Looking Ahead To The Second Advent

Celebrating Advent means both looking back at Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem and looking ahead to His Second Advent at the end of time. Faith in the First Advent fuels hope in the Second Advent. Let’s take a look at the events leading up to and surrounding Christ’s Second Advent to help us appreciate what was begun at His First Advent.

Overarching all of the end times events is a Christian’s blessed hope: “The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.”

The word “rapture” doesn’t appear in Scripture, but we get this word from the Latin word raptu, which comes from the Greek word harpazo. We first see it when Philip is “caught away” from the Ethiopian’s presence in the desert (Acts 8:39). This is the same word Paul uses when he says that Christians will be “caught up” to meet Christ in the air (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Note that the rapture of the Church is not the Second Coming of Christ. His Second Coming takes place at the end of the period known as the Tribulation when Jesus returns to earth as a conquering King and establishes His Millennial Reign on earth (Revelation 19:11-16; 20:1-4).

During Christ’s Millennial Reign, the devil and his cohorts are locked up until the end of the 1000-year reign and are allowed to tempt people one final time. The devil will succeed in tempting quite a few people, as he will once again muster a sizable army to attack Christ and His followers. This decisive battle will culminate in the final judgment.

“There will be a final judgment in which the wicked dead will be raised and judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to the everlasting punishment in the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).

After this will come the New Heavens and New Earth where Christians will commune with God for ever and ever (Revelation 21:1-5, 22-27; 22:1-5, 12-21).

In light of Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem, and His soon return (His Second Advent), how are Christians to live? In a word: HOPEFUL!

In all of these passages discussing the end times, hope-filled words are used—

  • therefore encourage each other with these words
  • wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior 
  • stand firm … let nothing move you
  • Jesus says, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me

Jesus also pointed out that Heaven is a place “prepared for you since the creation of the world,” while Hell is “prepared for the devil and his angels.” GOD WANTS YOU WITH HIM IN HEAVEN!

As you rejoice in the First Advent, remember that Christ’s First Coming was to provide a way for you to have your sins forgiven and be able to spend eternity with Him. So as we look forward in hope to Christ’s Second Advent we say with the Apostle John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

3 Apologetics For Your Christian Hope

There was a story circulating that a physicist once claimed that the bumblebee was defying the laws of physics and aerodynamics in its flight. Apparently, he calculated that the ratio of the bumblebee’s wing size in comparison to his body size just didn’t make the math work.

But entomologists and physicists quickly jumped in to say, “Hey, look, the bumblebee is flying, so clearly it works!” And then they went to work to try to explain it. They figured out that the bumblebee flaps its wings more back-and-forth than up-and-down, creating tiny hurricanes the propel them through the air. But then that created a whole new set of problems, like how does the bumblebee control a hurricane so precisely as it turns, stops, dives, and climbs. So then they had to create a new explanation, which they named dynamic stall.

All the while, the bumblebee is flapping its too-small wings 230 times per second(!), and going about its daily activities without being able to explain tiny hurricanes, the laws of physics or aerodynamics, or even knowing what dynamic stall is. It simply flies!

The ultimate argument for anything is doing something that critics say is impossible.

Peter tells Christians to be prepared to answer anyone for the reason for the hope that they have (1 Peter 3:15-16). The Greek word for “give an answer” is apologia, from which we get our word apologetic. Here are three apologetics for Christians to use for the hope that they have.

It really comes down to this: My hope is based on the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ, which I believe because of the Bible AND because of the change in my life.

  1. The Bible’s authenticity

“No other work in all literature has been so carefully and accurately copied as the Old Testament. The particular discipline and art of the Jewish scribes came out of a class of Jewish scholars between the fifth and third centuries BC. They were called the Sopherim, from a Hebrew word meaning ‘scribes.’ The sopherim, who initiated a stringent standard of meticulous discipline, were subsequently eclipsed by the Talmudic scribes, who guarded, interpreted, and commented on the sacred texts from AD 100 to AD 500. In turn, the Talmudic scribes were followed by the better-known and even more meticulous Masoretic scribes (AD 500-900).” —Josh McDowell, God-Breathed

“No other ancient text is substantiated by such a wealth of ancient textual witnesses as is the New Testament. Roughly 5,500 separate manuscripts are available, variously containing anything from the entire New Testament corpus to a slight fragment of a single verse. … This textual support is far superior to that available for any other ancient documents, such as the classical texts from Greek and Roman writers (e.g., Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero). Only partial manuscripts have survived for many works of antiquity, and it is not unusual to find that the only complete manuscript for some ancient writing is a copy dating from 1,000 years after its composition.” —Archaeological Study Bible, “The New Testaments Texts” (page 1859)

“The biblical Dead Sea Scrolls are up to 1,250 years older than the traditional Hebrew Bible, the Masoretic text. We have been using a one-thousand-year-old manuscript to make our Bibles. We’ve now got scrolls going back to 250 BC. … Our conclusion is simply this—the scrolls confirm the accuracy of the biblical text by 99 percent.” —Dr. Peter Flint

  1. Christ’s resurrection 

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Paul lists all of the eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection, giving critics ample opportunity to challenge these witnesses in person. If these witnesses would have been perpetrating a hoax, skeptics of their day would have been able to uncover the inconsistencies in their story. If the account of Christ’s resurrection was made-up, it’s doubtful the early Christian martyrs would have “stuck to their story” as they were being tortured, but none recanted.

Josh McDowell notes, “By AD 100, the apostles had died, but the Christian Church was still in its infancy, with fewer than twenty-five thousand proclaimed followers of Christ. But within the next two hundred years, the fledgling church experienced explosive multiplication of growth, to include as many as twenty million people. This means the church of Jesus Christ quadrupled every generation for five consecutive generations!

  1. My personal experience

“I am a changed person. I am not who I was before I met Jesus” and “My life tends to go better when I live by biblical principles” are both excellent apologetics!

Let others argue that God doesn’t exist, or that you shouldn’t have hope, and then you—like the bumblebee—just keep flying with Jesus! (see 2 Timothy 3:14)

10 Great Reasons To Go To Church Regularly

Without exception, all human beings have exactly 168 hours in a week. No one gets any bonus time and no one has any hours taken away. We’re supposed to get 8 hours of sleep a night, and most of us work about 40 hours each week. So let’s do the math…

168 hours per week
– 56 hours for sleeping
– 40 hours for work
=72 discretionary hours

In those 72 hours there must be time for eating and taking care of chores. But what about going to church? The problem for many people is looking at church attendance as just another “chore” or item on their “To Do” list.

But instead of thinking of going to church as “I have to,” how about if you looked at all of the “I get to” benefits?

Here are 10 great reasons for going to church regularly. I get to…

  1. …draw closer to my Heavenly Father, just like Jesus did (Luke 2:49)
  2. …be an example to others (1 Timothy 4:12)
  3. …hang out with some really great people (Hebrews 10:24)
  4. …get to know Jesus and my brothers and sisters better (1 John 1:3)
  5. …reaffirm the priority that God is first in my life (Matthew 6:33)
  6. …learn to better understand Scripture (2 Timothy 2:15)
  7. …join with a choir of God worshipers (John 4:23-24)
  8. …grow spiritually (1 Peter 2:2-5)
  9. …complete the Body of Chris (1 Corinthians 12:12)
  10. …avoid becoming isolated and possibly lost (Proverbs 18:1)

“Sometimes we make it sound like we’re making a sacrifice to go to church, but think about the very real sacrifice Jesus made so that we could meet together as brothers and sisters!” —Scott Troost

How about it? Do you think you could invest an hour or two of your 72 discretionary hours in a local church this week?

My thanks to my brother, Scott Troost, for sharing such a timely message!

Comparisons Are Killers

It is always a thrill for me to watch a young leader excel so wonderfully! Yesterday I listened as our youth pastor Josh Schram brilliantly illustrated a key component that can kill relationships or build them up.

Trust me: Josh’s opening illustration is worth the watch in the video below!

Here are a few takeaways I had from Josh’s message…

A relationship killer is comparing yourself to others. 

Comparing yourself to others may make you feel superior to them or inferior to them, but neither of these feelings serve a useful purpose, and neither of them honors God.

The fastest way to kill something God is doing in your life is to compare it to what He’s doing in someone else’s life.

When we compare someone else’s highlight reel to our behind-the-scenes mess, it makes us feel less than what God intends because it always increases dissatisfaction. Remember: living this way is comparing yourself to an artificial standard.

Notice how God speaks to us as individuals—Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. (Galatians 6:4-5, emphasis added)

A relationship builder is examining yourself.

Jesus ran His own race, and we are called on to remove any obstacles that keep us from running our own race too (see Hebrews 12:1-2).

  • Run your own race.
  • Stay in your lane.
  • Stay focused on Jesus.

No one can be a better you than you.

Remember: someone else’s success is NOT your failure (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

I need to ask myself: Am I being the best me I can be with what God has equipped me to be? If the answer is “yes” then everyone else gets better!

Don’t compare your relationship with God or with other people to others’ relationships. Instead, examine yourself to make sure you are being the best you God created you to be!

Thursdays With Oswald—Popular Christianity?

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Popular Christianity? 

     Take the popular idea of Christianity and compare it with the patience of the saints, and you will see where we are. Popular Christianity says, “We must succeed.” … We are determined to be successful, but the Apostle Paul says we are called upon to be faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). …  

     The way worldly sagacity argues is—Pay men back in their own coin, if you have been deceived, deceive in order to get your rights—“an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” You cannot do that if you are a saint. We must practice the expressed love of God and behave among the unseemly as the children of God. There is no test on earth to equal it. There is unseemly laughter at the saint—“Where is your success? what have you done? what is the good of missionary enterprise?” … 

     We do not need Jesus Christ and the Bible for the ordinary common-sense standpoint, and if in a crisis we act according to common sense we do not express the love of God. … 

     The test for the saint is not common sense, but “Is this is what Jesus Christ stood for?” 

From The Saints In A Disaster Of Worldliness

Standing true to Jesus Christ and the Bible is never popular.

So the question is—Do I want praise from men, or “Well done” from my Savior?

The Promised Power Of Pentecost

When the Israelites were delivered from Egypt on the night of Passover, fifty days later they arrived at Mount Sinai where God delivered the Ten Commandments to them. This became the birth of the Jewish nation. For millennia following this, not only did the Jewish people observe Passover but they also celebrated “The Feast of Weeks” (also known as Pentecost) fifty days following Passover.

But on the first Pentecost after Christ ascended to Heaven, something amazing happened which was a game-changer for the new Christians. An event which became the birth of the Christian nation.

On that Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit was poured out on Christ’s followers in a way never before seen in history. Although this had never been seen before, it was the fulfillment of something God had promised thousands of years before.

  1. Promised

This blessing of the Holy Spirit had been hinted at when God first called Abraham, as He promised that from Abraham would come a blessing for all peoples on earth (Genesis 12:3). Jesus said that this blessing would be realized with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and then Peter tied the Day of Pentecost experience to the fulfillment of those promises (Acts 2:38-39).

  1. Commanded

Jesus had this empowerment of the Holy Spirit and He wanted all of His followers to have it too, so His directive to His follower is not a suggestion. Twice when Jesus tells His followers to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the verbs He uses are commands (see Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4).

  1. Normal Experience

For the first Christians, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a normal experience for them following salvation. This baptism gave them power to…

  1. Initial Evidence

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is accompanied by an initial physical evidence of speaking in a language you’ve never studied. This is to be an unmistakable proof—primarily to you—of the Spirit’s outpouring. But the ongoing development of Christlike character is the continual evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

So what’s the controversy? Why do people spend so much time arguing this baptism isn’t for us, or for now? If we start down that path, what else are we going to say is outdated or exclusive for some?

Doesn’t seem much more logical to simply accept what God promised all His people?!

So here’s the question I would ask you—Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit? If not, why not?

True Beauty vs. Pornography

God’s design for sex is truly the most beautiful thing that exists between two people. Its counterfeit is called pornography. Porn is simulated, imitated, and purchased; but no price tag can ever buy true beauty.

God demonstrates the purest love in Himself, when one part of the Godhead is the Lover and the other parts of the Godhead are the Beloved. The Lover is constantly discovering the beauty in the Beloved, and then praising that beauty. The Beloved then reciprocates back to the Lover. It’s a love dance! 

Humans are created in God’s image. We are first created to be God’s beloved. Then we are designed to be both lover and beloved in the bonds of marriage. True beauty—real, lasting beauty that pleases God—is discovered. It’s something that starts inside and radiates outside. A true lover takes the time to discover who the beloved truly is.

To see this in action, just look at some of the compliments between husband and wife in the Song of Songs—How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! … How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming! … Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens. … My lover is mine and I am his. … All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.

True love that sees this kind of beauty cannot be imitated, purchased or simulated. If someone attempts to, it’s called pornography.

The dictionary gives this definition of pornography: sexually explicit materials whose purpose is to elicit sexual arousal. In other words, porn tries to imitate and simulate true beauty at a purchase price.

Jesus identified this sell-out of true love with the Greek word porneia (see Mark 7:14-23). This word means any sexual involvement outside the marriage between a husband and wife. Porneia comes from words that fill out its definition: things like prostitution, idolatry, and slavery.

Your body was not made for porneia but for God (1 Corinthians 6:13). You were made in His image: to be His Beloved, and He your Lover, and then to have a marriage relationship with another image-bearer of God, where you are both lover and beloved, and where you focus on true beauty.

Anything else is imitated, purchased, and simulated. It’s pornography. It’s idolatry.

Christians are told to fight many temptations, but there are only two that we are told not to fight, but to flee: pornography (1 Corinthians 6:18) and idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). So our prayer for the purity and enjoyment of God’s true beauty should be: Turn my eyes away from worthless things (Psalm 119:37).

Don’t sell out to the fake beauty in pornography. Discover true beauty exclusively in your spouse!

We’ll be looking at more relationship builders and killers, and I’d love to have you along for this journey of discovery.

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