Friday, April 17, 2015

Remaining Cheerful in an Evil Age

Remaining Cheerful in an Evil Age
The headlines of this current age are enough to drive one to despair if not for Faith in Christ and the blessed hope that accompanies that Faith - a hope based on the promise… the guarantee of Eternity with Jesus Christ who cannot lie. Faith in a future of Joy and Peace that we will soon share with our beloved Lord and Savior.
Consider the following and take hope:
The Doctrine of Imminence is one of the New Testament’s most profound tenets. Our Savior plainly warns us through His own words and the words of those inspired by the Holy Spirit that He is coming again, and He is coming soon: He tells us of the necessity of living every moment with our heart set on His return! Since His Resurrection and Ascension believers have been living for His sudden return and throughout history the world time and again seemed to be ripe for His return. However, it wasn't until today's generation that events truly match, item for item, with the description given by the Lord. The very headlines of today match the season described by Jesus Himself, the season that would usher in the time of tribulation preceding His coming. The very season He told us to watch for. At the same time, we see countless prophetic scriptures from throughout the Bible which seem to echo with great precision the words of warning of our Lord.

You must realize, however, that in the last days difficult times will come. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unfeeling, uncooperative, slanderous, degenerate, brutal, hateful of what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

They will hold to an outward form of godliness but deny its power. Stay away from such people. For some of these men go into homes and deceive foolish women who are burdened with sins and swayed by all kinds of desires. These women are always studying but are never able to arrive at a full knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men oppose the truth. They are depraved in mind and their faith is a counterfeit. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those two men, their stupidity will be plain to everyone.

But you have observed my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, and how I was persecuted and suffered in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in union with the Messiah Jesus will be persecuted. But evil people and impostors will go from bad to worse as they deceive others and are themselves deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and found to be true, because you know from whom you learned it.

From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures that are able to give you the wisdom you need for salvation through faith in the Messiah Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good action.
(2Ti 3:1-17)

Dear friends, this is now the second of two letters I am writing to you, in which I have been trying to stimulate your pure minds by reminding you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the commandment of our Lord and Savior spoken through your apostles.

First of all you must understand this: In the last days mockers will come and, following their own desires, will ridicule us by saying, "What happened to the Messiah's promise to return? Ever since our ancestors died, everything continues as it did from the beginning of creation." But they deliberately ignore the fact that long ago the heavens existed and the earth was formed by God's word out of water and with water, by which the world at that time was deluged with water and destroyed.

Now by that same word, the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire and are being kept for the day when ungodly people will be judged and destroyed. Don't forget this fact, dear friends: With the Lord a single day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a single day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some people understand slowness, but is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to repent. But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief.

On that day the heavens will disappear with a roaring sound, the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be exposed. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, think of the kind of holy and godly people you ought to be as you look forward to and hasten the coming of the day of God, when the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved and the elements will melt with fire. But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to have the Lord find you at peace and without spot or fault. Think of our Lord's patience as facilitating salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him. He speaks about this subject in all his letters. Some things in them are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, leading to their own destruction, as they do the rest of the Scriptures.

And so, dear friends, since you already know these things, continually be on your guard not to be carried away by the deception of lawless people. Otherwise, you may fall from your secure position. Instead, continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Messiah. Glory belongs to him both now and on that eternal day! Amen.
(2Pe 3:1-18)

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” Matthew 24:36

Now, though we do not know the day or the hour of the Lord’s return, we do indeed know the season, for Jesus describes it in rich detail:

Then they asked him, "Teacher, when will these things take place, and what will be the sign that these things are about to take place?" He said, "Be careful that you are not deceived, because many will come in my name and say, 'I AM' and 'The time has come.' Don't follow them.

When you hear of wars and revolutions, never be alarmed, because these sort of things must take place first, but the end won't come right away."

Then he went on to say to them, "Nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be fearful events and awful signs from heaven." "But before all these things take place, people will arrest you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. It will give you an opportunity to testify.

So purpose in your hearts not to prepare your defense ahead of time, because I will give you the ability to speak, along with wisdom, that none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. "You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated continuously by everyone because of my name. And yet not a hair on your head will be lost. By your endurance you will protect your lives."

"When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then understand that its devastation is approaching. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, those inside the city must leave it, and those in the countryside must not go into it, because these are the days of vengeance when all that is written will be fulfilled. "How terrible it will be for those women who are pregnant or who are nursing babies in those days! Because there will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be carried off as captives among all the nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the gentiles until the times of the gentiles are fulfilled."

"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and there will be distress on earth among the nations that are confused by the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint from fear and apprehension because of the things that are to come on the inhabited world, because the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory.

"Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is approaching." Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. As soon as they produce leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. In the same way, when you see these things taking place, you will know that the kingdom of God is near. "I tell you with certainty, this generation will not disappear until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear."

"Constantly be on your guard so that your hearts will not be loaded down with self-indulgence, drunkenness, and the worries of this life, or that day will take you by surprise like a trap, because it will come on everyone who lives on the face of the earth. So be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to take your stand in the presence of the Son  of Man."
(Luk 21:7-36)

So much of what Jesus described over 2000 years ago applies to this very day. The scary part is that things are going to get worse. We are already seeing the beginnings of persecution of Christians here, in the United States - something no one would have ever thought possible, not in America, the land founded in large part so that Christians could practice their faith with no fear of Threats, Government Intimidation or having to choose between Faith and making a living. While persecution here is just beginning, overseas it is rampant. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have been hanged, beheaded, burned, crucified and tortured to death. More frightening still is that our own President will not lift a finger to put a stop to it.

The times described above by Jesus, the season which heralds His return, is only beginning. However our Lord goes to great lengths to point out that we believers, His church, are not appointed unto wrath. Somewhere between now and the point where God begins to deal with those on Earth who have rejected the free gift of Salvation in Christ, Jesus, we, the Church, will be ‘caught up’ into Heaven, forever to be with our Lord and Savior. This is commonly referred to as the Rapture and while I don’t have room to go into detail on the Rapture, happily I can refer you to a wonderful site that can answer all your questions much better than I ever could. Simply go to the website Rapture Ready and you will find the answers to your questions there.

It is easy to become discouraged looking at the world today, particularly for those who have children. Things seem so hopeless and out of control. Right has become wrong and wrong has become right, evil is good and good is evil. Our leaders and the most respected among us lie and cheat and nothing happens. Our President defies the will of the vast majority of Americans and passes laws by decree as if we lived in a monarchy instead of a Republic. Yet, no one does anything. Lawlessness, violence, perversion, drugs, gangs out of control raping and beating people because of their race - white. Our government doesn't seem to care. In fact, if anything our President and his Administration seem to be opposed to everything Christian Americans believe and support.

If we let it, all this bad news can get us down. Many Christians have abandoned the world. They are not bad people, but they have given up on the lost. They spend their time with other Christians, go to church, volunteer and live godly lives but other than at work perhaps, they have little interaction with anyone outside the circle of the Church and their Christian friends. In truth they are just biding their time until the Rapture or God calls them home. And who can blame them? Not me. I live with those same feelings. I have that same desire to leave this fallen and degenerate world and be in Heaven with my beloved Jesus!!

But, that is not what He would have us do. Paul urges us to run the race all the way to the end. Reach for that prize. Certainly, living the life I described above will not lead to hell. But, Jesus wants us to do more. Every soul is precious to God. And the time is running out to reach those who don’t yet believe. It is an effort to put myself out in the world to try to reach people for Jesus. Believe me. But it is something that we have to do.

And, something is happening! Today especially, people are becoming more interested in God and what He has to say. People want to know: What does God say about the Middle East? Russia? Why isn't America in Prophecy? Even unbelievers can feel the change in the wind. They are concerned and looking for answers. When they can be shown that thousands of years ago it was prophesied that God would bring His people from all over the globe back to their Homeland, Israel, and that the barren desert that it had become would flourish with gardens and vines and flowers. That will get their attention.  

Don’t despair. Satan wants us to watch the news and get all bummed out and hopeless. But keep in mind who is really in control. If ever there was a time, then now is a time for hope and for sharing that hope because it won’t be long and we will be in Paradise with Jesus. Can you imagine.

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for your Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Lyrics by MercyMe

Remember, for you and me the end is not the end - however it comes. It is simply the beginning of a new chapter in our lives… our Eternal lives.

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Luke 21:28

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
(Num 6:24-26)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hello, and Welcome to a New Adventure!

My name is Mark. I am a long time Christian. I have a wonderful wife, two great adult kids and a cherished relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I am also disabled, being struck down in the prime of life by a progressive neurological disorder. Struck down, but lifted back up again by Jesus Christ!

Having faith in our Lord before I got sick made, I believe, all the difference in the world. That is not to say that I have handled my illness perfectly. Oh, no. But, over the years God has blessed me in mighty ways and my illness, my affliction if you will, has been a blessing in its own way. Every night I go to bed knowing that in the morning my left leg might not work, I may have cramps in my arms and hands or I might feel pretty good and feel like writing to you folks. All of this is why I titled this Blog: Every Day a New Adventure – because every day is… Yep. A new adventure.

I thought I would start off with my testimony. This is about how I became a Christian. In later articles I will deal with Chronic illness and other subjects and how God has brought me through them. I will try to keep things light for the most part. After all, when its all over I’m going to heaven so there is no need for too much doom and gloom. But I will address some issues that must be faced eye to eye. In the mean time, here is how I, a devoted Atheist, responded to the call of our Heavenly Father:

It has been in my mind for some time to share this. This is a testimony of my faith in Jesus Christ. All believers have their own story. I just feel compelled to share mine:

Growing up, my family was not spiritual at all. In fact, circumstances in my life had caused me to resent, even hate God. During my late teens I became a devoted atheist. The astronomer and physicist, Carl Sagan fascinated me with his explanations of physics and I studied his books and videos with great interest. By the time I was in college, like my Idol, Dr. Sagan I was an atheist. I was convinced God did not exist.

However, as time went by I found myself wrestling with the nagging feeling that there was more to the whole God thing than I thought. After some time I got tired of constantly dealing with that strange nagging feeling and decided to silence that voice and definitively prove to myself that the whole concept of God was indeed, nonsense. I began by reading the bible. I was happy to find that there were many inconsistencies, even contradictions in the bible. Then there was the conflict between scientific “fact” and biblical “tradition,” accusations of Church meddling, even forging books of the Bible and who could forget all the evil, the destruction, murder and devastation all done in God’s name. Hah! How could anyone believe in a “god” that would let that happen.

Proving this to myself had required studying the bible and asking a lot of questions as well as reading various books and literature (there was no internet in those days). Most of the books I read were written by atheists and focused on debunking the bible. That was fine by me because that fit my mindset anyway. After several months I was confident that there was no God, heaven or hell.

Then, one night, after going over and over in my mind all the reasons not to believe – I accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. Go figure!

How did that happen? Well, remember that nagging feeling I talked about. During and especially after all my research that nagging feeling became overwhelming. The more I felt it the harder I worked at not believing. However, despite my efforts the few items I had read supporting the Bible kept bubbling up to the top of my mind. When I read my Bible it was as if God would guide my eyes to certain verses that would speak specifically to things in my life. For years I was torn. I didn’t know what I believed, yet somehow I did. Unlike many Christians who accept Jesus and immediately act differently, I went on much the same as I had before. This went on for a long time. I was what you would call a “closet” Christian I guess.

Then, one day I stumbled on a radio show that focused on responding to the “problems” with the bible, science and Christianity in general.  Each day they took calls from skeptics and believers alike. They had no call screener so you got everything from real seekers to complete whacko’s. Nevertheless, they were fearless and tackled every question no matter how hard. After they answered a caller’s question they always followed it by insisting that the caller do their own research and verify everything they said. I began listening every day.

It didn’t take long before they had covered every one of my criticisms and more. Their answers were convincing but I took their admonition seriously and did my own research as well. I got the old materials out and some new ones as well. The internet was still a baby but even then it was full of websites that dealt with both sides of this issue. I took full advantage of them and poured over every issue, every concern.

While it took time the reservations I had regarding the bible, the existence of God, Jesus and Christianity were gradually resolved. The criticisms of the Bible I once thought so damning turned out to be paper tigers, taken out of context or just plain made up. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls what little was left of the “Church Manipulation of Scripture” was scuttled. Evolution, the age of the universe and the rest were all, to my surprise, explained in the Bible itself. Much of Scientific criticism of the Bible would be resolved if the scientists, the critics, would just read the Bible.

It was twenty five years ago that I accepted Jesus as savior. The changes that didn’t happen overnight happened gradually but dramatically and I have been out of the “closet” for over twenty years. Its funny, but I’m thankful for the time when I worked so hard to not believe in God because today, when I am assaulted by doubt and worry, I pray and I reflect on that time and how God worked with me day in and day out bringing me closer and closer to His Kingdom. The Lord often brings these things I learned to mind and I am reassured.

Faith is a mystery. It is a gift from our Father in Heaven. It doesn’t come from the intellect. But, that doesn’t mean you have to leave logic and reason behind to believe. In fact, it is just as important to know why you believe as it is to know what you believe.

Why I am writing this now after so much time I don’t know. I just had this nagging feeling…

God bless,
Questions? Feel free to ask me.