Message of Doom? Or Message of Hope?

Pestilence, rumors of war, disease, ….is our world spinning out of control or is this part of God’s plans?  We are happy to share this message from our friend in Christ, Jack Kinsella.  For those that have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, there is nothing to fear, but if you have not made that decision to follow Christ, the coming judgment is near as we are entering the final days, also known as “the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:8).  Don’t delay, time is short, please reach out to us if you would like to know more about Jesus our savior – we are here for you right now to share what salvation is all about.  We hope all of our readers find this article informative and helpful as we all face these final days before the great judgment comes upon this world.  *Please follow this link to learn more or to request prayer  –   I would like to know more about Jesus Christ and salvation 

crisis of fear

The prophecies of the Bible for the last days ARE a lot of doom and gloom — the very purpose of the Tribulation is to judge a Christ-rejecting world. It is called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, the Day of Wrath, etc.

It is the time of God’s judgment on the world — and there isn’t much cheering going on. Three-quarters of the world will die of the plagues and judgments during this period. (Revelation 6) One-third of the trees on earth will burn up, (Revelation 8:7) a third of all sea life will die, a third part of the ships will be destroyed in a sea turned one-third to blood. (v.9)

The judgment extends from the earth to the heavens:

“And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.” (Revelation 8:12)

It isn’t a pretty picture to contemplate. Especially in light of the very next verse:

“And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!” (Revelation 8:13)

No wonder much of the Church prefers the replacement theologian’s view that all prophecy was fulfilled with the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70 and that Revelation and Daniel are figurative or allegorical rather than predictive.

Sir Isaac Newton is reputed to have observed,

“About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation, in the midst of much clamor and opposition.”

Now that we live in that time, Newton’s observation sounds almost prophetic. There is a HUGE clamor surrounding the study of Bible prophecy. The prophecies for the last days are so terrifying, many would rather allegorize them away.

We are not living during the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. But our world is preparing itself for that time as we sit back as astonished eyewitnesses. The chaos that seizes the planet during the Tribulation has its beginnings during the last days of the Church Age.

Jesus warned that there would come wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences and so on. He warned that,

“All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:8)

The signs of the times are all around us and they are scary. They are scary even to many saved Christians who know the signs mean the Day of the Lord is at hand. They are scary to Christians who believe the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins.

There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that the Church Age will escape bad things in the last days — just that it will be removed before the beginning of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble.

Bad things are already happening. The wars. The rumors of wars. Famines. Earthquakes and pestilences. All on an ever-increasing scale of frequency and intensity. But Jesus said,

“all these things MUST come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (Matthew 24:6)

The ‘end’ He refers to is the ‘end of the (Church) age’ (Matthew 24:3), so we know it’s going to get uglier.

Assessment

Those are all good reasons to get depressed with the ‘doom and gloom’ of Bible prophecy. It’s easy to get caught up in it — especially when examining the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how things fit together, and what Scripture says should be next on the global agenda. Since nothing particularly pleasant is prophesied to come upon the earth, studying it in detail gets pretty depressing.

And there are all the people we know that are not yet saved — we know that time is running out, that they won’t listen, and that is even more depressing.

We see all the tiniest details of God’s plan being played out before our eyes, but the details obscure the bigger picture.

This is GOD’S PLAN! Before the world began, God knew exactly how things would play out. He told us in advance of each event. He told us that fulfilled prophecy was His Signature;

“Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.” (Isaiah 45:21)

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1)

In this generation, we live in an age of miracles. There appears that there is nothing that science won’t be able to accomplish eventually, thanks to the advent of computers. We can replicate almost any miracle except one.

We cannot predict the future. It simply can’t be done. No computer could calculate every detail of every life in advance, which is what would be necessary. Should one person do something unexpected then the whole course of future history would change?

Bible prophecy was given to the Church in the last days for the same reason that the Apostles were given miracles, signs, and wonders following Pentecost.

In both instances, God’s Authority is proved by God-given signs.

It was by the Authority of God, authenticated by miracles, that the Apostles proclaimed the birth of the Church Age at Pentecost.

It is by the Authority of God, authenticated by fulfilled prophecy, that the Bible proclaims the end of the Church Age in this generation.

Taking into account the bigger picture, Bible prophecy isn’t ‘doom and gloom’ at all. It is incontrovertible evidence that cannot be shaken by modern scientific ‘miracles’.

When the skeptic argues for evolution and random selection, trotting out fossils, skeletons, and diagrams, it seems pretty convincing. Maybe the Bible isn’t all that literal, after all. Maybe science has got something there…maybe…(!)

But when one compares the accuracy of the Bible’s account of the unknowable future to the ever-changing scientific ‘explanations’ for the distant past, doubts melt away. The skeptic has multiple explanations for static events that have already happened.

The Bible gives a single explanation for a fluid, changeable series of events predicted to happen thousands of years in the future — the events that define our present day. Which is more convincing?

Bible prophecy proves Jesus was the Son of God, regardless of the latest scientific, archeological or historical discovery. No matter what else might be offered as ‘evidence’ to the contrary, there is no other explanation for Bible prophecy. It is our generation’s unique miracle.

It proves that He remains in charge of the affairs of men. Scripture records His Promise in all three Gospel accounts,

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35Mark 13:31Luke 21:33)

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:” (2 Peter 1:19)

Bible prophecy is proof positive that God remains on the Throne, that His Word will NOT return to Him void, and that all the chaos and terror of the world notwithstanding, all continues to go according to His plan.

Given the unbeliever’s explanation of uncontrolled chaos, Bible prophecy isn’t all that depressing, after all. What WOULD be depressing would be to be among the lost, not knowing what this world is coming to, and believing the world is in a state of uncontrolled chaos.

For the believer, Bible prophecy can be pretty encouraging, which is what the Lord intended for the last days’ Church all along:

“But these things have I told you, that WHEN THE TIME SHALL COME, ye may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16:4)

By Jack Kinsella

The Prophecy Conundrum

The Prophecy Conundrum
By Jack Kinsella

In every generation of Christians since the time of the Apostles, there have been devout souls who have pored over the Scriptures, comparing the signs to the times and looking for evidence suggesting the imminent return of Christ.

In most previous generations, they were either revered as sages or dismissed as harmless nut-cases. But in this generation, something is different. Students and teachers of Bible prophecy find themselves in great demand or shunned like lepers.

Depending on how one receives the message, we are perceived as either hateful or hopeless, but we are certainly not harmless. In this generation, the first mental image most people have when they hear “Bible prophecy” is of a burning compound outside Waco.

It doesn’t matter that David Koresh was certifiably nuts or that he claimed to be Jesus Christ. To most people in this generation, “Bible prophecy” and “apocalyptic cult” are synonyms.

Since the 1960’s ‘evangelical’ and ‘apocalyptic’ and ‘conservative’ have all sort of run together into an image that then-candidate Obama summed up (rather well, really) in his “bitter redneck” comment.

“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

When you get right down to it, there isn’t much about Bible prophecy that this generation should be eager to embrace. I feel for one of our younger members who lamented in one of our forums that we older folks at least knew what it felt like to have a future worth planning for.

I feel it for my own children. I came to Christ in my early 20’s. God called me almost immediately to be a watchman — my kids grew up never expecting to grow up.

My son Rick will be thirty-six in August. I can still hear him in my memory, his squeaky voice just beginning to crack, asking me if I thought the Lord would tarry long enough for him to learn to drive.

I’ve been expecting the Rapture to take place at any second now for almost my entire Christian life. Every new event seems to signal that ‘this is IT!” but then it isn’t. I get my hopes up, and then I realize that my reach has exceeded my grasp.

I am not alone — I am one of an entire generation of similarly disappointed Christians who keep listening for a trumpet that never sounds. This collective disappointment is reflected by a number of recent surveys that suggest Christianity in general, and evangelicalism in particular, are on the wane in the United States.

Michael Spencer, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, paints a rather grim picture of where he sees American evangelical Christianity headed, not just in the United States, but in the Western world.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the “Protestant” 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I’m convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

This is a perfect example of the “prophecy conundrum” — that’s pretty much the way the Bible predicted it, too.

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

Assessment

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. ” (2nd Timothy 4:3-4)

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12)

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2nd Peter 3:3-4)

Prophecy is knowledge of future events — and that has considerable weight. If you don’t believe knowledge has weight, think back to some time when you were in deep trouble when you were a kid and you were waiting for a punishment you KNEW was coming.

The end of the world is a fairly heavy subject.

The knowledge imparted to students of Bible prophecy in this generation is almost crushingly heavy — I believe that is the reason that the Lord promises a special crown to those who willingly shoulder its burden.

“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” (2nd Timothy 4:8)

Watching God work has another unexpected consequence. It tends to cause us to see ourselves in the reflected light of His glory –and it isn’t a pretty sight. Sometimes when that happens, it also manifests itself in one of our forums.

There was an entry by a brother just the other day lamenting his spiritual condition before the Lord. He begins by confessing he is ‘haunted’ by the fact he isn’t sure he is saved.

Let me address that brother first, before returning to the wider issue at hand since we all struggle with that issue at one time or another.

If you can follow me around this mental circle. . . If I DIDN’T wonder if I was saved from time to time, THAT would be a reason to worry. I KNOW how far short of the glory of God I come. I know me in my innermost, darkest places.

If I was God…well, let’s just say that it is a good thing for ME that I’m not.

So if I started to think that I was good enough to be saved, and that’s why I wasn’t wondering, then maybe I wouldn’t be.

Stay with me, here. This is one of those circular thoughts that, once you get it, slings you out the other side where the light is better.

If you are wondering how can it be that you are saved, as unworthy and unfit as you are to be saved, then by those very doubts you qualify as one of God’s redeemed.

“Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” When John Wesley penned the words to that hymn, he was haunted by his sin, too.

When God works all around you, when you watch Him change the course of nations, set up and tear down rulers according to His Word, when you actually witness Him manipulating events to conform to His prophetic outline, it tends to remind you of who you ought to be before Him.

There is another lesson taught by prophecy that is often overlooked — not who you ought to be, but who you actually are before the Lord.

He knew, down to the tiniest detail, what you would be thinking and doing as you committed the worst and most unforgivable thing you ever did in your entire life — and He saved you anyway.

You are the one that He loved so much that He paid the penalty for all your sins on Calvary so you and He could be friends for eternity.

You are the one He loved so much that He told you, in advance, what to look for in the last days, so you wouldn’t be scared.

“Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God. Believe also in Me.”

There is a crown of righteousness laid up for you and me at the Bema Seat as a special reward for carrying the weight of what we know and being willing to share it while there is still time.

I believe that Michael Spencer is right. The end of evangelicalism is close — it’s no more than a trumpet note away. We can see it. We can feel it. The weight of this sin-sick world is too heavy for us to bear for much longer.

Which is why, praise the Lord, we won’t have to. He’s coming.

 

Trusting in God

faith

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” 
Proverbs 3:5-6

Having grown up in a southern baptist church, I have fond memories of the old hymns, the classics, that we would sing in a regular rotation each Sunday morning.  One, in particular, had this familiar chorus, “trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” Now that might not seem like much, but the meaning of this brief refrain runs deep and true, holding a decisive truth upon which Christ taught throughout his ministry on earth.

Faith is the foundation of our hope, as stated in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We pray in faithfulness, seeking God’s direction and guidance in all things.  When we are troubled or facing uncertainty in life, we turn to our heavenly Father for his help.

Do we always know how to truly reach out in faith, to petition the Lord and trust in Him to work those things out for the best, according to His will? Over the years I have learned some valuable lessons in faith, having failed many times in my approach to God in seeking help with my problems.  Specifically, praying to God with certain needs and requests, then meddling in the expected outcome because I was not willing to wait, to exercise my faith.  By rushing ahead of God, I spoiled the opportunity to grow in my faith and receive God’s best for my life.

The greatest example we can observe in regards to prayer, faith, and accepting God’s perfect will comes from Jesus.  The hour was fast approaching for His betrayal at the hands of Judas, the subsequent crucifixion, and in these verses found in Matthew chapter 26, verses 36 to 39, we see in excruciating detail the proper way to petition our heavenly Father.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  He said to them, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.”  Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  

Gethsemane

Jesus was facing the darkest hours of his time on earth, yet knowing God’s plan and trusting in the Father’s unfailing wisdom, He sought not his own will, but the perfect will of God.  Jesus was filled with sorrow and grieving to the point of death, His own words to the disciples, and he fell facedown and prayed.  Picture that scene and try to imagine that point of grief.  Obviously, this is the extreme of grieving to which we hope never to face ourselves, but we all have times when we are afraid, maybe we have lost a job or face great uncertainty in other areas of our lives.  At that point, we turn to God, earnestly seeking help from the storms of life that rage all around us.  That is when our faith is tested and through these trials, we grow in our faith as God provides for us.  But it takes patience through faith, placing our needs at His feet, then trusting and waiting on God’s perfect timing to deliver us according to His will.  It may seem simplistic, but we should always remember if God all at once solved every problem we would face from this day forward, not only would we not need our faith, we would never grow in that faith which is what sustains us.  In addition, as we are delivered from our suffering through faith in God, our testimony is strengthened and useful in sustaining other believers that will face similar circumstances.

Philippians chapter 4, verses 6 and 7 says, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  

A very important part of the faith process is to be patient, wait and allow God room to work things out according to his purposes for our lives.  Our human tendency is to reason things out, but we are limited in our view of each situation, but God is all knowing and is always at work for the best results according to His plans.  Often we come to God in faith, yet we bring our own solutions and we try to place our requests before God while including the expected outcomes that seem logical in our mind’s eye.  Or we do the same when we step up, with good intentions, to help others in need by praying for a given solution that makes sense to us but may not be aligned with the plans God has for that other person.

Look at the example of Peter, the strong voice that believed in Christ with all his heart, as demonstrated when Jesus asked the disciples who did they believe him to be, Matthew Chapter 16 verse 13, Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Yet we also see the well-intended Peter as he failed to understand God’s perfect plan of redemption for all humanity when he pulled Christ aside after Jesus had shared with them the coming persecution, death, and resurrection.  Peter believed that Jesus was the true Son of God, but he had given up everything to follow Christ, he was unable to reason it out in his own mind that he would have to watch Jesus die.  Peter was bound by his own small view of the world around him, thus remaining blind to the greater works of God.  We can see in hindsight why these things had to happen because we see the entirety of the perfect plan of salvation.  Peter was in the moment, as we are when we are faced with difficulties and tragedies, but we must learn from this lesson and put aside our own reasoning by trusting in God, knowing that His plan is perfect and His timing is to our benefit.  Peter suffered a terrible rebuke from Jesus for not trusting in God’s plans.

Matthew chapter 16 verses 21 through 23, 

From then on Jesus began to point out to his disciples that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to you!”  Jesus turned and told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.”

So what does this mean for believers and where do we go to grow in our faith? Remember this verse, Romans chapter 10 verse 17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  We must strive to know God better each day and the way to grow in knowledge and faith is through the study of the Word of God.  Through this, we will learn to understand and trust in God’s will for our lives and the lives of others.  When someone needs prayer for illness, we always go first to the request for healing, but what about praying for the afflicted to remain faithful, humble and steadfast in their commitment to the Lord.  We may pray for healing, but God may have other plans for that person’s life and their testimony.  I’m not saying it is wrong to pray for healing, to the contrary, but in this and all situations, we should strive to put aside our own reasoning and know that God is working all things for the good to those that are called by his name.

We thank you for reading our messages and we hope you find them helpful in your journey of faith through God our heavenly Father.  We encourage you to share our site with others, to use it as a way to witness to the lost and as a resource for learning through the many links shared on this site which you will find here –  “Helpful Resources”

 

 

John Stephen Frey is the author of this message and serves as our director emeritus and member of the prayer team

 

 

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Death of the Church – “Comfort Zone Christianity”

dying church

When we get up on Sunday morning and drive to church, do we ever consider the health of our church?  We expect it to be there, week in and week out, doors open, temperature set just right, music planned out, sermon prepared within the time allowed so that we can get in and then get on our way.  Church in America is comfortable, consistent, pre-planned and delivered in a tidy package each week to the faithful.  Deviate from that organized delivery model and church leaders will hear about it in no uncertain terms.  Regular complaints include temperature, too hot or cold, music too loud or too contemporary and of course the pastor went too long with his sermon.  Overall these are not seen as problematic, sort of the usual stuff, but how is the health of our churches in America?

There are two standards to be considered, attendance and spiritual well-being, one of which should be easy to gather but the other is not something that can be measured.  Of course, most would agree if spiritual well-being is thriving then attendance will be the first place to reflect it.  That should go both ways, at least in logical consideration, but that is up for debate.  In any case, let’s start with the numbers which are not as easily found as you would hope.  Gallup is a well known and respected polling institution that addresses just about every aspect of life in America as we know it, from business to entertainment, politics, and religion.  According to the numbers from a Gallup* telephone survey in 2017,  of a random sampling of about 1,000 Americans nationwide, interviewers ask respondents questions such as, “In the last seven days, did you attend a church service, excluding weddings and funerals?” to determine their church-going habits. From this survey, 40 percent responded yes, which would indicate nearly 130 million people attended church last Sunday in America.  However, according to a more in-depth research study conducted by the Evangelical Covenant Church, taking data from over 200,000 orthodox Christian churches over the past 10 years, the actual number of people in a pew each Sunday in America is closer to 52 million, nowhere near the numbers that Gallup would extrapolate from their random samples.  More troubling is the overall percentage this represents, basically 17 percent of America goes to church each week.  Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but at the surface, they do not speak well for the spiritual well-being of our congregations or for the outreach efforts from the church.

Our one true calling that speaks to all Christians is the great commission given by Jesus Christ in Matthew chapter 28 – to go and make disciples of all nations.  Period.  That is our calling, yet across America, our churches are not reflecting this in their attendance numbers.  The reasons are many but let’s take a few examples from some of those best suited to address this troubling issue.

passion and testimony

As president of the Bridgeleader Network, David Anderson, senior pastor and founder of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Maryland., has consulted with church leaders nationwide. In his work, he has observed a noteworthy and troubling trend within the mid-sized congregations across the country.   He has found more than half the mid-sized congregations have lost or unintentionally turned away from their evangelistic focus, and instead adopted what he calls a “club mentality.”

He explains it like this, “You have just enough people not to be missional anymore.  You don’t have to grow anymore to sustain your budget.”  They hit that comfortable sweet spot where needs are no longer driven by growth.  They’ve arrived so to speak.

That is a dangerous place to be, just big enough to comfortably pay the bills but not so big that you have problems making room for more classes, additional services, and all the issues that come with growth.

Thom Ranier, CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, gives this example, “We have become so comfortable and complacent with the way we do church that we don’t want any outsiders to mess it up. In other words, we will fight for the precise worship style or carpet color we want, but we will yawn at the thought of our neighbors going to hell.”

Let that sink in for a moment…

When the church embraces its own sovereign space, celebrating within the comfortable confines of its own creation, surrounded by a like-minded social circle, they stop reaching out, instead choosing to focus inwards. It becomes the responsibility of those on the outside to find their way in – while the church turns its energy towards social justice, no longer testifying to the love of their creator, replaced instead with a spirit of protest to all that is wrong in the world.  Isolated inside this bunker of truth, they lose sight of their one true calling – to share the love of Jesus with a lost world.

If Christians embraced their duty as missionaries in daily life, demonstrating and sharing the good news of our Savior, think of the impact that would have on other social issues.  We stand firm, often times as the only voice, to protect the unborn child.  We should look inward, with that same urgency, and demand of ourselves that we stand up and speak out on our Savior, Jesus – denying him before no man, sharing the love that He has for everyone.  If our church leadership is not calling us to action, to witness to our neighbors, co-workers and those that cross our paths each day – then we should ask why? It all goes hand in hand, we should be challenged in worship, called to action, pushed to get outside of that comfort zone.  We should be reading the word of God daily, growing in our faith – then sharing that faith with those around us.  We should stand firm in the truth, never compromising, being that voice for the unborn child by demanding an end to this brutal genocide on the most vulnerable.  And in so doing, we should be ready to pray with those women facing this situation, sharing love and guidance towards a better path – our churches should support those in need in every way possible.  Our failures inside the church are reflected across society – we have to get our act together – we have to lead from a position of love, dedication, and unwavering declarations of our faith.

Are we afraid of offending someone? (Read our message What are you afraid of?  for more on this issue)  What if we fought for lost souls just as hard as we fight for the unborn child? What if we trusted in Jesus and believed in our hearts that He truly is the miracle worker, then set our priorities towards salvation first? Imagine saving the lost and the impact that would have on our social issues.  If you follow what I’m saying, I believe you will see that salvation is the cornerstone upon which we can rebuild our society.  Answer this question, do you think we fight for change in an effort to make this world more palatable for our own existence? We don’t like being uncomfortable, so we stand up for change, we want to protect our right to religious freedom so we can worship in the way we choose – but why? If we are not serious about reaching the lost by explaining our own salvation story, sharing how Jesus died for our sins so that we can have atonement through his sacrifice, if that isn’t our passion, then I say religious freedom does not matter.

The Dying Church 2.jpg

What many have come to realize is the church in America has become complacent, or what we would define as a “comfort zone” type of Christianity.  While speaking up for the unborn is very important, as are many other social issues that go against the moral values that we hold dear, we need to take a step back and look at our priorities, both as individuals and as congregations.  Do we care about outreach, serious outreach, not just follow up emails to visitors that took the time to fill out a card on Sunday morning?  Do we think our nice facilities or location in the community are the best outreach? As Thom Ranier said, “we became so enamored with the worship service we concluded that it was our outreach. But cool and dynamic worship services are not outreach into our communities. They are attractions to attend.”  It is similar to a church that thinks its prime location, such as being right off the town square, somehow equates to outreach.  It’s not like the premise of the movie “Field of Dreams” with its catchphrase, “if you build it, they will come.”  If that were the case, how do you explain the 83 percent of America that sleeps in every Sunday morning? Do we really yawn at the thought of our neighbors going to hell? Honestly, I wonder how many people in the church actually believe that hell exists?

I engaged in a conversation not long ago with someone that did not agree with my concerns, namely that the church as a whole is failing in preparing and sending forth its members to witness, and he used a very popular “mega-church” in the Houston area as an example.  He cited the massive crowds and even larger television audience as proof that the church is thriving.  My reply, if that’s the best example you have, you just helped make my case that the church in America is dying.  You see, it’s not all about numbers, and his example is a church of what I call “feel good evangelism” or the prosperity faith that has dominated our TV airwaves for decades.  (Read our message – “The False Doctrine of Prosperity Faith” for more about this dangerous doctrine).  Yes, I’m speaking of the Joel Osteen ministry, the “how to be your best self” and “how to be happy in life” doctrine.  His church attendance by some estimates is in the thousands each week with a television audience purportedly in the millions.  I pointed out that if you listen to his message or read his books, you will notice that Jesus is largely missing, its focus is on personal happiness while avoiding talk of sin or the consequences.  This church, and many others that model after this so-called doctrine is described to us in 2 Timothy chapter 4, verse 3, 

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear.

Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, an undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, recently shared this regarding the ministry of Joel Osteen.  “Joel Osteen has all the marks of a sincere person. I just finished watching the profile of his ministry on 60 Minutes, and there is not one thing about him that looks phony. He is one of the most likable, loveable fellows that you’ll ever see. I really think he believes everything he is saying. That is why what he does is so awful. The prosperity gospel that Osteen preaches will damn the very people he intends to help (if they believe it), and he appears completely unaware of the darkness into which he plunges his followers. Osteen’s lack of awareness of his own blindness was prophesied in the scriptures: ‘Evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived’ (2 Timothy 3:13). If anyone has ever been deluded by his own error, it’s Joel Osteen.”

To sum it up, not only is the church in America in decline, we see ministries around us filling the void with a message that distorts or outright deceives believers and unbelievers alike.  Regarding the prosperity message and being your best self, listen to what Jesus says in Matthew chapter 16, verses 24 through 26, 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it. For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life?

There is nothing wrong with being happy, but in the context of Christian faith, we find true happiness through dedication and perseverance.  If we are led to believe that happiness is found in worldly possessions or by putting ourselves and our own well-being first, we are being deceived because this message runs in direct opposition to the teaching of our Lord.  Jesus warned us that we will be hated for his sake, life as a true believer in Christ comes with the promise that you will be persecuted for your faith, but we have the added assurance that Jesus will not forsake us and one day we will be together with Him in glory.

Matthew chapter 7, verses 13 and 14 states,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Do you have the assurance of salvation today, knowing in your heart that you have accepted the free gift of salvation that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ? If not, please don’t wait for the “right time” to make that decision, reach out to us right now with your questions or concerns and let us help you gain that blessed assurance that you have been redeemed.

Romans chapter 10, verses 9 and 10 give us the following guidance to salvation,

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

To the faithful, are you evangelizing according to our shared calling from Jesus? If you truly believe that you have been saved through grace, that Jesus Christ died for all sinners, then step up and share that message!  The world is lost and we are the light, but if we hide that light under a bushel then what good are we? Share the gospel, as Charles Spurgeon exhorted, “anywhere and everywhere!” Make sure that you are doing your part and if needed call out your church to do the same.  Is your congregation actively involved in true outreach in your community? If not, or if you’re not sure, ask the question and push for real outreach.  It’s not a hobby, it is a direct order from our Savior.  We should feel anguish in our hearts to know that narrow is the gate and few will find it.  Get involved, don’t wait for someone else to take up the charge, follow our Lord’s instructions and lead the way.

John Stephen Frey – Life Beyond Horizons Ministry

*data for this post taken from churchleaders.com, article dated April 10, 2018, titled “7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America”

**additional statistics from Lifeway Christian Resources, Evangelical Covenant Church research project 2017 and Gallup.

Time is short

anger

Anger, bitterness, hatred, it seems to be everywhere, surrounding our culture and permeating every aspect of our lives.  It seems that our safe havens are not immune, sports and other forms of entertainment no longer offer the escape we so desperately crave.  Journalism, once a bastion of integrity and impartiality, seems to have embraced its own agenda and no longer reports the news of the day but preaches the ideology of its brand, tilted towards the right or the left without apologies to anyone. Late night comedy, long a source of parody towards the events of the time, has now drawn a line to which the viewer must stand and celebrate or become another part of the punchline.  We are being overcome by the dark evil spirit of hatred and anger…bitterness is the tone of the day.  Parody is now a  cheap mockery, debate no longer exists, you either agree or become the target of the oppressive voice that controls media, entertainment, and the news.  Justice is not balanced, up is down, right is wrong, do not question the worldly agenda or you will pay a heavy toll.

2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 – 5 gives us this warning,

But know this: Hard times will come in the last days.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.”

Never in my lifetime has there been a time where this has been more applicable than today.  Read it again and take a moment, dwell on the words and note how many of these descriptors are evident to you.  Not just in the world but unfortunately inside the church, we see it creeping in and destroying the very truth of God’s word.  “People will be lovers of self, lovers of money…”, this describes the numerous false doctrines that are thriving today in churches all over the land.  The danger of the prosperity message is the application in our lives, the destructive turn down the path that leads to the love of money and love of self.  There is a reason these warnings are listed at the very beginning, they carry the greatest weight of destruction.  Matthew chapter 6 verse 24 states the following, “No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  Jesus did not come to share a doctrine of contradictions which is why we warn often of the deceit found in the prosperity message, you simply can not pursue riches on this earth and avoid the idolatry and divisive nature that comes with it. I encourage you to read “The False Doctrine of Prosperity Faith” to find out more regarding this topic.

We live in the time described by Jesus when he replied to his disciples as they asked for signs of the end times.  Matthew chapter 24 verses 3 through 8 states,  While he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus replied to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many.  You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these events are the beginning of labor pains.  These events are all around us, political unrest, wars and rumors of wars, North Korea and Iran both in relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons, earthquakes and tremors are reported almost daily, all at a volume we have not seen in our times.  

So what are we to do? Is all hope truly lost? To the contrary, as believers, we have hope and peace in these confirmations of our faith.  These words are beyond prophetic, they are now a living example of the world we see today.  For non-believers, or to those that proclaim a belief in a higher being but have yet to accept Jesus as the true Messiah, this is your warning.  These words are meant for you, do not turn away and deny the truth, it is here for you to read and it is playing out for you to see with your own eyes in our world today.  Do not wait or bury your head in the sand in hopes it will all somehow go away.  Jesus did not tell the disciples that once these things started there would be any turning back.  No coming election will solve these issues, this path goes above and beyond the world as we know it.  The battle of good versus evil is now playing out in real time and we must take our stand, you must choose a side, and believe me, ignoring this reality or choosing to live in denial is the same as denying the very existence of God and our savior Jesus Christ.  In Matthew chapter 10 verses 32 to 33 Jesus makes it very clear, Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge me before others, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.  But whoever denies me before others, I will also deny him before my Father in heaven.”   Do not make that mistake for it will cost you everything.  

Time is short and there soon will come a moment when you will no longer be given the opportunity to seek the free gift of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ.  Don’t wait until it’s too late, consider making that step of faith today, right now, by asking Jesus to forgive you of your sins and welcoming Him into your heart.  Go to this link,  “Pathway to Salvation”,  and follow the easy steps to salvation that are explained in simple detail, then pray the prayer of faith and salvation is yours.  Reach out to us and share your decision, let us pray for you, there are no strings attached and we are not seeking your money, we hope that everyone will have the chance to see the truth and find redemption through our savior, Jesus Christ.  He gave his life for you and for me.  May God bless you and if you’ve made a decision today or if you’re thinking about doing so, please follow up by visiting our link, “Helpful Resources”, where you will find an online bible and many helpful ministries that provide every resource you will need to answer your questions and grow in your new faith in Christ.

 

John Stephen Frey, Director and Senior Editor, Life Beyond Horizons

J Stephen Frey

 

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