The Marks of Good Eschatology

Eschatology is the name academics gave to the study concerned with prophetic end-time events.

Earlier I was meditating on the divisions caused in the Church over eschatology and lamenting the power that pride has over the subject.  I feel the division among brethren, and many Christians subsequent reaction of repulsion, are the egregious casualties of this affair.  But it should not be this way!

So I felt compelled to look at some of the marks of good eschatology. These are not meant to support any one eschatological position over another, rather, they are meant as principles by which we can judge our own positions; they are principles that have helped me to move away from certain views because they did not bear these marks.

ESCHATOLOGY ISN’T SEPARATE FROM FAITH

We must bear in mind that eschatology is not separate from the faith; the same marks of soundness that apply to the other aspects of our faith also apply here!

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Our understanding of eschatology should not create panic, weakness, or an unstable mind in us; if it is from God it will be in accordance with the Spirit that He has given to us.

AGREES WITH THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD

Acts 17:11  “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

One of the foremost marks of good eschatology is that it is in agreement with the whole of God’s counsel on the subject.

This principle has personally led me out of many errors as I found that the positions I held did not agree with God’s revelation!  If God had intended for us to take our understanding of end-time events from only one book, He would have given us only one book.

NOT OF PRIVATE INTERPRETATION

2 Peter 1:19-21  “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit”

You might call this “a mark of humility”, or “a mark of unity”, or “a mark of submission”, or perhaps you might call it “a humbling mark of submission that brings unity”?  Either way the mark is clear that good eschatology is such that has been sharpened by the whole body of Christ and not one that originates and is contained within a single human source.

Far too often we are afraid of allowing our eschatology to be examined by others, and when we examine other people’s eschatology, we often times do not afford them the patience and time necessary for this process of public interpretation to take place.

I thank God always for the brothers in my life who have sharpened my eschatological positions over time.  But I thank God the more for the irreplaceable and undeniable work of the Counselor in leading me into all truth!  For in a place of public interpretation how are we to know which is the voice of God and which is the voice of man unless it is the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the truth?

And so this mark humbles us among one another and draws us desperately near to the feet of the Counselor who will lead us all into the truth!

THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST’S INSTRUCTIONS

1 Timothy 1:5  “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from a sincere faith”

Good eschatology will not work contrary to sound teaching, rather, it will agree with the purpose of God’s commandments:  it will produce love, first for God, then for His creation (the pinnacle of which is mankind).

Now it’s important to understand that this love is from a “pure heart”, a “good conscience”, and a “sincere faith”.  Some who do not possess these may argue that any eschatology which includes God’s severe judgment upon sinners would diminish our love for God, but that is not so for those who are born of the Word by the Spirit of God!  Good eschatology, not to mention sound doctrine, does not appeal to the state of corrupt men, rather, it pulls corrupt men out of the mire and washes their hearts, cleanses their conscience, and purifies their faith, if they will have it at all.

Thus we must ask whether our eschatology builds up love from a pure heart, or defiles the heart with pride, bitterness, and hate?  Does it build up our love from a good conscience, or does it go against our consciences that were made clean by the sacrifice of Christ?  Does it build up our love from a sincere faith, or does it lead us astray from the faith that was once and for all delivered to us by Christ?

FERVOR FOR CHRIST’S RETURN

One of the marks of good eschatology that is nearly impossible to fabricate is a sincere fervor for the return of Christ!

Revelation 22:17, 20  “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come.  Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.  He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly’.”

Good eschatology will produce in all the saints of God a fervent and unquenchable desire for Christ’s return!  It causes the things of this world “to grow strangely dim”, and magnifies the things of Christ.

We should examine ourselves to see whether or not our eschatology produces a greater desire for life on this earth, or life in the age to come?

DRIVES HOLINESS AND GODLINESS

Jonathan Edwards, who preached a sermon back in the 1700’s entitled “sinners in the hands of an angry God”, during which people fell out of their seats and clung to pillars in repentance, prayed “Oh God, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.”

2 Peter 3:11-12  “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?”

If you do not have eternity in view, I am certain you will not live a life of holy conduct and godliness in this seductively wicked world!

Peter combined three of the most unpopular topics in the Church today into one unequivocally important lesson: holiness, judgment, and the fear of God are necessary to the Christian life, and to grasp these three you must have the King of king’s return in mind.

One of the clearest marks of good eschatology is that it drives you to live a life of holy conduct and godliness.  Any eschatology which leaves your everyday life wholly untouched is shallow and good for nothing but temporary intellectual stimulation- and the Church definitely needs no more of that!

SANCTIFICATION

1 John 3:2-3  “Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be, but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.  And every man that has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.”

Good eschatology will inspire sanctification in us through hope!  Eschatology that produces no sanctification through hope does not have Christ in view!

Your eschatology is the lens through which you peer into eternity, without it, your hope becomes obscure and fuzzy.  You need good eschatology to have strong hope in Christ so that you can weather the storms and persevere to the end.

CONCLUSION

Untold desolation has happened in the Church because we have lost sight of eternity!  When I was in high school and college I was a runner.  I ran cross country and track- I loved running!  I learned very early that it is imperative to form that when you are sprinting that you keep your eyes forward and fixed on the finish line.  You can’t take your eyes off the end or you lose momentum.  In much the same way the Church has drifted aimlessly and lost focus on our goal because of our eschatology.  Many Churches meander from trend to trend because they have taken their eyes off the end!

If your eschatology is good, it will stabilize your faith and produce a sound mind, a strong faith, a fervent perseverance, and a lifestyle of holy conduct and godliness, but if your eschatology is bad all kinds of things can go wrong; a bad eschatology produces an unstable mind, robs the work of evangelism, causes panic, and creates apathy.

Don’t let anyone rob you of the vast treasures of Bible prophecy!  Jesus told the Church to “watch and pray” because He wanted her to be prepared for the end and keep alert.

Lifting Up Hearts

What is the chief end of man?

Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Psalm 86.  Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy. Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.  Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily. Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me. Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore. For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them. But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid. Show me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast helped me, and comforted me.

Isaiah 60:21. Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.

Romans 11:36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

1 Corinthians 6:20, 10:31. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s…. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Revelation 4:11. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Psalm 16:5-11. The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Psalm 144:15. Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.

Isaiah 12:2. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.

Luke 2:10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Philippians 4:4. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

Revelation 21:3-4. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asking For Prayers

We have been blessed with a lot of work here in Kansas City- and sweet fellowship and unity with brethren that has been of immense blessing and refreshing- but with these blessings and increased work comes a greater strain on my time.

Consequently I will probably be posting fewer posts here for a few months.  However, I will continue to post my audio sermons from Sundays.   I also hope to catch up on a very backlog of posts that I have in the works- right now I have about 15 full posts that I’ve been working on but have been unable to complete.

So, I wanted to let everyone know there will be a slowdown in posts, but I am not quitting.  It is only because I can’t keep up!

PRAYERS NEEDED

I’ll start with an important, but necessarily vague prayer request: Mary and I are walking by faith through a period of decision as we wait on the Lord.  We’re asking for prayers of discernment, for wisdom, and for increased faith.  And, as if you needed any more ambiguity in this already ambiguous request, we offer thanksgiving to God, who has kept our hearts and minds girded up in peace thus far.

Evangelism here has been awesome- we’re witnessing to pastors, to drunks, to rich men, to homeless, to bouncers, and every kind of vain philosophy in this world; I’ve seen Jesus standing at the door of peoples hearts knocking!  The Holy Spirit is shaking strongholds as mighty thunder shakes a shack.  Therefore, please pray that our time witnessing is blessed and that Jesus would reveal Himself by grace and mercy to the lost!

We also ask that you pray for restored unity with dearly loved brethren who have forsaken us.  I have had to wrestle with the reality that I cannot force anyone to seek unity and reconciliation, but my heart is utterly broken because of the selfish reasoning’s of men’s hearts that have been exalted in the Church over Jesus’ most earnest prayer for Church unity!  Therefore, please pray that the body would humble itself before the high commandments of Jesus Christ and lay aside bitterness, selfish ambition, envy, deceit, gossip, contention, and begin to love one another in deed and in truth.

Forgive my preaching here for a moment, but I do want to add a note here about “love in deed and truth”: anyone who claims to love God but has not obeyed Jesus’ commandments to seek reconciliation with the body is deceiving themselves and does not love God- they love themselves over God, because they’re putting their own concerns, judgments, and thoughts above those of Jesus Christ.

Please join me in mourning for the sins of the Church and begging God to forgive our disunity and our selfishness!  I pray even for all you whom I may not know, but are ever bit as much part of this body as I am, that anyone whom you may have temporarily lost fellowship with may be restored to you quickly in the name of Jesus Christ, amen!

Remember, love hopes!  It is certain of better things, even as Paul wrote, and pursues peace!  It never turns its back when someone gives an open door for reconciliation (again, dis-fellowship should only ever occur where the Bible explicitly says- all other dis-fellowship is cowardly and selfish).

Anyway, my last request for prayer is concern our financial provision and my health.  Please pray that my health would continue to get better and that God would continue to make miraculous provision for our needs, as He has been.

To all who pray for us in sincere unleavened love, I thank you!

Worship From the Fires of Suffering

A few weeks back I had one of the most painful weeks of my life: Multiple Sclerosis teamed up with a bout of Shingles and Satan didn’t miss the opportunity to shoot his fiery arrows.

To be honest, that is the pretty version; the plain version is that my mind was bogged down in the “M.S. fog”, I was struggling with M.S. triggered discouragement, my whole body felt like knives were stabbing me, and my back, where the shingles were, was extremely painful and felt like sandpaper rubbing raw skin if anything touched it.  What I wanted to do was retreat into a dark room and lay down in the hopes of getting some sort of rest and reprieve, but, going out to preach on the streets is the calling that was resonating in my spirit.

But in the face of all this scripture cries out, beseeching us,

by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1 NASB).

Trials like infirmity, suffering, and tribulation seek to rob our worship by binding us in time with physical burdens so that we do not cast our gaze above time into eternity, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, and worship Him from the fires of these trials with bodies in submission to His perfect will.

Doubts declare in the darkness, “I simply cannot do this”, “I am just not ready”, “I don’t have it in me”, “I must be crazy”.

How can we offer our bodies to God as acceptable spiritual sacrifices of worship when we are overwhelmed with such suffering, and what does that even look like?

I believe Wesley’s hymn captures the essence of this superbly;

Thee, Son of man, by faith we see, and glory in our guide; surrounded and upheld by thee, the fiery test abide.

The fire our graces shall refine, till molded from above, we bear the character divine, the stamp of perfect love.

~Wesley Hymn #329

We must peer through faith and let the resplendent glory of Christ capture our gaze and enrapture our souls!  From this high temple-mount of holy trust in God,  we can abide the test being upheld by Him until we are wholly refined in His perfect love.

This is about trust, not trust in ourselves, nor the provision of this world, but a holy trust in God for which we lean wholly upon His mercies to meet and provide our all- not so that we can simply go on living common lives, as we have always done, but so that we can offer our bodies in spiritual service of worship for those things with which God is most pleased- the “good works prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  ~Philippians 4:6-7

The reality of Christ’s peace is understood by so few because it is not grasped by human means of inquiry, but by means of trust through faith.

Those who suffer little in life often struggle to find the all-surpassing-peace-of-Christ because they continue to retain control over everything.  And yet, so many who suffer much never find such peace because their hearts are weighed down by the cares of this world (Luke 21:34).

I know the temptation to think that “if only my body were strong, like other people, I could do more for God”, but truth be told, the vast majority of people who are wasting their life away not serving/worshiping God are those who perfectly healthy.

The real battle begins with trust– do we lean wholly God’s mercies rather than our own strength and provision- and then moves on into the heart and mind, which is where so many people, healthy and weak, rich and poor, wise and simple, lose the battle to spiritual fatigue, discouragement, doubt, uncertainty, and deception.  Those who would worship God in the fires of trial must relinquish their grip on all life’s anxieties with a child-like trust in God.

The strength of human resolve, the might of our flesh, and the intellect of the human mind offer empty promises that they cannot deliver.  If we lean on these attributes when our tribulations come, we will surely stumble.

Christ doesn’t give peace in the same way that the world gives peace, rather, He gives it through trust, and said “therefore, let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).  With thanksgiving in prayer and supplication we entrust our hearts and minds to God and close every door to iniquity and tribulation through which they might rob our worship for God!

But sometimes when we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death we can hear from the tombs those who cry out “but I prayed to God and He did nothing!”

“You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.  Adulterers and adulteresses!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” ~James 4:3-4

For many people, their prayers to God were for their own desires- they may have offered God a tithe out of His provision, but their heart was bent on pleasure, not God, to preserve their own way of life and not to seek His way of life- and for many they felt betrayed because they were led like lambs to the slaughter by wolves and false teachers who said “this is the way! Find peace here with us” when there was no peace to offer.

Never listen to the voice of doubt that echos out from the tombs!

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. ~Hebrews 10:19-23

For He who promised is faithful.  Never doubt that!

With my body full of pain, and my mind sluggish and bogged down as if a thick fog had descended upon me, my tank was empty and I had nothing left to offer, except this broken, empty, weak excuse people call “my body”.  What was I to do?

I prayed after God and poured out all my measly sorrows and cares on the altar I’m not even worthy to approach, and out of the glory of God’s throne in my heart I heard Him say “let your flesh wholly despise my work, then go out and do it in My name- and I am with you.

The 30 minute care ride to the bar-street I preach on was agony as my back was rubbing against the car seat, and I was assaulted the whole way up with doubt; “David, what are you doing man?”, “maybe just go up there and pray and then go home”, “you’re not under a law, you don’t have to go”.

Let me deal with that last one for a moment.  That is precisely why “going” is such an acceptable sacrifice of worship to God!  I am under no law to go out every week and preach the gospel to the lost- but Christ has so enraptured my soul that I am compelled to worship Him in this way!

Perhaps your spiritual service of worship is something else, maybe you clean the Church building, or maybe you serve the homeless and sit with them at soup kitchens.  Perhaps you have a prayer ministry that isn’t being glorified in the spotlight, but it is your calling.   In all of these things no one is under a law of ritual obligation!  Rather, we are a people being moved and compelled by the glories of Christ, who has utterly and totally enraptured our souls, that we heartily pick up the banners to which we each have been called by God and joyously worship Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength!

As I approached bar-street and moved through the crowds of drunken revelers, I found a corner and stood there without an ounce of strength in my bones- everything in me was crying “go home!”  I saw a tarot card reader set up on the corner and prayed to God, “Lord, I don’t have anything in me, but I will open my mouth- use me however you want; let me be a fool, let me be a preacher, it is up to you”, I went up to him and started talking.  Thirty minutes later, as I walked away, a big hulking man approaches me with his wife who was literally half his height and God spoke a word of encouragement to me through him.

I took my corner and began preaching,

“Deliver those who are drawn to death, and hold back those who stumble to the slaughter” ~Proverbs 24:11

What came over me was nothing like adrenaline or physical strength- it was not a feeling of physical might or intellectual superiority- it was the splendid presence of absolute peace engulfing my whole spirit, soul, and body.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  ~Philippians 4:6-7

Too often we stand at a stalemate with God, demanding that first He pave the way and make everything fall into place before we entrust ourselves to His care, but God is searching the world “for those who will worship Him in spirit and truth”.  We think we can levy demands on God and arm-twist Him until everything seems just right in our own eyes, but all the while His eyes have already moved on to look for those who will trust in Him.

We are never alone.

Thou Lamb of God, thou Prince of peace, for thee my thirsty soul doth pine, my longing heart implores thy grace; O make me in thy likeness shine!

When pain o’er my weak flesh prevails, with lamb-like patience arm my breast; when grief my wounded soul assails, in lowly meekness may I rest.

Thou, Lord, the dreadful fight hast won, alone thou hast the winepress trod; in me thy strengthening grace be shown, O may I conquer through thy blood! Wesley Hymn #338

Part 1: Faith in Infirmities

In The Mount of the LORD it Shall Be Provided

The picture of Abraham standing over Isaac, ready to sacrifice his treasured son, is amazing for the color and brilliance by which it portrays Christ!

Here Abraham stands over his own promised son to kill him, as Israel also stood over the promised Seed of Abraham to kill Him. Innocent Isaac was laid on the altar by the will of God, just as our innocent Lord Jesus was placed on the altar as He prayed “Father, Your will be done”. Abraham raising his hand to kill Isaac, not knowing what he really was doing- Jesus praying on the cross “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

But the most beautiful and glorious message comes when God stops Abraham and shows him what it is that has just transpired:

“By Myself I have sworn, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son- your only son- blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your Seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have a obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:16-17).

God showed Abraham a beautiful picture of Christ in that little lamb who was caught in the thorns on an arid mountain and gave Abraham the hope of the gospel that by his Seed all nations would be blessed. And now through Christ God has blessed all nations and multiplied Abraham’s descendants as He has made all who believe in Christ “children of the promise” (Romans 9:7-9). By Christ the gates of Hell tremble and have no victory!!

It has never been God’s intention that you replace the sacrifice of Christ- only that you obey Him by faith.

The Power of Approval

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.  ~Romans 1:28-32

I don’t know any other way to preach than straightforward- so let me get to the point: there is tremendous power in lifestyle and approval.  It’s not enough to espouse firm doctrines with our mouths, but what we practice and approve of puts in context what we preach!

When we preach that we are saved through faith, but approve of those who walk in sin and practice the sins of this world, we put into context what we mean by “we are saved through faith” and display it for all the world to see.  In other words, we discredit ourselves and openly rebuke Christ before all the world to see.  Indeed, to say “I am a Christian” and then approve of the things that Christ stands in mighty judgment against is the height of hubris- who am I to correct the judgments of God?

Christians, we need to resolve in our hearts that Christ is Holy and stands alone as King over our heart- that neither the praise or reviling of other people, nor even the pleasures of this world will exalt themselves in our heart over Christ to lead us against what He has commanded.  If you have not already come to terms with the judgments of God- if you have not been offended by the Rock of Offense and humbled yourself before the great King of kings that you might be instructed by the Promise of our Father, then I strongly admonish and exhort you to hear the judgments of God, open your heart to offense, and humble yourself before what He says- call on Him to save you from the depravity of foolish thinking and instruct you in the ways of righteousness.  I exhort you to stop listening to the preachers who preach in futility and who justify sin.
Every Christian needs to begin preaching the gospel of reconciliation and forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ to the ends of our society, no matter the cost. Resolve this day what you will practice, the works of the devil, or the works of God, and whose judgments you will give approval to, the judgments of God or the judgments of the devil.

I have been preaching for many years now that the day is coming when we will no longer find a neutral place to bury our heads and avoid publicly testifying of the Truth that Jesus Christ proclaimed- and I believe we are approaching that day quickly.

Where but under a basket can you hide that your light might not offend the godless?

Longing For Recognition & Justification: The LGBT Community

The immense human desire for “recognition” and “justification” has relentlessly driven the LGBT movement to unprecedented heights of political and social achievements; if you consider that estimates place figures between 2% and 11% of the population consider themselves to be in the LGBT community, their social and political advances are astonishing.

It is that human desire to be “recognized” and “justified” in our actions that is so clearly, beautifully and tragically articulated in an interview between news correspondent Kattie Couric and the Supreme Court’s chief plaintiff Jim Obergefell.  Now, I say “beautifully” because I thank God that every human being has such a tremendous drive in their heart to be “justified” and “recognized” because it is that drive that resonates with Christ’s call to repent and become the adopted children of God.  But it is also tragic because Jim Obergefell’s quest for justification and recognition has led him in the directly opposite direction from the only One that can give him true and satisfying justification and recognition- and that is the one man, Christ Jesus our God and Savior.

We are all acutely aware of our personal state of condemnation and separation from God; this awareness is what the gospel resonates with in our spirits to drive us back to Him- but when people lose this awareness, they “become past feeling” and “give themselves over to lewdness to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:19).  And it is this sense that we need to be justified and recognized that we see at work driving the homosexual community against all odds to gain recognition and justification from the highest court of our land.

Here are a few brief excerpts from the interview:

Jim Obergefell: “I feel a lot of relief knowing that my marriage, my 20 year relationship with John, cannot be erased by the State of Ohio”.

Kattie Couric: “What was it like when the decision was issued?”

Jim Obergefell: “about two sentences in, I started to cry…  It was an incredible experience to hear a Supreme Court Justice talk about how my marriage, my relationship, how John and I mattered, and how we deserved respect and dignity, and I started to feel like a full, equal American at that moment.”

Jim is desperately seeking for a lasting and enduring recognition of his sin with his partner, John.  You can clearly see the powerful yearning from deep within Jim’s heart for dignity, respect, and justification.

The problem is that the promise of yesterday’s ruling cannot be delivered because it is not man, or his courts, who joins two people together in marriage, it is God.  And more importantly, no one can satisfy that deep longing for recognition and justification but God- sure we can sometimes silence that longing, or temporarily deceive it, but we can never satisfy it- that sense of our deep need to be recognized and justified can only be satisfied when the reality of our condemnation is lifted from our souls and we stand recognized before God by the Holy Spirit’s inward witness, “Abba, Father!”  That alone can satisfy these deep yearnings in our heart.

When the sense of euphoria over yesterday’s “victory” wears off from the LGBT community and that deep yearning for recognition and justification begins to gnaw at their hearts again, then I believe they will turn their attention away from the government and direct it towards the Christian community, whom they instinctually recognize as ministers of God’s moral justice and holy righteousness- and that will be when the Christian community will feel real pressure to give them the recognition and justification they are looking for.

But we have to understand that those virtues are not ours to offer; we can no more give the LGBT community recognition and justification in their sin than the Supreme Court could.  What we have to offer the LGBT community is Christ’s gospel of salvation. The Church is not armed with the power to placate sin, it is armed with the power of God for salvation to all who believe- the gospel- and apart from being faithful stewards of the unique ministry of reconciliation that has been entrusted to the Church, we have no more to offer anyone than the most meaningless rulings that the courts of men have to offer.

It is going to become increasingly more difficult for Christians to find a place to “remain neutral” on this issue because God has never been neutral about it, and the LGBT community’s craving for recognition and justification will drive them to seek out Christians in an attempt to force us to condone their sin- as if we could.

What Christians will experience is the apparent indignation of the LGBT community as their emptiness drives them to utilize their new-found civil powers- and make no mistake, that is exactly what yesterday’s ruling gives them- to afflict everyone who does not give them the recognition and justification they so desire with the full force of their indignation.

Here’s the twist in this narrative: Christians who have been seeking recognition and justification for their own personal sins are going to find themselves “in the valley of decision”, being forced to make a decision between whether or not you believe that “the cross” is God’s final answer to sin.

Anyone that continues to seek justification and sympathetic recognition from their fellow believers for their own personal sins will not be able to find enough solid footing to stand on, and will eventually be swept away by this flood of deception and iniquity that is sweeping across the land.

We have to come to terms with whether or not we are ashamed of the cross.  Are we willing to accept Christ on the cross as God’s wisdom for salvation to all who believe and join Him in the likeness of His death, as His gospel demands, or, are we going to drink the wine that is causing the inhabitants of this world to continue in their abominations and seek salvation elsewhere?

That is the wine that is making the inhabitants of this world drunk; the wine that causes us to revel and glory in our abominations without a thought or care for the judgment of God that is coming upon this world.

Many in the Church are drinking this wine; sins of divorce, adultery, fornication, lust, greed, covetousness- which is idolatry- and a many others, are recognized and justified as sins that we can tolerate.  Far too many Christians revel in their covetousness, indeed, entire Churches worship in covetousness, thinking that the judgments of God will not come upon them, and they rejoice exceedingly!  But they forget that whoever sows to abominations, will reap from those abominations wrath and judgment!  The Church has not been dealing with these sins in God’s way- by calling them out as sinful and making confession, by forgiving one another and bearing each other’s burdens, and ultimately by taking our own individual sins to the cross that our body of sin my be crucified with Christ on the cross and be done away with!

If this gospel is news to you, please read Romans 6, and consider 1 John 1:5- 2:2 and 3:1-10.

The question we as Christians must ask ourselves is whether or not the cross will be our answer to sin, or will we join the LGBT community in justifying and recognizing sins in a vain attempt to satisfy our deep longings that can only be satisfied by the truth of God?

The “I’m Not Called To That” Excuse

Ever notice how the chief description of Jesus’ life and conduct in the Bible was “I must be about My Father’s business”? That’s because it was written of Jesus, “Behold, I have come- in the volume of the book it is written of Me- to do Your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7).  Jesus’ life was known by His acts of compassion that glorified God, His powerful sermons calling all men everywhere to repentance in His name, and His awesome demonstrations of the power of God.

Then, after Jesus ascends into Heaven and the Holy Spirit is sent upon His waiting Church, the collective Body of Christ takes on these chief attributes itself; the Church becomes known for her acts of world-renowned compassion, soul piercing calls to repentance, and awe-inspiring demonstrations of the power of God! No individual member of the body seemed totally disconnected from these works; while one member may not preach, he or she might work miracles or be engaged in great works of compassion.  Indeed, toward those individual members who are slack or impaired in doing the work of God, we’re exhorted to “strengthen the hands which hang down and the feeble knees” (Hebrews 12:12).

But we do not hear Jesus’ answer, “I must be about My Father’s business” in the Church today, instead, we hear “Oh, I’m not called to that ministry!”

Ask members in the Church today if they preach the gospel to their neighbors, and many of them will tell you “that’s not my calling”.  Then ask them about acts of compassion and they’ll say, “OH No! That’s not my calling!” Inquire about the divine demonstration of the power of God and you’ll hear the same retort, “Some people are into that, but that’s not really my calling”.

I have to wonder, what is your calling, Church?

Pew sitting, hint dropping, and facebook-page-liking doesn’t seem to be the call of God that I see in the Bible.

Understand that the primary offices of the Church were given “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry…” (Ephesians 4:12).  Therefore, it greatly concerns me where I see a glut of Sunday-school teaching but no works of God being accomplished!  It is alarming to me that the true works of God seen in Jesus have been replaced in the Church by women’s knitting clubs, Superbowl services, and the whole colorful host of our church programs.

I believe we are called to the works of ministry seen in and commissioned by Jesus Christ our Lord, and that all the other peripheral programs of our day are just easier and more appealing distractions from the work you and I are supposed to be doing in Jesus’ name!

Ask yourself why the Church today prays so little?  Because she has nothing to pray about!!!  She’s not busy doing the divine work of God that no flesh can do on its own- she’s distracted by a flood of worldly cares!

Ask yourself why Christians today study their Bible’s so little?  Because they have nothing to study the Bible for!!!  They’re not busy engaging the powers of darkness which no carnal weapons can withstand!

Prayer calls upon God for the divine accomplishment of His will, and the Word of God is not His divine Blockbuster hit, it’s the sword of the Spirit, mighty in God for pulling down strongholds and subduing the spiritual powers of the enemy!

Oh pray to God that the Church again sets her hand to the plow and gets busy about the work of God- and then go yourself to His work- for in that day the mighty works of God will be seen like they have never been seen before!

I believe God is preparing a people through whom He will demonstrate His power and righteousness to the whole world, but I do not believe it will be like the days of Pentecost when 5,000’s converted at a time, rather, I believe it will be like the days of Noah, and we shall see God work through that small faithful remnant to do His will and glorify His name.

My question to you tonight is twofold: what is your calling, Church, and are you doing your work?

The Mark of the Beast

The Mark of the Beast justifiably attracts a great deal of attention: scripture says,

“they shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:10-11).

Obviously there is good reason why we want to identify the mark of the Beast.  But, I think even more important than trying to identify the mark of the Beast before the Beast himself is even made known is knowing the characteristics and signs of the mark.

Let’s let scripture be our standard and the Holy Spirit be our guide:

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.  And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.  He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.  He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or* the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:11-17) [* some versions render: “unless he has that mark, the name of the beast or the number of his name.”]

The mark of the beast is the work of the second beast, who causes the whole world to receive the mark and worship the first beast.  Through the power that the second beast demonstrates in the world he is able to deceive the earth and is made responsible for making the world set up an image to worship the beast.

Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14:9-12)

John is then given a revelation of three angels, each tasked with proclaiming a certain message to the whole world; the first one proclaims the gospel, the second declares Babylon is fallen, and the third warns the whole world that anyone who worships the beast and his image and receives his mark will partake in the wrath of God forever.

Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. (Revelation 19:20)

This is the point of the Lord’s return to reign for 1,000 years.  The beast and his false prophet are captured and cast alive into the lake of fire.

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)

Here begins the 1,000 year reign of Christ with His saints who did not worship the beast or receive his image.

It is evident that the focus of the second beast, the false prophet, is in causing the world to worship the Beast- who John called anti-Christ and Paul called “Man of Sin”- there is less emphasis given to “buying and selling”, which is mentioned once as part of the false prophet’s work to make it so that no one can buy or sell without the mark.

Let’s look at this again:

He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.The false prophet has two things that he accomplishes: he causes the world to “receive a mark”, “and that no one may buy or sell except who has the mark”.

A lot of Christians assert that the mark of the Beast will be an implanted RFID-like chip through which all transactions will take place- a position I once took myself as well- but I no longer believe that it is profitable to make this speculation, rather, I believe it is more profitable for us to pay careful attention to several things that are clearly stated in the text:

  1. The mark of the Beast is identified in scripture as “the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:11).
  2. The mark is part of the false prophet’s work to deceive the world into worshiping the Beast (Revelation 13:12, 15).
  3. There will be angelic proclamation warning the whole world not to take the mark of the Beast (Revelation 14:9)
  4. But the false prophet will use mighty power to deceive the world (Revelation 13:13).
  5. Whoever possesses wisdom is admonished to calculate the number of the beast- which is the number of a man.

All of these passages, Revelation 13:12, 15; 14:11; 19:20; 20:4, speak of those who “worship the beast and take his mark”.  Causing the world to worship the Beast is the false prophet’s purpose, and he’ll be given power and authority by which he will exert unheard of pressure upon the earth to this end.

These are the words of God appointed for blessing in a day of great trial- I pray we study these things, which were written- not so that we could boast in our eschatological positions, but “so that we would not be made to stumble”- beyond the narrowly defined eschatological positions that so often “content us” and dampen our zeal to understand these things.

How To Do Mission Work

I’m a missionary.  My wife is a missionary.  Our 8-month old baby girl is a missionary.

My wife and I went abroad to do mission work in China with the expectation that we’d never return to the U.S.  We lived as they lived, ate what they ate, breathed the same polluted air they breathed, took the same crowded buses and searched for the same kamikaze-like taxis that they searched for; but what made us missionaries is that we had completely surrendered our lives to the holy calling of God and were totally committed to doing nothing except what God told us to do.

I’ve already written on what it means to be a missionary; that a missionary is not a “church office”, but is a life totally surrendered to the will of God- it’s the absolute surrender of control over your life to God so that you neither move, nor stay, unless you’re convicted that it is the will of God.

When my wife and I were called back to the U.S.- much to our surprise- we were called back to the U.S. not as returning citizens, but as missionaries.  And although this is sometimes difficult for family and friends to understand since they may have been expecting you to return and “get on with your life”, being a missionary is not about “where” you live, but about “how” you live.

Thus, being a missionary is about one thing; calling.  The missionary life is entirely spent on seeking out and obeying God’s calling.  The theme of a missionary life is “here I am, Lord send me!”

WHAT’S IT MEAN TO DO MISSION WORK?

Doing mission work is also about one thing: faith.  Mission work is all about whether or not you have the living faith to answer God’s calling.  The theme of doing missionary work is “a hand set to the plow that doesn’t look back”.

While every mission field is unique in its physical demands, no mission field is exempt from this law of faith.

There is a tremendous cost to mission work; oftentimes you have to uproot yourself and your family from your family and friends, and you may have to leave the place you’ve called “home”.  Indeed, you may be called heartless for leaving your family, regardless of how much your heart suffers when leaving them, and your mission work may be demeaned as “just a phase” and “getting it out of your system”, your financial plans may be upset, your cultural imperatives will be challenged- or shattered- and everything will test your faith to say “here I am, Lord send me!”

MONEY?

Why does everything hinge on money?  Is God so destitute?

To many missionaries, the decision to stay or go hinges on whether or not they can have an all-expenses paid trip and raise enough support to fill their 401k.  I leave their judgment to God, but, I challenge my brethren to consider whether or not such profiteering is really the faith of Jesus Christ, who had no place to rest His head?

NOTHING BUT FAITH

What stops so many missionaries from doing mission work is that they don’t understand that doing mission work is about nothing more than faith.  Far too many Christians think that doing the mission work they were called to is about “faith and money” or “faith and networking” or “faith and notoriety” or “faith and recognition”- maybe even all of the above!

But when someone realizes that doing mission work is about nothing more than faith, then they rise up and go with the conviction that says “take my life, but I will share Christ!”  Then we will go as the great cloud of witnesses that came before us went into perilous lands with the gospel to save the souls of those who were eager to kill them!  This “program centric” view of mission work is why so few individuals “go”- the “faith-centric” view of mission work is why so many Christians went in times past.

U.S. cities lay in spiritual desolation because Christians are focused on building programs rather than going to preach Christ in the “I am here, Lord send me” faith that is all that is needed to do the Lord’s work.

Do you feel led to reach university students?  Pray and find a place where there is a university and go reach them!

Is your heart being stirred to preach?  Pray and preach!  Perhaps you just need to find the darkest spiritual town square or city street you can find and preach!

It was “faith”, not program, that drove men like David Brainerd to expend his life for the sake of the gospel and endure the derision of his peers for the sake of Christ’s calling.  And I guarantee you that it will be faith that drives you through the storm to reach the lost where God calls you!

BUT WHAT ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE?

I’m not denying that there are sometimes extensive processes involved in doing mission work, but, the person driven by faith will figure everything else out.

My wife and I had no idea what we were doing when we went abroad the first time- but we had faith.  We did what we knew to do, and we went!

Were there things we could have done better, or things that we should have done that we didn’t do?  Absolutely!  But we went, and souls were saved, weary hearts were healed in Christ, and close relationships were forged in the love of Christ- even our own faith was purified by fire!

WHAT ABOUT BIBLE KNOWLEDGE?

This question comes with baggage, but deserves an answer.

There will be all kinds of opposition and lying deceptions that arise to confront the gospel wherever you go to preach Christ.  “Going” does not require that you know every answer to every question before you go.  But you are charged with answering such questions.

However, if you do not know the gospel or the hope you have in Christ Jesus, how can you preach?  Indeed, how can you believe?  The fact is that many professing believers do not know the gospel, nor the hope that they have in Christ.  I do not believe this is an issue about “doing mission work”, but rather, about being a Christian.

Here’s why I say that: in China we baptized a sister who’s husband was a member of the communist party and a non-believer.  The sister used the scriptures approach of winning her husband over without even a word, and, the husband eventually became a believer after a gospel workshop we had that she hosted in her house.  Immediately after we baptized her husband he began going and knocking on his neighbors doors and teaching them about Christ from the Beatitudes, which was literally all he knew.

The prerequisite is that you be born again through the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23)- if you do not meet that prerequisite, then you have need that you be saved from your sin and born again of the true gospel of Jesus Christ!

However, the idea that an academic threshold of Bible knowledge be met before you are qualified to go out and do the work God calls you to do is outrageous!  Knowledge helps and is critical, and every Christian ought to be found faithful stewards of God’s calling by sharpening and refining themselves, and, even more so, to grow and increase in their knowledge of the One whom they love, but, the idea that you have to know everything before you go is alarmingly crippling!

FAITH UNHINDERED

So-called mission philosophy is overwhelmingly convoluted and complicated; the gospel did not spread by these modern methods- in fact, because of many of these methods, missionaries are not preaching the gospel at all because they’re being directed away from preaching the gospel towards humanitarian efforts that make Christ an after-thought and last mention, rather than the all-consuming and bright purpose and reason for all that we do!

The mission field may require you to do certain things to prepare yourself- the faith will carry you through that process on wings of eagles, but it will also keep you from getting bogged down in endlessly complicated processes that Pharisee’s want to put on you so that you can never go!

What is Jesus Christ calling you to do?  Every Christian has a call from Christ- no one is exempt.  Are you called to mission work in your neighborhood?  Are you called to preach Christ in homeless facilities, in hospitals, at work and to your friends, or abroad?

Know your calling and let your living faith take you to your destination.

A ministry of faith