Archive for March, 2008

31
Mar
08

Questions and Answers Regarding the “Rapture” of the Church

It is estimated that approximately 70% of professing Christians believe that Jesus Christ is going to return.  Of these, only about 25% believe in the “rapture”.  Put into perspective, about 2 out of 10 Christians believe there is a day coming when the Lord Jesus Christ will instantly gather together His church to meet Him in the air.  The question then becomes what do the other 8 believe?

Logically about 6 out of ten Christians believe Jesus is coming back to earth to set up His eternal kingdom here.   One is to assume that these Christians believe that this earth is our home for all of eternity.  Studies have indicated that most Christians who do not believe in the rapture also believe that no one will be left behind and there will be a day in the future when this world is a perfect utopia with no crime or sickness or death and Jesus as King.

The concept of “heaven” is so grossly misunderstood and abused; it is truly hard to establish what people mean when they say dearly beloved so and so is “in heaven”.  Where is heaven and what are goes on there?  For the vast majority of Christians, heaven is a place in the sky guarded by pearly gates and one must sign in with St. Peter to gain entrance.  This image has so permeated people’s minds they never stop to think if it makes any sense Biblically or otherwise.

Furthermore, it seems to make no difference to most Christians whether a person is saved or not, as that seems to not be a requirement to gain entrance into heaven.  The general consensus is that Jesus loves everyone and thus everyone goes to heaven after they die.  Yet, many of these same people believe Jesus is coming back to establish his kingdom on earth.  Logically then, “heaven” must be a temporary place to sit around and catch up on books, videos and conversation until such a time in the future when everyone is reunited here on earth as one big happy family.

The line of demarcation between those who believe the Bible is the revealed Word and will of God vs. those who think it is simply the “good book” is huge.  If a person rejects the authority of the Bible, then where is such authority going to be found?  Unfortunately it usually ends up in each person’s mind as whatever they want to believe is true.  Of course most people want to believe Jesus loves everyone and thus everyone goes to “heaven” and will end back up on earth to spend eternity playing soccer, cooking steaks on the grill, watching movies and lounging around the pool.

To those who reject the authority of the Word of God, talk of an event such as the “rapture” is absolute foolishness.  To the vast majority of Christians (roughly 80%), the idea of Jesus Christ only taking a few chosen ones with Him on some mysterious space trip is a joke.  Many others denounce the rapture as being grossly unfair and something a loving God would never do.  The idea of God punishing people for their unbelief is a totally foreign concept to much of Christianity.

Perhaps 30% of so-called Christianity not only doesn’t believe in a rapture event, they do not believe Christ is ever returning.  Evidently, to these people, when one dies either their life simply ends and that is the end of things, or they believe as the others did that when one dies, they go to heaven and stay there forever.  Once again though, heaven to these people is for everyone, not just “Christians”.  If heaven is for everyone, why bother to become a Christian?

Of all the people who claim to be “Christian” in the world today, very few of them are truly born again and a tiny fraction of them have totally dedicated their lives to Jesus Christ and declared publically that He is their Lord.  Most people who claim to be a “Christian” do so in the same way they claim to be Caucasian or African American or Jewish.  Christianity is not a race nor is it simply a classification of religious belief. 

The overwhelming majority of people who attend a Christian church on Saturday or Sunday are no more Christians than the person who attends an Islamic mosque or a Jewish synagogue.  Membership in a particular church body does not make a person a Christian.  Being sprinkled, dunked or drowned in water does not make a person a Christian.  Confessing creeds and memorizing church doctrines does not make a person a Christian.  Giving away all one’s belongings to the poor does not make that person a Christian. 

Isn’t it interesting that those who do not believe in the rapture also don’t believe there is any type of commitment involved with being born again.  The two go hand in hand.  The reason people don’t believe in the rapture is because they lack the commitment to believe they will be one of the chosen ones to be a part of the event.  It is that simple folks. 

If one believes the Bible then one must fulfill the requirements of Romans 10:9 to be born again.  One must confess Jesus to be Lord and believe God raised Him from the dead.  Although many preach this verse, few understand what it is saying.  Salvation is not obtained by merely saying a “sinner’s prayer” and then something magical happens.  Salvation is a heart issue that comes from the depths of a person’s soul where they acknowledge that they are a sinner and that Jesus Christ paid for that sin and is their Savior.  A person must believe in the entire redemptive process for this to take place.

Salvation comes from the mouth where a person confesses that Jesus is Lord and not themselves or anything else in this life.  This confession begins as a simple acknowledgment that Jesus IS Lord and becomes a commitment that He is YOUR Lord.  When this level of commitment is reached, then there is no longer any doubt whether one is saved, and the Rapture then becomes something not only believed in but longed for.

In conclusion, those who believe in the rapture come from every denomination and non-denominational group.  Belief in the rapture is NOT denominational.  Those who believe in the rapture have one thing in common; and that is the absolute conviction that they are born again and that the day is fast approaching when the trumpet of God will sound and be heard by only those who will be instantly changed and appear in the presence of their Lord Jesus Christ in the air to forever be with Him.

Those who do not believe will not be a part of the event.  Those who are totally persuaded in their heart that they are born again have already received the token of their eternal inheritance which will be redeemed when the trumpet sounds.  For those of us who have chosen to devote our lives to our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no day more anticipated than the one soon coming when we will see Him face to face and bask in His glory and majesty in the heavenlies.

27
Mar
08

The Day is Fast Approaching; The Lord’s Word to His Church

There are numerous indications that there may be an attack on Israel before the 60th anniversary of her formation on May 14th.  There are numerous “soft” versions of this story floating around news outlets this morning, but please read the following from a reputable source:

“Military sources disclose that Hizballah has built up its rocket arsenal to three and-a-half times its pre-2006 Lebanon War stocks. Some of the 40,000 rockets of Syrian and Iranian manufacture can hit Israel targets as far south as Beersheba, 350 km. away from the Shiite terror group’s launching pads north of Lebanon’s Litani River.

Not only has Tel Aviv come within range, but Hizballah and the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza can between them cover most of Israel except for its southernmost tip at Eilat. Using these two surrogates, Tehran can therefore make war on Israel and keep its hands clean … military sources report the lion’s share of rockets smuggled to Hizballah in recent months are Syrian-made. Damascus has also shipped to Hizballah quantities of anti-air weapons, including shoulder-borne rockets and scores of Russian-made anti-aircraft ZSU-100 automatic 14.4 mm caliber cannon, which are most effective against low-flying aircraft, helicopters and drones.”

The prophetic clock is not any way linked to events taking place in the United States of America.  From God’s point of view, the only place to look to see where that clock is at is ISRAEL.  News such as that written above has little to do with 99.9999999% of the world’s population for they do not live in Israel.  But, from God’s point of view, what happens in that little country has a direct impact on 100% of every living person in the world.

God’s prophets in the Old Testament spoke clearly of the approaching “Day of the Lord”.  The things spoken of obviously did not take place when Christ came to this earth 2,000 years ago.  All things prophetic relating to “The Day of the Lord” refer to events leading up to His second coming when Jesus Christ comes as Lord of Lords and King of Kings to establish His Kingdom on earth from Jerusalem.

The book of Revelation gives graphic details as to the events leading up to this glorious day.  Daniel’s prophecy speaks of a final week of seven years immediately preceding the return of Christ.  Mid-way in that seven years Revelation speaks of the Antichrist rising to power and becoming the supreme world ruler.  Starting in Revelation 13, the final three and one half years before the coming of Christ are chronicled in graphic detail. 

When combining the events recorded in Revelation together with all the prophecies in the Old Testament, it is very obvious there are extremely troubling times in store for Israel before Christ returns.  That is why news stories such as the one above are important to not only those who live in Israel, but to all who wait patiently for the rapture of the church which happens some time before the wrath of God is poured out in Revelation 16.  The book of Romans assures us that we have been saved from the wrath which is to come.

No man knows when Christ is coming back to either gather His bride or to establish His reign on earth in Jerusalem.  But, we know from Matthew 24 general things to look for to know if the end is near.  We know from reading Old Testament prophecies in the books of the Prophets what will comes directly before that great and notable Day of the Lord.  He who has eyes to see and ears to hear should be able to see clearly that the end is fast approaching.

As Christians we need to take heed to the warnings in sections of scripture such as Romans 13 where it says:

“Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

The night if far spent, the day is at hand.  Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

Romans 13:11-14 NKJV

When Jesus was here on earth he spoke of “The Kingdom of Heaven was AT HAND”.  Romans 13 tells us “THE DAY” is at hand.  The Day is the day of Christ’s return.  What are we to do before then?  We are to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  We are to walk properly and ethically as in the day, and not in drunkenness, revelry, lewdness, lust, envy and strife which are done by those in the night.  In all matters we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ in our minds and make NO provisions for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.

I leave you with the Lord’s Word to His church in these critical hours before His imminent return:

“For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.

For when they say, “Peace and safety” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.  And they shall not escape.

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.

You are all sons of light and sons of he day.  We are not of the night nor of the darkness.

Threfore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.

For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.

But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:2-11 NKJV

  

24
Mar
08

Personal Finances: Be Very Cautious & Circumspect

As stories appear and then disappear regarding the current economic turmoil, it is extremely difficult to find reliable information that is not either too upbeat or too negative.  If one were to gather the top 100 economists in a room and asked them to give their thoughts on what is coming the rest of this year; one would get 100 different opinions.  There is precious little consensus concerning what is happening let alone what is going to happen.

Rarely is there any noteworthy financial news during the short week leading up to Easter.  Not this year.  Starting with the unprecedented Sunday evening announcement of JP Morgan Chase purchasing Bear Stearns to the Fed making a major announcement concerning rate cuts on a Sunday night, to the extreme market fluctuations during the four days of trading; it was quite a week.

Now the real work begins as the rush of reports detailing just how good or bad the economy is doing start coming out.  With each report the markets will ride the roller coaster of emotion and will probably show more of the wild swings seen last week.  There is no possible way anyone can put their finger on the pulse of the United States economy just yet.  Thus, is bound to be the incredible extremes of ordering CPR for the dying economy vs. trying to lift the resuscitated economy to its feet.

Many of the moves made by the Federal Reserve Board recently are bold if nothing else.   There is no way to gauge if they were the correct moves until more time goes by.  This is not what nervous investors want to hear.  They do not want to wait any longer to find out if they need to cut back or spend more; invest or divest, push the panic button or wait.  Nervous people are not good at manifesting patience.

An article appeared this evening on Yahoo news from two Associated Press writers that is probably the best and unbiased report I have seen in awhile concerning the mess we are in financially.  With great appreciation for their excellent work I refer you to this article:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080323/ap_on_bi_ge/economy_on_the_edge

As the long weeks unfold before the next major holiday at the end of May, this country will go through the depths of dismay and the heights of joy as major moves in the market seem to indicate one thing only to be replaced the next day by the opposite.  This manic/depressive behavior is not good for anyone.  It breeds a general feeling of uneasiness at the least and bitter anger at its worst.  Beneath it all is the gnawing doubt that seems to grow stronger every day that maybe this mess is REALLY as bad as some say it is.

This mess is far bigger than you or me.  We did not cause it and we cannot solve it.  All any of us can do is pray, prepare and be wise stewards of what we have.  Now is not the time to frivolous or stupid with assets.  Now is the time to be extremely careful with both spending as well as investing.  Now is the time to seek shelter in that which is safe and not that which is speculative.  Now is the time to stall any major decisions dealing with finances until the dust settles.

Depending upon how events pan out the next two months, everyone should be fairly clear on their personal course of action by Memorial Day.  The problem is the two months between now and then.  Unless you are a thrill seeker, I would assume the next two months should be spent as an observer more than an active player.  I would think that wisdom dictates stepping back and taking a wait and see attitude toward most financial matters.

  

20
Mar
08

The Final Four Based on Graduation Rates

We have embarked upon the annual ritual of “March madness”.  For the next three weeks, people think nothing of becoming fanatics for basketball teams attempting to become National Champions.  “Harmless fun”, some may call it.  “The reason for the season” others have described it.  “The real national pastime” many refer to it as.  No matter what one calls this silly phenomenon, it is far more devious than it appears.

A student is supposed to go to College to study, learn and receive a degree.  Every year, millions of College students do just that.  For the vast majority of students, their ability to attend College comes at a huge expense to their parents or themselves.  The four or five years it takes most people to graduate from College entails a financial sacrifice of epic proportions for many.  Some parents save money for 18 years just to provide their child with a College education.  Some students are still repaying student loans years after graduating from College.  Some students carry full case loads plus work full-time jobs just to pay for tuition.

There are two types of students which do not fit the above mentioned mold.  There are many students who attend College because “Daddy and Mommy” insisted.  In other words, their parents are very rich and demand their children get a College education.  The trouble is, since the student puts nothing into the process, they get little out of it.  College becomes a four year party zone or social club instead of the learning experience it was designed to be.

That leaves those who attend College on scholarships.  There are academic scholarships awarded to those with high grade point levels and who score very high on placement exams.  These students of course excel in College for learning is their life and they love to study and be excellent students.  The other types of scholarships are awarded to those whose talents will benefit the University.  Whether musical, dramatic or athletic; these scholarships though legitimate, can become grossly unfair.

When looking at the graduation rates for kids on athletic scholarships, the statistics are depressing.  Most major colleges see graduation rates at 50% or less, especially for basketball players.  Why is a student given a “free ride” to college to not graduate?  Why is the money spent on someone whose focus is entertainment and not learning?  You and I both know the answer, and it is disgusting.

Athletes are recruited and lured to attend a particular university for one reason only; and that is to make the athletic team greater so as to bring in more money.  For the most parts, the men we watch bouncing basketballs the next three weeks have been hired by their respective colleges to draw fans to games and make it to the “March madness” where the big bucks are.  For many of the kids playing the game, their only concern is displaying enough talent to land a NBA contract after one, or two years of college.  The whole system is terrible.

Why did a little school like Bucknell capture America’s fancy a couple of years ago?  It was in part because they upset Kansas, but more importantly it was because these were student athletes and not athletes who happened to go to class once or twice.  I recently read that of all the 64 teams in the NCAA tournament this year, Western Kentucky had the highest graduation rate of all.  Upon reading this, I now know who to “root for” in this silly tournament.  The other top schools are Butler, Notre Dame, Purdue, Davidson.  Herein lies my wish for the “final four” or as it is, the final five.

  

15
Mar
08

America’s Economic Chickens Coming Home to Roost

It seems that not a day goes by where there is not another scandal making headlines.  No more had the bombshell regarding New York’s Governor died down then the next bomb explodes on the Republican side of the aisle.  Once the dust settles and the amount of money fraudulently stolen by the RNC Treasurer is determined; this story will run longer than the Spitzer affair ever could.  That is until the next example of adjunct corruption hits the newswires. 

It seems that not a day goes by where there is not another huge story coming out of New York or Washington that proves conclusively the United States of America is in not only a recession, but possibly a depression.  The amount of money being hurled by the Federal Reserve Board at failing banks and other financial institutions is astounding.  Any sane person would ask the one burning question: Where does all this money come from? 

As long as the United States Government can print money, it can always print more if it wants to.  As the Dollar continues to fall, it takes more and more of those dollars to buy things, especially commodities such as gold and oil.  For years, gold could be purchased for around $400 per ounce.  In other words, it would take four $100 bills to buy an ounce of gold.  Suddenly the dollar loses ground in a hurry and instead of four $100 bills, it takes five, then six, then seven, then eight, and then nine and now it takes ten $100 bills to buy the exact same ounce of gold one could buy of four.  Again, the question becomes one of; where does the extra money come from to pay the inflated price?

If you went to the grocery store and bought a gallon of milk for $3 today, you would not think anything of it.  You had planned to pay that much for your milk.  But, what if next week when you go to the store the cost of that same gallon of milk is now $4?  Somewhere and from some place you must find an extra $1 to pay for the milk.  Now what happens if the same thing happens with bread, eggs, cheese, meat and every other item on your grocery list?  Instead of a grocery bill of $100 which was budgeted for, the bill for the identical items is now $130.  Somewhere one must find an extra $30 or put back on the shelf $30 of items.

What if you managed to find the extra $30 only to find that the cost to fill your car up with gas suddenly increased from $40 to $60?  Now you must find an extra $20 for gas.  Upon returning home, you see the electric bill arrived.  Upon opening the envelope you see the rates increased 20% and the bill is $50 more than expected.  Also in the stack of bills is the dreaded credit card bills that used to be paid in full each month.  Guess where the “extra” money to pay the increased costs of everything else will come from?

When there is no extra money available, and there is a dramatic price increase in things such as food or fuel; the difference has to be made up from somewhere.  The only way to make ends meet is to either cut back or borrow more.  Since most of us don’t want to (or can’t) cut back any more than we have, that leaves borrowing.  To inspire us to borrow more, the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates.  Somehow this is to spur corporations and individuals to borrow more so as to spend more at inflated prices to keep the economy going.

The United States Government already spends far more than it takes in due to silly wars and pet pork projects.  The economy starts to stall.  IRS income starts to fall.  What is the Government’s answer?  First they “bless” most citizens of this country with a little check with the stipulation it is to be spent on something you don’t need so as to get the economy going again.  Then it dumps over 200 billion dollars into banks and other financial institutions to prop them up so they don’t go bankrupt.  Then they announce they will keep doing this as long as it takes to stabilize the economy.

Meanwhile, the country goes deeper into debt as it just keeps printing more “funny money”.  The more money is printed, the less it is worth.  The less it is worth, the more it takes to purchase anything.  This vicious cycle could go on indefinitely if not for the fact that other countries see what is happening and start selling their dollars while they still can get something for them.  The more dollars are sold, the less they sell for. 

If you had a $100 bill 50 years ago, it was backed by $100 of gold.  In other words, the country had to have something “hard” to back up its desire to print more money.  Ever since the country went off the gold standard in the 1960’s, the temptation has always been there to turn the printing presses up to high and print more and more money.  Why not?  There is nothing to attach it to.

Every country which has fallen into depression sees its currency lose its value and soon become worth less than the paper it’s printed on.  It happened in Germany, it happened in Mexico and it is happening in the United States of America this very day.  The reason gold, oil and other commodities have spiked in price is because it take so many more U.S. dollars to buy them.  Have you priced a Japanese car recently? 

Sooner or later the bubble will burst and the reality of the whole situation will settle in upon families all over this land.  When it does, the instinctive reaction will be workers wanting higher wages to pay for the higher priced goods they need and want.  If the employers start giving higher wages they then must charge more for their products to pay for the higher wages.  Thus the vicious cycle begins.

This country somehow endured two of these cycles within ten years of each other in 1974 and again in 1980.  The unfortunate reality of the whole situation is that most of those who can remember the impact of those two periods of high inflation are retired or passed away.  The current batch of young adults were not even born in 1974 let alone remember anything about “wage and price” controls and only getting gasoline every other day.

Sooner or later the “chickens will come home to roost” when it comes to economic policy.  If the Federal Reserve Board would have only RAISED interest rates six months ago, the country would have rebounded by now from a short recession and be well on its way to a period of nice growth.  But, the Fed opted to go for the “quick bounce” lowering interest rates provides.  The trouble is, with each bounce, the ball is going flatter and flatter.  Soon, if not already, there will be no bounce for the ball will be out of air.

Shortsighted economic policies yield long standing problems.  The irresponsible actions of the Federal Reserve Board would have gotten all involved fired long ago if it were a private company.  But, since no one controls the Fed, it can do pretty much whatever it wants, and it has. 

No matter who says what to try and keep things looking “up”, there is only one way this country can head, and that is DOWN.  I wish it were not so, but mistakes have a way of piling up and there have been a ton of them made by all levels of Government, greedy investors and ignorant people who keep covering their eyes and pretending things are not as bad as they look.  Guess what, it is time to open our eyes, evaluate and take appropriate actions to protect ourselves from what is coming. 

13
Mar
08

One Day -Two Bombshells: What Has This Country Come To?

We live in a society that daily spirals further and further downhill.  It seems with each new “crisis of ethics”, the collective conscience of America becomes more and more hardened and incapable of responding with any degree of righteousness.  The current situation in New York should, but won’t, send a wakeup call across America that those entrusted with being their leaders are morally bankrupt and unworthy of support.

It is truly astounding to me that there are millions of people saying what the Governor of New was caught doing should not be consider illegal or immoral.  Calls for the legalization of “his crimes” are being made by the minute all across the land.  Cries for “tolerance” and “forgiveness” are being raised by the very same people who would gladly crucify someone of the other political party for far lesser evils.  In every aspect of the current situation in New York it provides a text book example for hypocrisy.

Once again, if people would just allow the Bible to speak for itself, there would be ample proof that what is going on is indicative of the demise of this nation.  Those still waiting for some political turn around will be waiting a long time.  Far too many huge sections of this country are manipulated and totally governed by the lies and wickedness of people the devil has gotten elected through deceiving the people into electing them.

I believe God as ordained all this corruption to be prevalent now because the end is near.  What else are we to believe?  There is no changing the direction this country is heading in.  The course has been set and all the fervent prayers of all the Christians in this country are not going to change the destination.   The moral backbone of this country is broken and a country cannot stand with a broken moral back.

The Center for Disease Control announced today that one out of every four teenage girls in this country has an active STD case.  One out of every two black teenage girls has a STD.   As much as the insane situation in New York infuriates me, this bombshell from the CDC today is devastating.  The repercussions from this announcement will ring loud and clear for quite some time.   The moral decay in this country has gotten down to the teenage level and now the inevitable consequences are appearing.

In both of the above mentioned items, the overwhelming reaction from people is “oh well, what does it have to do with me”.  The apathy in this country is beyond description.  I guarantee you that far more people in this country were rejoicing because the stock market went up over 400 points than were aroused to anger or alarm over either the New York or CDC announcement.  Americans have turned into a selfish and apathetic lot for sure.

What can Christians do about either of these situations?  Very little regarding the New York one, unless living there.  We have established that Christians should not be puritans but by the same token we have a right to cry out when ethics are breeched and what is left of any morality in this country is tossed in the trash.  It is time for the millions of silent Christians to at least let the opposition know we are still here and are repulsed by the flagrant abuse of authority and hypocrisy being manifested by one after another elected official and others in positions of leadership.

As far as the CDC situation, Christians better lift their heads out of sand long enough to see what is going on in their schools and the parties their teenage daughters go to.  I shudder to think of what is happening even right now as millions of unsupervised teenagers are on or going on spring break.   The answer is not to impose some legalistic law, for it never works.  Christian parents need to take the time to work with their children, especially teenage girls and instruct them on WHY they are to “say no” instead of threatening them or laying down laws that are bound to be broken.

I would not want to be a teenager going to a public school having made a “chastity vow”.  The peer pressure is overwhelming and the temptations are everywhere.  That is why home schooling cannot be allowed to be killed off by the decision in California last week.  Our children need somewhere to be educated away from the pure evil that occupies many inner city public schools.  Everywhere and on all fronts the enemy is attacking.  His greatest joy comes when Christians do nothing but complain.  Apathy is one of his greatest weapons.

With each new horrible thing that unfolds in this country, my respect for groups such as the Amish grows stronger.  Although I take issue with their “forced legalism”, I highly respect the fact that they have kept their culture and their beliefs in spite of public ridicule, scorn and gawking.  Many of these groups are simply trying to lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty.  I find nothing wrong with such a noble idea, especially in light of the bombshells dropped in the past day.