Are These the End Times?

Eclipse

Wars. Terrorism. Earthquakes. Increasing racial and political tension. Even a solar eclipse! Some people may be wondering, “Are these the end times? These must be signs that we’re nearing the end, and Jesus’ return is soon!”

In what is known as the “Olivet Discourse” (because the conversation took place on the Mount of Olives), Jesus addressed the end times with a small group of his apostles. That conversation is relayed for us in Mark 13. Here are a few of the highlights:

“Do you see these great buildings (the Temple)? Not one stone will be left upon another—all will be thrown down.”

“Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t be alarmed; these things must take place, but it is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.”

“But in those days, after that tribulation: The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light; the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. He will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“Now concerning that day or hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven nor the Son—but only the Father. Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is coming.”

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Will They Mourn Your Loss?

Three Crosses

I’ve had the honor to attend many funerals as a pastor. Some funerals are marked by deep loss and pain. Others are highlighted by joyful hope. Faithful Christians leave a strong legacy behind them because they lived their lives in order to encourage and strengthen others. These services are full of stories and “remember when’s” that, though told through tears, radiate a deep joy and hope because that person’s life was shaped by their faith in Jesus Christ.

I am convinced the worst thing that can happen is not to be hated, but to be forgotten. This is why children who crave attention would rather have negative attention (discipline and punishment) than to be ignored.

The Bible gives a clear warning through the life of King Jehoram in 2 Chronicles 21,

“When Jehoram had established himself over his father’s kingdom, he strengthened his position by killing with the sword all his brothers as well as some of the princes of Israel…. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, but for the sake of the covenant the Lord had made with David, he was unwilling to destroy the house of David since the Lord had promised to give a lamp to David and to his sons forever…. Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king; he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. He died to no one’s regret and was buried in the city of David but not in the tombs of the kings.”

Jehoram got ahead in life – he had money, power, and position. But he lost it all, because it was gained by his own might and for his own benefit. The LORD only showed him grace because of His covenant with David. Eventually, God struck Jehoram down and the people rejoiced. His life and legacy serves as a warning for each of us today.

Rather than living to set up our own kingdoms, may we be remembered as faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). This is the Christian calling: To know Christ and to make him known.

Here are three characteristics I’ve observed about the faithful men and women who have left godly legacies.

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Faith is Not a Good Idea

Jim grew up in church and still believes most of what he learned there, but his life doesn’t look like you might expect. He cusses, drinks more than he should, has been known to sleep around on occasion, and hasn’t gone to church (or read the Bible) in well over a decade. But overall, he’s a good guy who tries to look after his friends as best he can. When Jim hears coworkers talking about religion, he often jumps in to offer the “Christian perspective.” He considers himself a Christian (although he’s quick to admit “I’m a bad Christian”).

While friends like Jim don’t really care what label you give them, it’s worth our time to figure out what’s going on when religious ideas seems to get confused as faith.

Sears Tower

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

What is Faith?
The Bible defines faith this way,

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)

Faith isn’t simply a “good idea.” It’s assurance and conviction in what is unseen. The visible is interpreted through the lens of the unseen – faith shapes life.

  • Because God is holy – I live my life to worship and honor him
  • Because God is merciful and gracious – I am accepted because of his provision, not my performance
  • Because God is the judge – I live according to his law
  • Because God is faithful – I will trust him even in the midst of suffering
  • Because the Bible is God’s Word – I will read it, understand it to the best of my ability, and obey it as the very word of God

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The Gospel is For the Street

What good is faith if it only survives in a sterile environment? The gospel belongs not only in our pulpits but on the streets .

Faith shapes life, gives meaning, and inspires hope. If the gospel is only good news to those whose lives are middle-class, then is it truly “good news?” The gospel applies to addicts, the homeless, and to the marginalized.

Jesus came to bring life to the hopeless, rescue for the perishing, and dignity for the beggar. If these are the people whom Jesus came to serve and give his life for, shouldn’t they be welcomed in our churches and in our theologizing?

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What God Doesn’t Promise

Karon Stones

Don’t hold God to promises he never made. God is trustworthy to keep his promise, but it won’t be quick, easy, or fully explained. Will still you trust him?

  • We know God never promised an easy life, but then we wonder why he allows us to suffer?
  • We know God never promised to answer every prayer with an immediate, “Yes!” But we struggle with unanswered prayers.
  • And we know we were never promised perfect health or healing, but the physical pain we (and those we care about) seems more than we can bear.

I’ve seen a lot of people get derailed in life and in faith, because they were holding God to promises he never made… and then life got difficult and God didn’t just “fix” it, so they lost their faith. There’s this verse in the end of Joshua that I read a few months ago that’s been stuck in my head. At this point, Israel has come out from Egypt with Moses, and then Moses died and Joshua led Israel through the conquest where they conquered the people living in the Promised Land and the tribes have now all received their land.

“So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their fathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side according to all he had sworn to their fathers. None of their enemies were able to stand against them, for the LORD handed over all their enemies to them. None of the good promises the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed. Everything was fulfilled.”
Joshua 21:43–45 CSB

It’s a remarkable thing to think… “None of the good promises the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed. Everything was fulfilled.” This isn’t pointing back to God’s promise to free Israel from slavery in Egypt; it’s anchored in God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3.

Here are three reminders about God’s Promises.  Continue reading

How Can I Know I’m Really Saved?

Hitchhiking

It was “cry night” at camp and I was the only kid in my cabin who wasn’t crying and who didn’t go forward for the altar call. Upon returning to our cabin for discussions and prayer all eyes turned to me, as if they were asking, “Mike, what’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you go up? Should we be concerned about you?” I simply explained that I’m already a Christian and didn’t feel the need to go forward and recommit my life to Christ since I’m already trying to live for him. I didn’t understand why my friends kept going forward every summer.

Since that time, I’ve realized that many struggle with security of their salvation. They question whether or not they have saving faith, or if they’ll be one of those to whom Jesus says, “depart from me, for I never knew you.”

Here are a few questions to consider if you (or someone you care about) struggle to have security of your salvation.  Continue reading

The Christian & Social Media

Social Media Apps

We spend more time on social media than we want to admit. Because of that, it’s worth asking, “How does my faith in Christ influence what I post online?”

First, let me be clear: not everything in social media needs to be serious. Have fun. Post silly pictures. Share funny stories. But in the midst of the silliness, shouldn’t we still be thoughtful about how we are reflecting Christ online?

The following is a short set a questions that has been helpful for me based off Micah 6:8, which says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Does it promote justice and kindness?

  • Is this post honest about life, or is it an edited version that I want to show people in an effort to look awesome? Is this post reflecting the “American Dream” or the life of Christ?
  • Does this post reflect God’s Word and what He has said about mercy, justice, love and godliness? Or does this reflect false expectations about how the world talks about those things?
  • Am I genuinely seeking to make people aware of injustice, or am I hopping on the latest bandwagon? Is this a real case on injustice, or has someone simply been offended? There’s a difference between being offended and suffering injustice.
  • Is this post written in a way that is thoughtful and will not cause unnecessary offense? Sometimes in our efforts to raise awareness or add commentary, the way in which we say things is so thoughtless our actual point gets overshadowed.

Does it reflect humility?

  • Am I being self-promoting right now? As a blogger this one is tricky, because I want people to read what I write, but I need to be writing it in order to help people (not in order to make a name for myself).
  • Am I only thinking about people who are like me, or am I posting this with those who are different from me in mind? If someone voices disagreement (even if it’s over an issue I care deeply about), will I immediately get defensive or aggressive, or will I honestly consider their viewpoint?
  • If I’m posting something that may be offensive to some, am I sharing this because it is truly worth the possible offense or backlash?
  • Can you experience something great or something terrible without posting about it? If your first though is, “I need to share this,” then you may need to dig deeper into Christ-exalting humility.

Does it help people walk faithfully with God?

  • Does your post direct people towards the good news of Jesus Christ? If our lives should point to Christ, then shouldn’t our online profiles?
  • Is your social media filled with complaints, gripes, and rants? Or is it full of posts that highlight everything amazing about your life? Both of these extremes drive people away from worship (because either God is faithless to his children, or your life is so amazing you simply don’t need him). There is glorious hope in the daily grind of living for Christ.
  • Are you posting so frequently about controversial topics that you’ve become a “social justice warrior” rather than an evangelist? If you constantly blast people with certain political/justice issues then they will not listen when you speak about Jesus… you will be tuned out.
  • If someone scanned through your social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), would they see someone whose life reflects Christ? This doesn’t mean you only and always share Christian-themed posts, but it does mean your profiles display the joys and trials (and the normalcy) of someone who is following Christ.

Again, don’t allow these questions to lead you to think social media needs to be all serious. It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t be. And yet, I hope these three main questions help you evaluate whether or not your social media platforms need to be recalibrated.

If there are other guidelines you frequently use to determine whether or not to share something online, please leave them in the comments below.