Ask The Chaplain

Ask The Chaplain

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tithing VS New Testament Giving

Most churches I have been to teach rather emphatically that Christians should “tithe,” that is, give 10% of their income to their church. I have even heard some ministers say that if you don’t tithe, God will not bless you. What does the Bible say about financial giving?

“What does the Bible say?” is always the “bottom line” in life, but that vital question needs a qualifier: “To whom?” The Bible, the Word of God, most certainly does speak about financial giving, and a good case can be made that it is one of the five most basic activities for a Christian, the others being prayer, Bible reading and study, fellowship with other Christians, and telling others the Good News about Jesus Christ.

The question must be: “What does the Bible say to Christians about financial giving?” Why? Because what God says to Christians about financial giving is different than what He said to the Jews of the Old Testament about it. The sad news is that today very few Christians understand the difference, and, as a result, many are unnecessarily living under emotional and financial stress. For a more detailed exposition of this subject than we can set forth in this FAQ, I recommend our audio teachings The Joy of Giving, and Financial Stewardship: God’s Heart Concerning Money and Possessions as well as a book we carry titled The Tithing Dilemma, by Ernest L. Martin.

And, as is so often the case in examining a biblical issue, that takes us to the subject of the administrations in Scripture. Unless we understand what parts of God’s Word are written to Jews, what parts are written to Gentiles, and what parts are written to Christians, we can neither understand nor apply its truths in our daily lives.

We are currently living in what the Bible calls the Administration of the Secret (Eph. 3:9), which began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1ff) and will conclude with the Rapture of the Church (all living and dead Christians meeting the Lord in the air—1 Thess. 4:13-18). The primary curriculum for Christians (i.e., people born again of God’s incorruptible seed) is found in the Church Epistles: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 & 2 Thessalonians. It is there that we must look to find God’s specific directions for us today, and the issue of financial giving is given two chapters worth of ink in 2 Corinthians 8 & 9.

There are also some pertinent verses in other Epistles, and the message of Scripture to Christians is that because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, we do not live under the Mosaic Law, during which tithing was instituted and commanded as part of the Law. Therefore, tithing as a commandment of God has no relevance to believers today.

At this point, it is important to distinguish between tithing and giving. Although tithing per se is not relevant to Christians, giving most certainly is. As a member in particular of the Body of Christ, each Christian is to determine in his own heart how much he gives and where he allocates his resources among his brothers and sisters in Christ (2 Cor. 9:7). The Epistles metaphor by which material giving is strongly encouraged is that of sowing and reaping—the more you sow, the more you reap (2 Cor. 9:6). “Tithing” is never mentioned.

We are working on a booklet on this subject, and it may be titled, In Response to a Blessing, because that is the biblical basis for giving. Under the Law, Jews were to give out of their produce, that is, what the Lord had provided for them. Just like the Word says, “We love God because He first loved us,” so we give because God has given to us. When we understand what God has done for us in Christ, and that the material blessings we have come from Him, and that He promises to bless us back for what we give, giving cheerfully is a joy.

Even in the Old Testament, believers understood that when they gave to God, they were opening a door, if you will, for Him to bless them in return. This is, of course, still true, but the idea has been distorted by some Christians who teach that one must give to God before God can bless him. Thus, too many Christians are giving in order to get. No, God always gives first.

Also, He does not specify just how He will bless us. If we sow, we will reap accordingly, but it may not be money for money, etc. Some Christians have become disillusioned about giving because when they gave money to their church, etc., they did not receive money back. They may have even failed to notice the blessing that God did give them. When we give in response to a blessing, and not so that we will get blessed, we can be cheerful and contented givers.

Making known the truth about this subject is critical, because the vast majority of Christians are told, and thus believes, that it is God’s will for them to “tithe,” which means to give one-tenth of what they earn. Many of the more “fundamental” Christian groups are adamant about this, and accompany this exhortation with a warning that failure to tithe will result in consequences of various kinds, usually having to do with a lack of prosperity.

In many groups, this has become little more than ecclesiastical extortion, with church leaders using the lever of people’s sincere desire to do what God says is right to squeeze money out of them. Such leaders proclaim that what God says is right is that you give at least ten percent of your income—to their organization. As a result of such pressure, financial giving has, for too many Christians, become a joyless, mechanical act of “bribing” God to avoid the consequences of not giving, and an attempt to earn His favor (something they already have!).

For many other Christians who once gave cheerfully, financial giving is no longer an act at all. They have stopped doing it altogether, either because they got sick and tired of the pressure being applied to them, or they really could not afford to tithe, or they saw the money they gave misused and feel that they were cheated when they did give.

Neither of these attitudes—giving joylessly or not giving at all—is biblically right, neither is the will of God, and both are therefore detrimental to a believer. That fits with John 8:32, where Jesus said that experientially knowing the truth, that is, practicing it, will make one free. Conversely, error regarding the Bible (the truth) will put people in bondage. And financial giving is a category in which countless Christian people are being subjected to the bondage of guilt and put through an emotional wringer they do not deserve.

If you feel that the above describes you, take heart, because you can be set free by the truth of God's Word. Then you can also share with others the treasure you have found. In our economically driven world of today, having the right attitude about money and material things is a huge asset in life. Knowing and practicing what God's Word says about financial giving will enable you to experience the joy of giving, and it will enable others in the Body of Christ to experience the joy of receiving and therefore having their needs met, so that together we can reach out with the Good News of God to a dying world.

A study of the Old Testament will show that tithing was instituted as part of the Mosaic Law to Israel. Some Christians point to Genesis 14 and/or 28 in a misguided attempt to prove that tithing was instituted prior to the Mosaic Law and is therefore relevant to Christians today. Their rationale is that because Abram gave ten per cent of the spoils of war to Melchisedek, and because Jacob chose ten per cent as the amount to give to God for watching over him on his journey, this is the prescribed amount God would have all people give. This is not sound biblical scholarship.

The Genesis 14 record takes place approximately 2000 years after Adam and Eve, and during all those years there is no biblical reference to tithing. Nor is there any record that Abram ever tithed as a result of some biblical law that told him to do so, and he certainly was “making money.” When he did give one tenth, it was not of the increase of his flocks and herds, which was the tithe prescribed by the Law, but rather of the spoils of war that he had gained by defeating the army from Mesopotamia.

In Genesis 28, Jacob told God that if He would keep him safe on his journey, keep him clothed and fed, and bring him home safely, he would give God a tenth of what he had. That was certainly not the Mosaic tithe, which was commanded whether or not those things happened. Both Jacob and Abram gave in response to a blessing.

Even in regard to Israel, for whom the tithe was specifically instituted, nothing was said about it until the beginning of the second year of their exodus. Prior to that, in Exodus 25, for the building of the Tabernacle, Moses instructed the Israelites to give “as their heart prompted them.”

You often hear proponents of the tithe say that surely Christians would do no less than what Jews did in the Old Testament, as if every Israelite gave ten per cent of his income. A detailed study of the tithe is beyond the scope of this FAQ, but suffice it to say that the idea that each Israelite gave ten per cent of his income (and therefore each Christian should do likewise) is far from the truth.

For example, an Israelite who had fewer than ten cattle born to him in a year did not have to tithe on them because the requirement stated that only the tenth animal that passed under the rod was to be tithed (Lev. 27:32). A farmer who had only eight cows born was therefore exempt from the tithe.

The tithe was basically on animal and agricultural products, and was paid in kind (i.e., the product itself). If one did not wish to pay his tithe in agricultural products, and decided to give money as a substitute, he was penalized and had to add a fifth part of its estimated value to the amount he paid (Lev. 27:31). Such a law was obviously not intended to encourage payment of the tithe in money.

The main purpose of the tithe was to support the Levitical priesthood. The Levites were responsible to minister to the people, and were prohibited from owning land, which obviously limited the ways in which they could earn income. God’s plan was that their support came from those to whom they ministered, much like the direction of Scripture for the Church today (1 Cor. 9:1ff; Gal. 6:6ff, etc.). The tithe also provided welfare for widows, orphans, etc.

One reason why there was no command to tithe until the Mosaic Law was that until then there was no Tabernacle (Tent of Meeting) and no Temple, no regular sacrifices commanded (the daily sacrifices alone commanded by the Law required more than 700 animals a year), and no class of Levitical priests to support. None of these would be relevant to a Christian today, even if they did exist.

Should a Christian today tithe? One is free to give 10% if he chooses, but we are not commanded to give any particular percentage or amount. Sad to say that many Christians, once misled and often emotionally coerced into tithing, stopped giving altogether when they learned the tithe is not required. 2 Corinthians 9:6 and 7 make it clear that the more generously we “sow” with the right attitude, the more abundantly we will reap.

For some believers who do not earn much, giving generously may not mean a large amount. For others, it may mean millions of dollars, and far more than 10%. Each Christian’s situation is different, and that is why God does not prescribe specific amounts that we should give, but allows us to make our own decisions. Remember, we are “fellow laborers” with Him, and He loves to work with us in determining how much and to whom we should give, and He loves to bless us with more so that we can give more. That kind of giving makes for an exciting element of the Christian life.

You may say, “Well, what about Malachi 3:6-10? That says people who do not tithe are ‘robbing God.’” Those verses have been used innumerable times to prod Christians into giving, but wait a moment—to whom is Malachi written? Well, in verse 9 of chapter 3 it says “the whole nation” is under a curse. What nation? The USA? No, the book of Malachi is specifically addressed to the nation of Israel, and more specifically to the priests (see 1:6,10-13; 2:1,7 and 8) who were badly mistreating God’s people. To use verses from Malachi as if they are talking to Christians is at best poor scholarship and at worst dishonest.

So what should Christians do about financial giving? 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is the first place to go to find the answer to that question, and the heart of the message there is expressed in 9:7: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” If, for you, that’s ten per cent, great.

Beyond that, Scripture directs us to give to those who are genuinely ministering to our spiritual needs. When we do, we are making a sound investment in (that is, sowing into) a work that is bearing good spiritual fruit. Although there is no way we can help everyone who asks us, we are also encouraged to give to those in need, and we can seek the Lord for wisdom in doing so.

For a Christian, giving from the heart is all about knowing that we have a great, big, wonderful God, and also understanding who we are in Christ. Speaking of the attitude of the believers in Macedonia about financial giving, Paul said: “This they did, not as we hoped, but even beyond that, first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us, by the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:5). As Christians, each of us has been “bought with a price.” We (let alone our material possessions) don't even belong to ourselves. When you know that you belong to the Lord, and that everything that you have belongs to the Lord, and that he is responsible to keep his promises to care for you, then you can truly be a cheerful giver.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Church gone Astray....

Many of our churches take up big cash offerings for speakers (tax free money) and
pastors, soon the IRS is going to visit our churches and ask for a
paper trail, if you are a preacher and you have been taking a cash
offering BE AWARE! The IRS (Govt)is on a money hunt to fund the war in Iraq,
wake up saints the party is over! You must pay speakers with a
CHECK ..NOT cash! Speakers MUST show the check as income for tax
returns. Take it from someone that has had IRS problems in the past,
and I also know people that work for the IRS...Churches are on notice! Take this lightly if you will but the Government isn't just looking at the Mega-Ministries....they are looking at ALL ministries! If your church is clocking BIG dollars and there is NO evidence of CHARITY and BENEVOLANCE! They are coming for you! One reason the Catholic Church is above reproach in THIS area is they DO CHARITY....maybe we Protestants can learn something from our Catholic Brothers! If we do the right thing with GOD's Money we won't have a problem....Remember God said when you give to the POOR you are LENDING to HIM! The church has strayed away from it's mend broken hearts, to feed the hungry, to heal the sick, and to set the captive free, these are all the things JESUS DID! It is a SIN for a Pastor to take tithes from a woman on Social Security that barely has food to eat! True religion is to visit the widow and the fatherless! It is a sin to have people in the congregation that don't have food in their refrigerators, yet we will badger them for their last dollar for the Pastors Anniversary! Something is wrong with this picture saints! The modern church is FLEECING the flock instead of feeding the flock. Where were all of the Mega-Ministries during Hurricane Katrina? Why do preachers have armed guards and high tech security systems? Churches are monuments to the Pastors! Churches are SUPPOSED to be houses of worship and prayer! Churches are supposed to be places where the poor can get a meal! Churches are supposed to be SAVING STATIONS!

The Chaplain

How are Strongholds in Our Lives Torn Down?

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. " 2 Cor 10:3-5

We choose to loose our minds from strongholds that lodge in our imaginations, pretensions, arguments and intellect, renouncing the belief that we are helpless to come into agreement with God's will and way again. We can bind our minds in joyful obedience to the truth that makes us free from captivity. The passion of Christ is to set the captives free and release us from our bondages!

Satan knows what hurt and trauma will activate our strongholds, trigger us to fortify them and to erect new strongholds to protect our deceptions. Of course, demons are drawn to strongholds, like vultures circle death. We need to get rid of the death.

Matt. 16:19 " I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." It is very interesting to actually look at the Biblical definition of binding and loosing. It is often the opposite of the way western Christians use the words.

The Biblical definition of bind is to tie, gird, join together for the effectual working of every part, knit together. I bind my soul to the will and heart of Jesus Christ.

The Biblical definition of loose is to smash, crush, destroy or lacerate.

According to the Biblical use of these words, we loose our souls from indulging in self-deception and pretending that we are free already. We repent of pretending that the problem is in someone else or ALL THE DEVIL, so that it is not in us! We bind ourselves to the truth and heart of God, recognizing the areas where we are not lined up with God's truth and or choosing God's will and way for us.

Key: Flesh cannot be cast out, but must be brought to Jesus and taken to the cross to be crucified. We choose to repent and to bring every fleshly pattern to Jesus so that He can crucify it on the cross. We choose to follow the strategy for combat that Jesus gave us in Matthew 4. We commit to you, God, to pray: "It is written ..., It is written ..., It is written ..., " in corporate agreement, for our freedom from strongholds!

We receive your truth about our identity in Christ from your Holy Word and your purposes and plans for our life in you. We choose to allow you to live through us with Godly responses to hurt, trauma and offense. Purify our hearts and minds, Lord, from every sinful pattern of sinful thinking and sinful behavior.

Jesus demonstrated the use of spiritual weapons by praying scripture. We choose to swing the sword of the Spirit, the truth of God's Word, in faith, receiving the riches of the gospel of peace and His gifts of righteousness, with my salvation. I pray under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and declare and decree God's Word!

Jesus said, "But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you. 21 "When a strongman, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the strongman trusted and divides up the spoils." Luke 11:20-22

What is the armor of a strongman that Jesus will take away? His armor is made up sinful reactions that we choose to indulge in. For instance, Christians don't start out to build a stronghold of bitterness. We put on his armor piece by piece.

unforgiveness - "until they realize how badly they hurt us and ask for forgiveness"

resentment - we savor and rehearse our resentment of that hurt or trauma

judgment - we judge them with condemning and judgmental attitudes

anger with sin - our anger involves sinful thinking and sinful behavior

wrath and hatred - we lash out in anger that is out of control

self-hatred - we hate ourselves for our reactions and behavior yet tolerate it

violence - threatening behavior: throwing, slamming, hitting, punching, fighting etc.

elimination - hoping they disappear, resign, are fired, divorce, die, commit suicide

passive aggression - aggressive behavior that is planned to look innocent

murder - thinking about taking or actually taking their life

Now a stronghold of bitterness has been built. We have bitter root judgments and bitter expectations that have not only sprung up but are well lodged and protected in our mind. Lord, show me how the strongman has taken my house and my goods; show me the pieces of armor that I have allowed to make up the bitterness stronghold.

Eph 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Heb 12:15 ... looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;

Our strength is in our power to choose. We can choose to pray "It is written .... " like Jesus did in Matt. 4. We can pray scripture in corporate agreement with others in the Tearing Down Strongholds class. We can choose to allow Jesus to demonstrate Godly responses through us in the future. We can resign from being their judge and surrender them to God, since He is the judge of all the earth. Our greatest weapons are our own repentance, God's Word and prayer.

It is important to learn to forgive 5 ways in order to dismantle the stronghold of bitterness. We need to 1. forgive them, 2. forgive ourselves, 3. release God from all blame, 4. ask forgiveness for our sin and 5. ask God to forgive us for acting as judge and jury over our brothers. Now we can bring our fleshly stronghold to Jesus to bring it to death on the cross for us. He will then be free to restore all the blessings and rewards that we missed while we were protecting our stronghold.

Rom 12:18-19 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.

Lord, we choose to trust you to avenge every wrong. We choose to love our enemies, take our house back and to enjoy our goods in peace, submitted to the stronger Man.

In our strongholds class, we take our 74 page scripture manual and pray scriptures in corporate agreement, tearing down our mental strongholds with God's Word. Jesus demonstrated that it is not enough to know God's Word; we have to declare the Word or "swing the Sword of the Spirit" to defeat the strongman.

Guarantee: I will teach on each stronghold so clearly that you will be able to see how each one operates in yourself. We will expose bitterness, jealousy, unloving spirits, rejection, fear, accusation, charismatic witchcraft, religious spirits and Leviathan or King of Pride.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What is an Evangelist?

What is an evangelist? That’s a good question, because you might be one. And if you are called (even if it was long ago) to such a function in the Body of Christ, surely you want to fulfill that calling and maximize your potential for the one who fulfilled his calling and died for you. Our risen Lord Jesus was the Evangelist, as he was the Apostle, Prophet, Pastor, and Teacher, that is, he vividly exemplified each of these functions, and that is why he is now most capable of “diversifying himself” by mentoring believers like you in carrying them out.

What is an evangelist? That’s a good question even if you are not called to be one, because (a) you want to recognize those who are and benefit from their ministries, and (b) every Christian is called to proclaim the “Good News,” so we can all learn something about how to do that. And declaring the glad tidings of salvation is basically what being an evangelist, or “doing the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5),” is all about.

As we look into this, we will also answer the question, “What is evangelism?”—something every Christian is to be wholeheartedly engaged in. Yes sir, if you are a Christian, you’re in sales! Well, sort of. Actually we’re not selling anything, but we are all about persuading people. What are we trying to persuade them to do? Sign up for forever. How so? We want people to make Jesus Christ their Lord, get born again, and thus have everlasting life, otherwise known as “forever.” How long is that, anyway? Well, let’s just say that, compared to forever, 20 million years is a temporal hors d’oeuvre. So signing up for forever is a big decision for someone.

Suppose you are looking for a new home, and your real estate agent calls, saying that he has found what he thinks is just the place for you, with the only stipulation being that if you buy it, you must live there forever. Would you have any questions, like “Location? Location? Location? Where will I be forever?” Or, “What are the neighbors like? With whom will I be forever?” Or, “What activities are available nearby? What will I be doing forever?” Or, “What’s the climate like—forever?”

Don’t you think those are the questions that Christians hear from people we are trying to interest in an eternal home? Sure, and answers like: “Heaven, maybe sitting on a cloud,” “I’m not really sure who all will be there,” “Playing a harp,” and “Thin air” may not get folks to sign on the dotted Romans 10:9 line. The point is that as The Manufacturer’s representatives, we Christians must be knowledgeable of the truth that appeals to those whose hearts are open to and searching for God.

Now then, the Bible in the room at the last hotel where you stayed was not left there by the Apostle Paul, or the Apostle Gideon—it is not the original copy, nor was English the original language. In fact, had those who penned the New Testament looked at an English manuscript, they would have said, “It’s Greek to me.” So if we are to look into the English words “evangelist, evangelize, etc.,” we must use some tools to dig below the surface of Scripture and “find out what they are made of,” so to speak. In this brief article we cannot lay out all that you will find if you study the pertinent Greek words, but we will point you in that direction, and also set forth an overview of these truths.

The relevant Greek words are evangelizo, used 55 times, evangelion, used 77 times, and evangelistes, used 3 times. In Greek, eu means “good” and angelos (nearly always translated “angel”) means “messenger,” “one who is sent in order to announce, teach, or perform anything” (E.W. Bullinger Lexicon). The idea conveyed by the evangelizo word group is that of proclaiming a good message, or good news. In the KJV, the verb evangelizo is translated “preach,” “preach the gospel,” “bring good tidings,” “show the glad tidings,” “addressed with the gospel,” and “declared.” Bullinger’s Lexicon says it is “to bring someone into relation with the divine glad message of salvation.” The noun evangelion is always translated “gospel,” and the noun evangelistes is transliterated into “evangelist.” OK, pass the baklava!

Interestingly, a corresponding Old Testament Hebrew word was often used of a messenger coming from a place of battle and proclaiming victory over the enemy. In Greek literature, evangelizo was also used of liberation from enemies, as well as deliverance from demonic power.

Some excerpts from Kittels’ Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. 2) are insightful:

Unique to the NT usage of evangelizo is Jesus, “who is himself the content of his message…If we were to sum up the content of the Gospel in a single word, it would be Jesus the Christ.” He “brings the good news of the expected last time” that was foretold in the OT. Evangelizo is “not just speaking and preaching; it is proclamation with full authority and power. Signs and wonders accompany the evangelical message. They belong together, for the Word is powerful and effective. The proclamation of the age of grace…creates a healthy state in every respect. Bodily disorders are healed and man’s relation to God is set right. Joy reigns where this Word is proclaimed.”

“The Gospel does not merely bear witness to an historical event, for what it recounts, namely, resurrection and exaltation, is beyond the scope of historical judgment and transcends history. Nor does it consist only of narratives and sayings concerning Jesus that every Christian should know, and it certainly does not consist in a dogmatic formula alien to the world. On the contrary, it is related to human reality and proves itself to be the living power” [Romans 1:16, anyone?].

“The Gospel does not merely bear witness to salvation history; it is itself salvation history. It breaks into the life of man, refashions it, and creates communities…Since the Gospel is God’s address to men, it demands decision and imposes obedience…The Gospel is not an empty word; it is effective power that brings to pass what it says because God is its author.”

“Judgment and grace are combined. Judgment is joy, for it destroys sin…Faith arises through the Gospel and is again directed to it…The message demands and creates faith. It contains and imparts peace. It effects regeneration and gives new life…It is an eschatological [that which regards the end times and life after death] event, bringing the fulfillment of hope.”

One more Greek word pertinent to this topic and worth studying, because it is connected with evangelion in Scripture, is kerusso, which is used 61 times and translated in the KJV as “preach” or “preaching” (54), “published” (5), and “proclaimed” (2). Kerusso means “to announce publicly” (which could be one-to-one), and it is more than a lecture, it’s an event. The word has more to do with heralding, or making known, a message than with the subject matter, and to kerusso is to tell people what is available, and expect action by the hearers.

OK, so functioning as an evangelist or being active in evangelism—“breaking into the life of man”—has something to do with talking—to live humans. Hey, that sounds a little scary. Well, then we had best think about “what to do with your head to get your mouth open.” And after that we will point out in Scripture some truths about an evangelist and also about evangelism in general.

When it comes to a Christian being energized by the Lord to function as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher, it seems that, along with one’s desire to serve the Lord in a particular way, he often matches one’s temperament and personality with the ministry he gives a person. For example, one called to be a pastor is often by nature a very easygoing, patient, understanding person, whereas a prophet may be a headstrong, confident, thick-skinned individual. People do change and “grow into” ministries in the Body, but what might be some of the traits of one whose calling is that of an evangelist?

He may well be “Greg A. Rious,” someone who finds it easy to talk with people. You might say that he thinks of himself as “everybody’s pal.” He may have “the gift of gab.” He may be a “natural born salesman,” someone who finds it rewarding to persuade others to come over to his way of thinking. He might be one who has little fear of people, and a genuine concern for their welfare. He may be a natural motivator, given to inspiring pep talks. Or he may be so enthused about the Good News of Jesus Christ that he pushes himself and grows into these qualities.

How can you find out if you are called as a prophet? Take advantage of every opportunity to utilize the manifestation of prophecy, and see if it flows out of you. How can you discover if you are called as a teacher? Start teaching and see if it comes easily to you, and whether or not you enjoy it (You might also want to notice whether anyone else enjoys it). How can you know if you are called as an evangelist? Start telling people about Jesus—which is what every Christian is supposed to be doing anyway—whether one to one or in front of a group.

Here are some practical tips to help you get jumpstarted in bringing others into relationship with the Good News. Tell yourself, until you are convinced, that you are “everybody’s pal.” Expect people to respond to your friendliness. Make a conscious effort to smile at people, even if you do not speak to them. Start saying an upbeat “Hello” to those you might normally pass by. Branch out from that to multi-word greetings, showing yourself friendly to others. Read a book about how to strike up a conversation—or write one. Ask people questions about themselves and then listen to their answers, watching for an open door to relate more deeply with them. People usually don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Surveys show that public speaking is by far most people’s greatest fear, other than Rosanne Barr on steroids singing the National Anthem. And for most folks, speaking to even one person is “public speaking.” I have too often given in to fear and “baaled out,” if you will, on sharing my faith with someone, even people with whom I was acquainted. So how can we as Christians not only get over our fear of telling people the Good News, but also become totally enthusiastic about doing so, to the degree that we salivate for, and seldom miss, an opportunity? [For further study listen to our audio teaching “Everything You Wanted To Know About Fear, But Were Afraid To Ask.”]

The idea of someone announcing the joyful message of salvation implies that his own opinion of the message is that it is so fabulous that he cannot keep quiet about it, much like whoever first discovers the cure for cancer no doubt will be. He will be driven to boldly share the cure with everyone who has cancer, and will likely not be easily discouraged by an initial rebuff. Of course, only a small percentage of the population has cancer, so he may eventually run out of “customers.” “Got sin?” Because every human being’s answer to that question is “Yep,” that means that there will always be a market for our message.

The key is to know him who is the message, Jesus Christ—both biblically and experientially—so well that we are absolutely convinced that he is the only answer for what ails mankind. In that vein, look at these verses:

2 Corinthians 4:13 and 14
(13) It is written: “I believed; therefore have I spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,
(14) because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.

Energized by a personal relationship with The Evangelist and by the godly desire that “all men be saved and come unto a knowledge of the truth,” an evangelist pushes himself or herself (for the sake of grammar, I will use masculine pronouns) not only to learn the basic message of salvation, but also how to present it more and more effectually. He realizes that every time he preaches is another opportunity to improve his communication of the greatest story ever told. Learning to use both logic and emotion, he hones his ability to vividly set forth the facts of redemption and bring people to a point of decision.

It is significant that the prophecy from Isaiah 61 that Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth near the beginning of his ministry speaks first of his evangelism:

Luke 4:18 and 19 (KJV)
(18) The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel [evangelizo] to the poor [literally: “those crouching and cringing in fear”]; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
(19) To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

An evangelist is moved with compassion at the pitiful plight of mankind, and has confidence that the Gospel message will bring deliverance and wholeness to anyone who believes it. He also realizes that he will not know who that is until he speaks the truth in love to them. We find out who is hungry by setting good food in front of them. And, understanding that we are not the Cook, but the waiter, we do not take it personally and give up if people do not eat what we set before them.

The only person in the New Testament who is specifically called an evangelist is Philip (Acts 21:8), and Acts 8 tells us quite a bit about how he carried out his ministry, so let us dissect that record somewhat, with the Scripture references in parentheses for the sake of brevity. The first thing we note is that an evangelist is flexible, and “rolls with the punches” (vv. 2-5), realizing that if one door closes, God will open another and usually someone will believe (v. 12). First and foremost, he preaches Christ (v. 5). An evangelist heals people, does miracles, and casts out demons (vv. 6,7). He brings great joy wherever his message is believed (v. 8).

An evangelist is ready to act on the Word of God, be it the written Word or revelation (v.26,27). He is in the right place at the right time (v. 27,28). He recognizes the voice of God (v. 29), and eagerly and fearlessly “runs” to obey it (v. 30). He employs questions to open people’s hearts (v. 30), and is ready to open his mouth and answer their questions with the Word of God (v. 34,35). He brings people to a point of decision, and “closes” them (v. 37). He does not “rest on his laurels,” but takes advantage of spiritual momentum and keeps on preaching wherever he goes (v. 40). And finally, an evangelist saves money on plane fares (v. 39, 40).

If you look at Galatians 1:6-12, you will find four uses of evangelizo and three uses of evangelion, and it is very interesting. It’s sort of like, “I’ve got good news and bad news.” The true Gospel, which Paul received by revelation from Jesus Christ, who is the Good News, is that of salvation by grace through faith. But there is also a false “Gospel,” that which teaches salvation by works. And that, folks, is the Bad News. A true evangelist preaches the grace of God, and never compromises to please men.

By way of a few more uses of evangelizo, let us note other things we can learn about evangelism. An evangelist knows that people in seemingly hopeless situations can be set free (Matt. 11:5), and that they can live without fear (Luke 2:10). He may develop a systematic plan to share the Word in his area (Luke 8:1), knowing that nothing will stop those who hunger for truth from receiving it (Luke 16:16). An evangelist does not let persecution deter him from preaching the Gospel (Acts 5:40-42). His message brings peace to those who believe it (Acts 10:36). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to the Good News (Acts 13:32). Evangelism turns people from idolatry (Acts 14:15). The Gospel message separates those who hear it into three basic categories (Acts 17:18-32)—a “No” today is better than a “No” tomorrow.

An evangelist is warmly welcomed by those who receive his message (Rom. 10:14,15). He is not happy if he is not preaching the Good News (1 Cor. 9:16). Central to his message is the Secret, which he boldly proclaims in order to empower believers to stand against the Enemy (Eph. 3:7-10). An evangelist not only wins the lost, he also “fires up” believers to go and win them. 1 Thessalonians 3:6 is the only usage of evangelizo that does not refer to the Word, and it shows that precious saints standing strong by their faith in the Word is also good news!

Romans 1:15 is a classic declaration by the Apostle Paul that exemplifies the heart of an evangelist: “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” In those days, Rome was about the most challenging place you could find to preach the Gospel (it’s no picnic today, either). So why was Paul so committed to preach the Gospel there? Because of what he says in the next verse: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.” An evangelist believes that with all his heart.

And he is moved to action by Paul’s three questions in Romans 10:14: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” An evangelist longs for others to believe the Good News about Jesus Christ, and realizes the he is one who is called to “go, stand, and tell the people the full message of this new life.” Whether or not you are called as an evangelist, you can do likewise. Maybe consider getting several of our booklet “Becoming A Christian,” and head outside!

How were the Old Testament saints saved?

The OT saints were saved the same way the New Testament saints were/are saved, by faith.

For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." 4Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. 8"Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account" (Rom. 4:3-8).

As you can see, the Bible tells us that Abraham was justified by faith (see Rom. 5:1 and Eph. 2:8-9). That is, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, v. 4 above. They were saved by faith in the Messiah in whom they were trusting. Only, for them it was a trust in the future Messiah. They knew He was coming as had been prophesied .
Also, the Holy Spirit was there in the OT times the same as the NT times. Consider Psalm 51:11, "Do not cast me away from Thy presence, And do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me."
God did not change how He saved people in the New Testament. It has always been by faith. In the case of the OT people, they looked ahead in time to the Messiah. We look back to Him and see the cross.

What is Apostasy?

Apostasy in the Christian church

"Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [Jesus' return] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction" (2 Thess. 2:3, NASB).
Apostasy means to fall away from the truth. Therefore, an apostate is someone who has once believed and then rejected the truth of God. Apostasy is a rebellion against God because it is a rebellion against truth. In the Old Testament, God warned the Jewish people about their idolatry and their lack of trust in Him. In the New Testament, the epistles warn us about not falling away from the truth. Apostasy is a very real and dangerous threat.

The verse at the top of the page tells us that there will be an apostasy that is associated with the appearance of the Antichrist. Most Christians are looking for the arrival of the Antichrist, but very few are looking for "the apostasy" that must come first. The arrival of the Antichrist cannot occur until sufficient apostasy has happened in the world. The Antichrist, who is the ultimate of liars, cannot abide in a world where the truth of God's word is taught. This is why the Bible says that the apostasy will come first and then the Antichrist will be revealed.

Therefore, we must, as Christians, ask this question, "Is there an apostasy occurring in the Christian church today?" Some would say no and others yes. But, as we look for the arrival of the Antichrist, should we not also be looking for the arrival of apostasy? And where else should we first look but in our own house, for the Bible tells us that judgment will begin in the house of the Lord (1 Peter 4:17)?

If there is indeed an apostasy occurring in the Christian Church, we would not know it unless we first examined the Bible closely and then compared the Church to the Word of God. It is only after truth is established that we would then have a measuring rod by which apostasy can be detected. Therefore, I propose the following list of biblical truths as a sample of essential Christian and non-essential doctrines by which we might compare other teachings and phenomena. Note that this is not absolute, and the nuances of several can be debated as not all will agree with the categorization of all points.

Primary Essentials (Nature and work of Christ) - Cannot deny and be Christian, since they are explicitly stated as required in Scripture.
Jesus is both God and man (John 1:1,14;8:24; Col. 2:9; 1 John 4:1-4).
Jesus rose from the dead physically (John 2:19-21).
Salvation is by grace through faith (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 5:1-5).
The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Gal. 1:8-9).
There is only one God (Exodus 20:1-3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8).
Secondary Essentials - (Nature of God) Cannot deny and be Christian.
God exists as a Trinity of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (See Trinity)
Virgin Birth of Jesus - relates to incarnation of Christ as God and man.
Primary Non-Essentials (Bible, Church ordinances, and practice) - Denial does not void salvation, yet principles are clearly taught in Scripture. Denial suggests apostasy.
Male eldership and pastorate
Fidelity in marriage in heterosexual relationships
The condemnation of homosexuality
Inerrancy of Scripture
Secondary Non-Essentials - does not affect one's salvation relationship with God. Debated within Christianity. Denial or acceptance does not suggest apostasy.
Baptism for adults or infants
Predestination, election, and free will
Communion every week, monthly, or quarterly, etc.
Saturday or Sunday Worship
Worship with or without instruments, traditional or contemporary.
Pretribulation rapture, midtribulation rapture, posttribulation rapture.
Premillennialism, amillennialism, and post millennialism.
Continuation or cessation of the charismatic gifts
Of course, the non-essentials are debatable (which unfortunately leads to denominational fragmentation). But by way of explanation, the Primary Essentials are those doctrines that the Bible states if they are denied, damnation follows. I have written on this in Essential Doctrines. For brevity, the Bible states that if you deny Jesus is God, you are dead in your sins (John 8:24,58 cf. Exodus 3:14); that if you deny Jesus' physical resurrection, your faith is in vain (1 Cor. 15:14, cf. John 2:19-21); that if you add works to salvation, you are not in Christ (Gal. 3:1-3; 5:1-4); and that if you preach a gospel contrary to what the apostles preached, you are accursed (Gal. 1:8-9, cf., 1 Cor. 15:1-4). Therefore, to deny any of these doctrines, according to Scripture, is to be outside the camp of Christ and invited to eternal damnation. This would obviously be apostasy.

The Secondary Essentials are essentials that further clarify orthodoxy, but there is no explicitly Scriptural statement regarding each (that I am aware of) which states that denying them results in damnation the way the Primary Essentials do. The Secondary Essentials deal with the nature of God, primarily. The fact that there is one God, who is a Trinity, is clearly essential to Christian orthodoxy, but there is no Scriptural statement stating that to believe in the Trinity is necessary for salvation. However, that does not mean that denial of the Trinity is acceptable. A person can be saved without knowing about the Trinity. But, since the Trinity is a biblical truth, and the believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit who bears witness of truth, a true Christian will not openly denounce the Trinity once he has been taught it from Scripture. So, it could be said that the Secondary Essentials are essentials to the faith as well as the Primary Essentials are.

The Primary Non-Essentials are biblical teachings that if denied do not affect one's salvation. But, because the Bible teaches then, denying them is a sign of apostasy. The Secondary Non-Essentials do not affect one's position with God, nor do they affirm or deny biblical teaching since they are debatable. Having differing beliefs in these is not a sign of apostasy, just differences of opinion. Again, I am aware that the categorization of the non-essentials is debatable, but I must draw the line somewhere. Sadly, it is in Secondary non-essential doctrines that most denominational fragmentation occurs. This is a sad display that most division occurs over that which is least important. Furthermore, I believe that it is in the area of the Non-Essentials that apostasy can first be detected.

2 Thessalonians 2
As quoted above, there is a prophecy in 2 Thessalonians about a coming apostasy that is associated with the disclosure of the Antichrist.
"Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [Jesus' return] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction" (2 Thess. 2:3, NASB).
Have you been looking for the coming of the Antichrist? Are you waiting for him to pop up on the world scene? If you are, are you also looking for the related apostasy? Most Christians are looking for the Antichrist but are not looking for signs of apostasy.

The Bible is God's word and it tells us what is right and wrong. To the degree that anyone disagrees with the truths of God's word, to that same degree they are falling away from it. What, then, might be some of the signs of apostasy? I've compiled a representative list of issues. You may or may not agree with all of these, but I provide them as food for thought.

Denial of basic Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the deity of the Holy Spirit, salvation by grace, and moral absolutes as found in the Bible.
God's word is true. Deviation from the basics of its truth is surely apostasy.
Countless denominational divisions that contradict John 13:35 and 1 Cor. 1:10.
Of course, there are bound to be divisions in the body of Christ and differences of opinions are permitted (Rom. 14:1-12). But, the amount of divisions in the Church is ridiculous and contrary to Col. 3:14.
Ordination of homosexuals
Homosexuality is clearly condemned in God's word (Lev. 18:22; 1 Cor. 6:9). To ordain homosexuals into ministry is clearly contrary to biblical truth and clearly apostasy.
Women elders and pastors
Whether people like it or not in this politically correct environment, the Bible does not support women as elders or as pastors (1 Tim. 2:12-14; 3:2; Titus 1:5-7). Men are called to be leaders in the church. The fact that women elders and pastors exist is a sign that men are not doing their God-given job.
Also, if you believe in women pastors and elders, do not dismiss this article. You must always examine yourself to see if what you believe is biblical.
Not preaching the gospel per 1 Cor. 15:1-4.
The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sins. It is not a message of convenience or embarrassment. Do not be ashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16).
Using the Lord's name in vain, something a surprising number of Christians do.
God's name and title are to be used only by Christians in a reverent and respectful manner, never in casual exclamation. Just because the sinners do it does not mean it is okay for the Christians.
Not sending out or failing to support missionaries (or cutting back unnecessarily) in violation of Matt. 28:18-20.
Carrying out the Great Commission is the command of Jesus. Any church that is able to support missionary work and does not do it is in direct violation of Christ's command in the Great Commission.
Marketing and merchandising
Those in ministry should make a living from their labor. Churches should seek to spread the gospel as best they can and selling things to do it is acceptable. But, how many trinkets and bobbles are offered in the name of Christ that do not honor God but are merely for the purpose of financial gain? Is the duty of the church business or the gospel? Remember how Jesus cleansed the temple?
Pastors who are more concerned with growing a church than preaching the truth.
Whoever and wherever they are, they need to repent. Pastors must stand on the truth of God's word, even if it costs them financially and materially.
Pastors who don't pray and seek God's face
Of course, this should be rare. But, any pastor who does not seek God's face in humility is seeking to do a job, not a ministry, under his own power.
Pastors who cave in to pressures from the church in contradiction to the word of God.
Any pastor who does this should repent now or step down from the pulpit. Pastors are to stand upon and for God's word, no matter what the obstacles or the cost.
Pastors who fail to equip their congregations according to God's word.
Pastors are called to equip the Christian for the work of the ministry in all aspects of life (Eph. 4:11): apologetics, evangelism, missionary work, prayer, service, love, etc. Far too many congregations are not being equipped with even the basics of Christianity and are instead being taught political correctness.
Pastors who don't teach damnation.
We are not saying that you must preach fire and brimstone all the time. But the fact is, the gospel that offends no one is not the gospel of the Bible. The truth of the gospel is that people will face damnation. This is part of the Christian message, and it should be part of Christian preaching.
Christians gathering teachers to themselves to make them feel good
Is comfort or truth the primary objective for the Christians? Are we divine in nature or sinners saved by grace? Do we deserve to be saved or are we saved by God's free choice? Christians who want merely to be entertained and comforted from the pulpit are still children. They should be challenged to grow and take risks.
Denominations that either adopt evolutionary principles or refuse to take a stand on evolution.
Apostasy is all around us in varying degrees. As Christians, we need to be very sure that we are clinging to the truth of God's word and resisting the inclusion of liberalism, moral relativism, and the oncoming secularism that is all around us. We need to stand on the word of God and never be ashamed of the truth of the Gospel:

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16).

What are the Contradictions in The Quran?

A Partial List of Problems and Contradictions in the Quran


This is a partial list of problems found in the Quran, which to the best of our knowledge remain unanswered. Your thoughts, comments, or explanations of any of the below are welcomed.


1. Creation: The biblical Genesis account says God created all in six days (see Genesis 1:1 - 2:2). The Quran, however, has a real problem here as Surah 41:9, 10, 12 have a total of eight days of creation (4+2+2=8) Meanwhile, Surah 10:3 gives the total number of days of creation as six. This is a problem of self-contradiction.

2. Pharaoh: According to the Quran (Surah 7:120-125) Pharaoh used crucifixion in dealing with the sorcerers - a practice which historical evidence gives no precedent to before the Babylonian Empire. This is once again a problem of historical compression.

3. The Golden Calf: According to the Quran (Surah 20:90-100)a Samaritan helped the Israelites build the golden calf, and it mooed after coming out of the fire. In reality, Samaritans did not exist as a people until at least 1000 years after the time of the Moses and the Israelite exodus from Egypt. Again a problem of historical compression.

4. Judaism: According to the Quran (Surah 9:30) the Jews believe that Ezra is the Son of God - the Messiah. This never has been a tenet of Judaism. This is a clear problem of distorted knowledge of other religions and historical fact.

5. Alexander the Great: According to the Quran (Surah 18:89-98) Alexander the Great was a devout Muslim and lived to a ripe old age. Historical records however show that Alexander the Great died young at 33 years of age (b. 356 B.C. - d. 323 B.C.), and believed he was divine, forcing others to recognize him as such. In India on the Hyphasis River (now Beas) Alexander erected twelve altars to twelve Olympian gods. Once again the Quran shows errors in historical and religious fact.

6. The Trinity: According to the Quran (Surah 5:116, 5:73-75) the Christians believe in "three Gods" - Father, Mother, and Son. This shows the influence of heretical 'Christian' sects in central Arabia at the time of Muhammad. In contrast, Christianity has always distinctly stated that the Trinity is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The teaching of the Quran on the Trinity has undoubtedly led to confusion among many Muslims on what the Bible (and thus Christianity) teaches about the Triune God.

7. Mary: According to the Quran (Surah 19:28, 3:33-36), Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the daughter of Imran or Amram, the father of Moses and Aaron. Mary is also said to be the sister of Moses and Aaron. Clearly Muhammad confused Mary with Miriam.
A second interesting point about Mary is the story of the date palm speaking and offering its fruit to her (Surah 19:23). This legend is easily traced to similar legends found in the apocryphal "Protoevangelium of James" the "Pseudo-Matthew" and "the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary" all of which have been dated to the fourth to sixth centuries, and were again believed by the sects found in Arabia. (More indepth information on Quranic sources may be found in Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall's The Religion of the Crescent).

8. Textual Variants in the Quran: Many Muslims claim that the Quran today is identical to the revelations received by Muhammad. However, there is overwhelming unanswered evidence to the contrary. This includes evidence of variations both prior to, and after Uthman.


How do we view and respond to these unresolved problems of logic, history and religious knowledge? While they do not serve as the basis for our belief that the Quran is not the revelation of God (as there are issues of far greater consequence between the message of the Bible and the message of the Quran), they do show us that there are legitimate problems with the belief that the Quran is God's revelation to man, as God who is all knowing and infallible could not give statements of error, and then claim them as His Truth. As Christians we find the answer in the Bible. Numbers 23 tells us,

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and He will not do? Or has He spoken, and He will not make it good? (vs.19)
God, who is all knowing and all powerful, cannot be errant in His revelation to man. The problems in the Quran and differences between the Bible and Quran are numerous, leaving an unresolved difficulty for Islam which claims to be a fulfillment of the Bible. The following link provides further, more indepth discussion of the above and otherproblems in the Quran.

What Does The Bible really Say About Prosperity?

Will God bless me with wealth if I am a good Christian?

Not necessarily, but this is an understandable point of confusion. Parts of the Old Testament make statements to the effect that God shows favor to the righteous by giving them wealth. In the book of Proverbs we read, “The house of the righteous contains great treasure, but the income of the wicked brings them trouble” (Proverbs 15:6), and, “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it” (Proverbs 10:22). As with all passages of Scripture, though, context must be taken into account. The book of Proverbs is a collection of wisdom sayings, observations about how God’s world works. In other words, the proverbs are principles (how things normally go) rather than promises (how things will certainly go for you). While it is generally true that obedience and faithful stewardship lead to prosperity, it is quite inappropriate for any one person to presume on this rule of thumb, or to make demands of God. God does not promise us a life free of troubles, financial or otherwise. Quite to the contrary, Jesus warns, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33a). Jesus suffered greatly on our behalf, and it is only natural that his followers should share in his suffering. But he goes on, “Take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).

Should I ask God to make me prosperous as Jabez prayed?

Probably not, if our goal in praying it is to acquire wealth. While the prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9-10) has inspired many, it is instructive to note that it is never modeled as a prayer for New Testament believers. Rather, the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles were written to Israelites who had returned from Babylonian captivity and needed encouragement to obey God and his law. The Bible portrays Jabez as someone who pursued God’s holy intentions for Israel: occupying Canaan and experiencing God’s physical and material blessings in that land while avoiding the harm and suffering which come from disobedience (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). Jabez was “more honorable than his brothers” (4:9), and thus God answered his prayer. Some of us are tempted to recite Jabez’s prayer in a desire to build “bigger barns” for ourselves rather than being “rich toward God” (Luke 12:15-21). But God’s intentions for present-day Christians include our willingness to follow him in suffering and sacrifice for the sake of others (2 Corinthians 8:9; Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus never told us to ask for wealth: He tells us to ask for “our daily bread,” or enough to live on (Matthew 6:11; 1 Timothy 6:6-10). Perhaps more appropriate than Jabez’s prayer for Christians today is, “God, help me give generously as you provide more than I need.” Or, “Lord, help me to do kingdom work with the time, talents and treasure you richly provide.” Nor does Jesus teach us that we will never be harmed; he tells us to pray that we won’t be tempted, and to ask for strength in difficult times and deliverance from “the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). Yes, we are called to pray for healing and health, but the Lord’s will is more important than our desires and earthly hopes and sometimes means walking through suffering (1 John 5:14-15; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

Why does God allow poverty?

Sometimes we know, and sometimes we don’t. The Bible points to several reasons why God, in his sovereignty, allows poverty in the world. Some kinds of poverty are directly related to our own behavior. First, the Lord sent poverty upon the children of Israel as a punishment for their brazen covenant-breaking (Deuteronomy 28:48). Second, poverty is the natural consequence of laziness, which is the neglect of the responsibilities God gives us (Proverbs 6:10-11; 14:23). We bring this sort of poverty on ourselves. But on the other hand, some kinds of poverty have nothing to do with our behavior; they simply happen to us (e.g., the plight of millions of people in Third World nations). In fact, many instances of poverty are manifestly unjust. In these cases, God allows poverty in his mysterious providence, ultimately for his own glory (John 9:1-3). Here we must confess along with the Scriptures, “The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts” (1 Samuel 2:7), even if we cannot point to a satisfactory reason. And whatever the reasons, we know that part of God’s gospel is that he will one day redress all these injustices.

Why does God allow his own people to suffer financially?

The Bible tells us that we sometimes experience trials for our own good, though we may not always understand how. We may be in financial trouble so that God can teach us to rely more and more on him, not material possessions (James 1:2-5). We may be suffering unjustly due to corruption or theft, in which case we have to trust that the Lord ultimately will repay. After all, final justice and vengeance are his, not ours. Moreover, we may be suffering financial loss because of forces beyond anyone’s control, such as a stock market crash, which are the result of living in a fallen world. But the Bible also reminds us that we can suffer for doing wrong—for example, we may be in financial trouble because of our own greed, laziness or lack of contentment (Proverbs 6:9-11; Luke 12:13-15; 15:11-17). Of course, in many instances of financial difficulty, there may be a mix of such reasons. In the end it is not our responsibility to solve all of the mysteries behind God’s intentions. We need to take care that we are testing our hearts and lives for obedience and proper attitudes, trusting God to care for us in this life and to reward us for our faithfulness in the next, regardless of how much suffering he takes us through in this life.

Why does God entrust wealth only to a few when so much poverty exists?

It is hard to understand why, if God is in control, so few people are wealthy while so many are poor, but the Bible does point us to a few reasons. First of all, we cannot explain the uneven distribution of wealth and poverty simply by people’s behavior (John 9:1-3). In the end we must trust God’s mysterious providence in sending wealth and poverty (1 Samuel 2:7). But the Scripture does tell us one important reason that God entrusts people with wealth—so that they can give generously to others in accordance with the gospel. In the words of the apostle Paul, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). The ideal envisioned in the Scriptures is an equality accomplished by voluntary sharing (2 Corinthians 8:13), not by forced redistribution. So we can say, at least, that God entrusts wealth to the few so that they will share it with the many.

Why do so many evil people prosper?

The fact that we will “reap what we sow” is certain (2 Corinthians 9:6). But reaping for our sins and good works primarily comes at the end of time, not necessarily in this life. God sometimes allows us to experience the terrible impact of our sin in this life, but he reserves much of his judgment for the end. Therefore, in this life we sometimes see righteous people suffer and wicked people prosper. While we don’t know all the reasons for this, the Bible does tell us that he shows mercy even to the wicked (Psalms 145:9), giving sinners like us opportunities to turn from our sin and follow Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Because of God’s mercy, he does not settle all his accounts in this life, nor does he always repay us as we deserve. Additionally, God gives us over to the things we love. Many have chosen to love money, comfort and the things of this world more than they love God and others. As a result, they may prosper—but only for a season (Psalm 37).

Do I have an obligation to help the poor?

Yes, though not in the way we might think. In God’s economy, serving those in need is serving God himself, and failing to serve those in need is failing to serve him (Matthew 25:31-46). The Bible says, “Owe no debt to others except love” (Romans 13:8), and Jesus teaches that loving others means caring for them in the same way we would want to be loved. How then would we want to be cared for if we were poor and needy while others were rich? Clearly, we would want help getting our basic needs met when disaster strikes—war, natural disaster, job loss, illness, crippling government or corporate corruption, theft, struggles arising from systemic poverty and social degradation, lack of education and family support as with orphans, or any one of a number of problems. If we need a vivid example, Jesus provides an illustration in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:28-37), where we see a complete stranger providing for the needs of another person in a dangerous place; should we Christians not do the same? In short, providing care for the physically and emotionally wounded; being a parent to an orphan or unwanted child; providing job training and economic empowerment; and providing emergency relief after famine, war, disease and natural disasters are all possible aspects of the Christian’s debt of love. That is what we owe the poor—especially those who are our brothers and sisters, called by Jesus’ name (Galatians 6:10). Not only this, but we also have an obligation to live together with the poor in fellowship for Jesus’ sake (Luke 14:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). Of course, we should not help people indiscriminately in ways that encourage them to ignore their own responsibilities (see 1 Timothy 5:3-16).

Won’t giving to the poor simply make them dependent on others rather than help them out of poverty?

Not always. Although medical problems and sustained, severe economic hardships can sometimes create lengthy dependent relationships, it is certainly important not to foster long-term dependence. To ensure that dependence is avoided, giving to those in need is best done through those with experience and relationships. But for our part, God tells us to give generously to the poor (Luke 12:33), period. We are not to sit in judgment over them (James 4:11), especially not in such a way as to keep our money to ourselves. In fact, the apostle Paul tells us, this is precisely why God has made so many of us rich—so that we might spread our gifts abroad as needed (2 Corinthians 8:9; 13-15; 9:9). Paul draws on the analogy of manna in the wilderness for the children of Israel: “Those who gathered much had none left over, and those who gathered little had no lack.” Likewise, those of us who “have gathered much” at present should freely release it to those in need so that those in need do not suffer from having “too little.” While we must be careful not to create unnecessary dependence, we must also avoid using the possibility of dependence as a convenient excuse not to be generous with the wealth that God has placed in our hands.

Can’t we just raise taxes on the rich until poverty disappears?

No, although it’s an enticing idea. Jesus is famous for saying, “The poor you will always have with you,” and since poverty stems from human sin, we always will have poverty. But he never meant this to be taken as an excuse to not assist the poor (see Mark 14:7). In principle, if higher taxes will provide better education for the poor or better medical care for the most vulnerable citizens or safer streets in high-crime areas, Christians shouldn’t always oppose higher taxes. However, the equation is rarely this easy. Often higher taxes can depress areas economically by driving away jobs and the very “rich” people who are best able to provide these jobs. (Many Christians have contributed to this problem by fleeing areas in need of economic renewal to avoid taxes or “evil” politicians. But the apostle Paul’s command to pay taxes [Romans 13:7] refers to no less a despotic authority figure than the infamous Roman emperor Nero. Christians always should seek the good of all [Jeremiah 29:1-10; Galatians 6:10], and we have a special responsibility to bless fellow believers, extending God’s kingdom into darkness, regardless of the cost to our wallets or lives.) Moreover, the Bible gives us a better way to fight poverty: following Jesus’ example. The government may have an important role to play in many matters, but that can never satisfy Jesus’ call for those who would follow him to care for those in need. Christians are called to “tax” themselves—giving their time, prayers, bodies and souls in friendships and Christian fellowship with those less fortunate. The hard work of fathering the fatherless, working with the uneducated, discipling struggling parents and teens, and renewing health care and education for our poorest citizens are tasks for followers of Jesus. God calls us to associate with the lowly (Romans 12:16) and with those who are below our social level (James 2:1-4, 8-9), giving generously for their needs. After all, that’s what Jesus did.

Why do I have trouble caring about the plight of the poor (or the fate of unbelievers)?

If we have trouble caring for the poor or reaching out to the lost, our first order of business is repentance for failing to obey God’s command (Jonah; Matthew 28:16-20). Part of our trouble may stem from failing to study the priorities in God’s word. Meditating on the Scripture’s message of mission and concern for the poor and the lost, memorizing relevant Scripture verses and reading relevant books can stimulate our concern for such vital matters. Supporting missionaries or organizations that are directly engaged in such ministries can be a great assistance to cold hearts. As Scripture indicates, our hearts follow our money (Matthew 6:19-21). When we invest in Coca-Cola, we care about Coca-Cola; when we invest in God’s kingdom, our hearts and minds inevitably will be much more in tune with his agenda. Above all, we simply may be growing cold in our appreciation for God’s grace for us. God sacrificed his Son Jesus to save us from our sins, at great cost to himself. A period of concentrated prayer, Bible study and fasting might strengthen our sense of gratitude and compel us to witness to the lost and care for the poor.

Does God favor poor people over rich people?

No and yes. No, because in an ultimate sense all human beings are the same. All are created in the image of God and therefore have dignity (Genesis 1:26-27; Proverbs 22:2); all are utterly lost in their sin (Romans 3:22-23); and all are called to receive God’s gift of redemption (John 3:16). No human life is worth more or less than any other, regardless of wealth or poverty (Exodus 30:15). But on the other hand, yes, because God knows that the poor are more subject to abuse and therefore in need of protection and vindication. Therefore the Psalmist wrote, “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy” (Psalm 140:12). And for the same reason, Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). The poor have a special place in God’s affections because God is not blind to the harsh economic realities of the world. So, does God favor the poor over the rich? In one sense yes, but in another sense no.

What did Jesus mean by saying it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God?

When a certain rich young man turned down Jesus’ invitation to follow him because he was unwilling to leave his money behind, Jesus commented, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24). He was pointing out a barrier to faith that especially affects people of means. Following Jesus means wanting him more than anything else. This comes relatively easy to poor people, who have little to be attached to. But for the rich, who have a great deal, it is a hard thing to put their hope in God rather than their wealth (1 Timothy 6:17). This is not to say that poor people are more righteous than rich people, only that they do not have this particular barrier to reckon with. Indeed, it is a marvel of God’s grace that anyone is saved at all (Luke 18:26); but we who are rich should take special care to humble ourselves and pray for God’s grace.

What is poverty theology or asceticism?

The basic idea of asceticism is that wealth is wrong and poverty right; in many cases, it also includes the idea that voluntary poverty is a special class of moral excellence. Asceticism is a lifestyle philosophy characterized by the denial of the flesh, especially in the form of basic material pleasures (e.g., food, shelter, possessions). It is sometimes called “poverty theology” because its proponents subject themselves to poverty for theological reasons—the imitation of Christ (Colossians 1:24), the conflict between Spirit and flesh (Galatians 5:16-26), etc. Historically, ascetics have done things like renouncing material possessions, begging for food, living in solitude, even beating their own bodies. At its worst, asceticism is accompanied by an unbiblical merit theology. At its best, it is a spiritual discipline undertaken in response to the gospel of grace.

Does the Bible teach poverty theology?

No. The basic idea of poverty theology is that wealth is wrong and poverty right; in many cases, it also includes the idea that voluntary poverty is a special class of moral excellence. But against this, the Bible says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread” (Proverbs 30:8). In God’s eyes, there is ultimately no difference between rich and poor, because all human beings are his creation (Proverbs 22:2). While it is true that Jesus blesses the poor (Luke 6:20), he does not give the sort of unqualified endorsement of poverty that poverty theology advocates. If one wants a one-word theology of money, then stewardship theology is certainly more biblical than poverty theology or other alternatives.

What is “prosperity theology” or the “health-and-wealth gospel”?

The terms “prosperity theology” and “health-and-wealth gospel” refer to a system of teaching made famous by a number of television preachers. Also known as the Word-Faith movement, its basic idea is that it is God’s will for all Christians to experience earthly prosperity. If one has adequate faith, so the argument goes, then the Lord will bless that person with good health and plenty of money for his own enjoyment. Specifically, if in faith one “sows” a financial gift to a Christian ministry, then that person is guaranteed to “reap” a hefty financial return for himself. If on the other hand one is suffering sickness or poverty, it is due to a failure of faith on that person’s part. Not surprisingly, this unbiblical teaching has some Christians excitedly giving their money to ministries and others angrily up in arms, because it has to do with the very meaning of the gospel. It is a subject of great confusion in the church today.

Does the Bible teach a health-and-wealth gospel?

No. The basic idea of the health-and-wealth gospel is that it is God’s will for all Christians to experience earthly prosperity, and the corollary is that if we are suffering sickness or poverty, it is due to a failure of faith on our part. But neither of these ideas is supported by Scripture. On the contrary, while the Bible teaches that there is a general connection between faithfulness and prosperity (Proverbs 12:21), there is not a guaranteed connection (Psalm 73:1-14). In addition, there is a special connection between generosity and prosperity (2 Corinthians 9:6) which exists for the particular purpose of further generosity (2 Corinthians 9:11). But the biblical gospel does not include the promise of health and wealth in this life.

Does faithfulness lead to prosperity?

In general, yes. According to Scripture, faithfulness to God and his commands tends to lead to earthly prosperity. Because God made the world and the rules by which it operates, following his rules normally results in doing well for oneself (Proverbs 12:21). At times, God has demonstrated his special approval of his people by giving them great wealth (e.g., Genesis 26:12; 1 Kings 3:13). And to the Old Testament people of Israel, God promised prosperity for obeying him and threatened curses for disobeying him (Deuteronomy 28). In many cases, then, faithfulness to God leads to earthly prosperity. But this is by no means a guarantee. Both Scripture and experience show us that sometimes, contrary to the normal pattern, wicked people prosper while righteous people fall on hard times. This does not seem right to us, but it happens all the time (Psalm 73:1-14). Being a Christian does not guarantee that someone will be well off in this life. (Take as an example the millions of poor Christians in the developing countries of the world.) This is especially the case in the present age between Jesus’ first and second comings. In the words of Jesus, no servant is greater than his master (John 15:20). If the Lord himself was homeless (Matthew 8:20) and persecuted (John 15:20), then his disciples will experience the same. This does not undo the general connection between faithfulness and prosperity, but it does warn us against presuming upon the Lord’s earthly blessings.

Does generosity lead to prosperity?

Yes, but with one important qualification. Both experience and Scripture show us there is a general connection between faithfulness and prosperity. This includes both non-financial blessings (e.g., the joy that comes from giving to the Lord) and financial ones. Thus in the Old Testament King Solomon writes, “A generous man will prosper” (Proverbs 11:25), and in the New Testament the apostle Paul writes, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). In other words, in giving as in many other areas of life, input often determines output. The money we put into God’s kingdom does not disappear. Rather, in many case, like a good investment, it often comes back to us. There is an observable and biblical correspondence between financial sowing and financial reaping. But just when we might think that the apostle Paul is giving us a biblically sanctioned get-rich-quick scheme, he goes on to explain the specific reason for this correspondence. Why does God enrich those who give generously to him? It is not for increased comfort but for further generosity. In the words of the apostle, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” (2 Corinthians 9:11, emphasis added). God gives us more, yes. But what he gives us more of is seed, which is meant to be re-sown. If we try to turn God’s promise into a means for selfish gain, we short-circuit the biblical process and the promise no longer applies to us. God replenishes the store of the generous; he does not line the pockets of the greedy. This is what sets the biblical message apart from the so-called health-and-wealth gospel, where selfish gain is the intent.

Does unfaithfulness lead to poverty?

Often, but not always. Some forms of unfaithfulness naturally result in poverty. So for example, it is written, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23). In other words, there is a direct connection between laziness and loss. If we neglect our responsibilities, we should not be surprised to find ourselves poor. On the other hand, it is a fact that many wicked people live in luxury. Even the prophet Jeremiah cried out, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jeremiah 12:1). God, in his mysterious wisdom, allows some wicked people to enjoy riches in this life, even while promising to judge them on the last day (James 5:1). So, while unfaithfulness does not always lead to poverty in this life, it always leads to judgment in the end. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ saves unfaithful people like us from God’s holy judgment.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"What Did Jesus Teach About The End of Days?"

The End of the Age

1 Tim 4:13 (NIV) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
Rev 1:3 (RSV) Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near.

The purpose of this study is not to teach a specific eschatology, but to meditate on the Scriptures concerning the rapture and day of the Lord for the purpose of preparing ourselves--preparing our hearts and minds--to meet the Lord Jesus when he returns.

Ready Or Not...
Are we looking to the skies, longing for the return of Jesus with power? Is the cry of our hearts: "Come, Lord Jesus!" or is it "Let's wrestle some more," or "Just let me indulge my flesh a little longer, then I'll repent." Will the events of the end of the age strike us with hope and joy, or dread?

This study is meant to be an act of worship. Don't skim or read it piecemeal. Wait until you can devote 20-40 minutes to meditate on the Lord. If possible, read the Scriptures aloud with someone. We may need these scriptures, lodged in our souls, very soon.

We start with the words of Christ in the Olivette discourse. Notice how Jesus focuses on how we should respond. The things He "tells us in advance" are meant to produce the proper response in us, the purpose for which the Word was spoken. Things like repentance, holiness, and faith, NOT speculation, obsession, division over the specific details of the prophecy. In the same Spirit, Joel, Paul, John, and Peter encourage us to prepare ourselves for the end of the age.

The Olivette Discourse: Interwoven From Matthew, Mark, and Luke
Mat 24:3-9 (NIV) As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me."

Mat 24:10-14 (NIV) "At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."

Mark 13:11 (Phi) " not worry beforehand about what you are going to say--simply say the words you are given when the time comes. For it is not really you who will speak, but the Holy Spirit."

Luke 21:12-16 (Phi) "...handing you over to synagogue or prison, or bringing you before kings and governors, for my name's sake. This will be your chance to witness for me. So make up your minds not to think out your defense beforehand. I will give you such eloquence and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict it. But you will be betrayed, even by parents and brothers and kinsfolk and friends..."

Luke 21:20 (NIV) "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that it's desolation is near."

Mat 24:21-25 (NIV) "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive the elect--if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time."

Mark 13:23 (NIV) "So be on your guard, I have told you everything ahead of time."

Mat 24:26-27 (NIV) "So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."

Isa 34:4 (NIV) All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.

Mat 24:29-31 (NIV) "Immediately after the distress of those days, 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather the elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other."

Luke 21:25-28 (NIV) "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Mat 24:32-35 (NIV) "Now learn a lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

Mat 24:36-42 (NIV) "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come."

Mat 24:43-44 (NIV) "But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

Mat 24:45-51 (NIV) "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away for a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth."

Luke 21:34-36 (Phi) "Be on your guard--see to it that your minds are never clouded by dissipation or drunkenness or the worries of this life, or else that day may catch you like the springing of a trap--for it will come upon every inhabitant of the whole earth. You must be vigilant at all times, praying that you may be strong enough to come safely through all that is going to happen, and stand in the presence of the Son of Man."

Joel, Paul on The Nature of The End
Joel 2:28-32 (NIV) "...I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved... "

1 Thes 4:16-18 (Phi) One word of command, one shout from the archangel, one blast from the trumpet of God and the Lord himself will come down from Heaven! Those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then we who are still living will be swept up with them into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And after that we shall be with him for ever and ever. So by all means use this message to encourage one another.

1 Thes 5:1-6 (Phi) But as far as times and seasons go, my brothers, you don't need written instructions. You are well aware that the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When men are saying "Peace and Security", catastrophe will sweep down upon them as suddenly and inescapably as birth-pangs to a pregnant woman. But because you, my brothers, are not living in darkness the day cannot take you by surprise, like a burglar! You are all sons of light, sons of the day, and none of us belongs to darkness of the night. Let us then never fall asleep, like the rest of the world: let us keep awake, with our wits about us.

An Epistle of Correction to Set Right a Counterfeit Letter
2 Thes 2:1-4 (NIV) Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above everything that is called God or is worshipped, and even sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

2 Thes 2:5,9-12,15 (NIV) Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 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. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness... So then brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

1 Cor 1:7-9 (Phi) And you have been eager to receive his gifts during this time of waiting for his final appearance. He will keep you steadfast in the faith to the end, so that when his day comes you need fear no condemnation. God is utterly dependable, and it is he who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Heb 10:25 (Phi) And let us not hold aloof from our church meetings, as some do. Let us do all we can to help one another's faith, and this the more earnestly as we see the final day drawing nearer.

Body Building
1 Pet 4:7-11 (NIV) The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever spiritual gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Christ Jesus. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Jn 2:28-3:3 (Phi) Yes, now, little children remember to live continually in him. So that if he were to reveal himself we should have confidence, and not have to shrink away from his presence in shame. You all know that God is really good. You may be just as sure that the man who leads a really good life is a true child of God. Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called "children of God"--and that is not just what we are called, but what we ARE. This explains why the world will no more recognize us than it will recognize Christ. Here and now, my dear friends, we are God's children. We don't know what we shall become in the future. We only know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is! Everyone who has at heart a hope like that keeps himself pure, as Christ is pure.

1 Cor 15:50-52 (Phi) Listen, and I will tell you a secret. We shall not all die, but suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, every one of us will be changed as the last trumpet sounds! For the trumpet will sound and the dead shall be raised beyond the reach of corruption, and we shall be changed.

Rev 11:15,18 (Phi) The seventh angel blew his trumpet... Now is the time for destroying the destroyers of the earth!"

Phil 1:6,8-10 (Phi) I am confident of this: that the One who has begun his good work in you will go on developing it until the day of Jesus Christ... God knows how much I long, with the deep love and affection of Christ Jesus, for your companionship. My prayer for you is that you may have still more love--a love that is full of knowledge and every wise insight. I want you to be able always to recognize the highest and best, and to live sincere and blameless lives until the day of Christ.

2 Pet 3:1-7 (Phi) I have tried to stimulate you, as men with minds uncontaminated by error, by reminding you of what you really know already. This means recalling the words spoken of old by the holy prophets as well as the commands of our Lord and savior given to you through his messengers. First of all you must realize that in the last days cynical mockers will undoubtedly come--men whose only guide in life is what they want for themselves--and they will say, "Where is his promised coming? Since our fathers fell asleep, everything remains exactly as it was since the beginning of creation!" They are deliberately shutting their eyes to the fact that there were heavens in the old days and an earth formed by God's command out of water and by water. It was by water that the world of those days was deluged and destroyed, but the present heavens and earth are, also by God's command, being carefully kept and maintained for the fire of the day of judgment and the destruction of wicked men.

2 Pet 3:7-9 (Phi) But you should never lose sight of the fact, dear friends, that with the Lord a day may be a thousand years, and a thousand years only a day. It is not that he is slow about keeping his own promise as some men seem to think; the fact is that he is very patient with you. He has no wish that any man be destroyed; He wishes that all men should find the way to repentance. Yet the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. In that day the heavens will vanish in a tearing blast, the very elements will disintegrate in heat and the earth and all its works will disappear.

2 Pet 3:10-14 (Phi) In view of the fact that all these things are to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be? Surely men of good and holy character, who live expecting and working for the coming of the day of God. This day will mean that the heavens will disintegrate in fire and the burning elements will melt, but our hopes are set on new heavens and a new earth which he has promised us, in which justice will make its home. Because, my dear friends, you have a hope like this before you, I urge you to make certain that the day will find you at peace with God, flawless and blameless in his sight.

Rev 22:12-16,20 (NIV) "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the Bright Morning Star." ..."He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.

Why Doesn't God Just Show Up Now?
C.S. Lewis: "God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over.

"God is going to invade, all right, but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else--something it never entered your head to conceive--comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choices left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side... That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not.

"Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it."