Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Friday, January 03, 2003

"This just in: the Antichrist is (garbled)."

Ah, the thumiparousians - those who have an inordinate love for all things end times. It is normal to long for the return of Christ, as testified by 2 Timothy 4:7-8: "7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." But there is a serious modern twist which works to distract believers by an inordinate fascination for the fulfillment of prophecy in the recent era. This is not only personally distracting, but excites disdain for Christians in general, discrediting us unnecessarily. With this deception in mind, Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2: "1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come." He goes on to define what must occur before anyone can assume the Day of the Lord (the end times, the Great Tribulation) has come. It is the obvious and worldwide revelation of the Antichrist, the "man of lawlessness." No other "sign" of the end times is valid. Paul urges his Thessalonian readers to retain their composure, and then he defines the one prophecy that matters. I believe that any other prophecy, matched with what we might read in the newspaper or hear from a preacher, poses a distinct danger to our spiritual momentum.

There is a proper way to love the appearing of Christ, which Paul also reveals in Titus 2:11-13: "11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus..." Verse 12 is definitive. "Deny ungodliness and live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age." In other words, follow God's plan: through His word and the power of the Holy Spirit conform your life to the very character image of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In that way, you are totally ready for His return.

Courage and Faith

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Here is a part of my New Year's Eve message, given (of all times) last evening:

With respect to the year ahead, do not fear.

Doctrine of Fear, Introduction
A. Definitions from the Brittanica Dictionary:
1. “An emotion excited by threatening evil or impending pain, accompanied by a desire to avoid or escape it; apprehension; dread.”
2. “Reverence for constituted authority, especially when accompanied by obedience thereto.; as, the fear of God.”
B. From the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: “Expressions containing words of the phobos group always describe a reaction to man’s encounter with force. The scale of reactions ranges from spontaneous terror and anxiety to honour and respect, which already presupposes master of the experience through reflection. Hence evaluation of the reaction of fear is closely bound up with the understanding of one’s own existence. It also offers access to the religious self-understanding of specific individuals and groups.”
C. Fear, worry, anxiety, and insecurity are universal problems for all human beings, believer and unbeliever alike.
D. Fear comes in three categories: Fear of loss, fear of exclusion, fear of pain or difficulty.
1. Fear of loss is related to those things which we have, such as life, property, and so on.
2. Fear of exclusion is related to those things which we don't have, and fear that we never will.
a. For the single person, it's a fear that he'll never marry.
b. For the poor, it's a fear that he'll never the the lifestyle he desires.
3. The fear of pain or difficulty is the natural idea of the avoidance of those things which are painful or difficult to bear.
4. The more you surrender to fear, the more things you will come to fear. The more you surrender to fear the more power fear has in your life.
5. The fear of death is an example where the three are combined. In death you fear both loss and exclusion.
E. The central question is this: are we to fear God as we fear danger, death, and evil?
1. You see, Scripture describes fear as a sin, and there are many passages which prohibit fear.
a. Romans 8:15 “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"”
b. 2 Corinthians 7:15 “His affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.”
c. Hebrews 2:14-15, “14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”
d. 1 Peter 3:6, “just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”
2. But there is one passage that rings clear above the others as the surpassing principle concerning fear, which is 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”
3. And yet, at the same time, time and again, the fear of God is regarded as a good thing. What’s with this apparent contradiction?
4. The solution comes in two parts.
a. First is the principle of the transformation of fear before God.
b. Second is this principle: that fear of God and other categories of fear are mutually exclusive.

God has given us the grace to transform the fears of this world into a godly sense of awe. It is by truth that we develop love for Him, the true and awesome fear of God, which eradicates all other categories of fear.

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

The past week our family has been engaged in a massive field day (you former Marines know exactly what that is) and re-org. The kitchen is completely reorganized, and I don't want to tell you what we found and threw out of our basement, but it was a scary amount of stuff, decades old. Only the garage now remains, and it, like Saddam, knows its days are numbered. D-Day is Monday, H-Hour is 0700. A sizeable force of brooms, boxes, and shelves lies ready. The garage cannot stand against the Arsenal of Democracy.

It is a fine thing to do at the turn of the year - out with the old... and hopefully not in with much new junk.

The intake of truth is just like that, I think. A key feature of spiritual momentum is that your intake and application of God's word is daily exceeding your intake and application from Satan's world system. When you combine consistent and swift confession of sin with that positive intake equation, you go far towards cleaning out the basement of your soul, removing destructive emotions and sinful tendencies that lurk even below the surface of consciousness. Every day the old ways of thinking go out as trash, and they are supplanted by the effulgent health of the mental attitude dynamics of the Bible. This is God's plan for your life, no matter who you are, or where you've been.

Tonight I am teaching a special lesson on New Year's Eve. A reflection of Thanksgiving, and an anticipation of the Fear of God.