Back from the Dead: Merciful Death – A Repost

As I work on finishing up my degree (especially Calculus, at the moment!), I need a break from some things. As you saw last week, I had a guest blogger, and there will be more in the future. For this week, I am taking us back to one of the more popular posts from my blog last year. I also found it fitting leading up to my birthday and All Hallows’ Eve next week! Feel free to comment and add to the discussion!

Merciful Death

Cross Walk 2008

Me doing the Cross Walk in 2008

If we honestly looked around our world, we could see plenty of good reasons why people would want to take their lives. Sad? Definitely.

Sorry to be gloomy and maybe even a bit sick, but what if they are on to something?

Sweet Death

I read an article recently in Christian Research Journal (Vol. 34, No. 2, 2011) titled “A Christian View of Human Nature“. The author, John S. Hammet, had this to say about death:

Moreover, may not the end of life in this world be a severe mercy from God? True, death entered the world as the punishment for sin, but a punishment that opened the door to mercy. For once humans had fallen and become like God in knowing, not just good, but now evil, God intervened: “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and live forever” (Gen. 3:22). It was the mercy of God that established the limitation of life as a fallen human; as redeemed persons, we are welcomed to the tree of life (Rev. 22:3).

Not only could God have allowed death as a mercy to get away from the suffering we brought upon ourselves (and for the record, I am not making any arguments today about the afterlife for all people; this is just about this life), but He used death to defeat death!

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.

But:

Since the children have flesh and blood, [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

From the beginning, God showed us mercy through death. Even if you do not hold to Hammet’s take, here are some examples:

What do you think? Is death God once again showing His grace in the midst of our punishment?

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 10/21/2012

[Your usual reminder to check out Proverbial Thought]

My wife and I had our first date at a church dedication ceremony, and we started our relationship by dedicating it to God. Good start, eh? (Yes.) We built our relationship for the next year and a half, and then we got married establishing a lifelong commitment. Now we are working on decorations and reinforcing our foundation and walls.

That is not the point, though. The real point is that God sets things apart in eternity, then builds and establishes them in their proper time.

Including us. This poem talks about me, but it is about each and every person who comes to God in faith.

daniel michael klem
Designed: Before Eternity Past – I think it was a Saturday
Constructed: October 26, 1983, 6:03 am – Wednesday
Established: January 9, 2000, 6:42 pm – Sunday

established date

thought of in eternity past
loved and thought of through all time
held in His arms until
the moment had become right
now created and moving
but merely existing
the big change to come
true life yet to begin
finally years after construction
the Truth gets inside
the real change beginning
to make things right
while it has taken time
to get from what was made
when Christ enters in
that is the established date

Taken from deeper words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 177.

The Rapture and the End Times

When Daniel asked if I would like to post a topic on his blog, my first thought was what an honor it is. Daniel is an amazing man of God, trustworthy, reliable, has a soft heart, and you can count on him to never put God in a box – because Daniel never thinks inside the box anyway.

My name is Jesse Walker, I’m the host of a radio program called “The Unwinding Path” on KXEG 1280AM in Phoenix, and do a lot of guest speaking at churches, conferences and college groups. Some of my most requested messages are “Proving the Resurrection of Jesus,” “The Science of Genesis,” and, with the uproar about December 21st 2012, “The Rapture and The End Times,” among others.

I have been studying what the Bible says about the end times (aka Eschatology), for years, and, though God’s Word makes it clear that no man knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ return (whether the rapture or the second coming), I have often wondered how I would live differently if I knew Jesus was coming back at a specific time. One of the main ideas I have is that I would sell most of my possessions and give the money to the poor and hungry (Luke 12). Another is that I would tell as many people as I could, as fast as I could, about Jesus (Matt 28).

To get to the basics then, the rapture and the second coming are two separate events and are often times confused and mis-understood. On top of all this, there are many differing views about this subject. For the sake of time I will condense this blog to focus on the rapture, and the view that the majority of Christians believe about the rapture, namely pre-tribulationism.

The rapture is an event that will occur sometime in the future at which time Jesus will come back in the clouds (and will not come down to the earth) and call all Christians up to heaven. Sometime after this event, Jesus will come back to earth and set up His earthly kingdom. Please note that they are not the same event but two totally separate events. First the rapture happens then the second coming (where Jesus will actually come back to the earth).

Years ago I ask God to show me the truth about the rapture since there are so many views held by many good Christian people. On any issue I simply want to know truth, whether it’s good or bad. Here’s what God allowed me to believe: That the rapture (where Jesus comes back in the clouds and calls all Christians up to heaven) would occur before the 7 year tribulation period.
However, in the last few months I started digging even deeper into God’s Word. As I did, I forced myself to question, not only my beliefs about the rapture, but also everything I had ever heard from Bible prophecy teachers. Let me stop right here and say that I still believe that the rapture will occur, but after careful study of God’s word (consulting even the Greek New Testament), what I found is nothing like any of the teachings out there. In fact, the pre-tribulationists will probably call me a pre-wrather and the pre-wrathers will probably call me a heretic. After God showed me this new information, I asked Him why He allowed me to believe something that wasn’t fully accurate. His response was “You asked me to show you the truth, but you weren’t strong enough to handle it until now.”

I believed and taught the “typical” pre-tribulation rapture doctrine for more than a decade. I still call myself a pre-tribulationist when it comes to the rapture, but it does not occur in the timeline of Revelation the way most pre-tribulationists teach it.

Having said all that, I see Revelation, and what the Bible teaches about the end times more clearly than I’ve ever seen it before, and am currently working on the teaching about the subject for one of our upcoming radio programs.
I would appreciate your thoughts. I know this can be a sensitive subject and I want everyone to remember that salvation is not based on what one believes about the end times, but that Jesus is our risen savior!

I might also like to use some of your thoughts on one of our upcoming programs so please post your name and town if you comment.

You may read Matt 24 and 25, 1 Thess 4, and Revelation (among many others) for scriptural basis.

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 10/14/2012

Life is not always easy. In fact, for Christians at least, we are promised problems (John 16:33). We should accept that blessing, even when it is hard and a struggle to get through. (This also qualifies as a “stupid prayer”.)

the only way to move

i want to go where You want me
i want to be where You send me
help me get there quickly
keep me struggling through things
so that i always seek You
it is the only way to move

Taken from deeper words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 175.

Used and Loved

Here is your regular, friendly reminder to get your daily dose of wisdom from Proverbial Thought!

As working through the book of Luke with our youth group, I was inspired to write about some things. I had a great idea for a passage from Luke 12, but my theology was rocked so hard that I will wait on that one! Instead, I am going with one of the other ideas from that chapter.

The Parable of the Rich Fool

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘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 12:13-21, NIV

Stuff and People

There are two ways to handle stuff and people in this life, and our youth group is intelligent enough to notice! In their words:

“We can use things and love people or love things and use people.”

We can get so caught up in what is ours and what is not ours that we can forget about people.

For example, someone in the crowd may have just lost his parents, yet he is more concerned with getting his share of the inheritance than mourning. This shows one aspect.

Another aspect is that his brother is clearly there, otherwise Jesus could not tell him to share the inheritance. What really makes this poignant is that Jesus had just finished talking about avoiding hypocrisy, so we know what the first man was really getting at: that he judged his brother a hypocrite. (What does this show of him, then?)

One further aspect is that our own selfishness and greed gets in the way of another relationship. This man is talking with a wise leader, he might even know this is the Messiah. Instead of actually listening to the teachings (meaning taking them to heart and learning from them), he tries using this Teacher to get what he wants.

How many times do we go to God asking for things instead of seeking His will?

One more thought: Who gets rebuked?

At first, it looks like a rebuke of the man wanting his inheritance. “‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed’.”

It is as if Jesus is saying, “Dude! Get over it! Stop being so greedy!” (Also, He was and is the perfect judge and arbiter, but He was making another point)

But then He goes on. He tells us about a man who became quite wealthy and hoarded it all. This certainly sounds like the brother was being rebuked for his greed at the same time the original brother was being rebuked for his greed.

WHOA! Jesus is a great multitasker!

One man was not worried about his family and used God to get what he wanted. The other man also was not concerned about his family, instead holding onto his new possessions.

Used and Loved

Both of these brothers were guilty of breaking the greatest commandment(s): “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

We can be guilty of the same (in fact, we all are: Romans 3:22-24).

We use people and God to get the things we want, when we should be using things and loving God and people.

Instead of a question this week, a suggestion:

Check yourself. Find out where your heart is: with things or with God?

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 10/07/2012

After looking at the Core Facts and Core Values, as well as The Core Mission, it is fitting to have a poem about answering the call to follow God!

here i am/send me

the call has been made
the choice has now come
how to answer the call
go out or stay at home
the choice can be no
to stay safe but not free
when i answer please let me say
Here am I! Send me!

Taken from deeper words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 174.

Mission: CORE

Here is regular friendly reminder to head over to Proverbial Thought for today’s devotional thought from the wonderful book of Proverbs!

This has been an interesting couple of months. I have led you through the Four Core Facts (Jesus’ death on the cross, the despair of the Disciples, the change in the Disciples, and the conversion of Paul) and the Four Core Values (Desperate pursuit of God, diligent prayer, consecrated heart, focused life) for the youth group I work with, led by our wonderful youth pastor, Jesse Bollinger (www.ferventyouth.org).

After learning about why the Christian faith is true and what that means for the Christian (the Core Values), that leaves one important thing to cover:

The CORE Mission:

The Core exists to make a worldwide impact for Christ through fervent prayer and by living consecrated lives.

It is true that this was all covered over the past two months. It is also true that sometimes we just need a concise reminder of important things, that little thing to kickstart or restart us into action.

As has been discussed over the past couple weeks, things seem to work well together and often need each other to work well.

The Reason

If Jesus of Nazareth really is Jewish Messiah, the Son of the Living God, then everything He said and did really happened and really matters.

If Jesus really died to take away the sins of the world, the world has a reason to love God and needs to know.

If Jesus really rose from the dead and conquered the grave, the world has a reason to hope and needs to know.

If Jesus really said it requires repentance and belief to be saved from their sin, then the world needs to know.

If Jesus really is God, He deserves our hard work and worship.

The way (Small “w”)

The most efficient way to share the message of Jesus Messiah with the world (also known as sharing the gospel, which means “good news”) is also one of the most difficult things in life … but also the most worth it.

As discussed over the past month, it takes a life focused on the desperate pursuit of God. This means needing a consecrated heart, a heart dedicated to finding and loving God wherever He may be. It is easier to know where God is moving, to dedicate your heart and stick to the dedication of your heart to God, and focus on following and serving God when you are in constant communication with God.

It can easily be argued, therefore, that this all hinges on communication with God.

It must first be understood that God always initiates contact first. We come to God, because God seeks us out. He even reminds us again and again when we forget Him, yet He still likes us to come to Him.

Coming to God is reading the Bible, spending time with other believers, and praying.

When done with a sincere heart willing to be changed by God’s love, grace, and majesty, it becomes easier to give our hearts and lives completely with joy and to know when and where God is moving. We also have a growing desire to share the love, grace, and majesty of God with others.

The Hard Part

This sounds rather easy, though. We simply need to grow closer to God and share Him with others.

Yet, consider this:

  • Reading your Bible means setting aside time from watching your favorite show.
  • Praying means setting time aside from hanging out with friends, seeing that movie, and … learning to be quiet. (Trust me, it is way more difficult than it sounds, especially in our culture)
  • Helping and sharing with others means risking rejection, hurt feelings, and being taken advantage of by others, even loved ones.

The Core

It may be hard, but as I said, this life means time with other Christians. The Core may be the name of the youth group, but we all need to be in a “Core”. Jesus had His 12 Apostles, and of those He was closer to Peter and the brothers James and John. These were Jesus’ core group.

Your core group should include Jesus at the center and some with whom you are close, those who can hold you accountable and lift you up when you fall or are feeling sad, defeated, or stressed.

Most importantly, your core group is where you draw closure to our Lord. As a group you are able to grow in knowledge, grow in compassion, grow in grace, and grow in love. It is most effective when you are also reaching out to others. Not just Christians, but especially to non-Christians and/or those in need (the Bible usually says “the poor, the orphans, and the widows”).

GO!

The moral of the story: the Core Mission is to obey Jesus command to “go and make disciples of all nations” through constant communication with God and by growing in love and grace through study, fellowship, and reaching out to others.

So go! Get to know God better. Grow closer to others. (Matthew 22:36-40)