CHRIST OR ANTICHRIST?

If you ask people, “Are you pro or anti?” you want to know if they are for or against. If someone is anti-Christ, he is against Christ.

Jesus did not come to earth to have a good trip. He came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).  He tried to tell his disciples, and they didn’t understand–and didn’t want to. They preferred life over death, good times over bad. Can’t blame them. I probably would have voted the same way.

Jesus worked mighty miracles. After feeding five thousand, he could see something was wrong. “Perceiving that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:15). Someone looking for popularity would have given in. He was seeking the favor of One.

Not only did he die unpopular, but he died a criminal. He was a misfit, “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces…” (Isaiah 53:3). And “he was numbered with the transgressors” (12), guilt by association. He didn’t hang around popular people. The leaders said, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). He had a short season of popularity, but it didn’t last.

Take your pick–a lamb or a beast. Just before the return of Christ, a man will arise, inspired not by God but by Satan (antigod). He will be endowed with supernatural powers from the underworld to deceive those not belonging to Christ. He will become a world leader when a fatal wound is miraculously cured: “The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon [Satan] because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast [antichrist] and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?’” (Revelation 13:4). He will bring substantial and temporary peace in the world, fueled by Satan and demons. It will mean hard times for Christians, but the worst will only last three and a half years.

Paul warns, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come [the day of the Lord] until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple proclaiming himself to be God…The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing”(2 Thess. 2:3,4,9,10). Want to know more about this man? Daniel 7 and Revelation 13.

The world, blinded by sin, will think that this demon-possessed man is the answer to the world’s racial and social problems. When he proclaims himself god, humanity will believe his miracles and worship him with songs of praise. I won’t if I am around, and I hope you don’t. We live in an age of tolerance–except for those who disagree!. Be prepared to face ridicule, and maybe more.  Christians will give their lives as the world applauds. Then the triumphant King returns and that’s it for a race in rebellion. Enter eternity of bliss for followers of the Lamb! Make sure whose side you’re on!

LET’S READ REVELATION

It’s not the first book I recommend to a new Christian. Maybe it would be the best. It’s the favorite of my special-ed daughter, Naomi. It’s a picture book. It starts with Jesus addressing seven real churches in what is now Turkey. He commends, corrects, and comforts according to the vitality of each church. Some are doing well; others are barely surviving.

We remember many of those messages. He told Smyrna, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (2:10). He affirmed the church of brotherly love, Philadelphia, and promised to keep them “from the hour of trial that comes upon the whole world” (3:10). He warned lukewarm Laodicea that they were about to be spit out of his mouth (3:16).

Then comes a long section–visions of judgment upon a world in rebellion (chapter 4-18), most of the book. The suffering church is called to endure, a key word. The victorious ones are those who “loved not their lives even unto death” (12:11).

Chapter 19 gives us a glorious picture of the triumphant king whose “judgments are true and just” (2). This king rides a white horse and triumphs over the powers of darkness, holds the Great White Throne judgment, and gives the verdict that sends some into everlasting bliss and others (most) into the lake of fire. Among the first to go are the devil and death. He then ushers in the new heaven and new earth for the redeemed to enjoy for eternity, closing with a message given three times, “Behold, I am coming soon!”

John the author, writing in exile, doesn’t paint a picture of the church taking over the world. He says, “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patience endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9). He tells his readers, including us, about “the things that must soon take place” (1:1). He promises that Jesus “is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him” (1:7). His return is our consuming hope (I Peter 1:13).

The following truths come through:

  1. The end-time church is not winning a popularity contest. Most of the world has chosen its hero, the antichrist. The church is promised a place with the glorious king if it holds out faithful to the end.
  2. Some make it, most don’t. The lie of universalism (that all eventually will) is exposed in this awe-inspiring book. The church does not present to the Bridegroom a largely converted world. As Jesus said, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14).
  3. The answer to the woes in the world is not a victorious church but a triumphant King with fire in his eyes. When the suffering increases, we are told to lift up our heads, because our redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28)! He is the ultimate answer. He deals with the race in rebellion, not the church.

Some teach a more “positive” end-time picture. Is this one pessimistic? No, because it is truth. Read the Book! It focuses on the exalted Christ who overcomes, who says what He will do–and does it. Our trust is centered in the Lamb–alone! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

HEARING THE VOICE OF THE SPIRIT (part 2)

God guided Israel with a cloud and pillar of fire in the wilderness. God uses the internal GPS of the Spirit under the new covenant, far more personal, more accurate. Jesus said that the Spirit speaks (John 16). You can hear!

Sometimes the “voice”is a picture, an impression, a conviction. That, too, can be the God within directing us. The Holy Spirit speaks spiritual truth, but He also speak practical truth, as with my two car examples in the last blog.

FOUR TRUTHS to develop a listening ear:

CONCENTRATE ON THE SPIRIT’S ABILITY TO SPEAK.

Guidance is more about God’s ability to lead than your ability to follow. Worry that you haven’t heard accurately puts the ball in your court. Never belongs there.

Bob told me on Friday he was going to pull his three boys out of our Christian school. I said, “I’d encourage you to put the ball in God’s court. Tell him what you are going to do and if He had anything to say about it, He could tell you.” On Monday the boys were at school. Bob said, “God gave me a dream telling me they belonged in the school.” Way to listen, Bob! Joseph was about to divorce the woman carrying Jesus. Disastrous! God took it upon Himself to let Joseph know, because hearing God’s voice is mainly about God’s ability to speak.

Yogi Berra said, “When you come to the fork in the road–take it.” A girl at Bible school came up after a class on “Hearing the Voice of God.” She said, “I need to choose from three churches where I will do my internship.” She choked up as she said she didn’t want to decide wrong. Worry is a terrible menace in hearing. I asked, “Do you have a preference?” She answered, “All sound good, but maybe St. John’s.” “Okay, tell God you are choosing St. John’s on Friday, and if He had anything to say, He could contact you.” We prayed, and I urged her to cast her burden on the Lord. She did–and peace came.

ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.

At point A ask B questions. An E question for a girl anticipating her first date is, “Should I marry him? A good B question: “Should I spend time with him?” A sophomore in college could ask, “Is this a good major for me?” rather than, “What should I do with my life?” Asking ultimate rather than immediate questions brings confusion.  God’s plans usually unfold–one step at a time.

I have come to realize that we can ask God questions, especially yes or no questions. God promises to guide us: “The steps of a man are from the Lord” (Psalm 37:23). He more often answers immediate rather than ultimate questions.

POSTURE YOURSELF TO LISTEN.

Include listening in prayer times. You can learn. Samuel’s life was characterized by hearing from God. Yours can be too!

HEARING CANNOT BE DISCONNECTED FROM OBEYING.

Those who heed will hear. Tell God, “I love hearing from you.” I write down what I hear God saying to me. Would the Holy Spirit be interested in making you an expert at hearing His voice? This is not for the pros; It is for you. “His sheep hear his voice.” Baaahh!

 

HEARING THE VOICE OF THE SPIRIT (part 1)

“Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. I want to see you.” We have physical eyes to see physical reality and spiritual eyes to see spiritual reality, just as real.

The king of Syria called his men together: Someone was revealing my secrets.”  A servant said, “Not us; it is Elijah. He tells the king what you share in the bedroom” (2 Kings 6:12).  So the king surrounded Dothan at night. In the morning the servant of Elisha saw the army and panicked. Elisha told him that they had many more warriors on their side. Then he prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord,” and the servant saw the mountain full of horses and chariots, just as real–far more powerful.

Paul prayed for the Ephesians “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened“ (1:16-18). He wanted them to SEE their riches and the power of God within them. Do you see it?

We have inner ears.  One commonly repeated Scripture (eight times in Revelation) is: “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” [And not one of them is a wife telling her husband to open his ears]. My question: Do you have ears to hear? Then hear.

I had heard that prayer was two-way communication with God, but I never met anyone that took it seriously. Until I started praying with Larry Christenson. I discovered little by little that the Spirit has a voice and that I could hear it.

I planned to drive into LA. I asked God, “Shall I take this car?” “No,” was the response. It had been overheating. As I prepared to go an hour later, I again asked–same answer. Thinking I was making it up, I took the car. I didn’t drive it home.  God wanted to save me trouble, and I had not learned to listen.

Fast-forward to a few years ago. I was driving to buy tires on Craig’s List. I asked God on the way, “Is this going to work?” The voice inside spoke, “No.” I kept driving, thinking it was my own voice. It wasn’t. I delivered four tires to Tires Plus to put on my car. They called: “Wrong size.”

I have learned through failure that I can hear the Spirit’s voice. Not an audible voice, though as clear. The Spirit lives within. Jesus said of the Spirit, “He will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13,14). Then Jesus repeated what he had just said, “Therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (15). Vital words for Christians to hear!

Two times Jesus used the word “speak” and three times “declare.” Those are words of communication.  The disciples understood it and learned to hear the God within. Those words are more than a nudge or a sense, although the Spirit can use these devices as well. He is speaking truth, not just giving feelings. You can learn to hear! (More coming!)

YOUR MARRIAGE OR YOUR LIFE?

Marriage problems are not usually marriage problems–they are character issues. If you take up offenses, you will probably do it at work, in your marriage, at your church. Do you see a marriage counselor for it? You could, but you’d do better to deal with your offendable heart. Most issues that come up in a marriage can be dealt with by surrendering more fully to the Lordship of Christ and asking the Holy Spirit to work His character in you.

Marriage is not for eternity. It is what God has provide for our time on this earth–for relationship, intimacy, and the procreation of the race. No more procreation in the new earth, the Bridegroom of us all is Jesus, and the honeymoon lasts for ever.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t work on our marriage, but the way we do it is important. It is seldom a specifically marriage problem. Almost always it relates to an issue God is putting focus on so we can grow up in God. This helps us not to say, “If he would only pick up his clothes,” or “If she would only quit nagging…” Instead, we can say, “What can I be working on because of this conflict? Where do I need to change?” You probably don’t need a marriage counselor. You more likely need a change in your attitude or behavior.

Does this belittle the importance of marriage? No. It was the first institution created. It answered to Adam’s loneliness. It brought two very different people together–a man and a woman. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” (Genesis 1:28). Marriage is God’s provision for our days upon this earth.

Understanding this temporal relationship could head off some divorces: “I can’t live with this woman. She is driving me crazy.” Okay, change how respond to her. Learn to forgive. Reconstruct a thankful heart. Like the plaque says, “People aren’t thankful because they are happy. They are happy because they are thankful.”Your issue is probably not related to your marriage; it is related to you. The one constant in all your problems, whether at work or in your marriage–is you. There you are again.

We need to normalize conflict. We are not surprised when the world or a spouse does not treat us like we’re a superstar. A guy comes home and complains about an overbearing boss. Surprise! Is that a work-related problem? No, it is a life-related problem. This guy needs to learn how to live with people he doesn’t like. Peter would tell him that it is an issue of submission, not something he takes to human resources. An attitude needs to change in him, not his boss. Problems are gifts from God to help us develop character, whether on the job or in a marriage. We are training for the new earth.

And just so you know–how we live here impacts how we will live in eternity. There is something called rewards. It gives us incentives to change, to learn how to live above offense, to develop a good forgiver, to practice the art of thanking rather than nagging. Character is worth going after!

7 LESSONS FROM AN OLD MAN

me. Slow to learn, but getting it–sort of. I want to learn to…

BE THANKFUL.

Gratitude overcomes an attitude. I’ve watched it happen with young adults who badmouthed parents. When they did the assignment of writing a letter of appreciation to Dad and Mom, it changed their outlook. Also changed some parents. Gratitude opens the door to richer communication. Complaining shut the door. The more often I thank God for the special gift of Karen, the more I am able to enjoy who she is.

BE PRAYERFUL.

My friend Kevin said that he prays for the North Korean leader. It never occurred to me. I blogged about how crazy he was, not about how broken.  What if all his citizens prayed for him? The Bible tells us to pray for those who abuse us. Use prayer for people close to you. Let your spouse, your children, your friends know you are praying for them. Use it for people far from you–like presidents and kings.

BE GENEROUS.

Don’t wait until you make a lot of money. It is not how much you give but how much you have left. The widow who got the attention of Jesus gave a small offering, but it was all she had. Impressive to the Son of God. Generosity is fun. Loren Cunningham said, “We shovel it out the front door, and God shovels it in the back door. And His shovel is bigger than our shovel.”

BE ON TIME.

It says to people that you value them more than your own time. Servants come early. Sometimes important people come late. Be a servant. Don’t make people wait for you, but be more than willing to wait for them without grumbling. If you complain, you are showing that you are important rather than a servant. God, forgive me!

BE GENTLE.

My father and mother were. They never used the leverage of loud to make their point. Yelling uses an illegitimate force–volume. I like the word “gentleman.” We’re told who we are right in the title. Paul tells us to be gentle even with those who oppose us, a great test of our gentleness.

BE HARD TO OFFEND.

It had never occurred to me as a young man. Sorry about that, Karen. I took up offenses when I thought I deserved to. Living above offense is a lot more healthy. To be unoffendable means having a good forgiver. I have learned to forgive before the offending one comes to me and asks–well sometimes. It is remarkable that Joseph forgave his brothers after what they did. Way to go, Joseph!

BE LOW.

It’s not how high you can get but how low you can go. No one has ever gone lower that Jesus. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” I told my kids when they were invited over to a friend’s house, “Do the dishes. Don’t expect to be waited upon. Wait upon others.”

ASSIGNMENT:  Rate yourself on each quality with a 10 to 0, ten being like Jesus and zero being like the devil. Then rate yourself in three months and see if you are growing.