God Speaks Through the Fire

 

burned-page-of-scripture
Picture of the burned page of the Bible from the Facebook page of Isaac McCord

 

Sometimes we hear or see something that sticks with us and we just know it’s significant. Other things may distract us from it for a while, but we cannot shake the sense it must be important. Such was the case with a story I read last week.

In the wake of the Gatlinburg fires, Isaac McCord of Tullahoma, Tennessee made an amazing discovery.  As he helped clean up an area of the Dollywood Theme Park damaged by the fire, he spotted a piece of paper under a bench. The frayed and wet page turned out to be from the Bible containing a few verses that survived the fire.

Many news websites carried pictures of McCord holding the page of Scripture recovered from the fire. This partially burned page form the Bible is pictured above.

Here is where the account turns prophetic. The verses rescued from the fire are from the book of Joel, mainly from the first chapter. The verses that are most visible speak of the coming destructive fire of the day of the Lord. Joel 1:5 says, “Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.” Another verse visible on the page, Joel 2:1, speaks to the nearness of this “day of the Lord.”

So what is the “day of the Lord” referenced in the verses on this frayed page of the Bible? In Scripture, the “day of the Lord” refers to events surrounding the return of Christ to earth. It includes the judgments preceding His arrival, His return in great power and glory, and the kingdom Jesus will establish on the earth.

I believe judgment portion of this day includes all of the seven year tribulation on the earth as described in detail in the book of Revelation.

To recap, here is what we know regarding this remarkable story:

1)  The deadly fire in Tennessee burned for several days destroying many homes, businesses, and sections of the Smokey Mountain National Park.

2)  The fire destroyed or damaged many places in and near Gatlinburg, including a building containing a King James Version of the Bible.

3)  After the fire, the only remaining page from this Bible contained verses from the book of Joel that speak of the nearness of God’s fiery judgment on the earth during the Great Tribulation.

I do not believe it’s a coincidence that an entire Bible is destroyed by fire except for verses that relate to the Lord’s coming fiery judgment on the world know as the day of the Lord.

I believe the Lord engineered the sequence of events so this page would be found as a warning that this day is indeed coming and may soon be upon us.

I believe the Lord engineered the sequence of events so this page would be found as a warning that this day is indeed coming and may soon be upon us.

As we see our world increasingly reject Jesus and His Words, as we see the violence throughout  our world and grieve as the most innocent among us are murdered each day in abortion clinics, and as we see evil in our world grow worse every day, it’s easy to think the Lord does not see and has forgotten His promise to setup His righteous kingdom someday. Does He really see what’s going on in our world? Will He ever bring justice to the nations?

Christ is coming again!

The finding of this page tells me that the Lord indeed sees what is happening today on the earth and has not forgotten both the warnings and promises He made through the Old Testament prophets and throughout the New Testament. Christ is coming again!

We do not know when Jesus will return for His church and the tribulation will begin. It may be very soon or it may be years later. Jesus said we would not know the day or the hour of His return.

We sense from this discovery, however, that time is running out on our world.

The world needs Jesus more than ever. All the judgments described in the book of Joel are surely coming and are about to be poured out on a Christ-rejecting world. God is not distant; He’s not asleep. He sees the evil throughout our world and He will surely respond.

The finding of the page in the fire does not make the message of the book of Joel any truer than it was before the fire; it’s always been God’s Word. The finding of the verses in the midst of the fire, however, certainly adds urgency to the message of the book for us today.

Before then, we have the opportunity to repent. The Lord, through the prophet Joel, also called upon the Israelites of his day to repent and return to Him (Joel 2:11-14). His words apply to us today as well, “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”

The finding of the page in the fire does not make the message of the book of Joel any truer than it was before the fire; it’s always been God’s Word. The finding of the verses in the midst of the fire, however, certainly adds urgency to the message of the book for us today.

It’s not an accident that these verses from the book Joel are now everywhere on the news for people to see.

If anything, God is saying that this day is getting ever so close. Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you eagerly waiting for His return as the apostles encourage us to do throughout the New Testament? Do you realize this world is not your home?

Do you know that you stand at the portal of eternity?

If you have not yet put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, please do so. If you need more information, please contact me and I will walk you through what is means to call upon the Lord.

A Clash of Kingdoms

lightning

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, we continue to see rioting and violence spread across America. Chants of “not my president” and “not my country” are common. Some of the demonstrations have turned anti-American with the burning of American flags and even deadly as a protest blocking traffic kept an ambulance from getting to a hospital in time to save a man’s life. Regrettably, attacks persist on both sides.

In addition to my initial anger at seeing violence fill our streets, I feel sorrow for the protesters. Their shepherds promised them a greener pasture while failing to warn them of the approaching dark clouds, fierce storms, and certain delays for their hopes.

Although not explicitly talked about or even recognized, the underlying reality in all we see about us is a clash of kingdoms. On the one side is the humanistic gospel that somehow through a powerful and benevolent state we can find the long sought harmony between all peoples, eliminate poverty, and forever preserve the environment.

On the other side is not what you might think. It’s not the call to restore America’s greatness again, but what it represents.

Do you remember God’s response to those who built the tower of Babel? They defiantly sought answers in the unity of mankind apart from the Lord. God, knowing where their rebellion would take them, responded by dividing the world into nationalities and a host of varying cultures, languages, and people groups. God split the world into nations so our hope would reside solely in Him, not in human government or in mankind.

The ultimate clash is God’s kingdom versus globalism. And, the election of Trump represents only a small bump in the road for those seeking the establishment of this coming world order. They already have much in place. . . .

What is Agenda 2030?

You might be tempted to think this talk of a world order is all a conspiracy theory and that perhaps I’ve gone way over the edge. Let me explain why hopes for this future world government are real.

The blueprint for this new world order is called “Agenda 2030” and you can read about it on the UN website. This is not a secret initiative and no effort whatsoever has been made to hide it from us.

The problem lies not in the goals so much as in the methods employed to achieve them, which have always failed in the past on a national level.

Agenda 2030 consists of seventeen “Post -2015 Sustainable Development Goals” with 169 targets to achieve those goals.[i]  On the surface many of these goals, though not all, seem laudable as they seek to “free the human race from the tyranny of poverty,” preserve the environment, and establish worldwide peace. Who wouldn’t want such things? The problem lies in the methods employed to achieve such ends, which have always failed in the past on a national level.

Goal ten makes it clear that this new world government will be socialist, which means that a group of elite rulers will decide upon the distribution of wealth across all nations. This goal is to “reduce inequality within and among nations.” How can this be possible apart from a governing board deciding upon the fair distribution of wealth within and among nations?

The goals of the Agenda 2030 cannot be achieved without enforcement at a high level, a socialistic world order where the elite will dictate the wellbeing of the masses.

Though not all agree with me on this point, many who have studied the goals of Agenda 2030 believe they cannot be implemented apart from a powerful group of the rich controlling the world.

Is America Committed to Agenda 2030?

That’s fine for the UN to have those goals, you might be saying, but do they really affect the United States? Is our country really committed to such a sweeping and fundamental change of the world leading to the elimination of nationalism as we know it? Yes!

The following statement is taken from the Whitehouse website:

2015 is a pivotal year for global development. World leaders gathered in New York today to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (“2030 Agenda”). The adoption of the 2030 Agenda, which sets out a global development vision and priorities for the next 15 years, captures the hopes and ambitions of people around the globe for meaningful change and progress, including here in the United States. Through the adoption of this historic framework, the United States joins with countries around the world in pledging to leave no one behind by ending extreme poverty and prioritizing policies and investments that have long-term, transformative impact and are sustainable. Under the Obama Administration, the United States has committed and helped mobilize more than $100 billion in new funding from other donors and the private sector to fight poverty in the areas of health, food security, and energy. In the United States, the adoption of the 2030 Agenda coincides with a growing bipartisan consensus on the importance of global development, and direct philanthropic contributions from the American people, who annually provide substantial support for emergency relief and development around the world. . . .[ii]

In his address to the United Nations in 2016, President Barack Obama spoke these words, “I am convinced that in the long run, giving up some freedom of action — not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term — enhances our security.” That sounds a lot like Agenda 2030 to me.

The United States is firmly committed to the implementation of the Agenda 2030 goals, which are nothing less than socialism at an international level rather than on a national level. President Obama made it clear that involvement in this new world order means giving up freedoms. In other words, we surrender our individual rights to international law. This is nothing less than socialism packaged under the guise of the “common good.” It always is!

Billionaire George Soros is a leading proponent of this coming world order and speaks openly and often of the need for a worldwide financial system to replace the broken economies of countries such as the United States.[iii]

Many people, including myself, think it’s likely a devastating worldwide financial collapse will be the opportunity to demonstrate the need for such a global economy and hence a worldwide government with real authority beyond what the UN currently possesses.

Will Agenda 2030 Succeed?

Will there ever be such a world order? Will Agenda 2030 succeed?

My answer may surprise you. Yes! It will surely succeed at some point.

Whether in the current form of Agenda 2030 or through some future set of goals, the main objectives of this program will at some point be briefly realized on earth.

Whether in the current form of Agenda 2030 or through some future set of goals, the main objectives of this program will at some future time be briefly realized on earth.

I say this because Scripture foretells the future existence of just such a kingdom. Beginning with the Prophet Daniel in the sixth century BC, the Bible clearly warns that a future world order will at some point overtake the world. Throughout the book he wrote, Daniel prophesied of a kingdom that would envelop the entire world and facilitate the rise to power of someone we refer to today as the antichrist.

The book of Revelation also clearly prophesies of this same coming domain. The global financial system advocated by George Soros is what we see in Revelation 13. Under the leadership of the antichrist, however, it will turn oppressive and deadly. Such a worldwide economic system must already exist by the halfway point of the prophesied seven-year tribulation for this future satanic leader to manipulate in the manner described in Revelation 13.

Jesus’ Kingdom

My hope most definitely does not consist of the vision to “make America great again.” I am not against this sentiment, it’s just that my ultimate expectation rests in the manifestation of a much greater kingdom, one to which I already belong. Colossians 1:13-14 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

The Bible teaches that this currently invisible domain will someday crush and destroy the existing world order at Christ’s Second Coming. Daniel pictures the arrival of Jesus’ kingdom as that of a rock demolishing the kingdoms of this world (2:43-45). The prophet also prophesied of the coming of “one like a son of man” who would be given kingdoms and dominions of this world once this final world order is crushed (7:8-14).

Jesus later claimed to be this “one like a son of man” who would crush the domains of the world and setup His everlasting kingdom on earth (Matt. 26:64).

Psalm 2 is just as current today as it was 3,000 years ago when first penned. Verse 1 asks, “Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain?” This Psalm clearly speaks of the clash of kingdoms we see today. In the end, Jesus receives the kingdoms of this world as His inheritance from the Father.

Earlier, I said that the election of Trump only signifies a small bump in the road to those dreaming of a heavenly paradise on earth with a united humanity. If Hillary had won, I would have regarded the reality of Agenda 2030 as being a step closer.

Even the full implementation of Agenda 2030, however, cannot stop the coming kingdom of my wonderful Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. He is alive. He is coming again just as He promised.

Jesus, the good and true Shepherd, will bring about a kingdom that will far exceed all the dreams that could be possibly imagined by proponents of the new world order. Those who know Jesus will enjoy this paradise on earth and in heaven forever. Those on the left are seeking a temporary paradise that will surely disappoint them in the end.

Now is a time of hope because with each passing day the return of Jesus draws ever so close and with it our final redemption and full realization of our adoption into God’s family (see Rom. 8:18-24).

Does this mean we ignore the wellbeing of those around us until the Christ’s kingdom comes? Heavens no! Only that we do so knowing that lasting peace for the world and the healing of creation only comes with Jesus’ return to earth.

Now is a time of hope because with each passing day the return of Jesus draws ever so close and with it our final redemption and full realization of our adoption into God’s family (see Rom. 8:18-24).

In Jesus alone there is no hate, only love. He died on the cross so that all who believe in Him may have eternal life.

If your trust for eternity is not in Him, please turn to Him before it is too late.

 If you as a believer have your hopes set on the things of this life, please recognize such hopes must be redirected to God’s eternal kingdom and Jesus’ soon return to take us home.

___________________________________________

[i] The goals and targets of Agenda 2030 are posted on the UN website at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

[ii] FACT SHEET: U.S. Global Development Policy and Agenda 2030 on the Whitehouse website at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/27/fact-sheet-us-global-development-policy-and-agenda-2030

[iii] Interview with George Soros: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf6fWN6KlRI

Desire Breeds Hope

lake

Before settling into my new calling as a writer, my wife Ruth and I decided to take a road trip to celebrate my retirement from a long career as a financial analyst. We greatly looked forward to our trip: to our stay at a bed and breakfast in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina and then to our time exploring Savannah, Georgia.

Before we left on our trip, Ruth and I spent much time thinking and talking about our vacation and what we would do. Our anticipation of hiking in the mountains, exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway, and dining at seafood restaurants in Savannah increased our desire for the day to come when we would at long last leave on our trip.

When it comes to our glorious future, however, many churches remain mostly silent regarding our life to come. How can we eagerly await Jesus’ appearing and eternity if we seldom, if ever, hear about it?

“Bland assurances of the sweet by-and-by don’t inflame the soul.” John Eldredge

John Eldredge referred to this disconnect in his book Desire, “C.S. Lewis summed it up, ‘We can only hope for what we desire.’ No desire, no hope. . . . Bland assurances of the sweet by-and-by don’t inflame the soul.”[i] Later Eldredge added this statement regarding this connection of desire with our hope:

Whatever it is we think is coming in the next season of our existence, we don’t think it is worth getting all that excited about. We make a nothing of eternity by enlarging the significance of this life and by diminishing the reality of what the next life is all about.[ii]

Passing references to the fact that we possess eternal life do not impassion us, especially in America where so many of us enjoy comfortable lives. Without a vision of what to expect in eternity, it’s difficult to imagine heaven can be any better than our current existence with smartphones, widescreen TVs, and all the comforts this life can offer.

It’s The Specifics!

When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, he provided specifics of what America would look like with the ending of racism. His vivid picture of racial equality inspired a nation. If he had simply called for the ending of racism without his detailed vision of what it would look like, his message most likely would not have given so much hope to the crowd that day.

Likewise, it is the specifics of our spectacular hope that focus our hearts on eternity. As Eldredge noted, “bland assurances” of a distant eternity do not cause us to desire eternity nor do they give us hope.

Ruth and I grew in our excitement of our trip to the South as we talked about the specifics of what we would do on our vacation.

It’s the details of the Lord’s return for us, our roles in the upcoming millennium, and our eternal home that arise desire in our hearts for what is coming and magnify our hope.

We do not know all of the details of our immortal bodies, our roles in judging the world, or what our upcoming existence will be like. However, what Scripture teaches us about these things is more than enough to inspire us each day with desire, even longing for what lies ahead and generate hope in our hearts for Jesus’ appearing.

Hard Pews and Hollywood

Our desire for eternity is frequently deflated by popular misconceptions of what it will be like.

Many see eternity as an unending church service as John Eldredge also notes in his book Desire, “Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea of eternity is an unending church service . . . . we have settled on an image of the never-ending sing-along in the sky. . . . And our heart sinks.”[iii]

Of course we will sing and worship the Lord throughout eternity; I am very much looking forward to that. Scripture, however, also speaks of our reigning with Christ during the millennium and then forever. We will have thrilling kingdom responsibilities and forever enjoy a restored earth. We have an amazing future; one we can be excited about and celebrate!

Lonely believers sitting on clouds with harps and angels diving into icy rivers to earn their wings do not exactly thrill our hearts with thoughts of heaven

Hollywood does not help us in this regard with its rather depressing pictures of eternity. Lonely believers sitting on clouds with harps and angels diving into icy rivers to earn their wings do not exactly thrill our hearts with thoughts of heaven.

In 1 Corinthians 6:2 Paul asks, “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” This sounds entirely different than hard pews or what Hollywood would have us to believe about heaven. That does much more to peak our interest than the bland pictures we often visualize in our minds.

The Ploy of Satan

While churches do not fill in the blanks regarding our eternal hope, Satan actively works to introduce teachings that destroy our hope and take our eyes off eternity. First, his false teachers generate so much controversy that many pastors stay away from the subject just to be safe.

Secondly, the teachings of many leave us straining to identify what hope is left for us. If all of the New Testament prophetic passages have somehow already been fulfilled and those in the Old Testament reduce to allegories of the church, where is our hope for the future? We are left with just hope of the “sweet by-and-by.”

Where is our ultimate hope, for example, if Revelation 19-22 has already been fulfilled as some teach today? Such teaching seriously undermines any desire for eternity and squashes all hope. We are left with no specifics of eternity and no reason to take our eyes off this life and desire something better.

Where is our ultimate hope, for example, if Revelation 19-22 has already been fulfilled as some teach today?

Scripture teaches that we possess an amazing and thrilling hope for all eternity; one that should excite us and focus our hope all the more on what is to come.

It’s understandable Satan would not want us to hear about the thrilling details of eternity since that would fill our hearts with hope and longing for Jesus’ appearing to take us home.

It’s not understandable, however, that so many pastors neglect prophecy and in so doing dampen the desire and thereby the hope of those in the pews.

As John Eldredge so aptly stated, “No desire, no hope. . . . Bland assurances of the sweet by-and-by don’t inflame the soul.” But once we hear what the Bible teaches about our hope, we cannot help but desire for what is to come.

Jesus is coming soon! The more we understand what that means for us the more we will desire His appearing.

[i] Eldredge, John, Desire (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), pp. 64-65

[ii] Ibid., pp. 110-111

[iii] Ibid., p. 111

Hope Beyond the Tragedies of Life

Christina+Grimmie+Voice+Top+12+Red+Carpet+hqGnoWpSQWrl

She only had moments left to live.

As Christina sat cheerfully signing autographs after a concert in Orlando, Florida, she could not have known her killer was quickly approaching, gun in hand.

He despised her outspoken faith in Jesus and wanted to silence her voice forever.

I had not heard of Christina Grimmie until the stunning news broke of her murder on June 10, 2016. Soon afterward, I heard an early recording of her singing In Christ Alone and realized the depths of her love for the Lord Jesus.

The passion with which she sang those words coupled with the knowledge of what had just happened totally overwhelmed me and brought tears to my eyes.

I will not soon forget the deep heartfelt emotion Christina put into the final words of the song, “No power of hell, no scheme of man, Can ever pluck me from His hand; Till He comes or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand.” The passion with which she sang those words coupled with the knowledge of what had just happened totally overwhelmed me and brought tears to my eyes.

The killing of Christina demonstrates all the more our need to be focused on eternity rather than merely living for this present life. From an earthly standpoint, her murder appears to be a senseless tragedy; a young, perky, highly talented singer shot dead at the beginning of a promising career. How do we reconcile such a seemingly meaningless tragedy with our hope for eternity? Where is the purpose for all we endure here on earth?

What if this life for the believer is preparation for the next? What if all our experiences in this life are not only intended for our spiritual growth here, but also for what will be?

I believe the millennium provides the essential link between this life, disasters and all, and eternity.  The millennium is a thousand year period of time that begins with Jesus’ return to earth to setup His kingdom. We as believers will reign with Him during this time. After the millennium, eternity begins as described in Revelation 21-22.

In the millennium, we will see the Lord’s purposes for what we endure in this life come alive. The dark times of our lives will explode into wonderful light as we clearly see all of God’s purposes for taking us through them.

Do you remember the story of Joseph? How could he have known as he trudged toward Egypt shackled in chains that God was preparing the way for him to reign alongside Pharaoh? Joseph’s time in the household of Potiphar and then in prison became a training ground for his storybook rise to power. He remained faithful in the worst of circumstances and God used him in a mighty way.

Since we will reign with Christ during the millennium; it only makes sense Jesus would prepare us now for our future roles.

Is there a parallel for us? I believe there is. In the parable of the talents, Jesus rewards his followers with kingdom responsibilities based on their faithfulness to Him (Matt. 25:14-30). At the judgment seat of Christ, Jesus will examine our lives with the clear implication of loss as well as rewards (1 Cor. 3:10-15). Since we will reign with Christ during the millennium; it only makes sense Jesus would prepare us now for our future roles.

The millennium will be the time when the purposes for all we endure here come to full fruition. Although Christina is currently with the Lord receiving comfort as only He can provide, I believe she will see a still greater purpose for her untimely death when Jesus returns to earth and she reigns with Him.

Christina will sing for the Lord forever and ever! The only voice her killer silenced was that of his own.

Please listen to Christina singing “In Christ Alone” in the link below. Her passion for Jesus brought me to tears as I listened to this song shortly after her death.