Where Are We Going?

With the advent of the affordable Health Care Act in a week or so, we, as a nation, will quit asking, “Are we there yet?” and begin to ask, “Where are we going?” The whole thing seems to be very confusing and most of us just don’t know what to expect. Please note that I am not endorsing or condemning the new government health care, just noting for the sake of illustration we that we are confused about it.

The books of prophecy in the Bible give us the same uneasiness. Are the prophecies for the people who heard them, or for us today to look forward too. We might ask, “Where are we going?” based upon our lack of knowledge and understanding and doubts.

The books of Daniel and Revelation are probably the most relevant to this question. What do they mean? Who do they affect? How do I understand them? How should I react to what they reveal?

God questions and questions that we can answer. I say that knowing full well that a lot of people believe we cannot understand them completely, that the meaning of their message is hidden to us. But, the fact is, that God gave us his word so that we can understand, so that we will know the truth and ways of God.

There are essentially three views about the books of eschatology. If you don’t know, eschatology is about end times, the final days of the earth. Though the word carries a more present meaning then the future, that is the current definition.

The three main views are:

  1. Post-millennialism (Jesus will return after the millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ).
  2. A-millennialism (Jesus will return during the millenium, the Christian age, the era of the church beginning on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2).
  3. Pre-millennialism (Jesus will return before the millennium begins).

The post-millennial view has almost completely been abandoned.  The pre-millennial view is the most common, and there are variations within the pre-millennial view. The a-millennial view makes the most sense to this author. But the point is, not what do the prophecies mean, but how are we take them? How are we to live?

Revelation is a book of encouragement and hope for Christians and the church in the crisis of persecution as the devil attacks it from a social, political, and religious standpoint. God is telling us in the time of eschatology not the events that are taking place and the things to look out for (though we learn a lot here), but that we are to remain faithful to him throughout the difficulty. He will overcome, he will defeat the devil and those the devil has deceived, the cultures we live in, the governments who govern our world, the religious leaders who buy into a gospel that does not honor the revealed word of God, especially the truth about Jesus Christ.

“Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you life as the victor’s crown” Revelation 2:10.

Are we in the end times. I believe we have been since the church began. We have seen the events of Revelation play out in the 350 years after God gave Revelation to John. But, the reality of what happened with the Roman Empire and the church, is replayed again and again as Satan works to destroy the church, to stop its missionary influence and take as many of us with him to hell as he can destroy.

Be faithful to God and you will receive the reward he has in store for the faithful.  Read Revelation chapters 2 and 3 and see the many descriptions of eternal life God uses for those who remain faithful.

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What Do You See?

thA man is pushing a stroller down the street. A sloppily dressed individual is bent over beside the road. A man is running through the neighborhood in street clothes. A woman  sits in her car on the shoulder of the road busily fumbling with something. What is it that you see?

Do you see a kidnapper who just swiped someone’s child? Do you see an annoying vagrant? Do you see a criminal on the run? Do you see a woman plotting to hurt someone else? Or do you see a father taking a stroll with his child; a person picking up a lost item; a man who is hurrying to help someone in need down the street; or a woman who is trying to encourage someone on the phone using the blue-tooth technology in her car?

In the movie “The Recruit” with Al Pacino and Collin Ferrell, Pacino’s character tells the CIA recruits that nothing is what it seems. What may look like one thing may be in fact something completely different. I am guessing that the emphasis was teach the recruits to be aware of and suspicious of everything. What appears innocent and harmless may be a potentially dangerous situation and what may appear dangerous may be innocent and harmless.

The Israelite people in New Testament times had the view that the Messiah would be a leader like King David 900 years before. Not just a king to rule, but a leader to overcome Israel’s enemies and bring greater prosperity than Israel had ever known.

Then Jesus comes on the scene around A.D. 29 and begins teaching and the people are amazed at his teaching. He hasn’t gone to the Jewish Seminary in Jerusalem and learned from the teachers of the Law, and he is about 30 years old is all; he teaches like he knows what he is talking about and he possesses wisdom for someone so young and untaught, not like the regular teachers. In Mark 6 when he returned to his hometown, Nazareth and taught in the synagogue the people were amazed but then were offended because he was a hometown boy who came from an insignificant and poor family and now he acts like a teacher. Either they were jealous of what he had become or upset that he thought himself a teacher though they knew his background (Mark 6:1-6).

To Nazareth, Jesus  wasn’t who they thought him to be. The rest of Israel believed that maybe he was the promised One, the Messiah to come.

When Jesus came into Jerusalem on the Sunday before the Passover and his arrest IconJesusMessiahAndKingand crucifixion, the people began to honor him as the coming Messiah. The popular Jewish Messianic expectations in place and what better time for the Messiah-King to assume the throne and reign in Jerusalem but at the biggest feast of the year.

But Jesus didn’t come to set up an “earthly kingdom.” In fact, as Pilate questioned Jesus, Jesus’ response to Pilate was, “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

Even Jesus’ apostles (and it appears most of the rest of his disciples) expected an earthly kingdom. The concept that he would die was out of the scope of their concept of the God’s Messiah-King. Death would ruin it all. If he died, he might not actually be the Messiah.

What do you see? Are you aware of the truth and reality or do your preconceived ideas provide the basis of your understanding?

Many people want Jesus to only be a great teacher or a spiritual guru. Some want him to fulfill their self-help needs, or provide assistance like EMT in an emergency. Some want Jesus out of their lives and forgotten in this world. Some want Jesus to be everything to them.

What do you see? Who is Jesus to you? If he is not the Messiah of God, who saves and rules lives by his atoning death, well, read the Gospels and the book of Acts, and the letters of Peter, John, James, and Paul, read the book of Revelation and see that what some people see in Jesus is much less than he really is and their understanding and beliefs about Jesus are their own devices and not from God, or from Jesus, or his disciples, and not from the Bible.

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Read This Article from Relevant Magazine online

It is interesting that all at once there are several discussions about Christian -vs- Saints.  Here is a good one. Why-They-Called-Us-ChristiansClick on the link and it will take you to the Relevant article entitled, “Where the ‘Christian’ Name Really Came From.”

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/where-christian-name-really-came

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All the Saints in the World

My small group has been working through Aaron Chamber’s book, Remember Who You Are.* During a recent small group get together, as we examined the chapter about being a saint, ideas about Christians in our culture ran through my mind.

The common cultural mantra goes something like this, “I like Jesus but I hate the church.” That hurts! The church, Christians, people of God are the excuses people have for not completely checking out Jesus or the church. To be honest, there are Christians in the church who are hypocrites, and there are those who are inconsistent in their faith walk, and there are some who don’t get it at all and don’t know how to live as a Christian. Then in the public’s eye you have extremists churches who are fundamentalists and judgmental to all people, and of course your celebrity Christians who have fallen because of sin. I suppose we could make a long list of excuses people have for ignoring Jesus and the church.

The thought occurred to me that evening, the world hates “Christians,” but what about “Saints?”

To qualify, saints are not those 3000 or so people over the 16-1700 year history of the Catholic Church that have been canonized by the Catholic Church. “Saints” are what the Bible calls Christians the most; People who have through faith become followers of Jesus Christ and have been saved by God’s grace.

The Bible calls people in the Bible who are saved, saints, Christians, disciples of Christ, followers of Christ, the family of God, the bride of Christ, the body of Christ,the Church of Christ, etc. We are called Christians a couple of times and Saints a lot in the New Testament. Even the Old Testament refers to saints. For instance, Psalm 16:3, “As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.” Daniel 7:18, “But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come” (NASB).

Saints belong to God. Why? Because of what has happened to them when they came to Christ for salvation. They have been “sanctified.” Cleansed from sin, freed from the slavery of sin, freed to live a holy life in God, made to be like Christ free of the guilt of sin, pure, no longer defiled in their character, they are saints.

Now, if we Christians were more aware of our sainthood, how would the world view the church, how would they look at Christians?

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*Remember Who You Are, Unleashing the Power of an Identity-Driven Life, Aaron Chambers, Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, http://www.standardpub.com/Products/24324/remember-who-you-are.aspx

Merry Christmas to You!

Forget the troubles of the year. Forget that people feared the end of the world last Friday. Forget the fiscal cliff, the Sandy Hook and other tragedies. Lay down you present concerns and follow my words for a moment.

It is easy to celebrate Christmas without celebration. It happens that we participate in Christmas festivities, presents, eggnog, parties, meals, vacations, ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas and all and still not celebrate.

There are many reasons this might happen, but the core aspect of celebrating with celebration is we have lost our focus. Here comes the cliché, so excuse me for a moment.

  • Jesus is the reason for the season.

The whole idea behind the holiday that contains Christ’s name is remembering Christ’s birth. Many do so with decorations, presents, programs, church attendance and special services, visiting soup kitchens, spending time with family, sharing gifts, and a lot more ways. In all of this, we can still get lost in Christmas without the hint of actual celebration.

How do we come back to celebrating Christmas. Look to Jesus!

Is it that simple? I believe it is. It is for me. I am not decrying the things that occur at Christmas. I am not putting down commercialism, or Santa Claus, or holiday parties, or Rudolph and Frosty, but I am trying to direct our focus to the real thing, Jesus.

For God so loved the world that he (sent) his one and only Son, that whoever will believe in him shall have eternal life” John 3:16.

Isn’t that what Christmas is about? God’s love, Jesus’ human life, our salvation.

May you have a Merry Christmas filled with the peace of God and the grace and joy of knowing his Son, Jesus Christ.

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My Association With the Thief on the Cross

At some time in everyone’s life we must come to grips with who we are. In those moments, when we begin to ask the questions, most of us search for meaning in who we are. If we are honest and even courageous, we will admit that there are things wrong with us. Each of those “things wrong with us” ultimately come from the reality (a reality we may not know or understand yet) that we are sinners.

Sinners! What does that mean. That means that we have gone against some standard or level of truth that we have not achieved and what we have done to compensate for our failure is sin. Of course that word, “sin” means “to miss the mark.”

I’ve played darts some, I’ve shot a basketball at a basket, a lot (I am a Hoosier), I have tried kicking a few field goals and in every case (especially kicking field goals) I missed the mark. But, that is not as strong a concept as what the Biblical term sin implies.

Missing the mark implies consequence for failing. Just because I didn’t score the points when I missed in darts and basketball and football, doesn’t mean there is a consequence. There may be some sort of consequence. I might lose the game for my team if I miss. That’s too bad. I might, if I am a professional athlete (which I’m not nor have I ever been close to being one) I might lose my position on the team. But the consequence of sin, of missing the mark, is comprehensive, it is death, spiritual, eternal death.

“The wages of sin is death….” Romans 6:23, KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV (cf, 1 John 5:17)

As I realized that I had failed God’s standard; “Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence” (the Good News Bible), because of my sin, I realized I needed Jesus.

Jesus overcame and conquered so much in God’s name for you and I. Most importantly for us right here and right now, he conquered sin and death (Romans 4:25 & 8:2) and freed us to become a part of the Father’s kingdom of love and life.

The thief on the cross, when he looked to Jesus and asked for mercy in his kingdom, took the humble attitude of realizing that he had sinned but Jesus had not, that he deserved death but Jesus didn’t, that he needed Jesus’ mercy and Jesus could give it (Luke 23:40-43).

When I am dying in my sins (see passages above), I am dying away from God, without hope, but not without help. Jesus is there waiting on my call to him to save me. When I come to him in my dying spiritual condition and confess my belief in him, wanting to turn and come to God, when I die through immersion (Romans 6:1-10; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21), Jesus is saying to me, “Now, you are joining me in my glory, with the Father, forever.”

It is then that I become associated with the thief on the cross. Because I am now coming into Christ and am forgiven, forever, for glory, for good.

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How the Thieves Shared in the Death of Christ

1What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?  2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. 5 For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed[e] from sin’s claims.[f] 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. @Romans6.1-10 (HCSB)

After Jesus’ death, in order to access salvation one must by faith be immersed (cf., passage above, Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21, etc). We must share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Immersion (aka baptism) is the moment we share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Bible is very clear about this.

But think about this, there were two criminals, specifically thieves that were crucified with Jesus, one on each side of him. One of those thief’s had a change of heart and with a heart of sorrow and repentance and believed in Jesus. He asked Jesus to remember him in his glory and Jesus promised him he would be there with him.  The other thief died scorning Jesus, ridiculing him like the Jewish leaders taunting and belittling him on the cross. He died without repentance and was not given a promise of hope by Jesus.

Both of the thieves died, when Jesus died. I don’t mean they died at the very same instant, but they died on those crosses together. The one in the middle, the Savior for those who have faith in him, one died without faith, and the other died believing. The thieves literally shared in the death of Christ, but only one was given the promise of eternal life, @Luke23.39-43.

In other words, the thief that expressed his belief will awaken to eternal life.

When a person believes and repents, they are baptized. It is in that moment that we experience what the thief that Jesus promised Paradise too, salvation. We experience death and resurrection in the activity of baptism. Dead in sin, we are buried under the water and we rise out of the water alive in Christ. It is there that God applies salvation to our lives.

It is in death that Jesus forgave the repentant thief and it is in death that God forgives the repentant sinner.

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