Tag Archives: Bible

Apostasy and the Man of Sin

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4, ESV)

The Rebellion

Literally, Apostasy or falling away. The Apostasy or Rebellion is a large scale turning away from God’s Law, and from faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son.

“Since the reference here is to a world-wide rebellion against divine authority at the end of the age, the ideas of political revolt and religious apostasy are combined.”  -FF Bruce (Word Biblical Commentary on 2 Thessalonians)

“This rebellion, which will take place within the professing church, will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word. True, apostasy has characterized the church almost from its inception, but Paul referred to a specific distinguishable apostasy that will come in the future”   -Walvoord/Zuck (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

This is what we are seeing in the USA now, and what has been happening in the Christian lands of the West beginning in the 1700s. There is a great falling away from faith in Jesus Christ, which founded Western Civilization. We re primed for a strongman to take over and change times, laws, morals and values. Academia, the Entertainment Industry, the most powerful corporations, all have turned against Christianity in our time. The most alarming apostasy, however is in the church. Mainline denominations turned away from confidence in the Bible 50-100 years ago. Now those same nominally Christian organizations have turned toward the validation and celebration of sexual immorality and the culture of death (abortion industry). Increasingly they reject the miraculous, acts of Jesus, his resurrection, and even his deity. This last certainly marks them as apostate, not part of God’s chosen people. The essential confession of faith is: Jesus is Lord. Apart from that no one is saved.

Man of Lawlessness

This figure has a several names in the New Testament, two here: Man of Lawlessness (also translated Man of Sin) and Son of Destruction (also Son of Perdition). John calls this figure the Anti-Christ, and in Revelation The Beast. In Daniel, the Little Horn (7:8). Jesus quoted Daniel in calling this leader’s image the Abomination of Desolation (Matt. 24:15, cf Dan. 11:31, 36)

There are numerous examples of powerful political leaders who opposed the faithful up to this point and beyond.

Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.” (Daniel 11:31, ESV) This was Antiochus Epiphanes who abolished sacrifices, set up an altar to Zeus, offered pigs blood on it and punished those who circumcised their children.

Antiochus Ephiphanes may be the archetype, and we may read of him in the so called Apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees, which Roman Catholics and others accept, but which were rejected as canon by the Jews and by most Bible believing Christians.

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, 45 to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals,  to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added, “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.” (1 Maccabees 1:41-50)

Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah, and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by decree of the king. They kept using violence against Israel, against those who were found month after month in the towns. On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks.” (1 Maccabees 54-60)

 

Near the time of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica the Emperor Gaius, also known as Caligula was in power. He insisted that he be known as a god. Other emperors, beginning with Augustus were deified after death, but Caligula insisted on being worshiped. He decreed that a statue of him be erected in the Temple at Jerusalem, but was assassinated in AD 41 before these orders could be carried out. This would certainly be fresh on the minds of Paul and his readers.

In both of these notorious leaders (Antiochus and Caligula) we find an initial fulfillment of the prophecy about the Abomination of Desolation in the temple (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11). Evidently there will be a greater example, and a final fulfillment of this prophecy immediately prior to the return of Christ.

Next there was Nero, who persecuted and martyred Christians in Rome. Coating Christians with pitch and burning them to light his garden.

Then there was Domitian, who insisted on being referred to as “Dominus et Deus,” Lord and God.

The first empire-wide persecution occurred under Decius circa AD 250.

The worst persecution was the last under Diocletian circa AD 300.

Throughout history other anti-Christs like Hitler have murdered millions of Christians and/or Jews.

But none of these has been the ultimate and final fulfillment of Anti-Christ. That one is still to come.

Characteristics of the Anti-Christ to watch out for:

  1. Powerful world leader with absolute global authority (Revelation 13:1-10).
  2. Rejects Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah and God’s Son come in the flesh (1 Jn. 2:22, 3:2-3) 
  3. Exalts him/herself as God or a god, and will demand and receive worship from everyone (above Daniel 11:36, Revelation 13:8).
  4. Opposes the Bible’s revelation of right and wrong.
  5. Changes the calendar and the law to reflect rejection of Christian and Jewish faith (Daniel 7:25)
  6. His image will be set up in the Temple (Daniel 11:31). I believe that this will be his demand for ultimate allegiance from everyone, which amounts to setting up his image in the hearts of people. We see examples of this in Communist N. Korea today, ie Dear Leader Kim Young Un.
  7. He will even be given authority to make war and successfully conquer God’s people for a short time (Rev. 13:7)
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God’s Will Is for His People to be Holy

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”
(1 Thessalonians 4:3–8, ESV)

This is an admonition for us. Christians must be holy, and that is a process. In the sexually immoral culture of 1st century Rome it was necessary to emphasize that holiness includes sexual purity. So important was this issue that it was one of the few prohibitions contained in the circular letter from the Jerusalem Counsel, a formal meeting that was called to determine the relationship between Gentiles and the Mosaic Law.
“But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses. The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. (Acts 15:5-6, ESV)
James, the half-brother of Jesus and Pastor of the Jerusalem church, came up with the language in the brief circular letter of response.
“Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:19–20, ESV)
Here we find one prohibition to avoid offending primarily the Gentiles: “abstain from things polluted by idols.” Then there are two prohibitions against practices that would offend the Jews: “abstain from what has been strangled and from blood.” Finally, there is the prohibition against sexual sin, which was more prevalent among Gentiles, but equally relevant to Jews, and to us.

Learn to control your *vessel, which is to say your body, especially what we today would call your sexuality. We must control the body and the sexual urges of an old, fallen nature. If you belong to Jesus, then it is not your body any longer, even if you continue in management over it.
“The body must be treated as the Lord’s property and not used as a means of wanton self-indulgence.” (Bruce)

“not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God”

Those who pursue sexual immorality do so to the exclusion of knowing or experiencing God. Pursuing sexual passion is often the surrogate for the indwelling intimacy of knowing God, which is why it is common among those who don’t have a relationship with Christ. It is the highest form of pleasure that they know. Hedonism is the pursuit of pleasure, and many in the world are hedonists. Sexual desire consumes many people, so much so that they are willing to risk reputation, career, family and even their lives to pursue and fulfill it. Yet it is insatiable. It is never fulfilled. Only those with the Holy Spirit’s wisdom will be capable of accepting this truth and denying themselves in order to become what God wills them to be: pure and holy vessels, filled to overflow with God’s love and life.

So, how could someone who has experienced the power and presence of the Holy Spirit turn back to worthless desires when infinite joy is offered to them in Christ? As a pastor and a former youth pastor I’ve watched many young people trade their supposed commitment to Christ for sexual immorality. The result is a once spiritually sensitive and alive young person hardens their heart and becomes dead inside. They have little or no interest in Jesus. It’s all in what you choose to believe, or who you choose to believe in. Do you believe God’s word or your feelings? Do you believe in Jesus Christ or yourself?

“that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter”

We must not take advantage of another. In context this refers first to adultery, which is taking advantage of one or both partners in a marriage covenant. Let us say a man is having an affair with a willing woman. In so doing, he wrongs her husband. However, he also enables his illicit sexual partner to commit sin. A follower of Jesus encourages and empowers others to overcome sin; he is not a stumbling block into it.

Sexual morality distinguished the church from the Roman world.
“Christianity from the outset has sanctified sexual union within marriage (as in Judaism); outside marriage it was forbidden. This was a strange notion in the pagan society to which the gospel was first brought; there various forms of extramarital sexual union were tolerated and some were even encouraged.” (FF Bruce, Word Biblical Commentary)
Over time, Christians changed the sexual ethos in the Roman Empire, as they did in other important areas such as respect for life and protection of the weak. It was a common practice in Rome to simply leave a baby exposed to die if the parents didn’t want it.

In America and around the world today, it is acceptable to kill a baby in the womb. This is an extension of our value of personal freedom, pleasure and profit. I don’t want my freedom limited. I don’t want to take responsibility for the life I’ve pro-created. So, I terminate it. If Christians obey the commandment of God regarding sex, they will not find themselves in a situation where a sexual partner determines that the life of a baby must be taken in order to preserve their freedom or reputation.

We must not take on the sexual ethos of our dying culture. It has gone back, like a dog to it’s vomit, and like a pig to the mud-hole, to immoral practices, which Christian influence had brought into disfavor for nearly two millennia. Today, some churches are  embracing sexual immorality and gender confusion as a norm to be accepted, even blessed. Re-read the biblical text from 1st Thessalonians above. We are to be holy, separate, different than our culture. We follow the design of our Creator, which Jesus himself affirmed.
“He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” (Matthew 19:4–6, ESV)

Therefore, sexual immorality is not God’s creation, and this includes homosexuality and manifold transgender identifications. That said, biblical Christians must be merciful, gentle and understanding when communicating, “speaking the truth in love” to those who identify or are struggling with issues of sexual confusion. Understanding and grace don’t  constitute a change in sexual ethics however. We have no right to reorder God’s design of male and female, marriage and sexual expression in order to make those who struggle feel better. When it concerns sexual practice, the follower of Jesus must stand out as an example of moral integrity and sexual purity.
“…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Phil. 2:25, ESV)

“The Lord is the avenger”

Notice, there is a coming consequence for sexual immorality. Even those in the ancient world were wise enough to fear the consequences of adultery. Consider the cases of Abraham and his son Isaac. First, there was Abraham, who told the Egyptians that his wife was his sister to keep them from killing him and taking her. Pharaoh indeed took Sarah into his harem. In consequence, the people of Pharaoh’s house were subject to a plague. When the Egyptian ruler discovered that Sara was actually married to Abraham, he admonished the patriarch: “So Pharaoh called Abram and said, ‘What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.’” (Genesis 12:18–19, ESV)
Like father, like son. Years later Isaac pulled the same trick with another local king. This ruler feared God and admonished Isaac about the lie, then warned everyone to stay away from Rebecca under penalty of death (see Genesis 26:6-11).

The question is, why have we become so foolish? Why is adultery becoming increasingly acceptable with the advent of websites that promote it, so called open marriages and the like? The answer is simple, many in our world no longer fear God.

There are consequences for sexual immorality: sickness, disease, depression, spiritual insensitivity and a hardened heart towards God. These all come upon the sexual sinner. Then she must stand before God to give an answer, and that is what should truly inspire fear. Judgment Day is coming, and we must all give an answer for what we’ve done in the body, good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10, Rom. 14:10, Heb. 9:27). This fact alone should cause even the most sexually profligate, calloused person to fear God and apply self-control, regardless of feelings or identifications.

This applies all the more to those who would molest or take advantage of someone weaker, even if the weaker partner goes along with sexual activity. It is always wrong for an adult to be involved with a minor sexually. The teacher has power over the student, even if they are not that far apart in age. A 20-something has power over a teenager, even if she is 16 or 17. Willingness may quickly turn to disgust, shame and anger. Sex leaves a permanent mark, and this is especially true when the person exposed to it is young and inexperienced.

It is also wrong to take advantage of someone who is financially needy by offering money for sex. The person may go along, but the one paying or bribing them has the greater guilt, since he is also a stumbling block.
Jesus said, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:6, ESV)

We each have pet sins. We have weaknesses. Sexual immorality is often that sin or weakness. However, as Christians we are called to represent Jesus. As the Apostle Paul states elsewhere, “Let not sexual immorality be named among you as is proper for God’s saints… or “don’t let a hint of immorality be seen among you” (see Eph. 5:3). Instead, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh” (Rom. 13:14).

“God has not called us to impurity but in sanctification”

A former member of this church made a confession on Facebook some time ago. He stated that he now wanted to pursue a sexually immoral lifestyle, even though continuing to identify himself as a follower of Christ. I responded that the two pursuits are mutually exclusive (to negative reactions from some of his friends). Here we have evidence of what I said: God has not called us to impurity. You may feel an urge to follow some desire, some lifestyle, but that urge is not God calling you. It is the flesh, the world and the enemy of our souls pulling you away from God and His purpose for you.

At its root, impurity is not just sexual in nature: it is a divided loyalty, a divided mind. God has not called anyone to be what he clearly prohibits in Scripture. We live in a fallen world. I have no doubt that someone may be deeply enthralled and inured by sexual immorality. Calling it a “sexual orientation” is a redefinition that makes it seem natural. Sex is a powerful motivator that reinforces behavior associated with it. Those who practice sexual immorality are shaped by the practice, even if that is private in nature. They bend their minds and emotions toward a delusion, then believe that it is real, normal and even created by God. God did not create, nor does he ordain what is perverse and inordinate according to his revealed will, and many times obvious in nature. God has not called you to commit adultery. God has not called you to follow homosexual desire, or to pursue a homosexual relationship. God has not called you to move in with your boyfriend or girlfriend and live as though you were married. He has called you to holiness, and that means you must be different than our dying, disordered, anti-Christ culture. You must be different than your friends and colleagues. You must be like Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will give you the conviction and the confidence to do so, unless you push him away…

“Whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”

The Spirit of God is holy, and those who belong to Christ are inhabited by God’s Holy Spirit. There is a fundamental incompatibility between pursuing sexual sin—of any kind: homosexual expression, adultery, fornication—and being led by the Holy Spirit. When you go on in sin–although our culture accepts and celebrates it–you grieve the Holy Spirit. You are hardening your heart against God and his leadership. This is a very dangerous game. The Holy Spirit gently convicts you of sin, but you harden yourself to this and excuse your behavior as being part of your nature, justify the sin as acceptable; in fact, you may even justify the desire or tendency as coming from God. God created me this way. No, friend. Now you’ve moved into the most dangerous territory, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, where you call right what the Bible teaches and the Spirit convicts is wrong.

I believe God is merciful. I don’t believe making mistakes, sexual or otherwise, disqualifies you from heaven. However, I read soberly passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 wherein the Apostle Paul clearly states that those who practice sin will not inherit heaven.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”
(1 Corinthians 6:9–10, NKJV)

Return to Fitness 2

It’s been a week since I made the commitment to lose 16lbs by the end of 2017, and I’m happy to report: I’m on target. In fact, I’m slightly ahead. I didn’t starve myself, and I didn’t cheat. I ate a low carb diet, watched the calories and exercised for at least 30 minutes five out of seven days. When I see that I’ ve made measurable progress I am motivated to push harder and go further. So, I’m going to press on beyond the 16lbs after the 1st of January.

My ultimate goal is to get back down to the 7% body fat range with a size 29 waist, which is where I was in 2012 and 2013. Whatever I weigh at that point will be fine. Intitially without much muscle mass increase that will be around 150lbs, which is a good fighting weight for me.

Additionally, I will not drink alcohol more than once per week, and even then it’ll be one craft beer (or similar). I also want to detox on caffeine. The latter is a more daunting challenge. It usually takes around two weeks, during which time I fight headaches. However, I’m convinced that addiction is a bad thing, even if it is to something as harmless as coffee.

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).

The first quote is by the Apostle Paul and is in context with sexual matters. The second is from Jesus and references money as it’s primary application: “You cannot serve both God and money.” However, the principle behind both is found in the first commandment, and the Greatest Commandment. The first commandment of the Ten Commandments is: “Do not have other gods besides me.” The second commandment in the Ten is applicable here as well: “Do not make any idols.” Addiciton is an idol. It is a habit or a thing that has taken hold of my will to which I am primarily loyal. When there is a challenge between my addiciton and any other person or thing, even God, I choose the addiction. I love it. The Great Commandment is: “Love the LORD your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind” (Matthew 22:37, where Jesus affirmed the Jewish Shema in Deuteronomy 6:5), and in Luke Jesus adds, “with all of your strength” (10:27). I cannot love God above all when I am loyal to my addiction, even if that’s just coffee.

In the end, I want my heart to be pure and my mind single in love and devotion to Jesus. That’s the goal above all the rest. I hope I can inspire some of the people in my community to pursue the same thing. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

The Wrath of God

God may still pour out his wrath on people who have rejected his Son and persist in doing evil.

Many times our first impulse is to think that God is punishing people by sending natural disasters such as tornado, hurricane or earthquake. It is never that simple. It was once the province of Christians to speak of God punishing or judging groups of people for their sin, but now we have celebrity prophets. The latest to offer an opinion is Jennifer Lawrence, who believes that hurricanes are hitting southern states because Mother Nature is angry with Trump voters. Apparently Ms. Lawrence is a priestess of the Great Mother.

There are many other reasons why disasters occur, and the primary purpose is to bring people to the point of hope in God and his promise of heaven. God may also use trouble to correct his people, and test our faith.

However, we cannot dismiss the possibility that God may still punish people by pouring out his wrath. Salvation is first and foremost salvation from God’s wrath. What happens when people continue to reject God’s solution for sin? What happens when they persist in doing evil? What happens when they call evil good and good evil? We see all of this happening in the USA today. Are we foolish enough to believe that the Judge of all humankind will fail to act? This is the God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their perverse sexual evil. This is the God whose “soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Psalm 11:5). This is the Righteous Judge who clearly states that he feels indignation every day because of violence and evil (Psalm 7:11). This is the God who inspired the Apostle Paul to write in his letter to the Romans:
“The wrath of God revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (1:18, NRSV).
The wrath of God IS revealed.

Jesus Christ died on the cross to turn away God’s wrath from all who will believe. Since Christ’s resurrection we have been in an age of grace. That is why God’s wrath is not yet poured out in full strength on all evil and injustice. However, there are times when God acts. We must not automatically make the assumption, the oversimplified assumption, that God is angry with a community because they face a disastrous storm. However, we cannot automatically dismiss the possibility either. God is sovereign and just. He should be feared. The biggest problem today is that people do not fear God.

“a time to plant and a time to uproot what was planted…” (Ecc. 3:2)

Let’s look at the case of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It would be easy to assume that the debauchery of the Big Easy provoked God to pour out his wrath on the city. I am no prophet and am unwilling to state that that was God’s primary purpose for Katrina. However, neither am I willing to dismiss the possibility. I will say that many who were in extreme poverty in New Orleans were driven out of the city and have settled other places such as Garland Texas, where I live. Many of these folks were given new lives and fresh starts as the result of Katrina. Perhaps most would rather the storm never happened. It is likely many would have preferred staying in their city to being forcibly uprooted. God had a plan. Perhaps the Sovereign Lord disciplined the city. If so, did anybody learn? Have they turned away from sin and evil. Where is the fear of God?

God may also send or allow disaster or tragedy to bring us to our knees to repent and seek him. Jesus addressed this very issue, and it is recorded in the Gospel of Luke.

“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016. (Luke 13:1-5).

So, as America faces the second catastrophic hurricane within a week, as major wildfires burn in four western states, do people recognize a need to repent? I believe Jesus would say, “Do you think the people of Houston are worse sinners than other Americans? Do you think the residents of Montana are worse sinners than other Americans? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, this may happen to you.

The most powerful earthquake ever to hit Mexico struck a few days ago, killing 64 people. Do you think the people of Mexico, or the city of Juchitan in Oaxaca state, where 36 died and a third of the homes collapsed, are worse sinners than people in North America, or other nations in Central or South America? To this Jesus might well say, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

You and I live in a dark, dangerous, cursed world. Certainly we see the beauty and order of its origin. The weather in north Texas is beautiful today, Fall is coming, the air is cooler. A couple of weeks ago we saw the perfection of God’s original creation via the solar eclipse. However, two years ago a tornado swept through Garland and Rowlett, destroying hundreds of homes and taking half a dozen lives We’ve been hit with destructive hail and floods in recent years. Did we learn what God was trying to teach us? Have we had a change of heart and mind as a result of our own calamity?

Do you realize that although God’s original creation is perfect, this is a fallen world, which lies under God’s curse. Are you still seeking fulfillment here? Do you still love this world? “Do not love the world or the things in it! If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you!” (1 John 2:15, cf. James 4:4) We need to be saved, my friends. We need to become part of the new creation and the coming kingdom of God. And we need to live our lives as exiles and strangers here on earth (1 Peter 2:11). This old creation longs to be set free with the children of God.

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, no willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:19-22, ESV)

Are you one of God’s children? Have you received the Lord Jesus?
“To as many as received him, those who believed in his name, he gave the right to be children of God” (John 1:12). One day there will come a great renewal of the earth and sky, and we who have been made new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), will live forever the presence of God in his new creation. This isn’t heaven, friends, but heaven is coming!

If you have faith in Jesus Christ, the suffering here is as close to hell as you’ll ever get. If you don’t believe, the beauty here is as close to heaven as you’ll ever get.

What about our nation? Is God saying something to America right now? I believe the Lord has always protected this great nation, because it was founded on faith in Christ. It has always been imperfect, but God has kept us safe because of the faith of his people. Today, America has moved further and further from her founding principles, fewer and fewer people have genuine faith in Jesus. God briefly lifted his hand of protection from America on September 11th, 2001, and evil came rushing in. Do we realize how often God turns evil away from our nation? Do we understand how blessed we’ve been? How often does God intervene and keep disaster, tragedy and evil from befalling us?
America, America!
God shed his grace on thee!
Why have you turned your back on your God? Get ready for more disasters, more tragedies, more evil.

What must believers do? We must pray. We must believe in a good, loving and just God, who is angry with wickedness, violence and injustice every day. We must all repent. Everybody needs to be saved! In an age of grace God’s goal is always for all people to turn to Jesus Christ. especially when he chooses to allow or send calamity upon a community,
“… not wishing for any to perish but that all come to repentance”
(2 Peter 3:9).
“There is therefore no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

To escape God’s wrath of God, fear Him, repent of your sins, run to our good and loving Father, receive Jesus Christ into your heart now. Put your hope in God who promises that you will never be separated from his love, no matter what (Romans 8:28-39).

Pray for our nation to repent, and hide yourself in Christ until the wrath of God passes by.

“Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer” (Isaiah 26:20-21).

There Is a Time and Purpose for Everything 

The Teacher in Ecclesiastes states that there is a time and a season for everything. 

 “a time to be born, and a time to die; 

  a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 

  a time to kill, and a time to heal; 

  a time to break down, and a time to build up; 

  a time to weep, and a time to laugh; 

  a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 

  a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; 

  a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 

  a time to seek, and a time to lose; 

  a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 

  a time to tear, and a time to sew; 

  a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 

 a time to love, and a time to hate; 

  a time for war, and a time for peace.” 

(Ecclesiastes 3:2-8)

“Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God would allow something bad to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one.” -Tim Keller
That there is an appointed time or season implies God has a purpose and a foreordained plan, even if he is not the direct cause of something. God may intervene in nature or in history and order something to occur, or he may allow an event due to the free will of people, or the blind operation of nature’s laws. Since God has the power to intervene, we rightly see him as ultimately responsible. 

God has a purpose, which is being worked out in the world. You and I have free will and the responsibility to seek God and discover his will, and the way he intends things to be.

God “works all things after the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). God’s will is bound to his character, and God is love. Therefore, nothing God wills is outside his love. God always has a reason and a purpose for causing or permitting things to happen. We call this Providence.

God is not the direct (efficient) cause of severe weather events like Hurricane Harvey, but he is the final cause. That is, God has a reason for creating the world, and the laws by which it operates, and for giving humans a will and permitting them the freedom to exercise it. He has a reason for permitting humans to sin, and for placing the entire earth under a curse of separation from his immediate life-giving care. God has a reason for subjecting the creation to futility and bondage to corruption (see Romans 8:20-21). 

God’s plan has always been for the present creation to be temporary. Even before the fall, Eden was not intended to be the final state. God realized that human beings would sin, and that has always been part of his plan. God is not the efficient cause of sin, but he has a purpose for permitting it.

The final cause, the purpose for every event that takes place under heaven, is the hope of eternal life with God. This hope involves God’s plan to adopt believers as his children and make them like his only begotten Son. This hope extends to the recreation of heaven and earth. God’s purpose for creating everything is so you and I may have a relationship with him as Abba-Father for all eternity.  What an amazing plan!  So, hang on: This ain’t heaven… yet. But heaven is coming!

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation. 21:1-5).
For now, there are events that take place in our world and in our lives for which God does not reveal the an immediate purpose. 
However, we can be assured that a good and just God has good reason for what he does, and the ultimate purpose is to make the saints holy like Jesus, and to bring many sons and daughters to His glory (Heb. 2:10, Rom 8:29-30)

We can be assured, then, that whatever happens will result in our good and God’s glory (Romsns 8:28).

Divine Economics 101

“Give and it will be given to you…” (Luke 6:38).

The way the world works when it concerns money or the use of any material resource is this: Get as much as you can. Invest in whomever or whatever will bring you the most profit. Giving is foolish. Why give your money to someone who hasn’t earned it, or who will do nothing for you?

The way God’s Kingdom works is different. Giving is investing. It is investing in a person who needs help, or in a church that promotes God’s love and preaches the Good News. The person who gives from a cheerful heart to a holy cause relies on God, not human beings, to bring the increase.

I believe that when I represent Christ and tip a waiter or other service person, I will receive an increase from God. When I give assistance to a person in genuine need, God will reimburse me and bless me over and above my gift. When I tithe to my church, I am demonstrating my trust in God’s provision and promise regarding money.

Many people follow the worldly model. I’ve experienced this firsthand in driving for Uber. Uber is a ride-sharing platform, kind of like a tool for independent taxi drivers to use in order to find passengers. Uber doesn’t encourage tipping, and riders are happy to oblige. I think I’ve been tipped a total of three times in 53 rides I’ve given so far. Passengers express gratitude on occasion, but they don’t tip. Now, in part, this may be due to the fact that many people don’t carry cash and Uber provides no mechanism within the app to tip via your credit card. Uber understands how many people think. They don’t want to tip, so they aren’t encouraged to do so. Sad. Lyft is the other ride-sharing service. Lyft provides the opportunity for passengers to tip within the app. I’d say about 1/4-1/3 of my passengers on Lyft will tip. So, even when prompted, the majority of people don’t tip.

If human beings were in touch with God allowed their hearts to be their guide, there would be no need for government welfare. There would be less poverty. People would do what the primitive Christians did: they sold their property and gave their money to help the genuinely poor among them. It was a sort of voluntary communism. They weren’t forced to do this; they chose to do so to help their brothers and sisters.

Now, I’d say there would be no poverty if we all followed the leading of our hearts and listened to God, but I realize that what Jesus said remains true. “The poor you will always have with you.” Why is this? Not everyone can handle wealth. Not everyone will work. People make mistakes with money. So, there will always be a need for giving to help the poor. That is good. It teaches all of us what is important.

So, do you follow the worldly model for money, or God’s economic plan. God’s plan means you will be a consistent, persistent giver. Following his plan means you trust God and not people to bring you the increase and meet your needs. What you do with your money says everything about what, or who, you believe in.

Slanderer

The Devil is a slanderer; that is what the name means and that is what he does well. Have you ever been at the receiving end of a slanderous accusation, or a malicious rumor? Many of us have at one time or another. It is not possible to control what others may say about you. It is possible to control what you do about it.

You may be innocent, but unstable, angry people may attack you or your character anyway. The internet has made this very easy. Social media, in particular, provides a pipeline for slander. In the privacy of their own home, and with the ease of a few keystrokes, anybody can say anything about anybody anytime. Facts are unnecessary and truth is rarely sought. People enjoy seeing conflict; it doesn’t matter if there is a basis in truth. As Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” In our day truth is the casualty of our culture of self-interest. Too many think of truth as whatever the majority says it is, or what the loudest and most convincing voices say it is. By this definition truth is the story people believe.

However, that is not truth. Something is true when it corresponds to reality, and absolute truth is what corresponds to ultimate unchanging reality. Jesus Christ called himself the embodiment of truth. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6). We may come to know the Truth when we follow Jesus Christ and live by his teaching and commandments. “If you continue in my word, then you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). When you understand that truth is not just an opinion, but, rather, what is taught and embodied in Jesus, then you are on the way to living a healthy, reasonable, stable life.

Truth comes from God, who made the world and holds it together. God is behind existence, or reality. What is true is based upon objective reality, not subjective perception of it. In order to understand—or even properly perceive—reality, you have to believe that there is a right way and a wrong way of looking at things. When I choose only to see what pleases me, benefits me, or agrees with my preconceived understanding of things, I will inevitably be blinded by my overwhelming self-interest. If someone hurts me, for example, whether they intended to or not, I may not be able to look at them reasonably or objectively any longer. Anger, fear, resentment, hostility and the like, are all emotions that produce a fight or flight response. The one who hurt me has become the enemy, and I cannot see or say anything good about them.

An example of this may be observed when a couple divorces. Former lovers, partners and parents become mortal enemies. Children hear (or overhear) each parent accuse the other of various crimes and character flaws. Kids are caught in the middle and forced to choose sides. They become casualties of war, victims of friendly fire. Wisdom would lead parents to respect one another as a model for their children, even when they feel compelled to divorce.

The Devil is a slanderer. He uses slander to divide and conquer. He seeks to steal, kill and destroy all that God loves (John 10:10), and that means you and me and our relationships. You may be angry because of some offense or past hurt, but the Bible says clearly, “Human anger does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). You may want to get back at someone for something that they’ve done to you (or what you think they’ve done). However, the Bible teaches that we must leave payback to God. He is the one in charge of judgment; not you, not me. Jesus could have called down legions of angels to destroy those who were crucifying him, but instead he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The Apostle Paul quoted from the Proverbs and from the Law when he said, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19-20). Jesus clearly commanded, “Do not judge or you will be judged. With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). It is the devil who urges you to seek payback. This is a distorted form of justice.

Above all, Jesus ties our forgiveness from God to our willingness to forgive others. If you refuse to forgive, you will not be forgiven for your sins either. At first, this seems difficult to reconcile with grace, but it is what Jesus clearly taught. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14–15, NIV) If I am not willing to forgive, then I am also unwilling to repent of my sins and be forgiven as the result of faith in Jesus.

You may not be the one who has been wronged, and you may have no consciousness of having wronged another, but that will not save you from being accused eventually. What will your response be? Even if you’ve never been unjustly accused of something, you may be fascinated by reading or watching people argue and fight. What should your response be? The answer to both of these scenarios is the same when you are a follower of Jesus.

Our fist reaction must be love, and our first action must be prayer. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Pray for wisdom in dealing with the person(s) or situation(s) you face (James 1:5). “Be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16) when dealing with people who are obviously allowing the devil to use them as tools of hostility and destruction. Fight them in prayer, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in their lives and upon their consciences. “Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but…against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). If your reputation is being harmed, read the Psalms and pray for vindication from the Lord. If you must act to protect yourself or your family, do so with restraint and in love, which means seeking only to stop the slanderer’s actions, and lead them to realize their wrong attitudes. Again, be wise. Forgive, but be wise about restoring trust.

I’ve waited to the end of this essay to give a real world example because I wanted to lay out the problem and the principles first. I’m also not interested in inciting the very thing I’ve warned against here. So read the example with that in mind.

Recently one of my social media connections left highly slanderous posts about a person in our church. The accusations they made were emotional, untrue, and libelous. I don’t know if I was able to delete these posts quickly enough to keep them from doing harm to the reputation of our church and the person they accused. I have banned them from all social media over which I have control. However, the slanderer went to a site I don’t control and left a horrible, libelous review of our church, filled with accusations and lies. This person has never attended our church. If the review was read only those who know this person and their history, the damage would be minimal, but anyone may read a review and few people doubt what they read.

I wrote this person a reasonable and honest email, asking them to remove the review. After some consideration they did. I cannot guarantee that their feelings have changed. In fact, a recent email indicates that they are still hostile. So, I continue to pray. I will be seeking wise counsel, and, if necessary, we will take appropriate action to protect the reputation of our church and its members.

What should you do? If we all stopped reading and sharing gossip, rumor, accusation and slander, it would serve to change our communities and our culture. When you encounter something like I’ve described, immediately begin to pray. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom, and open your heart to the Holy Spirit’s conviction, then you will know if you are to confront someone about slandering or gossiping. Show love and compassion toward all, and refuse to be the judge in any situation. May truth, justice and love prevail among Christ’s followers at all times. Amen.