Words

Have you ever reflected on your history with God’s words? What are some words that seemed small when you began but have grown huge in your life? When I first allowed Christ into my life, theological terms like salvation, sanctification, servant and communion were mainly just words. As a new Christian I had almost zero experience of how God was or even could work in my life. For example, salvation seemed to be a one-time word signifying an event. But as the years rolled by and I kept stumbling along on my journey toward the City of God, I began to see and hear God and thereby experience His saving grace. As far as eternity goes, I am safely tucked into the arms of Jesus. But God is interested in my ‘here and now’ state of living. That is where my salvation is worked out day by day. But what is the Apostle’s concern anyway? I am certainly familiar with the Apostle Paul’s admonition to the Christians in Philippi: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” [Phil 2:12 NIV] Today as I was mulling over the implication of the word ‘salvation,’ I considered why he gave that exhortation to them and of course by extension to us?

Because I am one of God’s children, He wants me to be prepared. I see the world around me spinning out of control. I can pick up the newspaper on any day of the week and it is the same front page headlines: wars and rumors of wars. I see my friends and some in my family spinning out of control due to their looking to the culture around them for life’s answers. Few seek to look in the right place for life solutions. Before the Apostle Paul said “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” he made a very serious statement as a preamble to that thought: “Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  [Phil 2:9-11 NIV]

I have observed personally in myself and with other Christians tendencies to make Jesus too much like us. When Jesus was here on earth He appeared in the form of a humble servant. Now He is raised up to the throne of glory, seated on the right hand of God and to universal just and holy dominion. At some point in the future, when God deems there is an end to the wars and rumors of wars, the whole universe shall confess that Jesus is Lord. For some this will not be a pleasant experience. All those who have departed from this life without Christ as their Redeemer will no longer have a choice as to will be lord of their lives. The Apostle Paul’s warning is clear. Every single living creature, past, present and future, shall all acknowledge him as universal Lord. All will bow to His sovereign will. All will be subject to His control. All will recognize Him as Supreme.

Is it clear now what the Apostle Paul gives us the exhortation today to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling?” We who know the Lord Jesus and are related to Him will gladly fall on our knees and worship Him. We have learned to do that as grateful servants living in God’s grace. Not so the eternally damned; they will be forced by the power of God Himself to yield an unwilling homage to Jesus by submitting to the sentence from his lips that shall consign them to an unimaginable eternal woe.

So I am eternally grateful that God sought me out first. The words describing God’s faithfulness to me are words that bring joy to my heart. They are words that I have found to be true regardless of all appearance to the contrary.

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“See, I have told you beforehand.” Jesus

Judgment Day on May 21, 2011?

For months now there have been billboards on freeways and flyers circulating about the coming judgment of God on the world.  People are asking questions as to how can anyone teach that Christ’s return will happen on a particular day?  Some Christians have seen this phenomenon predicted more than once in their lives and so chalk it up to a nut-case.  Some Christians see the billboards and wonder because they do not know their Bible.  Some Christians read what appears to be a Godly pamphlet and wonder if they have missed something.  And Satan smiles with delight.

Last week I was out doing my daily walk, noticed an eight-page pamphlet on the sidewalk claiming “THE END OF THE WORLD IS ALMOST HERE!”  Picking it up I skimmed through it as I walked and found nothing obviously or blatantly wrong … as a matter of fact it sounded really evangelical.  I folded it up and stuck it in my pocket for further analysis.  What I discovered is a lie couched in some bible verses.  Here are some excerpts:

“…about 35 years ago God began to open the true believers’ understanding of the timeline of history. Thus it was discovered that the Bible teaches that when the events of the past are coordinated with our modern calendar, we can learn dates of history … However, it was not until a very few years ago that the accurate knowledge of the entire timeline of history was revealed to true believers by God from the Bible.”  It continues on by saying: “During these past several years God has been revealing a great many truths, which have been completely hidden in the Bible until this time when we are so near the end of the world.”

“Several years ago we had learned that the silence in Heaven for about half an hour referred to the 2,300 days that were the first part of the 23-year (exactly 8,400 days) Great Tribulation period. This period began on May 21, 1988. It was during this 2,300-day period that, both in the churches and throughout the world, very few, if any, were saved.”

“We had learned that May 21, 1988 was the last day of the church age and was also the first day of the 23-year period of Great Tribulation, during which Satan has been employed by God to officially rule all of the churches as well as the whole world. During the first 2,300 days of this 8,400-day period the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from all of the churches as well as the entire world. This produced silence in Heaven. However, beginning 2,300 days after May 21, 1988 (the end of the church age), the Holy Spirit was again poured out, producing what the Bible calls the “latter rain” (Zechariah 10:1; James 5:7) throughout the world (but not in any church), and God began a final great harvest of salvation, bringing great joy in Heaven. This salvation is not occurring in any church, but will continue outside of the churches to the end of the Great Tribulation, on May 21, 2011.[1]

Jesus, in His own words told the disciples: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” [Act 1:7] Jesus, the Master Teacher did not make mistakes or have after thoughts about what He spoke about.  The tone of what He plainly said “It is not for you to know…” seems to imply that we can ask but we will not get an answer.  Jesus spoke these words as He was departing from the disciples.  They were asking questions that were running through their collective minds.  These were troubling times for them.  I agree with one commentator who said that this was a rebuke to them and a cautionary statement for the church down through the ages.  Beware of getting focused on the wrong things; intruding into things that I have expressly stated as forbidden knowledge.  The implication for the church is there are limits to our curiosity.  In other words: “…concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” [This is quoting Jesus from Mat 24:36]  Finding scriptural evidence to the contrary of what Jesus spoke plainly about is walking into Satan’s trap.

I am reminded of Gen 3:1 where we have the account of Eve’s walking into Satan’s trap. “Now the serpent was craftier than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  We seem to feel that we know more than God and that we should understand more than we are capable of understanding.  Eve looked at the tree and saw it was good looking fruit.  Instead of remembering exactly what God had told them about this particular tree, she missed the subtle shift that Satan included in his misquoting God.  God said: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” [Gen 2:16-17]  Satan, always the liar, quoted God as saying: ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’

Like Eve, we miss what is right because we fail to remember to go to the Source of all knowledge.  Instead we create perplexing questions that take our eyes off of Jesus.  By doing that we miss the very next thing that Jesus told His inquiring disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [Act 1:8] You are asking about end times but that question is irrelevant to the business that I want you as my church to be about.  Being my witnesses is you work now and in the future until I change it.

Jesus warned clearly that the church would encounter people creating parties and factions.  Jesus warned that Satan appears as an angel of light so that he can deceive people with the greatest evil with a convincing show of what appears good.  Jesus warns that Satan will incite men who pretend that they have some special insight or divine inspiration that runs outside of the Word of God but it is a lie.  Jesus warns that Satan will take advantage when there is trouble that threatens our security; people will seek out anything that looks like salvation.

Mat 24:5 “For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.” Verse 24: “… false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”

Jesus warns us to be watchful by paying attention to all of His words!  “See, I have told you beforehand.” [Mat 24:25]