Saturday, March 31, 2018

He will not let the Holy One see corruption

Therefore he says also in another psalm, "'You will not let your Holy One see corruption.' " (Acts 13:35).

Oh, to think of His precious body, broken, speared, beaten, nailed... wrapped in a shroud and and now laid in a grave!

Chris Powers of Full of Eyes ministry ( drew this wonderful illustration today:

Joseph took The Body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb... (Matthew 27:59-60).

I can't fathom what grief the disciples felt as the death happened and the precious body was brought to Joseph's tomb...and the rock slid shut. How alone they must have felt! How perplexed and upset. Their lives must have seemed devoid of meaning. After all, Peter said to Jesus when Jesus had asked "Are you going to leave me too?" and Peter uttered his words, "Where would we go? You have the words of life". Now the Word of life was dead. Or it seemed so. Where would they go? What would give their life meaning, now?

They must grieve for a few more agonizing hours, before all would become clear.

However, the wondrous Father will not let Jesus molder in the tomb. Jesus rose before that could ever happen! Oh, the joy of Sunday!

Our Savior lives!!

Good Friday the most evil day in all of history. Saturday the most grief-stricken day in all of history. Sunday the most joyous day in all of history!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Are you a hollow bunny?

This was first published on The End Time in April 2009

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be ... 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. (2 Timothy 3: 1-2,5 "Difficult Times Will Come).

Wikimedia commons
As a kid on Easter morning in a secular household, it was all about the basket. The eggs, the chocolate, and toys. Even the fake green grass. Our baskets were always generously filled, and I especially loved the centerpiece of a large chocolate bunny on the mound of grass.

As a kid, if you see a 5 inch chocolate bunny you get very excited. You don't think about how much to eat or not eat, you don't think about the appropriate time of the day to eat it. You just rip the cellophane and chomp.

I remember being disappointed and a little irked that the bunny was hollow. As a kid, I could not tell the difference between a solid bunny and a hollow one, they looked the same to my immature eyes. But when I bit into the ear it seemed to me to be a total gyp when it crumbled to bits because it had no interior support. The bunny had only a form of solidity.

We are told over and over in the Bible that the last days would be filled with deception, false pastors and false prophets, wolves in sheep's clothing, antichrists, false apostles, false doctrine ... and are repeatedly warned not to fall for it.

How can we tell if a bunny is solid chocolate or hollow? Test by eating it, you say? Satan is poison, his deceptions are poison. Who wants to eat poison? Ingesting falsity for too long will inevitably pollute. As mature Christians, we must be able to discern and detect hollow Christianity early on, before it permeates the entire congregation, or our own heart.

Are you a child in Christ, seemingly mature but having fallen out of the habit of testing the scriptures for yourselves? Have you lost the ability to test the spirits? Are you, yourself hollow? Professing a form of godliness but denying its power?
Free to use

Ephesians 4:14 tells us not to be babes. "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming." Pray for experience, wisdom, and discernment through a healthy relationship with the Holy Spirit.

As deceptions and delusions grow in the end times, we are not going to be able to tell the difference between true Biblical doctrine and that of hollow and counterfeit Christianity by being a child, rushing toward something that looks oh so good to eat but biting into the hollowness to be disappointed, but perhaps already hooked by its tastiness. Do not be a baby in discernment! Do not be hollow!

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14).

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Why eschatology matters (and hopefully making a comeback)

As you know, this blog is called The End Time, because we are in the end time. This is the period between Jesus' first and second comings, where He is building His church. When His church is complete, He will call the Church home. It take it as a duty given by command in the Bible to be fervent with His message, since His return is (always) imminent and our duty shall be no more. Redeem the time and act with eagerness every day, because the end time will end some day.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Eschatology often gets a bad reputation as a doctrinal field of study because of the plethora of 'theologians' who either dismiss it entirely in dusgust, or who set dates, add newspaper eisegesis to it, or who are just plain "Kooks & Barneys", as Pastor Mike Abendroth says. For some reason this field draws out the less solid teachers.

Other Christian fields of study such as Pneumatology, Hamartiology, Theology Proper / Paterology, Christology, Bibliology, Soteriology, and Ecclesiology don't seem to draw out the kooks as much. Apologies to those of you who ARE solid expounders of 'last things'! But it's true. Eschatology gets a bad rap and quite often, it's warranted.

I've noticed in the last ten years that it seems to be to be a low point in Eschatological study, maybe because of different -ologies falling in and out of favor. However in these last few weeks I've noticed credible ministries teaching on it. The Master's Seminary had a series recently, from which I captured this screen shot from Dr. Nathan Busenitz teaching an introductory lesson to his series. One of the important reasons to study Eschatology is because as is stated below, one's view of last things reveals one's approach to interpreting scripture.

Holiness -  "Our future hope promotes present obedience."

The Master's Seminary also put forth an essay titled 7 Reasons Your Church Should Take Eschatology Seriously, an essay worth reading, for sure! Reason #1 of the seven:
People are interested in the future
Christians are interested in what the future holds. But if we do not teach eschatology, we are denying important biblical information for those who want to know what the Bible has to say about the future. We are also withholding a major source of the hope that the Scripture wants us to have.

At the Grace To You website, a blog series is underway, today's installment is called The Eschatology of the Thief by Cameron Buettel
Eschatology is a hotly debated subject among modern believers. It concerns the study of the "end times," last things, or future events in God’s redemptive plan. Its scope includes Christ’s return, the rapture, the millennium, future judgment, and God’s kingdom. Those are all broad and important issues—it’s understandable why a lot of ink has been spilled by people staking out their particular positions.
But there’s also an intensely personal aspect to our eschatological views. And that concerns the only two possible eternal destinations for every person who has ever existed.

I hope Eschatology as a Christian field of doctrinal study and preaching is making a comeback. Meanwhile please bookmark these three resources and enjoy their offerings so far on eschatology!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Sun in Prophecy

It's spring. At this time of year here in the south the weather can be just as turbulent as my former home up in New England. In the south, spring means many days of cloudy and rainy weather. I can't remember the last time we saw the sun, and we have had indoor recess for too many days to count.

I love the sun. When it comes out all bright and warm, it feels so good, doesn't it! The golden hour at dawn and sunset is beautiful, when the sun's shadows lengthen and the air seems to turn to liquid gold. The fluffy clouds sailing along against the blue sky seem to frame the yellow orb as it makes its daily way through the sky from low to high then low again. It's an orderly celestial march, one we take for granted, even when the sun is hidden behind clouds. We know it will come back.

Except, one day, it won't.

When we think of God we often think of Jesus, of God's glory, His majesty or sovereignty. He is Creator, of course, but if we think of Him in this way we often restrict our thoughts to Genesis, when creation was first made.

His creative work wasn't restricted solely to creating it. He sustains it, (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17), and He will UNcreate it. (Revelation 6). Then He will make all things new. (Isaiah 65:17, Revelation 21:5).

The sun is featured prominently in end time prophecy. In the first set of judgments, the Seal Judgments, the sun goes black as sackcloth. (Revelation 6:12). In Revelation 8:12 the Trumpet judgments, we read-

Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.

Can you imagine how scary that will be?

When the demons are allowed to leave the pit in Revelation 9:2, there are so many of them that the sun is blotted out by the cloud they make. In Revelation 16:8 the sun grows so hot that men are scorched just by being outside. In Revelation 19:17 an angel stands in the sun to pronounce judgment, and finally in Matthew 24:29 we read that after the end of the Tribulation, the sun, moon, and stars go completely dark.

This phenomenon of the sun going completely dark is mentioned not just in Revelation and Matthew, but Isaiah 13:10, Ezekiel 32:7, Joel 2:31, Joel 3:15, Amos 8:9, and Zechariah 14:6. And the sun is not dark for a moment or two but a period of time, likely days or even a few weeks. Do you see how important the sun is in prophecy?

God made the sun for us as a helper. In Genesis 1:14-16,

Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.

With no sun or moon or stars, the darkness of the Tribulation people will endure will mirror the total sinfulness on earth. It will truly be a time of darkness, spiritually AND physically. The sun shines at His will and pleasure, and it is benign as a light giver as it was intended to be in Genesis or as hostile as a scorcher in judgment against us in Revelation. Again, at His will and pleasure. He is sovereign over all the universe, and the sun bends to his will.

The sun, our friend since the very first days that has given us light, seasons, and warmth, will behave in increasingly erratic ways until the very end of the end when "there shall be no more sun" at all. (Revelation 22:5). But this time, it will be because the glory of God will shine brightly, and there will be no more need of the sun.

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

What a day that will be!

EPrata photo

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Praises to God for Spring and Beauty

It's been a long spring here in north Georgia, but a very cold one. That's OK, the forsythia, crocuses, robins, dogwood, buds, and grass are all growing pleasantly nonetheless.

I hope this fine spring time has offered you beautiful glimpses of God's creative intellect and His wonderful power. We always enjoy the march of the seasons. "He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down." (Psalm 104:19, KJV). Wherever we are in the world, we see and understand the times and seasons. We look for the robin, the crocus, the ladyslipper. The orderliness and consistency of the seasons since His ordination of them is a comfort. Yet even in Jeremiah 8:7 it is said of the seasons, meaning HIS season, "Yes, the stork in the heaven knows her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD."

In the natural history of Israel, Barnes notes explains,
"Jeremiah appeals to the obedience which migratory birds render to the law of their natures. The "stork" arrives about March 21, and after a six weeks' halt departs for the north of Europe. It takes its flight by day, at a vast height in the air ("in the heaven"). The appearance of the "turtle-dove" is one of the pleasant signs of the approach of spring."
Spring is a time of renewal, refreshing, and new life. There is a bird who builds a nest in my living room windowsill, and soon enough, babies will come along. They chirp so cute, they grow bigger, and then one day they will be gone, and a strange silence will come over the living room.

Is it wonderful to contemplate that the LORD knows the comings and goings of each bird in the world?

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (Matthew 10:29).

How much more does He care for His own children. How great that He upholds the march of seasons, their orderliness and beauty. The unfurling of a bud, the flowering of a leaf, the business of the insects feasting on the pollen and nectar. How much more should we enjoy His creation, praising Him for all He is and all He does to maintain this beautiful world for His children.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Spring bounty and God's prophecies

The spring has been gentle and the Lord is providing bounty from the earth. The summer garden crops are about to be planted in and they will be plenteous. The figs leaves are coming in. The muscadine vines are thriving. It reminds me in particular of two verses in the Bible. They are promises. That is what prophecies are, you know. Promises of positive things the Lord has in store for the people who love Him and promises of negative things to come for those who don't love Him.

EPrata photo

Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken. (Micah 4:4)

In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree. (Zechariah 3:10)

In the Bible, vines (usually grape) and fig trees were emblematic of agricultural abundance and that abundance bespoke wealth. Many fig trees meant prosperity. The promised land was described in Deuteronomy 8:8 as "a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates." It was not described as a land flat and therefore ripe for land prospecting development. It was not described as a land full of silver and gold mines. It was not described a land of great cities producing a rich population with guilds and markets. The prosperity the land promised was riches from a bountiful earth. Remember that after the Fall, Adam was cursed with toil, and that the land would not yield unless he toiled with sweat and labor. What was it like before the Fall? I can't wait to find out, and that is what these prophecies promise.

Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, (Genesis 3:17b-19b).

That curse will be reversed and the land will pop with generous abundance. Remember the two spies who came back, in Numbers 13:23 reporting that they saw huge grapes and figs and pomegranates?

Doesn't sitting under our own fig tree and our vine and sound relaxing? Refreshing? Cool? Like walking with God in the garden in the cool of the day. And Jesus said, I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5).

EPrata photo

And look what Jesus did! He did everything! He accomplished redemption for mankind, by breaking His own body and allowing it to be poured out! We are His branches, connected to the Great Gardener whose vine covers us, and which provides all sustenance.

When you're out haying this summer, sweat running down your face, or you're out mowing this summer, and thirsting because of the heat, or you're gardening and battling the bugs who are killing your bean plants, remember the prophecies.

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. (Isaiah 32:18).

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. (Isaiah 5:1).

As for the saints in the Church, our dwelling place will be New Jerusalem, and it will be just as beautiful as earth's bounty, glittering and pure.

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:9-14)

How beautiful the relationship. We are the branches, closely grafted into the true vine. The true vine covers us, and we sit under it in peace and abundance. The abundance comes from the Vine Dresser who is the Father (John 15:1), who cares for the true vine in love and cares for his children, the branches.

Our God is a tremendous God!!!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Beth Moore's Legalism: A Discernment Lesson applicable to any teacher

I have written about Beth Moore's legalism in the past (2011). It's hard to believe that was 7 years ago. Here is a refresher course on how, while seeming to speak a Gospel-infused sermon, Beth Moore's speeches are really just a try harder legalism. This is a lesson in discernment.

You have to listen carefully and do a lot of note-taking because Moore speaks so fast, or if you listen online, use the pause button a lot. Her 'try harder' theology is also in her books as you will see, so the issue is not just her speaking style, but her theology. You will hear that Beth Moore shapes the scriptures away from pure faith and toward legalism. She splits sentences, putting a crowbar between words and inserting things you've 'got' to do. There is a lot of 'do this or else'. There are also lots of warnings about the dire conditions of our walk, without real explanations. Like this from a few days ago.

It seems she is trying to say that we shouldn't be too busy. Too busy for what, Moore never says. Yet after more than three successive tweets (yes, it went on) she never got to any clear point. Milk meaning from graffiti? Huffing and puffing? And what does it mean, exactly, that we are 'blowing our houses down'? A teacher is supposed to be "able to teach." (2 Timothy 2:24). Not vaguely warn. Or be so in love with her writing that plain meaning is obscured...

Our precious Lord gave salvation as a gift. No matter how we stumble, or no matter how many times we enter a sin-repent-forgive cycle, we are saved and effective for His glory. He gave us a GIFT of salvation. It is the gift of redemption, a gift of imputed righteousness. Here are some examples of how Moore diminishes the gift of the Gospel and makes it a confusing, burdensome, treacherous walk among the heavy stones of the Law.

Example #1:
Her contemplative prayer quote: "[I]f we are not still before Him, we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There's got to be a stillness." 
According to Moore, we will "never" "truly" know who God is UNLESS we are still. Beware of Bible teachers who frequently use absolute words.

Example #2:

In one study, Beth Moore is speaking of 'confidence and competence' that Christ gives us. The study is based on Hebrews 10:19-20 but her interpretation of the verse is wrong from the beginning. Once the basic interpretation is wrong it is no surprise that what follows falls into even worse error. Watch carefully as she inserts conditions to salvation. She even outlines the effect of not believing the new add-ons that she includes.
...but what can happen is this ... If we receive Christ as our Savior but we never recognize and by faith believe Him to also be our healer and our restorer then we just stay just as cracked as when we got here.
The Gospel is now Law. According to Moore, we have to believe some things above and beyond what the Bible says we need to believe for salvation. According to Moore, we must believe in a different Christ than the Jesus presented in His Word. I certainly don't see anything in His word about having to believe that Jesus is our Savior AND our Healer AND our Restorer or else we stay "cracked". And what does cracked mean, exactly? This is some vague warning of looming disaster, the kind of warnings Moore loves to issue.

Now as for this cracked business, the Bible does speak of being cracked:

For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13).

The cracked ones were the ones who forsook God. They were the evil ones.

But when Jesus saves us, we are sealed!

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

There is no in-between in the New Testament, being saved but leaking through a crack.

Example #3:
…it [confidence] just bleeds out everywhere, we can't keep any confidence in there. Because we have never trusted Him to put three pieces of our lives back together. Is this making any sense to anybody? We have all these cracks and all these pieces. … And we're supposed to be effective here on earth. ... Salt and light and profoundly effective, but we can't be any of that unless we have our God-confidence.
Again with the "we can't ... unless". Note those words.

As to Moore's addition of confidence as a necessary condition of keeping our salvation or being effective or something, Jeremiah wasn't confident. His first worry was that he was too young for the job. (Jeremiah 1:6-8). By any standard, Jeremiah was an effective man of God.

Moses wasn't confident. He worried he wasn't eloquent enough to be a spokesman. (Exodus 4:10-12). By any standard, Moses was not too confident, but he sure was effective.

So far, from just three of her teachings we learn that --

1. Unless we accept Jesus as savior AND Healer AND Restorer, His work is not sufficient.
2. Unless we get some God-confidence, we are not effective.
3. Unless we believe certain things about Jesus, we will stay cracked.
4. Unless we are still, we will never truly know God.

The legalistic conditions pile up fast.

Example #4:

Breaking Free: Making Liberty in Christ a Reality in Life was reviewed by Paige Britton.
Britton says, "One rather ironic element of Moore’s teaching is her definition of "legalism," one of the roadblocks we must remove if we want to journey on to authentic freedom. According to Moore, legalism occurs whenever one studies the Word but fails to enjoy God; it is the absence of relationship, passion, engagement of the heart (pp.75, 77). This definition is fine as far as it goes, but it effectively obscures the fact that Breaking Free is all about applying new rules in order to gain what God meant for us as a gift in Christ.
Isn't that ironic. A book called Breaking Free is really just a new way to enslave you. Moore makes up and applies new rules to gain what was given as a gift says Britton, and I have noticed this too. So we have issues with new rules in Moore's speaking ministry and in her tweets and in her books. Her theology, no matter where it's publicly proffered, is a problem.

Once you start hearing the "got to" and "must do" and "unless you" you will hear her new rules permeating her teaching everywhere.

What does the Bible say about new rules for salvation? It says that adding an unbiblical load kills us.

"Woe to you as well, experts in the law!" He replied. "You weigh men down with heavy burdens, but you yourselves will not lift a finger to lighten their load. (Luke 11:46).

Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? (Acts 15:10).

Don't listen to Moore or any teacher who imposes conditions on your walk that are absent from the Bible. Or who uses absolute words like unless, can'talways, never, all the time, and so on. The Father loves us with an enduring, everlasting love that is perfect. Moreover, He is our priest who prays for us. He sends angels to minister to us. He gave us the Spirit to grow us. We are not cracked, leaking, unconfident, missing out on what we need, ineffective, on the verge of disaster, or any of the things Moore says we are. Moore's world must be dark and heavy indeed.

Our world, though a mindful one and filled with obedient striving, is one of light and freedom from the very conditions Moore seeks to impose. This is because we are in Christ, and He met all the conditions necessary on the cross and broke that chain, in order to set the captives free.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1).

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Apostasy: What is it?

Apostasy is defined as 'a defection or revolt'. It is the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy (or who apostatizes) is known as an apostate. It is important to remember that apostates never really were saved. 1 John 2:19 says, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

There are two kinds of apostasy. It shows that apostasy is a process. No one wakes up one day and says "Gee, I hate Jesus and I'm not going to church anymore." The first kind of apostasy is a drifting away of the key doctrines of the faith. The second is a complete abandonment of Christianity. Remember, if you are saved, your salvation is eternally secure. If you have submitted to Christ no one can snatch you out of His Hand. (John 10:28 says "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." so we read that if He gives eternal life, then no one can take you away from Him. Equally, because it is He who gives eternal life, mere man cannot nullify His decision.

The primary essential doctrines of the faith one must stick to, According to Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, (scriptures supporting them are here) and I agree with these as the essential ones, are--

1. Jesus is God in flesh, and Jesus is the proper object of faith. The Doctrine of the deity of Christ includes:

--The Trinity
--There is only one God in all existence
--That Jesus is both God and man.

2. Salvation is by Grace alone
3. The resurrected Christ
4. The Gospel

They are called the primary essentials because the Bible declares them to be essential to the faith. Secondary essentials are necessary truths, but there is no declared penalty for their denial -- yet they are still essential to the Christian faith. Those include:

--Jesus is the only way to heaven
--Mary's virgin birth

FYI, the recently departed evangelist Billy Graham denied both of the above.

An apostate very slowly starts to doubt the essentials. He or she begins to read and absorb other things that are contrary to those doctrines. Paul called false teachings gangrene because they quickly pollute the body and mind. (2 Timothy 2:17).

The Bible says that at the time of the end there will be a great falling away from the truth. Look to 2 Thessalonians for the prediction regarding the "falling away." 2 Thess. 2:3-7 says, "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what 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 do so until he is taken out of the way."

The lawlessness is sinfulness and the fact that Paul says it is already at work means that there have been apostates throughout the Church Age, even in Paul's day. The verse I mentioned above in 2 Timothy 2:17 speaks of Hymenaeus and Philetus who spread false teachings, two men who "wandered away from the truth" and became "more and more ungodly". (2 Timothy 2:16; 18). So you see, apostasy is a process.

Sanctification is a process, too. Just as apostates-in-the-making drift away from the faith, either fast or slow, those being sanctified progress toward holiness, either fast or slow. The Lord's people will never, ever be lost to Him nor will they even become apostate. Ever.

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28).

Praise Him for all His ways, His grace, and His priestly ministrations, and His sovereignty that keeps His sheep.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Is the Rapture Imminent?

Where are we in light of God's plan and in His time? What does today's news say about what God previously said will happen? A lot - not in terms of marking the timing, but in terms of showing that humans are depraved and consistent in their evil deeds throughout history. The rapture could always have come at any time. Are we very far along in His plan for the Church Age? Yes, because we know that we are 2,000+ years further along than when Paul said the rapture is imminent, and thus, 2000 years closer to that amazing day.

The end time Doctrine of Imminence is explained thus:
The New Testament is consistent in its anticipation that the return of Christ might occur at any moment. That pervading perspective of imminence prompts three questions. 
The first question pertains to whether the Tribulation will precede Christ’s coming for the church. The answer to that question is that it will not because the church is never asked to look forward to the tribulation, but they are asked to look forward to Christ’s coming. 
The second question revolves around how the return of Christ could have been imminent in the early church. The answer here is that no one but the Father knows when the coming will occur, so that Christians including the early church must always be ready.
The third question asks why Christ’s imminent return is so important. This answer relates to the motivation it supplies for believers to purify their lives and thereby progress toward the goal of sanctification and Christlikeness. The threefold call of the imminence doctrine is to wake up and obey right now, to throw off the works of darkness, and to put on the garments of holy living.
When the rapture happens, the snatching up of all true believers, it closes the Church Age. This then opens the door to the last 7 years of time outlined for the Jews & remaining non-believers. It will be a time when Jesus brings the earth and its dwellers under His subjection by judging sin. Remember, when the Tribulation (last 7 years) is concluded, Jesus will be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. New Jerusalem will have descended, and Jesus will physically and presently rule the people and they will worship Him. (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 19:15-16; Isaiah 45:23).

Today, the Tribulation has not begun yet, though for many who are persecuted, it may feel like it has. It certainly felt like it to the Thessalonians, who asked Paul that very question. Paul replied with an explanation that the Tribulation will not begin until certain other things happen in a certain sequence. (1 Thessalonians 5:1–9).

In fact, that time will be so distinctive that many of the people who are left behind will know that it is the time spoken of by Jesus, who prophesied, "For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will." (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 11:13, Revelation 16:9). If you think about that deeply for a moment, and compare it to some of the worst times we've ever had on earth till now: for example, Russian pogroms, Cambodian Killing Fields, the Holocaust, Gettysburg, Medieval times bubonic plague, and then roll them ALL into one, the Tribulation will make them all seem like a picnic./ That is hard to believe but it's true.

Verses that support the doctrine of Imminence and are further explained in the above article, are-  James 5:8, James 5:9, 1 Peter 4:7, Hebrews 10:24–25, 2 Peter 3:11, 1 John 3:2–3). The article also goes on to explain why the rapture will precede the Tribulation, giving biblical support, of course.

Our goal each day is to pursue holiness. The Spirit's sanctifying work goes on, whether the rapture will imminently happen in the next second of time, or in another thousand years. Our task is to be ready. One way to be ready, and to aid the Spirit in His work, is to eagerly anticipate the Lord's return. Our eagerness prompts us to holiness, for, when He comes, do we want to be engaging in sin, or pursuing purity? His soon appearing is a catalyst for us to be doing good when He calls.
The hope of Christ’s imminent return is therefore the hinge on which a proper understanding of sanctification turns. Source
I pray you read the article Is Christ's Return Imminent? linked above or below, study these things, pray for His return, and that you are as eagerly awaiting his return as I am and all the others who are alive or asleep. What a day that will be!

Is Christ's Return Imminent?

Other Resources

The Rapture: What is it? Who will it affect? When is it most likely to take place?

Why I Believe in the Pre-Trib Rapture 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Imagine the dawn chorus in heaven

This article was first published on The End Time in September 2012.

I love the pre-dawn. It is quiet and cool and dark but the light is coming, and already is.

I live in an area which is fairly rural, and there is not much traffic. Though I live on a major artery in the county, there isn't enough traffic even during the day to really bother me. However, in the pre-dawn, there is none at all. I can hear from afar off the dogs bark, cows moo, occasional owl screech, an early rooster...

At about 6 am there is always one bird. From out of the darkness, suddenly, there will be a happy series of chirps. He is loud, and the sound is joyous to me. Not to anthropomorphize too much, but the bird really does sound happy. The piercing, lengthy call sounds like he is waking up his brethren. Perhaps it is an ovenbird.

After the first bird goes first, then in a few moments the dawn chorus begins. The dawn chorus is a worldwide event. At Cornell, they wrote, "The dawn chorus is one of the most conspicuous vocal behaviors of birds, and one of the least understood. Near sunrise, birds often sing more loudly and vigorously than they do at other times of the day."

I like to think they are thanking their Creator. He knows them, and I like to think they know their Creator back. God says, "I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine." (Psalms 50:11). We know that all creation groaneth in travail until now, (Romans 8:22). They they sing in joy as well?

Birds suffer for man's sin, (Genesis 6:7; Jeremiah 12:4; Ezekiel 38:20;Hosea 4:3). The bible says they flee away when calamity comes as well. (Jeremiah 4:25; Jeremiah 9:10)

Yet they sing:

10You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills;
11 they give drink to every beast of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. (Psalm 104:10-13)

Imagine the 'dawn chorus' in heaven! Birds will sing all the time because there is no dusk and no dawn, only day! (1 John 1:5, Revelation 21:25).

I believe that in heaven when He brings His bride to her place and presents our dwelling place to us, our rooms will not have screens on the windows. Because why would they? No biting insects or animals will creep in and harass us. All creation will be reconciled to its Creator and there will be no reason to have bars or screens to keep things out, or in. Maybe a bird will swoop in to my room and sing in joy at the perfection of the Creator and gladness to be part of it, and I will join. Together we are all groaning now, but the Day will come when we will all sing in joyous praise to the One who made us. Birds too.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy the first bird each morning, knowing that before the day's groaning begins, there is joy in creation among the created.

EPrata photos

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Why every woman should be a theologian: The Master's University Table Talk

EPrata collage
The advent of the internet has afforded Christian men and women opportunity to learn from many credible teachers and pastors, and to access a variety of different theological resources.

For example, all of Charles Spurgeon's sermons and writings are online. John Owen is online. Pilgrim's Progress is online. John MacArthur's sermons, over 3000 of them, are online. Martyn Lloyd Jones, S. Lewis Johnson, BB Warfield sermons and materials, online, Valley of Vision, online. Blogs, podcasts, courses both free and paid (i.e Mt Zion Chapel Library, free; Ligonier, affordable paid), books, pamphlets, art work, lexicons, concordances, and more are available tot he  believer as resources.


In some ways, this period of time has given people, women in particular, opportunity to become deeply involved with the Word, especially if (other than her pastor) she has no males in her life, such as a Godly husband or brothers, father, etc. It is a rich time.

Alternately, the potential for deception among women has never been greater, either. Women are especially vulnerable to false teaching (2 Timothy 3:6, 1 Peter 3:7) and we must guard ourselves by all the means available to us. While many online ministries are solid, many other ministries online promote false teaching. Even church sermons posted on the internet can contain false teaching, as well as the false doctrine perpetuated by ministries that exist online only. So much falsity.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared... (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4).

While it is true that the Bible prohibits women from operating in some roles (teaching men, pastoring), the Bible encourages all believers, women included, to be theologians. Being a theologian simply means you study God in His revealed self, via the Bible.

To that end, this Table Talk discussion from The Master's University was helpful. The topic was Why Every Woman Should be A Theologian. Professor Abner Chou facilitated, and several other professors answered questions as the discussion went on.

The opening question was asked:
In light of complementarianism, we often emphasize things in light of what women cannot do; she cannot teach (men) she cannot preach or be a pastor. But let's turn this around and ask what does the Bible encourage women to do? How can women can be active participants in the church?
One of the Professors answered (I'm sorry, his introduction was not contained in the tape):
Every believer is a theologian. Theology is simply asking and answering, 'Who is God?' Every time we ask 'Who is Jesus' we are engaging in theology. Believers should be about understanding who God is and how He has revealed Himself. Pursuing who He is is a key aspect that should fill the lives of every believer.
The talk went on from there. Betty Price, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies; Women's Ministries, noted :
For too many years women's Bible studies have been too light and fluffy, and not have been a serious study. It's really hard to find something that gives much depth at all. They're always quick little surface study guides that have a Bible clip and a few fill-in-the-blank questions in a workbook. Perhaps women have not been encouraged enough. ... [Women's studies] are geared around fellowship and social times, probably more than being a theologian. That's not all bad, many of the women are stay-at-home moms and need the social times to come together with other adults. But I'd like to see deeper studies.

Here is the link. The talk is about an hour:

Mentioned in the Talk:

Book- To Preach or Not To Preach? By Professor William Varner
A study of the religious role of women in the Old Testament through the New Testament periods. Emphasis is placed on both the privilege and the limitations of women's ministry in the early church.

Other resources:

Todd Friel's Drive By series. He titled the series Drive By, and deliberately made the lectures short because the Internet was that student-theologians like you and me could listen to them in the car, even if the commute was short. However, these are also  perfect for the stay-at-home mom who doesn't often have a long, lingering hour to delve into a Bible study, but can find 8-15 minutes to listen to a lecture (and follow up in the word later).

I've listened to the lectures in all three of these, they're good. There are also other Drive By series, such as Drive By Biblical Counseling, etc.

Drive By Theology
35 Systematic Theology Lessons- Join Todd Friel and Dr. Steve Lawson (Dr. Metaphor) as they take you through 35 short lectures on every theology from bibliology to soteriology and every other "-ology" and you will see that the Bible is exactly what it says it is, "profitable for all of life and godliness." $24.99

Drive By Pneumatology (Study of the Holy Spirit)
Drive By Pneumatology will provide a thorough, thoughtful and Biblical presentation on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. $19.99

Drive By Discernment
Wolves are leaping over the fence. The sheep seem to be oblivious to their wiles. Drive By Discernment is designed to sharpen your skill to help you separate the true from the almost true. $19.99 – $24.99

Ladies, every woman should be a theologian. Priscilla was. Anna was. Mary was. The Bereans were. We can be too. Being a theologian simply means looking into His word to discover more each day who God is.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Prata Potpourri: Contending, Cougars, Spurgeon, Movie about a Song, more

What's been goin' on in Christian spheres lately? Let's take a peek. Here are some links for your interest and edification-

A lot of people are talking about this movie. Is the positive talk warranted? It seems that it is.
The Story of a Song: Movie Review by The World
Anyone who’s been to church in the last decade probably knows or has sung it, but in a culture where un-Biblical heaven tourism books and movies abound, the song’s simple, sound reminder that no eye has seen what God has prepared for those who love Him is especially welcome.
Please remember our persecuted brethren.

Hindu-on-Christian Persecution
India: the 11th worst place on earth for Christians.
During this Lenten season when Christians are preparing themselves for Easter Sunday, those of us who are living in relative peace and affluence should remember and pray for those brothers and sisters in the faith whose circumstances are not as friendly.

Judge Not? A good, scriptural look by Bob Utley at the famous verses thrown at our faces when confronting sin or false teachers.
Answer this question – 'Who removes the speck from his brother’s eye in verse 7'?

Jen Oshman has a bit about Sisters helping sisters: The Power of Sisterhood: Women Spurring Women to Do Hard and Good Things
I am convinced the best way women can serve one another—and even the entire world—is to meet together and to encourage one another to love and good works.

Rebecca Stark with some good thoughts about contending. Would you stand idly by and watch your young son get mauled by a cougar?

Faced with a dangerous attack on a beloved child, would any mother simply stand and watch? No, a mother's love for her child compels her to protect and defend—and fight to the death if necessary.

The lead article on a credible blog is about eschatology? I'm so there!
4 Reasons to Anticipate the Return of Jesus
As we go about daily routines, too often our lives become routine. It seems as if there is a missing purpose at times to simple conversations in the community and other less-than-glorious responsibilities like changing diapers or mopping the kitchen floor. Are you anxiously anticipating the return of King Jesus or do you find yourself reading your Bible and doing life disconnected from the precious promise that Jesus will return?

Are parables just simplistic stories teaching a moral lesson? No. For the Church has more. By the way, John MacArthur's book Parables is fantastic.
The parables Jesus tells in the four Gospels are peculiar kinds of stories that too many readers read very wrongly. It's important, then, to clear up some common misconceptions about these important stories. I want to share with you what the parables are, but first, it is helpful to establish what they are not.

Spurgeon read The Pilgrim’s Progress at age 6 and went on to read it over 100 times.


The collected sermons of Spurgeon during his ministry fill 63 volumes? Phil Johnson curates The Spurgeon Archives. Most of Spurgeon's sermons are there, along with Morning & Evening, Sword & Trowel, and other material. The Spurgeon Center also has much material.

I have been enjoying Derek Thomas' daily 22 minute videos at going through John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Wonderful!

Thomas' lectures on The Pilgrim's Progress here (so far). The series began on March 13, 2018

The City of Destruction
The Wicket Gate
The Interpreter's House
The Cross & the Sepulcher
The Hill Difficulty
The Palace Beautiful
The Valley of Humiliation

This photo, just because I like it. Have a good day!

EPrata photo

Monday, March 19, 2018

It is true that the Prodigal Son only needed a sandwich and a bed?

Phil Johnson posted a quote by Vince Havner the other day. Here it is:
"If they had a social gospel in the days of the prodigal son, somebody would have given him a bed and a sandwich and he never would have gone home."
That resonated with me because I'd just an hour before finished listening to Tom Pennington's sermon at Shepherds' Conference 2018 about the Mission of the Church. He opened his sermon with refuting the social gospel AKA social justice, and went on to convincingly and convictingly exhort to his listeners about our true mission. Matthew 28's passage known as The Great Commission is our true and only mission.

Tom Pennington during his sermon, asking about the Social gospel AKA Social justice AKA Missional:
Instead of social gospel the new label became social justice. Its rebranding of liberal theology remains. The priority of social justice has become extremely popular even among those under that broad term evangelicalism
The question is this, is this redefinition of mission a biblical redefinition? Or, is social justice either the church's primary mission, or part of the church's primary mission? What does the scripture say?
Pennington went on to read the following passage, stating that nowhere in scripture is our primary mission clearer.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:16-20)

Here is GotQuestions with a definition of The Social Gospel:
The phrase "social gospel" is usually used to describe a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that came to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Those who adhered to a social gospel sought to apply Christian ethics to social problems such as poverty, slums, poor nutrition and education, alcoholism, crime, and war. These things were emphasized while the doctrines of sin, salvation, heaven and hell, and the future kingdom of God were downplayed. Theologically, the social gospel leaders were overwhelmingly postmillennialist, asserting that Christ’s Second Coming could not happen until humankind rid itself of social evils by human effort.
Another explanation I liked as to what the Social Gospel is comes from a secular Australian website I'm unfamiliar with, called The Conversation:
The social gospel's origins are often traced to the rise of late 19th-century urban industrialization, immediately following the Civil War. Largely, but not exclusively, rooted in Protestant churches, the social gospel emphasized how Jesus' ethical teachings could remedy the problems caused by "Gilded Age" capitalism. 
Movement leaders took Jesus' message "love thy neighbor" into pulpits, published books and lectured across the country. Other leaders, mostly women, ran settlement houses designed to alleviate the sufferings of immigrants living in cities like Boston, New York and Chicago. Their mission was to draw attention to the problems of poverty and inequality – especially in America’s growing cities. 
Charles Sheldon, a minister in the city of Topeka, Kansas, explained the idea behind the social gospel in his 1897 novel "In His Steps." To be a Christian, he argued, one needed to walk in Jesus’s footsteps. 
The book's slogan, "What would Jesus do?" became a central theme of the social gospel movement which also became tied to a belief in what Ohio minister Washington Gladden called "social salvation." This concept emphasized that religion's fundamental purpose was to create systemic changes in American political structures.
So that is the social gospel. I don't know who said it first, but the phrase goes something like this: "If you have to put any adjective in front of 'gospel' it ceases to the the Gospel." The phrase refers to newly coined movements like 'prosperity gospel', 'social gospel,' 'health-wealth gospel" and the like.

With that foundation laid, the clarification I saw from Phil Johnson follows-
"I was surprised at the number of people who seemed confused by the Vance Havner quote. Here it is again, with an explanation. 

The social gospel is not Christian altruism. For a great sermon on The Prodigal Son and how caring for his immediate temporal needs would not have helped him, HB Charles explains well, here.

For a great sermon on the actual mission of the church, Tom Pennington convincingly brings it home powerfully at this year's Shepherds Conference as already mentioned, here.

As Mr Pennington said, a refutation of the social gospel/social justice/missional is not a call to ignore needs of the people around us. Christian charity meets people's needs. But as far as a heavy emphasis and/or a reorientation of our mission toward Christian acts of charity with intent to bring economic justice or material harmony to the world? No. Just no.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Even more than the watchmen of the night!

My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. (Psalm 130:6)

In this Psalm, the Psalmist is comparing his wait for the LORD to a watchman in the night. The Psalmist is waiting on the light, or fruition, but his very soul waits. For what or for whom? The LORD Himself.

Being a watchman in the deep night is lonely. Time itself seems to drag.

I am witness to the darkness before the dawn myself. I lived on a sailboat with my husband for two years, making sea journeys overnight offshore through day and night and a day and a night. Standing watch through the night, being out in the weather, alone on the sea, makes one desperately appreciate the light. All you do is stand, and watch. You watch the dark, you look at the sky, which is also dark if it's covered in clouds. One is insignificant against the yawning, grasping dark surrounding you on all sides. You stand, and look, and wait.

The 3:00am watch is dark, cold, and seemingly endless. Time seems to expand into an eternity of nothingness and blackest of black coal. When one glimpses the first glimmer of a change from blackest coal sky to indigo then blue then the pink and golds of sunrise, the heart lifts and one feels that one has emerged from an endless tunnel in which one’s very soul had been swallowed.

This is the allusion the Psalmist is making here in the Psalm. He is watching and waiting for the sunrise of glory to come, eager for it, even more than those watchmen who wait in the night through the deepest dark!

We, sisters, should live in hope of His coming. The greatest burst of light at dawn dispelling the deep black of life here on hearth will not compare to His return in glory. Eager expectation should be our attitude. Our very soul to its depths should long for our Groom. Redemption is coming!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Living in interesting times

EPrata photo
Praise the Lord, we live in interesting times!*

There is a proverb/curse of alleged Chinese origin, "May you live in interesting times." The implication is that a life lived in interesting times is less desirable than one lived in peace and tranquility. To be sure, the danger and uncertainty and lack and want of these years are difficult to manage sometimes, but surely it is better to live in interesting times than uninteresting. Why? Jesus.

We could change that phrase to "May you live in prophetic times" and it would be better applicable for the believer. For those who are IN the Lord, believers in Jesus and saved by His grace, we know that though difficult, the times that are more "interesting" offer more growth in sanctification than times when everything is going along peacefully.

The tremendous opportunity we have to actually watch God at work in the world in such an interesting and visible way fuels my love for Him and my amazement at His sovereignty. Providentially, He sustains the world and universe in general. Providentially, He specifically ordains each and every breath, event, and movement for all His creatures, human and otherwise. How can we not be satisfied with that, when we know that whatever happens is for our good and His glory?

Yes, a life in a previous time might well have been more peaceful, but less astonishing. And the difficult times offer us the opportunity to grow in Jesus. He is the Potter. He sanctifies us and shapes us through trials and challenges. And my, what challenges these times offer. There is such violence in the world- hate, persecution against Christians and His church. Therefore the growth in Christlikeness would be even greater than when living in uninteresting times.

We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. (Psalm 75:1-3).

*Part of this essay appeared on The End Time in 2012.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Stephen Hawking, coffins, & other thoughts

Noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died this week. He was brilliant, no doubt about that. His nickname in school was "Einstein", and he lived up to name by contributing mightily to the areas of cosmology, particularly in Big Bang Theory and Black Holes.

He died of a rare form of Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) in that it progressed very slowly. He was 76.

 Mr Hawking applied his mind in attempting to unlock the secrets of the universe, its forms and origins, functions and future. Though he made many discoveries, he never discovered the basic truth: God made it. In fact, the further Hawking went along, the more entrenched he became in denying the Designer and Sustainer of life. He made flatly rejecting statements about God and religion, such as these quoted in The UK Guardian in 2011-
The belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a "fairy story" for people afraid of death, Stephen Hawking has said. In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain's most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time. 
"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," Source
'There is no heaven'. This is a true statement- for Mr Hawking- if indeed he maintained his rejection of God to the end.

'There is no afterlife'. This is an untrue statement for Mr Hawking. He is discovering now that he is indeed alive, and further, has been granted a fresh body, albeit one that will be withstanding the fires and punishments of hell for all eternity (if indeed he did not repent at an unknown time.)

Hawking was the smartest man, as smart as than Einstein...seeking the mysteries of the universe all the days of his life- it was only death that revealed those mysteries to him. Sadly, it is too late.

Hawking went the way of all flesh (with a nod to Samuel Butler). The way of all flesh is death, either to resurrected life in glory with Jesus, or to eternal death & punishment apart from Jesus. Answers In Genesis has a sensitive and thoughtful epitaph on Mr Hawking's life, here.

It's times like these, when a famous atheist dies, that one ponders hell all over again. Hell is a monstrous doctrine. Not monstrous as in evil, for God is holy and just and all those who are sent there deserve it. Even those who are forgiven, like me, deserve it. It's only the imputed righteousness of Jesus that diverts us from our fleshly final fiery resting place.

I mean monstrous as in the definition of "extremely and dauntingly large; as in, "the monstrous tidal wave swamped the surrounding countryside".

It's a huge thing to ponder hell, because it is for all eternity. Who can know?

In a similar vein, I saw this photo on Facebook this week.

Some people around here think it's funny, others amusing, others intrigued. I never knew how much the idol of college football was alive and active until I came to Georgia. The University of Georgia Bulldogs' arena is the Temple and the 'Dawgs' are worshiped by thousands of adoring fans.

I don't think it's amusing. I think it's blasphemous. Sure, people, bring your idol with you to eternity. What could go wrong?

When my husband and I were in Puyo, Ecuador, a town then on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest and very remote, we spent a week. There were few industries in this one-dirt-road town. It truly was a frontier town, with one main road, plank sidewalks, a lonely hotel, and a few stores. One industry was coffin making. The people in that part of the South American country loved their highly decorated coffins. They would be made of heavy wood, and at the corners, one or all four, there would be clear glass. Inside the headlight-like small alcove would be blinking lamps, candles, statues of Mary, jewelry, or just lights. Perhaps they thought the lights could aid Charon as he guided the casket across the river Styx to the abode of the dead.

Do you know what I wish? I wish that all coffins would have two pictures on them, one at either end. One, a picture of glory and the New Jerusalem. The other, a picture of the Lake of Fire. That would give funeral-goers something to contemplate. There is an afterlife, and all flesh is consigned to one of them.

The difference is your position on Jesus. If you believe He is your risen God, having trusted in Him as savior and repented of sins which He forgave, you go to heaven. If you have rejected Him and failed to repent of your sins, you go to the Lake of Fire to be punished for your sins. You have committed cosmic treason, which must be justly punished..

Hell is a big subject. So is heaven. We will all have an eternity to contemplate it. After death it is too late to change your location. Repent now, while it is still day

"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all [people] everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31).

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The entertainment-driven church

I love a serious church.

When I attend a worship service on Sunday that has all gravitas, seriousness, and intent to learn about, praise, and glorify the Lord, I am lifted up to great heights.

Our church is a Reformed-doctrine church that adheres to the ecclesiology of a plurality of elders. Our main teaching pastor exposits the scriptures verse by verse, book by book. He is good at it. We also have a confession time, where one of the elders gives us some scriptures to think about as he explains them, and then there's a time of silence to repent or plead with God in any way we need to in order to prepare for receiving the preached word. Our music is doctrinal and Christ-exalting too. We do not pass the offering plate, but instead we have spots around the sanctuary during the service to place our money. Also we can give online.

It's a serious church, all the more remarkable by the fact that we have many young adults (college students, grad students, and folks just beyond college) who are members. Their presence is encouraging. This is because of their dedication to learning the word, speaking the word in Godly conversations, and participation in local and far-off missions. Some of these 'kids' have already gone to Indonesia, South America, Seattle, and to other locations near and far to share the word of God. It's joyous to be around them because of their zeal.

I realize I'm currently blessed, because many churches are not serious. There are things at the pulpit that take place that are far from explaining the word of God, the main reason for a pulpit. There are dances, skits, jokes, comedy routines, feel-good lectures, book promotions, smoke machines, rock bands, concerts that do not look any different from the world's...

For example, from the Museum of Idolatry:

"Villains, Bad Guys and Minions" —series at Church by the Glades

Hillsong, 2015 Vision Sunday
I was speaking with a young student at school. She said she used to go to church before she moved here. I asked about her old church. She said that at her old church they served big snacks. She loved the snacks. Then after a while the church went to smaller snacks, so they tried to find a church that served big snacks. Then they moved here. They haven't found a church with snacks yet. It was all about the snacks. She never mentioned Jesus or anything she'd learned.

I can't fault her for that, she's young. If we attract kids to church on the basis of snacks, then that is what they will associate with church, not Jesus.

Many churches' Vacation Bible School budgets are larger in the snack department than the Bible materials department. Snacks are getting more and more elaborate, and the time to eat them longer and longer, and the Bible time shorter and shorter. Or, the craft time exceeds the Bible teaching time, or the song and dance moves with hand motions are the major part. I long for the old days of Bible Drills, Bible quizzes, and mini-sermons.

I don't know who said it first, but "What you win them with is what you win them to." If you attract people with prizes & trinkets, promises of fun, snacks, entertainment and the like, then you will always have to provide that so they'll stick around. As people become more bored with what you're presenting, you have to go bigger and more elaborate, to retain their attention. It brings to mind Janet Jackson's secular song, "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" The people eventually only want entertainment and not sermons. So many churches are entertainment-driven and consumer oriented, not worship-driven and service oriented.

Charles Spurgeon was a preacher in the mid-to-late 1800s. He is called The Prince of Preachers. His pastorate in London lasted 38 years. During that time he preached numerous times per week, and
founded a pastors' college, an orphanage, a Christian literature society and The Sword and the Trowel magazine. Over 200 new churches were started in the Home Counties alone, and pastored by his students. His printed sermons (still published) fill 63 volumes. Source
His sermons at the Metropolitan Tabernacle and then the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall drew 10,000 people on a Sunday. His work has held up to this time. He seems almost prescient, and that is because he stayed strictly within the narrow road of God's Word, and thus he always seems fresh. Here is something he said-
Within suitable bounds, recreation is necessary and profitable; but it never was the business of the Christian Church to supply the world with amusements. Source
The above from which I'd excerpted the Spurgeon quote is a good one. It is titled, Spurgeon on the Entertainment-Driven Church and goes on with other reasons that a focus on entertainment in the church,
Our Mission Is Not Entertainment
Entertainment Negates the Weightiness of the Cross
Entertainment Attacks the Preaching of Christ
I recommend the article.

Another article about trinkets and winning people to Christ (though not entertainment) caught my eye. I've been involved with the Christmas Shoeboxes at a previous church. It is a well-intentioned mission where people fill a shoebox with "stuff" for disadvantaged or impoverished children in Third World countries, along with Gospel tracts and/or Bibles. Operation Christmas Child (OCC) boxes are shipped through Samaritan's Purse. The items OCC recommends items to put in the shoebox are
quality 'wow' item such as a stuffed animal, soccer ball with pump, or clothing outfit that will capture the child's attention the instant he or she opens the box. Operation ShoeBox
At the GilandAmy blog, we read that Amy has some thoughts about Operation Christmas Child, prompted from some experiences a Tanzanian church planter shared with her. Thoughts such as,
"What happens when the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ is associated with dollar-store trinkets from America?" and, "...we don't see in the Bible this model of 'gift giving' being used for disciple-making and planting churches," and "So I started to wonder: Do we want children to expect toys at Christmas? Has that tradition produced good fruit within our own culture? Is that a Christmas tradition that Americans want to export to the rest of the world?" (Source)
Instead of skits at the pulpit, its own smaller way, have we paired games and entertainments with the Gospel in a shoebox?

We need serious church.

John MacArthur has some thoughts about the necessary gravitas for serious church:
We should be characterized by the worship of God. It should be lofty. It should be exalted. It should have a gravitas, a seriousness about it. Christ should be constantly being exalted. It ought to be Christ-centered, not man-centered. It’s not about you, it’s about Him. Here we should be engaged in endless praise. We should be learning, so that the knowledge of divine truth is increasing. We should be pursuing holiness and serving with joy. That’s how heaven comes down. That only happens in the church, the ordinary church. I love the church because it is heaven on earth.
I began these thoughts with Spurgeon about the need for seriousness of worship and in church and I'll end with him. These words are true today as when he uttered them 150 years ago:
A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.
If you have to give a carnival to get people to come to church, then you will have to keep giving carnivals to keep them coming back.
An unholy church! It is useless to the world, and of no esteem among men. It is an abomination, hell's laughter, heaven's abhorrence. The worst evils which have ever come upon the world have been brought upon her by an unholy church.
I pray you as well as I are mindful of the gravity and privilege of worshiping the Great and Holy God in truth. He made Himself known to us in special revelation, and it's His due to be worshiped seriously, intentionally, and as purely as possible, according to His word.

Paul wrote of church services:

But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner. (1 Corinthians 14:40)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Grace, grace, grace

"IT is a curious fact, that there is such a thing as being proud of grace. A man says, "I have great faith, I shall not fall; poor little faith may, but I never shall." "I have fervent love," says another, "I can stand, there is no danger of my going astray." He who boasts of grace has little grace to boast of." ~Charles Spurgeon

Lord, let grace pepper and permeate my life in every facet. Never let me forget who makes me stand, lest I fall. Have a great morning! Your graceful adornment to this world is no accident.

EPrata photo

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

New mercies every day

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

I was thinking about that this many mornings as there are, the Lord's mercies are new every day. Any fresh day that comes, His mercies are new to go along with it. Such a sign of His infinity and everlasting-ness. That is so good because I need His mercy every day!

I think of the humble tax collector, But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13)

Jesus said that man went home justified, as opposed to the Pharisee who pridefully listed all his accomplisments for God. I need to remember the Tax Collector's humility and position before our Great God.

I'm praising Him for His infinite mercy and the days upon days we as His children are privileged to experience it.
Mercy is at the heart of redemptive ministry. Mercy is to extend to all without regard for race, or status, or gender, or age. And mercy is to be offered patiently toward those who are ignorant in unbelief. And by the way, Micah 7:18, "God delights in mercy." And He'll delight in you if you are a merciful Christian. John MacArthur, sermon, A Mission of Mercy
The Trinitarian God of the Father-Son-Holy Spirit is highly exalted. May He be blessed and praised.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Still Speaking

Amon, Asherah, Bel, Dagon, Molech, Artemis, Zeus, Ganesh, Mot, Pele, Gok Tengri , Tekkeitsertok, Auseklis...

These are false gods. Every culture from Inuit to Polynesian, European to Mongolian, has created a god of their own making. There are many more false gods than just those few listed.

Yahweh the True and Only God created man and gave him imagination. Sadly, using his God-given imagination, man rejects Yahweh and formulates gods of his own creation. The creature creates gods, how absurd.Yet these gods abound.

These gods do not speak.

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. (Psalm 135:15-17).

They have never spoken, and they never will. These gods do not exist.

God is the only God. He is the only deity who speaks! More than that, He is an involved God. He listens and He hears. See below the rapidity with which He responds at times!

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." (Matthew 17:5).
While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. (Daniel 9:21)

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. (Acts 10:44).

While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, (Daniel 4:31).

It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24).

What a great God we have, who is so involved with us. He hears, He listens, and in His timing he even responds while still speaking! While. Still. Speaking.

Our glorious God is involved, compassionate, and interested in His people. Praise Him in thanks.

Prata's Place / Graceful Garlands: Gradual Growth

My title comes from Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland ...