A Question of Justice

jhop the hague

Greetings from The Hague!

I came here with Operation Capitals of Europe (OCE) to pray for the Netherlands.  Although Amsterdam is named as the capital of the Netherlands, The Hague is where the Parliament is.  Yesterday and the day before we met at the Justice House of Prayer here.  I was delighted to learn that there are many houses of prayer throughout the Netherlands, and that there is a lot of cooperation and collaboration between them.

Our first day here, the director of the Schuman Centre for European Studies at University of the Nations came and spoke to us about the history of Netherlands from a Christian perspective.  The Schuman Centre promotes biblical perspectives on Europe, its Christian heritage and future.  The thing I loved about hearing him speak is that he maintains a hopeful outlook for the future (of both the Netherlands and Europe in general), while being honest about how far they have fallen away from the faith.

Next we heard from the coordinator of the European Economic Summit, which will be in Amsterdam this weekend.  Her story is pretty amazing.  She shared that she had the same attitude toward money that many Christians have: that enough is enough, but we don’t need to be rich.  We all know about the greedy televangelists who sell healing prayers and spend all their wealth on themselves.  But God revealed to her that money is to be our servant.  So she and her husband decided that they wanted wealth so that they could tithe 90 percent and live off the remaining 10 percent.  Just think if the world’s Christians began to think this way about money.  What a lot of good we could do in this world.  Now that thought excited me.  We were all inspired by what she shared.

One other thing that our hosts shared with us is that the next day (yesterday) was Prinsjesdag, the 200th anniversary of the first speech from the King of the Netherlands.  So we prayed about it and decided to go to the parade route and bless the king on his way to Parliament.  Willem Alexander took the throne just last year when his mother, Princess Beatrix stepped down.  The king’s speech is about the coming year’s budget, and is written and approved by parliament.  So he’s giving a speech to them that they wrote for him.  Last year he ended his speech by saying: “Join me in praying for strength and God’s blessing upon you.”  In this pluralistic, politically correct world, it takes courage to live your faith openly—especially when you’re a public figure.

So we went to the parade route, where I made this observation: Dutch people are tall.  I saw only the head and shoulders of the cavalrymen on horseback (and the ears of the horses).  When the king’s gold carriage went by, all I could see was phones held high, recording it all.  Although I would like to have seen the king, I wasn’t there for that as much as to pray for him, which I did.

We later heard that this year’s speech, he ended with: “In discharging your duties, you may feel supported in the knowledge that many are wishing you wisdom and join me in praying for strength and God’s blessing upon you.”  So even though the king’s speech is written for him, it’s nice to know that he adds his own prayer and blessing at the end of the speech.

 

Peace Palace at The Hague

After lunch we went to the Peace Palace to pray.  The Peace Palace is where the International Court of Justice (the judicial branch of the United Nations) meets.  It is also where the Permanent Court of Arbitration meets.  Unfortunately neither judicial body is able to enforce their judgments.  And to me that seems sadly symbolic of the Peace Palace, itself, because it was built in 1913—the year before World War I broke out.

Today we went to the Parliament building to meet with an MP.  He is a member of one of the three Christian parties.  He was adamant about his desire to end prostitution by jailing the johns.  He proposed a scaled-back version of the Swedish anti-prostitution laws, and the head of his own party refused to back it.  So he prayed about it, and one-by-one met with various heads of the other political parties over the next few weeks—all scheduled and organized by God because he hadn’t sought them, but they each called him.  He told each about his proposal, and most agreed, including some key leaders.  With their backing, he went back to his own party, and they said that he could present it, but not under the party’s banner.  So please keep this courageous MP in your prayers for the next few weeks.  I would love to see the shame (and sham!) of legalized prostitution end.

Then our guide took us on a tour of the Parliament building.  We sat in for about 20 minutes on a Parliamentary session, but there was no translation.  That was OK because we were really there more to pray than to watch.  Our guide works for one of the Christian parties, and she showed us her office.  Her window has a view of the central square where protests and demonstrations are made.  It is an ideal place to pray when there is a protest of some sort.

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Christian Party Office window’s view of the square

After lunch we went to the International Criminal Court and sat in on part of a trial.  Having worked for lawyers, I have always been fascinated by courtroom proceedings.  The other members of the team were mostly bored by the proceedings because of the endless repetition of various phrasings of the same question.

International Criminal Court Building at The Hague

Now I understand why the house of prayer here is called the Justice House of Prayer.  Indeed, the Hague is an international center for justice (or at least, it should be).  God is the only truly just Judge, and He will right all the injustices of this world.  God is good!

Sheltered in Amsterdam

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Greetings from Amsterdam!

Although Amsterdam is a beautiful city, I have to admit that some aspects of this city are very disturbing.  Legalized prostitution is one of them.  Now, if legal prostitution meant that women who enjoy that work are free to make a living, then that would be OK with me.  Honestly, I can’t imagine the woman who enjoys having 20-50 men use her that way.  And it is a fact that virtually all of the women who voluntarily choose the oldest profession have a history of past sexual abuse.  Nevertheless, I would not jail prostitutes.  That never was the answer.

The problem is that wherever you see prostitution, there’s trafficking.  Legalized prostitution simply makes it easier for the real criminals (the traffickers) to enslave women and make money from them.  It also eases the conscience of the johns, who satisfy their lust and lie to themselves, believing that the women enjoy the work.  Legal prostitution allows them to believe that there is nothing shameful about paying for sex with a stranger.  But if there really is nothing shameful about it, then why do they hide this activity from friends, family, and coworkers?  They go on sex tourist vacations to Amsterdam or the Dominican Republic and visiting prostitutes becomes an addiction[1].

In addition, if legalized prostitution is just like any other profession or business, then why would the window girls of Amsterdam need a panic button?  Yes, each room is supposed to be equipped with a panic button in case the john becomes violent.  Many of the men who visit prostitutes actually hate women.  Often johns turn violent, and even brag about abusing prostitutes in anonymous chatrooms (according to The Johns by Victor Malarek).

Prostitutes not only have short career lives, but they actually have a shorter life expectancy than other women.  Violent johns is only one hazard of the job.  Often the traffickers use narcotics to subdue and eventually get the women so addicted that they will literally do anything for their next fix.  Often the women, once offered freedom and rehabilitation from the drugs, are so ashamed that they refuse to return home to their families—especially if their family is poor.

Amsterdam 3

So, it is against this backdrop that I came to Amsterdam to meet Allita (from the last chapter of my new book Holy Goosebumps).  She had visited me in Milan while I edited and got the book ready for publication.  From there, she came to Amsterdam and has been prayer walking the city of Amsterdam, as she did in Milan.  We had a couple of days together in this beautiful city.  We explored the city, renewing our friendship.

Amsterdam 4

At the hostel where we both stayed, we made friends with the staff and other visitors.  The hostel we stayed at is one of the two Christian hostels: The Shelter and The Shelter Jordan.  We stayed at The Shelter Jordan.  They were very friendly and welcoming, and is definitely one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever stayed at—and by now, I’ve stayed at many hostels all over Europe.  One young man who worked at the front desk is a fellow writer.  He wrote A Life Method.  I also met a young Italian man, who was delighted to find someone to speak Italian with.  We talked about Italy, Amsterdam, the US, and eventually Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit.  He had looked for work in Italy, and finding none, he had come to Amsterdam, saying that he will never return to Italy—well, only to visit his mom.  He admitted that he smokes pot, but was very open to learning about a genuine Christian life.

Amsterdam 2

That’s the wonderful thing about places like The Shelter: people can mix and share their faith in such a natural way that there is none of the stiffness of bringing them into a church.  Let’s face it, most churches are not comfortable places for people who are being convicted by the Holy Spirit.  But over a coffee in a friendly Christian café, they’re ready to listen and to talk without arguing.  Arguing someone into the kingdom doesn’t work anyway.  Love is what attracts people into the kingdom, and The Shelter is a great place to love people into the kingdom.

Amsterdam

We need more places like The Shelter and Christian coffeehouses.  I would rather see our people build those things than churches.  If we want to reach this generation with the Gospel, we’re going to have to adapt.  God is good!

[1] Whether you call it an addiction or an obsession, behaviors like this can become a drug—an escape from the unhappy realities of life.

It’s Nothing, Just the Neighborhood Anarchists

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Here’s the gun swinging in the early morning breeze about a week before the anarchist house eviction

There’s a house two blocks from mine.  It’s always covered in political graffiti, with banners saying “no TAV.”  TAV is the Italian acronym for high-speed trains (Treno ad Alta Velocità), and the reason for protesting the fast trains is mostly their ultra-high cost.  The whole railway infrastructure has had to be rebuilt in order to accommodate the high-speed trains.  And guess who bears the burden?  Then Italian taxpayers (who already among the highest income tax rates in the world).  In addition, the ticket price for all the trains has gone up.  The high-speed trains are exorbitant, having quadrupled ticket prices between popular destinations.

The environmental and health impact of the high-speed trains is something that has never been adequately explored in the rush to get the trains up and running.

About two weeks ago, the Lord told me to get out and take a walk in the neighborhood.  The Holy Spirit led me right to walk right in front of that house, then instructed me to stop and turn around.  When I did, I saw a pistol hanging from a fishing pole attached to the wall of the anarchist house.

anarchist house

Anarchist house with graffiti

A week later, as I was entering my local coffee shop, I noticed Carabinieri (Italian Military Police—at least two dozen of them—in front of the coffee shop, many of them were looking down the street toward the anarchist house.  They had two police vans blocking the street in front of the coffee shop.  There were several more police officers in the coffee shop, too.  When I asked what was going on, I was given a generic reassurance: “We’ve got everything under control.”  So I asked the cashier of the coffee shop. 

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Anarchist house eviction from a couple of angles

I figured that it was another protest because there is an animal research lab just a block away from the anarchist house, and there are frequently protests in front of the lab, but nothing of a violent nature (mostly people carrying signs, blowing whistles, and chanting).  I don’t know for sure that the anarchists of the graffiti house were involved in the animal rights protests, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

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other views of the eviction

But she said that the anarchists had been squatting illegally in the house, and were being evicted.  Indeed, when I left the coffee shop I saw a white couch sitting in the middle of the street, and a rented moving truck parked nearby.  I also saw another two dozen or so finance cops at the other end of the street, with two of their vans blocking that end of the street.

When I saw my building’s custodian, she said that the mayor’s son was among the anarchists.  She said that the mayor had given them permission to live in the house, even though he didn’t have the right to give that permission.  Things apparently came to a head when several nights in a row there were loud parties lasting until four in the morning.  Neighbors complained to police, and the police came in force to evict the squatting anarchists.

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The Finance Police get involved, too

Later, as I passed on a bus, I saw smoke coming from the house: regular gray smoke and also a strange green smoke.  I don’t know if they were burning documents or drugs or what, but that green smoke did not look normal.

Anyway, so it was no big deal, just the local anarchists getting evicted.  You just never know what’s going to be going on in the neighborhood.

evicted anarchist

Evicted anarchist

 

 

Extra-dimensional Heaven

Welcome Scan

Life has substance in Heaven!

In March I wrote about tongues being an extra-dimensional language, which was a revelation from God (see Vision and Extra-dimensional Prayer).  Today I got a glimpse of Heaven, and God showed me that in Heaven everything has extra-dimensionality, even those things that seem insubstantial to us: words, colors, thoughts, life, and spirit.  Of course, those things are for the most part indescribable.  There is no practical way to describe extra dimensions in a way that three-dimensional beings can understand.  That’s why the Bible has lots of bizarre creatures and visions.  That’s also why people who have been to Heaven try to describe what it’s like, and they can’t adequately do it.  They say vague things about the flowers, grass, and trees being so alive.  That’s because the flowers, grass, and trees in Heaven are alive, and the life in Heaven is extra-dimensional.  In other words, the living things in Heaven have an extra-dimensional substance to them that makes them seem somehow more alive than their earthly counterparts—and indeed they are more alive.

John Paul Jackson had an interesting insight into the physical state of fallen angels (including satan himself).  He said that they continue falling, losing authority, and losing their former beauty as they fall farther and farther out of Heaven and away from God, the Source of all life.  So in other words, while the devil can manifest as an angel of light (which he once was), it is harder and harder for him to do so.  At the same time it is important to remember that the gifts and the calling are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).  He noted that authority has to do with proximity to God.  Think of Joseph in the Egyptian prison (Genesis 40).  He had no authority in Egypt.  But when he got close to Pharaoh, proximity gave his very great authority.  The fallen angels have lost their authority as a result of falling ever-farther away from God, but their gifts and power remain.

So the devil, who was Heaven’s worship leader, has lost his authority, yet he retains his musical power and gifting.  This is why he has such a strong hold on the music industry.  If it seems that some popular musicians have made a deal with the devil—that could literally be true.  In fact, many rock bands have boasted of their satanic ties, while others try to hide it under a cover of good works.  (See the four-part series They Sold Their Souls for Rock and Roll—and it’s not only rock and rollers who have made this unholy alliance, there are also country artists.)  If you think it doesn’t matter what music you listen to, just look at how music influenced the Columbine killers.  In some of their posts they quoted violent song lyrics that they later acted out to the letter.  The computer programmers have a saying: “Garbage in, garbage out.”  If you feed your mind (and spirit) garbage music, what kind of harvest do you think you’ll reap?  At best you’ll produce no fruit at all, but is that a good thing? (Matthew 21:18-19 & John 15:1-8).

This thought led me to a deeper understanding of the importance of worship.  In fact, I believe that the more free and extravagant that we are in worship, the more effective we are in tearing down strongholds and advancing the Kingdom.  It may just look like singing and dancing, but it is a powerful form of warfare.  And the more our spirit, mind, and body cooperate in worship, the greater the victory against the enemy.  Think of each worship song as a tank, a battleship, a fighter jet; and think of each dance as a grenade, a missile, a nuclear bomb.  We have weapons of mass destruction to destroy every work of the enemy, and we don’t even realize it.  Think of Joshua at Jericho (Joshua chapter 6).  Think of Jehoshaphat’s worshipers that led the army of Judah into battle (2 Chronicles 20).

But what do we do?  We stand when the worship begins in church on Sunday morning, but we don’t sing out-loud for fear of sounding off-key.  We may clap when prompted by the worship leader, but not with any real enthusiasm, and quitting as soon as we can.  Some of us raise our hands, but our bodies remain still as statues.  The few who do dance or worship with flags are often criticized by those who think they are doing it to get attention.

Any time that you step out in faith and do something out of your comfort zone because of the Holy Spirit’s prompting (whether in worship or ministry), there will always be someone who doesn’t have the same vision or revelation that God has given you.  You will be criticized.  And although the devil has seeded his own in the churches, it doesn’t mean that the critic is one of the devil’s flock.  Often sincere believers will criticize someone’s vision, believing that they are helping you find your way back to the truth.  This is when it’s very important to ignore criticism (with all the kindness and compassion in you) and cling to God and to the vision He has given you.  Of course, every vision and every revelation must be measured up to the Word of God.  If your vision contradicts the Bible, then you need to repent and get back on course.  Sometimes the critic are right.

So be courageous, be bold, be full of faith, and go destroy the works of the enemy.  God is good!

Watch and Pray

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Watch and pray!

This morning as I sat silently before God, He reminded me of one of the Bible’s only other Raptures: Elijah.  However, the focus wasn’t on Elijah, but Elisha.  Elisha is a person I can relate to.  Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s anointing.  Imagine that!  Elijah’s anointing wasn’t enough for him:

The anointing that shut off the rain for three years, and then brought them back at his prayer.

The anointing that took Elijah to the Brook of Cherith and provided for him there.

The anointing that provided unending flour and oil for the widow of Zarepath, and raised her son from the dead.

The anointing that allowed Elijah to walk into King Ahab’s court unseen by the guards.

The anointing that caused fire to fall from Heaven and burn up a soaking wet offering and the water, too.

The anointing that allowed Elijah to outrun Ahab’s chariot.

The anointing that predicted the deaths of Ahab and Jezebel—and caused Ahab to repent for Naboth’s vineyard.

The anointing that burned up 50 soldiers and their commander, and then another 50 and their commander.

The anointing that parted the Jordan.

The anointing that predicted Elijah’s Rapture in the whirlwind.

What kind of almighty audacity does it take to want a double portion of that kind of anointing?

Well, Elisha had the audacity, and so do I.  I don’t want the anointing for some kind of lame self-glorification.  I want it for the same reason that Elisha did: because the anointing is more of God, Himself.  God says, “I am your very Great Reward,” (Genesis 15:1).  The presence of God is very addictive.  Once you’ve experienced it, you just want more and more of Him.

These are the days when God will open up this kind of anointing on those who really want it.  We will perform signs, wonders, and miracles, as a testimony to the world of who God is (2 Corinthians 12:12).  We will expose others to God’s addictive presence, and get them hooked on it as well.

The antichrist will be coming with all the supernatural power of hell behind him, and in that way deceive the world.  So we must have the supernatural power of God now in order to reach all who can and will be reached.  For far too long we have floundered along in unbelief, wasting our precious time and energy on things that don’t last.  And the world hasn’t wanted our lame churchy lifestyle.  I don’t blame them!  If the supernatural power of God is not true or is not available to us, then

Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s anointing—and he got it.  How did he get it?  By watching.  In fact, Jesus said, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man,” (Luke 21:36, emphasis mine).  So keep watching and praying!  God is good!

Scoffers and Rapture Deniers

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This is me in Nazareth, holding a 500 year old parchment (I think it’s Isaiah)

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s Word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water,” (2 Peter 3:3-5, emphasis mine).

There are some sincere Christians who don’t believe in the Rapture.  Or perhaps they believe in the Rapture, but not pre-Tribulation.  I believe that these people are genuinely born again, but they are deceived—as deceived as they say that pre-tribbers are.  So what’s the deal?  How can we explain this phenomenon?

Jesus said that the End Times would be a time of deception—deception so big that it could fool even the elect (Matthew 24:24), and perhaps will for a time.  This is the biggest danger, the danger that will open the door to all the other dangers of the Tribulation period: deception.  In fact, Jesus warned four times in Matthew chapter 24 about deception, and repeatedly told His disciples to watch out for false prophets, false christs, and deceivers.

Why do these Christian believers deny the Rapture?  Here are some of their arguments against the Rapture:

  • “The word Rapture isn’t in the Bible.” True, the word is not found anywhere in the original language of the Scripture.  Neither is the word Trinity.  Yet the concepts for both words are clearly defined in Scripture.  The word Rapture came into the English language thanks to the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible in fourth century.  The word rapio is the Latin translation of the Greek word found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, harpazô.  Harpazô means to snatch, seize, or take suddenly.  Rapio means to seize, snatch, or tear away.  So the English translation that is most commonly used “catch away” fails to convey the suddenness of the original language that rapio does.  So while the word Rapture isn’t in the Bible, the concept is unmistakably there.

In addition, there are two individuals in the Bible who were raptured (suddenly taken into Heaven): Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11).  So by their example, we have an example in miniature of what a worldwide Rapture will be like—a sudden seizing or snatching away.

  • “There will be no secret Rapture of the Church.” This is also true: the Rapture will not be secret.  This argument is almost laughable because the worldwide disappearance of millions of people will be sudden, and as I noted in The Rapture and The World Left Behind, it will probably cause all sorts of chaos: knocking out all power grids, telecommunications, and satellites worldwide and turning loose demonic power (and violence) on the earth as never before.  In the wake of all this violence and mayhem, people may not notice the disappearance of Christians right away, but they will certainly notice the Rapture effects.
  • “Jesus said that we (Christians) will have tribulation (John 16:33), so there’s no escape clause.” Yes, Jesus did say that.  Tribulation means trouble.  The word tribulation is used in the King James Version of the Bible for many things unrelated to the End Times.  If there was no possibility of escaping the Father’s wrath and the wrath of the Lamb, then why did Jesus urge us: “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man,” (Luke 21:36, emphasis mine) if there is no possibility of escape?  Pretty much that whole chapter is about the End Times, clearly Jesus is offering a way to escape the Tribulation.  Perhaps this just seems too good to be true for some people.

You can’t claim that every time the word tribulation appears in the Bible, it means the End Times Tribulation or Great Tribulation.  Here are some places where the word tribulation appears in the King James Version that have nothing at all to do with End Times prophecy: Deuteronomy 4:30; Judges 10:14; 1 Samuel 10:9; 26:24; Matthew 13:21; John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Romans 2:9; 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; 2 Corinthians 1:4; 7:4; Ephesians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:4 & 6; Revelation 1:9; 2:9 & 10; and 2:22.  In each of these verses they are translated in the more modern versions of the Bible as troubles, persecutions, afflictions, and trials.

So there is an escape clause.  Otherwise, why would Paul write, “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Thessalonians 5:9)?  But you’ve got to be watching for the Rapture.

  • They confuse the Rapture with the Second Coming of Jesus. These are two separate events, both future.  When there are two future events, this is often confusing—the Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t recognize Him as the long-awaited Messiah because He didn’t resemble the conquering King that they were looking for.  That’s because they had confused His two incarnations on earth: the first as the suffering Savior and the second as the conquering King.  Here is a table that may help you understand the difference between these two future (as of this writing!) events:
The Rapture The Second Coming
Jesus comes to take His Bride (the Church)

(John 14:1-3 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)

Jesus returns to earth with His Bride (the Church) (Colossians 3:4; Zechariah 14:5; Jude 14; and Revelation 19:14)
Could happen at any moment (before the Tribulation) (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 and Revelation 3:3) Happens after a sequence of events (at the end of the Great Tribulation) (Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 24:29-30; and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8)
No one knows when, only the Father (Matthew 24:36; and Mark 13:32) Three and a half years after the Abomination of Desolation causes the Jews to flee Jerusalem (Revelation 19:11-21)
There is a shout (1 Thessalonians 4:16) No shout mentioned (Revelation 19:11-21)
Resurrection of dead Christians (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-54) No resurrection mentioned (Zechariah 12:10; 14:4-5; Revelation 1:7 and 19:11-21)
Living and dead Christians receive a glorified body (1 Thessalonians 4:14-16) Christians return with Jesus already in their glorified bodies and on white horses (Revelation 19:11-21)
Christians, both living and dead, meet Jesus in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) Jesus’ feet touch the earth (Zechariah 14:4 and Revelation 19:11-21)
Watchful Christians taken, and unbelievers and Christians not watching for the Rapture are left behind (Matthew 25:1-13 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) The wicked are taken to judgment, and living Tribulation saints are left behind (Matthew 13:28-30 and 37-43)
Bema Seat Judgment (Judgment seat of Christ) in which believers are rewarded (Romans 14:10-11; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; 1 John 2:28 and Revelation 3:11-12) White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15)
Marriage of the Lamb in Heaven (2 Corinthians 11:2 and Revelation 19:6-9) Set up the Millennial Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:3-4; Jude 14-15 and Revelation 19:11-21)
Happens suddenly, in a moment (1Corinthians 15:52) Will not happen so suddenly (Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 24:30 and Revelation 1:7)
Only watchful Christians will see Jesus (1 John 3:2 and 1 Corinthians 15:52) Everyone on earth will see Jesus return with His Bride (Revelation 1:7)
At the trumpet sound believers will fly up to Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) Angels are sent to gather the wicked for judgment (Matthew 13:39, 41, 49; 24:31; 25:31 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10)
Jesus appears in the clouds (no horse) (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) Jesus returns on a white horse (Revelation 19:11)
Message of hope and comfort (1 Thessalonians 4:18; Titus 2:13 and 1 John 3:3) Message of judgment (Joel 3:12-13; Malachi 4:5 and Revelation 19:11-21)

 

I hope this helps clear up any confusion.  But as always, the best way is to get right with God now.  Not only will you escape the coming wrath, but it will make your remaining days on earth better in ways you can’t even imagine.  God is good!

Are You Still Holding Back? Why???

Hold onto Jesus

I’ve tried to hold many treasures

They just keep slipping through my fingers like sand

But there’s one treasure that means more than breath itself

So I’m clinging to it with everything I am

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior

And I will hold on with all my might

I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting

And hold on to Jesus for life

Hold on to Jesus, Steven Curtis Chapman & James Isaac Elliot, from Signs of Life, 1996.

Actually, I know why some of you are still holding back.  In a word: fear.

  • You’re afraid of what your spouse (or other family members) might think of you if you make a public confession of faith in Jesus.
  • You’re afraid that you might lose credibility if your colleagues knew that you’re a Christian.
  • You’re afraid that you might lose your job if your faith became public knowledge.
  • You’re afraid that you might lose your friends if they knew you were a Christian.
  • You’re afraid that if you fully surrender to God, He’ll tell you to do something crazy, like sell all your possessions and give all your money to the poor.
  • You’re afraid that God might call you as a missionary to some disease-infested jungle.

And I’m not going to sugar-coat it: all of these fears are possibilities—and there are even worse possibilities that I haven’t named.  But life is full of dangers and risks.  Life is dangerous and fraught with so many perils, right from the moment of your conception.  If you’re reading this, then your mother chose not to abort you.  But many millions of babies worldwide are never born just because their mothers chose to terminate the pregnancy.  So already you’re the recipient of an amazing blessing: life.

None of us is given a guarantee that we will still be alive at the end of the day.  Worldometer’s Population clock has 68,972 deaths worldwide so far today, and it’s only 10:30 in the morning—in Italy that is—but the website is a US creation, so it’s 4:30 in the morning on the east coast of the US, and already there are already nearly 70,000 deaths so far today.  That’s 70,000 out of an estimated 7 Billion, but still, with that many deaths, there is certainly no reason to believe that you’ll be one of the survivors at the end of the day.  All it takes is one drunk driver or negligent mechanic or demonized nutcase, and you could be spending tonight on a slab instead of a bed.

That’s not to bring you down, but just to show that life is full of hazards, whether you’re a Christian or not.  The difference is that if you’re a Christian, you won’t have to go through life’s perils and troubles alone.  Christians have the same troubles as non-Christians.  But the difference is that we don’t walk through those things alone.

  • Your spouse (and maybe your whole family) might think you’ve lost your mind. But God can help you live out a faith-filled life before their eyes that will convince them far more than your words ever could.
  • Your colleagues might have their doubts about you. But God can make you stand out to them as a beacon when they are going through tough times and need help.
  • You might lose your job because of your faith. But God has something much better in mind for you—and it will satisfy and fulfil you like you had never imagined.
  • You might lose your friends because of your faith. But God will replace them in your life with people who really love you, encourage you, and stand by you through life’s trials.
  • If you surrender to God, He might tell you to sell all your possessions and give all the money to the poor. In fact, you should be prepared for that possibility.  If He does, then He will show you the treasure of people He wants you to love.  (One of the most amazing people I’ve ever met is Shane Claiborne.  He surrendered it all to God, lives with and loves the poor of Philadelphia, but he’s worked with Mother Teresa of Calcutta and really all over the world.  Does Shane regret surrendering to God?  No!)
  • If you surrender to God, He might call you as a missionary. This world desperately needs missionaries.  But not only in the disease-infested jungles.  God called me as a city missionary.  God won’t call you to a place that you hate without giving you His love for that place.  But most likely, He will call you to a place that you already love.  Europe filled my dreams and imagination decades before God called me here.  He usually prepares missionaries like that.

If you want to see God work in supernatural ways, with healings, signs, and wonders, then stop holding back.  Surrender your life completely to Him.  You won’t regret it!  God is good!  You’ll see!

plovdiv arena

Do you think you’ll be fed to the lions?  Probably not!

What is Holding you Back?

Portable Sounds

Even if the music is not your preferred style, Tobymac’s lyrics are very faith-building!

I’m letting go of everything I am

And I’m holding on to everything You are

I’m letting go of everything I once was

I’m all in, I’m all in . . .

This time I’m so for real

It’s time I seal the deal

Shut down my lame appeals

I’m letting go, I’m letting go

I’ll throw caution to the sky

Kiss all my fears goodbye

This time it’s do or die

I’m letting go, I’m letting go

All In, Toby McKeehan & Christopher Stevens, 2007, from Portable Sounds, Tobymac.

You’re unhappy, things aren’t going right.  Something important is missing, but you don’t know what to call it.  You are a Christian, you may even be serving in your church, making coffee, teaching Sunday School, helping with the audio/lights, whatever.  Your spouse (or children) refuse to go to church.  What is going wrong?  If this describes you, as it once did me, then I can tell you what it is: you are hanging onto something that you need to surrender to God.

Surrender is not easy.  Surrender will take every ounce of courage that you have.  But this life is not a game, and we’re coming down to the final days.  It’s now or never, and everything you hold dear is at stake.  Jesus said:

Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matthew 16:24-26, emphasis mine).

Surrender is how you find your life, how you save it.  What would you give for your own soul?  Would you give all your money?  Would you give your phone/tablet/computer?  Would you give your hobby?  Your time?  Your family?  Yes, even your children!  Whatever it is that is holding you back could cost you your life.

I’ve been writing about the imminence of the Rapture (The Rapture and the World Left Behind) and the difficulty of surviving through the Tribulation (Tips for Surviving the Tribulation).  There is nothing else in Bible prophecy that has to happen before the Rapture can occur.  It literally could be any day now.  And if you understand the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), all ten are virgins.  In other words, all ten are Christians.  But five of them have neglected the oil, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  So they are not listening to the subtle, soft whisper of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.  And when the Bridegroom (Jesus) comes to take them to His wedding feast, they won’t be ready.  That means that they will have to go through the Tribulation.  The Tribulation will be very nearly impossible to survive, even if you carefully hide yourself because there will be plagues, famines, and natural disasters on a scale never before seen in all the history of the earth.  All non-believers will die in one way or another, and the vast majority of Christians will also die, having their heads cut off at the order of the antichrist.  The Jews that flee the abomination of desolation will survive because God will supernaturally protect them (Matthew 24:15-22).

The thing to do is to make a decision for Jesus now, before the Rapture.  And when you do, surrender it all to Him.  Even if you’ve already made a decision for Jesus, make sure that you’ve surrendered everything fully to His Lordship.  Don’t let your job or the TV news or Candy Crush or Facebook take your attention away from Him while the devil tries to rob you of your inheritance.  Today is the day of salvation!  God is good!

Just Lighten up and Laugh!

Bell prayer

I didn’t know my picture was being taken in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria.

I wrote the other day about a guy in a car who pulled over to ask me for directions and then called me a foreigner when he heard my accent.  It made me so mad at the time that I had to spend the 40 minute bus ride forgiving him and asking God to forgive me.

Well, today it rained.  No, it poured down buckets.  Milan is very flat, and when it rains, most of the intersections become great ponds of filthy water.  I had brought my umbrella, but it was raining so hard that the umbrella was almost useless.  At the bus stop there were several of us waiting when a guy in a red car sped up and veered toward the bus stop shelter, sending up a sheet of water that drenched all of us.  Was it deliberate?  Definitely!  When the bus came, one woman looked at me and said, “It was the guy in the red car, right?”  Apparently he had done that at the stop before ours, too.  Some people on the bus were really mad.  I guess I would have been, too, except that I remembered that I had left both my phone and my watch at home, so there was no real harm done—at least not to me.

You know, we do have a choice in how to react to situations like these.  When I walked into the door of my apartment building, the custodian just laughed and laughed.  I couldn’t help myself!  I laughed, too.  In fact, it felt really good to laugh about it.  Every once in a while, we need to remember to lighten up and just laugh.  God is good, and Heaven’s gag reel should be a side-splitter!

Tips for Surviving the Tribulation

apocalypse

Deadly meteor showers are just one of the hazards of the coming Tribulation.

The first thing you need to realize is that if you didn’t make it in the Rapture, then your chances of physically surviving the Tribulation are not good.  Not good at all!  Without God, you won’t survive the Tribulation, no matter what you do (Revelation 14:20 and Genesis 7:21).

But even those who make a genuine and sincere conversion to Christianity don’t have much of a chance of survival.  Frankly, your physical survival is not high on God’s list of priorities.  In all likelihood, you’ll die as a martyr by being beheaded.  But at least as a Christian, you’ll have a chance of survival, which is better than nothing.  And if you die, you go to Heaven, so really, it’s all good, no matter how bad it looks.  Nevertheless let’s strive for survival.

So with survival as the goal, here are some tips for surviving the Tribulation:

  1. First of all, be very careful about who you trust. Jesus told us that there will come a time when people will put true Christians to death, thinking that they are doing a service to God, (John 16:2).  And that includes your closest family and friends.
  2. Go underground. By that I mean get off the grid, hide yourself.  You should start looking for a place as soon as you possibly can.
  3. Be smart about hiding because now there are so many ways of finding people. You’re going to have to get rid of all cell phones, tablets, GPS navigational devices, and computers.  I know that’s really hard to imagine, but look at it this way, which would you rather keep: your phone or your head?
  4. Choose a place that’s fertile, remote, and very sparsely populated.
  5. Dig a well. And by dig a well, I mean hire somebody with the proper equipment to dig it for you—it must be good and deep.
  6. Get a generator, but understand this: you’re going to have to give up most of your electronics. Most generators run off gasoline and are noisy, which is a really bad idea when you’re trying to keep your presence a secret.  So I recommend building your own bicycle-powered generator.  This gives you a way to stay in shape, keep warm in the winter, and have a little electricity for essentials like a hot plate (a camp stove requires fuel), heating and refrigeration.
  7. Learn food preservation skills like canning, freeze-drying, drying, fermenting, pickling, and dry salt curing. Also knitting and/or crocheting are good skills to know.
  8. Get yourself a good survival book. Here’s a link to a free, downloadable e–book: S. Army Field Manual on Survival.

Even more important than those skills, I recommend cultivating a close relationship with God.  Although, your survival isn’t high on His list of priorities, remember that He is the Lord of Life.  If you play it smart and stay close to Him, you greatly improve your chances of survival.  The Holy Spirit is far better than any security camera or electric fence for keeping unwanted people out.  You can even ask Him for invisibility.  He did it for me (see The Retroactive Power of Invisibility).

Believe me, it will be far better to go in the Rapture.  But if you find yourself left behind, I hope and pray that these survival tips will help you to stay alive.  God is good!