I Am a Spoiled American

I confess. I am spoiled.

It isn’t a secret with my family. I am the youngest of six children and I am pretty sure that all of my older brothers and sisters would say that I am spoiled.

What can I say? I was a late-in-life pregnancy for my mom and she loved me with just about every ounce of her being. I couldn’t ask for a better mom. And I have to say (over the protests of my siblings) that I was the most obedient of them all.

They can call it being spoiled. I call it being rewarded for being good 🙂

As a young teenager, it was often just my mom and me for dinner and she would make whatever I wanted. I was a picky eater and so my typical weekly menu was hamburgers, pizza, eggs, bacon, hamburgers, fried chicken, pancakes, and hamburgers.

Did I mention that I love hamburgers?

Actually cheeseburgers. Ketchup only.

Unfortunately I never grew out of my picky-eatiness. I did add a few vegetables along the way. Thanks to my wife. And I learned to eat fruit by blending them to oblivion until they make a nice fruit smoothie. No chunks please.

But meat is still my menu item of choice. Especially hamburgers.

That poses a problem when I go overseas.

Meat is not a staple in many parts of the world. It is a luxury item. I found this out on my recent mission trip to Uganda.

Our church has supported a national pastor in Uganda for many years. He and his wife have become good friends with us. We are so impressed and blessed by their ministry. And he has always invited me to come to Uganda.

Finally we decided to go. We took a team of nine people with us.

While the rest of the team was concerned about vaccines, Ebola, malaria, long flights, and things like that. I only had one concern.

What would I eat?

I packed my bag with plenty of protein bars, breakfast bars, and beef sticks, expecting that I might need to eat a few of them each day. Little did I realize that I would actually depend on them for sustenance during my entire two-week trip.

I tried to eat the Ugandan food but my appetite just wasn’t there. Their diet consists mostly of matoke (cooked plantains), rice mixed with all kinds of spices and vegetables, and lots of fruit.

Lots of fruit!

Mango. Pineapple. Watermelon. Papaya. Bananas. Jackfruit.

For fruit lovers…it is a culinary paradise.

For meat lovers…it is a little more sparse.

They do have meats. Usually freshly killed chicken and pork. But it is cooked differently and usually not very plentiful. Beef is sometimes available but usually very chewy and hard to eat. Whenever meat is around, it is typically mixed in with everything else. It is more like a garnish than a centerpiece on the plate.

I don’t say all this to garner any kind of sympathy.

The Ugandans love their food and every one else on our team loved it as well.

I was the odd ball.

The picky one.

The spoiled one.

I realized just how spoiled I am on this trip. I love food options. I love to be able to get what I want when I want it. I love having a Chick Fila down the road or a Dominos that can deliver right to my door.

Our refrigerator has plenty of food. Plenty of options. I can make just about anything I want at any time of the day.

It is the kind of life that I am used to.

But it is not normal in other parts of the world.

I have been to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, Moldova, and Romania on mission trips. In almost every case I struggled with the local food but I could find some kind of American food nearby.

That wasn’t the case in Uganda.

There wasn’t a McDonalds to be seen anywhere. I think the only American fast food restaurant is a KFC in Kampala. That’s it.

So I felt my limited food pallate much more on this trip.

And I lost ten pounds in the process.

My own personal Ugandan Diet.

But I survived and I learned a lot in the process.

I am so blessed to live in the United States and I take so much for granted.

Running water. Clean water. Electricity. A refrigerator. A freezer. Food in the refrigerator. Food in the freezer. Food in the pantry. A toilet. A shower. Water supply. Water pressure. Hot water. A sewage system. Trash service. Mail service. Paved roads. Sidewalks. Traffic laws. Traffic lights. Green lawns. Comfortable homes. Multiple rooms in our home. Floors in our home. Beds. A kitchen. Appliances. A TV. A computer. Multiple sets of clothes. Closets. Drawers. Air conditioning. Multiple places to shop and to eat. Reliable transportation. Drainage. Police services (without bribes). Educational opportunities. Job opportunities. Medical services. Good doctors. Good hospitals. Good healthcare.  Financial abundance. Food abundance. Comfort abundance. Leisure abundance.

I often just assume that these things are normal. Automatic. Standard options on the road of life.

But they are not.

They are gifts. Blessings. Rich blessings.

They are the fruit of the labor and sacrifices of previous generations.

They are things to be thankful for each day.

Yes, our nation has its share of blemishes, problems, injustices, failures, and sins.

But it is also one of the best places that any person could ever live at any point in human history.

To miss this…or to take this for granted…is the ultimate sign of blind ingratitude.

Those who have the least often give the most.

Before going to Uganda, I would assume that if you took me to a place where the people lived in small grass huts with cow dung floors, no electricity, no running water, and limited food, that they would be the most miserable people on earth.

I know I would be.

But instead I discovered that these people were the most joyful and generous people that I have ever met.

They were also so hungry for God’s Word that they kept begging me to teach them more.

And when I was done teaching, they served our entire team a sumptuous lunch (probably costing them almost everything they had) and gave me a live turkey as a gift.

A live turkey!

They had practically nothing but gave almost everything.

Meanwhile we have practically everything but give almost nothing.

There are a lot of people in the world…and they are all unique, different, and made in the glorious image of God.

Try to wrap your mind around the fact that there are eight billion people in the world.

Eight billion!

It is just a number in most of our minds. But as we traveled the countryside of Uganda, we saw thousands and thousands of people. Everyone in Uganda seems to be outside on the roads. Kids. Women. Men. Pedestrians. People on bicycles or motorcycles or stuffed into taxi vans or on the back of trucks.

Everywhere you looked, there were people.

There are 46 million people in Uganda and it seemed like we saw them all in our two weeks there.

And it struck me that every one of them is made in the image of God. Every one of them is important. Valuable. Unique. Right down to their finger prints.

Every one of them has a purpose in God’s eyes.

Every one of them is a person for whom Christ died.

Whether rich or poor…black or white…clean or unclean…they were each designed to reflect a particular aspect of the multi-faceted glory of God.

My heart was both overwhelmed and overjoyed.

Overwhelmed because there is no way that I can reach each of these people.

Overjoyed because I know that God can.

The best way to impact the world is through the gospel of Jesus Christ…one person at a time.

Uganda is a nation rich in resources. The Nile River. Lake Victoria. Lake Albert. Rich soil. Abundant crops. Coffee. Tea. Mangos. Pineapple. Rice. Bananas. Jackfruit.

Yet it is a nation that also has lots of poverty.

When you ask why, so much of it stems from long-entrenched corruption in the government. Uganda endured many years of Idi Amin. Since then, they have had many years of politicians who line their pockets with foreign relief aid. Uganda is considered one of the most corrupt nations in the world.

Because of governmental corruption, you can pour all the money you want into Uganda and all it will do is make the corrupt more corrupt, the powerful more powerful, and the rich richer.

That’s why the hope of nations like Uganda really is the local church.

The ministry we support in Uganda takes in orphans and abandoned children. They provide a first-rate education to all that come their way. They offer skills training and a microloan program to help people emerge out of poverty. They provide free medical services. They bless the community with food distribution and social services. And they teach people the good news of Jesus Christ.

Every person is loved by God.

Every person has a purpose.

Every person can be transformed.

Every person is offered eternal life as a free gift in Jesus Christ.

It was humbling to see their work.

Every shilling goes to where it is needed.

Accountability is emphasized.

Responsibility is taught.

Charity is practiced.

Eternity is impacted.

No one can reach everyone but everyone can reach someone.

That is the Christian mission.

That is the way of Jesus.

That is the beauty of the body of Christ.


So, yes, I am spoiled.

Spoiled by my momma.

Spoiled by the American way of life.

Spoiled by the many options that I have each and every day.

But I am also spoiled by my heavenly Father who has richly lavished on me all spiritual blessings in Jesus Christ.

In that case, it is not bad to be “spoiled.”

Unless being spoiled makes you, well, spoiled.

But there is another way you can respond.

Humble appreciation.

Daily gratitude.

Simple “thank yous.”

Joyful praise.

And abundantly giving what you have abundantly received.

The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25)

Posted in Confessions | 6 Comments

Is December 25 Just a Pagan Holiday?

As a child, I always loved Christmas. I loved decorating our home. I loved watching the gifts pile up under the Christmas tree. I loved waking up on Christmas morning and opening gifts with my family.

Precious memories.

But I can also remember the first time I read a little booklet that said Christmas was just a pagan holiday converted by early Christians into the date of Jesus’ birth. The implication was that everything about Christmas was pagan and that true Christians should, therefore, not celebrate it.

That sort of put a spoiler on things.

It even created some controversy and division in my own family.

So is Christmas just a pagan holiday dressed up in Christian clothes?

Should Christians avoid celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25?

Now I confess, there are many elements in our modern celebration of Christmas that are materialistic and perhaps even pagan in origin. Even the names of our days of the week have pagan origins…Sun-Day, Saturn-day, Moon-Day, Thors-Day, etc.

But the question I want to answer is “Did the early Christians just pick December 25 for the birth of Jesus to replace a popular pagan holiday? Did they select the day because of Saturnalia, which was celebrated around the winter solstice from December 17-23, or possibly the Roman worship of the sun (Sol Invictus) on December 25?”

The short answer is “no.”

That is what is commonly termed an “urban legend.”

This “urban legend” did not begin until the 12th century when a medieval writer made the claim that Christmas was shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it occurred on the same day as Sol Invictus.

This idea picked up steam, especially in the 18th century, when skeptics wanted to link everything about Christianity with paganism. The common thinking was, “There is nothing unique about Christianity. They just borrowed everything from paganism.”

However, there is no evidence that early Christians picked December 25 for Christ’s birth because it was a pagan holiday.

Early Christian writers never hint at any recent calendrical engineering; they clearly don’t think the date was chosen by the church. Rather they see the coincidence as a providential sign, as natural proof that God had selected Jesus over the false pagan gods. (Andrew McGowen, How December 25 Became Christmas)

So how did December 25th become associated with Christ’s birth?

There is no mention of the date of Jesus’ birth in the gospel accounts. It is not something that the biblical writers were necessarily concerned with. The focus was on the incomprehensible incarnation of the Son of God into human flesh not on the specific date on the calendar.

But as time went on, early Christians began to speculate on the day of Jesus’ birth. Early ideas included April 20, May 20, or November 18.

But eventually two dates emerged as primary options for Christ’s birth–December 25 and January 6.

How did the early church arrive at these dates?

A common mode of thought in those days was that Christ’s life had to be perfectly complete, that the day of His death and the day of His conception had to be the same. Thus, Christians who had a date for Christ’s death associated that same day with the date of His conception.

In the western church, Christ’s death was commonly dated on March 25. In the eastern church, Christ’s death was commonly dated on April 6. The variance depended on the year that Christ died and on the date that the Hebrew Nisan 14 (Passover) would have fallen.

Since the ancient world calculated exactly nine months from conception to birth, then naturally December 25 and January 6 became the common dates for Christ’s birth.

The difference in these two dates are the traditional “12 days of Christmas,” with Christians eventually coming to a compromise with December 25th being the date of Christ’s birth and January 6 being the date that the wise men arrived in Bethlehem.

What is important is that the date was chosen independently of any association with paganism.

As early as the 2nd century, Christians were celebrating Christ’s birth on one of these two dates. Around AD 200, an early church father, Hippolytus, wrote that December 25 was reckoned to be the date of Jesus’ birth based on the date of His death on March 25th. What is significant is that this is 75 years before the Roman emperor Aurelian made December 25th the date of Sol Invictus, the pagan holiday honoring the sun.

So instead of Christians picking December 25 based on a pagan holiday, it may have been the other way around. It is not too much unlike people today who take the Christian holiday of Christmas and try to turn it into some kind of secular celebration of winter or Santa Claus or just plain ol’ commercialism.

Augustine would write in the fourth century:

For Jesus is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also He suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which He was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which He was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before Him nor since. But He was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.

Bottom line, we are not sure of the exact date of Jesus’ birth. But we are sure that Jesus entered our world, that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and that He died on a Roman cross and rose again three days later from the grave. The exact dates are not as important as the reality of their occurrence.

Jesus was born to demonstrate God’s incomprehensible love, He died to demonstrate God’s’ amazing grace, and He rose again to demonstrate God’s unconquerable power.

That is the message of Christmas.

It is not a pagan holiday.

It is a day that reminds us that there truly is hope in this world.

Posted in Christmas Devotionals | Leave a comment

Is Christianity for Real or Is It Just a Bunch of Hopeful Hooey?

She was a young adult dying from cancer. As her pastor, I was by her bedside, reading Scripture, praying with her, and pointing her toward heaven. Suddenly she turned to me with tears in her eyes and asked, “How do we know that this is all real?”

The question caught me off guard. She had always seemed strong in her Christian faith. But this was a moment of weakness…a battle with fear…a realization that death was staring at her in the face and she needed to know that her belief in Jesus Christ was more than just wishful thinking.

Faith is one thing when life is easy and death seems far away. It is another thing when you are on your death bed facing your own mortality and the prospect of eternity.

I am reminded of a quote by Diogenes Allen, Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University:

To look only for what is helpful in Christianity, largely because of this uneasiness at affirming its doctrines, has become a common practice both inside and outside the church. But there is a price to be paid. If we are concerned with finding help only, and not with truth, we are unlikely to find substantial help. For when we actually come face-to-face with temptation, danger, and death, we encounter reality—and at that point the question of who or what will guide and sustain us is no longer a side-issue. This is probably why “spirituality” in general, in spite of its initial appeal, fails us. When the chips are down, vagueness about what we believe is not an asset. (Spiritual Theology, 159)

This was one of those moments “when the chips were down.”

Thankfully three thoughts came to my mind in that moment. These three thoughts reassured her…and have reassured me in my own times of doubt.

1. The wonders of creation tell me that God exists. 

I honestly believe that it takes more faith to believe in materialistic evolution than it does to believe in theistic creation.

The heavens and the earth scream out “intelligent design.”

The complexity and order of the universe (so precise that you can set your watch on it), the fine tuning of the earth for our existence (known as the anthropic principle), and the reality that everything we see around us is more energy than matter, held together by an amazing power, all point to the existence of a Master Creator and Designer.

If that’s not enough to convince you, then just consider the wonder of DNA.

Within every cell of your body there is a six-foot strand of tightly wound DNA.

You have approximately 30 trillion cells in your body. Thus, you literally have 35 billion miles of DNA in your body. That’s enough to stretch to the sun and back 385 times.

And within this DNA is the exact code that details every aspect of your unique design. There is enough information in your DNA to fill a thousand encyclopedias. Even what was once considered “junk DNA” is now seen to contain 15 trillion bytes of raw data that would take a computer 300 years to fully process.

Scientists are just now realizing the unfathomable storage capacity of DNA. Consider this quote from a recent issue of Scientific American.

DNA can archive a staggering amount of information in an almost inconceivably small volume. Consider this: humanity will generate an estimated 33 zettabytes of data by 2025—that’s 3.3 followed by 22 zeroes. DNA storage can squeeze all that information into a ping-pong ball, with room to spare. The 74 million million bytes of information in the Library of Congress could be crammed into a DNA archive the size of a poppy seed—6,000 times over.

Every time we encounter information, we know that it comes from intelligence. To believe otherwise is to believe that a random explosion at a printing press could produce an edition of the New York Times. You can believe that if you want, but I choose to see the wonders of creation and stand in awe of a Creator whose intelligence and power far exceed anything we can imagine.

2. The wonders of the Bible tell me that God has spoken.

Okay so maybe some kind of intelligent God exists. How do we know who He is?

I believe that God not only exists but that He has spoken. And the Bible is His Word to us.

You can ignore the Bible, critique it, attack it, and even mock it but there is no question that it is the most remarkable, most read, most translated, most influential book in the history of humanity.

It has the best manuscript evidence of any ancient writing and it’s not even close. If you are going to doubt the reliability of Scripture then you are going to have to doubt the reliability of every writing in ancient history.

It has been repeatedly verified through archaeology. Nelson Glueck, one of the foremost archaeologists in history, once said:

It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And by the same token, proper evaluation of biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries. (Rivers in the Desert, 31)

It has also been amazing in its prophecies with over five hundred prophecies fulfilled in exact detail by Jesus Christ. The book of Daniel, written in the 6th century BC, is also amazing in its accuracy, predicting the four world empires from Babylon to Rome. Critics have long argued that Daniel must have been written after the fact in the 1st or 2nd century BC. But this theory has been strongly refuted.

One of my favorite biblical scholars is Robert Dick Wilson (1856-1930) who served as the Professor of Semitic Languages and Old Testament Criticism at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is one of the most unique scholars that you will ever encounter. At the age of 25, he plotted out the rest of his life unto the age of 70, dividing it into three periods of fifteen years. For the first fifteen years, he learned every Semitic language that could be learned, eventually mastering 45 different languages and dialects. For the next fifteen years, he read every ancient document related to the Bible that could be read. And then for the last fifteen years, he wrote all that he had found related to the historicity of the Bible. Amazingly, he accomplished this feat and here was his conclusion:

I have come to the conviction that no man knows enough to attack the veracity of the Old Testament. Every time when anyone has been able to get together enough documentary ‘proofs’ to undertake an investigation, the biblical facts in the original text have victoriously met the test. (The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible)

Written by over forty different authors in three different languages over a span of 1500 years, the Bible stands as a complete unified document telling the story of humanity from creation to the end of time. What is lost in Genesis is regained in Revelation. And Jesus Christ stands at the center of everything.

3. The wonders of Jesus Christ tell me that God loves me.

There is no one in history like Jesus Christ.

Even Time Magazine in their millennial edition admitted as much:

It would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure—not merely in these two millenniums but in all history—has been Jesus of Nazareth. It’s an astonishing conclusion in light of the fact that Jesus was a man who lived a short life in a rural backwater of the Roman Empire [and] who died in agony as a convicted criminal. (Time Magazine, December 6, 1999)

The Man who never wrote a book, never led an army, never held political power, never traveled more than 100 miles from where He was born, never did anything that the world attributes to greatness…literally changed the world.

He died as a criminal on a Roman cross, the worst punishment reserved for the lowest of individuals.

But something happened three days later.

His disciples claimed He physically rose from the dead and that they saw Him, talked with Him, touched Him, ate with Him.

They all died for their faith, facing their own violent deaths under the iron fist of the Roman Empire.

Yet their testimony stood firm.

They turned the world upside down with one message of good news.

Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.

And He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.

And all who believe in Him will have eternal life.

This was their simple creed.

And it is my creed today.

Passed down through the generations, changing innumerable lives along the way.

If Jesus Christ did not physically rise from the dead, then Christianity is a bunch of hopeful hooey.

The apostle Paul said it clearly.

And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. …And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-19)

Christianity is falsifiable. Disprove the resurrection and the whole structure falls. Christianity is not interested in giving wishful thinking or religious opinion. It is either true or it is false. It is either reality or it is fantasy. It cannot be both.

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. (C. S. Lewis)

Either Jesus Christ is God in the flesh or He is a fraud.

Either He is Lord or He is a liar.

The resurrection is the dividing line.

Because He lives, death has lost its sting.

Because He lives, I will live.

Because He lives, my friend is not dead.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

God exists. He has spoken. And He loves us.

Jesus Christ is the proof.

You can follow whoever you want. You can believe whatever you want.

But I have cast my lot with Jesus Christ.

He is the way.

He is the truth.

And He is the life.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:1-4)

Posted in Tough Questions of Faith | 2 Comments

A Sober Eschatology (or How to Live in the End Times without Losing Your Mind)

I guess from the world’s perspective I am pretty crazy.

I believe that Jesus Christ is coming back in the clouds to snatch away His bride, the church.

I believe that a time of intense tribulation is coming on the earth in which a false world leader, speaking words of peace and love, will deceive the world and eventually demand total allegiance and worship of himself.

I believe that Jesus Christ will end this time of tribulation by coming back to the earth to destroy this false leader and his followers, to rid the world of evil, to rescue His people, and to usher in the true kingdom of peace, righteousness, and love.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

But it also seems real. Something inside of us longs for peace on this earth…for meaning in this life…for justice to prevail…for hope beyond the grave.

Deep down what we are all longing for is the kingdom of God, an earthly paradise, the echo of the Garden of Eden that is still in our hearts.

The big question is, “Do we believe the governments of the world will bring about this utopia or do we believe that only God can do so?”

Is it the kingdom of man or the kingdom of God?

Is it brought about through the most powerful military or the All-Powerful Messiah?

We are part of a grand story moving toward a climax and that climax is the rule of Jesus Christ on the earth.

Of course, the order of end-time events that I mentioned above is open to debate. There are Bible-believing Christians who have a different understanding of eschatology (i.e., the study of last things in the Bible). But orthodox Christian belief has always understood that Jesus Christ is coming back to judge the earth and resurrect the dead, some to eternal life and some to eternal condemnation.

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered and was buried.
The third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end. (The Nicene Creed, AD 325)

So how do we live in the light of this truth?

That seems to be one of the challenges in the church today.

Those who hold to a dispensational, premillennial eschatology (like I do) can easily drift into constant end-times speculation, “prophetic” pronouncements, date-setting, and “newspaper exegesis” (always looking for signs of the end in every major headline).

I often say, somewhat jokingly, that “all the nutcakes seem to be in our camp.”

But let’s face it, we are all interested in the future. We want to know what is going to happen down the road. That’s why we run after weather forecasts, sports predictions, political projections, economic prognostications, and, for some people, even horoscopes and fortune tellers.

Thus, the market for “prophets”–of both the secular and religious types–is always a potentially lucrative occupation.

This is where wisdom, discernment, and good ol’ common sense need to prevail.

The Bible gives us enough hints of the future to give us confidence as we face tomorrow but it does not reveal the full picture. This partial portrait of prophecy keeps us humble, prevents us from thinking we have it all figured out, and reminds us to live for Christ in the present, walking by faith each day.

Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Thus, when the Bible talks about the end times, it almost always mentions the word “sober-minded.”

  • Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:6)
  • Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:12b-13)
  • Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. (1 Peter 1:13)
  • The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. (1 Peter 4:7)
  • In view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge…keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1b, 5)

I like that last translation: “Keep your head in all situations.”

In other words, don’t get crazy. Don’t go off the deep end. Don’t panic and start running after wild speculations and prophetic pronouncements that some well-dressed dude on YouTube starts spouting.

Keep your head.

Stay smart.

Be wise.



Check the fruit.

Know the Word.

If they claim to be prophets for God, then the standard is 100% accuracy (Deuteronomy 18:22).

If they claim to be prophets for God, then their lives should exhibit the humility of Christ and the fruit of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

If they claim to be prophets for God, then their message must align with the revealed Word of God and put the focus on Jesus Christ (Jude 3-21).

The Bible warns that the last days will be filled with false prophets and increasing deception (Matthew 24:11; 2 Timothy 3:1-17).

We are seeing that happening.

Never has deception been so rampant.

Never has the world been so set up for a one-world government, for a false peace, for a globalistic agenda, for a worldwide war and nuclear holocaust that could bring about some of the cataclysmic scenes in Revelation.

As someone has said, “This may not be the end of the world but it sure does seem like the world of the end.”

The time seems to be at hand.

But we still do not know.

Thus, we live like Peter instructed us to live in the end times. It is the kind of life that we are called to live regardless of whether Christ comes back today or in the next 100 years.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:7-10)

Be alert.

Be wise.



Open up your hands, your home, and your life.

And serve others with the gifts that God has given you.

Or to put it in the opposite terms…

Don’t be deceived.

Don’t go crazy.

Don’t fear.

Don’t attack.

Don’t hoard your stuff.

And don’t isolate your life from others.

Keep your eyes on the skies.

But keep your head at all times.

If the world thinks that you are crazy, let it be because your hope is in Christ alone.

Posted in Eschatology/Prophecy | 3 Comments

The Strange Mix of Dispensational, Postmillennial, Pentecostal, Political, Prophetic, Apocalyptic, Gnostic Christianity

Have you noticed the newfangled Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensers in restaurants? They allow you to mix your own concoction of soft drinks with the click of a button. I have stood behind kids whisking through the screens combining a host of different drinks to create something weird and new.

I usually just stick with Dr. Pepper.

But thinking about these dispensers made me realize what is happening in modern American Christianity.

Many people are mixing their own theological concoction of the Christian faith to suit their own liking.

Jumping from YouTube video to YouTube video, website to website, cable show to cable show, preacher to preacher, commentator to commentator, talking head to talking head. Soon you have your own unique combination of dispensational, postmillennial, Pentecostal, political, prophetic, apocalyptic, gnostic Christianity and you don’t even realize it.

But you take a big ol’ gulp of your new Kool-Aid.

And it gives you a serious case of theological heartburn. In some cases, it can kill your faith.

Let me give you an example.

Recently someone sent me a YouTube video of a Christian preacher that they wanted me to watch. They loved his message. It was bold, in-your-face, and politically-charged. When I am sent a video like this, I often wonder if the goal is to say something like, “Hey, pastor, maybe you ought to preach more like this.”

But as I watched the video, I noticed that something was a little off. I did a little research about him and his church and realized that they held a postmillennial reconstructionist theology.

What does that mean? 

Basically they believe that the church will change the government and society and eventually bring in the kingdom age. Christ will come back at the end of this millennium of peace ushered in by the church.

Postmillennialism expects the proclaiming of the Spirit-blessed gospel of Jesus Christ to win the vast majority of human beings to salvation in the present age. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of people and of nations. (Kenneth Gentry)

The postmillennial conception of victory is of a progressive cultural victory and expansive influence of Christianity in history. (Gary North)

The reconstructionist part of the theology is that the church should be actively involved in politics so as ultimately to bring the nation under the law of Moses.

It’s a unique view that has been around for awhile. Many early believers in America were postmillennials who felt like America would play a role in bringing in the kingdom on earth. Many people like postmillennialism, and there are some theologians who argue for it, because it is a positive view of the victory of the church in this present age.

But what was ironic in this case is that the person who sent me the video would fit in the dispensational, premillennial category believing that the world will get worse and worse, Christ will rapture His church, the world will go through an intense time of tribulation, and then Christ will come back to set up His kingdom on earth.

So why did she like this postmillennial preacher who would be antithetically opposed to her view of eschatology? Presumably because she liked his bold attack on present-day politics which, in his mind (unbeknownst to her), is necessary for the church to take over the government and usher in the kingdom.

Here’s another recent example.

Someone in my family was telling me about a cable TV show that they were watching on the end times. I decided to watch an episode to see what it was all about.

It had cool graphics and a set designed to look like a newscast. The man sitting behind the news desk (while continually holding his new book towards the camera) proceeded to talk about Great Britain, America, Germany, the European Union, the Berlin Wall, the beast of Revelation, and all kind of other apocalyptic details. He was so sure of his interpretation of Revelation 13 that he didn’t even pause to defend it. He spoke with certainty as if he had discovered the secret that no one else had ever seen in this prophetic book. And he threw out a random assortment of news headlines to prove his point.

At the end of the TV show, he gave you a gracious opportunity to buy more of his books and DVD’s to find out exactly how all the events happening in America today are fulfilling biblical prophecy.

I decided to look up this guy and find out what he believes.

He is a Oneness Pentecostal who denies the Trinity and believes that to be saved a person has to believe in Jesus, be baptized by immersion in the name of Jesus only, and show evidence of the Spirit by speaking in tongues. (You can buy his four-part DVD set to learn how to get saved.)

He has also made a boatload of money by selling his unique view of prophecy at prophecy conferences and on his cable TV show. He doesn’t pastor a church, have any theological training, or have any accountability to a governing board. But he is a supposed expert on the book of Revelation. And he has an eager audience ready to drink in his unique, absolutely certain, American-centered prophetic pronouncements.

Again, what is ironic is that my family member is a Trinity-believing, gospel-centered Baptist who would not even be saved according to this guy on the cable prophecy channel.

Now let’s throw in bunch of other ingredients to our concoction.

The polarizing politicization of everything in our culture, separating people into firm categories labeled the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”

Modern-day “prophets” proclaiming political prophecies primarily centered around Donald Trump. These are not just prophecies about him winning an election but they often go much further, even into scary heresy.

As I was praying today I saw a vision of DJT seated on a throne holding a golden scepter. He also had a golden crown on his head. This, I was shown, is his PRESENT status from heaven’s perspective. Heaven does not recognize JB having any scepter nor wearing any crown. …DJT was called and anointed by God to lead our nation and the world into a new era. (Johnny Enlow)

QAnon conspiracy theories that claim to have the “secret knowledge” (like the Gnostics of old) of what is really going on in our government and in our world.

End times predictions that see almost every news headline as having some kind of prophetic meaning that can be found in some obscure verse in Scripture.

None of this is really “new.”

Scripture warns about conspiracy theories.

Do not call everything a conspiracy
that these people say is a conspiracy.
Do not fear what they fear;
do not be terrified.
You are to regard only the Lord of Armies as holy.
Only He should be feared;
only He should be held in awe. (Isaiah 8:12-13)

Scripture warns about false prophets.

The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and My people love it this way. (Jeremiah 5:31a)

Scripture even tells us that no one knows when Christ will come back.

But as for that day and hour no one knows it—not even the angels in heaven—except the Father alone. (Matthew 24:36)

When the disciples peppered Jesus about the timing of His coming kingdom, He replied:

“It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

Yet history is filled with false prophecies and false predictions of the end times. Here are just some of the dates predicted to be the end: AD 70, 375, 400, 482, 500, 793, 800, 847, 1000, 1033, 1260, 1335, 1504, 1524, 1528, 1555, 1648, 1658, 1688, 1697, 1736, 1794, 1836, 1843, 1847, 1914, 1918, 1936, 1941, 1967, etc.

Just in my own lifetime, I have seen 88 Reasons Why Christ Will Come Back in 1988; Mikhail Gorbachev identified as the Anti-Christ (and Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama too); Saddam Hussein, the rebuilding of the city of Babylon, and the start of the Iraqi War as the sign of the end; Y2K; the Mayan Prophecy; the Four Blood Moons; and a whole host of other “end times events.”

Yes, I believe that Christ is coming back…and probably soon…but Scripture has not given me permission to try to nail down the date or spend all my time trying to figure out how every news event fits into the prophetic calendar.

This can be big business and attract large audiences but it is not to be my focus.

But why does any of this matter? What’s the big deal?

The Bible makes it clear that behavior flows out of belief. How you think shapes your life. An incoherent belief system leads to an incoherent lifestyle.

As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23:7)

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

In practically all of Paul’s epistles, he teaches us doctrine before he tells us what to do. We are sanctified by the truth (John 17:17). It is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).

It is sound doctrine…healthy doctrine…that leads to a healthy life (Titus 2:1-15).

If you spend all your time drinking the world’s Coca-Cola concoctions, then it may give you a temporary sugar high but it will eventually rot out your teeth and seriously impact your health.

You need something better to drink.

Start with the pure milk of God’s Word.

In a world where evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived, I am to anchor myself firmly in the truth of Scripture. (2 Timothy 3:13-17)

This means that I need to study Scripture, understand it in its context, stay humble, stay accountable to other believers in a local church, be discerning, be wise, be sober-minded, live faithfully, and fix my eyes on Jesus alone. His return may be today. His return may be 100 years from now after I am gone.

What makes our present-day so dangerous is that we have never been exposed to so many various viewpoints by various people on various websites and various TV stations without any direct contact with who they are or any accountability for what they teach.

Jesus said that we are to judge false prophets by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20)

But it is hard to evaluate their fruits when we only see them on a computer or TV screen and know nothing else about their theology or their lives.

That’s why more than at any other time in history, we need to stay grounded in the truth. And we have to know our theology. We cannot indiscriminately combine dispensational, postmillennial, Pentecostal, political, prophetic, apocalyptic, Gnostic beliefs just because they seem to tickle our ears with whatever personal opinion, prophetic pronouncement, or political perspective that we want to hear.

So skip the world’s freestyle make-your-own sugary soda dispenser.

Order the water instead.

The living water that only Jesus can give.

Posted in Eschatology/Prophecy | 11 Comments