Wake Up Call

Well, here I am.  Between getting my latest book finished and released and a very crazy schedule the past several weeks, I am now able to do some blog writing tonight.  Yea!


Have you been watching the news lately?  Have you noticed that things seem to be racing towards a period of time long ago prophesied of events we can now see on the horizon, and in some cases are here even as I write this?  That period of time I am referring to is the seven-year tribulation period prophesied in the Bible.  We are seeing some of the events prophesied thousands of years ago coming into fulfillment within the next year or so.  For example, we are told that during the tribulation period everyone will have to have a mark of identification by which they will buy and sell, what is often times referred to as the “mark of the beast” as mentioned in the book of Revelation, and unbeknown to many there is currently a push to have everyone worldwide, not just in the USA, implanted with an electronic chip for identification and financial transactions by the end of 2017.  We are also seeing a push by many religious leaders to merge all the religions of the world, including Christianity, into one religion, or at least create a platform that allows all the religions to work together and to acknowledge many ways to the same god.  In recent months we have seen a major shift in the world financial markets as a growing number of countries are shifting the strength of their currencies from the dollar to the Chinese currency.  And, in order for there to be a one-world government the United States has to be brought down enough so that not only will its influence be greatly reduced, but the United States would have to give up its sovereignty as a nation to facilitate a one-world government, and we’re seeing the United States literally imploding upon itself in a large number of ways putting it into such a position when looking at things globally.  We’re seeing increasing turmoil within the Middle East politically, as well as increasing tensions and conflicts militarily, and a greater push to isolate and divide Israel.  Oh, and let us not just think of the civil wars that are taking place there, and Iran’s race to a nuclear bomb with the promise of using it against Israel and the USA, but also the increasing threat and influence of ISIS and their inhumane brutality beyond the Middle East.


What I just mentioned doesn’t even take into account the role nature has in this.  We’re seeing very erratic and unpredictable weather all over that is out of sync with the recognized seasonal and regional norms, the increase in famines and pestilence, and the growing threat of disease and plagues.  Yes, there have been numerous concerns regarding “global warming” and “climate change”, and more specifically blaming humanity for it, but it has been found to be a fraud of sorts used as a tool to help facilitate a one-world government.  While it has been seen in recorded history that nature generally shifts back and forth in cycles resembling what we’re experiencing now, nature is also in a form of labor pains getting ready to wreck havoc with humanity in a variety of ways.  There has been, in addition to what has already been mentioned, a dramatic increase in volcanic and strong earthquake activity even in places where it generally hasn’t been an issue.


What is all of this telling us?  Even the world knows that life as we know it is quickly racing toward a climatic time when life as we know it will no longer be, yet they will be quick to deny the prospect that all of this is a fulfillment of Bible end-time prophesy.  If that is not bad enough, what is worse is the deception many within the church have embraced who should know better but choose to deny that reality.  When we talk of the deception within the church, we need to first realize that was the first thing Jesus warned us about in Luke 21.  The Apostle Paul goes even further and talks of a great falling away of Christians in the last days, and how that many will follow teachers with itchy ears to hear what they want to hear and what sounds good.  What are some of the deceptions found in the church today?


When we talk of the deceptions within the church, one of the most prominent ones is the idea that things are only going to get better, or at least for the Christian it will be even though the rest of the world will go upside down figuratively speaking.  Very little is said or taught of end-time events and how we need to be mindful of them, something that Jesus commanded us to do, but instead much is said about how we are to be blessed and prosper, to grow in our faith to have less issues to deal with in our lives, and to focus almost exclusively on God’s grace, love and mercy.  While it is true that God desires to bless and prosper us, for us to grow in our faith and to rest in His grace, love and mercy, to avoid or not take into account what the Bible tells us regarding the days we have entered into will only lead to disaster for many in the church.  For those given the role of shepherding or teaching the body of Christ who only speak of the good things and avoid anything about these last days, they are in essence presenting a very incomplete gospel.  Many think that God’s plan for the redemption of mankind was concluded when Jesus arose from the dead, but in actuality God’s plan for the redemption of mankind will not be concluded until the end of the 1000-year reign of Christ here on earth.  The seven feasts that God instituted in Leviticus, not for Israel but for Himself, outline God’s plan of redemption for mankind,  and of those seven only four have been fulfilled to date.  So, one of the deceptions is the ignorance of Bible prophesied end-time events while focusing on that which tickles the ears of the hearer.


Another deception is found in the rejection of the rapture of the church.  Even though the word ‘rapture’ is not found in the English Bible, the teaching and picture of the rapture for the church can be seen throughout the Bible.  The rapture is our blessed hope, something that is also seen in the feasts.  Many people argue against teaching or promoting the belief of a rapture referring to it as a doctrine of escapism, and while I agree some have taken this view of escapism to an extreme that they’re not occupying their time here properly, Jesus promoted the idea of escapism when He told us to “watch and pray that we are counted worthy to escape all things that will come to pass” (Luke 21:36).  In that one verse Jesus tells us to watch for the signs of the times and that which is coming, and also to pray that we are counted worthy to escape those things that are coming.  We can’t really do that if either through ignorance or ones decision to reject such teaching we focus on the positive’s we addressed in the previous paragraph.  Hey, if Jesus commands us to “watch” and to “pray we are counted worthy to escape”, then it’s something we should really look at and take heed of.  If we won’t tell others about the times we are in and what is on the horizon, along with the hope we have in being raptured up before these things come to pass, then we are not being His ambassadors as we should be and are setting up others for failure with an incomplete and sometimes warped gospel.


There is another deception regarding the rapture many are buying into “hook, line, and sinker”, and that is the idea that all who call themselves Christians will be raptured up, but Jesus strongly countered that way of thinking in Matthew 7:21-23.  The rapture is only for those who have been watching and preparing as a bride for His return.  Some have argued that the Church is not the Bride of Christ, but since the Bible is strongly and concisely clear that the Church is the Bride betrothed to Christ then I can’t help but ask what Bible they are reading from since it’s not the Christian Bible.  If one doesn’t believe that the Church is the Bride of Christ, then what guarantee do they have that they will be raptured up when the rapture is strictly for the Bride who has prepared herself for Him?  It doesn’t matter the voice or who appears to us, even if they are an angel of light, if what is said is in conflict with the written Word then it is not of God.  In other words, God will never contradict His own Word to us, no matter how nice and good it sounds, and if it does conflict with scripture then it needs to be rejected as coming from someone other than God, Himself.


Anyways, we need to wake up and take a look around us of what is going on, and to be aware of some of the deceptions infiltrating the church in these last days.  This is not the time to be ignorant of the times we are in and the explosively fast fulfillment of end-time prophesies, or to fall victim to doctrines and beliefs that keep us from clearly seeing things as they are so we can prepare for the return of our Savior and groom, Jesus Christ.  There is enough in scripture to get a pretty accurate picture of the times we’re in and what is coming down the pipe, so to speak, and we shouldn’t be afraid of to teach and share this with others as it could make the difference as to how ready they are for His return.


John Johansson

Weakening of the Fibers

Last Sunday our pastor preached a good message on being thankful, and in his message he commented on the different types of root systems different kinds of trees have.  He noted that some trees like oaks and walnuts have deep roots, and then trees like the pines and redwoods of California have very shallow roots but find their strength in intertwining with the roots of other trees.  As I thought about that another thought crossed my mind.


Up until a few months ago we lived in the beautiful Sierra Foothills, also known as “the mother lode”.  To give you a better idea of where we were at, we were so close to Yosemite National Park we often times referred to it as being in our backyard.


Well, about a year ago we had the third largest wildfire in California’s recorded history, known as the “Rim Fire”.  The fire was so close to us that relatives was ordered to evacuate, and we were waiting to receive evacuation orders ourselves. We even had a family in the church staying with us because they had also been evacuated.  Because of my job I was involved with the evacuation of residents directly impacted by the fire, taking them to shelters setup by the Red Cross.


The smoke from the fire was pretty bad for weeks, and people were being told not to go outside unless necessary, and if so they needed to wear a specialized dust mask to filter the air.  People usually didn’t wear the masks though the air quality was terrible and pretty toxic.  One of the things I learned from this experience involved the smoke and the trees.


I don’t remember what it was called, but one of the main elements of the smoke was pretty toxic to the trees.  You would think these towering trees would be impervious to the smoke, but that wasn’t the case.  Apparently the effect this smoke had on the trees was significant because it weakened the trees fibers.  This would then make the trees susceptible to falling over or breaking apart.  Because of this there was concern both of the trees just falling over, and whether or not they would be able to withstand the winds, rain, and snow from the coming winter.


This reminds me of what we face spiritually and the importance of being well rooted in the faith.  As Christians, we are continually bombarded by the allure of sin in its many forms, a poisonous toxin to a Christian.  If we have strong, established roots, deep in the Word and tightly intertwined with fellow believers who are both a support and an encouragement to us spiritually, the easier it will be to stand.  However, if we absorb what the world is bombarding us with, our backbone to stand will be weakened and we’ll become more apt to fall in the storms of life.


How do we absorb that which the world is bombarding us with?  We absorb it through what we listen to, the things that we see and read, the places we go to and the people we hang around with.  The more we allow ourselves to be exposed to the temptations of the world, the more apt we are to absorb those things.  Is it just in the “big” sins everyone talks about, or does it go beyond that?  It involves, not just the “big” sins, but also mindsets and attitudes that are unbiblical and conflict with the Word, as well as the heart and mind of God.  These could be seen in misplaced priorities, the greed for power, fame, prestige and financial and material gain.  It could be attitudes of superiority and pride, attitudes that express a mindset absent and independent of Christ.  It could be self-centeredness and selfishness, and the idea of “whatever feels good” is right and good and living for the moment.  It could also be mindsets that have little or no problem with spreading gossip and slander, having little regard for confidentiality and the best interests of the other person you’re talking about.


So, the question is asked, are your fibers getting weakened?  Or, are you having little or less backbone to stick with the moral standards found in the Bible, or to remain loyal to your commitment to Christ and His Kingdom?  If this is you, then I challenge you to take a step back and re-evaluate your life, and to begin taking steps to change this in you.  Only you can determine what you absorb into your heart, mind and life, and it is you with the help of the Holy Spirit that can make the necessary steps to minimize your absorption of what the world throws your way, and to strengthen your “fibers” and backbone for the glory of God and your spiritual health.


By John Johansson

Attitude Is Key

The other day I was watching someone on TV that made an interesting comment. In his attempt to describe the relationship Christ calls us to with Him, he indicated that once we receive salvation anything that is done in the body is pretty much meaningless, good or bad.  He went on to say that if a person receives salvation, they could go out and sleep around to their hearts delight and it would have no bearing on their relationship and position with Christ.  He did say that to do so would be simple stupidity, but he reiterated that it would not change their relationship with Christ and also implied that their eternal destination is secured.  There is something definitely wrong with this picture, and the Apostle Paul had something to say about this type of mentality.

In the time of Christ and the Apostle Paul, the city of Corinth was the bustling place to be, a trade center it was also a place of much moral depravity and was well known for it. It was in this setting that the Apostle Paul went there and started a church with the good news of the Gospel.  We have two of the three letters Paul wrote to this church in Corinth, letters that brought encouragement and direction as well as strong judgment and corrections regarding some of the behaviors of this church.  One area that he addressed in his first letter to them involved a mentality that is shared by the minister I mentioned in the first paragraph.  It is in I Corinthians 6:12-20 that we see Paul’s position regarding sexual immorality.

To make his point Paul starts off by reminding us of the liberty we now have in Christ, a liberty he cautions us about in Galatians 5:13 where he tells us not to use our liberty as an opportunity for the flesh. The Apostle Peter also gives the same instruction in I Peter 2:16, telling us not to use the liberty we have in Christ as a cloak for wickedness.  Both Paul and Peter acknowledge the liberty we now have in Christ, but they also tell us not to use it for the benefit of our flesh or as an excuse or covering of wickedness in our life.

Later in the sixth chapter of I Corinthians Paul begins to address the sexual immorality that was prevalent in Corinth, specifically within the church in Corinth. The Christians in Corinth had adopted a view, the same as what the minister I was watching the other day is embracing, that their salvation was spiritual and what they did in and with their bodies had no effect or bearing on their relationship with Christ.  As a result, the Christians in Corinth were involved in a variety of sexual immorality and thinking nothing wrong with it in regards to their relationship with God.  So, Paul needed to set things straight by letting them know that their thinking was all wrong, and that in fact what they did sexually with their bodies did have an effect on their relationship with Christ.  Paul goes on to say that our physical bodies are members of Christ, and that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  He then reminds us in verse 20 that we were bought with a price, and that we are to glorify God in both our body and in our spirit.

In Romans 6, Paul talks about our relationship to Christ and the place our bodies have in it. In I Corinthians 6 Paul mentions giving our members to a “harlot”, and how that should not be so, but in Romans 6 Paul takes a more general approach to this subject.  To keep this in context, we need to remember that Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome, and as such tells us that it applies to us as well.  In this chapter in Romans, Paul starts off with a couple of questions, “What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not!  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2 NKJV).  He goes on in this chapter talking about yielding our members to sin or to righteousness, and that we become slaves to whatever we yield to.  As Christians it is our responsibility to yield our members to righteousness and not sin.  That doesn’t mean we will never sin again, but it means that we are now free to not sin if we are led by, walk in, and live in the Spirit.  Just because we become a Christian doesn’t mean we’ve lost our free will to choose who or what we will yield to, it’s just that we are now able through the Spirit to resist sin and not walk or live in it anymore.

Paul continues in Romans 8 talking about two different kinds of Christians, those who are led by the Spirit and those who are led by the flesh. A popular verse, Romans 8:1, while I realize that some translations of the Bible omit part of it, many read and cling to the first part of that verse, and forget about or give little heed to the remaining part.  Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1 NKJV).  As you read through this chapter you will see how Paul is comparing both the life and end results of both types of Christians.  Some try to argue that those that Paul refer to as walking and living in the flesh are not Christians, but if we are raised to life with Christ because we were originally dead in our sins, how can a non-Christian die if they were never given life to begin with.  The end result of a life led and lived according the flesh is that they will not be called the children of God and will die.

I admit, I am someone who tries to live and do things right, described by some as someone who is “by the book”, but I will be the first to say that I’m not perfect and have on many an occasion blown it either knowingly or otherwise. I am well aware of God’s grace and forgiveness and seek to extend it towards others, and I’m okay with that.  I’m not perfect and sinless, and I don’t expect others to be either, but there is something that concerns me.  It’s not so much that someone has blown it, or even if it was in a big way or not, but it’s the attitude of the person that can be very telling and disconcerting.  It’s one thing for someone to stumble or fall in their walk with Christ only to get back up and “brush themselves off”, asking and being grateful for God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness with a genuine desire to not do it again, whatever “it” is.  What is disconcerting is when someone that knows they’ve said or done something they know is wrong only tries to make excuses for it, adopting some type of rationalizing that “makes it okay” to blow it.  These are people that need to take a real attitude check for themselves as it becomes an issue of attitude and motivations, specifically in regards to their own walk with Christ.  Are they serving God because they want to, or are they doing so out of obligation or because it’s the way they were raised?  When a person wants to serve God first and foremost simply because of who He is and what He’s done in their life, they’re not looking for ways to justify or rationalize wrong behavior.  Instead, they’re looking with gratitude for how they can please Him in all they do, simply because they love Him and want to.  When we try to make excuses and try to rationalize what we’ve said or done, that sends the message that we’re still being very self-centered, looking more to please ourselves than the One who made salvation available to each of us.  It’s is during these times that we are actually being led by our flesh and not by His Spirit, which Paul addresses in Romans 8.  Do we want to live being led by our flesh, or by His Spirit?  It’s all in the attitude and motivations.  Even I have to check my attitudes and motivations at times, making sure it’s pleasing and acceptable to Him.  How about you?

The return of Christ for His bride is so close that we could say it’s imminent, and that stands to reason all the more why we should take an inventory of our attitudes and motivations regarding our walk and relationship with Christ. Are we truly living for Him, or for ourselves?  Just because we get our attitudes and motivations right doesn’t mean that we will have “obtained”, as we should continually be looking to become more like Christ.  How do we do that?  We do that like the Apostle Paul instructs us in Romans 6, yield ourselves and the members of our bodies for righteousness and not for sin and the flesh, an ongoing task.  When we talk of our members, it’s not just our hands, arms and legs, but it’s also our eyes, ears and mouth, as well as our thought life.  Are we more concerned about pleasing Him or more concerned about pleasing ourselves and others?

It’s in the attitude. Maybe it’s time to do an inventory of your attitudes and motivations for living for and serving Him?

It’s In The Oil

I know I’ve written about the parable of the ten virgins located in Matthew 25:1-13 in previous blogs, but today I want to focus on a particular aspect of this parable. Just as a reminder, this parable speaks of ten virgins, five who were foolish and five who were wise.  The setting, or the picture you can say, comes from the wedding customs of the ancient Jews.  In this setting, the bride and groom have already entered into a marriage contract with each other, and before the consummation of this process the groom leaves the bride to prepare a place for her.  During this time they don’t have any contact with each other.  While the groom is away at his father’s house preparing a place for his bride, the bride is identified and set apart as one who is spoken for and already married, and her time is to be spent preparing herself with diligence for her groom, not knowing when he will return for her.  While it is the groom’s responsibility to prepare a place for his bride, the bride’s responsibility is to diligently prepare herself for him by the time he returns for her.  During this time she is to be watching with anticipation for her grooms return, and this is because she knows that if he finds her not watching with anticipation, he will return to his father’s house without her and will subsequently give her a letter of divorcement.  It is a shameful thing for a bride to get left behind because she wasn’t watching for her grooms return, but if she is found watching the groom will take her back to his father’s house where they will finally consummate their marriage.


In this parable, the virgins represent Christians, those who have entered into a saving relationship with Christ. Just as these virgins are waiting for the return of the groom, even so we are waiting for the return of our groom, Jesus.  At midnight the cry is sounded indicating the imminent return of the groom, and for us as Christians the cry of Christ’s return for us has been sounding through the explosive rate in which end-time Bible prophecy has been getting fulfilled right before our eyes.  As the virgins awoke from the sounding cry announcing the return of the bridegroom, even so we need to awaken to the cry of our grooms soon and imminent return for us, His bride.  When the virgins awoke to the cry, they immediately began to make final preparations for the grooms return.  So, seeing the fulfillment of end-times Bible prophecy indicating Jesus’ imminent return, are we making final preparations for Him?


When the virgins awoke they began to check and to trim their lamps, and it wasn’t until this point in the parable that it became evident who were wise and who were foolish. Those who were foolish were identified by their lack of oil, and when they asked the wise for some of theirs they were told to go to those who sell to buy their own.  It was during this time that the bridegroom returned and took the wise back to his father’s house, and when the foolish returned they were denied entrance to the wedding.  What does the oil represent in the life of a Christian, and how does one obtain it?


Over the years I have heard two arguments as to what the oil represents, but I want to propose a third argument of what it represents. Based on the fact that the Holy Spirit is sometimes represented in scripture as oil, some have argued that the oil in this parable also represents the Holy Spirit.  The problem I have with this argument is that we cannot buy the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 8:9-25, we have someone that tried to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit, and he was rebuked for it by the Apostles.  The second argument is that the oil represents ones works, and while I do believe there is some basis for this view I do disagree with that one.  Our salvation is not a result of works, but scripture does point to works resulting from and because of our salvation and relationship with Christ.  Some would argue that we are free from having to do any works because of the grace by which we are saved, but this isn’t so.  In Philippians 2:12-13, we are told by the Apostle Paul to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling”, and that we are “to do” for His good pleasure.  In other instances of Paul’s writing’s, when he mentions “fear and trembling”, it is connected to obedience which implies works on our part.  In James 2:14-26, James the brother of Jesus tells us that faith without works is dead, and that our faith is made perfect by our works.  Okay, I got onto a bit of a rabbit trail with that, but I do not believe the oil entirely represents our works.


The third argument I would like to suggest for what the oil represents is based on the comments of the wise virgins to the foolish, specifically that they were to go and buy from those who sell. As was mentioned previously, you can’t buy and sell the Holy Spirit, so what does this mean?  I realize this is a parable, but I believe Jesus is trying to tell us something with that statement.  In fact, does Jesus make any reference anywhere else about buying or costs?  Yes, He does in fact.  In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus talks about the cost of following Him.  In this passage He talks of one seeking to build and that a wise builder counts whether or not he has enough to finish building, and in the same way talks of a king seeking to go to war and that a good king will count the cost of whether or not he has enough to win the war.  Jesus goes on to say we need to count the cost of following Him, and that anything less than totally surrendering to Him and dying to self is not enough.  While some may argue there is no cost in following Jesus, Jesus makes it very clear that there is a very significant cost to following after Him.  The cost He is requiring of us is a New Testament version of the first commandment of the Old Testament, to love the Lord our God with all our strength, mind, heart and soul.  Where the Old Testament laws focused on words and actions, the two New Testament commandments Jesus gave us in Matthew 22:34-40 not only encapsulated the ten into two, but also enhanced them by focusing on the heart and our motivations and attitudes.  Jesus’ teachings reinforced by the rest of the New Testament writings, requires us to check our heart condition by the motivations, attitudes, and priorities of our heart.  To follow after Jesus and to be His disciples requires us to die to self, to deny ourselves and carry our cross to follow Him.  To do so means we place our goals, our agendas, our selfish desires, our likes and dislikes, our successes and failures, our friends and family, and even our reputations on the cross and let Him live through us.  The Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 2:20 that we need to die to self so that Christ will live through us.


So, I believe the oil in this parable represents the cost of following Christ, and how much or how little we paid that price. This would also explain why it was it took the foolish virgin’s time to acquire more oil as this is something that takes time.  It isn’t based on our words but on our priorities and the actions or works we do that reflect them.  So, it’s in the oil.  Is our life one where we’ve been paying the price of following Him, or did our relationship with Him start correctly at the time we said “I do” to Him only to fade as we allowed the cares of life, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life to take precedence in our life.  Depending on the translation of the Bible you use, either the foolish virgins lamps had already gone out, or they were in the process of going out.  In either case, they didn’t have enough oil to keep their lamps burning and were in dire need of getting more oil.


In this parable, the five foolish virgins got more oil, missed the grooms return and went to the groom’s house, but the door was shut and they were denied entrance. The parable doesn’t indicate what happened to them beyond their being denied entrance, but one thing for sure is that they were no longer the bride.  In regards to the rapture of the church, the bride of Christ, there will be some who are left behind and no longer considered the bride.  In Luke 14:29, Jesus said the builder who didn’t have enough to finish would be mocked by those who see it, and in Revelation 16:15 Jesus tells us in the midst of the judgments that those who had not watched and kept their garments (of righteousness) would be seen naked and ashamed.  I don’t know about you, but I have no intentions of being left behind to be seen as naked and ashamed.


Where does it leave those who weren’t prepared for Jesus’ return and was left behind? In previous blogs I have written about the seven feasts God established to show us His plan of redemption for all mankind.  The first four have already been fulfilled with three remaining.  The next feast to be fulfilled is the Feast of Trumpets, also known as Rosh Hashanah.  This feast represents what we know to be the rapture of the church, where as the Jews understand it is when God separates the wholly righteous from the wholly unrighteous and those in between.  It is the period of time between this feast and the following feast called Yom Kippur that we have an idea of what awaits those who don’t go up in the rapture.  The dispensation of grace ends with the rapture of the bride, Rosh Hashanah, and afterwards people will solidify their eternal destination based on their works.  Either they will do works that will reinforce their desire to spend eternity in heaven, or they will do works that will reinforce their decision to reject God and His only begotten Son, Jesus.  If this understanding is accurate, then those who are left behind will have to prove by their works that they desire to spend eternity in Heaven, even if it means giving their own life for the sake of Jesus.  They might not enter Heaven as the bride of Christ, but they could possibly enter as the friend of the bride and groom.


So, it’s in the oil. Do you have enough oil to last until He returns, or should you go and buy some more?  I hope you have enough, and I hope you are watching for Christ’s return.  I also encourage you to read the words of Jesus found in the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation, words that Jesus gave the Apostle John about 60 years after His ascension, words that each of us who take on the name of Christian must heed and take seriously and to heart.  Again, it’s in the oil.

Is It That Important?

In my last blog we took a look at whether or not scripture supports the view of a rapture, or a catching away of the church, Christ’s bride. I believe we successfully showed that scripture does in fact support the rapture theory, and that the argument opposed to that view is very weak.  So, where do we go from there?

Over the years I have heard people who believe in the rapture argue about the need to be watching for the time of Christ’s return for His bride. Some have argued that there is no need for Christians to be concerned about it, citing that “when it happens it happens”.  They generally have the idea, as I did until recent years, that every Christian will automatically be caught up when He returns, which lends itself to a false sense of security when it comes to the rapture.  After all, isn’t salvation a free ticket to the rapture?  Well, not necessarily.

While it is nice and feels good to believe that all Christians will go up in the rapture, scripture points out, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, that this isn’t necessarily the case. Some have concluded based on Jesus’ parable of the sower that only 25% of Christians will make it to heaven, and that based on His parable of the ten virgins only 50% of Christians will go up in the rapture.  Only God knows the percentage of those who call themselves Christians will actually make it, but the scriptures are very clear that just because one believes themselves to be a Christian isn’t enough.  Jesus, Himself, tells us in Matthew 7:13-14 that broad is the gate that leads to destruction, and narrow the gate and difficult the way that leads to eternal life.  In Luke 13:24-30, Jesus also tells us to strive to enter in through the narrow gate for many will seek to enter but will not be able to.  In Philippians 2:12-16, the Apostle Paul tells us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, and then goes on to mention how we need to become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the crooked world we now live in.  Did you catch that?  Paul is telling us to become blameless, and in Ephesians 5:25-28, we’re told that Christ is coming back for a church without spot, wrinkle or blemish.

Does this tell us whether or not it is important for us to believe in the rapture, much less whether or not we as Christians need to even prepare for it? I think it safe to say it is important for us to believe in a rapture, not only because the Bible points to one but also because a person can’t watch or prepare for one if they don’t believe in it.  And, as we can see from the above scripture, it is important for us to be prepared for it when it happens, which could be at any moment.

On a number of occasions Jesus tells everyone who follows Him, to “watch and pray”, and in one instance, Luke 21:34-36, Jesus even tells us to “pray that you’re counted worthy to escape” all the things that will come to pass in the last of the last days. Why would Jesus tell us that if we will automatically be raptured up because we are Christians?  In Revelation 16:15, in the midst of the judgments being poured out on mankind during the tribulation period, in what could be a “news flash” Jesus blesses those who watch for His return and keeps their garments.

In Matthew 24:42-44, Jesus tells us in relation to His return to watch, citing that the good master of the house would be watching and would not allow his house to be broken into. In Luke 12:35-40, we see Luke addressing the same thing that Matthew did, indicating that the master of the house would be watching to prevent the thief from breaking into the house.  In both passages, in reference to His return for His bride, Jesus tells us to be watching for His return, and that it is a good master of the house that watches to prevent the house from being broken into by a thief.  In Mark 13:32-36, Mark recounts the same words but adds emphasis to them at the end when he shows that Jesus said “watch!”.  Apparently it is very important to Jesus to command us, His followers, to be watching.  The difference between the good master and the bad one was the watching.

I mentioned that some believe all Christians will go up in the rapture, and that is a scary thing to believe. Some don’t take the rapture very seriously because they believe they will have another opportunity after the rapture to get to heaven.  The problem with this way of thinking is that Jesus apparently knows it is not a time we are going to want to be here for, the tribulation period that is.  Not only that, but what guarantee do you have that you would be able to or even have that opportunity?  Jesus commented a few times that there would be those who “missed it” that would try and enter into heaven after the door had been shut, and that they were denied entrance.  This leaves a lot of questions for those Christians that were like the foolish virgins and unprepared when Christ returns, questions that I would prefer not waiting to get an answer for.  I say we just plan on making sure we’re prepared for His return and not gamble with eternity.  How about you?

What does it mean to be watching and praying? I’ve written a number of blogs on the subject that I’m not going to get into right now, but let me briefly address that.  Jesus indicated that we need to be watching for the signs of His coming for His bride, and that is essential.  When writing on the parable of the ten virgins, I indicated that I believe the “midnight cry” mentioned in the parable is the fulfillment of the prophetic signs of His return and the end.  Are you paying attention to the fulfillment of Biblical end time prophecies that point to His return, or are you just busy living life with the idea that it will happen when it happens?  Also, when you’re watching for something, you are making sure you’re ready when that thing arrives.  If you’re waiting and watching for someone to come pick you up to go somewhere, you’re making sure you are ready when they arrive, right?  If you were not watching for them to arrive, you would probably be too relaxed to be ready on time, and if you were not ready they might have to leave you behind.  While watching means to be watching, watching also means to make sure we are prepared for Him.  Are we striving to become more like Christ in every area of our life?  Are we learning to live by the Spirit, to die to the flesh and its many desires and cravings, and to allow Jesus to live in and through us?  Are we seeking the forgiveness of others when needed, and are we forgiving others as He has forgiven us, which was unconditional and non-negotiable in His eyes?  Are we guarding ourselves from sin and the worlds influence on us?

When Jesus tells us, in conjunction to watching, to pray and to pray that we’re counted worthy to escape that which is coming to the earth, I believe that humility has to be key. None of us are, or will ever be on this side of eternity, perfect.  I may be wrong, but I believe what goes into us being worthy hinges on our heart and pursuit to please Him in every area of our lives.  That doesn’t mean that we will have it all together and be perfect examples and witnesses of Him, especially since we are all at different levels of maturity and growth in our walk with Him.  I believe the key is our desire and efforts to live for Him, doing what He’s called us to, taking the unpopular stands for Him, righteousness and the Kingdom, and sharing the Gospel with others.  The fact is there is no “formula” for being worthy to escape that which is coming to the earth, but it instead rests on Him to make that determination, and it is up to us to pursue that in our lives with the leading of the Holy Spirit.

So, in conclusion, I believe it is very important for us to not only believe in a rapture, but also that we live our lives preparing for it as a bride prepares for her wedding day. I’ve seen many a bride as she’s approaching the day of her wedding, no matter where she is at or who she is with, become almost obsessed with pleasing her groom and trying to prepare herself to be as pleasing to him as she can possibly be for that day.  We are the bride of Christ, and are we just as driven to please and prepare ourselves for Him as a bride does for her groom?  Just something to think about.

Rapture or No Rapture

I grew up in church and with the awareness of a soon coming rapture of the church, the bride of Christ. The only argument I ever heard never questioned if there would be a rapture, but rather when the rapture would take place, pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I had even heard of those who don’t believe in the rapture.  I have heard some of the arguments used in defense of their assertions for there being no rapture, but it’s hard for me to find much substance to them.  It’s not like they have a lot of scripture to support their views with, because they don’t, but it seems that in order for them to take the position that they do requires them to discount other scriptures which would support the rapture position.

Those who don’t believe the Bible speaks of a rapture are of the opinion that the rapture is a fairly new line of thought, and that it originates from the early 1800’s. This is not so.  According to Chuck Missler, if we were to look outside of the scriptures found in the Bible, we would find that the earliest writings referring to a rapture, especially a pre-tribulation rapture, were as early as A.D. 100 in the epistle of Barnabas.  This is followed by four other writings leading up to the fourth century writing of Ephraem, the Syrian.

It is believed by some that the basis for the idea of a rapture hinges upon two scriptures, I Thessalonians 4:15-17 and I Corinthians 15:51-53. While it is true that these are well used scriptures in defending the position of a rapture, we can find that the Bible has a lot more to say on the subject than just that.  We see it not only in the words of the Apostle Paul, but also in the words of Jesus.  We see it in the Jewish feasts, the marriage customs of the ancient Jews, and in some of the historical records found in the Old Testament.  As I mentioned earlier, to discount the idea of the rapture as from God requires one to discount various aspects and sections of the Bible.  I know that none of us truly want to do that, so let’s take a quick look at some of what I just mentioned.

To begin with we need to see that the idea of a rapture is seen in the seven feasts God gave the Jews to observe each year. It is commonly believed that the feasts were only for the Jews, but that is not the case.  In Leviticus 23:2, God makes it very clear that these are His feasts that they are to observe.  That same passage refers to these feasts as convocations, also translated as “rehearsals”.  In other words, God established these feasts as rehearsals for an appointed time to come.  Many believe that with Jesus and the subsequent dispensation of grace, the Old Testament has no real value to a Christian outside of historical information and to help us understand the plan of God leading to salvation through Jesus.  Seeing how that none of the feasts were fulfilled until Jesus came, and that there are still three of the seven feasts left unfulfilled, it could be argued that the Old Testament is still very relevant to us as Christians in this day and age.

When we look at the Jewish feasts, Jesus fulfilled the first three and the birth of the Church fulfilled the fourth feast on the day of Pentecost. The next feast to be fulfilled is Rosh Hashanah, or the Feast of Trumpets, a feast that very closely parallels our understanding of the rapture.  When we take a close look at this feast, there is a lot about it that screams out that it represents the rapture of the church.  This fifth feast is next on God’s prophetic timetable yet to be fulfilled, and when we look at the final two feasts we see that they closely resemble the end of the tribulation period and the start of the 1000 year reign of Christ here on earth.  In addition to that, the period of time between the fifth and sixth feasts is known as the “Days of Awe”, a period of time that appears to represent the seven-year tribulation period.

The Apostle Paul alludes to the Jewish feast Rosh Hashanah when he mentions the “last trump” in conjunction with the “catching away” of the Church. The “last trump” Paul talks about is not the seventh trumpet sound mentioned in the book of Revelation.  How can we know that?  To begin with, the way Paul mentions the “last trump” indicates that the Jews were well acquainted with it and what it was, and that there was no need for him to explain himself.  Also, Paul’s mention of the “last trump” was about 40 years before the Apostle John’s revelation of end time events and the seven trumpet blasts of judgment, therefore Paul could not be referring to John’s revelation.  The “last trump” he was referring to was the last of 100 blasts of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, a blast that all Jews knew as the “last trump”.

When speaking of His return, Jesus made the statement that it would be at a day and hour no man knows. The phrase “day and hour no man knows” refers to the Jewish feast, Rosh Hashanah.  Ancient Jews referred to this feast with that phrase because it was the only one of seven that they never knew when it would begin, but they knew it would be within a 48 hour time frame.  When a Jew made this statement, or used it themselves, they were referring to this feast, the same feast that is symbolic of the rapture.  In this way it can be argued that Jesus was letting us know His return for the Church would be on this day, though we don’t know which year, day or hour it would take place.

When we look at the marriage customs of the ancient Jews, we see a number of things that closely resemble the rapture and the events surrounding it, including the time of the 7-year tribulation period and the following millennium reign of Christ. In order for us to seriously look at these, we need to first remember that the Apostle Paul tells us that the Church is betrothed and espoused to Christ (I Corinthians 11:2), and that the relationship between a husband and wife models the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33).  In the process of an ancient wedding, the bride and the bridegroom enter into a marriage relationship, but they don’t consummate it until later.  After entering into the marriage, the groom departs to prepare a place for his bride at his father’s house.  During this period of time, the bride has no idea of when the groom will return for her, but her responsibility during this time is to prepare herself for his return and to eagerly anticipate his return at any moment.  If she fails to do so, the marriage process will be cancelled with a letter of divorcement and he will return to his father’s house without her.  If she has done what is expected of a new bride, the groom will take her back to his father’s house and consummate the marriage, and this will be the start of a 7-day period of time known as the marriage feast.  After the marriage feast is concluded, the husband and wife will re-enter public life.

When Jesus told us that He was going to prepare a place for us, and that in His Father’s house are many rooms, He was talking as a groom to His new bride. The fact that we don’t know when He will return is locked up in both the marriage customs of ancient Jews and the Feast of Trumpets.  The rapture is Christ’s return for His bride, another piece of the puzzle found in the Feast of Trumpets.  Many times Jesus told us He would return as a thief in the night for those who are not watching for Him, and that only those who are watching will not be caught off guard.  It is because of that, and because of the example we see in the ancient Jews marriage customs, that we understand why it is so important to be watching and prepared for Him when He returns.

Some argue that no one has ever been raptured up, or caught up, before, but that isn’t true either. Not only can we say it did happen before, but we can also say it happened in the Old Testament.  We know that Enoch just disappeared and was never seen or heard of again because God took him (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5).  Elijah was another one that was “caught up” to heaven (2 Kings 2:11) as a whirlwind pulled him up.

What about the belief of a pre-tribulation rapture? One aspect of the pre-tribulation position is that the rapture keeps us from the judgments to come, and we see this in the lives of both Noah and Lot.  God withheld the judgment of total destruction until His people were safe.  Noah found his safety in a boat God commanded him to build, also known as the ark, and Lot found safety when he left Sodom and Gomorrah and went to Zoar.  If that wasn’t enough, Isaiah 26:20-21 speaks of the rapture of the church, the Bride of Christ, and that God calls her up to be hidden from the judgments He’s about to pour out upon the earth.

As we can see, the argument opposing the rapture position, especially the pre-tribulation rapture, doesn’t have much to stand on, and the argument for a pre-tribulation rapture is pretty strong. So, is there a rapture to come or not?  I think it is a very risky thing for someone to argue against the rapture position.  In my next blog I will be answering the question, “Does it really make a difference whether or not someone believes in the rapture?”  In the meantime, watch and pray so that you are not caught off guard and left behind.

Are You Ready

There has been a lot of talk lately about four blood moons and their connection to the Jewish feasts, also referred to as a “Tetrad”. The talk says history shows that each time there is a tetrad of four blood moons, all of which land on a Jewish feast day, something major happens with Israel.  Well, we’re in the middle of another tetrad of blood moons landing on Jewish feast days, and so a lot of eyes are on Israel at this time to see what may or may not happen.


In light of all we are seeing in the news at this time, there is little doubt that something big could easily happen at any time with Israel. Israel has just entered into a ceasefire after several weeks of fighting with Hamas in Gaza.  They are also closely monitoring their borders with Syria as ongoing fighting continues between both Syrian and rebel forces.  Also, there is the ever increasing emergence of ISIS, now known as IS, a group of radical Islamist terrorists seeking to expand their territory and influence as far as possible with Israel and the west in their sights.


Something else that is unique at this point in time, especially during this tetrad, is the presence of a Shabbat year and the end of a 50 year Jubilee cycle. What is also unique during this period of time, based on the “Creation Calendar”, something that will only happen one time in the history of mankind is the beginning of the seventh millennium of mankind’s existence.  There is a belief based on scripture that mankind as we know it will only last 7000 years, the last 1000 of which will be the 1000 year reign of Christ following the 7-year tribulation period.  I realize that we are not in the tribulation period at this time, but with the way things are happening it is evident that the final steps leading up to it are currently taking place, but it’s hard to see the 1000 year reign of Christ beginning any sooner than seven years from now since it’s supposed to be preceded by the 7-year tribulation period.  What this means for us as we enter into the 6001 year of creation, especially since it’s in the middle of the current tetrad, only time will tell but it is definitely something for us to keep in mind for the next several months.


During this tetrad of blood moons, as well as during other tetrad’s of blood moons, is the Jewish Feast of Trumpets, also known as Rosh Hashanah. For me personally, I have a big interest in this particular feast as there seems to be indications within scripture that the rapture of the church, the bride of Christ, will happen on this feast day.  I realize that we are told that the rapture will be on a day or hour no man knows, but that is exactly what Jews in Jesus’ day called Rosh Hashanah.  Also, the “last trump” the Apostle Paul mentioned regarding the rapture is a direct reference to the last trumpet blast on Rosh Hashanah, also known and identified by Jews of that day as the “last trump”.  I don’t know about you, but that definitely peaks my interest in this feast.  Even if there can be a good argument for the rapture taking place on Rosh Hashanah, which Rosh Hashanah it would take place on is something we do not know.


As I’ve alluded to we stand to see a lot of things happen within this tetrad of blood moons, a period of time which will last until September 2015. Whether or not the rapture of the church takes place sometime within the next several months or so only God knows, but there is more than sufficient reason for us to be prepared in case it does happen.  There were times that Jesus spoke of His return, sometimes in parables, where He told us to watch for His return, the rapture of the bride.  Those who were watching for His return for His church, they would not be caught off guard, but it was for those who were not watching that His return would be like a thief in the night and caught off guard.  I hear many say it isn’t important for them to be watching as long as they are living and evangelizing as God would have them, but many times Jesus stressed with great emphasis for His followers to be watching.  Why do so many take that command of Jesus so lightly?  Do they think they are too secure to worry about it?


I recently spoke with a pastor that doesn’t believe in the rapture of the church or the tribulation period. His sales pitch to persuade me to see things as he does was accompanied with scripture that was either taken out of context or was interpreted far differently than the original text.  It was also very evident that he wasn’t open to any view different than his own, whether or not there was supporting scripture.  I’m concerned about Christians who choose to not believe in the rapture, especially when they discount or twist scripture that would point to one.  A person that does so cannot claim that they believe the whole Bible and that it is from God.  I’m glad I’m not the one who will determine who will and will not be caught up to meet Jesus in the air through the rapture, or go to heaven for that matter, but I get concerned about the potential danger that lies in wait for those who either deny this reality or discount the need to be watching for it.


For those who choose to believe there will be no rapture something comes to mind. For those who deny a soon coming rapture, if they are right they have everything to gain, but if they are wrong then they potentially have everything to lose.  However, for those of us who do believe in a soon coming rapture, if we are right we have everything to gain, and if we are wrong we still have everything to gain.  I like the odds for one who believes in the rapture, content that there is more than sufficient evidence in it.


At the end of the day the question to be asked is “are you ready?” Just because you may want to deny that there will be a rapture of the church, that doesn’t mean there won’t be.  Are you ready for the soon return of Christ for His Church, His bride?  If you are, are you watching for Him?  This is the time to not only be sure we are ready for His return, but also to be watching for Him.  We’re told and commanded by Jesus, as His followers, to be watching for His return, and that to me is very sobering.  I definitely do not want to be caught off guard and/or unprepared for Him when He does return.


Are you ready? Are you watching?  If you’re not ready, or you haven’t been watching, perhaps today is the day to get ready and to start watching?  Jesus gave a stark warning to us in Revelation 16:15, stressing the need to be watching for Him.

Let It Go

Prior to making our recent big move out of state, my wife and I would get together with two other couples to play some games and fellowship with each other. These would be times filled with a lot of laughter, talking, and joking around.  At times someone would share an experience that was or could be hurtful to them, experiences by people within our little group or by others we would cross paths with from day to day.  As time went by a particular catch phrase began to be echoed more and more amongst us, and that catch phrase was “let it go”.  The idea behind this little phrase was simple, let go of that hurt or hurtful situation before it has a chance to breed bitterness and resentment.  The last thing any of us wanted for ourselves or each other was to be hurt and offended in any way that could harden our hearts and hurt the witness of Christ in our lives towards others.


What a phrase! Recently, while preparing to teach an adult Sunday school class before our big move, I was remembering this phrase in light of our relationship with Christ.  More specifically, our relationship with Christ as we see the day of His return for His bride approaching more and more closely each day.  In my preparations I was specifically looking at the Jewish feast, Rosh Hashanah, or as some know it the Feast of Trumpets, and the 30 day period of time that precedes this feast each year.  For those who are not aware of it, Rosh Hashanah for the Christian represents the rapture of the church, the bride of Christ.  A lot can be said of this feast and also of the rapture of the church, but that is not the focus of this post.  What I want to focus on is the period of time that precedes this feast and how it relates to the Christian.


The 30 day period of time that precedes Rosh Hashanah is called Teshuvah. Actually, this period of time actually lasts for 40 days, but the last ten days follow Rosh Hashanah and end on the next Jewish feast, Yom Kippur.  The word Teshuvah is often times translated as repentance, and while repentance is the theme of this 40 day period of time, the tone changes significantly after Rosh Hashanah.


The first 30 days of Teshuvah is a time when people are to re-evaluate their lives, repent and turn from sin and wrong living, forgive and seek forgiveness from others, all in preparation for the judgment that was to come on Rosh Hashanah. Judgment on Rosh Hashanah?  Yes.  For the Jew, Rosh Hashanah is when God separates the wholly righteous from the wholly wicked and the intermediates, or those who are lukewarm and on the fence.  The idea of the first 30 days of repentance was to be judged worthy to escape the remaining 10 days of Teshuvah, days that no one would want to willingly go through if they really knew what was in store for those who remained.  Jesus tells us as His followers to do the same thing in Luke 21:34-36, to watch and pray that we are counted worthy to escape that which is coming.  On several occasions Jesus tells us to watch and pray, and in Revelation 16:15, right in the middle of John’s account of the judgments of the tribulation period, Jesus tells us that those who watch are blessed and not ashamed and found naked.  As Christians we are to be making sure we are ready for when Jesus comes for His bride, which is imminent and can happen any day.  When I think of this I am reminded of the parable of the 10 virgins, where five were foolish and five were wise.  In this parable it is mentioned that there was a time when the 10 virgins needed to trim their lamps.  This trimming of the lamps is closely associated with this first 30 days of Teshuvah, and because the five foolish were not prepared they were left behind and denied entrance to the wedding.


The remaining 10 days of Teshuvah, known also as the “days of awe”, for the Jew is a time when people through their works can either get their names changed and entered into the book of life, or seal up their fate of eternal death and damnation. For the Christian, this is a time when those who want to have relationship with God and spend eternity with Him in heaven must literally give their lives unto death for Jesus and His kingdom.  The parallels between the Jews observance of these feast days and the Christians view of end time events is amazing.


Okay, back to the phrase “let it go”. In looking at the first 30 days of Teshuvah, a period of time when we are to prepare for Rosh Hashanah or for the Christian the rapture of the church, I’m reminded of the words of the writer of Hebrews.  In Hebrews 12:1-2, the writer tells us to lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.  Basically, he is telling us to “let it go”.  As we prepare for the return of Christ for His bride, we need to let go of anything that weighs us down and the sin that so easily trips us up.  We all have areas that we struggle with.  It could be areas that are easily seen by others, or it could be the secret sins we hide.  It could be misplaced priorities and loyalties in life, or it could be the hidden attitudes of hatred, prejudice, and jealousy.  It could be critical and judgmental attitudes, or the “big” sins of alcoholism, drugs, and sexual immorality.  It could be that of complaining, murmuring and gossip, or it could be attitudes of greed, self-centeredness, and pride.  Whatever it is, as we see the ever approaching time of His return it is vitally important for us to “let it go”, whatever that “it” is in our lives.


For the Jew, the 40 days of Teshuvah begins in just a few days, but for the Christian we are in that period of time now. This isn’t the time to be playing Russian roulette with eternity by not taking this seriously and risk being unprepared for His return.  Even the Jews recognize they need to be prepared so that they will not have to experience the remaining 10 days of Teshuvah, and like them we don’t want to be left to go through the tribulation period that is soon to come.  The theme scripture the Jews have for these 40 days of Teshuvah is found in Isaiah 55:6.



6 Seek the Lord while He may be found,

Call upon Him while He is near.


Isa 55:6 (NKJV)

Power To Be Witnesses

I recently heard someone share on what the phrase “power to be witnesses” found in Acts 1:8 means. As he spoke I began to ponder within myself what that actually means as I’ve never really given it much thought in the past.  As I asked the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts on this He pointed me in two directions to look.  No, these two directions do not conflict with each other, but instead confirm and validate the other.  Follow with me as we take a brief look at what it means to have power to be witnesses for Him.


The Spirit first directed me to look at the life and ministry of Jesus while He was here on earth. He reminded me that Jesus did not live His life here according to His own deity, something that would have both negated the sacrifice of His life for our sins as well as negated His example of how we should live.  In Philippians 2:5 we are told to have the same mindset as Christ, and in the subsequent verses were shown the example Christ left us to follow.  In 1 Peter 2:21 we are told that Jesus left us an example for us to follow.  Even though the passage in 1 Peter refers to suffering, we have to remember that to be a disciple of someone means we are to be like them in all ways, and so being a disciple of Christ means being like Him in more ways than just how He handled suffering.  In John 5 Jesus tells us that He only did what the Father showed Him, and what the Father was doing.  In Matthew 4:1 we see that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit, and that is what we need to do as well.


The Holy Spirit then directed me to look at the early church and not just the apostles. The lives of those in the early church after Pentecost should give us a good picture of what it means for the power of God to make us His witnesses.  Just in case people want to argue that what Jesus did was done out of His own deity and not by the leading of the Holy Spirit and what the Father showed Him, what we see from the early church should silence any argument of how the Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses as none of them had any deity to fall upon.  Yet, what we see in the lives of the early church are very similar to what we see in the ministry of Jesus, and therefore what we see in both should give us a clear indication of what it means for the Holy Spirit to empower us to be witnesses of Christ.


There are four characteristics found in both Jesus’ ministry and the lives of those in the early church that we can attribute to the empowering of the Holy Spirit. There may be more, but these were the ones I believe the Holy Spirit showed me as I pondered the above question, what does it mean to have the power to be witnesses of Jesus?



Four elements of a person empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a witness;


  1. Boldness to “proclaim the gospel”


The first element was the boldness to proclaim the gospel. In Acts 4:23-31, after being commanded by the religious leaders to no longer proclaim the name of Jesus, Peter and John went back to their companions explaining all that was said to them.  It is believed that while their companions may have included some of the other apostles, it no doubt included those who were not.  After sharing with their companions all that was said to them, they immediately went to prayer asking Jesus for boldness to speak His word.  What was God’s response to this prayer?  The place where they had assembled together was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, after which they spoke the word of God with boldness.


Just in case you’re thinking it was just the apostles, we have to remember Stephen in Acts 6-7. Stephen was not an apostle, but the Spirit of God gave him boldness to proclaim God’s word with authority, and the religious leaders did not like that.  We, too, should have this kind of boldness to proclaim Christ to those around us.  It’s not just the commitment to share the gospel whenever the opportunity presents itself, as we can see anybody can do that, but there is a boldness that goes over and above just a commitment to share.


  1. Leads us to speak to the heart of an individual


The underlining point in all of this is that we are to be led by the Spirit of God in all that we say and do. As we are open and sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and grow in that, there will be times when we will speak right to the heart of an individual.  We see many instances when Jesus did that with others, including the Samaritan woman, but we can also see multiple instances in the book of Acts and other parts of the New Testament.  While it is true that Stephen was not talking to an individual in Acts 6-7, the things he spoke did pierce the heart of individuals as he spoke.


There were times when Jesus or those in the early church spoke to the heart of an individual bringing them hope and deliverance, among other things, but they also spoke to the heart of individuals whose hearts were wrong and wanted nothing to do with the truth. The Spirit of God leads us to speak to the heart of individuals in ways that only He can, as He is the only one that truly knows the heart of each person.  He can reveal things to us about someone that only that person knows, and that in itself shows that God is acutely interested in them.


  1. To do signs, wonders, and the supernatural


The third point that the Holy Spirit showed me was that a life that has been empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses of Christ will do signs, wonders, and the supernatural. If we want to truly be His witnesses then we need to be open to allow Him to do these things in and through our lives for the benefit of the Kingdom of Christ.  A person that is closed off to that being a part of being His witnesses is limiting God in their own lives, and are presenting Christ as someone less than all-powerful to those who we are reaching out to.


The apostle Paul, who was very learned being a Pharisee, in I Corinthians 2:1-5 indicated that he did not seek to reach people through his excellent words and speech, but instead through the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Many times we limit ourselves to proclaiming the gospel through our words and intellect, but Paul who was well trained chose instead to proclaim the gospel through the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and of power.


When we go back to when Peter and John, and those who were with them, prayed for boldness, we see that they also prayed that God would stretch out His hand to heal, and that they would do signs and wonders through the name of Jesus. This was something they recognized as essential to being His witnesses to a lost and dying world.


Now before you think that was limited to the apostles, let’s go back to Stephen. In Acts 6:8, we see that Stephen, who was not an apostle, was full of faith AND power, and that he did great wonders and signs among the people.  This is something that should be a part of every believer that has been baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire as John the Baptist said Jesus would do in both Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16.  If the early church, both apostles and those who were not, prayed that they would do signs and wonders to proclaim the gospel in demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit, then who are we to say that we shouldn’t do the same thing?


When Jesus sent out the disciples to preach that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 10 to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and to cast out demons”.  In Mark 16:15-18, Jesus told them not only to go and preach the gospel to everyone, but He also told them that signs would follow those who believe.


There is nothing wrong with asking God to do signs and wonders to validate and promote the gospel He’s called us to share with others. It’s part of being His witnesses, ambassadors of His eternal kingdom.  Many are closed off to this aspect of being His witnesses, but as we see in scripture not only should it be a part of our life, but just as the early church did we must also be open to and asking God for this to be evident in our lives for Him.  To deny this element, or any other for that matter, basically expresses an attitude and mindset making ourselves superior to Christ and the early church, when in reality they should be an example to us of what it means to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses of Jesus.


  1. To be martyrs for Christ and the kingdom


Finally, to be His witnesses means that we are willing and ready to die a martyr’s death for Him. All the apostles except for John are believed to have been martyrs for Christ.  One of the signs that we have been empowered by His Holy Spirit is that we’re willing and able to be martyrs for Him.  The word translated as witnesses in this passage means to be martyrs, so this is important for us to understand.  There are many people in the world who are willing to die for a cause, but this goes beyond that.  We are willing to be a martyr for Christ, the gospel, and for the Kingdom of God.  We’re not trying to make a statement as many martyrs do, but instead we are willing to die for the one who gave His life for each of us, knowing that eternity with Jesus is far greater than anything we may ever experience in this life.


The apostle Paul in Romans 8:18 tells us that the sufferings of this present life are not even worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. And, it is the empowering of the Holy Spirit that enables us to have the ability and resolve to give our lives for Him no matter what the cost.  Not only is it believed that the apostles died a martyr’s death for Christ, but history shows that countless numbers of believers in the early church died a martyr’s death for Christ, some of which were even thrown to the lions in the Roman coliseums.  Even in the day we live in now we hear of Christians who are dying a martyr’s death for Christ, something that requires the empowering of His Holy Spirit in our lives.


Have you received the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses of Jesus? Do you see the above elements active in your life as a disciple and witness of Him to a lost and dying world around you?  I have to admit that in looking at the above attributes of one empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to be witnesses, I find myself falling short.  Just as the church in Acts 4 asked God for boldness and to perform signs and wonders in His name, I need to seek Him more to fill and empower me to be the witness of Him He’s called each and every one of us to be.  How about you?  Are each of these elements an active part of your life as a witness of Him, or do you need to seek God for more of that empowering in your life.  If you find that you lack in any of these above areas, then I encourage you to begin seeking and asking God to manifest each of these in your life in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Time is short and the world needs to know and see that the power of God is more than sufficient to meet their every need.

Just A Little Sugar, Please

Today was interactive Sunday for us at Church. Once a month a Sunday is set aside for a time when people can anonymously submit questions to the Pastor for him to answer.  These questions are not submitted prior to the service, but instead during the service, and for that reason he has no prior notice of what the questions will be for that service.

Back to today and the questions that were asked of him. His answer to one particular question, asked by who I don’t know, probably didn’t set well with many, but thinking about it later a thought crossed my mind.  The question in particular asked him about the difference between various movies and fictional characters, including ones “Christian” based, that involve some level of witchcraft, sorcery, mysticism, the casting of spells, or other stuff of the like.  In his answer he made two comments that best sums up his response.  He simply said that there is no difference between them, and that none of them should have any place in the life of a Christian.  He also pointed out that each of these are elements of occultism.

Over the years it has amazed me as to how many Christians think nothing of something God has explicitly forbidden. Some have argued that some of these things are mere entertainment, or that they are so mature in their faith that these things have no effect on them.  Why is this?  There are perhaps many reasons why this happens, but a thought crossed my mind today that really sums it up.  Satan, the enemy of our souls, knows just how much “good stuff” to infuse into the bait to get us to bite, or how much truth seasoning the evil needs in order for us to make excuses that rationalize and justify our acceptance of it.

In Deuteronomy 18: 9-14, God not only makes it very clear that we are to have nothing to do with any of the above mentioned things, but He also makes it clear that these things are an abomination to Him. Yet, we can find all kinds of ways to rationalize and justify why we allow such things in our lives.  We have in essence told the enemy that if he sprinkles just enough “sugar” on the evil then we will accept it whole heartily.  I realize a little sugar helps make the medicine go down, but we’re not talking about medicine.  We’re talking about evil, and apparently if enough “good stuff” or truth of God’s Word is sprinkled on it then that supposedly makes it all good and acceptable.  The problem is that with God saying it is an abomination to Him, no amount of “sugar” is going to change His mind on the subject and make things acceptable to Him.  So, why do we treat these things as though they are when God has not changed His mind about it?  Some may say that was Old Testament, but nowhere in the New Testament do we see God changing His mind on the subject.  Instead, we read of how those that were involved in such things burned all their occultist paraphernalia when they were converted to Christianity.

Satan’s tactics remain largely intact when it comes to other things that God has specifically said should not be, especially if we call ourselves followers of Christ. Satan knows just how much “sugar” to infuse or season these things with in order to ensnare us in the sin.  Just to make it clear, the “sugar” I’m referring to is anything that in itself is not necessarily wrong or sinful, or is made up with just enough truth of God’s Word that we can’t see the sin clearly.  I heard it once said that the best lie is the one that is 99% true, and Satan is the father of all lies.  Whether it is adultery or fornication, hate and murder, gossip or backbiting, or any one of many other things the Bible refers to as sin, Satan’s tactics remain the same.

So, I encourage you to take some time to pray, asking God to reveal to you any areas in your life that you may have taken Satan’s bait with. Is there anything that you’ve embraced because the enemy has “sugar coated” it, making it easy to participate in or to find ways to justify your acceptance of it, even in the areas of entertainment and recreation?  If so, no matter what it is, you need to repent of it, surrender it to God, and embrace the truth of His Word in your life as never before.  Today in Sunday school it was briefly discussed how that our silence regarding what is wrong or displeasing to God sends the message that we embrace, or at best condone as acceptable that which is wrong or evil.  Don’t get caught up with the mindset that says to the devil, either in our words, our behavior, or in our silence, “just a little sugar, please”.

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