Category Archives: Church Bulletin

Silence

silence

Silence. We fear silence. It’s to be avoided at all costs. We keep the television on at home and the radio playing in the car. If a newscaster is quiet for too long, he gets embarrassed. When the preacher pauses, we get nervous. When was the last time you and your spouse rode along in silence?

There’s actually a lot of sound, just not much worth hearing. Sometimes, silence is desired. It’s healing, even therapeutic. Leave the earbuds in the car and walk through nature. The sound of birds, crickets, and a chorus of basso profundo frogs is the perfect inoculation against the ruckus of the world.

People talking without speaking

People hear without listening

Simon & Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence (1964)

The folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel bemoaned the silence despite a chorus of noise all around. Nothing was said worth listening to. There was only The Sound of Silence.

They were correct 60 years ago, and they are still right today.

Silence. When Words Hurt

Sometimes, it’s better to be silent. When tragedy struck Job, his three friends came and sat in silence with him. They said nothing for a week (Job 2:11 – 13). There are times when words are ineffective and may bring more pain. In tragedy, there are no magical missives. A gentle hand on the shoulder may be best.

We may become too aggressive in our desire to show concern and offer aid. We don’t mean to cause harm, but sometimes, week intentioned words are misheard or misinterpreted. As students of human behavior, we can sense when we are getting too close or too personal. “I love you” may be the only words they need.

Silence. When Words Help

There are times when carefully directed discourse can bring encouragement and healing to the hurting soul.

Paul said it this way: Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:6). He seems to be talking about our interactions with unbelievers. But one key phrase is so useful for us today. He says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.” Have you eaten food without enough salt? Unsalted speech is also tasteless.

The king questioned why Nehemiah was sad. Nehemiah explained that his home, Jerusalem, lay in ruins. The king asked what Nehemiah was asking for. Then, before saying another word, Nehemiah “prayed to the God of Heaven” (Nehemiah 2:4). The King gave Nehemiah all that he asked for and more. Prayers need not be elaborate or long. Pray before speaking.

Our parents and grandparents often advised us to count to 10 before answering or speaking. Words can help but only when well considered. Never respond in anger for you will surely regret it later.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” wrote James (James 1:19).

Slow down. Think. Make sure you say something worth hearing.

The Church Consumer

I recently had a spat with my pharmacy. When they could not fill my prescription, I went somewhere else. When I upgrade my cell phone, I go to the store dressed for battle. I want to come away with the best possible deal. The church consumer is also looking for a deal. He needs to make sure he’s looking for the right thing.

The church consumer will, likewise, shop for what they perceive to be the best possible deal in churches. They may look for entertainment, friendship, or self-validation. People don’t want to change. They reject repentance. They are not looking for sanctification. Their desire for holiness is missing. Such shallow church consumerism is a colossal waste of time.

The church consumer should immediately jettison his foolish ideas about shopping for a church as he might shop for a new car. There is only one quality that a person should look for in a church. Seek and search for a church committed to the absolute truth of God’s word.

The Truth

Solomon said, “Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding” (Proverbs 22:23). In Matthew 13, Jesus spoke two brief parables about the value of finding the most important things. He told of a man who came across treasure and immediately went and bought the field. A second man found a pearl of exquisite beauty and great price. He sold everything he had to buy it (Matthew 13:44, 45).

The only things a church consumer should look for are the things that last an eternity. Entertainment brings joy for a few minutes. Self-validation brings about no change in the life of a sinner. These pursuits are not worthy of your time. Search for that which has true value.

Church leaders and preachers are responsible for doing their best to communicate God’s word to the listeners. The preacher should sharpen his skills of delivery and interpretation to deliver the pure truth in a way that his hearers can understand. Remember, the sermon is not a TED talk or standup comedy. The preacher does not take the stage to entertain but to encourage, evangelize, and inform.

Come for Worship, Not for Entertainment

The last time I attended a musical performance, the people on the stage did not invite me to sing with them. I am the object of the choreography and singing. I am entertained. Not so in the worship of the church. We do not come to worship for entertainment. We come to praise the God of creation and express our thanksgiving to him for all his blessings.

Let our worship be God-focused, not the other way around.

Let’s purge the idea of being a church consumer from our minds. Seek truth.

The Most Dangerous Words of a Christian

I Think

Mankind is expected to think. God gave us the ability to observe, examine, analyze, and reason. Our mind is an amazing tool that can be trained and can even examine and heal itself when injured.  The human mind has allowed us to make stunning discoveries both on and off the planet. We continue to plumb the depths of the sea and soar into the Universe. Sometimes our minds get us into trouble but mostly our ability to think and reason has served humanity well. But when it comes to divine truth, the most dangerous words of a Christian are “I think.”

Our thinking and reasoning have produced innumerable denominations and have deepened the division with Christendom. In the meantime, we are losing the battle for men’s souls. Something is clearly wrong. It’s past time to stop spouting what we think and instead cling to what we can know from the Lord.

I Can Know Truth

“and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:32

You would agree, I think, that truth is unchanging.  Truth does not shift because of changing beliefs or differing perspectives. 2 apples plus 2 more apples equal 4 apples in Daphne, Alabama, and in the Cocos Islands (opposite side of the earth). It’s still four apples if I am a Democrat or a Republican. Truth doesn’t change. The writer of Hebrews says Jesus is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8) which is not surprising given that God is truth (John 3:33) and truth doesn’t change.

While it is important to know truth in everyday life, the balance in your bank accounts, the medicines the doctor prescribes, etc. It is critical to know the truth about God and his plan to save mankind as he revealed it.

I Must Respect the Truth

Here’s the rub. When speaking of Biblical matters, we often say what we think instead of what God says.

“I know there is nothing about mechanical instruments of music in the New Testament church, but I think it’s ok because it uplifts me.” In this case, we have elevated our thinking above that of what the Bible says. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel was called to rebuke the prophets of Israel for speaking what they thought instead of what God had said.

They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the LORD,’ when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.”

Ezekiel 13:2

These prophets spoke falsely but still expected the Lord to accept their corruption of truth. A few verses later he explains that they have been speaking from their own heart and not from God’s message (Ezekiel 13:17). In verse 8, the Lord declared “I am against you!”

The Most Dangerous Words of a Christian: Toward A Solution

Those who believe that Jesus is the son of God all affirm their reverence for and adherence to the Bible. It is God’s word delivered through the power of the Holy Spirit and confirmed with supernatural acts (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:16-21). That being the case, we can all agree on the following:

  1. I will stop telling people what I think and instead declare what the Bible says.
  2. I will derive all teaching and doctrine from the Bible. I will not add to nor take from it.
  3. I will reject any teaching or doctrine not found in the Bible.
  4. I commit to a thorough study of the Scriptures to understand and to apply it.
  5. When we speak, we will speak only as the oracles of God, never of mankind.

It’s time to hear again the voice of God as revealed in his “once for all” delivered word (Jude 3). No smooth-talking, well-dressed, well-coiffed, preacher will be tolerated who does not honor the truthfulness and completeness of Scripture.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a hard trait for anyone to master. It is most difficult when we try to forgive ourselves. Those who live in Christ must learn to forgive. Hear the words of Jesus:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14, 15)

Jesus says that if I do not forgive others who have offended me, I will not be forgiven of my trespasses. A parallel verse is in James 2:13, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Personally, I crave both forgiveness and mercy. I need copious amounts of both; I suspect you do too.

If anyone in the Bible had a reason to hold a grudge, it would have been Jesus. The purest one ever born had come to earth for one reason: “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). But despite his sole purpose of helping humanity, Jesus became the target of their wrath. He was arrested, maltreated, and crucified on an old rugged cross. Yet, as he hung on that cross, he uttered this immortal statement, “father forgive them (Luke 23:34).” As the ultimate example of a holy life, Jesus teaches us to forgive.

Christians don’t always live up to the master’s example. Christians can be just as petty and unforgiving as non-Christians. But our failure to exemplify Christ does not lessen the imperative of forgiveness.

Those outside of Christ are often amazed when they see acts of true forgiveness. For example, Georgia Congressman John Lewis’ public forgiveness of Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Or the beautiful image of Botham Jean’s brother embracing and forgiving convicted murderer Amber Guyger as she was being sentenced for the murder of his brother. True forgiveness is so rare in our world that it always turns heads when it happens.

Forgiveness and Hypocrisy

People occasionally blur the line between forgiveness and hypocrisy. They see or hear of a Christian doing something sinful. They immediately cry, “hypocrisy!” But what they overlook is that the Christian is struggling to overcome sin. Along the way, he stumbles. But God has forgiven him. 1 John 1:5-10 is enlightening. We know first the necessity of “walking in the light.” Second, even while walking in the light, the Christian needs forgiveness. And three, forgiveness is forthcoming from a loving God.

There is no hypocrisy. There is only a real struggle to overcome sin in daily life.

This is not to say that hypocrisy never occurs; it does. And sometimes, Christians deliberately act contrary to God’s holiness. In that case, they are hypocrites. But to assert that every stumble or error is an act of hypocrisy is just wrong. Certainly, you and I would not want to be judged that way.

Hiding behind Hypocrisy

Occasionally a person will use the perceived hypocrisy of someone else to justify their own misdeeds. Maybe they’re not really trying to justify themselves as much is there trying to raise their stature among other people. They point out the weaknesses in failings and other people and then conclude that their sin is no worse than the others. It is true that any sin separates a person from God. But it is also true that another person’s sin has no bearing on your standing before God. Another person’s sin does not justify you. We will be judged individually (Romans 14:12).

Hiding behind hypocrisy evidences an unwillingness to confront one’s own sins. It also suggests a desperation to be seen as righteous but without a penitent heart. If you are outside God’s kingdom and judging it by its citizens, you are missing the most important part. We are not and will not claim perfection. We rely on God’s promise of forgiveness as we strive to know Him and pattern our lives after Him each day.

In the beginning, we said forgiveness was a hard trait to master. It’s also a hard act to understand. No matter the depth or depravity of your sin, you can be cleansed and stand righteous before the Lord. After a laundry list of common sins, Paul said: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Come now for the healing and forgiveness found only in Jesus!

Enemies of truth

4 Enemies of Truth

Enemies of truth

“and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”

John 8:32

relating to or existing in an environment in which facts are viewed as irrelevant, or less important than personal beliefs and opinions, and emotional appeals are used to influence public opinion:

definition of “post-truth” from www.dictionary.com

Truth is not what it once was. We do not think of truth as we once did. Truth does not change. My understanding may change, but the underlying truth is the same. A lack of truth may be inconvenient as when an airline promises a seat after knowingly overbooking. But becomes catastrophic when eternal life is at stake. We offer 4 enemies of truth for your consideration.

Sadly, truth struggles today. Enemies of truth abound and endanger our future. We know who those enemies are, and we can fight back.

Enemies of Truth: Apathy

Years ago, a friend remarked that although he had studied a Biblical topic and knew what the Bible said, he just didn’t care. He didn’t think it made any difference. That approach to truth is apathy. It’s common today. Truth may exist, but so what?

Jesus said that we can know truth (John 8:32). But he also described the extent to which one may go to pursue truth. From the God of Truth (John 17:17), the Kingdom of Heaven is worth extraordinary effort to find and acquire.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44,45).

What would you do; how hard would you work to save a loved one from death? There is no room for apathy in the pursuit of truth.

Enemies of Truth: Compromise

Compromise is a necessary part of life. We bargain and eventually compromise when buying a car. In business, a contract is the result of negotiation and compromise. A man who does not compromise will have little success in life.

But compromising truth is different.

To compromise truth is to attempt to change the unchangeable. King Saul thought to compromise truth when he chose not to complete God’s mission against the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15).

For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23).

Truth cannot be changed. To attempt to do so is a fool’s errand.

Enemies of Truth: Fear

It takes real courage to change, even in the face of truth. Because such change will result in new loyalties (to Jesus) and new alliances (the church), we can expect vociferous opposition to those that currently see us as mirrors of themselves. Still, truth must be chosen over comfort.

King Herod knew that John the Baptist was a prophet, and he knew the people so-honored him. He wanted to hear the words of this great man. But because of his public promise to Salome, he feared the scorn of his associates if he did not give her as he had promised. Her request was the head of John. Herod ordered him to be beheaded (Matthew 20:14 – 2)

You know the truth. Perhaps you operate with an out-of-sight-out-of-mind philosophy. It could be that your career, social standing, or family standing is threatened. Carefully thinking about the eternal outcomes is always appropriate.

Enemies of Truth: Sloth

Study is hard work. Solomon said study wearies the body (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Jesus used examples of hard work when he described searching for truth (Matthew 13:44 – 45; searching for treasure). While a Bible is easy to find, its truths require study, thought, and deep personal resolve. A slothful man rarely finds success, and when he does, he quickly loses it.

Jesus told a parable of three servants entrusted with a rich man’s wealth. Two of the servants worked and produced a return for their master. But the third man was lazy and afraid.

But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:26 – 30)

Observe that the master did not accept the excuse of fear, and he says the servant was slothful. Did you see the outcome? The slothful one was cast away into “outer darkness.”

Laziness and fear are terrible enemies of the truth. Let neither be named in your life. As Paul encouraged Timothy, be a “worker who never needs to be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Have we Confused Antichrist and the Man of Sin?

Part six of the Come Lord Jesus series on the final return of Christ at the end of time. Today, Have We Confused Antichrist and the Man of Sin?

It is common to equate antichrist of John’s writings with Paul’s man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians. Some writers bounce back and forth between the two as if antichrist was a pronoun for the man of sin.  It seems to me to be an error that contributes to confusion concerning the return of Jesus and the end of time. Have we Confused Antichrist and the Man of Sin?

Let us first consider a portion of the single text concerning the man of lawlessness:

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

(2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4).

People in Thessalonica were convinced that Jesus had already returned. Obviously, they feared that they had missed out on His glory. They were shaken and alarmed by this conclusion, which, it turns out, was errant. The reason for their error was straightforward: The man of lawlessness had to appear first. Only then would Jesus return. Paul had already discussed the man of lawlessness with the Thessalonians, as evidenced by his comment in verse 5. They had forgotten his words and had been deceived.

Many commentators, dating back at least as far as Chrysostom on the fourth century, held that this person, the man of sin or man of lawlessness, was the antichrist. But their conclusions overlook certain critical points of difference.

Man of Sin: One or Many?

Paul points to a single individual as the man of lawlessness while John’s antichrist is many. Paul speaks of an evil personage described as “the man,” who is “the son,” who “exalts himself,” and takes “his seat,” and proclaims “himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4). But John says of the antichrist that “many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18). He speaks of them in a plural way (1 John 2:19). Not so with the man of lawlessness. He is presented as a single being or construct.

There is a single “spirit of the antichrist” in 1 John 4:3, but that spirit exists in many different liars (c.f. vs. 22). The single, individual man of lawlessness does not fit neatly with the idea of many antichrists.

Man of Sin: The Mission

The desire of the man of lawlessness is for his personal aggrandizement. He exalts himself. The antichrists are busy denying Christ. They wish to dethrone the Savior, but John says nothing about them elevating themselves. The spirit of antichrist is a belief system that denies that Jesus is from God and is the divine Son of God.

Man of Sin: The Timing

The man of lawlessness arises with a great apostasy or falling away (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Scholars believe, and the Bible supports the idea, that 2 Thessalonians was written in the early second half of the first century (maybe 52 -55 AD). In the mind of most scholars, the Johannine epistles were written in the last decade of the first century, but some would place the writing as early as the ’60s. What great apostasy occurred during this time? The timing is critical. The man of lawlessness is linked to a great falling away, yet none is reported Biblically or in secular writings during this period. He cannot be antichrist.

Consider this outline from the West Walker church of Christ.

Antichrist Is Not What You Think

Part five of the Come Lord Jesus series on the final return of Christ at the end of time. Today we examine antichrist.

Social media has much to say about antichrist. He is just around the corner and will soon arise. He brings welcomed order to our troubled world and will be a heroic figure destined to save humanity. In truth, he is demonic and a destroyer of all that is good.

As we did when discussing the Rapture, let us ask what the Bible says.

Antichrist in Scripture

“Antichrist” is a biblical term. The word occurs five times in 4 verses. Only John uses the word.

“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.”

(1 John 2:18)

“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.”

( 1 John 2:22)

“and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

(1 John 4:3)

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”              

(2 John 7)

Therefore, the question is not whether it appears in Scripture, it does. But, how is the term defined and used by John? Of equal importance, how are people using the word antichrist today?

The Second Coming

The antichrist is not associated with the return of Jesus and is never used in connection with the end of time. Observe each of the occasions where John used the word. Not once is John speaking of the end of time. His words are always directed toward the very day and time in which he was writing.

More so, John, in all four verses, declares that the antichrist was already present in his first-century world! The antichrist was a specific kind of false teacher: one who “denies that Jesus is the Christ,” and one who does not confess that Jesus is from God” (1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3).

Also 1 John 2:18 and 2 John 7 assert that there were many antichrists in the first-century. The antichrist of the Bible is not a single powerful ruler or influencer. We must reject false teaching on this subject. It is not relevant to say someone has good intentions. The only thing that matters here is the truth.

For more reading, visit this article from the late Wayne Jackson at Christian Courier.

Jesus’ Return and You Don’t Know When

Good people struggle with knowing when Jesus will come again. Stressful times make us long for the shattering of earthly chains and the flight to unknown realms. Like a child waiting to be picked up by his parents after a first overnight away from home, we are increasingly homesick as we await the Lord’s coming. Some people call his return The Rapture, although that term is not in the Bible. We are certain that Jesus will return, but we just wish we knew when he would show up.

Jesus is with us right now. He promised the disciples that he was with us always (Matthew 28:18, 19). But he also told us of another return, one that would swiftly take us to glory (John 14:1 – 4). He alone is the way to the Father – there is no other path (John 14:6). But because we do not know the time and date of his return, we must work in his kingdom until we see him come.

When is Jesus’ Return?

This is where we stumble. In our breathless anticipation of his victorious return, we assume too much. “These are signs of the times,” friends say, or “it’s time for Jesus’ to return!” Self-styled prophets declare a date certain for the end. People have been saying these things for millennia, and they have all been wrong.

Avignon, France, was a lovely village in 1348. It lies on the Rhone river, about 50 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. During the late Spring, the Black Death, Bubonic Plague, swept through the town.

“When Avignon ran out of ground, Clement consecrated the Rhone; each morning that plague spring, hundreds of rotting corpses would flow down the stream like a mysterious new species of sea creature.” So wrote John Kelly in The Great Mortality. He also reports that 7,000 homes within the city lay vacant because everyone inside was dead. One resident estimates 62,000 people died in the first four months of the year. (Kelly, pg 150). Many believed that the plague was mentioned in the Bible and was a sign of Jesus’ impending return or the Rapture.

But Jesus didn’t come then.

At about the same time (1337 – 1453), the so-called Hundred Years’ War (actually 116 years) claimed close to 3,000,000 dead. In recent history, World War II claimed close to 100,000,000 across six years of combat capped by the final detonation of two atomic bombs in Japan. Indeed such a deadly war with such a horrendous climax must signal the Lord’s return! J. Robert Oppenheimer, who lead the American project to develop atomic bombs, shed a tear when remembering the testing of those bombs. He quoted from the Hindu holy book, Bhagavad-Gita, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

But Jesus didn’t come then either.

William Miller, a founder of Seventh Day Adventism, announced that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844. Many believed his false teaching, disposed of their possessions, and sat down to await the Lord’s return. When the day passed, such sadness followed that the date has come to be known as The Great Disappointment. Miller and those who followed him became targets of jokes, taunts, and even violence. The people who followed Miller were ordinary, everyday people. They were good folk who worked hard and attended church services. They were true believers of Miller. They were confident.

But Jesus didn’t come.

When we declare the coming of the Lord or declare so-called “signs of the times,” we give the world one more reason to laugh and hold us in derision. That may not matter to your faith, but it could throttle those considering coming to Jesus. Let us stick with what we know and accept what we do not. I know Jesus is coming, I don’t know when, but he will come.

Come, Lord Jesus

John was waiting for Jesus when he penned the above words from Patmos in Revelation 22:20. Aside from being exiled to a small island in the Aegean Sea, he was privileged to see a series of revelations about the past and the future. John saw a vision of heaven and saw the enthroned Creator and innumerable worshippers around him. But the images ended. He looked around and was still on the same rocky isle as before. “Come, Lord Jesus” was his cry. The contrast between heaven and Patmos must have been astonishing. John longed for Jesus’ return.

Always Waiting for Jesus’ Return

A devout disciple of Jesus is always homesick. Our minds are heavenward. We peer beyond the stars into the deep blues and blacks and dream of eternity. Our dreams are vivid because of our present reality. The stench of an evil world intensifies day by day. COVID, riots, political instability, saber-rattling, morality decomposition, financial fears, and broad malaise give our dreams urgency.

A desire for our heavenly home is good. Paul felt it (Philippians 1:18 – 26, esp vs. 23), and we should too.

We are Confused About Jesus’ Return

But I am concerned that some have confused a desire for heaven with a human doctrine of dispensationalism. I see it on social media when people assert that the end times must be near because of our troubles.

Dispensationalism is a collection of end-of-time ideas that have been popularized since John Darby in the 1800s. In our time, author Hal Lindsey penned The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970, seeming to forecast the “rapture” in the 1980s. Jerry B. Jenkins (no connection to Jerry Jenkins of Roebuck Parkway)  and Tim Lahaye published the Left Behind series of books. These stories present a fictionalized account of the return of Jesus. The rapture, AntiChrist, and an earthly reign of Jesus on a throne in Jerusalem are all part of the novels. Dangerously, these books, and similar social media posts, suggest a way to know when the Lord is coming. That’s an idea specifically refuted by Jesus himself.

We are waiting for Jesus, knowing he’s coming but unsure of when.

In the coming weeks, we will examine these various teachings and demonstrate from the Bible why they are in error. We will establish a biblical approach to these topics. We will point to something firm to stand upon when dreaming of heaven. Let’s start with timing.

His return date is not known

Jesus walked with his disciples in Jerusalem. Herod’s Temple was the centerpiece of Herod the Great’s building program. It was an imposing and magnificent edifice. The disciples were speaking of it when Jesus said, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). The following discussion, commonly known as the Olivet Discourse, includes this remarkable statement concerning Jesus’ second coming:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only”.

Matthew 24:36

Jesus is speaking of his return. Previously, he told them precisely what to watch for and when to flee. He warned that the terrible things in verses 3 – 35 would occur in the lifetime of that present generation (Matthew 24:34). About 40 years later, Rome destroyed Jerusalem.

In verse 36, Jesus answers the second part of the question asked in verse 3: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” There is no answer to that question because Jesus himself did not know! If Jesus doesn’t know, I am confident no one posting on Facebook knows.

Jesus is coming, we just don’t know when!

Let’s conclude with Jesus’ warning in Matthew 24:42: “stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”

A Dickens Reminder

God bless us every one” is the plea of little Tim Cratchit in Charles Dickens’ immortal A Christmas Carol. Bobbi and I watched the Patrick Stewart version (George C. Scott is the best, just saying) last night. The lead character is Ebenezer Scrooge, a tight-fisted, always-grumpy banker who is visited by four ghosts. First, his deceased business partner, Marley, who warns of a mighty chain that Scrooge is weaving in the afterlife. Then three ghosts who come to prompt Scrooge to change before it is too late. Scrooge’s answer for the poor is to put them in prisons or workhouses. If they die, that will “reduce the surplus population.” Scrooge changes when he is forced to look upon the poor and downtrodden that fill 19th century London and when his own impending death is revealed.

A Christmas Carol was published in 1843 in London. Sharp socioeconomic divisions faced England. These divisions were the background for Dicken’s work. Mid-19th century London was not so different from early 21st century America. The lower economic class has grown poorer while the wealthiest have increased their assets.

The answer is not taxation, which only increases the wealth and the power of the political class, but true charity from Christians who give willingly and not by compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:7). Charity cannot be compelled.

Out of 230 nations, the CIA Factbook says the United States has the third-highest gross domestic product. In 2019, before COVID, Sally, elections, and divisions in the populace, just over 10% of our citizens lived in poverty.

Two-thirds of Americans report living paycheck-to-paycheck. Just one shutdown or one serious illness can destroy 110 million citizens.

Meanwhile, the stock market has soared almost 60% since its pandemic low in March (S&P index).

People become poor for many reasons. Sometimes it’s a layoff or termination, perhaps a sudden illness or accident. Some people are poor because of really bad decisions. Drugs, alcohol, and gambling hurt families at an alarming rate. Maybe surprisingly, the Bible doesn’t use a litmus test to determine who needs help. Maybe, because the victims of poverty often are not the cause of their poverty. Those who refuse to work are excluded (2 Thessalonians 3:10), but their children indeed are not.

Moses wrote, “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be” (Deuteronomy 15:7, 8). In verse 11, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” God’s wrath burns against those who abuse the poor: “The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord GOD of hosts” (Isaiah 3:14 – 15).

Jesus’ command to the young ruler of Matthew 19:21 was clear: Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  This underlines what Jesus previously said about our priorities. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19 – 21).

Last night,  after watching A Christmas Carol, Bobbi heard of a family that had been thrown out of the house where the four of them had been “couch-surfing.” This morning, It dropped to 25 degrees. Can you imagine the mother’s fear?

Thousands of currently employed, hard-working people are facing possible termination because of government-imposed lockdowns.

Many are in your zipcode.

What a mismatch between the happy crowds at the store who buy frivolities for the holidays and those who have less than nothing.

Remember the poor. Do what you can to help, for your work is of the Lord.