Sign of the Times

 The signs of the end are all around us. No, I'm not talking about the wars and rumors of war or the earthquakes increasing in number and severity or even the nations rising against each other. All those things are happening and may very well be legitimate signs of the end, but I'm talking about something even more telling about the days we live in: I'm talking about the apostasy of the Church!
 We have homosexual churches; we have churches that only teach "good" things like self esteem and joyful living, but none of the "bad" things like sin or hell; we have churches that don't believe Jesus was the Son of God; we have churches that don't believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God! We have all these in the name of progress and tolerance.
These churches don't have a God of wrath, only a God of love. They don't have a God who holds people responsible for their actions, their God forgives everyone of everything and accepts everyone into His Heaven. These churches hold that there are many ways to God and, as long as you are sincere you'll get there. If you have "itchy" ears, you won't have to walk too many blocks in a large city until you'll find a church that teaches what you want to hear! And you'll probably be in the company of many!
 We can't say we weren't warned. Jesus told us what would happen and so it has begun. The spirit of antichrist is not only in the Earth, it has opened it's own church! Doctrines of demons are being preached from the pulpits of prestigious churches and the pews are full!
 2 Tim 4:3 "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." Two old sayings come to mind: "You deserve what you allow" and "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything".


But Why?

When I hear a fellow Christian say they believe something, I often will ask them why they believe it. It is surprising how many times either the person doesn't know why they believe it or isn't able to articulate why they believe it, or I get an answer like "That's what my Pastor says" or "That's what my family has always believed" or maybe "Isn't that what it says in the Bible?". I find that most of the time we can't give a credible answer to why we believe what we say we believe!
1Peter 3:15 tells us to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." God is not simply calling on us to know the answers to a bunch of  questions someone may ask. It is a call to a comprehensive defense of our hope or what we confess to believe. Not being able to defend a belief shows a lack of knowledge about that belief and anything we have such a lack of knowledge about should never be something we base our eternal hope upon. How can we have true faith in something that we have such little knowledge about that we can't explain why we believe it?
If you can't explain to someone else why you believe something, then you probably don't know enough about it to truly believe in it. Get into God's word and see if it holds up to scripture. Meditate on it and try to explain it to yourself in simple terms. Then you will be prepared to give an answer about, or defense of, your hope. People are looking for answers, not opinions.


Justice and Punishment

I don't want to go to hell. I don't want anyone else to go to hell. I do believe there is a literal hell to avoid and I don't see a problem with there being such a place. As R.C. Sproul puts it -What is mysterious about a holy Creator punishing willfully disobedient creatures?  Shouldn't Almighty God have the right to punish sinners? Where is the justice in letting law-breakers go unpunished?
I hear people talk about how a loving God wouldn't send a person to eternal torment in hell. But, if I am warned of the consequences of breaking a law and I choose to break it anyway, the judge doesn't send me to jail, I sent myself! The judge only sentences me according to the law! We have all been warned that the wages of sin are death. We have been told about hell. Will we choose righteousness which leads to reward or sin which leads to punishment?
God certainly has the right to punish those who break his laws. Actually, his righteous and just nature require him to. It is only by his great mercy that He has made a way of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
The old saying is, if you don't want to do the time then don't do the crime. So, live right and live forever.... Or live any old way you want to and pay the price.



"Will a person who has never heard of Jesus go to hell?" It would hardly seem fair to punish someone for something they never got a chance to do, namely, reject Jesus. But, let's look closer at that question for a moment.
The reason Jesus came was to save us from our sin. What sin?.... the sin of rejecting God. We think more about Jesus saving us from our sins (actions) than him saving us from our sin (heart attitude). Original sin came about when Adam rejected God and God's government. Jesus came to bring the possibility of being forgiven for rejecting God. Faith in Jesus' redemptive work washes away the sin of rejecting God. Rejecting Jesus means we are saying "no thank you" to God's merciful plan of forgiveness for the sin of rejecting God. When we reject God's means of forgiveness (Jesus), then we reject the only way to gain forgiveness for rejecting God in the first place!
I know that's a little confusing, but read that last paragraph again if you need to. Rejecting Jesus is actually rejecting God's plan of forgiveness for rejecting God. The book of Romans says that God has made his existence perfectly clear to everyone in the things he has made. No one has an excuse for not believing in God. Just look around you..... it's so obvious! But there are those who don't want there to be a God, because if there is a God they would owe him their praise and obedience. They would rather have autonomy instead, so they make an argument against his existence. They reject God. And they reject Jesus who is the forgiveness for that rejection!
A person who has never heard of Jesus still has all the obvious proof throughout creation that God exists. If they reject that proof and don't seek after God, they wouldn't have believed in Jesus either. How could Jesus be the son of God if there is no God? God is just and righteous and everyone will get a fair shake. Actually, those who accept God through Jesus Christ will get a merciful shake and those who reject God (whether they also reject Jesus or not) will get a fair shake.... because Heaven is mercy, Hell is justice.



I remember an incident from high school many years ago. We had an assignment due on Monday and on Saturday night it snowed... and snowed and snowed some more! Needless to say, there was no school on Monday. Actually, there was no school that whole next week.
We returned to school the following Monday and only 3 students out of 28 turned in their assignments. The rest of us begged and pleaded for more time and, sighting the heavy snow and subsequent power outages, our teacher extended the deadline one more day. The next day, 12 kids handed in their assignments. The other 13 students gave numerous lame excuses and, to our amazement, the deadline was extended yet again. The next day 4 more students handed in their assignments and I couldn't believe the 9 others could be so bold as to ask for another extension! To make a long story short, the last student handed in their assignment the following Monday... two whole weeks late!
When our assignments were graded and handed back to us, our grades were horrible! The teacher didn't take off points for the papers being late, but he went through each of them with a fine tooth comb! He marked off for every little minor mistake. He marked things that he normally let go. Naturally, we cried foul. Why was he being so mean? Why was he being so picky? Why was he trying to fail us all? Why? Why? Why?
Finally, someone made the fatal mistake of saying that we didn't deserve such poor grades. The teacher asked if we all felt the same way and we all did. He asked us to hand the papers back and he would re-grade them and this time, he would give us the grades we deserved. He then proceeded to do just that.... we got zeros! All but the 3 students who turned their work in on time got zeros! And we deserved them. We took advantage of our teacher's mercy and then complained when he graded our papers very strictly.
God has let time go on for better than 2000 years now, his mercy giving all of us time to repent and turn to him. We seem to think that, because he has let us go so long, either he doesn't care how we act or maybe he doesn't even exist! My guess is that there will be a lot of whining and complaining on judgment day when we stand before him to give account for our lives. I bet the complaints of "this is unfair" and "you're unjust" get used a lot. I bet a bunch of folks will say "we don't deserve this!" when they're sent to eternal punishment.
We have abused God's mercy and grace and used his patience as an excuse to sin against him. But not much longer.


Two Pastors

I believe there are two types of Pastors. One I call the  "Good Shepherd" Pastor and the other I call the "Little Bo Peep" Pastor.
The "Good Shepherd" Pastor is like the leader Jesus talks about in the Bible. When one of his flock wanders away he immediately leaves the 99 and goes after the one. He finds that one and returns with him to the safety of the flock. This Pastor knows that He is responsible for the souls he has been put in charge of. When one of his church members leaves the church, he goes after that member and finds out what the problem was and comes back to the church with the member in company. Most of the time, just knowing that the Pastor notices and cares about their leaving wins back that member.
The "Little Bo Peep" Pastor is like the one mentioned in the nursery rhyme who says "Leave them alone and they'll come home, wagging their tails behind them". This Pastor says things like "I won't beg anybody to go to my church" and "I guess they never were real members anyway, else they wouldn't have left us".  This Pastor never checks to see what the problem was, or if indeed there was a problem, or if maybe that church member just lost his way. The Pastor stays home, safe with the 99 and the one is on his own.
 We have too many "Little Bo Peep" Pastors these days. They are content to stay home with the 99 or 98 or even 97 rather than bother with chasing after the errant one or two or three. Everyone wants to be wanted  and appreciated and, especially with our "mega-churches" these days, confused and/or hurt people are falling through the cracks and being forgotten. Just a call to say "We miss you" or "Is something wrong?" may solve the problem.
Pastor..... you are responsible for all your sheep, the easy ones and the hard ones. You may have one that leaves and you can't get him to come home, but it is your duty to try.


Liberal Christian

Liberal Christian is like jumbo shrimp and government intelligence; Some words just aren't meant to be used together. I hear people talk about being "liberal Christians", but upon closer examination, I can't seem to find the Christian among the liberal opinions.
Either the Bible is the word of God and is infallible and should be devoutly honored and obeyed, or it is garbage, full of lies and fairy tales and should be burned and forever gotten rid of. There is no middle ground. The statements the Bible makes about God, about Jesus, about us, about how people should act and talk, leave no room for middle ground. Either it is the truth or it is all lies and deception.
I hear "liberal Christians" say that, yes, the Bible is the word of God, but.... Well, if there is a but, then the Bible is not the word of God! If the Bible is true, then it is true all the time, in every situation, for all people, all the time, everywhere! Straddling the fence is not real Christianity. Pick a side already. I admire people who stand up for what they believe in and follow their true convictions even if I disagree with them. But those who water down Christianity with worldly concepts in the name of tolerance and political correctness really aggravate me. It's like trying to mix oil and water; All you do is mess up the oil and the water!
Jesus is either God or a liar. The Bible is either God's word or garbage. This is not a mix-and-match sale. You can't take a little of this and mix in a little of that and end up with anything that really matters. God doesn't give us that option. If you're going to be something, be something real... not some hybrid, fake, pinch-of-this pinch-of-that, unrecognizable counterfeit!