Wednesday, December 28, 2011
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Sunday, November 06, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
The story of Solomon's court case is very well known, even by unbelievers. I would like to look at it again though and perhaps draw out applications of it to our own lives and ministries.
1Ki 3:16-28 Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, "Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. And this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne." But the other woman said, "No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours." The first said, "No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine." Thus they spoke before the king. Then the king said, "The one says, 'This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead'; and the other says, 'No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.'" And the king said, "Bring me a sword." So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other." Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, "Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death." But the other said, "He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him." Then the king answered and said, "Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother." And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.
This story is interesting for several reasons. It shows many things about human nature in general but also shows us something of the true heart of a mother, which is actually a reflection of the heart of God.
Initially there is the dispute over whose child is the living one. Both women desire the living child. One desired it because it was hers by natural birth, the other also desired the child probably to assuage the grief caused by the loss of her own and to remove the reproach of having lost her child from her by placing on someone else. In the same way if we are Christians, especially Christians with a ministry, we desire to see blessing and fruit for our labours. This is natural and not wrong, those who sow should do so in hope, but often God requires a certain attitude before He will give the blessing.
When the case came before Solomon, he used his God-given wisdom to show which claim was just. In his command to divide the child he was bringing out the strongest motive of each heart. The false mother wanted the child alive as long as it would be hers, but if it could not be hers she would have her half and see it destroyed. The true mother would have the child live, she wanted it to be hers, but it would be better to have it live, even if it never owned her as its mother, but instead considered itself another's. It was this attitude that showed Solomon who the true mother was and gained her the child.
Many times Christians pray for revival, for multiplication, and for the extension of God's kingdom. This is good, but often the motive is not as much God's glory, but that we might ourselves be vindicated and blessed. The difference in the two women was not what they desired, but why they desired it. The false mother desired the child for her selfish motives. The true mother desired the child for a mixture of motives, but when push came to shove the only thing that mattered was the life of the child, even if she lost it, so long as it lived. This is the attitude that God blesses, a desire to see Him move even if He uses others and not us, even if on this side of eternity our prayer and efforts remain unnoticed. This is the heart of a mother, to put the child first. It is also something deep in God's heart, the God who gives breath to all, even those who do not acknowledge Him and even fight against Him. He sends His rain on the good and the evil, for their benefit, not for His own.
It is this attitude that was in the heart of David when he fled from Absolom, and refused to let the ark go with him, because he placed his fate in God's hands, but regardless of what happened to him, he would not have the people deprived of God's presence (2 Sam. 15:24-26). This is also an attitude seen in those whom God has used in past revivals, one notable example, by no means unique, is Count Zinzendorf, who was determined to benefit the Church of Christ as a whole and not his own enclave. He often sent converts of the Moravians into other local churches. If anything his fault was in trying so hard to encourage other groups that his own did not grow as much, and yet the God alone knows all the good that was accomplished through the Moravians, specifically because of their willingness to grow God's kingdom and not their own segment of it. May God grant us the same heart!
Thursday, May 12, 2011
I don't usually do too much teaching on the Second Coming of Christ. This is not because it is not an important subject or because I do not believe I know at least some of the answers to the questions that must be answered. Mostly it is because I feel that personal preparedness is more important than exact doctrinal understanding. Doctrinal understanding can encourage us to be prepared, but there are many who may have right understanding and yet still be unprepared, also there may be some who lack correct doctrinal understanding, but whose relationship with Christ still makes them prepared for whatever may come. Having heard a friend of mine asking about Christ returning on May 21st I decided it was time to show why this is not possible, and hopefully to prevent young Christians from being shaken in their faith when yet another prediction fails.
As we look at this the most important thing is to remember is that it is not just doctrinal knowledge that we need but a relationship with Christ. This is true not only in light of the end-times, but in everything. Our understanding can be flawed in many ways and yet we can still be saved by Christ. Indeed when I look at some men, such as Charles Finney and George Fox, I see some really strange ideas that could have totally made a shipwreck of their lives, yet even some of their wrong ideas were held in check to a large degree by their relationship with Christ. We should never mistake the light given in doctrine for the source of light. We can all err in many things, but the Light of the World can show us and even restrain us in spite of our miscomprehension. So our focus should be on pleasing Him and He can handle the future, even if we misinterpret it.
With that written I would like to look now at events which must take place before Christ's second coming and the rapture.
1. Wars, Earthquakes and other calamities
We see these calamities happening now, and they will intensify. They are prelude to the end, but Christ specifically prophesied that they would come, but that the end was not yet.
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. (Matt. 24:6-8).
And he said, "See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is at hand!' Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. (Luke 21:8-11).
As we see these earth changing events unfold, we should remember two things. First they are not a surprise to God. Second they are not the end that is still to come. The judgments we have seen in the last decade have been enormous, and yet if we believe Christ we must say that worse is still to come.
We need to seriously take stock of ourselves as we view these things. We are surprised at the multitudes that are destroyed in one disaster, the tsunami in Sumatra for example, many of whom were eternally lost. Yet we forget, or choose not to acknowledge, that on a normal day without any high profile disasters, thousands still die and slip into hell. If these events actually mobilize Christians to be serious about our mission, and result in salvation to many who otherwise might perish eternally than even these disasters will be worthwhile in the ultimate end, and whatever disruption, discomfort, suffering and even danger they cause to Christians will be actually a blessing.
2. Wide spread persecution and apostasy
This has yet to happen. How far it is in the future only God knows, but it is coming. There are nations where Christians are being persecuted now, but Christ referred to world-wide persecution.
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matt. 24:9-13).
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 (apostasy) comes first, and the man of lawlessness 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. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? (2 Thess. 2:1-5).
The apostle Paul elaborates more on what form this falling away will take in 1 Tim. 4:1-3, 2 Tim. 3:1-5, and 2 Tim. 4:3-4. This corruption of Christian life and doctrine is necessary to bring the iniquity of the false church to completion. In addition to declension from the faith, the false church will also be actively involved in the persecution of the true church (Rev. 17:3-6).
Yet Peter encourages the true Christians to continue to fervently love each other even in the midst of this cooling of the love of many (1 Pet. 1:22, 4:7-8). In the midst of all the defection and sin abounding it will be easy to let our love grow cold and to cease to care for others, but as Christians our love must come from God, and continue to pour out in spite of the failings and faults we see.
3. The preaching of the Gospel in all the world
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations (ethnos), and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14).
Lest we think that the end times will be all gloom and doom, it is important to remember that the best times are yet ahead as well. It when the church suffers that the glory rests upon her (1 Pet. 4:12-14). It is God's sworn intention that His glory will fill the earth (Num. 14:21; Hab. 2:14). This will be done through the church. The glory will exceed by far anything seen in the Old Testament in the same way that a permanent building is far more valued than a temporary structure (2 Cor. 3:7-11). If the Old Testament which was temporary and intended to be superseded saw dramatic miracles and wonders, shall not the New Testament church which is to remain. Haggai prophesied that the glory of the latter house (the second temple) would be greater than the former (Solomon's temple) (Hag. 2:9), this referred to the presence of Christ in that temple and the raising up of the Church which must supersede all the glory manifest in Solomon's temple.
Before the return of Christ the fullness of the Gentiles must come in (Rom. 11:25). This will take place after the former and latter rain have come (James 5:7). The former or early rain softened the ground for planting, the late or latter rain ripened the crop for harvest. Joel prophesied that both would be given in the first month, together (Joel 2:23). Thus you would have a rapid sowing and maturing of the crop, this is prophesied in Amos 9:11-13, and verse 11-12 was specifically quoted as applicable to the church in Acts 15:16-17. There have been scattered instances of some of these things in certain locales at certain times in history, but it must happen on a global scale to prepare the Church for Christ's return. The fact that Christ is returning for a Bride without spot or wrinkle (2 Pet. 3:9-15; Eph. 5:26-27; Rev. 19:7-8) tells us that His return is not yet, to give us time to prepare, and we desperately need a fresh outpouring of His Spirit to iron out our wrinkles and remove our spots.
4. The appearance of the antichrist and rebuilt temple
"So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. (Matt. 24:15-20).
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 lawlessness 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. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? (2 Thess. 2:1-5).
The Bible has a lot more to say about the antichrist, which might be a subject of a later post, but for now I will only mention that he is not here now. Revelation tells us that he is a man who has lived before and will return from the pit.
The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come (Rev. 17:8).
And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. (Rev. 13:2-3).
It is thus folly to predict that any living man is the antichrist. There are many antchristian leaders in the world, but the antichrist won't sneak in, he will very visible when he comes.
Another indicator given by Christ which is important in regards to the appearing of the antichrist is the rebuilding of the temple. This has not yet happened, but the 2004 reconvening of the sanhedrin, with one stated goal as rebuilding the temple shows that times are drawing closer. One note on this temple, it may not require the demolition of the dome of the rock, because there is some ambiguity as to where the Holy of Holies actually stood on the Temple Mount. Things will become clearer as events progress. Things may take decades or years, but all in God's timing it will unfold.
5. The Great Tribulation
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt. 24:29-31).
I realize this is not a popular teaching in the Church today, but Christ is unambiguous here. His elect are gathered to Him after the tribulation. The noun form of the verb used for gather in Matt. 24:31 is what Paul uses in 2 Thess. 2:1 for our gathering unto Him at His second coming. These are referring to the same event.
The fact that Christians will be on the earth during the tribulation can be shown by several Scriptures:
"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life, and that Day come upon you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, praying always that you may be counted worthy to escape everything that is about to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:34-36).
Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those that dwell upon the earth. (Rev. 3:10).
If all Christians are to be kept from the great tribulation than these promises and warnings make no sense. Furthermore both Daniel and Revelation state as plainly as possible that the antichrist will kill Christians.
And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time. (Daniel 11:33-35).
Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days. (Daniel 12:10-12).
And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name."Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!" (Rev. 14:9-13).
Notice these saints are specifically said to have faith in Jesus! These are not Jews. This is seen again in Revelation 12, where the language is symbolic, but it is clearly taught that there is one company caught up to the throne of God (v5 – the male child), another that is hidden in the wilderness (v6 the woman), and a third group that are persecuted (v17 the rest of her offspring).
Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea. (Rev. 12:17).
Notice that these cannot be Jews, because the Jews do not have a Testimony of Jesus until they are restored at His Second Coming. Clearly these are Christians!
To finish this long post I should mention the element of the pre-tribulation rapture theory that bothers me the most. That is the interpretation of 2 Thess. 2:6-7 as the removal of the Holy Spirit from the earth along with the Church for the duration of the tribulation. This interpretation is seriously flawed. If the Holy Spirit is gone from the earth, then in what power are these saints enduring martyrdom? Even assuming, as the theory demands, that these are special "tribulation saints" and not ordinary Christians as an unbiased reading of the passage would indicate, do you honestly believe that man unaided by the empowering Spirit can withstand a persecution far worse than anything that pagan Rome ever perpetrated? We know and have seen in history what the Spirit of God can do in His people in the midst of persecution and it is what Christ promised in Luke 21:12-15, "I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict." However there never has, and I can confidently say, never will be anyone overcoming the devil in his own power and strength, during the tribulation or at any other time. If we can only stand in our minor struggles now in the power of the Holy Ghost do we honestly believe that others will be able to overcome the devil in his greatest time of power in their own strength? To think so is borderline blasphemy!
Since I clearly reject the Pre-tribulation rapture interpretation of those verses I should offer my own. First let me give two versions of the Bible that translate them in a slightly different way from the majority.
And now you know the thing holding back, for him to be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness already is working, only he is holding back now, until it comes out of the midst (2 Thess. 2:6-7 LITV).
And now you know that which is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will continue until one comes out of the midst (EMTV).
Notice that in both these translations, there is one restraining until something comes out of the midst, not until something is removed out of the way. The Greek could be rendered either way. If this translation is allowed then it is the Holy Spirit restraining the mystery of lawlessness, until it is time for it to fully come forth. Lawlessness has been working for centuries, but it has been set back many times. The Wesleyan Revival brought England back from the abyss of anarchy in its day. The evil of the roaring '20's was met by the great depression and WWII which effectively recalled nations to God for a time. Yet there will come a time when the mystery of lawlessness will be fully allowed to manifest itself and once it has the antichrist will come. Even now lawlessness is accelerating in the world. People call for liberty but many of them really want license, and lawlessness. It is not tyranny they oppose, but any moral restraint at all. God may restrain this again, but if He does not this spirit will result in the manifestation of the antichrist. When it does, may God's people endure and overcome in His strength and power! Amen.
Monday, February 14, 2011
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. - Romans 10:13-17
Many times we use this passage to emphasize the importance of preaching to spread the Gospel and that is valid and important. Really, though, to start at preaching is to forget the first link in the chain – which is being sent. John the Baptists ministry begins as stated in John 1:6, “there was a man sent from God…” The message He preached which opened the hearts of many to receive the coming Christ – so much so that many of Christ’s disciples started by following John and some of the seeds he sowed were still bearing fruit 20 years or more after his death (Acts 18:24-19:5). All of this was made possible because he was sent from God.
In order to be sent from God one must first be with God. John’s message was received in his time with God and he went in God’s power because in a real sense he was sent from God. Isaiah’s largest portion of ministry followed his having an encounter with God and being sent from Him (Isaiah 6). It is as a message is received from God in our time spent with Him that we can be sent with it out into the world.
Looking at history even secularists see fitted men with tailor-made messages for the times that they lived in. The Reformation was the result of a man with a message – Luther with justification by faith – prepared for his age and with circumstances to aid in its spread all prepared by God – in this case the invention of the printing press and the invasion of the Turks are the two main ones.
In the midst of the dissolution of the Roman Empire and barbarian invasion, men like Salvian were sent to reprove the sins that brought God’s judgment, and to bring a message of hope that as the Gospel was planted in these new nations it could bring more fruit than it had in the Roman Empire. In so doing he not only fulfilled a need in his own day, but supplied pulpit material for generations of French preachers, including Bossuet and Saurin.
In his youth, John Wesley was the inheritor of two previous generation’s prayers and burden for revival, and strove to preach and live rightly, but it was only after his own personal experience of the saving power of Christ that he was made fit to be sent in the true sense and when he was sent the results began to follow. It is also worth noting that shortly before his conversion experience his father had told him on his deathbed to seek for the assurance that is God’s gift to the saved and to seek until he had it, he then told Charles Wesley that though he would not see the revival he had long prayed for, yet Charles would. Sometimes the hopes and prayers of several generations can be awaiting the man who will meet with God and be sent from Him.
The word we often translate as “sent” is apostello in Greek, which has the thought of not only being sent out but also being separated. Paul could write In Romans 1:1 that he was set apart for the Gospel of God. To be sent in the fullness of the meaning of that word, implies a wholehearted giving of oneself to the mission with which one is entrusted. John’s sending involved not only preaching, but also a lifestyle unique to him (not prone to be imitated either) that reinforced the message he preached. Paul’s lifestyle also opened doors for him as he was willing to be a Jew to Jews and a Gentile to the Gentiles. To be truly sent thus involves more than even obtaining the right message from God and being willing to speak it, but also living in a way that drives the message home and opens the hearts of the hearers. The Hebrew prophets of old, especially Hosea, Isaiah and Ezekiel, were their message in many instances, and more modern men like Hudson Taylor have done similar things in comparatively recent times.
Let us be sent so that we may preach. As we preach people may hear, and as they hear they may believe. As they believe they will respond, and we will see a harvest. May God send forth labourers into His vineyard! Amen.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
This same thought is repeated by the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:14, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons (huios – mature sons) of God.” The more we are lead by the Spirit of the Lord and the more we easily yield to His influence the more mature we are in the Christian walk.
Again this can be compared to Ezekiel’s vision of the river (Ezekiel 47:1-5) with the water to the ankles being analogous to salvation, the knees to water baptism and a beginning to walk in the footsteps of Christ, the waters to the waist could be compared to the baptism of the Holy Spirit where the current and flow of the river is more felt than before, the final phase is waters to swim in which will take you along with them even as you swim in them. This is one of the promises of the New Covenant as see in Ezekiel 36:26-27, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
May God grant that we each day grow more and more pliable in His hands as we are lead by His Spirit! Amen.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."
As I was reading through Romans again in preparation to teach on it this coming February, I came across this verse which somehow had never fully caught my attention before. Often as believers we have a good focus on what happened at the death of Christ and on the atonement that was accomplished there, but not only is the fact of the resurrection crucial in showing that Christ was indeed the Son of God, but His life saves us.
It is as the ever-living High Priest that He can continually intercede for us before the Father and by virtue of this and His once-for-all offering make us perfect and present us so before the Father (Heb. 7:24-25; 10:14; Jude 1:24).
We all have received physical life because of our descent from the first Adam who was made a living soul. By our natural birth we have a life like his enabling us to think, talk, move, and act. More importantly though, when we are born again we receive life form the second Adam who is a life-giving spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) - Our spiritual nature is made alive through Him and the whole of our being is enlivened. Even as we indisputably bear the marks of descent from Adam as seen in our actions being like his, in the same way we will also one day bear the image of the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:49).
Christ has received from His Father the power of having life in Himself, life independent of all external supports or requirements, and He has the power to enliven whomever He will (John 5:21-26). It is this life, an eternal life that He has had in the past and which will continue forever into the future, which He imparts to us. He laid His own life down for us on Calvary, but having power to take it back up, He did and out of His life we receive ours, even as He said to the disciples, "Because I live (present tense), you shall live also." Truly Christ is our life and as His life manifests in us we will know His truly great salvation! Amen.