Friday, July 28, 2017

Oliver B. Greene on Pre-trib rapture (Reprise)

This essay first appeared on The End Time on July 10, 2014)

Oliver B. Greene published a wonderful verse-by-verse exposition of Daniel in 1964. I've enjoyed reading it, because the book of Daniel is so hard for me to interpret. I was struck by Mr Green's certainty and fervency regarding the pre-tribulation rapture.

A Pre-Trib rapture is biblically correct. The rapture itself has been in the bible all along, notwithstanding assertions that it was a made-up doctrine from the 1800s. And the rapture's timing happening prior to the Tribulation has always been biblically evident too. It was only lately that man began to shy away from the clear teaching of this and muddy the waters to the extent that people now are hesitant to be dogmatic about it- so much so that they think they are being pious to show uncertainty. Look at Mr Greene's statement on the subject (I kept his exact emphases):
The Great Tribulation has nothing to do with the church; the Church will not enter or go through any part of that terrible time. Any preacher or teacher who suggests that the bride of Christ will be subjected to any part of the reign of the Antichrist is definitely wrongly dividing the Word of Truth. God pity the preacher who will accuse Jesus of allowing the Antichrist to reign over His bride-and the Church IS the bride of Christ!

We have the blessed promise, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth." (Revelation 3:10).

In the writings of Paul we are promised. "For God hath not appointed us to WRATH, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thess. 5:9). The Great Tribulation has to do with the nation of Israel, not with the Church.

If the Church were to enter or go through any part of the tribulation, believers would be commanded to watch for Antichrist, not for THE CHRIST. We would be commanded to watch for the Great Tribulation, not to wait for God's Son from heaven. (1 Thessalonians 1:10).


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book review: Randy Alcorn's Deadline

My summer began at Memorial Day and for most people the summer still has 5 weeks to go until Labor Day, the traditional ending of the travel and stay-cation season. My summer break from school ends on Monday, when I return to work on July 31. I've been making the most of the time off, after spiritual duties and pleasures, to engage in some of my favorite past-times: reading and movie watching. Here is a review of one of the books I've read this summer.

Randy Alcorn's Deadline

First published in 1994 and re-released in 2009, I'd bought this book on sale for my Kindle.

Alcorn has written The Treasure Principle, a small book of his that I have and We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon's Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven which I have read. Alcorn is most well-known for his book Heaven, which explores in detail descriptions of heaven gleaned from all over the Bible, along with quotes and commentary from famous preachers and authors. Coming in at 560 print pages, Heaven is a hefty book, one which I've also read. Deadline was the first piece of Alcorn's fiction I've read.

Deadline starts well with a fast-paced scenes setting the foundation of three men's life-long friendship, all of whom figure prominently in the book, though reporter Jake Woods is the central character. The other two characters are Doc (Gregory) and Finney. As we learn of each man's background, Alcorn also does well describing the scenes where Woods served in Viet Nam, getting inside the head of a soldier and a man. All three characters have been friends since grade school, and now all of them are near 50, established in their careers, married (or in Jake's case, divorced) and have children. Along the way Finney has become a born-again Christian, while Doc (Gregory) has evolved into an atheist. Jake is on the fence. Alcorn does well showing the difficulty in maintaining friendships with people who do not share Christ as a unifying thread.

Early in the book, there is an car accident with the three men in the car. The rest of the book is consumed with unraveling the mystery surrounding the car accident, which Jake learns was no accident.

Finney and Doc eventually die. The rest of the book shows scenes in heaven where Finney is, and one short scene where Doc is shown in his place of torment. Meanwhile on earth, Jake and his police friend Ollie Chandler work to solve the car accident mystery that killed his two friends.

Review:

On a Kindle you don't know how many pages you've read, only percents. I'd noticed that the first 1/8 of the book moved fast, the opening scenes among the men, jungle in Viet Nam, and the accident itself were very interesting and gripping. And then it bogged down. I read and slogged and read and noticed that I was only 17% through. I looked up the page length online and the print version is 448 pages.

Using Jake's interview and columnist skills as a pulpit, Alcorn exposits and expounds and preaches endlessly. As Jake the reporter gathers information for his column and interviews Planned Parenthood abortionists  or NOW women, his interviews go on for pages and pages, exposition that exists only to preach at the choir and do not push the story forward, are laden throughout the book. These lengthy scenes explore journalistic bias against conservatives, abortion, AIDS (it was 1994), homosexuality, and teen sex.

The book could have been cut by 200 pages and been fine. I noticed that Publisher's Weekly gave the book a good review in its original version but mentioned that Alcorn "is long-winded". I agreed with Amazon readers' few one and two-star reviews all mentioning the same thing- long winded preachy narrative bogs the book down.
  • "The book is more about "preaching" than it is about a story. I wholeheartedly agree with his stances, but way too much of it for my literary taste."
  • "Can you say...Get to the point..."
  • "I found this book to be boring and "preachy". The author goes on and on about abortion, teen sex, and the consequences of each. I am a Christian and I don't need a 300+ page book to tell me of all the arguments against abortion and pre-marital sex. This is like preaching to the choir, if I wanted to read on the subject I would buy a NONFICTION book on those subjects."
Since this was his first fiction book I thought maybe a good editor would help Alcorn with his next book in the trilogy, Dominion. Nope, Dominion is longer, coming in at 626 pages. The third book in his series, Deception, is 490. Really, no one needs to write a fiction book at 600 pages except maybe Stephen King.

I really enjoy a good Christian yarn but haven't read a good one since (and don't flog me for this) Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness. Alcorn can write well, as mentioned, the scenes in Nam and of the accident were great. The scenes at the end where the killers are hunting Jake are excellent, and several the scenes in heaven were breathtaking. But man, Alcorn needs a really good editor.

Not recommended.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Let's stop supersizing "our dreams"

Megan Miller assures us that "God desires to fill our hearts with big dreams."

In my opinion I believe He desires to fill our heart with holiness and righteousness of His Son.

Certified life coach Holley Gerth assures us that "there's a God-sized dream knocking on the door of your heart". Plus, she "shows you how to forget the lies and expectations the world feeds you and instead believe that God loves you and has even bigger plans for your life than you've even imagined."

Before I was saved, I had not just big plans, I had huge plans for my life. After salvation, God showed me how puffed up those dreams were. Thank you, God.

Michelle Cox prays for us that that He might "Open God-sized doors so that I can accomplish those big things You want me to do..."

Now in addition to God-sized dreams we have God-sized doors? Why all this supersizing?

Paula Casill asks us "Did you know that your dreams and goals are important to God?"

Maybe so. Personally I can't say with the same conviction as Paula does of what God considers important because I can't read His mind, only see what He has declared important on His pages of Holy Writ. I do know He considers important being a follower of His plan and will, which is to pursue holiness and be an obedient participant in His sovereign global and eternal plan for His Son.

I don't know about the motivations of all these people who write book after book about having God-sized dreams. In fairness, some of them write about being obedient to God when the 'dream' (I wish they'd just call it a plan or a decision) means they want to do a big scary thing, like start an orphanage or to rescue sex-trafficked girls, or do missionary work in the 10/40 belt, etc.

But for many of them what they mean when they say we have a God-sized dream, is that we have a big, personal dream we want our Big God to fulfill.

Supersizing our dreams is not a good idea. Nowhere do I read in scripture that God has big plans for my life other than the already big adoption into the most perfect family ever, inheriting all things in the universe, and having the Perfect Father, Friend, Brother, Priest, and King who saved us from the wrath that we deserve. I think that is pretty big.

But it goes on. He makes a place for us, will give us perfect work to do that will not be toil, changes our desires from our own dreams to His (hint, hint, you God-sized dream people :)! And much more. He gives us His Spirit, His love, and grows us in holiness. That's pretty big. Why isn't that enough for people? Must we have huge dreams too? Must we encourage each other by saying God has huge plans for our lives? Because sometimes His plan for our life is not a fantastic rollercoaster of supersized dreams, but difficulty, humiliation, rejection, and heartache.

I think of the Prophet Ezekiel. "Ezekiel, God desires to fill your heart with big dreams!" He was living a nice life with his wife whom he dearly loved, and who was the "delight of his eyes". Yet one day God's word came to Ezekiel and God said in Ezekiel 24:15-18,

The word of the Lord came to me: 16 "Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. 17 Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your shoes on your feet; do not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men." 18 So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded.

Would today's kind of evangelism-slash-encouragement about how God is going to fulfill your God-sized dreams given Ezekiel any help?

Isaiah was having a nice life. Did someone come along and tell Isaiah that "there's a God-sized dream knocking on the door of your heart" that God wants to fulfill? No, in fact he was called to preach for many decades and told that no one would believe him ever- Isaiah's ministry would seem to be a failure. Worse, he had to go naked in public for three years as a sign (Isaiah 20:3-4) and many other less-than-dreamy sized things happened to Isaiah.

I think of the Prophet Jeremiah. Did someone come along and tell him that his "dreams and goals are important to God?" After his call to the office of prophet, things got very difficult for him. Same with Joseph, Moses, Abram, Hannah, Job...

In the NT, young Mary had God-sized dreams, the upcoming marriage to her betrothed and a nice life with children. However soon enough she was nearly divorced and disgraced, then had to flee her country for her life, live in exile, return and then as an old woman, see her Son crucified in a horrific manner. Saul/Paul had dreams, and he fulfilled them. He was at the top of his profession as a lawyer-theologian in the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee's Pharisee. Then one day he was struck blind, rebuked by the Living Jesus, and told he will be beaten and jailed in almost every city he comes to for the rest of his life. His life would be one of pain and suffering for the sake of the Name.

I think the biblical record and my own experience give me the confidence to say that after salvation, our personal dreams are either shown to be puffed conceit or are taken away and substituted with 'dreams' that are from God and in fact are personally difficult to follow. In many cases, the person's life got worse after their call or after salvation. Why tempt people in evangelism or encouragement with something that isn't really borne out in the biblical record?

My dreams are not God-sized. I don't know what size they are. I pray that the Lord removes the fruit flies from my kitchen. I pray He will resolve my headache. I pray He will provide enough money for me to get to the end of the month. But are those puny dreams and wants? He said He will provide. (Matthew 6:33). He said to cast ALL our cares upon Him. (1 Peter 5:7). Trusting Him and obeying Him is huge.

When I pray for others, those dreams are puny also. I dream that the heart of my family be converted to Christianity. The heart, how big is it? Small. 9 ounces? 5 inches? It's a small thing, the heart. But a very big God can convert that heart from one of stone to one of malleable, forgiven clay. Conversion is a God-sized dream. I pray He will use me as salt and light to show Himself to others. Salt is small, but God makes it big when He uses it. Puny sized dreams aren't they? But they are God-sized because only God can do those things.

Are founding orphanages and witnessing with a scimitar aimed at your head the only kind of "big dreams" one can have? Isn't salvation a God-sized dream? We should hear more about those kind of dreams.

Are my dreams lesser, smaller, just because I dream of having a quiet and modest life, persevering in faith in the day-to-day mundane? 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:12, 1 Timothy 2:2 say otherwise. Tell a homeschooling mom of four that God has God-sized dreams for her and she'll likely say that a shower, or a nap, or putting on clean clothes at some point during the day or eating a meal all by herself from start to finish is good enough dream.

So let's stop rambling on about the size of our dreams. Let's dispense with personal dreams and focus on Jesus and His commands. If we intuit that the "dream" in our mind is one that Jesus put there, whether it is to stay behind and live a quiet, comfortable life within our sphere that has little regional influence, or is one that makes a huge splash in the difficult areas of the world, so be it.

As for dreams themselves, the Bible says,

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3).



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How did they ever hear God's voice without a how-to manual?



There are so many pamphlets, teachings, sermons, and books out there today "educating" the Christian on "How to Hear God's Voice." None of these teachers seem to realize that God doesn't need our help hearing His voice. None of these teachers seem to realize that much of what they write conflicts with each other. The different "ways", "tips", "methods" are piling up. Soon we will have a hundred ways to hear God's voice. Sadly, all of them will be wrong.

Worst of all, many of these teachers claim that if you do NOT hear God's voice, either it is because your faith is weak, or you can never enjoy intimacy with God if this "critical" element is missing. They make absolute statements that have no basis in reality, but harm the hapless who believe them. It's heartbreaking, what these false teachers teach. Here are a few examples:

Andrew Wommack writes:
One of the greatest benefits of our salvation has to be that of hearing God speak to us personally. There can be no intimate relationship with our heavenly Father without it. But, as easy as it is for us to speak to Him, the average Christian has a hard time hearing His voice. This is not the way the Lord intended it to be. 
Dallas Willard wrote
God is constantly speaking to people. But too often, they miss out on hearing God’s messages because they seek His guidance only occasionally – usually when they’re going through a crisis or facing a major decision. Then, with a dire need to hear from God, people become confused and frustrated when they don't clearly hear what they should do. Here are 10 ways how you can hear from God and recognize his voice regularly:
Adam Wittenberg from IHOP Kansas City writes:
Maybe you’re someone who wants to hear God’s voice, but you don't know how. Perhaps you’ve even tried, and feel like He didn't answer you. Maybe you want to listen but can’t focus long enough to hear. Or maybe you're frustrated, because it seems like God is talking to everyone else but you. If you think God doesn’t want to speak to you, be encouraged: Jesus says in John 10:27 that "My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow me."
That John 10:27 verse the 'how to hear God' teachers use often as a (false) basis that God is speaking audibly today- my sheep hear my voice. Well, are you a sheep? If so then I guess Jesus is actually a vine, or He is actually living water.

Lynette Hagin at Kenneth Hagin Ministries wrote:
In these last days it's more important than ever for us to fine-tune our spiritual ears to hear the Lord's voice. God is constantly speaking to us. He's trying to warn us of things to come. So many times we simply shrug it off. We think, "That's just me." But it's not. It's the Holy Spirit's voice. To be able to hear God's voice, we must set aside time to wait in His presence and allow Him to talk to us. It's when we are quiet before the Lord that we can hear from Him most clearly. 
He is trying to warn us? Trying?! Is there anything God cannot do? (Genesis 18:14).

Joyce Meyer has this to say about how to hear from God, delicately disdaining to her readers with this article about hearing from God, It's Not that Complicated:
Even though I sincerely loved Jesus, I went to church for years without knowing that God talks to people. I observed all the religious rules and holidays...I went to church every Sunday. I was really doing all that I knew to do at that time. But it wasn't enough to satisfy my longing for God. I could've spent every moment in church or in Bible study, but it wouldn't have quenched the thirst I had for a deeper fellowship with the Lord. I needed to talk to Him about my past and hear Him talk to me about my future. But nobody taught me that God wants to talk directly to me. No one offered a solution for the dissatisfied feelings I endured. 
Meyer says this in other places:

--Recently God told me that ... Meyer
--Hearing God's voice throughout the day has become a natural way of life for me ...Meyer

I suppose once you start to be known for being a special recipient of God's words, you have to maintain the pretense.

You'll notice that Meyer's is a familiar theme with the false teachers educating people on how to hear from God: unfulfilled longing. Church isn't enough. The Word isn't enough. Prayer isn't enough. Redemption isn't enough. Sarah Young who wrote Jesus Calling, a book all about her conversations with God, who allegedly spoke audibly to her and she recorded 'His' words, said she had a yearning for "more." If Jesus isn't your all in all, if you aren't thrilled with the Word, if you aren't sated by church worship and fellowship with the saints, then a disembodied voice from the ether isn't going to fulfill you. The adulation you receive from ignorant followers might fulfill you for a while. The royalties from the books you write about hearing from God might fulfill you for a while. The applause on interview shows might fulfill you for a while, but it is all vapor. Only Jesus can fulfill you, and He is not speaking now.

He spoke. In His word.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2).

I was pondering that verse the other day and thinking about all the ways God had spoken in previous times. Through a burning bush. Through a donkey. Through an angel. Through His prophets. Through a fleece. Through dreams ('Joseph, flee to Egypt').

Then I began thinking about ALL the many folks in times past who heard God speak without the help of Andrew Wommack or Joyce Meyer or Lynette Hagin. God had no trouble speaking clearly to those whom He desired, without the aid of lessons and books and how-tos.

Then I began thinking of a silly scenario using the false teachers' own words. Like this in Joel 1:1-2, as Joel was going around doing his daily tasks, he hears,

The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel: 2Hear this, you elders;

And Joel says to himself, "Shoot! I can't hear God clearly! I KNEW I should have bought that Joyce Meyer pamphlet at the market when I saw it! Now I'll never have intimacy with God!"

Or this from Haggai 1:1,

In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah,

"Stop! I haven't even built my prayer closet yet! I haven't done what Lynette Hagin said, to set aside time to wait in Your presence and allow You to talk to me!"

Or this from Jeremiah 1:4,

Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,


Wait! this doesn't coincide with Dallas Willard's point #3, that I should "make your main goal to become a spiritually mature person in a close relationship with God. That's the only way I'll clearly and correctly hear what God has to say to me." Since I haven't made my goal yet and since I am not a spiritually mature person, and since according to Mr Willard, that is the ONLY way I'll correctly and clearly hear what God is saying to me, then it must not be God. Phew, I'll just go to the store and get another Willard book just to be sure I am on the right track.

Isn't it silly to think that multitudes of people heard God clearly before all these false teachers started writing manuals for hearing from God? Doesn't it diminish God's glory to intimate, or even say out flatly as so many of these teachers have, that God can't get to you unless you do certain things? He hung the moon by His word. He also made the stars, knows them and named all of them. He upholds the universe by the power of His will. He ordains every single event on earth every second of every day for 8 billion people. But He can't make Himself heard unless you do what Andrew Wommack says?

I hope I've shown through this reverse method how silly it is that the God of the Universe needs any help from any of these teachers explaining methods for "How to Hear God." He's God. He never needed any help making Himself heard before and He never will.

Stick with the word, it's glorious and clear. It is currently the method we are told that He uses to make Himself known. It should hopefully excite you and fulfill you. If that isn't enough and you seek tips and how-tos for "more", sadly, you'll get less.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Further Reading

The Myth of God's Silence

Monday, July 24, 2017

The First Exile & Faithful Remnant

We often read about the Remnant in scripture. As GotQuestions explains in the opening to their question about remnant,

Question: "What does the Bible mean when it refers to a remnant?"
Answer: A remnant is a left-over amount from a larger portion or piece, whether it is food, material from which a garment is fashioned, or even a group of people. Although remnants could be looked upon as worthless scraps, and many times are, God assigned high value to those of His people whom He had set aside for holy purposes, those He labels as "remnants" in several places in the Bible.
We also read about Exiles. Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden. Cain was exiled from God's presence. We know the Israelites were often exiled from the land as they were punished for their spiritual adultery against God by worshiping other gods. The People were exiled to Egypt, carried to Babylon and lived as strangers in a strange land. Exile will be the final and unalterable state of anyone who has not repented to Jesus, living bodily in an eternity in hell away from God's grace and instead a life of exile in torment.

Exiled means to rejected and be apart from, denied entrance to. The same with remnant, a tattered thing that oftentimes, no one wants. A small quantity of something left over.

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:12-14).

In the Old Testament, God's main threat for sin was a judgment of exile away from the presence of God. Remember, God's glory inhabited the Temple, the one place where heaven met earth at the Ark of the Covenant. The notion of exile develops further in the New Testament and becomes clearer that judgment is to be eternally exiled from God's presence...eternal abandonment by God.

As my pastor preached on Sunday,
Because God loves us, as sinful people, He did not want us to experience eternal judgment of the exile that we all deserve. So He sent Jesus. Jesus is the faithful remnant of One. The only truly faithful Israelite in history, who actually kept the Law of Moses. Jesus actually became, when He was crucified outside the city at Golgotha, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the city on the hill, in His one person representing His people. He was abandoned, in exile, alone, crucified apart from the city outside. Abandoned by the people, the religious people, His disciples, His friends, and even by His Father.

The Bible is about Jesus.
His story
His work
His Person
His glory
His desire to gather a people to Himself
His kingdom
His priesthood
His judgment

Sometimes it's good to cut through the Christian brouhaha, the nasty arguments, the forced intellectualizing of the faith, the confusing evangelism techniques, the added layers,...and remember the simple. It is about Jesus. Everything and all of history points to one person, Jesus Christ, God's son, God Himself.

If you are reading this as a non-believer, a seeker, a doubter, then pray in repentance to Jesus who is in heaven but is soon to come. He will forgive your sins. If not, then unfortunately when you die you will discover that death is only a gateway to another life, one that you will live as an exile, not even enjoying His common grace as you enjoy now, the beauty of the world, the food you eat, the refreshing rain, the sunlight. There will be no hope.

If you're reading this as a believer take time today to thank Him for writing your name in the Lamb's Book of Life, setting you apart for His kingdom before the foundation of the world. Believers, take time today to cut through what you're doing either secular work or spiritual and thank Him for the hope we have within us, that we are a remnant on earth but not a remnant, that we are aliens in a strange land but not exiled, but are and will be firmly and eternally ensconced into a loving family of every tribe, nation, and tongue. And why? Because of Jesus, it is only and ever about Him.



Sunday, July 23, 2017

Joy in Lord's Day worship

Valley of Vision: Lord's Day Evening


MOST HOLY GOD,
Animate me with joy that in heaven praise
    will never cease,
  that adoration will continue for ever,
  that no flesh will grow weary,
      no congregations disperse,
      no affections flag,
      no thoughts wander,
      no will droop,
  but all will be adoring love.


We have our worship together today, and as the Lord's Day hours progress and come to their end this evening, I pray I will reflect on the joy to come of eternal worship among the assembly, in heaven, forever.


Oliver B. Greene on Pre-trib rapture (Reprise)

This essay first appeared on The End Time on July 10, 2014) Oliver B. Greene published a wonderful verse-by-verse exposition of Daniel ...