We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty… And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:16, 19 NIV)

Since Adam and Eve, the weakness of listening to humans rather than obeying God has been a major character defect. We swallow cleverly invented stories and disregard the prophets. Masters of argument take the spotlight while truth-tellers are denied an invitation.

One evening, after a rousing performance before a Christian crowd, I asked a popular preacher a simple question: “According to the Bible, who will appear first to receive the praise of millions of adoring worshipers. Is it the Antichrist, or will it be Jesus Christ?” Then I listened for his answer. There was a long pause. I was non-confrontational, but it was a direct question, one for which every believer should have a ready answer. I posed this important question to a preacher who boasts of hundreds of memorized Scriptures.

Instead of saying Christ will come first or the Antichrist, the Pre-tribulation Rapture (PTR) teacher and preacher replied, “You are Pre-Wrath Rapture (PWR) aren’t you? I know all about Rosenthal and the other guy.” (He was referring to Marvin Rosenthal and Robert Van Kampen, the pioneers who first presented the PWR position.) My question was deflected by his. Instead of answering with the Bible, I was labeled. Our conversation was officially over.

Do not confuse good preachers or debaters with sincere truth-seekers. Truth-seekers are humble. They do no self-promoting and little talking. They listen and ask probing questions. Like the Bereans with Paul, in Acts 17:11, “…they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  They examined the Word, not the playbook, not the notes, or the book on the Bible by their favorite author. For the Bereans there was only one source of authority, what we call the Old Testament.

Herein, lies a major problem with contemporary Christianity. We have piled up learning on the New Testament, but we lack the knowledge that serves as a foundation for truth. Most of the first 39 books of the Bible are missing from our faith. As a result, our building only goes up 27 floors and starts on the 40th floor. How can we discern truth from error if, in Jesus’ words, a rebuke to the Sadducee’s, “You don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God”? So preachers or teachers can say whatever and call it New Testament doctrine, but it does not square with Genesis through Malachi. One of the five basic rules of interpretation is “Before we arrive at truth, all seeming Scriptural contradictions must be harmonized.” This rule applies to all of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Let’s return to the question I gave the preacher. It is my way of separating truth-seekers from dogmatists or ideologues. If a PTR follower answers “the Antichrist,” then they have undermined their keystone “any-moment return of Christ” argument. If they say Christ appears first, they are in error. (Consider for a moment the implications of being wrong.) The reactions are interesting when I offer prophetic evidence for the truth:

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together with him, do not let anyone deceive you… for that day cannot come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)

Truth-seekers will take it in, examine the passage and ask for more. In that case, we could go to Daniel 7:23-27 and 8:23-25, then follow up with Matthew 24:15-31. It is my experience years of human indoctrination will outweigh the Biblical contradictions. A truth-seeker is a rare and priceless jewel. They will appreciate the correction.

(Amillennialists who reject a literal interpretation of end times prophecy are even more difficult. They have been taught to use reason and dismiss everything pertaining to Jesus’ glorious return to earth.)

Most trained in PTR doctrine are cult-like. They muddy the water then shift focus from Paul’s teaching in 2 Thessalonians 2. Some become upset. Some use insults or change the subject and walk away. They teach Bible study three times a week, yet are unwilling to acknowledge the truth. They “cherry-pick” the Bible looking for support of what they believe. They avoid Scriptures that challenge their version of the truth.

Recently, God led me to a Christian TV program where I witnessed PTR experts in action. There was no real debate of opposing views. Instead, the moderator posed PWR arguments, serving them up like softballs to his expert guest. My interest was piqued when the moderator went to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3. There was no reading of the passage or breaking it down or comparing it with other Scripture. There was only a general statement that Paul’s teaching was being used against the PTR position.

The guest was ready. Words came faster than the mind could process. He said, “So glad you asked me” as if the question was not prearranged. Each sentence could have been challenged, but the format made it impossible. After a verbal barrage, the expert cited a meaning for the Greek apostasia, in verse 3. Most English translations have “apostasy”, “the falling away” or “the rebellion”. His translator was an unknown (probably a PTR advocate) who translated apostasia “departure.” That was all the guest needed. With a word like “departure” that could mean “departure from the truth,” he gave it a twist and out came an emphatic “the saints depart, and there is your Pre-tribulation Rapture!”

Everyone on the show was happy. They went home satisfied PTR was right; their argument won. Clever. A brilliant invention. The only casualty was truth.

What went wrong? We have to go to Jeremiah in the Old Testament to hear it from God.

A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it that way. But what will they do in the end? (Jeremiah 5:30-31)

What will the masters of argument, or their disciples who love their ways, do in the end?

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. (2 Timothy 3:6-7 NIV)

Decades ago, I went to a mechanic for help with a “knocking” noise in my automobile. He convinced me the only solution was to replace the engine. As it turned out, I needed an oil change. The expensive fix was prescribed by a man with clever speech. There was nothing clever about my friend who changed my oil and saved me a lot of grief.

In Part 1, I attempted to highlight a group of very clever people. They are gifted talkers and writers. They love to dominate political and spiritual discussions. They have mastered a strategy for winning arguments. They are skillful at deception persuading trusting souls into making unwise decisions.

In terms of their argument, I want to break down what I have observed: First, they are acknowledged as experts. (Who can disagree with an expert?) As an authority they are able to frame their argument (ex. climate change is man-made, it is a woman’s right to choose because it’s her body, the Russians interfered with the U.S. election, etc.) Whoever frames the argument dictates the direction.

Next, I notice they talk fast.  After their initial premise they rip off several other assertions in rapid-fire order. The pace is so fast the first point usually gets lost, therefore, it cannot be addressed separately.

Generally, they stress their first assertion is “accepted by scholars” so who dares question it. In other words, one would have to be a heretic to disagree. It comes out like this: “Of course, we know that…” and goes from there. The second point is built on the foundational statement–disputable though it may be. Since they launch a continuous string of sentences, it is impossible to interject without sounding rude.  Three or four questionable statements can be made while thinking of the first faulty assumptions. (My mind tried to wrap around the idea of an engine replacement while the mechanic droned on about the why.)

(Note: If the foundation is laid on an error, all that follows has to be wrong also. In logic, a premise that creates a diversion is known as “a straw man”.)

The next thing I notice is how arguers subtly misrepresent their opponent’s position. (“Did you really say in your book…?) Twisting some words, attaching meaning to a sentence other than the one the writer intended, or taking a statement out of context, are all techniques to undermine credibility. They make the opponent look bad and place them on the defensive. No writer or speaker wants to be misunderstood or accused of questionable orthodoxy. Trying to correct the record leads to the next phase of the attack.

Once their opponent defensively tries to explain themselves, the arguer shuts them down. (For example, the arguer will say, “May I finish! I did not interrupt you! Please  allow me to at least complete my thought? Thank you!”) The arguer is cool and controlled while their opponent suffers a rebuke. To remain on the attack, the arguer inserts little digs, such as, “I know you are an educated man, but surely, you do not believe what you just said.” The attempt is to make the opponent feel small.

Imagine what it is like to be the opponent. To stay above the attack is a challenge. To the arguer, opponents must be humiliated. From where does the hostility come?  For arguers it is war. The goal is to win. Prestige among their peers follows. Who then, according to Ephesians 6:12, are the arguers serving?

More could be added including the circular reasoning often employed. Be aware of the arguers strategy, but, in humility, eagerly pursue truth. Stand to defend truth, speak it in love and take the abuse. It isn’t always about winning.

In Part 3, we will present a diagnostic question with which we can determine if the people with whom we share it are truth-seekers or unable to acknowledge the truth.

 

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight… for they have rejected the law of God Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.   (Isaiah 5:20-21, 24a NIV)

Our world is full of clever-sounding arguments. Since there is nothing new under the sun, we should not be surprised to learn that Paul served under similar conditions. Perhaps, when he taught in Corinth, the Apostle felt he “lost” his share of arguments.  Silver-tongued orators who opposed the gospel may have clearly out-talked him.

Those times that Paul “lost” the argument, he explained himself in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5: “When I came to you, my brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but but on God’s power.”

As it was then, we may witness proclaimers of truth trembling like Paul as they engage skillful debaters. Some get scorched while others are burned. In your mind, who wins?

In the political arena, persuasion is an art form and the end-all. It is accomplished not simply with words, but with how “wise” and cleverly those words are presented. In America, we have 24-hour TV and radio news offering their perspective on the day’s events. Frequent ideological guests acquire a nickname of “talking head.” They are mercenaries. They have honed their craft and earned reputations for winning arguments. If it is a “con” position, they mercilessly rip into the opponent. If they are asked to speak on the “pro” side, then instantly, a switch is flipped and wise and persuasive words come forth.

Where is truth in all of this? Is it okay to defend and deceive if it favors a certain point of view? And what of truth? The news media has created a breed of professional verbal assassins, often disguised as journalists.  They are paid well to silence and shame the enemy. They are exalted for the notches on their belt, or, like the World War I flying ace, achieved fame for the big names they’ve shot down.

Let’s switch to the contemporary Christian scene where we have a parallel universe to the political world. It pains me to say, but in the name of Christ, the same rabid, cult-like behavior exists. I’m not referring to sub-Christian cults–of which there are many– but the lesser known, such as “the King James-only” crowd and the doctrinal purists who scour the data looking for dirt or who light and release fiery darts at godly pastors and teachers. (Am I at risk of making their hit list or is my name already in their enemy file?)

“Send the trained troops out. Attack spiritual foes. Defend the ‘unassailable’. Smile at the camera. Post the impressive resume of positions, plaudits and degrees. Display the sharp wit and smooth tongue. Show, O master of argument, you are more than ready for war.”

They go wherever a microphone can be found. They practiced for hours and constantly rehearse. They eagerly destroy those whose way, truth and life differs from their own. They are the sole-arbiters of orthodoxy. They are the proud, intellectual Christian elite.

How foolish to engage the all-wise arguer in a verbal joust! They debated many weak and fearful foes, and have yet to lose. Among their peers, they have won acclaim, but are they truth-seekers? Do they tremble at God’s word. Woe to them if the answer is no!

Next, in Part 2, we hope to expose the masters of deception that lurk in the church.

Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. (Psalm 119:165 NIV)

#  Many, like myself, can look in the mirror and find a few things ugly that can be changed. The solution is not to throw away all the mirrors, but to do something about it. If nothing can be done, I must learn to accept it.

The Bible is our mirror for our soul. Will we open God’s word and face the ugliness that lurks within? Then will we bravely do what is needful to beautify our inner being?

Sadly, most avoid God’s “mirror”. They never open the Word or never have a friend who’ll tell them the truth.

Avoiding self-examination is like going to the fun-house and picking the distorted mirror of our choice.  Reading only favorite Scriptures or devotionals that pump us up and build our self-esteem, will never expose the ugly that needs changed. We may end up thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, but rather think of yourselves with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given. (Romans 12:3b). Too high of an opinion is no better than too low.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. (James 1:23-24)

#  Step 5 “…requires not only that we admit to ourselves the exact nature of our wrongs, but that we embark on an honest self-evaluation of our faults.” AA’s 12 Steps.

#  Freedom to be you, is the best gift I can give. Helping you to be the best you can be is your best gift to me.

# Am I a Christ-follower? Better to ask someone who knows me well. “You will know them by their fruit?”  (cf. Galatians 5:22-23)

#  Love is never wasted. It may not be returned, but heaven’s reward comes not so much in the receiving of love as in its giving.

#  Am I teachable? Is the person I want to reach teachable? If the answer to both is “no”, then God and I are wasting our time.

Do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6)  

#  The ultimate test for foolishness: “Do I fear God?” (Psalm 14:1, Proverbs 14:27)

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. (Proverbs 26:4)

#  I want to follow you, Lord.

  • Are you willing to carry your cross?
  • Are you willing to drink from my cup?
  • Are you willing to suffer injustice?
  • Are you willing to be despised?
  • Are you willing to forsake all?
  • Are you willing to be considered a sheep to be slaughtered?

Yes, Lord, I am willing.

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)

#  Hurt people, hurt people.

#  Subversion = Attacking the head; Undermining God’s established order; Discrediting or De-legitimizing the one in charge by spreading slander, innuendo and/or discontent.

#  Who is the enemy? The person we have in the cross-hairs, ready to shoot.

#  The problem goes way back. All the way back to the Garden and the Fall.

#  Love covers a multitude of sins. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love always protects, always trusts, and always hopes. Love always perseveres. Love never fails. If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, then I’m only clanging brass (i.e. noise).

#  Commandment #4- “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”

Commandment #5- “Honor your father and your mother so it may go well…”       (Dishonor= Causing grief, shame, tears and anguish)

#  Forgiveness?-  Yes, always. Unconditional. It’s there before the asking.

Reconciliation?-  Conditional. I’m all for it if there is an acknowledgement of past wrongs.

Restoration?-  It’s possible, but not the usual outcome. If there is restoration it has to be over time. Repentance, as in godly sorrow, has to be tested. Even with that, restoration will never match what could have been. Scars are a blemish on perfection. They evidence that there, indeed, was a wound at one time.

Forgive my I.O.U. I cannot repay.- Yes, absolutely, just as Christ forgave mine. It’s gone.

Reconcile?-  Maybe we can be friendly, but only if you sincerely admit your fault.

Restoration?- In time, we may possibly re-establish a small amount of credit, but only if there has been an effort to earn my trust. Our relationship may never be what it could have been. If you demand I believe in you to the fullest and ignore our past, then I see a red flag.

#  World views. We all have one. What’s my world view based upon? Is it truth and love?

Looking through my everyday prism, what do I see? Love or hate? Trust or distrust? Peace or fear? The content of a person’s character or the color of their skin? Do I see your heart?

#  Obedience is God’s love language. Love the Lord your God = Obey Him and keep his laws.

#  Gatherer or Scatterer? Uniter or Divider? Unity, peace and freedom must be fought for.

#  No individual is greater than the team. Fellowship with His family lives in God’s heart.

#  Accusations = The accuser of the brethren.  Condemnation = Who is he who condemns?

#  The devil is a deceiver (liar, father of all falsehoods) and a murderer (destroyer, father of all hate). It is a package deal. If we open our heart to one of his traits, we must accept both.

#  Love and hate are our inheritance as part of God’s image. Question is this: Does our love reflect His love and do we hate what our Lord hates? The devil perverts love and hate so we have it all wrong: He would have us love what God detests and hate what He deems good.

#  No wounds? No scars? Then I must not have upset the enemy. The devil leaves alone those who pose no threat. Are only good things said about me? Then I should be aware. I must not be any different than the false prophets who spoke only good things. The truth ruffles feathers. With conviction comes an angry look. Plans to meet are cancelled.

#  Battle-ready = Wearing the whole armor of God. (Don’t go anywhere without it.)

#  How many of God’s most trusted and tested servants have been attacked from within their own family? All of them? If so, it must go with the territory.

# # #  Next time, Part 2.

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 NIV)

In America, some speech is unwelcome. Things turned violent in early February at the University of California at Berkley.  Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to address some students interested in hearing his political views. In a show of displeasure, students opposed to Mr. Yiannopoulos’ position on the issues,  set fires and smashed windows while U.C.-Berkley police passively watched. Dare we say the talk was cancelled. Days later, the demonstrators pronounced the Anti-Milo protest “stunningly successful”.

On other campuses, such as Vermont’s Middlebury College, disruptions have become more violent. A professor was treated for a neck injury after helping a libertarian political commentator escape the student mob.  Preventing the airing of opposing political views has become the newest student cause celebre. Censorship is not just coming from students. A professor at Marquette University last year was placed under review and relieved of all faculty and teaching duties for publicly supporting a student’s right to defend traditional marriage. Marquette, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a Jesuit Catholic institution.

Protests to throttle free speech, unleash diatribe and overturn elections have taken to the streets. The anti-hate crowd is acting very hateful. Disagree with one of their orthodoxies, and you are automatically branded a bigot, racist, sexist, homophobe, etc., etc.  Does anyone think this bodes well for our future as a democracy? What are they angry about? Why do some feel obligated to prevent free speech? Why the fear of words?

My concerns for this country, and its liberties, are not mine alone. The concerns don’t end there. Of all places, differing views on Scripture are not usually welcomed in the church. Instead, most pastors practice the “binary solution”:  My way or the High-way.

Since not all concepts are equally valid, a balance is required. Being heard is one thing, and being persuasive is another. The Areopagus in Athens was a gathering place for diverse opinions and philosophies. Paul spoke there (Acts 17:22-34). He did a masterful job of connecting popular beliefs (ex. “the unknown god”) to Christian faith. When he finished, some wanted to hear more.

Paul found common ground then, from it, he built a case for the gospel. Today rabble-rousers purposely cause a media spectacle and take over a meeting. They shout down the headline speakers and black-ball from their assemblies anyone with whom they do not fully agree.

The last days’ doctrine of The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (PWR) is an example of a Christian controversy. PWR wins over Biblical-minded Christians when given the opportunity to be fairly presented to objective minds. I am a witness. So what are we afraid of? Why not freely debate the Scriptures so we can come to unity in the faith?

As with left-wing radicals, the popular Pre-tribulation Rapture (PTR) (the imminent or any moment Jesus can return) crowd, has little interest in sharing the floor, the megaphone or the mic. They seek a monopoly on the discussion of prophetic doctrine (eschatology) rather than revealing truth. PTR loyalists often portray PWR in a false light unfairly characterizing the position. (Sounds like today’s politics, doesn’t it?)

What are the PTR faithful afraid of? We know why some feel PWR arguments must be silenced: If they are allowed to be spoken in truth and in love, they demolish strongholds of ignorance and fear.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5 NIV)

What half of America loves about President Donald Trump, the other half despises? He brought a fresh face to the 2016 presidential campaign that millions refuse to accept. This newness frustrated his political opponents, before it eventually rolled over them.

At the beginning, political novice Trump was ridiculed for his ambition. Running for the nation’s highest office isn’t usually where someone begins a political career. The so-called establishment has never taken Mr. Trump seriously. They wish him the worst. Nevertheless, a wave of freshness has swept over the landscape.

A new paradigm (revolutionary change) is emerging. A recent New York Times  article reported top industry executives are saying “Why not me?” as they contemplate their own run for a public office. Why not? It seems voters have embraced fresh as opposed to familiar.

I foresee a similar wave sweeping over today’s church. Don’t know when but a paradigm shift, not unlike the political one, cannot be too far away. When it happens, the old guard will mount their attack (Matthew 23:34-36). They must. They are vested in the status quo. Change is always opposed, but the freshness of the Spirit is unstoppable.

When I speak of old, I am referring to traditional methods, not enduring truth. What is familiar was fresh at one time, but nothing is new under the sun. For example, at Pentecost and throughout The Book of Acts, the Lord gives us a preview of things to come.

In Acts the church was people; ordinary, everyday people. They gathered in fellowship to love God, to learn His Word and to help each other. Leaders, such as Peter, did not sit under Jewish teachers in Jerusalem. They became the disciples’ oppressors. Peter and company were outsiders, but the church grew daily because they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:12-13).

This blog, plus the books and materials we are producing, anticipates a tidal wave of freshness. A turning upside-down kind of revolution is on the horizon. Transformation will require bold, new leaders who can take the heat and stand on God’s Word.

If you are a leader for the last days–and why not you?–then it is time to take a fresh new look at Scripture. Study the prophets as though you were reading the Bible for the first time. Reject man-centered, politically-correct religion. It may dominate the American church scene now, but it won’t last.

If you appreciate your church and pastor, that’s good, but if you miss the outpouring God has promised, that’s not good (Joel 2:23-29). Familiar won’t survive the trials that are coming. Fresh is what we need.

See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you. (Isaiah 42:9)

God said, “You fool. This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:20-21 NIV)

A major front in the battle to “Make America Great Again” is President Trump’s plan to restore America’s industry. His campaign emphasized keeping businesses in the U.S. and bringing back good-paying jobs. If his policies succeed–and that is a big “if”–then what? If millionaires become as common as apples in an orchard, will people know what to do? Will the prosperous be wise or will they be foolish?

Jesus’ sobering words (above) followed his warning in Luke 12:15: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Then Our Lord told a story of a farmer who struck it rich. To store his crop he built bigger barns. He had plenty, enough to live large for several years. He told himself, “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” (12:19)

Our nation’s new leader has made his billions of dollars. It seems he would like to share the wealth. Have you considered, “What if his economic goals for the country are achieved?” Will we become a nation of fools?

One of my favorite stories about David involves his encounter with Abigail, the beautiful and intelligent wife of Nabal. In 1 Samuel 25:2, we read that Nabal was very wealthy. It was sheep-shearing time so David sent some men to nicely ask Nabal to share. Nabal was reminded how David’s army had been protecting his shepherds and sheep. Nothing was missing. The flock fed in green pastures and, in peace, laid beside still waters. Surrounding Nabal were large mounds of wool. David’s role in adding to Nabal’s wealth should have been appreciated. Instead, this foolish man insulted him.

Hearing this, Israel’s still future king angrily gathered four hundred warriors. With swords sharpened, they headed for Nabal. Their intention was to eliminate every male belonging to Nabal. Vengeance was in David’s heart (cf. Isaiah 63:4).

Without Abigail’s swift action and her abundance of food for David’s men, there would have been terrible retribution. When she met David and bowed, face to the ground, he stopped to listen. Abigail persuaded David to alter his course. What did she say? (Herein is a key to knowing Christ, bearer of the title “Son of David”.)

“May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name is Fool, and folly goes with him.” (1 Sam. 25:25a)

Abigail knew exactly to whom she was talking and rightly anticipated what David was about to do. The man before her was righteous and also Abigail’s king. She honored David and addressed him as “lord” and “master”. As the king, David owned everything belonging to Nabal, including the man himself. Abigail had the wisdom to soothe David’s indignation and the foresight to recognize his destiny. Her blessing and humility not only saved many lives, but it also won David’s heart.

“When the LORD has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the LORD has brought my master success, remember your servant.” (25:30-31)

Upon hearing what his wife had done, Nabal, the fool, became like stone. The night before he had eaten plenty and became drunk. Soon after he awoke the next day he was as good as dead. His demise freed Abigail from her bonds. She then became David’s bride. (Are we making the connection?)

Like his name suggests, Nabal foolishly offended his king. He was short-sighted, ungrateful and greedy. He refused to share.  Instead, he left it all behind. What a fool!

Therefore, you kings be wise; be warned you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son lest he be angry and you be destroyed you in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:10-12)

 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true; whatever is noble; whatever is right; whatever is pure; whatever is lovely’ whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

This week, on a popular American news show, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-hostess and regular, Mika Brzezinski, made a statement that seemingly passed without anyone raising an eyebrow. As part of a panel discussing—who else—President Donald Trump and his “attempt to undermine the media”, Ms. Brzezinski sounded the alarm. Speaking for her partners in the press, she said, “Our job is to control exactly what people think.” She and her ilk consider themselves the people’s “thought masters”.

Weekday mornings, in about a million homes across the U.S., people are getting ready for the day by switching on the TV. They want to see a familiar, trusted face, informing them of the latest developments. There to plant the thoughts that folks will take into the market place of ideas is Ms. Brzezinski along with her circle of friends.

They talk as if they are at war with Hitler or Mussolini. “Opposition has to be defeated.” They alone deserve the title of thought master. They alone are qualified to censor what you might hear? They are entitled to mold and shape public opinion. Filthy discourse, threats, lies, slander or physical harm; if the target rejects their ideas, then the consequences are fully warranted. Have we ever wondered who is the thought master of this group?

Yield to these thought masters and what happens? Prophecy tells us in Matthew 24:9-13, Romans 1:18, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, Revelation 9:20-21, et al.

Sundays, millions enter the church sanctuary to tune into the person in the pulpit. It is a familiar voice. The speaker’s job is to feed the minds and souls of the people, planting “the good seed” and censoring what they consider “harmful” ideas. This may be beneficial–or maybe not.

Before the day begins in homes around the globe, others are preparing. At their favorite sitting place, they open the Bible and resume where they left off. Closing the Scriptures, they pause and meditate on its life-giving message. Next, they write in a journal what soaked in. They note how they want to apply what the Spirit planted. Later, they take this good seed into their world, praying for an opportunity to share. They have one thought master—God’s unfiltered and pure Word. This counter-force to the thought police are regarded as enemies of the state.

Does that help explain the divide and rhetoric common to our times? The battlefield is the mind. Our weapon is the two-edged sword of truth. Whose side might you be on? Who or what masters your thoughts?

But as for you, continue in what you learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14 NIV)

I love prophecy. It reveals the multitude that no one can count standing around the throne. Dressed in white and waving palms, they cried out, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:10)

A few verses later we hear who they are and from where they came (above).

The saints who received salvation “came out of the midst of” the great tribulation. Their robes had been dirty with mud, blood, sweat, tears and who knows what else. Nevertheless, they appear before the throne white and clean. It is obvious from Revelation 7, the multitude earned something no one can ever take away.

What don’t we see? We don’t see anyone with a clean robe that had never been dirtied? Everyone, regardless of nation, tribe, language or people, came out of the great tribulation. No one before the Lamb escaped the test of patient endurance.

We live in a culture that rewards participation. We receive prizes for showing up, trophies for stepping on the field and ribbons for walking in the door. Some are paid for breathing.

The attitude that in order to be fair everyone should receive the same reward has made its way into Christianity through the error of universalism: Everybody receives a crown and everybody sits at the wedding supper of the Lamb. The only requirement is believe in Jesus—and even that may not be necessary. As far as outcomes, everyone should be equal.

Prizes for participating is not how life works. The real prize for participation is simply the opportunity to achieve, to succeed or to fail—and nothing else. God rewards, but his reward is for those who exhibit faith and who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

Heaven is not an entitlement. Paradise is not a default position. If it were, it would not be worth dying for or worthy of carrying our cross. Sacrifice would be unnecessary.

We should all aspire to give our Savior our maximum. (Isn’t that what He gave us?) Yet, many leaders advocate “minimalism”. Going to church, reading our Bible, praying, maybe not all the time, but… you know. They say, “Believing in God and being a good person is all it takes.” But is that true? Intellectual assent to some facts, if that were enough, would make heaven as meaningful as a certificate of participation.

Paul encouraged believers not to merely enter the race, but run to win (1 Corinthians 9:24).

We ought to be ambitious for eternal rewards. Find out what pleases God, then do it! (Ephesians 5:10)

In 1 Samuel 16 we see David taken from watching the sheep then anointed king of Israel. Afterward, he went back to shepherding. David allowed God to orchestrate events and provide his tests (like facing a giant, fighting the Philistines, etc.). David did not just walk in the next day and demand his crown. He embraced every chance to earn his destiny, and to listen for God to teach him what he needed to know. His self-respect and confidence needed time to develop. He knew the One who called him would place him in a position to act on a kingly level. To  not endeavor to live up to his calling, would–like his predecessor–condemn him to utter failure.

Superficial, untested belief is as good as a certificate of participation. That and some folding money will buy a cup of coffee.

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