The Latter Days

RevelationYou hear it all the time.  Every time something happens like a series of natural disasters, or someone with a chip on their shoulder goes into a business or school and begins shooting up the place leaving many dead in their path, or another practicing Muslim straps a bomb to him or herself and walks into a café or other crowded venue and blows themselves up, you have people shaking their heads and saying, “What is this world coming to?”  Well, let me tell you.

In 2 Timothy 3:1-4, God’s Word says this:  But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”, and further down in verses 12-13, Paul writes, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”  Verse 13 says it all.  EVIL PEOPLE AND IMPOSTERS WILL GO FROM BAD TO WORSE.  What is this world coming to?  IT’S COMING TO AN END!!  We ARE living in the last days, people.

In all these verses I mentioned, you can see how all of this are things that we see in our world everyday!!  You don’t have to look far to find it.  Just turn on the TV and watch the news.  Or flip through the channels and see what TV shows are on and you will recognize these behaviors more and more.  And it’s not going to get any better!!

Does it get any easier to watch?  No, it doesn’t.  But as Believers, we can’t lose heart.  We know that God warned of all this in the Bible and to be honest with you, when I was a teenager reading about all of this in His Word, I was hoping that it would be hundreds of years after I was gone from this earth before any of this would happen.  But, here we are.  And be certain, we WILL be persecuted.  We see it even now with some government officials and groups wanting to strip us of our right to freedom of worship.  We see Christians in the Middle East and Asia being forced to go underground or even driven out of their homeland just because of their faith, and even beheaded.  Persecution is here.  We are living in the last days.

So my question to anyone reading this is…..are YOU ready?  To be honest with you, I’m not.  I’d be lying if I said none of this scares me.  But that’s just a honest human reaction.  We know that Jesus prayed in the garden just before his crucifixion, “Lord, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done.”  Was Jesus looking forward to the torture and beatings he would be getting?  Absolutely, not.  Even though he was still 100% God, he was also 100% man and the prospect of the pain he would have to endure wasn’t something he was looking forward to.  So, as Christians, we know what is ahead just based on what God has put in his Word.  We know that there would be a One World government and a One World religion set up, and it’s no secret that Pope Francis is working on uniting ALL religions together; Catholicism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc..  All this is taking place as such a fast rate, you can’t hardly keep up.  But, still, as Christians, we must remain faithful and not fall away.

If you’re reading this, and you’re not a Believer, I hope and pray that you will begin looking at God’s Word and compare it to what is happening in the world today.  Read the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation.  Read the Gospels.  To know that all of this was prophesied many, many centuries ago and it is now coming to pass is proof that God’s Word is TRUTH.  The majority of the prophesies in the Bible have already come to pass.  I hope through your study/research that the Holy Spirit will open up your heart and eyes to this truth and draw you to God so that you can repent and be saved.  Because what comes after this world is destroyed is not something that will be enjoyable and without Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be subjected to God’s wrath for an eternity.

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A Needy Jesus

Lion of JudahWe’ve all seen the old paintings of Jesus where He looks pale and frail.  While it’s true that He says of himself in Matthew 11:29 that He is “meek and lowly of heart”, that doesn’t or rather SHOULDN’T translate to how He is portrayed in art.  But, it’s easy to see why people view him that way because meekness is mistaken for weakness.  Newer translations us the words “gentle and humble”.  Biblical meekness is defined as “power under control”, but I’m veering off on another rabbit trail here so I want to get back to the point of my blog.

Over the decades it seems as if Jesus has been diminished to a “needy” boyfriend.  If you listen to some of the music put out by some so-called “Christian” worship bands, you’d think that someone is singing about their boyfriend and not the Savior and Creator of the universe.  Some of these songs really make me cringe.  It’s disgusting.

And how about the way pastors portray Jesus.  The way they stand in front of their congregation and plead with them to “just open the door of your heart and let Him in” makes it seem as if Jesus is standing off in a corner, wringing His hands thinking, “Oh, please, let me come in and be your Savior and Lord.”  The song “The Savior Is Waiting” is one of those songs that was definitely written by someone who had that view in mind when they penned it.  If you want to know what Jesus is really like, listen to a men’s choir sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God!”.  That is the Jesus that needs to be preached about in our churches, not the hipster-looking, wimpy,needy Jesus.  Or the surfer-looking Jesus portrayed in Roma Downey’s mini-series “The Bible”.  Or the pale and frail Jesus portrayed in paintings from centuries past.  According to the Book of Revelation, Jesus is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and He will return riding a white horse carrying a sword ready to strike down His enemies.  That doesn’t sound like a wimpy, needy Jesus to me.

Pastors/teachers, stop preaching a needy Jesus, and start preaching a strong, mighty, powerful Jesus who is coming back in great glory to destroy evil and usher in His Kingdom.  If you want to hear a great sermon on this particular subject, look up Voddie Baucham, Jr’s video on YouTube called “A Sissified, Needy Jesus”.  He really drives home the point about how the church has diminished the view of Jesus and how we need to get back to who He truly is.

Election vs. Free Will, Pt. 3

In these blogs I have been discussing the Doctrine of Election.  People have many objections to the Doctrine of Election–“man was born with free will and salvation is their choice” or “if God already knows who will be saved, then there’s no reason to evangelize.”  Another question people may ask is, “Well if God has already chosen those who will be saved, then doesn’t that mean that they are saved against their will?”  No!!!  God is not going to drag people into His Kingdom kicking and screaming.  But I do believe that when the Holy Spirit begins to draw and convict people of their sin, I believe that He also conforms their will to God’s.  Their desires change.  Instead of being satisfied with living in the state of their sin, they realize how unsatisfying and empty that life is, and they desire to give their life to Christ because only He can satisfy and give them eternal life.  That’s not to say that life will be problem-free and everything goes their way, but it means that no matter what life throws at them, they have immeasurable peace through Christ and that they can depend on Him in all things.  What about those who reject Christ?  Why do they reject Him?  They reject Christ because their minds have not been opened to the truth of the Gospel.  There has been no drawing or conviction of the Holy Spirit.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate their minds and to conform their will to God’s.  Because when you think about it, whose will is stronger, ours or God’s?  God, in His Sovereignty, has chosen whom He will save.  Look back at Acts 13:48 where it says “as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed”.  What God has predestined from before the foundation of the world, will come to pass.

There is a term used in the Bible, “born-again”.  This means that a person is re-born spiritually.  When we are born into this world physically, we are spiritually dead.  We come into this world sinners.  But God made a way for us to be “born again” spiritually and that is through the death of Christ on the cross and His gift of salvation.  How many of us were given a choice as to what family we’re born into?  None.  We didn’t pick who our parents would be.  Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”   In cases of adoption, the child isn’t the one who chooses the parents, the parents choose the child, just as in the case of natural birth, we didn’t choose who our parents would be.  This is the same with spiritual birth and adoption.  There are countless people who are walking around  professing to be Christians, but I believe they are not.  They’ve been sold a bill of goods.  They’ve been told “just walk the aisle, say this prayer, sign this card, get baptized and you are saved.”  I don’t think this is done intentionally, but I believe many have bought into the teaching that all it takes is to say a little prayer, get baptized, and they’re safe.  Matthew 7:21 says “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” There will be a lot of sad people who will stand before God and realize that they were never saved.

I guess after reading these three blogs, people would label me a Calvinist.  But my intention isn’t to gain a label.  The only label I want is that of Christian.  My intention is to study and dig and learn what the Scriptures say.  And I believe that it is the duty of every Christian to interpret and understand the Scriptures correctly!!!  I don’t want to be labeled a Calvinist but I guess that will happen whether I want it to or not.  All I want is to know and understand the Scriptures the way they were intended.  People will disagree with what was said here, but they aren’t disagreeing with me, they’re disagreeing with Scripture.  And I hope that this will begin to stir up questions in their minds and cause them to look closer and deeper at what the Bible says.  I heard a saying once, “Question everything”.  In this particular instance, don’t question Scripture, but question what you’ve been taught and see if it lines up with Scripture.

Election vs. Free Will, Pt. 2

As I had said in my previous article, I grew up being taught about the free will of man; how it’s our decision whether we choose salvation or not.  But even though I accepted that teaching, there were always questions that bugged me, especially when I ran across verses in the Bible that spoke about election and the Elect.  Anyone who knows anything about going to the polls to vote in an election knows that to “elect” a person means that you CHOOSE one whom you believe to be the right candidate for the office in which they’re running for.  The definition of elect is “to select or to choose”.  If the Bible says that we are the Elect, then that means that we were selected or chosen.  And, if we are selected or chosen, then that means that someone had to do the choosing.  And that someone is God himself.  The Bible says that He chose us before the foundation of the world.  Think about it, before God even spoke the first words of Creation, He already had in mind who would be the Elect.  So, if it is God who selects or chooses the Elect, how is it that it’s our decision to choose salvation?

I was baptized at the age of 8 and I thought that I was set.  That was it, I did my “Christian” duty and I was safe.  But 10 years later I began to sense in my heart that my conversion wasn’t a true conversion.  People would say, “you’re just having doubts”.  Well, yeah!!!  I believe that 10 years after I had walked the aisle and was baptized, the Holy Spirit began convicting me of my sins.  I kept thinking “but I walked the aisle.  I was baptized.  I AM saved”.  But still that conviction would never go away.  I began to think back to that night during revival and why I had walked the aisle and I realized that it wasn’t because I was being convicted of sin, it was because my friends did it so I went up there, too.  Then I realized that I had no sense of peace about my salvation.  But now that I faced the reality that I wasn’t saved, I began to make excuses.  What would people say about me?  I had been living a lie all this time, what would they think?  I finally couldn’t take the conviction and unsettledness in my heart any longer and I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.

People may say “well what’s the difference between the two experiences?”  The difference is that the first time there was no conviction of the Holy Spirit.  A person is not saved just because they walk the aisle, say a prayer, sign a card, and get dunked in water.  There has to be that drawing of the Holy Spirit.  There has to be the convicting of our sins by the Holy Spirit.  I realized in the first case that I wasn’t being drawn by the Holy Spirit; I did it because I chose to.  People may say “But you said the sinner’s prayer!”  There is no magic prayer that a person can pray that will make them saved.  A person is saved when the Holy Spirit draws them, convicts them of their sin, and they surrender their heart and life to Christ.  This is where election comes in.  In John 6:65 it says, “And He was saying ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”  Notice the last part of the verse….”no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”  So this tells me that it doesn’t matter what prayer a person prays, or how many times they pray it, if they are not the Elect of God, then they can’t be saved.  Look at what John 12:39-40 says, “For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.”  Let me remind you of Romans 9:18 that I mentioned in Part 1, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”  How much clearer can it get?

And here’s a hard reality to face.  We can go witness to people and get them to say “The Sinner’s Prayer” (who came up with that anyway????) but if there hasn’t been that drawing of the Holy Spirit and that conviction of their sins, then all they’re doing is repeating words.  We walk away thinking we’ve added another soul to the Kingdom of God, but in reality, we’ve just added another name to the long list of false converts.
People then ask the question, “Since God has already chosen those whom He wants to save, then we don’t have to evangelize?”  If there is to be no evangelism, why does God still call pastors today?  If we are not to evangelize, why did Jesus give us The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20?  There are those who hold to the Doctrine of Election that believe there’s no sense in sending out missionaries to spread the Gospel, but that’s in disobedience to God’s Word.  God knows who the Elect are, we don’t.

 

Election vs. Free Will, Pt. 1

For centuries there has been a debate between the Doctrine of Election and man’s free will.  I grew up being taught about the free will of man in regards to salvation.  And although something about the teaching of free will just didn’t make sense to me, I still accepted it because it was all I was taught.  So which is it?  Are we saved through our own free will or were we chosen for salvation?  You can go into any number of American churches today and you’ll hear the preacher say something like, “You have a decision to make:  heaven or hell.  It’s your choice.”  Yet in John 15:16 Jesus says, “You did not choose me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in my name He may give to you.”  Notice the first few words in that verse:  “You did not choose me but I chose you, and appointed you…” so now which is it?  Did Jesus choose us or did we choose him?  See the contradiction?  What about this verse, Acts 13:48, “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” What is being taught in churches today doesn’t line up with Scripture.  There are several other verses which use the words election, choose, chosen, or any word synonymous with that:

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world

John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Mark 13:20 “And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved, but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.”

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you.

These are just a few examples found throughout the Word of God how we are chosen by God.

Need more convincing?  Ephesians 2:1 says “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins”.  Here’s something to contemplate.  When Lazarus died (Mary and Martha’s brother) he lay in the tomb four days.  He was dead…..until Jesus called him to come forth from the grave.  He didn’t just decide four days later through his own will to get up off that slab of rock and walk out of the tomb.  Jesus called him by name and it was through that calling that Lazarus was made alive.  This story not only shows how through Jesus can the dead in body be made alive, but also only through Jesus is the dead in spirit made alive.

Here’s something else.  The Bible says in Romans 6:6, 6:16, 6:17, and 6:20 that we were “slaves to sin”.  If the Bible says we are “slaves to sin”, how is it that we have free will?  As a “slave to sin”, apart from Christ, our master is sin.  We are bound by our fleshly nature and we obey the desires of the flesh.  Through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the elect are redeemed.  We are set free from the bondage of sin.  Now instead of being held captive to sin and dead in our trespasses, we are made alive in Christ and we become His bond-servants living to please Him and to do His will.

In Romans 9:17-18 it says, “(17) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.”  (18) So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” People will say that this is not fair.  Why would God have mercy on some and harden the hearts of others?  I heard a message a few weeks back and the pastor preaching addressed this same issue.  He stressed that if we want “fair”, then God will give us all what we deserve and we all deserve death and punishment for our sins.  None of us are worthy of the mercy and grace He gives to us.  But God demonstrates His love to us by giving us what we do not deserve.  God is Sovereign and He has a divine plan and whether we like it or not, there are those people like Pharaoh and Judas Iscariot who each played a role in His divine plan.  Judas was chosen as a disciple, not for salvation, but to hand Jesus over to the authorities to be crucified.  But some may say “what if a person doesn’t believe in God’s existence, how can they reject what they don’t believe in?  In Romans 1:18-20 Paul writes, “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,  19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. “ All humankind are born with a knowledge of God because as verse 19 says, “that which is known about God is evident within them” They are without excuse.

What Does Love Look Like?

1_corinthians 13

These days, the word “love” is tossed around so much that it really doesn’t have the meaning that it once did.  People talk about how they love this type of food, or love a particular TV show/movie, or love a particular sport/team.  Some people equate expensive gifts with love.  Sadly, the true meaning of love has been cheapened.  First Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us what love is supposed to look like.  Yes, there are some emotional feelings attached to love, but it goes much deeper than that.  If you’ve been married for longer than 2 minutes, you realize that there are times when you both get on each other’s nerves, but despite all the times that you’ve been angry or frustrated or hurt by your spouse, you still continue to “love” them.  Love is a choice we make every day to do what we can to help care for the other person in the relationship.

When we say “I love you” to someone, we need to remember this verse in 1 Corinthians.  We need to ask ourselves, “Am I being patient and kind?  Am I seeking only after MY wants and not doing anything to help meet the needs of the one I say I love?  Do I always bring up past mistakes in an effort to win an argument?  Am I doing my best to protect this person?  Am I willing to sacrifice my time to help them, putting aside what I want to do to so that they are being served?”

The best example of love was Jesus Himself.  He washed the disciples’ feet in an effort to show that He did not come to be served but to serve those whom He loved.  But the greatest example was Him sacrificing Himself in our place so that we would not have to face the wrath of God.  He paid the ultimate price because of His love for us.  That’s what it means to love.  Not to be served by the other person, but to serve them.  We should always be willing to serve, not be served.  Love isn’t measured in dollar signs.  It is measured in time and effort.