It’s That Day Again

A number of weeks ago I walked into the local Wal-Mart and was immediately reminded about the time of year we were entering into.  You know that time of year, when fear, hate, terror, and the occult are glamorized and embraced with passion and excitement, reaching its peak on a day we call Halloween.  I’ve written since 2011 what my position is regarding this day that comes every year, and that hasn’t changed, but I want to take a different approach to the subject this year.


Each year as that day approaches, it’s not uncommon to see and hear of churches gearing up and planning what they will do on Halloween.  Usually, the rationale they will embrace will go along one of two lines of thought; 1) they want to offer a Halloween alternative, or 2) they want to provide a safe place for children and adults.  But is Halloween something that Christians and churches should be involved with?  Unlike Christmas and Easter, holidays that some argue have both Christian and pagan roots, there is absolutely nothing Christian or God honoring when it comes to Halloween.  In fact, everything Halloween represents is anti-God and contrary to the mind and character of Jesus.  So, why is it that churches seem to believe that it’s okay to participate in one way or another on this holiday?


To justify their participation in Halloween, some will argue with the rationale that God made that day, October 31st, and therefore there is nothing wrong with them participating in Halloween and all or part of what it represents.  When you think about it, that’s a dangerous rationale to have.  For example, based on the idea that God made October 31st as a rationale to ignore how many view what that day represents, one could say that since God made Lucifer, who is also known as Satan, it would be okay to befriend him and allow him to speak into their lives on some level.  After all, we’re already seeing people use that kind of rationale to justify the use of marijuana and other hallucinogenic herbs and fermented fruit.  Is this a rationale that can be supported in scripture?


Some will argue that it’s okay to do so because Jesus was a friend of sinners, a term that was given more as an insult to Him than a compliment.  Just because He associated with those considered to be sinners does not mean that He was a participant in that which was opposed to God in any way, or that He encouraged or condoned such activity.  To have done so, Jesus would have certainly lost His credibility as one sent of God to them as such activity was explicitly prohibited by God, Himself, and if He had done so that surely would have been mentioned in Scripture and at His trial before going to the cross.  Instead, Jesus strongly promoted purity of heart and an undivided and total devotion to the Father and Himself.  Nowhere in Scripture will you find that Jesus was okay with or was involved in any way with that which was opposed to God, yet for some reason we have Christians and churches thinking differently about this subject.


What about the Apostle Paul?  After all, he was sent to preach Jesus to the gentiles, people who were actively involved in various forms of pagan holidays, worship and activities.  The Apostle Paul, the same one who taught us of the grace of God, who showed us that our relationship with Jesus is a marriage relationship, who revealed to us the return of Jesus for us in an event known as the Rapture, the same one that told us to not sin and to flee even the appearance of evil.  Does he tell us anything that would relate to the subject at hand?  In Philippians 4:8-11, he speaks against observing days, months and years, but this was in relation to the pagan practices they once participated in before they received salvation.  However, in Colossians 2:16-17, when he addresses festivals and a new moon, he is referring to the seven feasts God instituted back in Leviticus 23, all of which point to Jesus.  It’s important to make that distinction as some will assume both passages are referring to the same things, but that is not the case.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:22, the Apostle Paul instructs us to avoid or flee from the appearance of evil, and in Ephesians 5:11 he also tells us to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but to instead expose them.  So, it would appear that Paul, identified by some as the Apostle of Grace, left no room or argument condoning a Christian’s involvement with things like Halloween.


At this point I feel the need to clarify something.  When I mention the participation of Christians and churches in the Halloween festivities, I am not referring to those who are opposed to that day but do what they can to reach the lost with the full and unadulterated gospel of Jesus.  There are churches that reject the idea of Christians participating in that day, but they will do something purely as a ministry outreach of some sort that does not resemble Halloween in any way.  I applaud these churches as they take a stand against the growing trend within church circles, but at the same time doing all they can to reach those who are lost and spiritually dead in sin.


While I have no objections to having an alternative to offer people, and certainly no objections to having a safe place for children and adults alike, I do find myself questioning the reasons and the motivations one has in doing so, and how they are going about it.  For many churches, they are quick to say they are reaching out to the lost in doing so, wanting to use these activities as a means of doing so, but is that true or just words to ease their conscience or silence those who object?  When a church does this, incorporating an appearance or activity that resembles Halloween in some way, they give the unsaved mixed messages as to what it means to be a Christian, a disciple and follower of Christ.  Also, if the focal point is only to provide an alternative or a safe place, and very little to nothing is said or done to present the full gospel and each persons need of a savior, then all they are doing is building a reputation within the community and growing a religious social group.


Halloween.  A controversial subject for Christians as some are okay with it while others are not.  The question is whether or not God is okay with it, and the answer is found within Scripture. Are we taking a stand for Christ, or are we more concerned about getting people to join our religious social club?  If we are to do something on Halloween, let’s make sure it doesn’t resemble in appearance or activity to Halloween in any way, and that the gospel is clearly presented as the main focus and theme of the event. Time is short, and we need to focus more on the salvation of the lost than building our social clubs and community reputations.


John Johansson


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The Time Is Near

It has been preached for nearly 2000 years that Jesus would be returning soon.  The nature of that teaching, and what that exactly entails, has been intensely debated in church history.  As a kid growing up in church, I remember there being a lot of talk about Jesus’ return and end-time Bible prophecy.  Sadly, that is no longer the case as the focus of most churches, at least here in America, has been around building God’s kingdom here on earth, or trying to reach people with a “gospel” built on love and acceptance without offending anyone in the areas of sin, holiness, and judgment.  With such a watered-down and sugar-coated “gospel” that is promoted and taught in most churches, it is no wonder that there is little to no talk of Jesus’ return or end-time events.


I recently read that the Barna Group found that 51% of church goers have no clue as to the what the Great Commission is, and of the remaining 49% only about 17% know what it is and where in Scripture it comes from (Matthew 28:9-20 and Mark 16:15-18).  This could explain why most churches are not even actively engaging in and being obedient to it, but instead are looking to either build God’s kingdom here on earth or to see how many people they can gain in their congregations without offending people through a watered-down sugar-coated “gospel”.  Could this also explain why there is so little preached or taught in churches about Jesus’ return and Biblically prophesied end-time events.  A gospel preached absent of the future return of Jesus and prophesied end-time events, as well as the necessity to be living right and free of sin in the sight of God, is not the complete or balanced gospel found within Scripture.


For the first time in Israel’s existence since it was formed 70 years ago, an Arab leader has acknowledged Israel and their right to their own land.  That same leader has also been in private conversations with Jewish leaders, working with President Trump to push a peace treaty between Israel and their neighbors.  I will add that it was reported several years ago that Saudi Arabia had plans for a 7-year peace treaty with Israel, one that had been on the “back-burner” waiting for the right time to promote.  Could this be the 7-year peace treaty the Bible talks about, the one that starts the Great Tribulation period found in Daniel 9:27?  Only time will tell, but I wonder how many people in churches across this nation know of the Bible prophesies regarding a 7-year peace treaty, or are even watching the signs pointing to its fulfillment?  There are several things that have transpired within this past week or so, things that are pointing to the fulfillment of Bible prophecy as it relates to the last days and the Great Tribulation period.  Things like the forming of alliances between specific countries in the Middle East, the growing intensity in and around the city of Damascus, just to name a couple.  Oh, and let us not forget that Israel turns 70 next month, a very significant event to be mindful of as we continue into the days ahead of us.


So, how many Christians are paying attention to the signs, knowing that their fulfillment point even stronger to the return of Jesus for His Bride in an event known as the Rapture?  Again, sadly, not too many.  In the midst of watching Bible end-time prophesies being fulfilled before our eyes, and the apparent ignorance of church goers of what is going on and what it means to them as Christians, there is a growing concern among some who study Bible prophecy regarding pastors being held accountable for not teaching and preparing their congregations about these things and the times we’re in.  I believe their concern is a valid one, knowing that if people in their congregations are not aware of the signs or ready when Jesus returns, they can find themselves left behind and having to face a period that will be the worst ever experienced in world history.  I pray that these pastors, these shepherds, will wake up and start making their congregations, their flocks, aware of the times we’re living in, as well as the need to be ready when He returns and what that means.


I was listening to someone the other day, someone that doesn’t understand what the Bible calls the “good news”, and some of what he was prophesying regarding future events for America.  Among the many things that concerned me with what he was saying, he made it clear that any Christian that doesn’t embrace what he’s prophesying is a weak and immature Christian who doesn’t know the voice of God.  He further indicated that Christians who speak of things in the world getting worse, along with a hope of escaping them (probably referring to the Rapture), that they are defeatist, gloom and doom Christians who are not hearing the voice of God.  When he mentioned that, I immediately thought that those who don’t subscribe to his vision of what is ahead probably know the Bible and Bible prophesy better than he does.  A lot of people are really embracing the things he’s saying, excited to hear from him more of what God is telling him.  In 2 Timothy 4:2-4, the Apostle Paul tells us that in the last days Christians will turn away from sound doctrine because they have itching ears for teaching that supports their desires.  Paul also tells us in 1 Timothy 4:1-2 that many will depart from the Christian faith to follow deceiving spirits and doctrines inspired and promoted by demons.  Is this just one example of what the Bible warns us will be taking place in these last days?


As I thought about this person and the confidence he has in hearing the voice of God, and how that what he’s telling people is contradictory to what Scripture has to say, ignoring or discounting the fact that Bible prophecy is being fulfilled right before our eyes, I was reminded of an account recorded in 2 Chronicles 18:1-34; 19:1-2.  In a summary of what transpires in this portion of Scripture, two kings are looking to enter a war with another king and are inquiring if the Lord will go before them into battle.  Four hundred prophets’ prophecy that they are to go to war, and that they will be victorious because God will give them the victory, but one of the kings wants to hear from a prophet of the Lord.  A prophet of God is summoned, one that the king of Israel doesn’t like because he never tells him anything of prosperity or good things.  The prophet of God arrives on the scene, and when asked by the kings what God would say to them regarding this battle, the prophet says something very interesting.  This prophet, Micaiah, tells them that God wanted them to go into battle where the king of Israel would be killed, and God inquired of those surrounding His throne as to who could persuade the king to go into battle.  Micaiah recounts that one of those around the throne said he would persuade the king to go forward in this battle, and when God asked him how he would do it the answer was that he would cause the prophets to believe a lie and tell the king to do so.  God approved of this, and that is why all four hundred prophets were prophesying that he should go to war.  The king didn’t like what he said and chose to follow with the answer he got from the four hundred prophets, and despite his attempt to disguise himself got shot by an errant arrow that caused him to die later that day.


Is it possible that the same thing is happening now, where people are claiming to hear one thing from God as to what is ahead for America, bringing America into judgment and exposing where the hearts of many Christians really is?  The Holy Spirit will never contradict Scripture, but so many Christians choose to embrace what people say they are hearing from God instead of searching the Scriptures, and not just the ones they are using, to verify if what is being said truly is from God.  Is our focus more on the future of America, or on eternity in Heaven with Jesus and reaching the lost with the good news of the gospel?  I fear for the pastors that choose to not preach and teach about Jesus’ return and the future of the world through the eyes of Bible prophecy, knowing that they will be held accountable for those under their leadership that find themselves eternally lost because they were not told the complete and balanced Word of God which includes Jesus’ return and end-time events.  Many pastors try to avoid preaching about anything that might offend someone and keep them away, things like sin, holiness, and a coming judgment, and God will hold them accountable for that.  Sometimes what is edifying to the body of Christ is not always pleasant or good to hear, or feel, but the edification comes when the person accepts it and makes the necessary changes to grow in their faith and live as God would have them to.  On the flip side, not everything that is good is from or of God, and anything that is good from God can become something that is not good if it gets in the way of what God has for that person in their relationship with Him.


The time is near, near for the return of Jesus for His bride, and near for the start of Jacob’s trouble when God pours out His wrath and judgments upon the earth.  Pay attention to the signs and take the necessary steps to be ready when Jesus does return, which is very soon.  The time is near.


John Johansson


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A 2018 Challenge

As we face the arrival of a new year, it is becoming increasingly more apparent that the return of Jesus for His bride is ever nearer and more imminent than ever before.  I find that many are so focused on what is happening here in America, that they are somewhat oblivious to the increasing fulfillment of Biblical signs outside of America, as well as the final stages being set for the coming Tribulation period as outlined in Scripture.  There are many reasons for this, but I think the greatest reason for this is found in Matthew 24:4.  In this passage Jesus is responding to questions asked of Him by His disciples regarding His coming and the end of the age.  The very first thing He says is a word of caution that no one deceives them.  The closer we get to the Rapture of the Church to Christ, and the start of the Tribulation period, the greater the deceptions will be, and we must be careful not to get caught up in any of them.


Even as I write this, deception is rampant both in the world and in church circles.  While there are many different forms of deception, all deception we find in John 8:44 comes from Satan, himself.  Satan desires to keep people from salvation and a relationship with Christ.  He desires to distract us from Christ and the will and plan Jesus has for our lives.  He seeks to destroy us, as well as to corrupt any good thing we have and receive from Jesus.  He schemes to divert our focus off Jesus and the life we are to live as His ambassadors, guiding us into a self-centered mindset seeking after comfort, convenience, and the many different types of blessings that grab our hearts and attention.  Satan even offers up the various “flavors” of Christianity he’s come up with that have just enough truth in them to subtly draw people from sound doctrine and right relationship with Christ.  Can you expect anything less from the father of all lies who seeks to steal, kill and destroy?  After all, he’s been doing this for thousands of years.


Only God knows what exactly the year 2018 has in store for us, but one thing for sure is that we need to make sure we are ready for that pre-Tribulation trumpet blast, the one that summons all those in Christ, dead and alive, to meet Jesus in the air on the way to His Father’s house.  For 2018, let’s strive to make sure we’re not falling victim to the deceptions seen all around us.


Deception begins when we don’t judge what we see, hear and read with all of Scripture.  There are a lot of teachings out there that sound good, they feel good, and they “make sense”, but when they are held up to the Bible in its entirety they fall short of Biblical truth.  We can’t pick and choose which portions of Scripture are relevant to us, or to base a doctrine or theology from, especially when the Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that all Scripture are inspired of God and relevant to us for doctrine.  I grew up under pastors who encouraged us to check if what they were preaching and teaching lined up with Scripture, and if there was a question about something they said, they encouraged and welcomed us to ask them about it.  They were not afraid or threatened by this.  They knew that they did not have all the answers, and they were opened to learn something new.  Your pastor should welcome you searching for yourself as to whether they are scripturally sound with what they are teaching and preaching or not.  I know of one pastor who isn’t truly open to this.  He’ll tell you one thing when talking to him, but later he’ll make comments in a group setting that clearly indicates he was not appreciative of someone questioning something he said or did.  I quickly learned to keep my mouth shut about such things with him.  Is your pastor one that encourages you to not take his word as to what Scripture does or does not say, and welcomes your questions about things he or she is preaching or teaching?  I hope so.


There are many deceptive teachings within church circles in the days we live in.  Teachings that sound good and appeal to our self-centered, materialistic beliefs, including just enough scripture to appear legitimate while discounting passages that would contradict the teachings they embrace.  Some appeal to our desire of living without accountability for things we may say or do.  Others appeal to our desire for a higher standard of living with nothing but blessings and promises of God to pursue.  Others look for a better world because of the Church taking over, through their influence, government and the “seven-mountains of influence”.  And yet others seem to change the great commission into something that looks more like a social club, or even a charitable group like the Shriners, etc.  Some of these are good things, in part, and can be supported with some scripture, but when these things become their banner cry, so to speak, more than preaching unapologetically the message of the cross, everyone’s need for a savior, forgiveness through repentance and turning away from sin, and a life surrendered to Christ, then there is a problem.  Be careful not to fall for teachings that either twists Scripture, takes Scripture out of context, or discounts or rationalizes why certain passages are not relevant to us today, all in the attempt to support or justify what is being taught.


So, in 2018, let’s try to avoid becoming a victim of deception, deceptions that could potentially derail our trek to eternity with Christ.  It’s not like there will be “do overs” if we mess up due to neglect on our part to know what Scripture has to say to us.  Jesus is coming at any time for a bride without spot, wrinkle, or any blemishes.  Let’s do our part to keep our garments of righteousness ready and prepared for His imminent return for us.


John Johansson

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The Great Divide

I recently heard someone comment on how this election process is so different in regards to the Evangelical community.  Historically, the greatest majority of Evangelicals would rally around the same candidate, usually a republican, but in this election, there is great division within the Evangelical community in regards to how they should vote.  It’s not so much between the two major candidates, but more importantly, between the two major choices they have and their own moral and Biblical convictions.


This election has created quite a mess of sorts.  Where you could in times past look at a candidate, one that professes they are a Christian and attempts to live accordingly, whose history and reputation is in line with Biblical standards and morality, and someone you could feel comfortable casting your vote for as a Christian, that is not the case in this election.  While it may be possible to view some of the policies each of these candidates promote as Christian and godly in nature, to say they are living a life exemplifying Christianity or per Biblical standards and morality would be a gross misjudgment to say the least.  And this is where the great divide comes in.


On one side of the great divide you have Christians making their choice out of their sense of patriotism, patriotism reaching for the greatness America once had, or patriotism reaching for their idea of what America should look like in the future.  You have Christians making their choice based on the future of the Supreme Court and the judges the next President will appoint, as well as the candidates stated positions regarding abortion, marriage, the economy, and equal rights, just to name a few.  Some have even resorted to voting strictly in line with the political party they are associated with and the platform of that same political party.  If you are a Republican, to vote per your party can be both a scary and dangerous thing to do, especially since there has been in recent years a push from deep within the party to abandon some of the conservative positions that Christians generally associate with.  The Republican party is struggling to at least maintain the appearance of being conservative and embracing Judeo/Christian values.


In the mix of the quagmire of this election is the growing manipulation by some to force people to vote for one major candidate over another.  Perhaps you’ve already heard some version of this; to not vote for one candidate automatically means a vote for the other major candidate.  I’ve even heard Christians tell Christians that they are not voting for Jesus, or even a “perfect” candidate, but instead for one that they believe best reflects their ideas of the direction America is to go in, or in other words, “the lesser of two evils”.  This is hard when Christians are truly wanting to represent and honor God with their vote, but now they are having to deal with the ever-increasing pressure to vote for one of the two major candidates.


I recently heard someone that has become popular the past several months, especially with a book he’s written in favor of and supporting a specific candidate.  As I was listening to this person he made a comment that got my attention.  He indicated that about 60% of Christians are on board with this one candidate, and that the remaining 40% were missing God regarding who they should vote for.  For some reason, he believes that Christians who refuse to compromise the Biblical standards and morality by which Scripture instructs us to live by and to promote, that those Christians are missing God.  After all, that has been the main source of the Great Divide between Christians in this election.  The biggest reason more Christians are not supporting this candidate, or are very reluctant to, is the fact that this candidate has not demonstrated a life surrendered or changed by God in word or deed, much less a heart that desires to be, but instead one that is not godly.


Another thing this person said was that this election is a test for Christians, namely a test in their ability to discern the will of God and who to vote for, making it clear that he believes a discerning Christian will know that they are to vote for this candidate.  While I do agree that this is a test of sorts, I do not believe it to be the test he’s thinking of.  I believe this is a test regarding the heart of those who profess to be Christians, seeing what is most important to them and what they are willing to lay down for it.  To be more clear, I believe Christians are in a test to see if their heart is more for pleasing and representing God in and with their lives, or for America and its past greatness and subsequent benefits.


When I think of what the above person said, how that 60% of Christians are supporting this candidate while 40% are not, what comes to mind is that God always has a remnant of followers wholly devoted to Him.  When the Hebrews (Jews) were in captivity in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, all but three of the Hebrews bowed to the image of the king, who were subsequently thrown into a fiery furnace God delivered them from.  When Daniel was told that he could no longer worship or pray to God as was his custom to do, he went to pray to God as he always did, and thus was cast into a den of lions that God also delivered him from.  When Elijah thought he was the only one that would stand for God against king Ahab and Jezebel, God made it clear to him that he had 400 others that had not bowed their knee to popular opinion or the wickedness that was prevalent in the country at that time.  God always has a remnant!


I have said for years that there is coming a time when the line between those who are truly living with a heart for God and those who are not will become as clear as night and day, and I believe this could be the start of this great dividing between true followers of Christ, and those who are just fans.  A few years ago, there was a bit of a stir within church circles when it appeared that charitable giving to churches and religious organizations may no longer be allowed as a tax deduction.  At that time, I said we would learn who was giving out of a heart for God, compared to those who were more focused on the tax benefits they were getting, noting that those who lost the tax benefit would stop giving.  Now, we are facing the daunting position of choosing where or in whom we will place our trust for the future of this country.


When contemplating who to vote for, some are basing their decision on “prophesies” pointing to one candidate over another, or on who some well-known Christian leaders are giving and proclaiming their support for.  Is this really the way we as Christians are to choose who to vote for?  Some Christians have said that we are to vote for the lesser of two evils, trusting that God can still change and use them for His purposes in the future.  Is that really faith in action, or is that a way to rationalize why we’re voting the way that we’re planning to?  I know that God used a donkey to speak to a prophet in the Old Testament, and I know that God used one of the most wicked and vile rulers in history, Nebuchadnezzar, to bring judgment to Israel, but does that mean our faith in God is to be limited to one of the two major candidates?  If God is limited to these two major candidates, then is He truly God?  And if the Evangelical community is such an overwhelming influence on elections as history records, then how is it that Christians were not able to bring a better candidate to the forefront that most Christians would feel comfortable casting their vote for?  Could it be that there is a great divide between Christians who truly want to live and vote in a way that honors and represents God, and those who are looking more to restoring the greatness of America’s past and how they and others could benefit from it economically and morally apart from God?


Some argue that the Republican candidate is God’s choice to restore America to greatness.  It’s possible that he is God’s choice, but not necessarily in the same way some believe.  It could be that he is Gods choice to bring judgment to America.  How many people have even considered that possibility?  King Cyrus was chosen by God, but I don’t think He expected the Israelites to vote for him.  Two or three times God mentions that King Nebuchadnezzar was His servant, yet the Israelites not only didn’t want him but they also wanted to be free of him.  Whether or not God is choosing this candidate, it is our responsibility as ambassadors of Christ to vote in a way that best represents the heart and nature of Christ, which we see clearly lined out in Scripture.  As one person put it, while they are a very patriotic American, they are first and foremost a Christian, and their vote needs to reflect that.  No matter what, we know from Scriptures like Daniel 2:21 and Romans 13:1, that God is the only one that puts people in seats of authority and removes them, which even means our current President.


Tough questions that each of us need to ask ourselves.  Are we seeking to honor and please God with our vote, or are we trying to hang onto a way of life that is comfortable and pleasing to self?  When we look at the two major candidates, there is very little doubt regarding the corruption, perversions, and self-centeredness of both.  We can say that one is worse than another in one way, but then say the opposite to be true of them in another way.  One thing that has been proven to be true of both, even as recently as the last and final debate between them, is that they are both serious liars.  There are several scriptures that talk about liars, one of which goes so far as to say liars are an abomination before the Lord, and another that all liars will find themselves in the lake of fire, Proverbs 6:16-19 and Revelation 21:8.  The scary thing about liars is that they can’t be trusted to do what they say, yet many Christians are willing to ignore this fact and what Scripture tells us to embrace either of these candidates.  Their willing to put the convictions and Biblical standards for which they live by, and some even teach and preach, on the altar of American greatness by placing their trust in those whose lives are surrounded in lies promising them many things that tickle their ears.  It is utter foolishness to embrace and place your hope and trust in someone that is proven to be a liar.


It’s been said that one of the candidates had recently given their life to Jesus, and if that is true then that is great!  While that claim has only been made through third parties, nothing has been said by the candidate to support that.  This is especially disheartening when this candidate keeps saying things that contradict what those close to them say on his behalf.  Despite no public claims of a life surrendered and given to Jesus, despite no apparent change in behavior or mindsets that would reflect such a decision and change of heart, we are being told that we are to be tolerant and understanding as this person is a baby Christian.  Yes, I agree we need to be gracious and understanding towards new and young Christians, but even when there is obvious evidence of a life changed for Jesus, Scripture gives us some instructions we should heed.  In 1 Timothy 5:22, the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to not be hasty, or to be quick, to bring someone into church leadership, and to keep ourselves pure by not sharing in their sins.  I realize that this is about church leadership, but when you’re talking about putting someone into any area of leadership as someone that represents the Body of Christ, we need to be very careful not to put someone in there that has not grown and matured in the faith.  It could be argued that we are not voting for someone to represent the Body of Christ, but that is exactly what one is doing when the person they vote for should reflect what they believe and stand for.


There is a great divide taking place in this presidential election.  Who you decide to cast your vote for is between you and God, however, I would like to ask you a simple question.  If, and that is a big if, your eternal destination was determined by how you vote, would you be comfortable with your vote?  Your vote may not be a determining factor for eternity, but it could reveal where your heart truly is, and that could determine your eternal destination.  I’ve heard it said by some, “I would rather stand with God and be judged by the world, than to stand with the world and be judged by God”.  If Christians got together and cast their votes in a way that honors and represents God, whether it was for any one of the few names on the ballots or a name handwritten in, Christians would have a very significant effect on the outcome of the election in a direction that God would bless.  The problem is, instead of the church coming together to vote with the mind of Christ, we are divided and fractured in multiple ways.  Don’t fall into the trap that says God can only work through one of the two major candidates on the ballot, because the God I serve is big enough, and God enough, to still do His will and fulfill His purposes however He chooses to do so.


The “great divide” is starting, and you need to decide which side of it you’re going to put your trust on, and on whom you will place your allegiance.  Is your God big enough to trust Him by honoring Him with your vote, or is your God only capable for working within the two major candidates?  If you truly want to see change come to America, change that brings God back into every area of this country, change that restores the greatness it once had, change that will not and cannot come through any candidate, then it’s time we as Christians and the Body of Christ heed the following Scripture on behalf of our country more earnestly;


“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14


John Johansson (Pastor John)

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Rapture – Part 1

Rapture.  A term that seems to elicit any number of responses ranging from wholehearted acceptance and anticipation to adamant pronouncements of all who believe in it being heretical and unsaved.  Some say that the Bible is filled with passages alluding to the rapture, and others say it is a new idea that surfaced in the 1800’s, even arguing that the word “rapture” isn’t even in the Bible.  Of those who do believe in a rapture there are three different views surrounding it’s timing, some saying it is pre-tribulation, others mid-tribulation, and still others post-tribulation.  What do you believe?  And, do you know why you believe what you do?


It is true that the word “rapture” is not found in most English Bibles, but on the other hand neither is “trinity” or “millennium”, terms that are generally accepted as doctrinally sound.  The word rapture comes from the Latin word, “rapturo”, which is used to translate the Greek word “harpazo” found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.  The Greek word “harpazo” means to seize, to snatch up, or to take away by force, either spiritually or physically.  In the context of 1 Thessalonians 4:17, and the corresponding scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, it is clear that “harpazo” is being used in the context of a physical, bodily removal of the followers of Christ.  There are some who try to say that what the Apostle Paul is referring to in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is a spiritual, euphoric type of experience, but a closer look at the text would indicate it is actually a literal, physical, bodily removal yet to be experienced.


Some argue that there is no Biblical precedence alluding to the rapture, especially in the Old Testament, but this is not true.  Understanding where the word rapture comes from, how that it is a Latin translation of the Greek word “harpazo”, and what “harpazo” literally means, we can see examples of this with Enoch who was translated into Heaven (Genesis 5:21-24; Hebrews 11:5), Elijah who was caught up in a whirlwind taking him to Heaven (2 Kings 2:11-12), and in the New Testament Phillip being physically transported from one location to another (Acts 8:39-40).  It is also believed by some that Moses’ ascent up Mount Sinai to meet with God has numerous parallels with, and is a picture of, the rapture.  So, we can see from Scripture that, despite our lack of understanding regarding how it can happen, it is not only possible but has in fact happened to individual’s multiple times throughout the Bible.


But what about the fact that we don’t see any mention of it prior to the 1800’s, with the exception to what we see Scripturally?  At the time Israel was not a nation, and as a result Scripture that pointed to a tribulation period, a millennium reign of Christ, and a rapture were discounted as anything but literal.  That is until Israel became a nation, something that Jesus pointed to in Matthew 24:32-35.  Now that Israel has become a nation, we can now see scripture being fulfilled in a very literal way, which also tells us to view Biblical end time prophecy as a literal fulfillment yet to come. 


From what we’ve briefly covered so far, it is evident that the idea of the rapture is a Biblical truth.  I’ve heard it said that the person who doesn’t believe in the rapture doesn’t really believe the Bible, and I think that is a pretty sound argument.  But what about the timing of the rapture?  When will it happen?  As I mentioned earlier, there are three main views regarding the timing of the rapture.  There are others, but for the most part they closely resemble one of the main three.  Before we get into the different views, let’s take a quick look at a period of time these different views revolve around, and that is the tribulation period.


The tribulation period refers to the last of 70 weeks mentioned by the prophet Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27.  In prophetic terms, a week is interpreted as a period of 7 years, and we can read more of what those last seven years will be like in the Book of Revelation.  In Daniel 9:27, we are told that the tribulation period, the last of the 70 weeks, actually begins when the anti-Christ confirms a treaty with many, and it is believed by most scholars that Israel is the primary country this treaty is made with.  This passage also tells us that in the middle of this period of time, 3 ½ years from its beginning, the anti-Christ will bring an end to sacrifices and offerings, which coincides with what we read in Revelation 13.  The bulk of the Book of Revelation focuses on the events of this period of time, which is filled with judgments from God to an unbelieving and unrepentant people who are hostile towards God and His people.  This period of time ends when Jesus returns to earth to defeat the anti-Christ and his prophet.


One of the views regarding the timing of the rapture is known as post-tribulation.  This view suggests that the rapture of the church, the bride of Christ, happens at the conclusion of the tribulation period, possibly after the seventh trumpet sounds.  The idea is that the church will have to endure much persecution and trials through this period of time, all in the process of making ourselves ready for Christ.


Another view is what is known as mid-tribulation.  This view suggests that the rapture of the church takes place in the middle of the tribulation period, just prior to what we know as the great tribulation which takes place during the last 3 ½ years of the tribulation period.  The idea is that the church will have to endure severe persecution the first 3 ½ years, but that it will be raptured up prior to God pouring out His wrath upon the inhabitants of earth at that time.


The last view that is popular among Christians regarding the rapture is what is known as the pre-tribulation rapture.  This view suggests that the rapture of the church actually takes place prior to the start of the tribulation period.  The idea is that Jesus will come back to spare His followers from having to go through the tribulation period, a time of severe persecution and testing.


Each of the above views use scripture to support their positions, and in some cases even the same scriptures from a different perspective.  However, I believe that the argument in favor of a pre-tribulation rapture is much stronger than any of the other two views combined, and I will attempt to briefly explain why that is in subsequent blogs.  No matter what one’s position is in regards to the timing of the rapture, the most important thing to remember is that we need to make sure we are ready when that time comes.  Are you ready for what we read about in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18?  If you are not ready to be caught up to meet Jesus in the clouds, this is the time to get ready.  The first steps in getting ready to meet Him is to surrender one’s life to Jesus, to repent of and to turn away from all past and present sin, asking Jesus to forgive you of those sins.  Your decision to give your life to Jesus cannot be a private decision, but instead it is vitally important that you make that decision known to others (Matthew 10:32-33), and your life needs to reflect that.  Seek out a Bible believing and preaching church, read and study the Bible, pray, and seek out Godly friends.


John Johansson (Pastor John)

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Are You Watching?

A number of times in the New Testament Jesus is recorded as commanding us to watch.  Usually this was in reference to His return for us, His bride.  Over the years, and especially in recent months, I have talked with people who took one of three positions regarding this idea of watching and what it means to watch.  Some have indicated that they believe they don’t need to watch for Jesus’ return as long as they are living for Him, and others have shared that there isn’t a need to be watching for him now as they don’t believe Jesus will be returning anytime soon but instead 20 to 100+ years from now.  And, there is a third group of people who believe Jesus could return at any time and are actively watching for it.


So, what does it mean to “watch”?  Perhaps this is why some people take such a relaxed approach to Jesus’ return, not really understanding what it means to “watch”?  According to, the definition of “watch” is;


  • to be alertly on the lookout, look attentively, or observe, as to see what comes, is done, or happens:
  • to look or wait attentively and expectantly:
  • to keep awake, especially for a purpose; remain vigilant, as for protection or safekeeping:
  • to look or wait attentively and expectantly for:
  • to guard, tend, or oversee, especially for protection or safekeeping:


For those who think that just living for Jesus qualifies as watching for Him, we can clearly see from this definition that this is not the case.  Imagine with me for a moment that two people are cruising down the interstate at 70 mph, both of them are in the farthest lane to the left.  Both of them are heading to the same destination, maybe a vacation resort of some sort.  One of these people are in deep conversation with someone else in the car, listening to some music or intently observing the scenery as they go along.  The other person is also talking to someone, listening to the radio or looking at the scenery, but all the while they are paying close attention to the signs along the interstate so at to make sure they don’t miss the exit.


After traveling for several hours and hundreds of miles the second person begins to make their way making one lane change after another until they are in the farthest right lane, yet the first person is still in the fast lane and busy talking to someone and taking in the sights as they go.  After a few more minutes the second person activates their turn signal and prepares to exit the interstate, but the first person is oblivious to the fact that they are about to go right past their exit at 70 mph.


The correlation is that the first person is too busy living and enjoying life and not paying any attention to the signs alerting them that their exit is just ahead, but the second person, while they are still living life, are paying close attention to the signs and begin making the necessary preparations to safely exit the interstate when they reach their exit.  The first person wasn’t watching at all, or even felt the need to be, but the second person knew that they needed to pay close attention to the signs so as to not miss the exit.  Some Christians are too busy living and enjoying life and are not paying attention to the signs all around alerting us to Jesus’ soon and possibly imminent return for His Bride, and that is a dangerous place to be in.


The second group of people don’t feel the need to really be watching and preparing for Jesus’ return because they think it will be another 20 to 100+ years from now before He returns.  Many of them like to say that it’s been 2000 years since we were first told He would be returning, and therefore it’s going to be quite a while still before He actually returns.  This, also, is a very dangerous view to be embracing.  One of the indicators we see in Scripture regarding the last days, which only confirms that we are in that day, is that people would mock or scoff at the idea of Christ returning any time soon.  Don’t be one of those who take that position.  It’s not going to be worth it!!


Like I said earlier, several times Jesus instructs us to watch, and in Mark 13:37 Jesus commands us with emphasis to “watch!”  So, if Jesus is telling us so strongly to be watching for His return, and the signs that point to it, why do so many seem to think that they don’t need to?  I know some think that all Christians will go up in the rapture, and because of that they feel secure enough that they don’t see the need to watch for Him, as if they know more than Jesus on the subject.  Jesus wasn’t telling the non-believer, those who were not following after Him, to watch, but instead He was telling those of us who are believers and follow after Him to watch.  If that is the case, apparently He knows something that many choose to ignore or refuse to believe, and that is not everyone who call themselves Christians or follow after Him will go up in the rapture.


Others seem to think that Jesus will not be returning any time soon, even though they do believe He will one day return.  These people are basically sticking their heads into the sand and wanting to think nothing but positive thoughts, listening to teachers and preachers who tickle their ears.  These same people are choosing to ignore for one reason or another the signs along the interstate telling them that the exit is just ahead and not as far away as they would like to think.  Multiple times Jesus describes these individuals, Christians who believe Jesus won’t return any time soon and live as they choose, as wicked servants.  Pretty harsh words, but Jesus is making the point of how foolish it is to embrace such a mindset.  Nowhere do we find that Jesus complimented or praised those who didn’t live watching and preparing for His return, but instead He chastised them for believing and acting accordingly.


When we talk of watching for the return of Jesus for His Bride, the church, we also have to remember some other words of Jesus regarding this.  In Matthew 24:32-51, Jesus reiterates the need to watch for His return.  He indicates that it was the good servant who watched, prepared and guarded his household against the thief’s arrival, but it was an evil servant who did not watch and take the necessary preparations against the thief.  Jesus used that illustration to point out that the “good” follower of Jesus will be watching and preparing for His return, and that the “evil” follower of Jesus will not be, and when Jesus returns he will give to the “evil” follower his portion among the hypocrites.  This also corresponds with the parable of the 10 virgins who represent 10 Christians.  The five wise ones who were waiting and prepared for Him left with Him at His arrival, but the five foolish ones who had not made enough provisions to last until He returned missed Him when He arrived and were later denied access to the wedding.


In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus tells us not everyone who calls Him Lord will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of the Father.  Some think that just because they said a prayer and go to church they are a shoe-in for heaven, but Jesus doesn’t say that.  According to Jesus, what kept some from entering heaven even though they acknowledged Him as their Lord and had an impressive Christian resume was the fact that they did not do the will of God in their life.  Instead they lived as they deemed sufficient and appropriate in their sight, practicing lawlessness in the sight of God. Part of God’s will for each and every one of us is that we be watching the signs that point to Jesus’s return and taking the necessary steps in preparation for it, which according to the signs screaming all around us is imminent.


Are you watching?  If not, then perhaps you should start, paying close attention to the signs around us that point to His return.  Jesus warned us, not the non-believer, of deception in these last days, as well as wolves in sheep’s clothing who deceive us into thinking and believing things that are contradictory to Scripture, ignoring what is said in the Bible regarding the days we are in which will only get worse.  An apathetic and complacent attitude and behavior in our relationship and pursuit of Christ, as well as in regards to Jesus’ return, is one of the biggest weapons the enemy of our souls is using to ensnare and trap Christians into.  Keep watching and don’t get caught up in the lies of the enemy promoted by wolves in sheep’s clothing, no matter what his or her Biblical credentials or resume may be like.


Are you watching????  Keep watching!!!!


John Johansson

Recalibrating Our Thoughts

The way things are currently developing both within the country and around the world, I am compelled to address a series of topic over the next several weeks. A 40 day period Jews observe called Teshuva begins the evening of August 17, 2015, a period of time set aside for the purpose of repentance and preparation for Rosh Hashanah. Actually, the first 30 days is to prepare for Rosh Hashanah with the hope and prayer they will be resurrected up and not have to continue the following 10 days which they believe no one really wants to go through. Yes, those remaining 10 days are that bad. These 40 days are closely connected to the rapture, or the catching up, of the Church and the following 7 year tribulation period that will see the judgments of God poured out on the earth. So, over the next several weeks I hope to bring a series of blogs to helps us do just that, to re-evaluate our walk with Christ with the desire that we will make the necessary changes in our lives in preparation for when that trumpet sounds signaling our call home to be with Jesus.


Several weeks ago someone made some comments in Sunday school, an echo of what others have said to me over the years that concerns me. Some of the individuals that have made similar comments love God, and yet others their love for God could be questioned. Some have even voiced these comments more to justify their behavior than as a sincere belief they held, and I believe my dad could have possibly been one of those.


So, what are these comments that I’m referring to? Based on the idea that anything prior to Christ’s resurrection is of little or no relevance to us as we are now living in the dispensation of grace, this person in Sunday school commented that we are free from the law and rules, and that whenever one lives according to rules or commands they are really being legalistic. Is this truly the case, or is something missing with this way of thinking? If this way of thinking is wrong, is it really all that important? And if it is important, what is the danger in holding to such views?


Yes, we do live in a dispensation of grace. Yes, our salvation is not based or maintained by the keeping of rules and laws. And, yes, we are free from the bondage and the penalty of sin. So, where does that leave us? Does this mean that the keeping of any laws or rules is legalistic, or is our thinking off some in this area?


To begin with, some have mentioned the words of Jesus in John 8:36 as the basis for their reasoning that we are free from having to keep any laws or rules, but in context that is not what this passage is indicating. Jesus is talking about being free from sin, not laws and rules, yet some choose to use this as their reasoning for living free from having to keep laws and rules. Is this way of thinking consistent with all scripture, or for the most part after Christ’s resurrection for those who discount anything taught by Him before hand? No, it doesn’t.


As I mentioned before, some think that keeping or living according to any laws or rules is legalistic and should not be a part of a Christians walk with Christ. The fact that our salvation is by grace and not of works or in the keeping of the law confuses some into thinking rules and laws should not be a part of our lives, and this is a misconception held by many. Those who hold to such views fail to realize the presence of rules and commands throughout the New Testament in the lives of the early believers.


One of the first commands we see in the New Testament after Jesus’ resurrection, and just prior to His ascension, was a command in Matthew 28:19-20. In this passage Jesus is telling His followers to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to do all that He had commanded them. Did you catch that? Jesus is telling them, and us, to teach others to do ALL that He had commanded them?


In Acts 15:6-29 we read of the Jerusalem Council, headed by James the half-brother of Jesus and the disciples, how after much consulting among themselves and prayer presented a series of guidelines, or rules, by which gentile Christians were to live by. These were not rules they had to follow for salvation, but instead rules providing a set of guidelines by which they were to live by, guidelines that set them apart from non-believers, and the Holy Spirit approved of these.


We also have the Apostle Paul giving instructions on multiple occasions on how we are to live, a set of rules we are to follow. He tells children to always obey their parents, wives to be subject to their husbands, husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. He also tells all of us to obey those in authority over us, to obey the laws of the land, and to grow in maturity in our faith, among others we can see throughout the New Testament. These are all commands that we are to live by as we become more like Jesus, commands that also work to separate us from looking or behaving like those who are not believers. Not only that, Jesus told us that if we truly love Him we will obey all His commandments, and He went further by stating that if we don’t follow all His commandments then we truly don’t love Him as we think we do.


Again, I am not talking about how to obtain or maintain ones salvation as that is another subject, but instead to refute the idea that there is no place in the life of a Christian for rules or guidelines by which we are to live by. After all, if that is the case, then why stop at stop signs, file taxes on April 15th, pay for items at a store, or drive on the right side of the road? When one embraces a mindset of a life free of rules and laws, they are attempting to distance themselves from any accountability for their decisions and behaviors, and that is bad. When my dad, an otherwise strict and to some extent a legalistic person, held to such views, he was using it merely as a means for justifying his decision to keep God’s tithe for himself to control and give as he wanted. He was less concerned about honoring God with all he had or to reflect the Lordship of Christ in his life than he was in his intent on keeping control of his money for himself. Motivation is key, and to have a motivation that doesn’t seek to please or honor God is a motivation that seeks the satisfaction and the gratification of self.


It is becoming more and more evident that the return of Christ is right around the corner, and if that is the case as I and many others believe, then it is important for us to make sure we are ready for that day when it comes. I’m not saying that holding to such views as I’ve been addressing will keep someone out of heaven, though it might, but to not carefully and prayerfully consider these things could be very dangerous to your soul and your salvation. It’s time for us to check and see if our thinking needs to be recalibrated to match up with the Bible, and if it doesn’t then we need to take steps to get them readjusted to match God’s word. It’s not worth playing Russian roulette with. Wouldn’t you agree? Think about it.


John Johansson

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