the life.
That He is the true vine.
That He is not from this earth.
That He is King of the Jews.
That He is The I Am!  This is arguably His most significant claim to be God, as He claimed to be one with Father, the I AM.

2021-01-30 I AM

This short blog does not allow nearly adequate space for me to show you from the Bible all that it teaches of who Jesus is, but you are all intelligent and capable learned people.  Hey, you access a computer and blog! 😉  So do not take my word alone for this.  Read the Gospels and discover for yourself if you can trust this Jesus to be what He claimed to be.  What will you do?  You MUST do something, either admit these to be true or reject them to be false.  There is no middle ground.

If you believe, the next step is to receive HimJohn 1:12 says, “To all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God.”  Picture you came to my home and I offered to feed you dinner.  You could believe I was going to provide a meal; you could thank me for it; we could sit at the table together and talk about the food in front of us . . . but if you did not reach out and take the food, you would leave my home as empty as when you came.

So, first, reach out in your heart and mind to Jesus.  He is God and knows what is in your heart and thoughts even before you say it.  So invite Him to come and live in you.  Admit you are a sinner and have not let Him rule your life yet.  Turn away (repent) from your self-guided life and tell Jesus that you will trust Him to lead the rest of your life.  Do not worry that you are not perfect, or that you do not understand all this yet.  Simply trust Him that He will come live in you and begin to work in you to perform His will.  There are no special formulas for praying.  Just talk to Him as you would your own earthly father.

Secondly, if you decide to do this, the next step is to begin reading the Bible.  It is His directive to us, an ultimate guide for life and practice.  Do not be intimidated by the size (it is actually a library collection of small books; just take one at a time.)  There are numerous Bible-reading “plans” you can access, but just read!

Thirdly, if you talked with Jesus to invite Him to live in you, you have begun to pray.  Keep it up.  Again, there are lots of books and helps for praying, but remember, it does not take any special language.  Plus, as you get to know Jesus better (not just know about Him, but know HIM), you will find prayer is not just you talking to God.  In times of His choosing, He will talk to you!  Although the value of prayer cannot be measured by its volume, it can safely be said that prayer is valueless if you do not pray.  Make time to pray.

Lastly, God does not call “Lone Ranger Christians.”  Find a community of people who are seeking and experiencing the Presence of God.  Some will be phony; some will be misguided or misinformed; some will be manipulative; some will be dishonest; but you need them as much as they need you.  And as you pray and read the Bible, you will grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and your Savior, Jesus Christ.

Certainly, there is no requirement or expectation for you to contact me regarding your Journey into Faith, but if you want to contact me, please feel free to email me at capost3k@gmail.com.  No question is off limits.

Finally, let me assure you from many years of Bible study and examination of world religions from Atheism to Zoroastrianism, from Buddhism to Hinduism to Islam to Jainism, there is no intellectual reason for rejecting the claims of Jesus.  There is no text more authentically relayed to our generation than the Bible.  There is no way to get to know who God is, other than through the God-Man, Jesus.

don’t take sin lightly

Gospel According to GodJohn MacArthur, the pastor from Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and radio personality of Grace To You, a syndicated Christian teaching program, offers some advice in his newest of 150 books, The Gospel According to God.  He remarks that there are some people who take sin lightly — it’s kind of a trendy thing today.  There are lots of churches and lots of churchgoers who are never really confronted by the wretchedness of their own hearts and the sinfulness of their own sin.

We sing very lovely and kind songs in worship and speak often of God’s immeasurable grace.  We share about what we believe about God and His plans for the world; we talk about the details of whether the word, “love” is agape, phileo or storge; we smile and pat each other on the back as we tell each other, “Oh, we’re all doing fine.”  This makes our times together in church very pleasant, but I wonder if we often sacrifice an important part of the Gospel message.

Our message seems to be primarily intellectual.  If you understand and believe you can be all right in God’s eyes.  However, try driving 70mph in a 35mph section of road and try explaining to the officer that you “believe” that the speed limit is 35!

In the past century (no, I’m not quite that old! 😉) the good news of salvation was often presented as a fire insurance policy.  Get saved or go to hell; not as an invective but simply as a statement of what would happen.  Most pulpit ministers never seemed to notice that Heaven and salvation are mentioned many more times in the Bible than hell or condemnation.  Taken in total, the Bible really is Good News!

But missing from the current trend of American churches is a call to repentance based on how terrible our sins are in God’s eyes.  I find it interesting how often the term “grace” appears associated to MacArthur’s name.  Yet he proposes in his latest book that there are limits to that grace, based on our understanding of what the “good news” for us cost Him.  In it he describes the literature of Isaiah 53 in detail, showing how this prophecy some 700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem described the life and purpose of Jesus coming to the world, to save sinners from the penalty of their sin.

There is this dichotomy in his thesis: God’s grace sent Jesus to die for our sins (the Gospel), but it is our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross (the reason God had to give us grace!).  He goes on to say we must not take sin lightly, because it was our sin that put Christ on the cross.  How can we treat lightly what he suffered?  To look at Jesus on the cross is to understand just what God thinks of our sin, and it is not pretty.

Passion of the Christ“He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised or crushed for our iniquities. The divine chastening, the wrath of God, was put on him for our well-being. All we, like sheep, have gone astray, but God has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6) How can that be a light thing?” MacArthur asks.  Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ attempted to depict the suffering of Jesus from just prior to His crucifixion all the way through to His death and resurrection.  Several details were historically incorrect, but one thing was clear:  Jesus suffered miserably and horribly at the hands of men for whom He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

As Protestants we usually hang empty crosses in our churches and sometimes I think we miss something the Roman Catholics understand when they have icons of Jesus still there.  They see a suffering savior who went through hell to give us Heaven.  Too often we gloss over the “hell” he went through and jump as fast as we can to “the joy that was set before Him.” (Hebrews 12:2)  We do not like to spend too much time on His “enduring the cross, scorning its shame,” because that is not the point of our lives.  True, He created us for Joy, not sorrow; He created us for Peace, not war; He created us for Love, not disinterest; He created us for Life, not death.

But He accomplished our re-creation by going through that hell, and sometimes He guides us through some of it so that we can identify with Him.
“Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death —
        even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

Otherwise, we might estimate His sacrifice, suffering and death were no big deal.  After all, we think, He is God and can handle it; it must not have been that bad for Him.  But Jesus was fully man as well, a mystery we cannot get our minds completely around, but a truth that the Bible teaches clearly.  And when you see Him on the cross, “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and His form beyond that of the children of mankind” (Isaiah 52:14), you have to wonder how He could have endured such pain and torture.  Why would He go through all that if He could call 10,000 angels to set Himself free (Matthew 26:53)?

It was because of your sin.  It was because of my sinAll we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

“If you look at the cross, you will understand the sinfulness of sin.  You cannot make light of it when you see it in that fashion.” John MacArthur

Get Out Of Jail Free Card!

Consider this:  A guy cheats on a couple of exams in school, flirts with a woman who is married, and lies on his taxes one year so he could have some extra cash for his wife and kids for Christmas.  Now, is it fair, is it just, to send this guy into an eternity of torment and misery . . . billions of years just for starters, for these little faus pas?

Universalism says that God will never send anyone to an eternity in hell.  Sounds like pretty good news, you say?  Puts a whole new spin on the good news of the Gospel.  Maybe a few years for either rehab or punishment, but eternity?  Naahhh.

Universalism thinks that after a while in a torture chamber, even the most hardened vicious criminal would look at Heaven and think, “Why am I suffering here if a loving God is willing to let me join Him and the redeemed over there in their free-wheeling banquets and parties?”  Pastors Philip Gulley and James Mulholland write that you can call over to this loving God and get His grace applied, even post-mortem, and that is Why God Will Save Every Person, the partial title of their book on this theme (not worth buying).  Given God’s limitless love and grace, you can pretty much do whatever you want in life, and at some point, He will figure you’ve paid your “debt to society” and give you a Get Out of Jail Free card.

The issue though is plainer than Gulley and Mulholland pretend it to be.  Theirs is an itemization of sins and their reasonable refusal to accept that a loving God would punish someone eternally for temporal malfeasance.  “Let the punishment fit the crime,” one might say.  Sounds fair to our western civilized minds, maybe even just, but we will not go into that detail of the differences between fairness and justice.

There are no errors in Gulley’s and Mulholland’s logic.  Begin with their premises and it is impossible to come rationally to a different conclusion than they have.  So let’s look at their premises, because if a logical progression is predicated on faulty assumptions, you will wind up at a wrong, however logical, conclusion.

The first premise is that the church, as a whole, has been judgmental and presented an angry God who will not tolerate sinful actions.  The second is that our experience with God will provide a clearer picture of what God is like than a dusty old book that is unreliable at best, and somewhat fantasy at worst.  The third is that if people see how wonderful Jesus is they will want Him and His grace.  The fourth is that anyone will choose what is best for themselves if someone shows them why it is best, and God is so persistent that He will never give up on you, ever.

The first premise actually holds water.  The church has been Angry Godjudgmental and made God look like an angry grandfather in the sky just looking for anyone having too much fun so He could zap them with lightning bolts and yell, “Stop that!”  Not just the “church,” that ethereal “they” on whom it is so easy to blame everything, but I have been judgmental and frightened people away from the grace that could save them.  The sin of the Pharisees was that they thought they could see clearly, and so their sin remained (John 9:41), even as they loaded people with burdens they would offer no help to bear (Luke 11:46).

This is not news. Jesus reserved His harshest comments, not for the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) nor for the cripple from the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-14), but for religiously serious.  It seems our human nature culls us into a lethargy, that once we have figured something out, anyone who has not advanced to “our level” is either stupid or evil.  And we judge without reference to the unseen issues of the heart: where one has come from, what has happened that has shaped him/her, what the hidden motivations and desires are.  We evaluate based on outward appearances while the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7b).

The other premises, though, show major fault lines that easily crack if examined at all.  The Bible is an infallible rule of faith and practice, presenting The God Who Is There as the I AM, a perfect balance of grace and truth, mercy and justice.  One’s experiences with God must be evaluated on the basis of what the Bible says, not what I wish it said, not from my very limited and shortsighted view.  There are “spiritual experiences” that one can have that have nothing to do with God, but “feel” right.  “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)  In our society, how we “feel” has taken preeminence over what the Bible teaches.

The third and fourth premises, that everyone will choose Jesus if they really see Him and that with God’s persistence, eventually everyone will see Him and how good He is.  I have addressed the heresy of the third premise before (July 19, 2015), so suffice it to say that the Pharisees and religiously serious got a front row seat to see and know Jesus . . . and they chose to crucify Him.  That choice was still forgivable while they were alive.  My sins were my choice to crucify Jesus; I put the nails in His hands just as forcibly as the Roman centurions on Golgotha, but I have been forgiven.

In The Great Divorce C.S.Lewis presents a more accurate description of why some people will wind up in a place that is separated from the life and joy and peace and everything good that God designed for all people.  I offer nor find any comfort in this warning, but the fact is that “Milton was right. The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words, ‘Better to reign in hell than to serve in Heaven.’  There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery.  There is always something they prefer to joy – that is, to reality . . . There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whoGeorge MacDonald.jpgm God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’  All that are in hell choose it.  Without that self-choice there could be no hell.  No soul that seriously desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  To those who knock it is opened.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StW6ZKHRCFo

Now there’s a Get Out Of Jail Free card, but there are constraints on when and how to use it.  Next week, , I will examine some of those.

Daddy Is Home by Anne Graham Lotz

Attached is a tribute by a daughter to her “daddy,” and a challenge to follow him as he followed Christ.

Billy GrahamDADDY IS HOME

February 21, 2018
Statement by Anne Graham Lotz
Regarding the death of her father, Billy Graham

My Father’s legacy is one that encompasses the world … and engulfs my own life.  When I think of him, I don’t think of Billy Graham, the public figure.  I think of my Daddy.  The one who was always a farmer at heart.  Who loved his dogs and his cat.  Who followed the weather patterns almost as closely as he did world events.  Who wore old blue jeans, comfortable sweaters, and a baseball cap.  Who loved lukewarm coffee, sweet ice tea, one scoop of ice cream, and a plain hamburger from McDonald’s.  Who was interested in everything and everyone, from the small to the great.  Whose mind remembered details that even a computer would have trouble recalling.

But when I think of him I also think of his message because he was immersed in it.  Saturated in it.  He was his message…a simple man who had responded to God’s love by placing his faith in Jesus, receiving the assurance that his sins were forgiven, that he would not perish, but would have everlasting life.  Simple faith.  Faith that now matters more than anything else.

For years, over his head as he preached was the banner that quoted the words of Jesus:  I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Jesus completed that sentence by saying that no one comes to the Father but by Me.  Based on what Jesus said, Daddy is safely with the Father.  In Heaven. Daddy not only claimed Jesus as the only Way to God, he lived by the Truth publicly on platforms and privately behind closed doors, and is now enjoying real Life.

I have often stated that I was raised by a single parent because ministry took my father away from our family—for weeks and months at a time. Daddy estimated that he was gone from home approximately 60 percent of his children’s growing-up years. Now, he has left again.  This time, he will not be coming back. At least, not until Jesus does, too.

While he may be physically absent and his voice silent, I am confident that his message will continue to reverberate throughout the generations to come. My prayer on this day of his move to Our Father’s House is that his death will be a rallying cry.  That tens of thousands of pastors, teachers, evangelists, and ordinary men and women will rise up to take his place.  That they will take up his message like a baton being passed in a relay race and faithfully pass it on to those with whom they come in contact. Because Daddy’s message is God’s message.  And it’s a message of genuine hope for the future, of love for the present, of forgiveness for the past.

It’s a message, when received, that brings a fresh beginning, unshakable joy, unexplainable peace, eternal significance, meaning and purpose to life, and opens Heaven’s door.

It was this message, which Daddy carried to the world, that penetrated my own heart as a young girl and has created in me a personal, passionate resolve to communicate it myself to as many people as possible. And so, even as my tears seem to be unending, I silently rededicate my life to picking up and passing on the baton.  Would you do the same?

http://www.annegrahamlotz.org/