Thursday, February 26, 2009

Matthew 24 continued

Ok, so we are back on track of walking through a little bit of some End Times Bible studying. Sorry for the break in action, but someone decided to leave a car in the middle of the interstate for me to hit. Anyway, so here we go...

I believe the last thing we/I talked about was some of the signs of the end of the age (false christs, famines, earthquakes, Global timing indicators, etc - click HERE to read the previous post). Then Jesus begins to answer the disciples 2nd question: "What will be the sign of your coming?" There is a statement floating around most churches and maybe even houses that we will not know the exact hour or day Jesus will return. To this I would say that you might be right and/or that you might be wrong. It does say in verse 36 of Matthew 24 that "no one knows the day or hour...only the Father." So obviously, that would be the argument in favor of that statement. However, Jesus did not say that the Church would not know the day and hour in the generation the Lord returns and neither did He say that we could not know the season or conditions surrounding His return. We all agree that only the Father knows when Jesus will return. But as we learned in Amos 3, "surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret" to us His friends. The Lord revealed a very specific number of days to both Daniel and the Apostle John as to when Jesus will come again.

Please read Daniel 7:25 and 12:7; also read Revelation 11:2-3, 12:6, 13:5, 14

The Lord made it clear that the Messiah would come EXACTLY 1,260 days after the abomination of desolation. So Jesus answered the disciples question as to what will be the sign (and the when) of His coming by reminding them what was written by the prophet Daniel. Once the abomination of desolation has been set up, then we can flip ahead 1,260 days on our calender (roughly 3.5 years) and circle that day as THE DAY!

But what is the "abomination of desolation?" I will hopefully get into this more in the future, but basically it is an idol that the Antichrist sets up in the temple in Jerusalem and it has the power to "speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed" (Revelation 13:15). This occurs right in the middle of the final 7 years before Jesus' return where a false universal peace will be over the earth, and this will mark the beginning of the Great Tribulation (final 3.5 years of this age). This is also when the 7 seals will be opened, the sounding of the 7 trumpets will occur (Revelation 6, 8-9), and the 7 bowls of wrath being poured out on the Antichrist's empire happen (Revelation 15-16). All of this I again hope to cover soon...there's just so much!

Scripture references: Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:2-4, Revelation 13:11-18

Starting in verse 21 of Matthew 24, Jesus begins to describe the Great Tribulation, which he describes as "great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again." Jesus goes on to say in verse 22 that if these days were not cut short, then "no one would survive." But there is a blessed hope Beloved! Daniel 12:1 says, "But at that time your people - everyone whose name is found written in the book (is yours?) - will be delivered." Hallelujah!

Jesus next says that "immediately after the distress of those days," everything will go dark, the stars will fall out of the sky and the heavenly bodies will be shaken (verse 29). THEN!!! the Son of Man will appear in the sky with "power and great glory!" The rapture then begins and the final battle ensues. We will take a more detailed look at what this will look like later! So hang in there!!

Just as back then they knew when summer was near by the fig leaves coming out, we will also know that His return is near when the above things take place. Jesus tells us that we will know the hour and the season and He also tells us that the days of Noah will be like the days when He returns. What does that mean? Well Noah was told 120 years before judgement was coming to the earth in the form of a great flood, and then the Lord reminded Noah 7 days before the impending judgement on the earth (Genesis 6 and 7). Again I refer to Amos it, pray it, live it!

Paul taught that the Church should know the times and seasons related to the Lord's coming:

"Concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. But you, brethren, are NOT in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. Therefore...let us watch and be sober." (1 Thess. 5:1-6).

So what was Jesus' concluding command? "Keep watch." We need to keep our lamp stands filled with oil!

Grace and peace.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thank you Francis...

Here is a recent article by Francis Frangipane that encouraged and challenged me. If you want to read more of his articles (I suggest you do), then check out his website, Francis Frangipane Ministries.

The Cup
Part Two: Christ Living in Us
by Francis Frangipane

Having a true vision is not the same thing as having a godly motive. A person could have a vision directly from God, yet be driven by self-promotion and ambition in seeking to fulfill it.

Jesus preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. This is vision. But He also taught: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross" (Matt. 16:24).

If we will follow Jesus, notice we each have been given our own unique cross: "let him take up his cross." God has a cross specifically designed to crucify our fleshly ambitions en route to reaching our vision.

Consider Joseph: God had given him a dream of his future, but rather than quietly ponder the divine experience, he exalted himself to his ten older brothers. He assured them that one day they would each bow, like stacks of wheat, in subservience before him. His fleshly immaturity awakened a fleshly, even diabolical plot among his brothers: they sought to kill him. Joseph's vision was from God, but his motives lacked character, and his actions nearly cost him his life (see Gen. 37).

Yet, God was with Joseph, even in his lack of spiritual knowledge. And, we should rejoice for God is with us as well, even in our immaturity and ambition. Yet we should also understand: A true vision will kill you before it will fulfill you. Joseph had to learn to trust God in whatever circumstance or injustice he found himself; he had to become patient, serving others until the time arrived when his dream bloomed into reality.

"Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him" (Ps. 105:19).

Consider: the Almighty could have certainly brought Joseph to Egypt by a less threatening route. Joseph could have grown to maturity among his family without being sold into slavery. Since he was given the gift of dreams and interpretation, the Holy Spirit could have simply given him a dream and told him to move to Egypt (as He did another Joseph centuries later). Once safely there, Joseph's fame at dream interpretation would have reached the ears of Pharaoh at precisely the right time, say the morning after the king's night of ominous dreams. Joseph, the "dream merchant," would have been positioned in the right place at exactly the right time.

Instead, God brought him to Egypt thirteen years earlier than needed. The young man had to face and overcome repeated experiences with dying inwardly to self. He faced betrayal and abandonment; he was enslaved, tempted sexually, slandered and imprisoned. How hopeless could his situation be? Yet, he then faced the challenges of being forgotten. In spite of all these things, Joseph trusted God and grew in both wisdom and spiritual integrity.

God didn't merely want a man to interpret dreams, but a man who could rule his heart when it suffered abandonment, injustice, slander and rejection and betrayal, and still remain the man of God regardless.

Joseph kept his heart free from the bitterness that overwhelms the soul when one suffers repeated heartache. Yet, Joseph never let his wounding cause his heart to harden or keep him from trusting God. He was a man who wept when he finally saw his brothers. These were the men who laughed while he cried to them from the pit, then would have left him to die a long, agonizingly slow death had not a caravan passed by and Joseph been sold to traders. Joseph could have had his revenge - off with their heads! But the scriptures record that five times Joseph turned away and wept in the discourses with his family; once he "wept so loudly that the Eyptians heard, and the household of Pharaoh heard" (Gen. 45:2).

Joseph was a man of character, a man whose ambitions died but whose vision lived. He drank the cup given him by God, and his dream became a reality. Jesus drank the cup given Him, and we experienced salvation. But each of us has a cup to drink en route to our destiny. There will be no shortcuts to power. We will swallow the full dregs and though it kills us, we shall live. Yet, it shall not be us, but Christ living in us.

Grace and peace.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oh to be alive...God is so good...

Folks, I just want to say that I love each and everyone of you! I felt the need to say that because one, you need to hear it, and two, my life was spared this week. On Monday night on my way to work, I was in an accident...a very bad one! Without going into too much details (if you want them, ask me the next time you see me), a car was left abandoned in the middle of Interstate 75. I changed lanes and did not see this vehicle and I smashed right into the back of it. Just saying "crashed into it" would not do it justice. I SMASHED it! So hard in fact that the car (or small truck) flipped! The airbags were deployed but I did not lose consciousness...amazingly. Several good Samaritans ran to my car and one guy pulled my door open and immediately began talking to me, asking me questions like what is my name, where do I live, is there anybody he could call, etc? From the tone of his voice I knew it had to be bad. I felt a lot of pain in my back but I remember telling myself to wiggle my toes and fingers, which I could. The fire department got there and started to assess the situation and me. They made sure I stayed still and calm. One guy pushed my door all the way back the other direction. The best way I could describe it to you in written form is when Chris Farley backs David Spade's car up in Tommy Boy and the door extends the opposite direction.

The ambulance arrives and they immediately stabilize me. One of them got into my back seat and placed a neck brace on me and held my head tight against the head rest. The other person took my vital signs and made sure I could feel my hands and legs. They slid a board underneath me and lifted me out of my car. They taped my head to the board and immoblized my arms and legs and immediately put me in the back of the ambulance. One of the paramedics, who was great by the way, told me that as soon as he got to my car he was expecting to find me either unconscious or dead. All that I could see was a deflated air bag and a shattered windshield, so I had no idea the extent of the damage. He again checked all of my reflexes and mobility in my arms and legs...everything was good.

To the emergency room we went and once there, I was placed in a room where I laid, strapped to the MOST uncomfortable backboard in the whole wide world for at least an hour and a half. I, of course, chose one of the busiest nights at the emergency room to get in an accident. Luckily, I had some amazing friends there. They were with me the whole time...yes the entire 7 hours! Granted them seeing me strapped to a board immobilized probably wasn't the most soothing of sites. The doctor finally came and evaluated me, palpated my spine and localized an area of concern to the thoracic portion of my spine (funny, cause that was the area that hurt most...). He removed the backboard and body restraints, but left the neck brace on. He asked if I wanted oral pain medications, an injection into my muscle or if I wanted the pain medications to be given through an intravenous catheter. Immediately I said IV. The nurse came and placed an IV catheter and gave me some really, really, really good drugs. Hopefully I didn't say any incriminating things! They then took me to have some x-rays taken of my back and neck. The doctor finally came back into my room and said he sees a fracture of my 5th thoracic vertebra. Being in the medical field, I honestly was scared...actually freaking out but not outwardly. Back fractures have the potential to be very bad, very fast. The doctor ordered a CT scan of my spine/vertebra and when he left, my friends laid hands on me and prayed for healing and that there would be no fracture. So I was carted off for the CT scan and after an hour or so, the doctor came back in and said that he did not see any fractures! Praise the Lord!! I started feeling pain again so the doctor gave me more of that wonderful pain medication...ahhhh! I will say that I had to be helped to the car...I was a little woozy!

I was discharged from the emergency room and the doctor told me to expect to be very very sore the next day. He prescribed me a narcotic and prescription strength Ibuprofen. I was totally expecting to not be able to move the next day. But the Lord is faithful and I was hardly sore at all. There was only a mild amount of discomfort in my back, but that's it! I haven't had to even touch the narcotic yet. I've only taken the Ibuprofen. The Lord is the ultimate Healer!

The next day I got a call from my parents who said they were on their way up from Macon and we were going to go see my car and get my belongings out. Once we got there, the lady at the counter said where my car was located and she said that this is location for cars that are really jacked up! But I didn't expect to see what I saw. We walked up to my car and I immediately started to cry! I should not be walking today. Heck, I shouldn't even be alive right now! My mother of course started crying too as we examined my car. I have attached some pictures below to show you how the Lord saved my life! Sorry if they are a little disturbing.

So it's with a thankful heart and renewed spirit, I say:

Grace and peace.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Matthew 24

To really understand the Book of Revelation [not RevelationS as a lot of people say because it is only one Revelation, and that is the Revelation of Jesus Christ], I believe Matthew 24 has to be the backbone and crutch to truly move forward in the knowledge of the end times. So, I'm going to touch on a few key points from this passage over the next several posts. Note there will be some overlap in the information provided, so don't get angry with me and say that I keep saying the same things over and over...

A little history: Jesus' disciples knew Jesus was the Christ, but there was one thing they could not comprehend. There are 3 instances in the Bible where Jesus prophecies about His death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21; 17:22; 20:17) and every time it is either responded with the disciples rebuking Him or just simply thinking He was a little crazy. They assumed that because He was the Christ, then He was going to go to Jerusalem to overthrow the Roman government with force.

Now we pick up in Matthew 24:

The chapter begins with the disciples asking Jesus 3 questions and Jesus then spending the rest of the chapter answering their questions. Their questions:

a) When will these things be? (speaking of the buildings of the temple being destroyed so that "not one stone will be left on another."
b) What are the signs of Your coming?
c) What are the signs of the end of the age?

I will go over their last question tonight and cover the others later. Otherwise, this post will be super long!

Jesus does something interesting here and answers their questions in reverse order. He starts with explaining the signs of the end of the age. Jesus says, "For MANY will come in my name, claiming 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many." As discussed in my previous post, there has been an huge rise in "new religions" this century (Branch Davidians, Jim Jones and that nutty guy in Miami who actually claims He is the Christ!). Many have been deceived by these people, some so much so that many have killed themselves for their false claims. Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda has 100,000's of followers believing every word he says, including his claim that he is the man Christ Jesus. Again I will say that a lot of his followers are getting the numbers "666" tattooed on their bodies!

Jesus then mentions "wars and rumors of wars" and that "nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." If you look through history over the past 100 years or so, you will see that this has been one of the most bloodiest centuries in human history. Over 150 million people have died in wars in this century alone! The Greek word for "nation" is ethnos. The word ethnos specifically refers to those of different racial groups and ethnicities rising against one another. Ever heard of the word genocide? This term describes the destruction of an ethnic, racial or religious groups. There have been close to 50 million people that have been killed in genocide during this past century. The Nazi Holocaust alone saw 6 million Jews killed by Hitler's regime. "Kingdom against kingdom" not only refers to earthly kingdoms, but also the opposition of spiritual forces (ie. kingdom of darkness versus the kingdom of light). The degree of spiritual activity (ie. spiritual warfare) I believe has increased exponentially in the past 10-20 years.

Jesus says, "There will be famines and earthquakes...". Other translations include pestilences, or incurable diseases. The Greek word for earthquakes is "seismos," which can also be translated into "tempests" or storms. Scientists believe that there has been a dramatic increase in seismic activity in the past century, but this can also be attributed to the development on better detection devices, but still, the fact still remains that there has been an increase. Also on the increase is the amount and severity of storms that pummel the shores of many nations (ie. Katrina, tsunamis, etc). The AIDS virus has killed over 25 million people in 25 years, and over 40 million people are infected. Researchers say that in Africa ALONE, the AIDS-related death toll could reach 100 million by the year 2025! And now we have this "super bug" (MRSA) that is claiming more and more lives.

Jesus then goes back to the subject of false prophets saying that they are going to deceive many. He also says that the level of wickedness is going to increase so much, that "the love of most will grow cold." To me, this is scary. This basically means that many "believers" are going to fall away and follow Satan. These "believers" will be those who do not seek after the heart of God and His truth, and their love of Jesus will fade away.

Finally, Jesus concludes his answer of the disciples' 3rd question with this: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." A few weeks ago there was a conference called "The Call2All", and it involved hundreds of missions oganizations and prayer ministries. They got together to come up with a strategy to fulfill the Great Commission. During the conference, the president of Campus Crusade for Christ made this very bold statement:

"Absolutely, the Great Commission can be fulfilled in our lifetimes; from the way God is moving today, even without some terrific eye of faith, I have been persuaded it will be fulfilled in our lifetimes and I personally think in the next decade."

Jesus is saying, "Get ready for I am coming soon!" Don't just take what I am writing as the ultimate truth. Research, study, pray, get into the word, and see if the Lord confirms it in your spirit. But the point still remains, we need to fall in love with Jesus. All of the signs are pointing to this generation being THE generation that is going to see and play a vital role in the second coming of Jesus Christ. We must "stand firm to the end" and to do so, we need to understand the Father's heart and the blue prints He has laid out for us.

I'll say it again, we must fall in love with Jesus! Jesus has to be the life-blood of our very being. We cannot stand for the mediocre any more. The soon-to-be Revelation of Jesus MUST alter how we live our lives!

Next up: The disciples 2nd question...until then...

Grace and peace.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Revelation of Jesus

So I realized as I was fiddlin around on my computer that I haven't blogged a "real" post in a while. I sat here and stared at my computer screen for a while and pondered what I should write. Then the thought came to mind to just write something about what's on my heart lately. But what? There are a lot of things that I have been thinking about and even wrestling with, but I decided to write a brief post [not so much...sorry!] on a subject that is of utmost importance in this day and age...

I realize that I can't write about this subject and make it brief, but I will do my best to save your reading eyes...and your interest.

So what's the subject? Well, get ready and try not to get scared, but the End Times. Woah! Heavy stuff, huh? Yes. But, for every believer it is vital [VITAL!] to read, understand and act on the soon to be coming Revelation of Jesus [Revelation 1:3]. Brothers and sisters, He is coming soon! I believe [and this is my opinion...and I'm not predicting what year] that Jesus' second coming will be in this generation. Meaning that either I will see it with my own eyes or my kids or grandkids will see it.

Revelation 1:3 - "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart [ie. act on it with how they live] what is written in it, because the time is near."

Like I mentioned earlier, it would take a forever long post to explain everything in the book of Revelation, but I will try and put out some very key points. Heck, who knows, maybe I'll start a little blog series on it [please note: I haven't been too successful in following through with claims I've made to write a series of blog posts on a particular subject].

As it states in Revelation 1:3, blessed are those who read, hear and take the Book of Revelation to heart and live their lives according to it. This CANNOT be just a book in the Bible that you read to check it off your list of books in the Bible that you have read. Study it and get it into your very being because the time is near my friends. Yes there is a lot of verbage in there that may be confusing, but if you take the time to study it, then the Lord will show you His heart and the urgency of the time we live in. He wants to which is the crazy good thing! In Amos 3 it says, "Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servant prophets [us!]. As a result, you will alter how you live and pray and worship. There will be an unction to your words, prayers and actions. Your lamps will have oil and you will be ready and longing for His return! "Blessed are those slaves [or believers] whom the Master will find on the alert when He comes {or Jesus' return]" (Luke 12:37)

First of all, I must say that the book of Revelation is scary, but it is very exciting too. It is described as being the "great and terrible day" (Joel 2:11). Just read it and you will see how it will be terrible, but the great part is that the earth will experience the GREATEST revival in history! Isn't that exciting?!! The awesome part is that you may be an actual participant and you play key roles in ushering in His coming Kingdom here on earth. Amazing!

So what I will briefly touch on tonight is the timing indicators which will explain why I think He is coming soon. First Jesus describes these timing indicators as being the beginning of birth pangs [Matthew 24]. He describes them as birth pangs because just as a woman's contractions increase in intensity until the glorious birth of a child, in the same way the wrath that is poured out will increase in intensity and result in the glorious Kingdom of Heaven coming to earth.

Matthew 24:34 - "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all of these things take place."

A Biblical generation lasts about 70-100 years. What are "these things"? They are the challenges that Jesus identifies in verses 9-14 in that same chapter [massive falling away of believers, many false prophets, increase of wickedness, etc]. Jesus is referring to the Great Tribulation which will occur during the last 3.5 years of this age and will culminate with the Second Coming of Jesus. The 3.5 years is described in Daniel 7 where he writes of a "time, times and half a time" [time = 1 year].

I know this is getting long already but please hang with me. This is very important!

There are 3 prophetic time frames mentioned in the Scriptures related to the final days: 1) beginning of birth pangs with wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:4-8). This will precede the final 7 years of this age. 2) The increase in labor pangs in the first 3.5 years of the final 7 year period. This will be characterized by a counterfeit world peace (1 Thess 5:3, Daniel 9:27). 3) The hard labor pangs in the final 3.5 years which is called the Great Tribulation.

Ok, now that there is somewhat of a baseline, here are the global timing indicators:
1) Israel - Back in Genesis God makes a covenant with Israel through Abraham. In Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus makes it clear that His covenant people [Israel] will NOT see their Messiah again UNTIL they say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." Meaning that Jesus will not come back until they recognize Jesus as their Messiah and in order for them to do so, Israel must be restored as a nation and Jerusalem a city. Back in 70 AD the Romans took over Jerusalem. It was not a city and Israel was not a nation until 1948 when Israel was reinstated as a nation after World War II, and then Jerusalem was reestablished as a city in 1967. Now, since they are officially a city and a nation, they can say "blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." This is a tremendous prophetic signpost of the hour in which we live. So if we take a Biblical generation and add it to 1948, then we could be looking at His coming in the next 20-40 years.

2) Gospel going forth to all Nations - Matthew 24:14 - "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." Folks, we are on the doorstep of this actually happening. Leaders of YWAM and Campus Crusade have said [even as recently as within the past month] that this could happen in our lifetime. They say that if missionaries do a really bad job at preaching the Gospel, then it will go forth to all nations in about 30 years. If they do an "ok" job it will take 10 years, and if they do a really good job, then around 2-3 years! Hello!!

3) Beginning of Birth Pangs - Matthew 24:4-8 talks about the beginning of birth pangs - wars, false christs, famines, earthquakes, travel and knowledge (I mean look at what all we can do at a click of a mouse!), pestilences (ie. incurable diseases - AIDS). We are seeing these birth pangs today and in our not so distant past. Look at all of the deaths related to wars, disease, famine, etc. Also, there are and have been some wackos who have claimed to be Christ (David Koresh - Branch Davidians, Jim Jones back in 1978). Heck, there is even a guy in Miami with a strong Latin American following who claims to be Christ (Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda) but He has yet to perform any sign or wonder! In fact he himself, and many of his followers, have gotten tattoos of "666". What the.....?!

I will end this for now with this, all of this information is not meant to create some completely fabricated story or something that isn't real. We must discern the times in which we live and these are mere facts to help us do so. This is for real people. A lot of folks have the fantasy misconception that we will one day turn into a chubby baby with wings and play harps for the rest of eternity. Not so. We are called to be alert of His coming and timing indicators and dig deep into His word and His heart, because we as believers are going to be partnering with God in ushering in His Second Coming. His heart is love and He does not want anyone to perish! The Revelation of Jesus is there to spark in our hearts to fall more and more in love with Him. So much so that we LONG for His return, so that we will see Him and eventually reign WITH HIM forever and ever.

Sorry so long, but we must be made ready. We have a reason to celebrate because we are going to see Him one day!

Grace and peace.