In my previous post on the “end times,” I suggested that the church is going to make progress throughout history. This should provide some optimism about the possibilities for good in history.
However, this opinion needs to be balanced with a consideration of the possibilities of evil in history. This is what we can learn from the appearance of the Antichrist at the end of history.
Why is this so significant to the church? Because the power of antichrist is already at work (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
I believe there will be a final manifestation of evil in history, the Antichrist, but I also believe that the spirit of antichrist is already present in history and relevant to each one of us. Understand that the Antichrist takes something that is good and makes it evil. When you realize that this evil is primarily about exalting self, then you realize that the spirit of antichrist is not nearly as far from us as we’d like to think. Continue reading “What the Church Can Learn from the Antichrist”
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6–7
Sometimes the things I need to learn are the most basic things.
This week, I attended a conference in Mississippi. I believe I went with an open heart to see what the Lord would teach me and what He would do through relationships.
What the Lord showed me was that there are many places in my life where I let frustrations or anxieties just sit there. In virtually every area of my life, there are low-grade frustrations. I don’t think I’m particularly weird because of that. Most of us have them.
But what had I been doing with those frustrations? Nothing. In some cases, they would build up with unpleasant results. Continue reading “The Anxiety Cure”
What progress can the church expect to make in history? What are the prospects of the church before Christ returns?
There are several places in Scripture that indicate a progressive growth in the kingdom of God before Christ’s return. For example, Jesus compares the kingdom to a mustard seed: “Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Mt. 13:32).
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel envisions a kingdom that breaks all other kingdoms. It “became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth” (2:35).
I believe that it is very hazardous to predict the future, even with the images that the Bible gives us of the future. Most who have tried to do it in any detail have been totally wrong. It is not for us to know the times and the seasons.
That being said, I predict that Jesus will return on October 25, 2134. Just kidding. Not going to make that sort of prediction.
However, I do think that history has shown us enough for us to believe that these images of progressive progress do tell us something about the direction of history. The movement of history seems also to teach that the kingdom will continue to make progress throughout history before the consummation.
Consider the early church. It grew from a small group in Jerusalem to a multitude of congregations throughout the world.
From there, the church continued to grow until it overran the Roman Empire and displaced the pagan religions there.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Christian missionaries went out and brought the Gospel to those who had overran the Empire. The conversion of “barbarian” tribes continued throughout the Middle Ages. Continue reading “The Progress of the Church in History”
The are several problems with the common perception of life after death. Here’s what people think: when we die, our souls go to heaven to float around there forever. This is only partially true.
When we die, our souls do continue to exist (Phil. 1:21), but our ultimate hope is in the resurrection of our bodies. Our hope is that Christ “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). With the ancient church, “we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” (The Nicene Creed).
A second problem is that people think it is only our individual bodies and not the whole creation that will be redeemed. But the vision of our destiny in the Scriptures is one of a redeemed world (e.g., Is. 65:17–25). As the Apostle Paul says, “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:21). Continue reading “Easter: Think Bigger!”
“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus . . .” (2 Cor. 7:6)
Last week, I had the privilege to officiate at a funeral for one of our members, Ed Sumner. During the funeral, I shared some thoughts on his situation based on 2 Corinthians 7:6.
The Apostle Paul, who penned these words, knew the Word and promises of God well, but he still needed comfort. He was downcast, and God gave him the comfort he needed. How? “By the coming of Titus.”
Ed was also one who knew theology. He was steeped in the Bible. He had shelves full of books.
But Ed was often angry and downcast. He was lonely. He was an only child. He had no relatives. Relationships had not worked out well for him.
One day, Ed showed up at our church. He attended, and he kept coming back.
A few weeks later, he joined our church and stood to profess his faith along with two young girls who were doing the same that day. It was a beautiful picture of the body of Christ in its diversity. Continue reading “Comfort in Loss and Struggle”
Few things can cause us more consternation than the seeming triumph of evil.
The prophet Habakkuk expressed to God a very human complaint against evil’s triumph: “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (1:3-4).
When people abuse or oppress others, when an evil person gets rewarded or promoted, the cry goes up, “Where is God? Where is justice?”
It’s amazing how many people walk around with unresolved past injustices weighing them down. Just sit and listen to folks for a while. You will hear the cries of their hearts against betrayal, abandonment, abuse, and injustice.
What answer does the Bible give to all this? Continue reading “When Evil Seems to Triumph”
No matter how many times it happens, I still have hope. I believe that my seven children will all love the meal I make for them. When I said that in my sermon Sunday, one man shouted out, “Then, order pizza!” Nope! That won’t work. One of my daughters doesn’t like tomato sauce! Another child complains about too much cheese! In spite of that, I hope beyond hope that everyone will like the meal.
I suspect I’m not the only one that is looking for a perfect meal. We are all looking for a perfect something. We think our marriage or vacation or job or church or children will fulfill all our hopes and dreams. The reality is generally far different. Everything disappoints.
One of the key promises of the Bible is that Jesus will come again. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Why is Jesus coming back? To bring to completion what He started. He will bring in perfection, the restoration of all things.
An important corollary to this truth is that there will be no completion in this life. There will always be something lacking. Every hobby will have its boring moments. Every relationship will have its hard moments. Every church will feel unwelcoming at times.
It is important to recognize this for two reasons. Continue reading “Beyond Illusion & Despair”
Here’s a suggestion for you who are parents or will be. Keep a journal of what your children do. If you have a bad day, write about it. If they do something that makes you particularly happy, write about that, too. I would especially suggest this if you have several children.
My wife does not journal a lot. She has written three journal entries over the past five years. However, a few nights ago, she read them, and she really enjoyed it. I’m going to publish some of my own journal entries in a few months where I describe some of the most intimate details of my private life. Just kidding.
In all seriousness, I’m really pleased how my two oldest children are growing and becoming good workers. They are almost 9 and 8 years old. My son is particular willing to work without complaining, even if he is not as thorough as I would like. Nevertheless, I’m quite pleased.
But my 5 and 4 year old daughters drive me crazy sometimes. Every time I try to get them to do even the smallest tasks, they disappear, get “sick,” or suddenly have to go to the bathroom. I was complaining about this to my wife, and she said, “Anna (our oldest) did the same thing when she was five. I just read it in my journal.” I was greatly relieved. We were not failures as parents. Our younger girls were not destined to be eternal couch potatoes, ever avoiding work. They were just being 5 and 4.
This was a good lesson for me. I’ll keep pushing my children to work, but I also want to have realistic expectations. That’s true for all who have subordinates. It’s true as a pastor, and it’s true as a father. “Be patient with all.” says the Apostle Paul (1 Thess. 5:14).
By Jean Claude (1619–1687)
Just as God never presents Himself to the creature’s eyes without all the marks of His infinite majesty, so the creature should never appear before God without being seized with a religious fear and making the strongest efforts to put himself into an attitude of respect and profound humility.
We find in the history of the Old Testament, that when the Lord first revealed Himself to Moses under the image of a burning bush, Moses was surprised and astonished at the bush. He wanted at first to draw near to look more carefully into this miracle, but at that very moment, he heard a voice saying unto him, “Do not approach. Take off your shoes from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Ex. 3:5).
Continue reading “Preparing to Meet God in the Lord’s Supper”
A friend of mine wrote me to tell me that I needed more balance in my presentation of how the church should relate to society. I decided I would try and give a positive presentation of my own views on this matter (at the risk of alienating some). My views are substantially those of Charles Hodge on this matter. I think he eloquently states the obligation of the church to speak to violations of moral law in society but to avoid becoming a policy maker or getting involved specifically in politics. He writes in his Discussions in Church Polity, (103–105):
It follows from the great commission of the Church, that it is her prerogative and duty to testify for the truth and the law of God, whereever she can make her voice heard; not only to her own people, but to kings and rulers, to Jews and Gentiles. It is her duty not only to announce the truth, but to apply it to particular cases and persons; that is, she is bound to instruct, rebuke, and exhort, with all longsuffering. Continue reading “The Church, Society, and the Law of God”